The Real Deal

The latest Trout Unlimited podcast--a candid and revealing conversation between TU's President and CEO Chris Wood and well-known outdoor writer Hal  Herring--struck a chord with me.

A bear print in the mud atop Colorado's Roan Plateau.

Over the years, Hal and I have become friends, sharing a common passion for the outdoors and for protecting the best of what's left when it comes to landscapes where things are pretty much as they should be, and where, if we leave well enough alone, they'll stay that way for the benefit of future generations. These are places where wild trout still swim, where elk still bugle and where the tracks left in the soft earth on backcountry game trails can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

This past summer, Hal participated in the TU/Field & Stream Best Wild Places tour of Idaho's Clearwater Country--it was the second year of the unique partnership, and Hal's second Best Wild Places tour. His first tour with TU happened in the summer of 2011, when I had the privilege of joining him, along with a host of TU staffers and volunteers, on the Roan Plateau in northwest Colorado.

This was my first "in the field" experience with Hal, and it's where I came to genuinely like the man. We put the tour participants through a special kind of hell on the Roan that summer--we hiked into the depths of the Roan's breathtaking canyons (and back out again), toting camera equipment and fishing gear in hot, dry conditions. The reward for our labors was the chance to catch a unique population of native Colorado River cutthroat trout that evolved over time above a series of waterfalls--these fish are found nowhere else on the planet, and their persistence now depends on a pending decision over whether or not to allow natural gas rigs in certain areas atop the Roan.

As much as I'd like to say the fish were enormous, that would be a lie. They were (and still are) pretty diminutive--a foot-long fish in those waters is remarkable. But they are absolutely stunning, and when you stop to consider the sheer austerity of their environment, it's easy to add an inch or two in your brain and be pretty pleased with your efforts.

I was pleased because Hal, despite the relatively modest size of the fish we hooked on dry flies over the span of a couple days, seemed absolutely thrilled each time one of the Roan's cutthroats came calling. He has an infectious laugh and a deep south Alabama accent (even though he calls Montana home these days) that adds a little seasoning to just about any conversation. But more importantly, Hal could see the value in this severe landscape, and he could see the value in TU's work to protect these fragile fish in the water in which they evolved. He "got it."

The rare Roan Plateau cutthroat trout.

Hal is, in short, the real deal--an outdoor writer who takes it all in and then writes from his heart about the wild country and the need to protect irreplaceable resources. Enjoy the conversation between Chris Wood and Hal Herring. I think you'll come away from this discussion with a better understanding of why we at TU do what we do, and why we have such deep respect for people like Hal.

 

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