Every year has its big moments. The ones we vividly remember. The moments that stick out so much in your mind you don’t need a visual reminder of what it felt like when you were there.  

Those are the easy ones.  

The Colorado Trout Unlimited Youth River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp.

I’m reminded of the moments in which I was in the Nevada desert, in June, sweating more than I’ve ever sweat before while studying Lahontan Cutthroat trout with our science team. I can smell the fields of sage, the small desert stream and the body odor coming from deep inside my waders. Moving past the unpleasant smells from my waders, which I’m certain are still lingering, I’m thankful there are people like Jason Barnes, on our science team, putting in the long hours to preserve a species of trout that matter to an entire ecosystem in northern Nevada.  

Volunteer work for TU puts a smile on every face.

Then there are the moments that come after digging through a year’s work in photographs. They’re subtle. Clues and reminders of the people, places and critters you’ve met in 12 months’ time. Like the nagging sticky notes left on the fridge, these photographs remind me that the people, places and landscapes in this country are extraordinary.  

Trout Unlimited’s science team works on the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout genetic diversity project in the Steen’s Mountains of eastern Oregon.

I’m reminded of friends I don’t get to spend enough time on the water with throughout the year. Their love for rivers, high alpine lakes and conservation fuel me every day. Friends like Garrison and Corinne Doctor who tirelessly work to make a living creating wearable art with a conscience. Friends who work nonstop to run cattle operations in Colorado’s high country while constantly keeping a pulse on the health of our Colorado River. It’s no coincidence that all these people are connected through conservation. Frankly, I admire and respect those folks the most.  

The release after a sunset catch.

But most of all I’m reminded of family. Photos don’t do these moments justice. I don’t need a photo to remind me that for the first time in a long time I cried while on a river trip. Tears of joy trickled down my face while watching seven children laugh and sing their way throughout the desert on trips I would never have imagined taking in my lifetime. Putting all the daily struggles of everyday life aside for days on end watching families genuinely interact, laugh and tell stories on rivers we adore.  

Fall in the West. Does it get any better?

While I might not be the biggest fan of top 10 lists to round out the year, I am a fan of moments. Whether I’m capturing them in my job or participating in making them with people I love in places I’m hopeful will be around for the next generation.  

Small streams. Big adventures.
Trout Unlimited and Fishpond USA team up to discuss the value behind Colorado’s headwaters. And sometimes, the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
Trout from above.
Fly fishing in the headwaters of the Potomac River, where TU is taking a basin-wide approach to restoration and protection.
The Oregon Wildlands Act will help protect vital salmon and steelhead streams along the Oregon Coast.
The Colorado Trout Unlimited Youth River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife perform a spawn survey on Greenback Cutthroat Trout.
Chasing trout.
Releasing a native cutthroat trout.

Josh Duplechian is TU’s creative director. He lives and works near Denver.