A few weeks ago, I sat down with my brother-in-law to watch the NASCAR race in Phoenix. As the race unfolded, I started to recognize many similarities between NASCAR and my passion for trout fishing. Cars circling the track in almost meditative fashion; drivers with a focused intensity awaiting the few moments of excitement when passing or avoiding a car hurtling out of control … not unlike the rhythm I enter when casting, the controlled concentration when targeting a rise over a slow run, or the excitement when a trout is on.
However, it took the venerable Smith River Chapter in Virginia to enlighten me to the fact that the similarities go beyond the sport itself: NASCAR drivers, Jimmie Johnson in particular, also know how to give back, the true mark of the complete angler and TU member.
Credit: Smith River: Brian Williams; Martinsville Speedway: NASCAR
Last October, Johnson visited Rich Acres Elementary School where he helped release student-raised trout into the Smith River and learned about TU’s Trout in the Classroom program. The program, brought to the school by Dr. David Jones and supported by the students, teachers, administrators, the Dan River Basin Association, and TU’s Smith River Chapter, helps students learn about science in a real-world setting and connect them back to the resource.
“This is great to see. We do some things through our Jimmie Johnson Foundation and
try to find ways through science to capture students’ minds and this has given me great ideas. This is a fantastic program. I’m glad to be here today to learn,” Johnson said.
Beyond his visit, as Johnson notes, he also gives back through his foundation. Although the foundation is focused on K-12 education, he has supported conservation, bone marrow donation, and many other causes.
What a wonderful example of someone who is a passionate sportsman, someone who shares that passion with a broad community, and ultimately gives back. That is the definition of the TU member—the complete angler.
My only hope is that we will see more examples of this from Johnson and his fellow drivers on the race track. Selfishly, given the similarities in our sports, my hope is that they bring that passion and desire to give back to trout fishing and to TU.
Photo Credit: Smith River, Darrin Doss