Record crowd attends TU's Annual Meeting in Montana

Trout Unlimited volunteers, staffers and partners gathered in Bozeman, Mont., for the 58th annual meeting. Brett Prettyman photo.

By Brett Prettyman

A record crowd of more than 300 people gathered for Trout Unlimited’s 58th annual meeting in Bozeman, Mont., last week.

The meeting included a fishing day on some of the best trout waters in the West, a conservation tour of important TU projects, National Leadership Council workshops and a State of Trout Unlimited presentation highlighted by Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

“It is important we get together to recognize and celebrate the amazing volunteers and partners who help us achieve our goals of protecting, restoring and conserving our coldwater fisheries,” said Beverly Smith, Vice President for Volunteer Operations at Trout Unlimited. “We could not do it without them.”

Hank Patterson, the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Fly Fishing Guide served as the keynote speaker at the conference. Travis Swartz, the man who plays Hank, was also awarded the Conservation Communications Award during the annual meeting.

Kevin Reilly of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was presented the prestigious Ray Mortensen Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership. The award is presented annually to someone who has made an extraordinary contribution to local coldwater fisheries conservation efforts.

Reilly was New Mexico’s representative to the National Leadership Council for five years and chaired the Native Trout Workgroup. Kevin is a tireless advocate for southwest native trout. For many years, he was a member of the board of directors of the Truchas Chapter in New Mexico. For the last seven years, he has served as the chair of the risk management committee of the TU board of trustees.  

Kevin Reilly won the 2017 Mortensen Award. He is pictured here, center, with past award winners, including Paul Doscher, David Armstrong, Jon Christiansen, and Duke Welter. Josh Duplechian photo.

Fish were caught – by most anglers anyway – and memories made as more than 80 participants took part in a fishing day to get things started. Dave Kumlien, a TU staffer who lives in Bozeman, did a great job of providing hosts for visiting anglers and spreading people out among the many fishing opportunities in the area.

Anglers prepare for a day of fishing on the Gallatin River during the TU Annual Meeting in Bozeman. Brett Prettyman photo.

A day-long conservation tour included a stop near downtown Bozeman and then a look at efforts on the Darlington Ditch Project along the Madison River. The day was capped with a cocktail party and tour of the Simms headquarters.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock welcomed Trout Unlimited to his state Friday at breakfast. The day was then dedicated to National Leadership Council (NLC) workgroup meetings including: Native Trout; Responsible Energy Development; Land Conservancy; Access; Grassroots; Diversity and Climate Change.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock address attendees about the importance of public lands during the TU Annual Meeting in Bozeman. Josh Duplechian photo.

After the NLC business meeting attendees headed for the annual awards presentations.

Chapter/Council winners included: The Arizona Council with the State Council Award for Excellence; Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek Chapter won the Gold Trout Award; The Snake River Cutthroat Chapter out of Idaho won the Silver Trout Award.

Volunteer awards included: The Distinguished Service Award for Leadership went to Charlie Charlesworth from Pennsylvania; H. Bud Smalley of Idaho won the Distinguished Service Award for Conservation; Joe Mark from Vermont took the Distinguished Service Award for Youth Education home; the Distinguished Service Award Communications went to Carl Haensel of Minnesota and Lindsay Agness of New York won the Distinguished Service Award for Veteran Services.

Partner Awards included: The Corporate Conservation Partner to Costa; Tom Horning, a U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist in Oregon, won the Conservation Professional Award and Travis Swartz – aka Hank Patterson – won the Conservation Communications Award.

Trout Unlimited CEO and President Chris Wood presents the State of Trout Unlimited in Bozeman, Mont., during the 2017 Annual Meeting. Brett Prettyman photo.

The State of Trout Unlimited presentation from Chris Wood, Matt Renaud (chief financial officer for TU), Mick McCorcle (Chair of the NLC) and Jim Asselstine (Chair of the Board of Trustees) will be available soon be available to watch via the web.

Special thanks to the people of Bozeman who greeted TU with open arms and made us feel welcome. Thanks also to sponsors who helped make the annual meeting a success.

“The Trout Unlimited 2016 Annual Meeting received major sponsorship from Montana Fly Company, Simms, Scott, Upslope Brewing Co., the Fly fishing Film Tour and Other event sponsors were, Costa del Mar, Montana Troutfitters, Depuy’s Spring Creek, Nelson’s Spring Creek, Orvis, Sage, Rio, Fishpond, Waterwisp, Featherlite, Douglas Outdoors, Redington, Sawyer Paddles & Oars, Filson,, Tray and Avex,” said Jeff Yates, director of volunteer operations. “We thank them all for the support.”

The 2017 TU Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 27-30 in Roanoke, Va.

Hope to see you there.

Brett Prettyman is the Intermountain Communications Director for Trout Unlimited. He is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. He can be reached at


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