On the Hunt

Trout Unlimited communication director's talk will be highlight of annual fly tying expo at DoubleTree Hotel

Why is this guy smiling? Other than the obvious reason, Chris Hunt of Trout Unlimiited will share some of his outlook on the world of angling when he speaks April 12 at the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo at DoubleTree in Grand Junction.

Professional fly tier Merne Judson of Gunnison demonstrates his skill in this file photo from the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo. This year’s Expo is April 12 at the DoubleTree Hotel.

The art and science of fly tying will be on display during the 16th annual Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo on April 12 at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Chris Hunt, national communications director for Trout Unlimited and featured speaker at this year’s Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo on April 12, hesitated a bit when a caller recently asked how the fishing has been for Hunt this spring.

After all, Hunt lives and works (most of the time) in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a double-haul cast away from where the famed Henry’s Fork and North Fork of the Snake River converge and within an easy drive of Yellowstone and Teton national parks.

“Well,” he dallied a bit before admitting, “I haven’t fished at all at home yet this year.

“But I got to Mexico for eight days in February and fished in Ascension Bay, where I caught three permit,” he said in a rush. “That was pretty good.”

By now he was on a roll.

“And I got to Southeast Alaska, to Admiralty Island, so it’s not like I haven’t been fishing.”

Not that anyone expected Hunt, who graduated from Western State Colorado University back in the days when it was Western State College and fished almost as often as he attended class, to have sworn off the rod and reel.

But he has been busy lately, as his work with Trout Unlimited has him running around the U.S., spreading the worthy gospel of cold-water conservation.

It’s a message he’ll share when he speaks at the 16th annual fly fishing expo at the DoubleTree Hotel in Grand Junction.

His presentation at the evening banquet wraps up the day-long expo, which also features seminars, lessons and more than 40 of the West’s top fly tiers demonstrating their skill in the hotel ballroom.

Except for the evening banquet, the expo is free. For tickets and information, call Tilda Evans, 970-683-8879, or Steve McCall, 210-7941.

As expected, Hunt has a special place in his heart for the waters of western Colorado, from the big-water flows of the Colorado, Gunnison and Dolores rivers and the crystalline streams coursing through the Flat Tops Wilderness and the Gunnison Basin to the development-threatened waters tracing thin paths along the Roan Plateau.

“There’s a lot happening in the central and western Colorado that is important to us and to anglers everywhere,” Hunt said.

A partial list of Trout Unlimited’s other concerns includes: threats to habitat from energy development on the Thompson Divide, which he described as “not simply trout habitat but some of the best big-game habitat in the state;”  threatened cutthroat trout populations in the Hermosa Creek drainage near Durango; and the push to protect the Browns Canyon area on the Arkansas River, one of the nation’s premier brown trout fisheries.

“And, of course, we’re still working on the Roan Plateau issues,” he said. “We’re trying to find ways to work with the (energy) company holding the leases. Ideally we’ll find some sort of compromise that retains their access to natural gas while keeping the cutthroat stream intact.

“So, there is a lot happening in western Colorado.”

He stopped, then added, “And, oh yes, there is the big agreement on the Fraser (River). That’s huge.”

That particular agreement, reached in February, ended an 11-year dispute between Denver Water and Western Slope water interests.

The major concord was reached when Grand County and Trout Unlimited agreed to let Denver Water siphon an additional 18,000 acre-feet from the headwaters of the Colorado River, water to which Denver Water has legal rights.

However, the treaty came with several limits on when and how much Denver Water draws, requirements designed to ensure the Fraser River recovers from years of decline due to water depletion.

“Colorado has become a real activity center for cold-water fishery conservation,” Hunt said. “A lot of other western states are looking at what’s going on in Colorado and hoping to replicate ways to protect habitat like that on the Hermosa, the Roan Plateau, the Arkansas and the Fraser.”

Hunt is well-known throughout the West for his tireless efforts on behalf of cold-water fisheries and for his love of fishing, which obviously includes warm-water and blue-water angling, too.

And one of his concerns is something other nonprofits have noticed: Memberships are lagging.

“Our scope is twice what it was five years ago, but the membership is up only 8-10 percent,” he said. “We want to get more people involved with the membership.”

That means finding more hands working to conserve habitat, such as the work Grand Valley Anglers has done on the Roan Plateau, West Creek and Grand Mesa.

“There’s not a stream or river in western Colorado that hasn’t, in one way or another, benefitted from the work TU and its volunteers have done,” Hunt said. “Grand Junction is the center of the universe for examples of the work we are doing all over.

“The work TU and its volunteers have done have made all fishing better. Period.”


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