A little while ago, a killer graphic surfaced: a western themed trout designed by Mike Tabie. The graphic highlighted Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited’s annual Troutfest TX event. After doing some digging, we learned more about Texas’ only TU chapter and partnered up to design a t-shirt that would benefit their efforts. In short, yes, even TU Chapters are bigger in Texas.
Located in Central Texas, the Guadalupe River is the southernmost freshwater trout fishery in the United States–stocked albeit. Regardless, the fact that the Guadalupe River could sustain stocked trout fueled the rise of one of Trout Unlimited’s largest and most active chapters. Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU), at 5,500 members strong, has worked with local partners to make the Guadalupe as habitable for trout as possible thanks to a very engaged membership! GRTU works far beyond Texas and works in coldwater conservation throughout the country. For example, GRTU has funded projects on Colorado’s South Platte River, Lake Yellowstone, Talarik Creek and the TU Pebble Mine Opposition Project, and several more.
The Chapter’s premier event–and the event that caught our attention–is Troutfest TX, a gathering of over 3,000 people interested in fly fishing and preserving cold water fisheries. The annual three day event includes speakers, educational presentations, auctions, prizes, and great food and drink. Past Troutfest TX events have included speakers such as Tom Rosenbauer, Lefty Kreh, and Hilary Hutcheson and casting instruction from word class instructors. From all accounts Troutfest TX seems like an absolute blast.
Unfortunately, Troutfest TX 2021 has been canceled due to COVID, but GRTU is already looking forward to making Troutfest TX 2022 the best event yet! Make sure you check out their website to stay in the loop. Also, you can directly benefit GRTU by picking up one of these killer Flylords x Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited t-shirts!
Q&A with GRTU
Flylords: Texas is known for a lot of things, but wild, coldwater fisheries are not one of them. How has GRTU positioned itself to be a leading chapter in nationwide conservation impacts?
GRTU: GRTU was the first TU chapter in the nation to engage financially in the fight against Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Additionally, GRTU created its own Coldwater Conservation Outreach fund, a matching grant program which helps chapters with limited funding resources for local in stream conservation efforts. Details are available on GRTU.org, but to name a few projects we assisted with: Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout restoration in Yellowstone National Park, Rio Grand Cutthroat habitat improvement and barrier installation on Willow Creek New Mexico, McKittrick Creek – funded field work to investigate the potential of re-introduction of Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout to the Guadalupe Mountains of far west Texas.
Flylords: Tell us more about Troutfest TX…I know you all had to make the difficult decision to cancel Troutfest TX 2021, but what are you planning for 2022 and maybe tell us about some past memories?
GRTU: Troutfest TX began with a family picnic type of vibe in 2010. In 2011 we held the inaugural Troutfest TX, which was a much larger event than the year prior. This year, the board decided to cancel the event out of an abundance of caution for both our attendees and vendors due to COVID, but planning has begun for next year. There may be some changes, as we are always striving to improve. But we expect some of the things that have made TFTX what it is…top speakers, a great banquet, and educational opportunities, will still be part of the mix. Past speakers are a who’s who of fly fishing and conservation, including luminaries like Left Kreh, Flip Pallot, Kirk Deeter, and Hilary Hutcheson.
Flylords: As we alluded to earlier, GRTU helped push conservation projects all throughout the country with its Coldwater Outreach Conservation Fund. Can you tell us about a specific project and one on the horizon?
GRTU: I’ve already covered some of the projects we helped fund throughout the country. The most recent project was the Willow Creek effort in New Mexico, which was just completed this year. We are in the process of accepting applications for grants for the coming year, and at this writing, we don’t have a specific project identified…but we are actively seeking applications.
Flylords: What about the Tomorrow Fund?
GRTU: Youth Education has long been a cornerstone of GRTU’s focus. In 2013 we established the GRTU Youth Camp, held over the MLK weekend, to teach kids about conservation, fly casting, fly tying, river ecology, etc..The tomorrow fund is an nation wide extension of that commitment to our youth. At a TU annual business meeting a few years ago, some of our board members attended a Youth Ed presentation, where they learned that the Youth Ed staff members had to raise their own salaries via Go Fund Me efforts. They decided that TU needed to do better for our kids and staffers, so the Tomorrow Fund was born. This is a grant matching fund where GRTU has committed over $100k over 10 years to ensure that our kids have access to quality youth education programs at their local level…and that our staff members can focus more time on curriculum and programs vs fund raising. The program has been highlighted at the TU annual meeting and in TU magazine.
Flylords: Anything else you want to highlight for GRTU?
GRTU: As a chapter, we also invest in people.
- We support programs like Casting for Recovery and Reel Recovery to assist those who are dealing with cancer.
- We support our wounded warriors and first responders through Trout Unlimited’s Service Partnership.
- We are actively working to increase fishing access and participation of undeserved segments of the outdoors community, like women and people of color.
While we are the largest TU chapter in the nation, we still need volunteers to donate their time and talents to keep the wheels turning. Nothing gets done without committed volunteers!