About a month ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with some of TU’s most important donors at the Henry’s Fork Lodge in Idaho. Ah, the famed Henry’s Fork. The stuff of fly fishing dreams, and nightmares if you’re a nube on Harriman’s Ranch. Our trip, brilliant calculated, ran just a week or so before the Harriman State Park opened and so thankfully we were spared the hordes of anglers who regularly make the pilgrimage to the state park’s opening. I was fortunate enough to float the box canyon stretch of the north fork of the Snake River twice, once with the famed Mike Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Anglers, and again with the young upstarts from TroutHunter.
Two great floats, two very different trips. The first float with a Lawson’s guide name Smitty was on a bluebird day requiring going deep with a two nymph rig, small flies and carefully fishing the slots. The second float was a race against a big front that produced fewer fish but more drama. And later on my trip I hiked into a lower stretch of the Henry’s Fork below Mesa Falls for a long and grueling afternoon of hike/fish/hike action.The hike was worth it (even the sprained ankle) to get the sense of isolation and beautiful wild rainbows.
Perhaps the best part about the trip, was the chance to fish mammoth dry flies as the famed salmonfly hatch was slowly progressing up the river. Low flows may have had some of the guides grumbling, but for a relatively new to the West angler, casting size 8 and 10 salmonflies to big willing rainbows was pretty much the pinnacle of my fly fishing career to date.
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.
Orvis Fly Rods
Best Made Axe Restoration
Coal X Otter Wax
CF Burkeimer X Filson
Faribault Woolen Mill Co.
A lot of anglers like to start the season opener by chasing after the stocking truck. Hit the stream hard, take a way a limit. A lot of folks (folks you’re not likely to see that often) wait a few weeks after the season opener to go fishing when the hullabaloo has died down and the stocked trout have acclimated themselves. And still another group of anglers like to start the season more quietly, chasing wild and native fish far off the beaten path.
These folks are likely to stop in the middle of a good cast because they can feel the warmth of a sunbeam, a feeling almost forgotten, buried beneath the doldrums of a long gray winter. The same folks are also likely to relish in the fact that they no longer are trying to stick the biggest fish, the most fish, even the best fish in the most remote places. They are just happy to be on the water again. They bask in the comfort of the return of yet another season full of promise and hope that this year’s fishing will be better than the last. Maybe they’ll finally take the back country hike to the headwaters they’ve planning for what must be a decade. Maybe they’ll take their nephew (he’s old enough now) to that bend in the river where you know Charlie has been holding out beneath the root ball all winter. Maybe they’ll attend that TU meeting that they’ve back burnered because there will be a presentation on brookies in Maine.
For me, the season opener is a time of hope. And nothing fills your chest with more hope for the season than having a six inch jewel of a brookie dancing on your 6x before the canopy has filled in, but just as the blue quills are coming off.