As I sit here in Idaho Falls watching two feet of snow melt into a slushy pond at the foot of my driveway, my buddy Kirk Deeter is likely stringing up a 5-weight with members of one of my favorite TU chapters in the country and preparing to chase some fat, tailwater trout.
This weekend is the Guadalupe River TU TroutFest in New Braunfels, Texas, a long double-haul from Austin and San Antonio, on the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake Dam. Kirk is speaking at this annual festival that benefits the local chapter (the only chapter in Texas, mind you), and, in turn, the rest of TU sees, benefits, too.
For instance, seven years ago, I spoke at the GRTU chapter meeting in the spring and asked them to help fund an intern position for a summer media tour that TU was doing in conjunction with Field & Stream magazine. They ponied up the cash I need, patted me on my back and sent me off to showcase a half-dozen “Best Wild Places” where TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project was conducting a host of protection campaigns.
Please forgive the JV video production above, but at the time, this was cool stuff. And the intern, a teen-ager named Dylan Looze, played a big role in the whole production (the video was a very small piece of it—we got a dozen full pages in the print edition of F&S, which was the big pay-off). He toted gear, carried coolers, cleared trail and made fun the matching Keene sandals Deeter and I wore as we wandered out to the manicured, yet rustic hot springs along the Gila River in southern New Mexico. Deeter and I have always been ahead of the style curve, you know.
Today, Dylan has sprung from that awkward, not-sure-what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up phase into quite the outdoorsman. He and his dad, Joe, are avid anglers and hunters, and I like to think that, between Kirk and I, we helped send him along that path with a solid conservation ethic in tow.
Of the six places we showcased that summer with Dylan, both the Roan Plateau in Colorado and the Pine Forest Range in Nevada earned permanent protection. Efforts to rebuild Gila trout populations in New Mexico continue, despite challenges from climate and and wildfires. Montana’s public lands are still in public hands, and efforts to provide jobs on public lands for timber thinning are still being pushed by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. And, mine reclamation work continues in Colorado’s Alpine Triangle, the headwaters of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison, and, of course, the Animas. The Little Mountain region of southern Wyoming still teems with some of the best big game herds in the Lower 48 and we’re still working on oil and gas leasing plans that will best protect the native cutthroat trout that swim there. These wild places are still wild, and GRTU can be proud of that.
And that’s the power of TU, from top to bottom. While I don’t have Texas roots, I do have some low branches—I grew up in the Big Thicket of East Texas, so maybe the GRTU folks took pity on me and awarded me the money for the intern, but I’m more apt to believe that, because of their Texas upbringing, these men and women are passionate about the things they love. This weekend, they get to showcase the “Guad” as the truly remarkable trout fishery it is. And I’d wager that, in the coming months, some of the money raised this weekend will go go help TU projects outside of Texas, where wild and native trout swim, and where GRTU chapter members travel to find them.
Good luck this weekend, folks. Enjoy the fishing. I’ll keep an eye on that melting snow.
— Chris Hunt