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

Keeping ’em wet

As a fishing guide, a journalist and advocate being on the water, especially fishing, is one of the most rewarding parts of the gig.  Many times that means getting a photo of a happy angler with a fish.

Here’s the rub. The grip and grin, hero shot is great for the angler, but even when it is done right is not great for the fish and when done wrong can be deadly.  I’ve done it and it bothers me, a lot. Sure, I am careful when I set up those shots but I’ve always worried about it. Of course I want the client to have a memento but not at the sacrifice of my business partner the fish.

Enter Keepemwet Fishing. Bryan Huskey and the team are promoting responsible handling, photographing, and releasing fish in the future. And they are doing it the right way.

This is from the website:


Thanks to advances in science, we now have a better understanding of the impacts that handling can have on the long-term health of fish. We believe that anglers have the responsibility to apply this knowledge to their fish handling practices and should strive to minimize the impacts on the fish they release.

Keepemwet Fishing doesn’t believe in casting stones. Instead, we believe in mindfulness and positive progress. We know that we have all been guilty of mishandling fish in the past and recognize that we will likely err in the future, despite our best intentions. Rather than tearing down others for their missteps, we hope to promote this awareness so anglers are better equipped to properly handle, photograph, and release fish in the future.

We encourage our supporters to share this approach, to lead by example, and to serve as positive influences for other anglers.

The website has principles and tips that help anglers do a better job of fish handling. Take a few minutes to read them over.

There is also a link to Andy Danylchuk’s piece The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling in Patagonia’s blog The Cleanest Line. Andy is a good friend and his experience and research on this subject is excellent. Again, give it a read.

If you are a recreational angler you should care about the resource. Spending a few minutes learning how to be a good steward is part of the program.


Joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done, For Heaven and the future’s sakes. -Robert Frost

For those who have been following along with my recent move from running the Outdoor Writers Association of America to joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network the Network’s official announcement is posted below. To be paired with Mark Bauman in an announcement is a special honor. Mark as you will see below has an impressive background and I am excited to be working with him.

I have had the opportunity to work with the Network over the years and thrilled to now be part of the team. The way the Network goes about its policy work is important to me. The coalition building, the science-based policy development and the desire to see healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts thrive has been the hallmark of the Network advocacy and education. The Network presents a measured and balanced approach. It is that approach the attracted me.

The economic impact of healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts is an important component of our nation’s economy. The small businesses that depend on the sea and the people who live, work and play there are an important part of my life.

My mother’s side of the family came from Rhode Island and I still spend time there. I am fishing guide and board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Those parts of my life have helped me form a deep and abiding interest in seeing our marine resources well cared for now, and into the future.

The ocean, its resources and the people that live, work and play there deserves a strong voice and advocate when it comes to public policy. The Network is that voice.

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2016
Contact: Jo Knight, jo@conservefish.org

ARLINGTON, VA – The Marine Fish Conservation Network announced today the addition of two new members to its leadership team. Tom Sadler, outgoing executive director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), will join the Network as the organization’s deputy director. Mark Bauman, senior vice president of Smithsonian Media, has become the newest member of the Network’s Board of Directors.

“The Network is excited to have Tom Sadler and Mark Bauman become part of the leadership team that helps steer our organization toward achieving healthier oceans and productive fisheries,” said Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Network.

Sadler has an extensive history of promoting fisheries conservation through advocacy and communication. In 2008, he started The Middle River Group to provide strategic and tactical public and government relations assistance on conservation issues, especially those related to fish, wildlife and natural resources. He has also served as conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and director of program development for the Trust for Public Land. Sadler most recently lead OWAA, the oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States.

“I’m excited to be getting back to my organizing and advocacy roots to push for greater conservation of our marine fisheries,” said Sadler. “I look forward to working with commercial and recreational fishermen, conservationists, and everyone who wants to ensure our fisheries are thriving well into the future.”

“Tom brings exceptional conservation experience, as well as an invaluable perspective, having worked closely with the conservation and outdoors community for most of his career,” Vandermark said. “He truly understands the needs of those who rely on our natural resources.”

Bauman is an award-winning entertainment executive with strong expertise in strategic communications across multiple platforms. In his current role, he oversees the commercial media of the Smithsonian Institution, including Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space Magazine, Smithsonian Books and Smithsonian.com. Bauman has partnered with numerous conservation nonprofits on messaging for public environmental campaigns. He worked with Ban Ki-moon and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce the short film that convened the second round of Kyoto Climate Change talks. As part of the executive teams of both Smithsonian and National Geographic, Bauman has had a distinguish and successful career broadening audience reach and expanding organizational presence through digital, print and broadcast. He has earned numerous awards, including an Emmy, Cine Golden Eagles, and several film festival awards. Prior to his time at National Geographic, Bauman worked in television journalism for ABC covering news stories that spanned the globe.

“Marine conservation and the sustainable management of global fish stocks are critically important to the future of our planet,” said Bauman. “It is an honor to join this distinguished board.”

“Mark is an outstanding addition to our Board of Directors, and we are lucky to have his expertise in strategically and creatively communicating to diverse audiences throughout the country,” said Gerry Leape, chair of the Network’s Board of Directors. “We couldn’t be happier that he is joining our team.”

Link below:

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

A Sea Change

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.” -Edward R. Morrow

This week I let the members and supporters of the Outdoor Writers Association of America know I was leaving my position as Executive Director and going to work for the Marine Fish Conservation Network. It was a difficult decision and one I did not make hastily or lightly, but in the end my heart and Morrow’s words won out.

I need no more reason why than this…

Truth be told the future of our marine resources for my grandchildren and their grandchildren weighed on me. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think I could have done more.

Jim Range and Jean Ince (courtesy of John Ince)

Memories of an old friend, Jim Range, reminded me; “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.

I still have some fight left in me and want to get back in the game more directly.

Here is what I told the OWAA members and supporters:

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as OWAA’s executive director for almost four years, but the time has come for me to move on. On Jan. 1, 2017, I will return to the advocacy world and join the Marine Fish Conservation Network as deputy director.

I assure you my leaving OWAA has nothing to do with the organization or anyone associated with it, but is solely motivated by my desire to “get back into the fight” and use my advocacy and organizing experience to protect our marine resources and the people that depend on them.

OWAA’s mission has never been more important, but my heart lies elsewhere. I know the organization is stable, has good leaders and will continue quite well without me. With Colleen Miniuk-Sperry taking over my duties, I know the day-to-day operations will continue seamlessly and the membership will be well served. I look forward to seeing and being part of OWAA’s continued success just in a different role as a member and a supporter.

During my time at OWAA I learned that we are a tribe, a guild, the keepers of the flame and take the work as chroniclers seriously. We are, in fact, the Voice of the Outdoors. OWAA is serious about our work as journalists and will vigorously defend the First Amendment. Our Circle of Chiefs are our conservation conscience and continue to remind us of important issues facing the future of the outdoors. And our conference is the best opportunity for liked-minded journalists to gather, learn and share.

Today, more than ever in OWAA’s 90-year history, the work we do as outdoor journalists is critically important, and we need to do it as well as we possibly can. To quote Edward R. Morrow, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

I hope to see many of you in Duluth, Minnesota, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or at future conferences.

Buffalo Tenkara

I recalled what Yvon had said first thing that morning. “If we can just get them to catch a darned fish. Feel life on the end of that line.” He laughed like a kid himself. “Something they never imagined. Bang. Whole new world.”

Worth a read, the nexus of good in this story, Teach Something, Learn Something by Dan O’Brien is outstanding. O’Brien is a buffalo rancher, Chouinard is an entrepreneur, both are characters I greatly admire. Put them together with some kids from the Crow indian reservation and the tenkara magic happens.

Check it out.

Good Food: Patagonia Provisions has partnered with Wild Idea Buffalo for their Buffalo Jerky

Good People: You can help this watershed by supporting the Bighorn River Alliance.

Source: http://wildideabuffalo.com/blogs/blog/teach-something-learn-something

They will write songs about you


Alex and me on the banks of the Madison River following my wedding. Alex was one of my groomsmen and a treasured part of our day. July 9, 2006

Most readers will not have heard of Alex Diekmann, and that is not a surprise. Alex did not seek the spotlight or recognition; he let his work speak for him. But if you fish in Montana, tenkara or otherwise, you have seen or benefited from his work.

Alex and I worked together at the Trust for Public Land (TPL); he was a project manager, and I was a lobbyist. He found the places to protect, and I helped find the resources to try and protect them.

When I accepted the job at TPL, Alex called me. We had never met, and he was already getting me involved in his work.

“Hey, do you know where Three Dollar Bridge is on Madison?” Alex asked.

“I wouldn’t be much of a fly fisherman if I didn’t,” was my reply.

“So I have a chance to put an easement on the ranch where it is and create a trail connecting Three Dollar to Raynolds (Raynolds Pass Bridge). I need to generate some support for it, do you think your fly-fishing buddies would care?”

“Alex, you pull that off, and they will write songs about you.”

If you have fished at Three Dollar Bridge, you know that trail exists. And now you know to thank Alex Diekmann for getting it done.

He was infectious in his love of the land, gifted in finding unique places and tenacious in their protection. He was an artful dealmaker, at finding the right measure of charm, passion and incentive to keep people at the table and make a deal work. A testimony to Alex’s skill is how many friends he made while putting these deals together.

Alex’s friend Jeff Lazlo had started restoring the wetlands on the Lazlo family’s ranch. Alex was there to help, and O’Dell Creek is now a haven and breeding ground for native cutthroats in the Madison River. And yes, O’Dell is where Craig Matthews, Yvon Chouinard and Mauro Mazzo famously practice the gentle art of tenkara as noted in their book, Simple Fly Fishing.

A little further down the Madison Valley, before you get to Three Dollar Bridge, look to the east and see the Sun Ranch. Along with its Madison River frontage, it includes mountain creeks providing critical nursery habitat for native cutthroat. That was Alex’s handiwork.

Alex took me to the Taylor Fork during one of our trips together showing me a secret garden of prime elk and grizzly bear habitat in the Gallatin National Forest. Whenever I fish there, I think of Alex and how that magical fishing spot would not be what is today but for his tireless efforts.

Alex’s work is a gift to fisherman, and all who love the outdoors.

On February 1, 2016, nine days short of his 53rd birthday, Alex Boris Diekmann, died peacefully at his home in Bozeman, Montana. He leaves behind his wife Lisa, his sons Logan and Liam, family, friends and colleagues who will sing his song for years to come.

These other talented writers have shared Alex’s song. Please take a moment to read their wonderful tributes to this fine man and conservation hero,

By Todd Wilkinson: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/opinion/columnists/the_new_west_todd_wilkinson/public-land-protector-was-an-unsung-hero/article_76a2a2fb-c441-57c1-95f0-30198241f235.html

By Michael Wright: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/friends-colleagues-remember-passionate-conservationist/article_08acdcc5-97cf-5052-8c2b-e66f356dd10a.html

By Jeff Lazlo: http://www.flyrodreel.com/blogs/tedwilliams/2016/february/madison-loses-friend

His legacy in pictures: http://portal.tplgis.org/arcgis/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=a0b0a71a55aa4ddb97498cf089dc5e31

Author’s note: This article first appeared in Hatch Magazine.

Freedom and responsibility

Todd Tanner writes in Hatch Magazine and points the spotlight on what we as anglers and lovers of the outdoor need to do to be sure we don’t lose what we treasure.

In order for freedom to take seed, and for it to endure, we need to recognize the deep, abiding, morally and ethically informed imperative of personal responsibility. For with the freedom to visit a Montana trout stream comes the responsibility to protect it; with the choice to fish a Louisiana tidal marsh or a backwoods Minnesota lake comes the necessity of caring about those waters.

Read Freedom to Fish.