Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

By the Book – Mentoring

The MSU Fly Gals network is very near and dear to my heart, so when the god father of the group, Bill Taylor, asks for help I happily offer my assistance. In this case Bill asked if I would co-author a chapter in a book about mentoring. Bill wanted to include the Fly Gals program in the book because it has become a rather unique mentoring experience for the participants.

I am a leadership and mentoring geek so this was both and interesting and exciting assignment. I enlisted Kerryann Weaver, one of the early participant in the MSU Fly Gals program, to be the co-author. Kerry and I took a Socratic approach to our chapter and wrote it very conversationally. We hoped it would make for both entertaining and informative reading. Kerry not only contributed to our chapter, she handled all interaction with the editorial team, keeping our contribution to the book on track!

The American Fisheries Society published Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals, in July. Our chapter, Fly-Fishing for the Future: How the Michigan State University Fly Gals Are Mentoring Future Conservation Leaders is in the Leadership in Practice section.


Future of Fisheries contain 70 mentoring pieces from a vast array of fisheries professionals. The vignettes as they are called, offer a wide variety of personal “lessons learned” and insights into emerging challenges. The book is a handy reference tool to what has worked, creative problem solving and a look into the future.

From the AFS website:

Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for Emerging Professionals contains more than 70 short mentoring
vignettes on past experiences and visions for the future authored by many notable mentors from the fisheries field. The volume is intended to inspire and empower the next generation of fisheries professionals with advice from seasoned professionals by providing personal “lessons learned” and insights from the topics that most influenced their illustrious careers while also addressing the most urgent issues on the horizon for fisheries.

Like having a mentor on hand at the turn of a page, this book bridges a vital gap in our field by using the unique structure of mentoring vignettes to advise young fisheries professionals on how to achieve success as a fisheries professional and on what concepts will be relevant and important for the future of the fisheries profession.”

I am thrilled to have contributed to this project and look forward to reading and sharing the many other excellent insights in the book. If you are interested in fish, fishing and mentoring I think you will find this book a worthy addition to your bookshelf.


  1. This is very important, as a solid majority of natural resource supervisors and directors are absolutely horrible at managing and mentoring their staff. Our field promotes based on technical ability, not leadership ability, vision, etc. I’ve worked for engineering firms, universities, and non-profit organizations and I’ve seen it all. From screaming at an employee with a new idea “Just do your damn job!” to disciplining employees for finding errors in their supervisors’ work.

    If we want young people to stay engaged in natural resources work as professionals, we have to treat them better. I heard a few years ago that 10-year attrition in the field is about 40% overall, and over 60% for women. Both figures are unacceptable, and I think they are partly sourced in whether employees feel that their work is important to their employer, or to the field. Going into the field, most of us know we won’t make a fortune, so that’s a red herring as far as attrition. But yeah, getting yelled at by your boss every day, who was a “rock star” biologist 10 years before you, is enough to make a fisheries biologist go back to school and finish a nursing degree.

    Glad to see work like this coming out more regularly, Tom!!!

  2. Tom Sadler says:

    Thanks for your comment. Being a contributor to this book, like being a part of the MSU Fly Gals, is one small but tangible way to pass along the “lessons learned.” It was an honor to be asked to participate.

    The book is a compendium of great advice and forward looking insights. I hope it helps the young professionals coming into the field and that they stick with with it knowing their contributions are not only important but essential.

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