TU Costa 5 Rivers | TU Costa 5 Rivers Odyssey | Youth

5 Rivers Odyssey Reflection: Morgan Bradley

When I think back to my first days of fishing, it is hard to believe where the sport has brought me now. Fly fishing has given me the opportunity to travel the world, experience other cultures, make new friends, gain a greater appreciation for the natural world, and taught me values like patience and determination.

Although I’ve been able to experience these things in bits and pieces over my angling career, the TU Costa 5 Rivers Odyssey provided all of this in just one month and on a greater scale than I’ve ever experienced before. From traveling through the many different climates of the Pacific Northwest and hearing the Native American perspective from the Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes, to making four lifelong friends and meeting countless more kind people who shaped our journey—learning about the wonder of nature that is the Columbia River—the Odyssey truly was the experience of a lifetime. 

The day before I left for the Odyssey, I re-watched one of my favorite documentaries of all time, DamNation. Seeing the film and knowing that I would be going to see the same sights and learn about the same issues gave me an emotional feeling that I hadn’t felt before. 

I realized that this trip was about so much more than just catching fish. It was the opportunity to truly make a difference.  

Fish Salvage Project with the USFS and TU on the Methow River. Photo: Matteo Moretti

As the Odyssey progressed, we were learning so much valuable information, but it was so overwhelmingly negative. From the effects that dams, chemicals, hatcheries and rising water temperatures have had on the native steelhead and salmon, to the failures and lies that we have perpetrated against the native peoples, to so many more sad truths, it was easy to get depressed by the facts.

Our days were lighthearted, filled with endless banter, games of hacky sack, and lots of great fish, but the greater issues were never far from the forefront of my mind.  

This weight persisted over me, until one day toward the end of the trip, my perspective completely changed. I had become lost in the negativity of trying to wrestle with these huge issues, when all along I had failed to see the small successes we were encountering every day.

From the projects we saw and participated in, to the passion that the people we met held for their work, we were making a difference. Although small, these actions add up. If only more people were to make these efforts, the Columbia River, and the world, would be a better place.  

Stage Zero Restoration Project on the McKenzie River with TU and the USFS. Photo: Matteo Moretti

If I’ll take one thing away from the Odyssey, it’s this: the power of positivity. These days, with the state of the world, the media, and so many other things, it can be so easy to only see the negative side. But, if you dare to look a little closer, to think a little differently, I guarantee that there are many successes to be found.

I’m grateful to have had this experience, and to now share my journey and these lessons with others. Thank you to everyone who made the Odyssey possible and provided us with this life-changing opportunity.