The group was gathering slowly at first, with each new arrival adding a change to the dynamic until the room filled and it was hard to determine when people were coming or going. My wife joined me, and she helps smooth out my social anxiety and gaps in conversation. Voices blended amongst the distinct groups to build a background sound that matched the energy and smiles of the people in the room. I often notice at larger gatherings a baseline level of stress exists. The stress appears generated by relationship dynamics, status signaling, and agendas playing out. Atypically, this night felt emotionally unburdened, a celebration where everyone was unconnected to an outcome and were simply joyful to be together.
Stories of good times, good friends, and accomplishments achieved filled the conversations of each group. Even the memories tinged with sadness were shared in appreciative and reminiscent tones. The event was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Maryland Trout Unlimited Chapter.
History lessons in breweries are a fun way for me to learn! I came to fly fishing in the last 8 years and have been a member of the board of the chapter for the past two years. My knowledge of fly fishing history overall and the history of the MDTU chapter is limited.
Through preparing for and attending the event, I learned the MDTU chapter has accomplished a tremendous amount in the last 50 years. Through the construction of a handicap access platform at Morgan Run and outreach to wounded military service members at Walter Reed medical center, MDTU helped facilitate the creation of Project Healing Waters. MDTU member Jim Greene was instrumental in the creation of Trout in the Classroom, which places aquarium tanks in school classrooms to raise trout from eggs to educate students on the lifecycle of fish. MDTU members helped establish the Chesapeake Women’s Anglers, City Catch, Huck Finn Day, and the Upper Gunpowder Falls Brook Trout Conservation Partnership. All these organizations connect people to streams and trout fishing. They also seek to protect and preserve our cold-water resources in the state. Over the last half-century, the chapter produced amazing results for Trout Unlimited’s mission.
Fly fishing dignitaries Joe Brooks and Lefty Kreh were connected to MDTU. As two of the most influential personalities in fly fishing, they each are responsible for the popularity and growth of the sport. They met in Maryland and began their fly fishing relationship at Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle Shop in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. The stories, the history, and the accomplishments of our chapter inspired me and increased my desire to learn more about the history of fly fishing and Trout Unlimited.
Following the MDTU event, my weekend plans took me to Vermont to tour two colleges with my daughter. We were fortunate to drive by the American Museum of Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont. My friend, Stephen Wright, encouraged me to take the time and visit the museum. My daughter and I finished a tour in the early afternoon and made it to Manchester in time to have an hour at the museum before it closed.
A welcoming dog greeted us at the door and the warm voice of Bob Goodfellow pulled us toward the exhibitions inside. Bob introduced himself to us and described the exhibitions in the museum with great enthusiasm and the right amount of detail to not bore my daughter immediately. Wonderful artwork, an exhibit dedicated to Lee and Joan Wulff, and displays of beautiful flies occupy most of the first floor. The upper floor contains donated collections of books, an exhibition of artistic flies by Val Kropiwnicki, and a wonderful series of reels ranging from brass reels made in 1780 to 3-D printed reels. It is a well-curated collection that is professionally displayed, and Bob does a great job of answering questions and expanding each display with fun details and stories.
Even my daughter left the museum smiling, although she admitted her favorite part of the museum was the dog. We made a quick stop at the Orvis store and then headed to the Battenkill River. The fishing season closed on November 1st, so our time on the river was spent taking photographs and appreciating the beautiful setting.
On the long drive home, I had a bit of time to think about my week of connecting to the local history of my Trout Unlimited Chapter and the history of fly fishing. I am new to fly fishing and I have a lot to learn. My connection to MDTU, a group with a long history of conservation and education will help me learn and grow in the sport and in the community. Reading and researching the history of fly fishing can help me broaden my skills, understanding, and appreciation for the people and places that shaped the community I enjoy and the natural resources I love. It is important to continue the traditions, stories, and lessons from those who have come before us and in whose footsteps we tread. Spending time on the river and learning new tactics is fun and important but educating myself on fly fishing history connects me to even more knowledge and insights beyond my own experiences.