Young blood needed to assist with trout stockings

As I was writing my weekly outdoor column for the Buffalo News recently, I focused on the state’s inland trout opener that was set for April 1. I questioned the current enthusiasm for the opener because of how things have changed – year-round opportunities in the Great Lakes for trout (and in the tributaries from September to May), catch-and-release sections open year-round and some other areas open year-round to actually catch a trout and keep it for the frying pan.

While I didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for the opener that I did in the 1970s, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an enthusiasm from the angling ranks across the state.

While taking some pictures of some pre-season stocking efforts going on in the Southern Tier, I witnessed firsthand that the stocking effort was in need of some young blood. The group of volunteers consisted of a Marine veteran with some leg problems, an older gentleman from Pennsylvania who came up just to help with stocking because of the Marine mentioned earlier, a local stocking coordinator who was also up there in years, a lady who owned some historic property down the creek and involved with fighting the Northern Access pipeline, and a local conservation officer and the stocking truck driver.

That was it. I did encounter one angler in the stretch of stream we were stocking. And when the stocking truck moved to its next location, there were four or five anglers casting lines in this catch-and-release section. In my mind, those are the guys (and gals) that should have been hauling buckets down to the shoreline.

Who is instilling the ethics and the sense of stewardship that is being passed on to the next generation of anglers?

One group that is really making a mark is the Orvis Buffalo shop in Williamsville. Fishing Manager Drew Nisbet was a guest on my Outdoor Beat cable TV show March 29 ( and I was amazed at the number of classes that the store conducts for fly fishing – for free. In the winter months, they instructed more than 100 students in Fly Fishing 101, 201 and 301 classes to take them to the first level and beyond. They even offer discounts on equipment after completing the classes. The shop recognizes that this effort is for the long haul. On top of all that, I could feel the passion Nisbet had for passing along a tradition.

More classes were scheduled for mid-April into May but all of the early ones were already filled – a good sign for the future. In addition to the education end of things, the Orvis Buffalo shop is also a meeting place for organizations. In the past month, groups like the Western New York Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Lake Erie Chapter of the International Federation of Fly Fishers both held monthly meetings at the shop (located in the Eastern Hills Mall). Sure, they receive some benefits of store foot traffic, but it may not be commensurate with the big picture of educating the next generation of angler focused on fly fishing.

Once people learn how to fish and they are successful, they will be back. And that’s when they start to tie their own flies and become more students of nature itself. Replicating a natural insect to trick a trout into hitting your offering is filled with self-gratification.

This particular Orvis location isn’t unique in the education department either. There are five locations around the state, with one in Rochester and three in the New York City area. It’s all about giving the future generation (and anglers of all ages) the knowledge they need to learn something new and spend more time outdoors. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr, News

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