Conservation - 'Giving serious thought to tomorrow'

By Sophia Putman

Finalist in the TU Teen Essay Contest

Nothing truly mesmerizes the heart quite like the great outdoors. The winding rivers, the shady trees, and the sprightly fauna stir and entice the soul of the curious adventurer. On this magnificent earth, there is no such place quite like the humble, quaint waters of the Au Sable River. This liquid body is a flowing history lesson, and one can learn many things about Michigan’s past by simply observing it and its surrounding inhabitants. One such creature from these sanctified waters truly stands out from the rest: the bronze, ruby-speckled, emerald jewel of the river - the sleek, mysterious hunter - the river trout.
Ancient are these miracles of natural selection. They’ve seen the rise and fall of mankind throughout the ages. Their undulating fins bare the patterns of time itself, and the fishers of these treasures know this all too well. For trout and other aquatic fish species have crossed paths with man dating back many centuries. Humans depend on them for the pleasure of sport and for the life-giving nutrients within their pink flesh, just as the trout depend on humans to be stewards of the earth they share.

Before the time of advanced research and understanding of natural processes, mankind exploited the fishes in Michigan’s river systems like the Au Sable River. The tragedy of the commons became apparent when the last of Michigan’s Arctic grayling died in the late 1920s. Human actions nearly decimated the booming fishing industry that was built up in this state. However, not all hope was lost for the trout. Nature always provides answers and solutions on how to counter the effects of degradation to those willing to seek after them. A fly-fishing enthusiast by the name of Art Neumann, did just that. He observed the declined conditions of his beloved river, and decided to take a vivacious stand by founding Trout Unlimited on the basis of, “appreciating trout, respecting fellow anglers and giving serious thought to tomorrow”. (“Philosophy of Trout Unlimited” Written by Art Neumann and E. Sutton).
Neumann became the astute voice of the river through this organization, and he devoted his time to showing his fellow fly fishers the sustainable methods needed to preserve the biodiversity and grandeur of the river system they all came to know and love.
Fly fishing is a mastered art humans have used to provide for themselves for thousands of years. Still to this day, it is a practiced sport that unites man with beast and their shared megacosm. The sport can effortlessly cement a permanent bond of human adoration to the wild abandonment of the elements. However, without the stressed importance of sustainable practices like catch-and-release fishing and the institution of creel limits, the beloved activity would cease to prosper, for the lack of doing such things would hurt the population of trout in local waterways.
Trout Unlimited accounted for these safe practces, and the members organized grants and bills and legislative letters to institute laws on the Au Sable, which would ensure and enforce sustainable fishing. Because of this, the waters of the Au Sable have been protected and secured for decades. Now, the trout and other fish species have the freedom to live their lives to the fullest extent as nature desired them to.
Neumann’s Trout Unlimited became a fundamental part of Michigan’s growth in conservation. Neumann and the members he recruited along the way, helped inform generations of fly fishers about the importance of protecting river ecosystems for coldwater fish species. Thanks to their efforts, many can rest assured future generations will be able to feel curiosity and unshakeable reverence bloom in their core after coming in contact with a trout. Trout Unlimited continues to motivate and educate both the young and old of this nation, and the trout will be free to observe the numerous other prosperities and advancements of humankind still yet to come.

Sophia Putman attended the Michigan TU Trout Camp and is a member of the Schrems Chapter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her two favorite fishing rivers have the same name – the Au Sable in the Lower Michigan Peninsula and the Au Sable in the Adirondack Mountains. Sophia was a finalist in the TU Teen Essay Contest.

Editor’s Note: Each year Trout Unlimited Camp and Academy graduates are invited to enter the TU Teen Essay Contest to share their camp experience or write about things they learned. This year we asked participants to answer the prompt “Why is conservation important to fly fishing?”. Of the 18 entries a grand prize winner and three finalists were selected. Prizes included a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK rod and reel, a TFO tenkara rod and a TFO Bug Launcher Office Rod. If you know a teen interested in attending a TU Camp, visit the TU Camps Page to see a list of our 25 regional camps across the country and find information on how to apply. Once teens have attended a TU Camp, they may be ready to attend the TU National Teen Summit, an annual conference for young leaders in TU. Applications are available to download through March 1, 2019 at


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