Fishing

Meet the angler who is trying to complete the Western Native Trout Challenge this summer

Casting for trout in a mountain lake.

Daniel Ritz heads out in pursuit of native trout … and more

Editor’s note: Check in weekly to see updates from Dan Ritz as he travels the west in search in native trout and char.

After learning to fly fish on the breathtaking alpine lakes of central Idaho, Daniel Ritz was shocked to learn that the fish he was catching in some of the most remote, pristine environments he had ever encountered were not historically native to that habitat. 

At the same time, Ritz was working as a freelance journalist and editor and was becoming overwhelmed with the seemingly never-ending news of rapid changes across the American West. 

Daniel Ritz studying up on native trout.

The 33-year-old Boise resident decided to combine his two primary interests and will be partnering with Trout Unlimited, the Western Native Trout Initiative, Orvis and the Montana Fly Company to experience this changing landscape by literally and figuratively connecting with the native trout species of the west. 

Beginning this month, Ritz will pursue the Master Caster class of the Western Native Trout Challenge, attempting to catch each of the 20 native trout species in their historical ranges of the 12 states in the West

“I felt this was an important chapter of history to experience and record,” said Ritz, who manages communications for the Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited based in southwest Idaho. “When I personally started to learn more about the history and status of the West’s native species, I quickly realized how change in the West since the arrival of Europeans and the health of its trout species were intertwined. I also quickly realized I was not the only angler, let alone citizen, who wasn’t aware of the state of our native trout.” 

A career journalist and feature writer, Ritz is passionate about writing from first-hand experience. After first learning of the Western Native Trout Challenge during the winter of 2020, he saw the opportunity to not just learn, but truly experience the American West and all of it’s natural beauty, and specifically of course, what he sees as one it’s most iconic symbols, it’s native trout. 

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a student of my passions, and I see this as an opportunity to learn a landscape more fully for myself, and hopefully in sharing my experience, inspire a few folks to get out there and experience it for themselves.”

Daniel Ritz

“With Trout Unlimited, I’ve learned that active engagement is the best way to educate,” Ritz said. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a student of my passions, and I see this as an opportunity to learn a landscape more fully for myself, and hopefully in sharing my experience, inspire a few folks to get out there and experience it for themselves.” 

Daniel Ritz on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River in Idaho.

In addition to the Western Native Trout Challenge, Ritz hope’s to complete the Utah Cutthroat Slam and the Wyoming Cutt Slam.  

“In concept, I love the idea of the state ‘slam’ because I feel they push you toward a more comprehensive understanding of a place at a certain scale. The different mountain ranges, the different watersheds, the cultural history, the species; these slams are an opportunity for a fun but also meaningful crash course in context,” Ritz said.

You can follow Ritz as he travels across the West by following Trout Unlimited, Orvis, Western Native Trout Challenge and Montana Fly Company on social media using the #WesternTroutChallenge. 

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