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Do you remember your first catch?


The first time I ever hooked into a salmon on a fly rod was down on the Sandy River. It was a crazy run—all these salmon were jumping and splashing and raising a ton of noise. For a good four or five years, moments like that were what I had to live for. I’m saying, I was selling my blood down at the blood bank so I could buy gas for my truck just to get me to the river. All I knew was that at a time when I was trying to figure things out and cope with what I was dealing with, fishing made me happy.


How did you get back on your feet? One thing I did learn from my military service was to never give up the fight. Life has dealt me an interesting deck of cards, not all of them good. I can say that life has stripped me down to the skin, to the point where all I’ve had left was that ability to punch through to the other side of the pain. And I tend to fall back on that discipline the military has given me to persevere.


Things changed for me when I launched my business, which melds my two passions: design and fly fishing. Now I’m able to direct a lot of the profits from that toward sup- porting our program that brings together kids from inner-city Portland with volunteer leaders who are military veterans.


What is it about fly fishing that makes it a good introduction to the natural world? Fly-fishing is something that kids from Portland’s predomi- nately black and Hispanic neighborhoods have not typically been exposed to. It’s a totally new environment, which helps set the stage for learning about themselves and their relation- ship to the natural world. To be a keyed-in angler, you need to approach it from a sci- entific perspective—but also as an art and as a devotion. If you care about catching a fish, then you better care about that fish having clean water to swim in. So we start by talking about ecology and conservation and climate change. Fly fishing is a thread that weaves so many of these important aspects of our lives together out on the river.


What do you hope the students take away from their time on the river with you and the other veterans? There is a certain bond that develops when kids and veterans are out in nature together, but that weekend deployment on the river is just the start. We’re forming a tribe of people that stick around for each other. As a veteran, that means going above and beyond the call of duty to stay involved in that kid’s life, their family’s lives. Our vets are showing up to the kids’ school assemblies, football games—even a court date.


30 · LAND&PEOPLE · SPRING/SUMMER 2017


photos pages 30 & 31: chad brown


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