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.
So on my last trip to the Titicus River this year, where I landed my first 20-er, I lost my net. It’s a mile hike over some rough terrain to the outlet where the big’uns are and though I backtracked carefully, I couldn’t find my net. Thankfully, Trout Unlimited is having its 2011 Gear Liquidation and you can get some dope TU-branded goods for donation at or below retail. I took advantage of the liquidation to donate for a Brodin TU net, similar to the one below.
Its 21″ long, net opening is 9″ wide and made of wood, with an embossed TU log. In the next year, Brodin Landing Nets is moving to use completely sustainable wood from Costa Rican plantations, teak in fact. The Brodin TU net has a traditional nylon net bag, which can be a bit of a pain if you get a fly stuck in the mesh. Eventually, I’ll upgrade to the ghost net. The good thing is you can reuse your original handle and just purchase the ghost net and install it yourself.
Oregon guide Greg Hatten has put together a nice little video of the Brodin in use on his own wooden boat guided drift tours. The music is a bit over the top, but it sure looks fun.
If you’re an angler and haven’t heard of the battle over the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay Alaska, well, you’ve been living under a rock. You may have heard the recent NPR stories covering the proposed gold and copper mine on state lands in Southwest Alaska. But if you tuned-out or maybe weren’t listening closely and were curious to learn more, watching Felt Soul Media’s award-winning documentary film Red Gold would certainly draw you in.
Trout Unlimited is touring the Save Bristol Bay Roadshow which tours Red Gold for two weeks in seven cities with one clear goal in mind–to keep Northern Dynasty (the mining operations) out of Bristol Bay Alaska.
Here’s a perspective from the developers, Pebble Limited Partnership.
These videos which were released as TV ads, features a cross-country trek by a “local” from the proposed site to the bay, over a week and 120 miles. The point–I guess–is to say that if the mine is out of sight, and 120 miles away, it couldn’t possibly harm the bay, its people, wildlife or ecology? This little bit of PR magic relies on people not seeing past a bit of visual trickery. The mine and its roads, pits, and pollution would of course stretch much farther than the site itself, and destroy miles of river tributaries (70 salmon streams), bring chemicals and minerals to the surface where they will eventually run-off, and cut salmon off from their spawning grounds while poisoning the air and water. Jobs may be had, for a little while, but at what cost? The shameful thing about the PR is the use of the native local and completely ignoring the true topography of the land she traverses. As a former adman, I can tell you that it is highly unlikely the actor walked 120 miles in a week. No actor or paid representative would do it–the unions wouldn’t allow it and it would be prohibitively expensive. There is little truth in advertising here. That’s why documentaries like Red Gold are so important. If the filmmaker is doing a good job–they are trying to balance a story from multiple perspectives, without giving up the right to come to clear conclusions. The tour begins today in Seattle, Washington, and also today, officials are literally counting votes right now to see if the Pebble Mine initiative will go forward.
Today, I moderated a panel on the film genre known as Branded Documentary at SilverDocs, the international documentary festival in Washington, DC. We discussed films made by companies to promote their values, be it in “cause” or social responsibility, or just to bring their brand to life in an entertaining way. The purpose of a branded doc is to tell the brand story using the authentic form of documentary, which is based on interviewing, investigation and story-telling. It occurred to me that the explosion of fly fishing films, some independent, and some sponsored by Simms, Scott and other well-regarded companies are taking full advantage of this exciting genre in a highly competitive environment. They blur the line between long-form commercial, branded content, and documentary. The films speak to the heritage of the brands, and of course the fishing. In some cases, the branded docs are environmental films sponsored by multiple brands invested in cold, clear, clean water and the preservation of our fisheries and waterways. Of course, we all grew up watching branded docs–remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? That and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America (non-commercial) first filled my heart with the longing to become a naturalist. Thanks to Trout Unlimited, I came across a new short branded doc (long-form commissioned commercial, basically) today by the fly rod maker Scott, and the filmmakers at Felt Sole Media.
This should really be in the Film Craft section of the blog, but ‘meh, its my blog and I can put it where I want it…enjoy.
So I’ve had a few friends ask me recently, “what’s up with all this…fishing…stuff? Is this your early mid-life crisis?”
“Well,” I say after a moment, “I need it. I can’t explain it, I just do.” And I’ll add that though I live here in Brooklyn, I was born in the woods of New Hampshire, grew up in the fields of Ohio on the Cuyahoga, and went to high school on a sandbar on the Atlantic. Though I’ve lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, London and now New York, I’ve got water in my veins. I need to be on or near a body of water or I’m afraid I’ll just dry-up and blow away. Fortunately, I live a stones throw from some of the greatest fisheries in the world, the Catskills, the reservoirs of Westchester, Long Island Sound.
The “fishing stuff”, that comes from my Dad. His family fished the Chesapeake and the Delaware when he was growing up, and he wanted to pass along the tradition. On a small lake in Ohio about an hour south of Cleveland, Pop took his young sons fishing one day. Shadow Lake was stocked, and my first fish was a rainbow trout. I’ll never forget the tug on the line, the bobber disappearing into the depths, the gentle coaching of my father, “OK, now keep the line tight, reel him in–quick!”
We took that little ‘bow–caught on a worm, right home and fried him up. I think all my brothers and sisters got a taste. From there I was hooked. When my parents had trouble making ends meet, and there wasn’t food on the table, my Dad went fishing. We ignored the peril and fished Lake Erie for walleye, perch and bass. Oh walleye, the best tasting fish on Earth, is even sweeter knowing it “was caught, not bought.” Once or twice even, Pop came home with duck, the victim of a poor shot who made it into open water only to find it didn’t have the strength to fly. There were feathers floating around the place for days.
Fishing was so much more than fishing, it was father-son-brother time. Even when we left rural Ohio and moved into the ghettos of Cleveland, we continued to get out on the water as often as possible, roaming over the breakers in search of smallies and rock bass. If we came home with just a couple perch, everyone knew who would get it–my Mom was a bonafied perch fiend. Perch was an offering to the Queen of our household. Later, it was crabbing in the Great Egg Harbor during high school and surf-fishing for fluke off the beaches of Ocean City, NJ that filled my weekends and mornings before school.
After college, I put the rods away… Life called and I busied myself with a career. Fishing drifted away for years while I made my way in the world. Though every time I saw a river or a lake, I wondered what was in there… brook trout, bass, pike? A few years ago, I found myself needing to reclaim some of that precious father-son-brother time and I declared a “guys-only” fishing trip on Lake Anna in Virginia. Man were we rusty! Chugging along spooking everything for miles. We were ecstatic after we pulled in a tiny perch and then some cats. Used to be we could fill a stringer in an hours worth of fishing, but damn we were happy. On that pontoon boat with my brothers laughing and calling each other nicknames I hadn’t heard in twenty years, we remembered our time on Shadow Lake, the awe and smiles around that first ‘bow, the first fish I ever caught in my life. We remembered why we fish, for the communion, to be brothers of the angle once more, to be men in a world claimed by mobile phones and play-dates, simply–to be.
I’m glad I picked-up the rod once more and now, it’ll never leave my hands again. Recently, I’ve begun to learn to fly fish and thank God I’m old enough to appreciate it. This is a sport for someone who has lived in the world, who’s been there and back again. This is a sport for a native angler. As soon as I told my younger brother what I was up too, he was in. Turns out he’s not too far from a mid-life crisis either. With classes from the Wulff School and Orvis under our belt, we’re wise enough to have picked the basics up quickly, though we recognize and take joy in the fact that it’ll be a life time of learning. The familiar rhythm of the water, the sixth sense that there’s a nice brown waiting behind that rock just past that seam, dormant feelings re-awakening. Fishing is a forgiving sport, and once again, we’re in our stride. Only, we’re lucky enough to have the means to travel to the great waters now. In my mind though, Shadow Lake lingers, the smell of my father’s aftershave, the pulsing life of the rainbow in my hand. And though I blog often now about my fishing trips, to the Beaverkill, the ‘Hooch, the first fishing trip of my life will always be the best.
Funny things happen as you grow older. You need the experiences of youth to mean more, the memories to be truer, and the places that made your youth special to remain unspoiled. On a recent trip back to Ohio, I was saddened to see the fields and streams I ran through as a boy, dozed flat for suburban cookie-cutter communities. On the other hand, the Cuyahoga river, once polluted, has been restored and is an amazing fishery. They even say that steelhead have returned to the upper river.
Shadow Lake remains untouched, though it seemed a lot smaller now, a pond really. I see now that my job is to make sure the next generation has clean, cold water to fish in–that my father has passed on a legacy. That’s why I am a member of Trout Unlimited, Stripers Forever and the Sierra Club doing my part to conserve our waterways and environment. Its up to us now, and believe me, there’s a father’s son out there waiting to have his first best fishing trip ever, too.