When I was approached by our past President Dave Holladay about becoming the new President of the Roanoke Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, he emphasized his goals of attracting a new, diverse, and younger group of members for our chapter. I knew exactly why he was asking me to help do this, see Dave and I both understand that in order for our chapter and other chapters to survive Trout Unlimited needs new life blood.
As the sport of fly fishing evolves, so must Trout Unlimited. A new, diverse, and younger generation are being encouraged by the fly fishing industry to get into the sport each and every day. Ultimately they are making the sport fun and interesting again, by discontinuing the idea that the sport is only for wealthy individuals with a set purist attitude. This can be seen by the creation of such things as the squirmy wormy, the mop fly, lower priced high quality gear, and products specifically designed for women.
Also certain groups are making fly tying and fly fishing hip again (Fly Fish Food, Pig Farm Ink, and the magazine Southern Culture On The Fly (SCOF)) by targeting younger generations with fun events (Iron Fly and Get Trashed), high quality tutorials that don’t follow old school rules (again see the squirmy wormy and the mop fly), and by providing literature that focuses on hilarious/interesting/high photographed articles instead of bland, photo less articles that we have gotten over the past 50 years.
The sport of fly fishing has also gotten a severe overhaul by social media and the world wide web. Fly fishing, like all other outdoors activities are being reshaped by these outlets to be promoted as being an exciting way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Being outdoorsy is the new black.
Conservation, too, is being highly promoted by all of the above to the Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z generations – which is Trout Unlimited core mission. So why is it so hard to get these generations to join TU? Well most chapters are still locked into to the old ways of doing things. They have their monthly meetings, occasionally meet for a stream clean up, and then continue other various outreaches like TIC. The problem with doing things the old way, is that it doesn’t really attract new members to join because it doesn’t engage these generations emotionally and physically. Who really wants to sit through a meeting for several hours, after spending all day at a job that probably has them sitting in meetings all day. The newer generations want to do something fun, that engages them, that makes them feel like they are truly being involved in the group. Without these, things TU will see a drastic drop in membership. The newer generations also use email, text, social media, and the internet constantly.It is a must that TU use these outlets to attract new members, to keep them informed, to make them feel involved.
Because of all of these things is why our chapter is slowly going to evolve over the course of several years, some might like the new change others might not. Meetings will still be held, however they will be broadcasted over facebook for those unable to attend. New events, such as the Ballast Point Open Fly Tying Nights, Fish with a TU member, and the Iron Fly Competition will be conducted to draw in new members. Our Chapter will also have a strong presence on social media and the internet. Our chapter will not forget it’s core mission of conservation and preservation, but we will get newer members involved in stream clean ups, fish stocking, and fishing trips by making these events more often.
In the end this evolution must occur. I am asking all current members to be patient with the new changes and be involved as much as possible at these new events. Ultimately we all need to come together and have as much fun as possible at these events and share our love for TU to new prospective members, if we can do this I am sure that our chapter will see a rise in membership, one that will be new and diverse.