Fly fishing

The Gain of Outdoor Writing: Game Trail Tioga by Chris Espenshade | Columns

The Wednesday Mail brought me both “Ducks Unlimited Magazine” and “Trout”, Trout Unlimited‘s flagship publication. It got me thinking.

For some, outdoor writing must seem like a rip-off (as Dire Straits would say, “It doesn’t work, that’s how we do it, let me tell you, these guys aren’t stupid”) . I mean, imagine getting paid to write about hunting, fishing, and nature.

Well, I hate to ruin anyone’s fantasy, but there aren’t too many people who make a lot of money from outdoor writing. I get $15 a month for writing this column, and once or twice a year I might get $95 for an article in Mountain Home.

Against this income side of the ledger, I have to balance hunting and fishing licenses, and my media license to take photos at the Susquehanna Trail Performance Rally. There are also membership fees for a number of decent conservation organizations, including the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited. Additionally, I am proud to be a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

These organizations are similar in their efforts to preserve or restore the habitat of their target species. Thus, Trout Unlimited does not directly sponsor trout stocking, but rather raises funds for the long-term improvement of our streams. Yes, trout benefit from these efforts, but so do a wide variety of other species.

Now, membership fees alone never provide enough capital to pursue the many projects sponsored by local chapters and the national organization. Instead, chapters participate in fundraisers. Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation rely heavily on banquets, raffles and auctions, usually featuring donations of equipment and firearms. These are usually big social events, often timed to get members excited for the upcoming season.

In a similar vein, our local Trout Unlimited chapter, the Tiadaghton Chapter, is hosting its annual fundraiser on Saturday, March 26 at the Deane Center in Wellsboro. The event is the presentation of the International Fly Fishing Film Festival.

Billed as the “world’s premier fly fishing event”, the IFFFF showcases award-winning fly fishing-centric films from around the world for a variety of species. Doors open at 4 p.m., allowing time to peruse vendor tables and curatorial information. There will be raffles for equipment, door prizes for 50 attendees, free giveaways, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. At 6 a.m. the movies begin.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $40 and children under 12 are free. In addition to supporting a great organization, IFFFF films feature fantastic fishing (I think that’s enough F), beautiful scenery, and a strong conservation ethic. The event also offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local fly fishing scene and build excitement for opening day a week later. I attended the 2020 event, and I strongly encourage you to add it to your calendar.

Please don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy my side gig as an outdoor writer. It’s just that I don’t do it for the money (or the groupies). And to my editor, this is not a convoluted, passive-aggressive plea for a raise.

Archaeologist Chris Espenshade grew up hunting, fishing and trapping in rural North Carolina. A resident of Wellsboro, he is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.