Getting Down To The Who

My first fly fishing experience was almost 20 years ago in Colorado, on the Blue River in Silverthorne. You've probably heard of it, but I had just moved to Summit County on a whim - possible only because of an equally willing spouse with a sense of adventure and the unknown. I spent my youth in New Mexico, and my fondest memories are of the freedoms that being young give us, the structure of family but without the real responsibilities of adulthood - jobs, bills; responsibility assigned to you because of role, because of title, because of position. I remember family trips driving to Colorado when I was young, being dropped off next to the river for the afternoon by my father, with a spinning rod and a few lures near Creede. I now have a son of my own just a little older than I was then.

Passing over the bridge at the base of Dillon Reservoir those 20 years ago on my way to work I saw fly fishermen in the water below, heads down and hands fumbling through boxes and vest pockets, rods tucked under their arms and seemingly having fun. How much fun I wouldn't discover for a few weeks as the intricacies of fly fishing resulted in the same things - head down, hands fumbling. A co-worker named Johnny was a part-time guide at a local shop, and hearing of my interest gave me some well-intended advice. "Get a rod, and take every opportunity you get to fish during work because you're in a pretty special place" is how I remember it, but that's probably a very romantic way to look at it. Falling in love with fly fishing was falling in love with a place. It would make sense many years later. 

I learned of TU first from my father-in-law, fishing with him during a visit on the Colorado near Parshall. It was probably a pin or patch, or a logo on a plastic fly box that caught my attention. Thinking back, he used nymphs without an indicator. Maybe he was ahead of his time or maybe he was trying to teach me something. So, it just made sense that if you're chasing trout, belonging to Trout Unlimited was the right thing to do. Over the years, my angling improved and so did my salaries and responsibilities, so the letters from TU asking for donations were returned, sealed with a check inside for just a little bit more than the last one. I got my own logo fly box, my own patch, a classic selection of flies to add to my fly box. Fly fishing stayed with me through the years and when I needed it, it was there. Much of my flyfishing over the next 10 years was in Colorado, on the "Ark" through Brown's Canyon, in RMNP, the dribbling high-mountain tributaries and creeks during snowmelt. Fast forward a few years and a few states to the west, I found myself looking downstream and flyfishing was there again - so I did the logical thing, I quit a six-figure salaried job and started guiding. A perfectly logical decision, right?

I met another important person shortly thereafter in Bozeman, MT during the Orvis Guide Rendezvous. I didn't know it at the time, but here was TU in the flesh and blood, living it and leading. He convinced me that having TU as a business partner was what I should be doing, and he was right. I met a lot of great people during that event, and there are some stories I'll tell you on the drift boat but not on the internet. There are connections I've made in fly fishing that have changed my life, but you can probably say the same. Being told that a fly fishing trip I've led changed someone else's life is quite humbling, that during the day a connection was made for you, a conversation started, a special fly selected, a perfect drift fooling one or two and slipping them quickly back into the water  - those are the reasons why fly fishing has always been there for me. For you?

So it's now that my ability and my responsibilities have changed, or maybe they've just taken a little more time to settle in. I recently spent a day with leaders of the WA Council discussing the future, discussing the past, discussing how to get things done. As those discussions flowed on, I reflected upon that bridge over the Blue in Colorado nearly 20 years ago and wondering "who" was down there, and it was me. It was you. I don't know for sure that they were wearing a pin or a patch, or if they had a logo fly box in their vest - for the younger reader today's version is more commonly a sling pack or even just a lanyard and a pocket on a shirt. I'm not that much older, and almost certainly the youngest in the room when the ideas of what to do, how to do them, and then trying to get past being stuck on the who - how many ideas get done without you?

You are the volunteers. You are the hands on the tools, the feet on the ground. You are also the leaders, those that take that next step and responsibility and make this organization work. You are staff, across the country working diligently to provide the opportunity to protect, from Pebble Mine to pebbles in the creek. More precisely, we are what makes TU work and as we get down to starting a new Chapter on the Yakima River, you have made all of this possible.

Thank you.






said on Monday, January 12th, 2015

Thanks for sharing. One of the things that has surprised me about my fly-fishing journey is how important the people have been — the things we learn from them and the chapters of our lives those relationships can mark.

Thanks for reminding me of the many people that have helped me become the person and angler that I am.


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