Are We Neglecting the East in TROUT?

As you know, I’m relatively new to this job as editor of TROUT magazine, and I certainly want to shape this publication in a way that satisfies the interests of all TU members (and potential members), no matter where they live and fish in America. 

I’ve received a couple of notes from readers that have suggested that we pay too much attention to fishing west of the Mississippi River, and not enough in the East.  Here’s an example:   

“I would like to provide some constructive criticism. I find the magazine you send is of very little interest to me and my fishing buddies that live in the eastern part of the country, since most of the articles are about fishing the western part of the US. Why don’t you have an eastern version and a western version? You may get more subscribers from the East.” — Bill Cowan

Fair enough.  And very much appreciated. 

For the record, I grew up in the upper Midwest.  I learned to fish in Wisconsin and Michigan.  Then I spent a number of years living and working in Pennsylvania (where my parents still live).  I moved to Colorado 14 years ago, because, having taken many western fishing vacations, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and wanted to live within walking distance of a stream where I could catch big trout on dry flies most of the year… and so I do. 

But I think the growing-up experience I had has given me a full appreciation of “trout culture” from a range of perspectives.  My home water is the Baldwin River in Michigan, where the first brown trout was planted in the United States.  As such, I consider fishing in the Great Lakes region sacred.  I also learned to respect the creeks and traditions of Pennsylvania, and the Catskills in New York (the so-called “cradle” of American fly fishing).  I love the Rockies as well.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and write about trout fishing in many other regions, from the wilds of Alaska, to Maine, to the Smoky Mountains, to the Guadalupe River in Texas.  It’s all wonderful.  And the fact that there are great trout fishing experiences to be had throughout this country is what makes TU such a strong and viable conservation organization. 

So let’s look specifically at the last issue of TROUT.   The cover featured a shot of a salmon from Michigan.  The Pocket Water section was admittedly heavy on stories from the West–Oneida Narrows in Idaho, Blogger Tour in Yellowstone, and updates from California–but those were where the most newsworthy events happened.  For the record, the Q&A of the Pocket Water section featured Bill Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, and last I checked, he is a Michigan man. 

The feature well included an essay from Chris Camuto from Pennsylvania, a profile of John Gribb from Wisconsin, a think-piece on conservation by Rocky Barker that focused on Maine (but also included discussion of the Henry’s Fork in Idaho), a “Trout Connection” story that featured anglers from California, Wyoming, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Carolina.  And the “Voices from the River” essay by Monte Burke was on Atlantic Salmon.  The Actionline section included stories on New York, New Mexico, two on Pennsylvania, Montana, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Arkansas.  Our featured “stream champion” is from North Carolina.  The “Art of Angling” piece by Dave Whitlock focuses on Chinook salmon, which, of course, are also of significant importance in the Great Lakes, and were so noted. 

So by my unofficial count of pages and photographs dedicated to certain regions and topics, nearly 70 percent of the last TROUT magazine was focused east of the Mississippi River.  Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t received more letters from western anglers, stating their frustration with reading about the East and Midwest.

One more worthwhile point to make: A recent market research study by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association showed that 57 percent of all fly fishing commerce in America happens west of the Mississippi River; 23 percent happens in the South; and only 19 percent happens in the Northeast and upper Midwest combined.  If anything, you might call me a “homer” for Michigan and Wisconsin.  (For the record, I’m fine with that.)

The bottom line is that, in this day and age, trout fishing and conservation are national concerns.  The total “mosaic” of trout fishing in America is important for everyone, whether you travel to fish, or just focus your efforts on the home river.  I will concede that it takes greater angling skill (and greater conservation moxie) to land a 20-inch brown in Michigan or New York than it does to land the same size fish in Colorado or Montana.  But it’s all important, and we’re all on the same team.

Personally, I don’t want to see an east vs. west dynamic, and I certainly don’t want to see that thinking transposed to the production of TROUT magazine. 

But I am here to serve the constituents of Trout Unlimited, and I have an open mind.  So I am eager to read your thoughts.



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