These guys are relentless.
When you think TU volunteer, your mind may wander to planting trees for streambank improvement or placing boulders in a brook for fish habitat; maybe even teaching kids to fish or tie flies, getting them hooked on the sport.
But these guys from the Southeastern Montgomery County Chapter No. 468 were practicing the ultimate Catch and Release this winter at the Lancaster Fly Fishing Show.
I’ve been to a lot of sports shows, as a participant and when I was just browsing. I’ve seen all types – those who sit quietly at the booth, waiting for the destination or product to reel in the customer; those who ply the attendee with candy and sweets; booths with elaborate video presentations that beg for even the casual passer-by to stop and look.
Al, Denis, Rich and Mike appealed to every fisherman’s dream – big unreachable browns on the Upper Delaware and many other fish they were missing by simply standing in a stream. Who wouldn’t stop? There weren’t many who just walked by.
There they were, all weekend, right next to me at the Lancaster show. While I talked to sportsmen and women about preserving the habit, educating people about the potential impacts of shale gas development in the East, they were appealing to a much more basic instinct – big fish and the ability to catch them.
This year’s SE Montgomery fundraiser is a pontoon boat, capable of putting you in front of those fish and these guys were selling raffle tickets. Boy, were they selling raffle tickets. I don’t know what the finally tally was for the weekend, but it had to be pretty big. These volunteers were on their feet for practically the entire 16 hours of the show, in the aisle, telling their story, reeling people in. After a full day Saturday, I thought I might see a slow start on Sunday. Not a chance.
And it worked out well. They would Catch the fisherman coming down the aisle, make the sale and then Release him or her to me to talk to them about habitat protection. A pretty slick move.
I don’t know whether it was the thrill of the sale that kept them motivated, but I’m guessing that it also had a lot to do with the resulting funds for stream restoration and dam removal that kept them going. They knew their work would ultimately benefit the resource and were working like crazy to raise that money. I’ve seen a lot of this from TU volunteers as I travel Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York speaking about shale gas development and its impacts on the resource – whether it’s at a sport show or on the stream or planning a banquet. They are a terribly dedicated bunch of guys and gals. TU wouldn’t be what it is today without them.
After I bought my ticket (hey, who doesn’t want to reach those browns on the Upper Delaware?!?), they assured me that they would store the pontoon boat until I could get down to Montgomery County to pick it up after the drawing. And I heard them tell someone else the same thing. What a nice bunch of guys…