Fishing for diversity…

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were watching an episode of the TV series “Yellowstone.” It focused on the shenanigans of a wealthy and power-hungry rancher in Montana, played by Kevin Costner. The series was full of the traditional cliches — Native Americans being treated badly, lots of horses and spectacular scenery, skullduggery politics, antics of a black sheep or two in the family and a general disdain for any government intervention in the ranching business.

At one point in an episode, I turned to my wife and said: “I’ll bet the next thing they do is go fly fishing.”

Sure enough, the very next scene was Kevin Costner wading and casting his fly rod in a pristine Montana river that runs through his property. At least he wasn’t fishing while on horseback and shooting nearby pheasant in between casts.

I think that depiction is what a lot of people think the average fly fisherman would look like — older male, white and probably financially well off.

I just returned from a Western Regional meeting of Trout Unlimited (TU) in Taos, and I have to say that the crowd looked pretty much like that. However, there were quite a few women there, and many of them were staff members of the organization.

I attended a session focusing on efforts to make the organization more diverse — not just with more women, but with minorities and other non-traditional groups, like LGBTQ.

While I secretly wish no one would ever fish on the waters where I like to go, I know that getting more people involved in fishing and TU’s goals is good. First of all, the organization wants to make sure there are plenty of fishing opportunities on clean cold waters throughout the United States. And an outcome of that approach is to guarantee the protection of those waters from dangers posed by certain private interests and environmental challenges. It means the organization will occasionally butt heads with private industry, like it did with the Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine project in Alaska. TU was a major factor in helping stop that project, which threatened one of world’s greatest salmon fisheries. The battle still isn’t over, but a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency dealt it a major setback.

Reaching out to non-traditional potential fishers is a challenge for TU. Potential new members are not likely to randomly show up at a club meeting and watch a slide show on Buster’s most recent boring fishing trip to the San Juan. The key, say TU staffers, is to go meet them on their turf.

And another session I attended said that attracting new people involves a lot of social media these days. Old guys like me have a tendency to read newspapers, magazine and watch TV. Younger people are on social media, Instagram being the most popular.

If you’re interested, go to the TU website below and consider joining. Even if you’re just an occasional bait or spin cast fisherman, you’ll benefit from the work that the organization does. And they have a great magazine that makes me want to run out the door with my fly rod and head to the river every time I get it in the mail.

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