Back in the day, as they say, in the mid-1970s in my early teens, I often tagged along with my father to Nutmeg Chapter TU meetings where I grew up along the coast of Long Island Sound in Connecticut. Although I was by far the youngest in attendance, I always felt at home among “old” fishermen (who were then about the age I am now) and learned not only how to fish and tie flies, but began learning the critical connection between clean water and good fishing — saltwater and fresh. Fishermen (and women) then and now, in the past and in the future, always have and always will understand, better than most, that if you take care the rivers and streams, the lakes and the oceans, the watersheds and estuaries, then the fish and fishing will follow.
Pretty much the same “old” group of guys were also active in the Striped Bass Club, hung out at the local tackle shop, the boat club and on the docks, smoking cigars and pipes and telling great tales, of course, about the “big ones” that usually got away. It was a good ole’ boy fishing club, for sure — but talk also often turned to the need to protect estuaries, clean up Hudson Bay and the Chesapeake (primary spawning grounds for stripers), eliminating PCB’s, cleaning up and protecting the Saugatuck, Housatonic and Farmington Rivers, and so on. The Tackle Shop was the equivalent (or so I imagine) of hanging out at the barber shop or gathering around the woodstove at the old general stores; I had a lot of good laughs while also learning about fish, fishing, life and conservation.
A decade or so later, when I left the Marine Corps and moved to Montana, I found the same sort of comfortable camaraderie and conservation ethic among the fellow anglers and hunters of the West Slope Chapter of TU, in Missoula, and the Montana Wildlife Federation.
As a kid in Connecticut and a young adult in Montana I always eagerly awaited and read monthly newsletters that arrived via the U.S. Postal Service — You know; those one or two page notices folded, stapled and stamped that nowadays would be displayed in a TU historical Museum if there were such a thing. I can just picture my 11-year old son asking: “Daddy, what are those? Why didn’t you just read things online?”
Ah, yes – times have changed (as they always do), for better and worse. Though we still sometimes gather at meetings, fly shops, tackle shops and (in some rare places) general stores and post offices, we now also have emails, internet, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
As the Communications Director for TU in California (TUCA), the national TU office urges me to embrace Blogs, Facebook and Twitter while many of our volunteers cringe at the notion. I can relate. Ten years ago, the first time I worked for TU, I was reluctant to get a cell phone. My then boss Chris Wood (now TU executive director) made me get one, but I always left it home, out of reach and out of mind. Until he sent me a strong, clear message via email one day: “Dave, we got you a cell phone because it’s MOBILE – TAKE IT WITH YOU!” Since then, of course, my cell phone has become an essential, effective tool of the trade. Now my current boss, Brian Johnson, wants me to start using my “smart phone” instead of my “old-fashioned” cell. I feel intimidated, too dumb for a smart phone, but I will give it a shot and have a hunch I will learn to love it.
So here I sit, at the age of 51, writing a blog from my desk in Berkeley, California, having recently launched a new Facebook Page for TUCA and working on sending a tweet or two to the media. And you know what? I LOVE it! And here’s why:
Like the “good ole’ boy” fishing clubs of my youth, I can still swap fish stories, share photos, talk about conservation, and rally support for our causes yet reach a FAR LARGER audience MUCH QUICKER and more EFFICIENTLY than in the “good ole’ days.” With Blogs and Facebook, it’s an interactive exchange of stories and ideas – not unlike the barber shops, general stores and tackle shops of days-gone-by – but with a far larger group participating in the conservation. And in our line of work, the more the merrier! I can “Tweet” the media and others, and more quickly and easily get their interest in a good story. National staff, state staff and volunteers all over the nation can easily and effectively keep each other updated, informed and unified – strengthening the notion of a “One TU.”
And most importantly – By improving the efficiency of our communications, internally and externally, we greatly improve our ability to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain wild trout, salmon, steelhead and their watersheds.
Today I learned that the Nutmeg Chapter is now Connecticut’s oldest, continually active TU chapter – and I learned that (and many other things) by simply checking out their Website and Facebook Page. I have no doubt my father would be proud and, if he were still alive, would be on Facebook — still telling tales, sharing photos and preaching the gospel of conservation only to a much larger audience then he reached in his day.
I urge everyone to jump aboard, participate, get on Facebook, check out blogs, comment, “like,” “share,” post stories, photos, events and ideas – PARTICIPATE! and help us be more efficient and effective at accomplishing our mission. After all, one thing never changes: If we take care of the watersheds and habitat, the fish and fishing will follow.
Oh . . . and PLEASE check out our new TUCA Facbook Page and “like,” “share” and participate! Welcome to our modern-day version of the “good ole’ boy” (and “good ole’ gal) fishing club! All are welcome!