Fighting the good fight for wild for wild fish is, for many anglers, just as important as the act of fishing itself. For wild trout activist Matt Stansberry, the desire to protect the wild redside trout of Oregon’s McKenzie River inspired him to take a leadership position in his local Trout Underground chapter and mount a conservation effort that pitted his group against an entrenched and powerful pro-hatchery coalition. The group’s small victories were savored and its losses filed away as learning moments. In the end, the entire bittersweet process, documented in his essay “Battleground,” taught some hard-earned lessons about both conservation and human nature.
A line of flannel-wearing, whiskey-burnt old men held down the back row of chairs like oversized, sixth-grade bullies. Some of them were fourth-generation McKenzie River guides. They ribbed each other and chuckled as Karl and I straggled in late with our armloads of signs.
The signs read “McKenzie River Native Trout Coalition” printed on poster board and glued to wooden paint stirrers by the local fly shop owner’s kids. “Who wants a sign?” Fifty hands shot up, native fish supporters crammed into a meeting room just to get the chance to fight back.Subscribe to start your collection of the world’s best flyfishing publication.