Every steelheader has one place they consider “their own”. It’s the river or stream that he or she spends the bulk of their time on. If it has both a summer and winter run component, they’ll fish it year round. They intimately know every nook, cranny, riffle, tailout and bucket. They’ll likely have “secret” parking spots where the presence of their vehicle won’t give away the spot to other anglers. They have loads of fond memories of trusted fishing partners and family members that they’ve shared this place with, where wild steelhead have been hooked, landed and released, and probably more than a few “one that got away” memories as well.
These places are special, well-guarded and protected from angling intruders and interlopers.
But what happens when you discover your little piece of paradise is threatened with new placer mining claim signs, or a new bill in congress aims to increase industrial logging along the forested hillsides in “your” watershed? A foreign owned company has set its sights on extracting minerals along critical tributaries of your beloved wild steelhead river? What happens when you see a “new” regulation change is proposed, or worse yet, the rule has already been adopted by your state agency tasked with making the fishing regulations in your “upper Tamanawis”?
It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you don’t say anything, you alone are very unlikely to successfully stop the threat. But, on the other hand, if you speak up and start telling others about your river and the threats to it, you’ll be sending a strong message about the fishing values. Might as well just put up a billboard that screams “FISH HERE!”
It’s a quandary many steelhead pioneers had to wrestle with as our population grew and more and more people took up steelheading. Men like Frank Moore certainly enjoyed the solitude they experienced on the North Umpqua in the 1940’s and 50’s but, recognized that they would need other passionate anglers help if they were to protect this special place for future generations. Simply put, a river and its fish have to be loved to be protected from the threats that can come against it.
At Wild Steelheaders United, we’re all passionate steelheaders. We have our “special places” that we’d prefer to keep under the radar. But we’re also prepared to “get the word out” when a river and its wild steelhead need protection. Our army of 8,000 wild steelhead advocates also keep their ear to the ground for potential threats to their favorite steelhead haunts and frequently reach out to us when problems arise. Working with our staff, WSU members can be sure we’ll work to keep your special places protected and producing wild steelhead for future generations.
I encourage you and all your steelhead buddies to sign the credo and join Wild Steelheaders United. It’s free, and it’ll keep you “in the know” on what’s going on in the world of steelhead science and policy throughout their range. It’ll also give you the opportunity to have your voice heard in important wild steelhead related issues by being invited to participate in public comments, sign-on letters and similar “out-reach” efforts that let our elected officials know where we fall on these important issues. And lastly, it’ll get you connected with a family of wild steelhead advocates that you can go to for support, help and guidance when your “home waters” are threatened.
I’ll even sweeten the pot, thru labor day, everyone who signs the credo and joins Wild Steelheaders United will be placed in a free drawing. Five names will be chosen at random and winners will receive cool WSU swag. You could win a WSU hat, a hoody, even a hand tied fly or two from yours truly will be awarded. So sign the credo and join WSU! If you’ve already signed the credo, fret not, as we’ll choose our lucky winners from all new and existing credo signers. We’ll pick our winners on August 30th and notify them by email, so make sure your contact info is current by signing the credo with your current email address (if you’ve already signed up, sign again with correct contact info for a chance to win free swag).
-Dean Finnerty is the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Conservation Project Director and Wild Steelhead Initiative Manager for Trout Unlimited. He lives on the Umpqua River with his wife and trusty sidekick, Molly the water dog. Before working for Trout Unlimited, Dean was a guide on the North Umpqua’s famed flywater section and an undercover narcotics officer for Cottage Grove Police Department.