Native Odyssey: Brett Winchel

Editor’s note: The TU Costa Five Rivers Program is sending five college students on a native trout odyssey across America this summer. Meet Brett Winchel, one of the five lucky participants.

I moved to Knoxville roughly four years ago to begin my journey to a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Tennessee. It was also four years ago that I first got involved with Trout Unlimited.

Being new to the fly fishing scene in Knoxville, TU provided a great opportunity for me to meet experienced anglers, as well as passionate conservationists. Presently I am a proud member of the Great Smoky Mountain Chapter. I regularly attend stream and river cleanups, assist with community outreach events like Clinch River Chapter of TU’s Kids Fish Free Day and Trout Camp. Most recently, I participated in a panel discussion at the Southeast Regional Trout Unlimited meeting discussing creative ways TU could connect and engage with millennials. TU has been the perfect connection between my interest in fisheries science and passion for fly fishing.

Two years ago, Matt Crockett and myself caught wind of TU’s Five Rivers program and laid the ground work for the existing club at the University of Tennessee. We set out to create a fly fishing club that would connect the fly fishermen and women across campus and bridge the gap between the local TU chapters and college students. I served as vice president for the first year and worked as communications coordinator the following year. During this time, we worked in conjunction with our three local Knoxville TU Chapters: Clinch River, Great Smoky Mountains, and Little River. Our club covered anything from river cleanups to campus outreach events. This past spring semester, we organized our largest event to date, a Pig Farm Ink “Get Trashed” River Cleanup Battle in Knoxville.

As of May 2017, I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee. These past four years at UT equipped me with the necessary tools to understand much of the science behind the management of our wildlife and fisheries. I plan on continuing my education in the near future by pursuing a Master’s degree in Fisheries Science, with a focus on coldwater fisheries.

Currently I work for Knoxville’s premiere fly shop, 3 Rivers Angler. There I work as a shop hand and fly fishing guide. With support from 3 Rivers Angler and Southern Culture on the Fly, Matt Crockett and I work as a multimedia team creating short films showcasing the stellar fly fishing we have right here in East Tennessee. Working in the fly fishing industry has not only enhanced my fly fishing knowledge, it has also given me insight on the value of our public lands and coldwater fisheries and the economic benefits they can provide for local communities.

My only experience with native trout comes in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States with the southern Appalachian brook trout. I am eager and excited to embark on this once in a lifetime adventure, seek and catch 15 native trout species across the West and shed light on the importance of our native trout and public lands.

— Brett Winchel

By Chris Hunt.