Of fish and kids

By Chris Wood

My friend, Blaine, who works for The Conservation Fund, was telling me about the project tour he and his son, Witt, took to Mossy Creek in Virginia on property managed by the great TU Business leader, Mossy Creek Outfitters. Keith Curley, who directs our eastern conservation work, led the tour of work performed by Seth Coffman.

Blaine said, “What was most impressive was the passion of your staff. Seth was almost bouncing along the stream as he explained different features of the restoration and it was absolutely clear that he took great pride, and personal satisfaction, in the results.”

The fishing was relatively slow, and they left just before four inches of rain fell in an hour that flooded streams and floated entire sheds downstream. Mossy Creek will bounce back from the flood more easily because of our restoration work.

Witt, 15, had just returned from a camp in Wyoming’s wilderness. Blaine recounted to me how Witt packed a fly-rod even though it was not on the very specific packing list provided by the camp. On about day 12 of their hike, food supplies were running low for the 18 hungry teenagers. Part of this particular camp’s experience is managing your own food supplies. So, the kids began to ration their food.

Witt broke out his fly-rod, and immediately became the camp’s provider, feeding wild trout to the 18 hungry kids. He even traded one of the fish for a homemade cookie—a solid trade in my view.

Blaine said to me, “It is shocking that my son was the only person on the trip (including the instructors) who even thought to bring a fly rod and was the only one competent enough to use it… The larger point is that our kids are not learning to fish. Traditions that you and I may have been lucky enough to have handed down are somehow now slipping through the cracks. Anecdotally, both of my boys feel like loners on the fishing front, with few if any of their peers sharing the pastime and traditions that are at the core of TU’s mission.”

Because of a combination of travel, work, weather and other excuses, I haven’t taken my boys to their favorite creeks in West Virginia and D.C. or even the pier in Santa Monica as much as I’d like this summer. I am embarrassed to admit that, I do not recall ever taking the boys to see any of Trout Unlimited’s conservation work.

Protect us from a future where kids do not not know how to fish, and their parents are too busy to teach them the value of conservation.

Time to ask Wylie about the Tri-State Youth Camp next summer.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C., and works in TU’s Arlington, Va., headquarters.

By Chris Wood. Chris has worked at TU for 22 years, and is not the best angler, but he is among the most earnest.