Editor’s note: The TU Costa 5 Rivers Program is sending a handful of college students to the Columbia River drainage in the Northwest to fish and explore the myriad challenges facing trout and salmon in the region.

I am Theodore Benjovsky, and just recently graduated from the University at Buffalo with a Bachelor’s of Science in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

While at UB, I was able to get our school fishing club involved with TU Costa 5 Rivers program, and served as the club’s TU Costa 5 Rivers ambassador for three years. The UB Fishing Club, or UB Bassmasters, is one that fishes collegiate-level bass tournaments, and also takes part in fly fishing many of the Great Lakes tributaries.

Due to the diversity of the club and the many different focuses, I was in charge of the fly fishing side. I am very grateful for my time in the club and the opportunities it has given me.

Growing up, my family spent a large amount of time outdoors, and my most fond memories are camping during the summer. These camping trips gave me a comfort with the outdoors, which made me never want to leave. When I was younger, I wanted to be “trailer schooled” so that I wouldn’t have to leave and go back to school (it never happened).

The older I have become, the more my love for numerous outdoor activities grows whether it is skiing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking or fishing. About three years ago, I visited Yellowstone National Park. I was sitting on a bench watching a man stand in the river, with a fly rod, catch a beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Once I came home from this trip, I started fly fishing and it has now become my biggest passion.

Every spare moment I get I am fishing a tributary for Great Lakes brown trout or steelhead. Seeing the flash of pink and silver on top of the water for the first time, while trying not to have my 6-pound tippet break is one memory I will never forget.

Fishing is a sport that continues to teach me something new every time I put a rod in my hand. My favorite thing about fly-fishing, is the community it gathers together. These people stand together to protect the different fisheries and species that inhabit them, and it is truly remarkable to see.

If you were to try and get a group of individuals out for a river cleanup, a group of fishermen/women would almost certainly help. Fly fishing gives you the ability to understand why these fish, and the waterways need protection.

I am excited to be a part of the 2019 5 Rivers Odyssey team, and cannot wait to head out to the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River is the lifeblood to many different species in the region (including humans), and is not the fishery it once was.

Our team will get to perform different stream projects and explore the Columbia, Deschutes, Methow, Mckenzie, Snake and Grand Ronde rivers. I am fortunate and grateful to be a part of this opportunity that will help make a difference and protect things I love, and I cannot wait to share our findings with you.