Pay attention and get involved so nobody has to make The Last Cast

New film focused on impacts of climate change

By David Brooks

I met Alec Underwood when he interned for the Montana Council of Trout Unlimited six years ago.  

Although he was barely of age to buy a beer, Alec had already dedicated years serving as a TU chapter board member. With the exception of an epic big game hunt each fall, I’ve never known Alec to take a vacation or even weekend outing that did not involve serious flyfishing.

The only thing matching his passion for angling is his deep understanding of climate change and how we meet the challenges of a warming world.  

So, when Alec asked me to participate in a film he was making on his two life’s passions I knew it meant the chance to be involved in something meaningful.

Brian Neilsen, owner of Fin Fetchers Outfitting in Great Falls, Montana, fishing with his daughter Margo on the Missouri River. Courtesy of the Montana Wildlife Federation

I also knew that this film, The Last Cast, would complement the many ways TU has expanded our work on climate change from the grassroots members to the organization’s unwavering leadership.

Decades before the phrase “global warming” shifted to “climate change” or its more urgent iterations such as “climate crisis” and “climate emergency,” Trout Unlimited was already working on ways to build resilience in the face of a warming planet. We’ve increased the cold, clean water in streams through improving irrigation systems, restoring riparian habitat, rebuilding floodplains, and reconnecting tributaries since the organization’s inception in 1959. 

Each willow a volunteer plants helps sequester some carbon that would otherwise linger in our atmosphere, as well as shading and cooling the water that rushes beneath it. The benefits our on-the-ground work provides for trout literally trickles downstream to ensure better and more water for farms, ranches and drinking water systems, all of which are threatened by rising temperatures around the globe.  

Fishing guide Sean Blaine, of Bozeman, guiding on the Yellowstone River. Courtesy of the Montana Wildlife Federation

TU staff, councils and members across the country have also used science and innovative policy tools to promote healthy, sustainable coldwater resources and their trout populations by reducing fossil fuel use and promoting alternative energy. 

We have invested in outreach opportunities to TU membership, the angling public, our business partners and the general public to share information about climate change and to engage in solutions. By doing so, we help combat an array of climate change impacts to the human and natural environments.  

The Last Cast offers the challenge of joining such efforts to anglers who care about passing on their love of the sport to the next generation and warns of perils of not doing so. It does so through everyday voices in the angling industry, conservation community, and fishery management agencies of Montana.

Brian Neilsen, owner of Fin Fetchers Outfitting in Great Falls, Montana, fishing with his daughter Margo on the Missouri River. Courtesy of the Montana Wildlife Federation

“It’s so important to see our chapters and councils taking an active role in communicating their concern about climate change, given it’s one of the biggest threats we face in conserving trout and salmon and their habitats,” said Helen Neville, Senior Scientist at Trout Unlimited. “This is such a great film. It brings the impacts of this existential threat home through the voices of guides, staff, grassroots volunteers and children. These are the most meaningful voices we can have on this issue.”

Climate change is a crisis that defines our era. As anglers and coldwater conservationists, we should be leading efforts to confront this crisis. The Last Cast reminds us of that responsibility to ourselves and to future generations. It is meant to harness our efforts into collective and effective action so that climate change never diminishes our coldwater fisheries to the point that we are reduced to reeling in a sad, empty, last cast. 

I hope you will watch The Last Cast. In addition to seeing Alec’s passions on display, you will also likely develop a better understanding of the serious threats to the fisheries we all love and some direction in helping to overcome them.

And a special thanks to Alec for giving me and Trout Unlimited a chance to participate in your efforts.

David Brooks is the director of Montana Trout Unlimited. He is based out of Missoula.

By Trout Unlimited Staff.