Yes I have shad on my mind. I anxiously look out the window from my offices in Rosslyn overlooking the Theodore Roosevelt memorial, an island on the Potomac river. The TU National Capitol Chapter recently helped the National Park Service and local government to refurbish docks at the historic Fletcher’s Cove boathouse to ensure anglers will be able to pursue this worthy fish in just a few weeks. Shad really were the food item that fueled the birth of this nation. You’ve got to pickup The Founding Fish by John McPhee if you’re an angler or care about fisheries management. Melissa’s Lesh’s film just won first runner up at 2015 RVA Environmental Film Festival. Produced by VCU Life Sciences’ Outreach Education Coordinator Anne Wright for the Science in the Park website, and narrated by former James River Park Manager Ralph White, the film documents the plight and management of blueback herring and American shad in the James River. The film features interviews with Michael Odom, Hatchery Manager of the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, and Alan Weaver, Fish Passage Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Stoked about an important project at TU – we are now creating maker films for our collaborations with the fly fishing industry. The first features a limited edition Bamboo rod designed and built by R. L. Winston Rod Co. Bamboo junkies will find this highly collectible rod intriguing. We’re only building 59 in honor of TU’s birth year, 1959. Zero is spoken for!
Yesterday launched the new Trout Unlimited wild steelhead initiative known as Wild Steelheaders United. Across the nation and especially in the native range of steelhead (anadramous rainbow trout), we celebrated an invitation and a call-to-arms to come together to protect and conserve this most precious salmonid. In Boise, Juneau, Portland, Seattle, and Santa Cruz, TU threw a launch party where we screened some new films about the campaign, and shared the Wild Steelheaders United credo. We saw packed houses at each event, full of concerned anglers of every stripe who care deeply for steelhead.
In my short time at TU, I’ve been blessed to visit with TU members in over a dozen states, to fish for salmon in Bristol Bay, to fish with our TU Business members in Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico. I’ve been a part of engaging new corporate partners to support TU’s mission and programs ranging from Far Bank (Sage, Redington, Rio) to Cortland Line. Each and every day I get to talk to our volunteers who continually amaze me with their tireless energy and passion. And I know we are making a difference. The Wild Steelhead Initiative has given me an opportunity to add to that rich well of experiences. We took a different tact with branding our campaign, reaching out to filmmakers, branding and digital marketing creatives who were steelheaders themselves to breathe life into the look and feel of this campaign – and we tapped the passion and expertise of our staff and volunteers to provide guidance on the substance. This campaign has only just begun, and it will truly come to life when anglers and people who love steelhead come together, take the pledge, and help us to ensure wild steelhead are around for the next generation of anglers.
Wild Steelheaders United believes…
- Wild steelhead must be protected, restored and sustained.
- Wild steelhead can thrive and support fishing opportunity.
- It is not the type of fishing gear you use that counts, but how you fish and how you care for the resource.
- In using sound science to manage steelhead.
- In respectful dialogue to solve problems, not rigid ideological positions.
- In short-term sacrifice for long-term, durable progress.
- It is not possible to rebuild fishable wild steelhead populations in every river and that some rivers should be set aside for hatcheries.
- Wild steelhead — and steelhead anglers — cannot wait for Providence or government agencies to deliver solutions.
- Together we can make a difference.
- Comebacks are possible.
Follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter @wiildsteelheaders and with #besteelheaded, and visit Wildsteelheaders.org for more information.
Friends say we hardly see ya anymore. Acquaintances wonder what I got up to lately. Family shrugs and say, well he’s at work…which means he’s probably just gone fishing.
If I’ve been absent a bit folks its not because I mean to be. I figure you could just settle in and go back to the beginning of Film CRAFT and re-watch your favorites, or maybe chew through my Life in the District posts. I’ve not meant to leave you in a lurch. I still think fondly of you, still look forward to seeing you again. Its just that I’ve been a bit busy in the new gig.
For the last few months I’ve been settling in to my job at Trout Unlimited. The fifty-plus year-old conservation organization dedicated to preserving cold, clean fishable water and the trout and salmonids that inhabit it has got under my skin. About three years ago I met the indomitable, charismatic and electrifying CEO of the organization at a fundraiser in Long Island City of all places, probably about as far as you could get from a trout. I watched Chris Wood and several amazing speakers whip up the room in a frenzy against the Pebble Mine project that threatens to take out the largest sockeye spawning grounds in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, with a deft narrative that captured people’s hearts and wallets. And I said to myself, “I gotta get in on this.”
Thus began a patient and casual game of continuously checking the TU job board for the VP Marketing position. Always aware it was a longshot, I told myself, I can’t really afford to take the pay cut, and I don’t really want to live in DC, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave this “dream job” if they had it… Well things change and funny enough, I’ve come to realize this is the ONE job I’d do for free for the rest of my life. It turned out I would move to DC anyway to follow a passion to work on social good campaigns, landing at the BEST shop on Earth to do that (GMMB, the media masterminds behind the Clinton and Obama wins, and the perfect place to learn the DC political game). And it turned out the last guy in the gig didn’t think it was his dream job afterall – and that’s ok, I think he’s much happier in his new gig. And so there you have it. I won’t bore you with the intense amount of lobbying I did to land this opportunity, but needless to say I studied and hit the pavement hard, calling on the help of a broad constituency of…fishing buddies.
Since March I’ve been getting to know one of the finest group of coworkers I’ve ever known, folks with real passion dedicated to the cause, but intensely interested in doing things smartly, and with a solid people-first focus. They are neither right, nor left, they just care very deeply about the thousands of individual TU members out there in over four hundred chapters, and of course, the fish. TU turns out to be not only a storied organization, but one that is quite complex, with a long reach, and an invigorating set of goals that anglers, trout and salmon need more than ever due to climate change, tough politics, and the sorry state of our coldwater fisheries. I’m learning that yes, you can buy a dam and dismantle it, you can also work with farmers and ranchers to restore and reconnect trout to their native habitat, you can partner with business and government, and that you can teach a child conservation ethics through fishtanks full of trout in their classroom. Its all kind of amazing.
And then there’s the fact that alot of these folks fly fish. Pretty neat.
I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to devote to deadbait going forward as I plan to do more writing on TU.org, our blog and maybe a few other places, but I promise to check in and share what I learn and perhaps the cool conversations and fishing adventures I might get up to now and then. I will probably share some my personal victories and defeats, and introduce you to some of my colleagues – who really do know how to fish – and I hope to, on occasion, stir you to give a thought to how important our wild places, our native and wild trout, and our actions all come together. Until then, tight lines.
Ok, I’ve been meaning to find a way to put some time in volunteering in 2014 and found a sweet opportunity to start. The other day I took a “voluteer” day off work (i.e. one of my vacay-days) to help my local TU chapter float stock a nearby river’s trout management area. They dropped the water-level at the dam, the weather was 50 degrees and sunny, and the company was outstanding!
I’ve put a lot of hours on this river so setting up other fly rodders to enjoy the fishing is a nice way to give back. 625 rainbows went in, and a mess of browns are next. If you’re a DC fly rodder, email Jay Sheppard at JMSheppar@AOL.com for time and location if you want to participate in a float stocking this Friday the 20th. Its a great way to meet folk who care about the water and trout as much as you do!
Of course it ain’t always about the fishing. The chapter has planted dozens of trees in key areas to stabilize the banks of this river, and recently worked with the MD DNR to conduct repairs on this tailwater’s reservoir dam to enable cold water releases to flow from the bottom of the dam to stabilize temperatures year-round. That’ll be good for the trout, and more holdovers mean more opportunities for anglers.
When I was in high school I was in the Environment and Conservation club. I remember camping trips in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. We swam in cedar creeks, stained red by the roots of the trees that lined the banks. We planted dune grass on the bluffs from one end of Ocean City to another. I remember the scent of patchouli wafting from the first girl I liked as we made posters about recycling and watched old national geographic and wild kingdom films on a rickety movie projector after school. On occasion we took our seine and combed the surf and tidal pools of the beaches and waded knee-deep in the sulfurous bogs of Great Egg Harbor looking for rare snails, blue crabs, picking up litter while cursing the jetskiers. I read Thoreau and Emerson and Sagan. My romance with Nature blossomed walking the beaches at dawn surrounded by the morning song of the gulls. And when I went to sleep at night with the window open to hear the sound of the distant surf crashing and peak up at the stars, I dreamed of someday being a great naturalist like my heroes Muir and Roosevelt.
Well romances fade and I obviously did not become a park ranger or write epic tomes about the sea or go off to the woods to live alone. The dream still lingers in my soul though, and I crave the feeling of full self-awareness that comes from being close to Nature. I realize that when we love Nature, we are truly loving ourselves. Its not much, I know, but taking a moment to share Nature’s gift is a way to ensure others can experience that love too.
So here is my unique take on the holiday gift guide this year. Happy holidays from deadbait.
A day flyfishing the Rose River in Syria, VA. ($95)
Walden (Leatherbound) by Henry David Thoreau
Timberland Earthkeepers ($180)
Patchouli Diptyque ($28)
Opinel Pocketknife ($17)
Woolrich Logan Ridge Blanket ($136)