This past week has held amazing opportunities for me personally. I have been taught many things by the people who I call friends and family. I can’t count the total amount of people that includes, but what I will count is every fish we helped this week – 3,748. To be exact: 3,381 Redband Trout, 59 Brown Trout, 90 Sculpin, 202 Whitefish, and 16 Kokanee.
Each year the annual irrigation season brings with it reward and sacrifice. The reward of bountiful crops for the agriculture industry, the reward of revenue for our local tourist economy, and the reward of memories created while playing in the plentiful waters. Sacrifices during this time are of the hard work to grow crops, long hours of planning and preparation for trips on the river, and eventually the loss of life due to our method of water management.
This issue has persisted since we decided to put in place the dams which feed our high desert climate. Without getting too much into the specifics and history at this time, I would instead like to speak about the people who have come to feel the same as I do about the Deschutes.
I was taught that change starts with yourself, and I am a firm believer in this. The changes I have made in myself, including reward and sacrifice, have helped me to foster change in my community. These people are my local friends who both lead and follow me through my journey. From all walks of life, these people have gravitated toward the issue of being part of the solution to our problems instead of sitting back complaining about it. For myself I hold nothing but awe and admiration for them.
These local friends are dear to me, and often I have not taken the time to say thank you in the right way. They recognize I have spread myself a little thin between work, Trout Unlimited, TroutBus, and the Bend Casting Club. Not to mention I really do love to get some fishing in when I can. These friends are taking the reigns of leadership from me so I can pursue my interests while they keep it going.
They bring perspectives and experience to help save fish and are becoming greater stewards for our community. Beyond just raising concerns in advocacy, these friends are pushing forward with education outreach programs to foster stewardship and camaraderie. The Bend Casting Club is what we call ourselves.
I decided years ago to build something outside the traditional notion of “conservation group”. The Bend Casting Club is much more than that. Over the past few years this group has come together annually to document and carry fish from drying side channels of the Deschutes back into the main channel. The act of saving these fish has bonded them and is something I hoped would happen.
The love of the culture of fly fishing is still it’s core, and the fact that a healthy resource is required for their core to operate is their operating conscience. The Bend Casting Club is made up primarily of conservation minded anglers who are young adults and families.
he Bend Casting Club is what they call an “Affinity Group” of Trout Unlimited. What this means is they have a sponsoring Chapter of Trout Unlimited who oversees their operation. They build their own programs, hold their own meetings, perform fundraising, and build leadership through their own Board of Directors with financial independence. Introducing this group of young adults to Trout Unlimited in this way, my hope was to help bring sustainability in the long term issues we face here in the Deschutes.
I know them pretty well, these friends of mine. Each of them is as unique as each of the fish they save. The memories they will create together with the programs they are planning for the future will be wonderful to watch and take part in. As long as I live here, the Bend Casting Club is going to be part of my life, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Strategies abound with them for their future. Most of what they are planning to do revolves around some fundamental principles. For this group it’s all about having fun while offering opportunities to learn from each other as fly fishermen/women, to build their numbers, and to spread the love of the stewardship ethic to their peers. By engaging their peers with family friendly activities and get togethers, the success of their endeavors is measured with laughter and the pride they take in being stewards.
Enjoying the diversity of the Deschutes area is what makes them special. Some of them have started their families and some of them are still in school, some of them snowboard, some ski, some hunt, and some just hike – all of them take full advantage of living somewhere as special as the Deschutes.
They work with the agencies who are tasked with protecting, conserving, and restoring this place. They work with ODFW, USFS, USFW, Trout Unlimited, Non-profit groups, Watershed Councils, and Irrigation Districts. They are farmers, ranchers, and professionals. Most of all, they work together because they are neighbors.
The same people can be found in each of the places I have traveled to around the West this year. It didn’t matter where I ended up, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, or Montana – these groups of friends exist and have the same potential as the Bend Casting Club. Focusing on taking each step deliberately. Just like hiking with 40 pounds of water and fish nearly a half mile, or counting and cataloging each and every fish. Their approach is smart, fun, and collaborative.
In watching my home group continue to grow, it makes it easier for me to walk away and let some new blood take over. The purpose of the TroutBus has always been to promote this part of the process and to use it as an example in those places I am visiting. Showing that all it takes is someone to start the ball rolling. Plant the seeds at each stop and hope those I meet help that seed grow somehow. It has grown into something greater than I expected.
My hope is that in sharing their story and mine, some of you out there will start planting those seeds. Starting your own movement with your peers toward stewardship and camaraderie.