I Need Your Help: How Can Trout Unlimited Earn More Involvement?


7_13_TU_DeeterToday, I’ve been named the new “director of strategy and outreach” for Trout Unlimited.  I am going to be delegating and changing some of my other writing and editing work, but I am going to continue my involvement with Angling Trade.

In fact, it’s my association with the trade that put me in this position, and I believe I can, in turn, help to make TU valuable to all of you.

My philosophy is that TU cannot be as strong as it could be and should be without considerably stronger support from within the industry of retailers, manufacturers, and guides.  While Walt Gasson and others have made good inroads in that regard lately, there’s still a lot more potential out there.

By the same token, I think the industry spins on an axis of trout, and nobody does more to make trout fishing (and salmon) possible, and protect the future of this sport than TU.  Without the resources, there is nothing.  And TU’s 150,000 members represent the most motivated, dedicated angling consumers in America.  (For the record, that audience is also a significant magazine readership, and TROUT is a great ad buy value, manufacturers… but that’s another story.)

The number of people who make their living by selling things related to catching trout in rivers, who are not on the rolls as TU members is too high.  I think there are many reasons (partly TU’s) for that, but that should be fixed.

We need each other.  I have been put in the position to build that bond stronger.

For years, as editor of Angling Trade, I have worked on helping retailers and manufacturers in the fly fishing industry move their businesses forward.

Now, I am asking for your help in moving my business forward.  What can I do?  What are the weaknesses?  Where are the opportunities?

I value your input, and appreciate all insights and ideas… good, bad and otherwise.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Kirk Deeter
[email protected]
[email protected]



  1. Trout Unlimited can earn more involvement by simply welcoming all anglers who fish for trout and salmon. Trout Unlimited has always been seen as a “Fly Fishing Only” club. The fact of the matter is people use many methods and tactics to fish for trout and salmon. I personally use several set-ups including fly for trout fishing and all include catch and release.
    If the goal of TU is to be known as a “Fly Fish Only” club, then by all means disregard by comments, but if you would like to greatly expand the membership and mission of TU I would suggest you make the angling community, as a whole, feel welcome.

    • As passionate as I am about fly fishing (for all species), I have to agree with this comment. If it’s about TROUT, and about the rivers they thrive in, then any and all that care about and/or depend on those waters should be involved. If it’s really just about fly fishing, then chalk it up to a feel good operation that helps those who love the sport give a little back.

      In other words, go big or accept the fact that it is, by its nature, small.

      And in summary, a quote:

      “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try'”. – Yoda

  2. Bennett Mintz on

    As a longtime (and I mean long!) PR and advertising rep specializing in the fly-fishing industry, it seems the only time I hear from TU (as well as the FFF and others) is when they want products for a raffle, gift for an outgoing chairman or other worthwhile cause. How about a little quid pro quo?

  3. Kirk, congratulations on the new role. Looking forward to working with you on increasing involvement at the individual and industry level. First of all, TU is not a “fly fishing club” but a grassroots movement and needs to reflect that in both actions and advocacy for our freshwater resources.

  4. Deeter–

    International Sportsmen’s Expositions is willing to help in any way we can. We have four shows, and trout water/fishing is big in every one. Please let us know how we can help grow the industry and best assist in conservation efforts.

    Oh, and, congratulations!

  5. Ray Narbaitz on

    I think the comments about TU being viewed as a Fly Fishing Only club are quite correct. The non-fly fishing world is very large, and shows a willingness to spend money. I also think it would help if TU did a little more outreach. Some hands on activities would help. Perhaps some type of repair or habitat work with the locals, sponsored by Joe’s Local Fly Shop or Ed’s local manufacturer. Too often TU reminds one of the NCAA where unknown members make decisions in an isolated, canape serving board room.

  6. TU chapters are definitely perceived as fly fish only. Perhaps we are. As a board member for a local chapter, we wonder how to get more non-fly anglers involved but it seems to be a chicken and egg problem — non-fly anglers don’t come cause they don’t feel welcome and we can’t attract them cause we’re perceived as fly snobs (which some of us are and some of us aren’t). I don’t have any data on this (I’d be interested to see it if someone has it) but what percentage of trout anglers are not fly anglers and of that, what percent pursue trout year round? My gut tells me a couple of things that probably deserve research to prove out: 1) Fly Anglers spend a higher percentage of their angling time pursuing trout than other species, 2) non-Fly Anglers spend are more species agnostic – trout are popular around opening day but they move on to bass and other species. Their may be a gap in passion for the resource that could be, along with historical perception BS, creating the divide. Worth gathering some data….

  7. Gregory Walck on

    I am a past president of a TU chapter. Nothing in the bylaws says we are a fly fishing only organization. We are a conservation group that results in better fishing for all, even in areas below gold medal (catch and release only) waters. But our focus is on conservation, not fishing per se. We are not a fishing club. Our local fly fishing club, which I am a member of also, does not have ANY conservation agenda, no matter who sponsors the project. And these are fly fishers though most do not belong to TU. Even within TU there is the core that is dedicated to the “cause” while most of the chapter membership is content on paying their $35 membership fee only. Most river cleanup workdays results in more of the general public showing up than TU chapter members. I asked the TU chapter membership to donate just one hour each year with no luck. So the long story is I don’t have an answer on how to increase involvement in the short run. Long term effects through Trout in the Classroom, Parent-Youth Day and Youth Camp will likely bear fruit but may take a generational change to see more activism.

  8. I agree with the above comments. TU should target non-fly trout anglers, as well as those who fish for multi-species. There is a big opportunity to attract those who fish for warmwater and salt.

    I would also say that membership is a direct correlation to the strength of the local chapter. When I moved back to CT last year, I attended a few different TU chapter meetings. In some cases I was greeted warmly, in others no one even asked my name. Outreach should be constant goal for all TU chapters.

  9. Kirk,
    Congratulations on your new post.

    As a former TU member and one whose vocation is conservation, I have a number of thoughts if you are interested in speaking. TU has virtually no presence in our region on matters of significant environmental or conservation impact, bar one chapter and three or so dedicated folks–thus my lapsed membership.

    Drop me a note, and we can schedule a call if you like.

    James Ehlers
    Lake Champlain International

  10. Kirk,

    Congratulations on your new position with Trout Unlimited, I’m sure you’ll bring a host of good and new perspectives, and your significant talents to the table. As with any new job it brings the thrill of excitement followed quickly by the stark reality of the challenges that also come along with the new position.

    I have read the comments above and yes, I am sure some think that TU is a fly fishing only group, TU however is a conservation group that is widely effected by the local membership. If the local club cares about conservation, then a lot of those programs will be seen in their activities just like their kids conservation camps or what ever. If however the local chapter is big into fly fishing, that will have a big impact on what they do.

    The bottom line is the leadership in each individual TU chapter will dictate what their values are.If your local TU chapter isn’t cutting the mustard, your choices are join the chapter leadership and try to change it, or find a new organization to join that more accurately reflects your values and concerns. Either way we as anglers need to get involved and have a positive change on our rivers and streams. Standing on the bank and just fishing or complaining won’t get us very far, we need to do something positive to lend a hand where ever we can,

  11. It’s an interesting problem, the coexistence of fly and non-fly trout fishermen. Yes, us fly guys are viewed in many circles as elitist snobs just as non-fly are thought to be hatchery truck-chasing cooler fillers. Unfair stereotypes both, but they’re out there. Everyone here can agree that we need both to work together, but we have hurdles to get over. I, for one, hope we can do it.

    As for TU being viewed as a “fly fishing club,” consider what the thank you gift is for lifetime membership…

    Oh, and good for you, Kirk, for asking the question. It’s how we get started.

    • The fishing community will benefit from avoiding the division that has affected the hunting community. Fly fishermen verses non-fly fisherman. Archery hunters verses firearms hunters. We all need to remember that there are plenty of united fronts trying to take our guns away, ban trapping, and get rid of access to streams, marshes, and fields. We need to be united and include all who value fisheries, not be snobbish about methods

  12. I believe the real problem with TU is the same as with the NRA.. it has become to large and difficult to trust, kind of the Catholic church of fishing, I would love to support TU, but it has too many irons in too many fires.. and some of its missions are quite questionable, Conservation efforts should never include angler opportunity or the human side, so I ask you this, would TU support a permanent closure of a river like Madison or Umpqua if that was in the best interest of the fish? showing love to these trout without the opportunity to fish them ever again? never.. because in the end all fishing organizations center around improving the fishing on a river, never on improving the health of a river simply for the rivers sake.. congrats on your new Job, I wish the best for you.

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