A few weeks ago, we saw one of our favorite fly fishing designers, Drew Wilson, team up with a great cause promoting inclusion in the outdoors. The result was a minimalistic design that is sure to show up on coolers, fishing pack straps, and bumpers all over. We sat down with the person behind the campaign, Cassidy Miles, to learn more about her fundraising efforts for the American Fisheries Society’s Hutton Program and the message behind the design.
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Flylords: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Cass.
Cass: Hi! I’m Cassidy or Cass. I use pronouns she, her, and hers. A lot of people call me S’Miles though! That’s my roller derby name! I played for 2 years before I started grad school. I still really love roller skating and plan to play again when I’m done with school and the coronavirus is more under control.
I’m in my final semester of grad school at Western Illinois University (WIU). I am getting my Master’s in Biology. I am studying aquatic macroinvertebrates in the Upper Mississippi River. I am also the Public Relations/Outreach Coordinator of the American Fisheries Society WIU subunit. I am extremely passionate about outreach and education, especially for kids and young adults. I plan to continue working in outreach and education after I graduate this fall.
My main hobby these days is hiking/walking with my new rescue pup, Lucy!
Flylords: How did the inspiration for the design come about?
Cass: I’ve been an advocate for diversity in fisheries since I first entered the field as a technician in 2014. When I attend conferences I look around and see little to no diversity. I have also faced a lot of discrimination and even sexual harassment because of my gender and sexual orientation in this field of work. This is not okay. It has been hard enough for me as a cis white female, I can’t imagine how many barriers a person from an underrepresented group feels trying to make it in a scientific field.
I attended the joint Wildlife Society (TWS) and the American Fisheries Society (AFS) Midwest Conference in 2019. TWS members organized a luncheon, provided pins, and facilitated talks for their LGBTQ+ members. They started the “OUT in the field” initiative. I thought this was an amazing idea and a great way for a society to show that it cares about ALL of its members.
I wanted to make a pin for AFS members similar to what TWS members had created to be a physical representation of how AFS also supports its underrepresented members. That’s when I reached out to @drewlr on Instagram.
Flylords: How was it working with Drew on the design?
Cass: Drew is an awesome and talented human! I wrote to him about the idea I had for a fundraiser and he was fully on board to help out. He has sold rainbow fish pride pins in the past. I wanted to take that idea and use a deeper bodied fish (like the bluegill) to include the more inclusive pride flag. This flag has the transgender flag colors in it along with black and brown stripes to represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). I wanted to include the phrase “Outdoors is for Everyone” because it is! No person should feel like they don’t belong in natural places or the fish and wildlife fields. Drew created the perfect design and people went nuts for it! I was really touched by how many people reached out to me. I sold 500 pins in 1.5 days. I was able to donate $1,020 to the AFS Hutton Program. Thanks to Drew’s amazing design and large number of followers, the word got out fast about the fundraiser.
Folks from all over the U.S. and all fields of work purchased pins. The fly fishing community in particular was super supportive!
Flylords: Can you tell us more about the American Fishery Society’s Hutton Program?
Cass: The Hutton Program provides a paid summer internship for high school students (nationwide) from underrepresented groups. They work with a mentor in fisheries and gain research and field experience. I think this is an amazing way to provide an equal opportunity for youth interested in pursuing a career in fisheries. I really wish I could have participated in a program like this when I was a teen! This program is a great step in making fisheries more diverse and inclusive. They will be the ones taking over and taking care of our natural places.
Flylords: Is there a message you’d like to share with the underrepresented groups that program works to inspire?
Cass: Don’t give up! Gain as much experience as you can and keep fighting to take up space. You deserve to be seen and heard in any field you choose to pursue. You are valid, you are supported, and you are not alone! Outdoors is for EVERYONE!
Folks can donate directly to the Hutton Program at fisheries.org/huttonchallenge!
Or can purchase new merch items with the Diversity and Inclusion Fish design at www.society6.com/crsmiles!
All profits go directly to the Hutton Program.
Follow Cassidy on Instagram for updates and new designs @s_miles240!