By Chris Wood
Fred’s note was unexpected. He was one of the first TU volunteers I met 17 years ago when he was 78 years young. At the time, I wondered who is this cool cat with the white pony-tail and turquoise rings?
His note read, “a few months ago our son, Jon, and his two university age sons visited Jeanne and I for a weekend. Jon, my fishing buddy, and I have caught and released fish on on most rivers between Denver and Yellowstone Park. So, I offered to his two boys to take any fly fishing books they wished from my library. They each chose more than a grocery bag of books. I gave the younger grandson one of my last fly rods. I was so elated at their enthusiasm about their future fly fishing I felt not empty and bereft but very pleased about our family legacy of outdoor conservation.”
Fred Rasmussen’s made-in-Colorado story is repeated across Trout Unlimited.
A few years ago, the Golden Gate Chapter took me to a creek called Devil’s Gulch— a tributary of Lagunitas Creek—an important salmon and steelhead river in California. Mike Cronin proudly showed off the interlacing logs, and other habitat improvement work he and other chapter leaders completed the week before. Then, he said, “see that pool down there? My Dad and I built that together 30 years ago when I was 14.”
Fred, who helped form the Collegiate Peaks chapter in Colorado in 1985, was a conservation leader for most of his adult life—a legacy his son and grandsons now share. Mike is the scion of Leo Cronin, a TU legend in California. Like me forcing my sons to serve Sunday Mass, one could argue Leo left Mike little choice but to “serve” TU. That is until you see the glean in Mike’s eye as he talks about the chapter, and his personal, 30-year commitment to Devil’s Gulch, Lagunitas Creek and their coho and steelhead.
Another letter, this one from Nate Blue, of the Central-Sierra Chapter, completed the circle:
“My grandpa gave my dad his first fly-fishing lesson. Dad gave me my first fly-fishing lesson with his dad’s fly-rod when I was five years old… My son, Jim, was seven when he and I tied the knot of fishing buddies—he’s teaching me still. Jim and I took his two sons and daughter on their first trip for trout to the Sierras last summer. My family supports TU because it stays focused on the fish and their habitat. Conserving and restoring these resources only happens because of good staff leadership combined with grassroots support.”
Our shared passion protects, re-knits, and recovers rivers and streams. The work of Trout Unlimited makes fishing better. It helps make communities more resilient to the increasing threat of floods, fires and drought. Perhaps the most unsung aspect of our shared passion is how it connects mother and son, father and daughter, grandfather and granddaughter on a patch of running water to a shared goal. Fishing, and conservation for that matter, may never save the world. They can, however, force us to slow down and be a little more caring, a little more thoughtful, a little kinder.
Maybe that is just enough.
Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimted. He works from TU’s Arlington, Va.-based headquarters.