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.
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.
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.