Trout Unlimited Service Partnership

Trout Unlimited (TU), through our 400+ nationwide chapters, has been working for over 60 years to bring together diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams. TU’s 300,000 grassroots members and supporters bring our mission to life, creating thriving communities of anglers and conservationists across the country.

This Program Guide helps volunteers implement a Service Partnership, welcoming first responders, military members, and their families into TU’s community. TU councils and chapters foster friendships, conservation efforts, and service commitments. Every community has first responders, veterans, and families who can benefit from TU’s approach to caring for homewaters. Together we can give back through the gift of fly fishing.

Each chapter and community approaches Service Partnership differently, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you need help or have questions, please contact your Volunteer Operations staff. Congratulations on your role as a TU volunteer leader and thank you.

Free TU membership for all Service Partnership participants

Veterans and first responders who take part in a TU Service Partnership Program can join TU for free for one year. Four TROUT Magazine issues, exclusive deals and discounts, and chapter membership in a nearby TU organization are all included with the membership.

One of the things that sets our program apart is chapter membership. We know it can change lives when a soldier or first responder discovers the restorative and healing enchantment of holding a rod in a cool, clear river. However, fly fishing has a very high entry barrier because it can be costly, difficult to obtain, and intimidating. But for the veteran or first responder, chapters break it all down, making sure that experience is preserved and a love for our coldwater resources is nurtured.

Then, through TU’s numerous conservation and community engagement initiatives, groups of leadership-trained, service-oriented individuals—like the military and first responder communities—are given opportunities to maintain their passion for service.

Starting in the TU Service Partnership

Service Partnership encourages TU members to consider how to involve first responders, military personnel, and their families in the mission. Every effective TU Service Partnership program creates systems to engage local first responders and military with ongoing Chapter operations.

Any chapter or council can start a Service Partnership program. Chapters should look for service opportunities that align with their interests, location, and volunteer resources. Consider working with local fire departments, police benevolent societies, and Veterans Administration facilities to offer fly tying or rod construction programs. Other options include college veteran initiatives and clubs. Some chapers may do everything. Chapters are free to meet weekly, monthly, or less frequently.

Effective Service Partnership programs need a lot of work, so a Chapter subcommittee can help share the load and prevent volunteer fatigue. Chapters should recruit Service Partnership volunteers beyond their normal volunteers. Social media can work well to recruit younger volunteers, as can the Chapter newsletter or e-newsletter.

Assessing the number of first responders, active serving military, and/or veterans in your area will help define the kind of program and scale that can be implemented. This is the next stage in starting a local Service Partnership program. Local fire departments, EMS squads, police departments, VFW Posts, American Legion Posts, county Veterans Service Officers, high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps programs, and college veteran service offices are good sources for this information. If you live in an area with a small veteran population, consider teaming with local first responders or neighboring Chapters with larger veteran populations.


At the national and local levels, the TU VSP successfully partners with numerous other organizations to work together for an impactful program. These partnerships include Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (T.A.P.S.), Higher Ground USA, America’s Warrior Partnership, Warriors and Quiet Waters, Rivers of Recovery, and Student Veterans of America.  

Working with national staff, chapters and councils should think about collaborating with national or local partners to arrange activities and identify first responder and veteran populations, in collaboration with the TU National Staff.

First responder and veteran service organizations are not the only possible partners. By partnering with TU, corporations or local businesses may be able to assist chapters and councils in establishing relationships and even securing significant donations.

TU and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Memorandum of Agreement

A nationwide Memorandum of Agreement between Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) was developed in 2019. This memorandum outlines the terms and conditions under which TU chapters might contribute trained volunteers to assist PHWFF program operations.

Through fly fishing and related activities, such as education and outings, PHWFF is committed to the physical and mental rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans. These individuals must meet specific eligibility criteria as outlined in the PHWFF Program Guide.

A Memorandum of Agreement with PHWFF Program Leads is in place at several TU chapters, outlining the duties of each party and formalizing the local collaboration. TU chapters and councils should understand, therefore, that the MOA only applies when assisting in the organization of PHWFF activities for handicapped veterans and active military members.

Trout Unlimited strongly encourages its chapters and councils to create opportunities to involve the whole military and first responder community, including active duty service members, reservists, veterans, and their families.

Lessons learned: successful event planning

There are many different kinds of events you may organize. We hope that you make the most out of every occasion and establish a postive tone for future events. Generally speaking, effective preparation and execution in the following four areas lead to a successful Service Partnership event:

Communication and Marketing. Chapters and councils who have hosted successful Service Partnership activities in the past tend to be skilled at communicating with the public and marketing their events to a wide audience. Sending a mailing or email to your membership is almost always the best place to start. Start by gathering contact information from the Leaders Only Section. All committee members and officers have access to the rosters, a tool for sending bulk emails, and label printing. Make sure LOS designates the role of the Service Partnership Coordinator for your chapter so the Chairperson of your subcommittee has access to the necessary information.

Professional advertising materials can have a significant impact on event attendance.  Take advantage of TU’s relationship with to order cost-effective, professional event posters, flyers, and other promotional materials.  Then identify a volunteer responsible for distributing the event materials locally, with extra emphasis in areas first responders and military members are likely to frequent.  Posters are best placed one month in advance of the event and again two weeks prior.

Well-designed promotional materials can greatly improve attendance. Use TU’s partnership with to create affordable, high-quality event posters, fliers, and more. Finding volunteers to hand out flyers and other event materials is a great way to get the word out. Prioritize locations frequented by emergency personnel and military personnel. Posters do best if they’re out at least one month before the event.

Publicize your event by sending press releases to local newspapers (both weekly and daily), fishing blogs, radio stations, and any other media that publishes community calendars. First responder and veteran fly-fishing activities tend to get a lot of media attention. Notify the local media about your event, and if it helps, send out personalised invites. Know the rules before you photograph or interview a member of the military. The Tacklebox has media release and hold harmless forms that you can use.

Another cost-effective way to advertise your event is through your Chapter’s Facebook page. Posts are free to create but can be boosted at a minimal cost.  For most Chapters, a boost to guarantee the post will reach 3,000-5,000 people will cost less than $20!

Creating a Welcoming Atmosphere.  Think of locations that would be suitable and could meet the specific requirements of any older or disabled participants when you choose the site. It’s crucial to have easy access to the facility or the water because some individuals may have limited mobility. There are designated areas on many lakes and streams in the United States that have ramps or platforms installed so that people with disabilities can participate.

Make it obvious that all are welcomed to attend, regardless of gender, age, or location, unless your event is supporting PHWFF participants under the TU-PHWFF MOA. To attract the most diverse audience possible, you might want to think about using photos of people of many ages, genders, and races in your event ads.

Offering nametags is one of the simplest things you can do to make your event feel welcoming to newcomers. That simple act indicates that the one new person in the room is welcome.

Organization.  Create a schedule outlining the required volunteers. Do you know who will speak? Will someone welcome all first responders and veterans and discuss the Service Partnership program’s future goals? Will folks be free to tie flies or given mentors when they arrive? Make a volunteer plan and educate volunteers on their daily duties.Planning those aspects ahead of time makes any event operate more smoothly.

Understand and enforce TU’s liability limitations associated with any TU Service Partnership event.  If you’re organizing your event through your chapter, you are covered under TU’s liability policy.  However, this coverage does have limitations, especially with any events involving watercraft or alcohol. Please familiarize yourself with what those limitations, and don’t hesitate to reach out to TU’s volunteer operations staff with questions.

Rod and Wader Lending Locker. Thanks to many new partners, the TU Service Partnership can provide a dozen fly rods (with reel, backing, line, and leader) and approximately 30 pairs of waders for chapter or council events. Gear will be loaned on a first-come, first-served basis, so please email Jeff Yates ( at least 30 days before your event. We ship the gear to the chapter or council, and the chapter or council ships it back. This helps encourage impactful events and lowers the cost of supporting your TU Service Partnership program.

Meaning and Enjoyment.  TU engages first responders, military personnel, and their families for many reasons. Connecting those communities to the healing power of water and the joy of fishing is one reason.

To attract new attendees, look for a “hook”. Whatever the “hook” — and our TU members love to fish tie flies, practice fly casting, build rods and fish. They also love to teach others.

Be sure you include refreshments for your evnt, allowing time for breaks and downtime to laugh and get to know each other.  Building relationships can be just as impactful as tying a fly.

The Critical Piece: Follow Through.  Note how things went at your first event or series of events. These notes will help each organize and improve each subsequent event. Showcase your Chapter’s achievements at every Service Partnership event. This will help your attendees, many of whom may be new to conservation, relate fishing to conservation and urge them to get involved. Visit the Leader’s Store to purchase TU products such as brochures, stickers, hats, and TROUT Magazine publications to promote your Chapter and the benefits of joining TU.

Complimentary memberships

New participants in the Service Partnership program may receive a complimentary membership to TU.  Complimentary memberships can be used for individuals who have been involved, in some manner, with your Chapter Service Partnership event or program.  It can be as simple as an individual showing up at a chapter meeting, attending a chapter sponsored event or participating in an event run by a partner organization.  

Key position descriptions and responsibilities

Trout Unlimited Service Partnership Director
Council Service Partnership Chairperson
Chapter Service Partnership Coordinator

Our program sponsors

Trout Unlimited would like to thank the many individuals, businesses, and foundations that make this work possible, especially CACI and Streamside Systems, Inc.

Sponsorship opportunities are always available, from underwriting a specific nationally-led veterans trip to the donation of gear to support our Trout Unlimited chapter programs and everything in between. If you or your company is interested in donating to Trout Unlimited’s Service Partnership Program, please contact Beverly Smith at or 307-734-2814.