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

39 degrees, 43 minutes

Admittedly I have struggled with the putting into words my reaction to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Born, raised and schooled in New Hampshire, whose state motto is Live Free or Die, but now having lived more of my life in Virginia, I was struggling to understand how strong feelings of southern heritage had been co-opted by hate groups. How could I express my sense of right and wrong?

My good friend Tim Mead, who’s thinking I respect and admire, posted his Manifesto on his Facebook page. Nothing I could write would improve it or capture my thinking any better.

1. Nazism is evil. Saying there are other evils in the world, as has been done in the last week, does not mitigate the evil of Nazism. Making that case is an attempt to distract us from the real issue.
2. Persons who arrive at a public gathering carrying lighted torches, flags bearing Swastikas, clubs, and yelling racial, ethnic, and religious slurs are looking for trouble. Despite a claim, these are not “nice people.”
3. Apprehension that “political correctness” diminishes the richness of public and private discourse does not justify racial, ethnic, and religious slurs. One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is respect for other persons. Those who lack such respect, therefore, must be considered uncivilized.
4. The United States of America was founded on such respect. Has it always been manifested in its most prefect form? By all of our national leaders? No to both questions. Has progress been made? Yes. We ought not regress to an earlier standard.
5. Statues are symbols. Statues of Confederate heroes were erected in two periods. One after 1876 and through roughly 1920. To resolve the disputed election of 1876, Republicans essentially ceded to Southern Democrats the power to usher in the shameful Jim Crow period. The other started after May 17, 1954, the date Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and lasted through the late 1960s, the end of the Martin Luther King led Civil Rights period. What do these periods share? These statues were erected for political purposes. Now they are being removed for political purposes. For those with a “let locals decide” bent, note the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue was decided by local officials. Turn-about is fair play.
6. Much of politics is symbolic. And symbols are important. Consider, as an example, the hoorah about athletes standing for the national anthem. It doesn’t make a RAs difference (for those without an academic background, RA stands for Resident Assistant) for the game whether the national anthem is played (indeed, the practice was only started during the Red Scare of the 1920s) or athletes stand. And the athletes who chose to stand or not stand do so as symbols.
7. In many senses, what we are seeing is nostalgia for the Confederacy. Let’s make this very clear. The constitutional argument, then and now, for the Confederacy was state’s rights. And the right the states which secceeded, unsuccessfully as it turned out, was the right to maintain chattel slavery. During the late 1950s and 1960’s the argument for state’s rights was the right to maintain Jim Crow.
8. The United States is not a Christian nation, hostile to other religions, and where other religions are forced to take secondary places.
9. The United States is not a white nation, hostile to other races, and where other races are forced to take secondary places.
10. Folks who disagree with any of the above are free, indeed I invite you, to unfriend me.

Lilydeer Christmas Magic-2016

Four years ago my very clever wife made this very special Christmas gift.

the tiny Lilydeer

the tiny Lilydeer

It graces our home as a reminder of the magic that is Christmas.

We are also blessed with the magic of theses smiling faces

Where the magic happens

Here’s hoping this finds you safe, happy and in the company of those you love.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016


My two favorite bakers…

For the last few years I have been posting this Thanksgiving day quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I have yet to find one better on this day.

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”

Theodore Roosevelt, Thanksgiving, 1903

And never forget on this day and every day, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we enjoy Thanksgiving because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. For them I am eternally thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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.


One of the perks of being a Patagonia Ambassador are the smiles of my grandson.

THR collage Patagonia