Video: Tom Rosenbauer and Joel Johnson discuss Diversity in Fly Fishing

As a nation, we are having important and meaningful conversations about racism in our society, and this has led to the outdoor industry–including fly fishing–to examine how race plays a role in participation. This is a topic that often generates strong responses, as evidenced by the comments when we posted Alvin Dedeaux’s “Racism is Real!” video last month. While many anglers support these discussions, others believe that we are “allowing politics to intrude on fly fishing.”

At Orvis, we don’t believe that this is a political issue at all. If our vision is to inspire people to love the adventure and wonder in nature, that inspired world must be inclusive, equitable and without barriers

Joel Johnson with a wild Trinity River steelhead caught on Tsnungwe native land with guide Kayla Katayama.
Photo by Kayla Katayama

Last week, Tom had a great discussion with Joel Johnson about these issues, and we think you will find it extremely illuminating. Johnson runs an advertising agency called Admirable Devil–which has worked with many fly-fishing brands and conservation organizations–and he is the former Marketing Officer for Trout Unlimited, so he’s had tons of experience in the world of fly fishing. He also appeared on this blog way back in 2012, before I’d actually met him.

I don’t remember ever hearing such a great conversation about race and fly fishing. Joel’s perspectives on his angling life and experiences and the way black people often feel about venturing into the outdoors gives us all a lot to think about.

6 thoughts on “Video: Tom Rosenbauer and Joel Johnson discuss Diversity in Fly Fishing”

  1. This was a really a great session. I learned a lot and appreciated Joel’s comments about, mentoring, inviting people to fish with you, hiring diverse guides, and understanding different regions and watersheds. His comments about Healing Waters and the fact that TU is offering memberships to Essential Workers might be the path to getting to know anglers different from ourselves. Which will ultimately prove to be just one more learning experience while on the water!

    Thank you very much!

  2. this is so well stated and helps me distinguish between politics from barriers
    “At Orvis, we don’t believe that this is a political issue at all. If our vision is to inspire people to love the adventure and wonder in nature, that inspired world must be inclusive, equitable and without barriers”

  3. An old friend of mine, knowing how much I love to flyfish, emailed me the link to Brown Folks Fishing. We’re both “Brown,” and were both active in leftist Chicano causes during the 70’s. He remained in the cities. I moved to California’s Eastern Sierra over 30 years ago. I opened the link to Brown Folks Fishing and began to read.
    I immediately found it amusing, because I thought it was a parody of the fatuous, delusional notions that often bubble up out of the heads of persons desperate to polish their credentials as “woke” individuals. I really thought it was a send-up of the inane, fashionable posturing seen among academicians and politicians who are locked into the liberal paradigm. I even found myself laughing out loud. However, as I read on, it dawned on me: these people are saying this shit in earnest… They are actually serious. I continued reading, right down through the “Angling for All Pledge,” which I found especially hilarious. Again, I had to wonder: what planet do y’all live on? I don’t know that I’ve ever read more ridiculous, pretentious gobbledygook. I quote here just one of the gems from the text in your website: “The framework of conservation as it exists is deeply rooted in white supremacy, erasure, and colonialism.” This could only have been written by politically or financially motivated opportunists, intent on exploiting the unexamined assumptions of pin-heads who are slaves to radical chic. Like, yeah, I’ll pay you $250, so I can say I’ve been knighted under the Angling for All Pledge and expound on the evils of white conservationism to my as yet un-woke friends… The country is going through a crisis of distrust and disunity – the kind of crisis where self-serving politicians and entrepreneurs have a field day. There are great numbers of white folk in our country who may not have great sympathy for so-called “liberal” or “liberation” policies, but who would be quite willing to live with a sane, anti-racist agenda that truly promotes diversity– one by which they are not ideologically vilified by careerist, virtue-signaling academicians and politicians. When people see more and more of the kind of pretentious rhetoric that you are using, they become prejudiced against, and scornful of, anything that even smells progressive or “liberal,” especially when it floats on a rationale that generalizes them as villains. Some people finally feel so fed-up and disrespected, that they will do something as desperately stupid as vote for a racist, ignorant, grotesquely narcissistic demagogue like Donald Trump.
    Your pretentious, virtue-signaling foolishness does nothing for the common good, and most of the people you claim to speak for would only wonder at your presumptuousness.

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