Day 8 and 9 Trout Bus invades Jackson and Trout Unlimited

IMG_4117Day 8 starts out waking up on the Linn Property near the stables and horses. Geese are out making a racket, dogs barking at cow moose wandering through the neighborhood, and the first light of day is crashing through my windows.

Dwayne from TU National and his in-laws are really amazing people. Dwayne for his commitment to the fisheries he visits throughout the continent, and the Linns’ for their overwhelming generosity to a complete stranger. Granted I was vouched for by Dwayne and would never consider just “showing up” on a property out in these parts.

The previous day I was warned “While just about everyone out here is family, there are a few of us who don’t like strangers on the property – so make sure you are at least a hundred feet from the houses so you are out of range for some bird shot.” This is not a warning to be taken lightly as we came back through the property where one of the uncles pretty much said the same thing.

Morning moose and geese aside it was time to make my way to the Snow King Resort for some breakfast and get the Western Regional Meeting of Trout Unlimited underway. The agenda was packed with a lot of great speakers and topics, so time to fuel up the brain and the stomach.

IMG_4096Starting off with a few cups of coffee and what most would consider less than stellar offerings from the kitchen of this wonderful resort, I made my way into their Grand Room where I was greeted by many familiar faces and a lot of new ones.

We all spent the first few hours listening to the speakers bring us up to speed on the State of Trout Unlimited and hearing from the National Leadership Council about how to build and maintain an Effective Grassroots Advocacy by examples provided from throughout the West.

It was really good to hear the feedback and suggestions from the audience during the proceedings. There wasn’t a whole lot of the historical “What’s TU National gonna do for me?”, that in the previous year I had heard a bit of. Instead there was solid information sharing and more of “What are WE going to do?”

Taking notes and learning as much as possible during these meetings is important. Just as important is to remember not to drink too much of the Kool-Aid and figure out ways to take the information home and apply it to the region where you live in the context that best fits your area. Not everything will work everywhere, you must adapt and create opportunity for collaboration to reach your goals.

IMG_4099During the break at lunch I was afforded a really wonderful compliment from a man I have come to know and respect greatly. Walt Gasson works for Trout Unlimited as their lead for Business Members. When this man walks into a room he gets attention, whether because of the cowboy hat he usually wears, or his smile that brightens a room – it’s like Elvis has entered the building.

“Gabe, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the work you are doing. You are doing God’s work, and I hope you keep it up – because you are doing a great job for us.”

Wow, this is a guy who takes the time to thank the little efforts I put out there for the organization by walking up and crushing my hands with his vise grip. Looks me right in the eye and tells me that he’s proud of what I am doing. THAT my friend is how you stoke the fire someone has for doing this type of work. I am not sure I am worthy of these accolades, but dammit it felt real good to hear him say it.

After speaking with Walt about Blackstrap wanting to take a heavier role above the normal “Business Membership” I gave him one of their products and will make sure I fulfill on my part of the conversation by making sure to get the TU Manager for Business together with them. I don’t want to let either Blackstrap or Walt down. It’s a perfect match for both and I hope it turns out well.

There really were some great meetings that were organized after lunch.

The Council Round-Table was an excellent way to hear about how other Councils around the West are working with and for their Chapters. Inspirational stuff that Terry Turner (Oregon Council Chair) cornered me on later and all of us on the Council will be working toward implementing sooner rather than later.

The Non-Profit Leadership Workshop put on by Beverly Smith and and Sherry Brainerd was an eye opener in a lot of ways and seemed to speak to a lot of the personal issues I have observed during the past 7-8 years of being involved with Trout Unlimited. Their presentation covered a variety of topics including management styles and conflict resolution both within the Chapters and Councils. Needing a person in an group to not always agree is a good thing. It show diversity of the community and can foster increased education for all – as long as it does not become disruptive.

After that meeting it was on to the Sharing Strategies for Effective Member Engagement with Jeff Yates and Kyle Smith.

It was really good to hear about the new tools available for the Chapter and Council Leaders. The new tools and how to apply them to help foster a greater response rate for events, programs, and issues that need people to engage with was very informative. Some of these things I learned today will be getting put to use in my role as Council Secretary and Communications Chair in the near future, so I would encourage those of you who are interested in getting involved to shoot me a message when you can.

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After the session ended at around 5pm there was to be a BBQ at the Teton County Fair Heritage Arena down the street from the Resort. The location provided a great outdoor meeting area in a grass covered lot with picnic tables and a spacious indoor area where the food and beverage was to be served.

The company who catered the event did a wonderful job with the mix of traditional BBQ offerings and overall did a better job than the resort in their prep and knowing what the group was going to like. Kyle Smith got the beer donated to the cause, and there was a wide variety of local flavor in their cans.

Meeting with people when they are feeding is always the best way to engage and build relationships I have found. They are happy to sit down and listen, and even more willing to share a smile and a story or two. I learned that one of the people here is the father of a local friend who is looking forward to coming out and staying with him on occasion to take a poke at our local waters.

As well, I also learned that one of the goers was in the television advertising arena for quite some time and wanted to come out and fish with me for steelhead in the coming winter. Stories of children laughing and friendships being made that will last a lifetime permeated the area.

So with the day wrapped up, my mind filled with new possibilities for growth locally and regionally for Trout Unlimited – I was pretty much spent. Some of the others had decided to go out and capture the local flavor of the breweries and bars around downtown. I decided to pack it in and get some sleep for the next day of meetings.

IMG_4130Getting out there bright and early in hopes of better breakfast than the day before, I was met with the same pale offerings. Not being discouraged because the days program promised to be better than a burnt breakfast sandwich, I treaded forward.

Fundamentally understanding the operating structure of an organization as large and diverse as Trout Unlimited is an important first step when one decides to engage with them outside of just membership support. Meaning, if you are wanting to learn about how you can make a difference for the fisheries in your area – do your homework. There is plenty of space at the table for you if you decide to take a leadership role, and I highly encourage anyone to get involved.

The board structure needs new blood from those of you who are reading this. It needs diversity, it needs women and people of color to take up a chair at the table. It doesn’t matter what your background is in – be you a financial wizard, a prep cook, or a marketing phenom – they need your help.

Groups like TU who are a grassroots driven organization require some of your time, but in the big scheme of things it is a small about (about 4-6 hours a month). Get involved!!

After lunch and popping out the last blog post (apologies for not getting this one out sooner) I was ready for the afternoon meetings starting with the Building Relationships with Guides, Outfitters, Businesses and Corporations being held by Derek Young (Yakima River Headwaters TU President & Emerging Rivers Guide Service Owner) and Walt Gasson (mentioned above). These two guys are a thing to behold when in a room of people.

Walt with his booming voice needs no microphone to speak to a crowd, and Derek is a very interactive presenter as well. Things learned in this presentation will be put to good use in the near future, I can assure you of that!

IMG_4134The final presentation for the day before heading out to a no-host dinner at Snake River Brewing was to be on the Wild Steelhead Initiative. This program was rolled out with some controversy and a lot of questions about what it meant to #BeSteelheaded and this meeting was put together by Dwayne Meadows and John McMillan to talk more about it.

Dwayne’s a good friend so I can and did give him a hard time about the typos and such in his portion of the presentation. His fire is undeniable and the overview he shared on how the program will be steering its efforts around the PNW and beyond over the coming months.

For those of you who haven’t signed the credo or become part of the #BeSteelheaded movement I encourage you to do so. Get over the their website and sign up at: www.wildsteelheaders.org

The rest of the presentation was so overwhelmingly informative on the habits and issues facing steelhead in the Western states that I cannot accurately provide the same data that John McMillan provided during this talk. For those of you who think you know a thing or two about steelhead behavior and the issues they face, prepare to get knocked for a loop because it’s a brand new world out there with steelhead science and John has been at the forefront of it for a long time.

Wrapping up the two days of good people and education, the last night of the meeting was held at the Snake River Brewery. This place has it dialed as far as the food and beer offerings. I ended up with the “Roper” which is” “Stacked high: house smoked brisket, bacon, caramelized onions, white cheddar & horseradish mayo on a freshly made bun” and a damn fine sandwich. The “Zonker Stout” is probably one of the best ones I have had in a long time and has won many Awards according to their site.

Apologies again to everyone who has been following the Bus on this adventure for not putting this segment together as quickly as the other. The next one will be about the trip to the Owyhee and after that I will be down on the Lower Deschutes for Salmonfly!!! Thanks for reading!

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