My dad was a small businessman in a small town. He managed an old-fashioned mercantile store, where you could buy anything from Christmas candy to horseshoe nails. I don’t think he ever loved it. He saved his love for his family and the mountains and rivers and deserts of our home country. But he was loyal to it. In his world, “shopping local” was about loyalty. He didn’t much care if you bought your groceries at his store or the one across the street, but it was an act of treachery if you drove 15 miles to the neighboring community to buy those groceries. He believed that money that stayed in our town supported our town, and he was right.
Some of that must have rubbed off during the twelve years we had together. I’m passionate about supporting the businesses who support Trout Unlimited. For me, that’s shopping local in the 21st century. We have somewhere over 400 great TU Business members who support us financially, politically and in every other way. They donate to their local TU chapter banquet. They show up to support us at the planning and zoning board meeting. They email their elected representatives in the state house when we need them to do that. They fly to DC to testify on Capitol Hill. They’re our hometown businesses and we should support them, especially in this roller coaster year of 2020.
Check them out in the back pages of TROUT magazine or search for them by state on our website: https://www.tu.org/businesses/. You’ll find a vast array of opportunities for your holiday shopping. The best fly shops and outfitters are there, of course, and we’ll come back to them. But there are great gear manufacturers like Winston, Scott, Fishpond and Vedavoo. There are great businesses that produce apparel like FisheWear, Damsel Fly Fishing and Simms. There are commercial fishermen, wineries, breweries, investment managers, media professionals and insurance companies. Every one of them is an ardent supporter of what we do to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain coldwater fisheries across America.
But at the center of it all are the businesses that form the nucleus of fly fishing and conservation, the fly shops, guides and outfitters who are the heart of fly fishing in any community. These are small family-owned businesses that trade on Main Street, not Wall Street. When you buy that holiday gift from them, you’re supporting local families and local communities. You’re putting food on someone’s table. You’re paying for piano lessons and soccer cleats. But maybe just as important, you’re supporting another TU member, a teammate in the greatest coldwater conservation organization in the world.
Check them out. Buy some gear. Book a trip. Buy a gift card. You’ll be glad you did, and so will the fish.