5 Questions with Chris Hunt: The Voice of Trout Unlimited

Hunt landed this stunning 27-inch brown on a trip to Argentina.
Photos courtesy Chris Hunt

For most of us in the fly-fishing press, Chris Hunt is the go-to guy when we have questions or need a statement about Trout Unlimited’s work. As National Communications Director for the conservation organization, he helps the rest of us understand the work of scientists, field operators, and government lobbyists—all working toward the goal of protecting trout and their habitat. Based in Idaho Falls, he is also the author of Fly Fishing Idaho’s Secret Waters.

1. When, where, and how did you start fly fishing?
I learned to fly fish as a kid in Colorado—both of my grandfathers were avid anglers, and they did their best to teach all of their grandkids about the outdoors. I learned to fish on small streams in the Rocky Mountain high country with a fly rod…baited with a nightcrawler. I began to fly-fish exclusively in my early 20s, and I’m grateful to my grandfathers every single day for their patience and their persistence.

2. How did you initially become involved with Trout Unlimited?
I’ve been a TU member for many years—for as long as I can remember. There was a time, during my newspaper career, when my editor prohibited reporters and editors from joining groups like TU, so there was a lapse in early 2000s. I began working for TU in 2005, shortly after I realized that the newspaper business was likely to drive me to an early grave. I like to say that I “escaped” newspapers just in time to go and do communications work for what was then called TU’s Public Lands Initiative. Now I’m the national communications director, and I work with some of the most amazing people who are truly passionate about the work we do every day to make fishing better.

Just because he works for TU doesn’t mean he can only chase trout with a fly rod.

3. What’s your day-to-day job like?
I love my job—it’s exciting and rewarding every single day. I don’t have a set routine, but it does involve a lot of computer time and quite a bit of travel. The good news is that travel for TU takes me to some really great places all over the country, and I get to cast a fly in some of the coolest waters on earth while I’m helping our staff tell their stories to the media and fly-fishing world. I believe I’m truly doing the Lord’s work at TU. As a lot of us at TU are fond of saying, we’re saving the world… one trout at a time.

4. What is your current feeling about what will happen with Pebble Mine?
I’m optimistic that the EPA will follow the will of the people and severely restrict mining in the headwater of Bristol Bay, and I am hopeful that this decision will be made in the next several months. Pebble is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place—it could have a devastating impact on one of the world’s most important salmon runs, and the renewable fishing economy of southwest Alaska. I think Administrator McCarthy and the EPA will do the right thing on Pebble for the people and the economy of the Bristol Bay region.

Working to preserve and protect the trout we all love is a full-time job.

5. What do you think are the biggest conservation challenges for anglers in the near future?
Unfortunately, there’s a very long list of challenges facing anglers and their opportunities to fish in the United States, but perhaps the greatest threat—and not just to trout fishermen—is a changing climate. The science is in, and it’s real, but, frankly, I don’t care who is blamed for climate change as much as I care about what can be done to address it. Trout, in particular, are very susceptible to climatic changes, and their long-term persistence is in serious doubt because of a warming world. Fortunately, TU has been doing forward-thinking work to address the impacts of climate change for years—we’ve been reconnecting cool tributaries to mainstem rivers, replanting streamside vegetation to provide cover and shade, and protecting our backcountry streams that source our country’s iconic rivers with cold water.

As I said, there are lots of challenges facing anglers, but the most serious challenge—the challenge that could impact the ability of their kids and grandkids to fish for trout—is a challenge of true urgency. TU’s volunteer-led National Leadership Council created a climate change working group within its ranks, a sign that our members recognize this as a very significant challenge and that they are helping lead our efforts to address it.

4 thoughts on “5 Questions with Chris Hunt: The Voice of Trout Unlimited”

  1. Time to walk the walk, not talk the talk. There has been plenty of discussion regarding the ethics of the ubiquitous hero shots of fish. The science is pretty clear that taking a fish out of water can indeed cause harm with a fish very rapidly (one biologist friend noted that a trout can suffer detrimental impacts in as short a time as 20 seconds).

    I am pretty disappointed that a leader within TU feels the need for hero shots. There are plenty of ways to get a pic of a memorable fish without taking them out of water – or simply not bothering at all.

    Call me a crank but among the least interesting photographs are the guy or gal with their big trout, bass, salmon etc etc.

    At least one magazine won’t accept such pics and another had a feature editorial about it though the issue was splashed with such pics.

    So … lets walk the walk. TU … Orvis … magazine editors … anglers …. protect the resource and reject such photographs. And remember … that fish that you didn’t photograph can grow with time. And who doesn’t love a good angling tale?

  2. Science tells us it’s a combination of playing time stress, water temperature, and handling time out of the water. The quicker a fish is played and the colder the water, the less stressed it will be. Chris looks cold and being an experienced angler I am sure he did not overplay the fish. Science tells us we should keep fish out of water no longer than 15 seconds. By my calculations it takes 5 to 7 seconds to do a hero shot. And the bigger the trout, the stronger they are and the less delicate the handling required. That being said, personally I can’t stand hero shots because they are boring and in my opinion as a photographer a much better shot is of the fish in the water. (Plus if you can’t see the whole fish you can lie and say it was bigger). But I can’t fault anyone on conservation ethics if they want to snap a quick (and clichéd) hero shot.

  3. Tom – you know as well as I that a lot of people spend excess amounts of time fussing over getting a shot of a fish. And then there are the clowns that take video’s. I’ve seen one guy who had a fish out of the water for over a minute while he is hamming it up.

    Maybe I am just getting old and cranky but with new technology come new responsibilities and respect for the resource is the key. The problem with a digital camera is you snap a pick, it isn’t “jut right” so you snap another because you are not burning film and you have the instant ability to determine whether or not the pic is a good one or not.

    TU of all organizations should be leading by example. And he doesn’t look too chilly in a couple of those shots : >

  4. Pingback: Tippets: FishBrain App, Impacts on the Animas, Voice of TU, Undamming of America | MidCurrent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *