Why this blogger is not renewing his Trout Unlimited membership
Last summer, while I was volunteering at a conservation education event, I was greeted by two Trout Unlimited members.
“Hello Mark, how are you doing?
“Fine, how are you guys?” I said.
Moments later — “You are a fly-fisherman, aren’t you?”
“No, I fish spinning lures,” I responded.
“Oh, we’ll forgive you for that.”
While I think that the person whom I am quoting was trying to be funny, it wasn’t. Why should someone who has devoted a fair portion of his life to coldwater conservation for the past 44 years be “forgiven” for fishing with lures?
Most TU members don’t understand this concept. To them, it is all about what they view as a “greater calling” — fly-fishing. I have had enough.
I have been an active Trout Unlimited member since 1975. By active, I mean that I have held chapter offices and one state-level position. I was co-editor of an award-winning chapter newsletter for six years, and I have prepared and presented programs for TU chapters, donated raffle prizes, as well as helping with numerous habitat improvement and other projects. As an outdoor writer, I have authored many articles highlighting TU projects. Over the years, I have been a member of three different TU chapters.
I have put up with this anti-bait, anti-spinner prejudice for a long time because I firmly believe in coldwater conservation. I still do, but I am tired of paying my dues to an organization that does not support my views — an organization that claims to support all types of fishing, but does not.
In an August article, Trout Unlimited’s CEO and president Chris Wood wrote, “… we should not, and will not, overlook spin and bait anglers — or anyone else who cares about clean water … our tent is big enough to accommodate all forms of angling. It doesn’t matter how you fish.”
Words are nice, but after over four decades of TU membership, I know that if there is any room under the TU tent for spin or bait anglers, it is a very tiny space in the far corner — or maybe even under the rug.
The latest issue of their magazine, Trout, has absolutely zero mention of spin or bait fishing. The articles and photos are 100% fly fishing — ditto for all recent issues. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the last article in Trout about bait fishing was, “To Bait a Trout,” in 1985. At that time, angry TU members wrote letters to the editor stating that they would quit Trout Unlimited if they published any more bait fishing articles. So much for inclusion and room under the TU tent.
The new 2020 Trout Unlimited calendar is not a trout calendar, a conservation calendar, or even a fishing calendar — it is a fly-fishing calendar! It even announces that on the envelope in which it came. And where is that room under that TU tent? I stopped looking for it.
What about Pennsylvania TU? — The Pennsylvania Council’s website states, “TU does not advocate tackle specific fishing for trout and salmon.”
Although they didn’t poll their membership, and ignoring the statement on their website, the Pennsylvania Council sent a paid representative to testify at the summer meeting of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. He testified in favor of tackle-specific regulations on a section of Spruce Creek. So did the Pennsylvania Council president.
As I said, words are nice, but actions speak much louder.
At the present time, Pa. Trout Unlimited’s 17,000 members are far less than 1% of the approximately 450,000 people who purchase trout stamps, yet their influence on the Board of Commissioners is huge. And the board is structured so that those not spouting the TU fly-fishing creed are excluded from the all-important Fisheries Committee and therefore relatively powerless.
At their Oct. 21 meeting, by voting to lengthen the stream sections of nine Keystone Select Stocked Trout Streams, the commissioners again increased the miles of water with “special regulations” that exclude bait anglers. That means more miles of stream and more big trout stocked for special interests and fewer for your average everyday angler who helped pay for them. And the Fish and Boat Commission wonders why license sales are dropping.
At the October meeting of the commission, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen Clubs and Conservationists, Harold Daub, testified in favor of the inclusion of all angling methods and against more exclusive water. He did so after talking with the member clubs negatively affected by the lengthening of the Keystone Select waters.
According to Daub, during the break, Dave Rothrock — a TU member and fly-fishing guide — called Daub “anti–fly-fishing.”
How is supporting inclusion of all fishing methods “anti–fly-fishing?” Are there any waters in Pennsylvania posted “no fly-fishing?” Daub was not advocating any such thing.
I still have many friends within TU (at least I used to) and the organization does some good things. However, they need to decide — national, states, chapters and individuals — if they want to be an exclusive fly-fishing club or an all-inclusive conservation organization.
The world would be a better place if fly-, spin- and bait-anglers worked together for the good of the resource. Unfortunately, that will not happen until Trout Unlimited lives up to its words. They might and they might not, but either way, they will be doing so without my dues money.