John Frazier is the Community Specialist at Simms Fishing Products. Fresh or salt, John loves being on or around the water. When he doesn't have a rod in hand, chances he's watching the action unfold through the view finder of his camera while mentally crafting a story.
Simms funds position for conservation work on the company’s home river, the Gallatin.
Most people would not consider counting rotting chinook salmon carcasses as the basis for starting a romantic relationship, but Connor Parrish was even more interested when he realized the woman working on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife survey crew with him already understood the sometimes stinky reality of a career involving fish.
Now, a decade later, Parrish and Ashton Bunce have worked together, overlapped graduate school studies and, yes, tied the fishing knot in 2017 when they got married. Wedding pictures include bride and groom fishing together in their nuptial finery.
The challenge in marriage was finding a place they could both pursue their careers and still be in the same area code.
Bunce eventually secured a job with Montana Freshwater Partners — a non-profit conservation organization based out of Livingston, Mont. — working to enhance and preserve Montana’s rivers, streams and wetlands, and started in early May.
Parrish started looking for a new job after his wife accepted her new role to keep the couple living in the same home and was thrilled to see Trout Unlimited, with funding provided by Simms Fishing Products, created a new position — the Gallatin Home Rivers Initiative project manager.
Parrish applied for the job. His first day at Trout Unlimited was May 17.
“I have been a Trout Unlimited member since I was a kid and working for TU is a dream come true,” Parrish said. “I have a lifelong passion for trout, which I believe is shown through my previous work and outreach effort. It is pretty amazing how Simms has stepped up and is providing the funding for this position. A lot of corporations dependent on outdoor ecosystems and fisheries haven’t given back to those resources and it’s powerful to see one that is, especially to this level. Trout Unlimited, and I personally, are thankful for the support Simms is providing for us to do important work on the Gallatin River.”
Last week Simms, in addition to providing a quarter of a million dollars to fund the program, held a welcome party for Parrish at their headquarters in Bozeman to introduce him to the groups already working on the Gallatin, local fly fishing groups and local media. People in attendance also had the opportunity to get a taste of the Reel Good beer produced by 10 Barrel Brewing to serve as a fund-raiser for the Gallatin Home Rivers Initiative.
“From the candidate interview process to the last few weeks of getting to know Connor, I am confident that his background, experience, and passion provide the right combination to lead the charge for the TU/SIMMS Gallatin Home River Initiative,” said Diane Bristol, Senior Director, Employee and Community Engagement. “We are also looking forward to the collaboration that Connor will facilitate across the many fantastic organizations that have been working to protect and enhance the Gallatin River.”
Trout Unlimited is excited to add Parrish to the long list of people working on the Gallatin watershed, but he is not the first representative from TU to engage on the iconic Montana river.
“TU and our partners in the Gallatin have been active restoring streams and habitat in the Gallatin for over a decade. With Connor in place leading the Gallatin HRI, we’ll leverage our successes and accelerate our pace as we build resiliency into our fisheries and watershed,” said Patrick Byorth, Montana director for Trout Unlimited’s national Western Water and Habitat Program. “With the fast pace of development and changes in water supply, the Gallatin HRI comes at a critical time. We have a great team of partners, with the Gallatin Watershed Council focusing on water quality in the Gallatin Valley, the Gallatin Task Force up at Big Sky and Gallatin Canyon, the Four Corners Foundation assembling water data, and the grassroots support of TU’s Madison-Gallatin Chapter and a variety of diverse conservation partners, TU has a great team to work with.”
Parrish is excited to get to work on the Gallatin and expects he will get a lot of support from the local Trout Unlimited chapter based out of Bozeman. He will initially focus on projects Trout Unlimited and our partners previously identified and then work to discover new restoration work to benefit the river. He feels the communities close to the Gallatin live where they do for a reason and he hopes more residents will engage in efforts to protect, reconnect and restore the river they cherish.
“There a lot of people moving here and it seems like the majority of them are doing so for the outdoor experience,” Parrish said. “That presents a unique opportunity to help them understand we can make the Gallatin as great as it can be if we all recognize the impact our recreation can have on the system.”
Parrish plans to utilize many of the tools learned from his education and professional conservation experience in the coming years. Everything from snorkeling in the winter at night counting steelhead and salmon, to collecting eDNA on bull trout and working to find collaborative efforts to balance water use for fish and agricultural needs.
He hasn’t figured out a way to incorporate snorkeling surveys on the Gallatin River just yet, but he is working on it.
“For us, conservation is a daily topic of conversation. It’s of utmost importance for our brand, and with the rapid influx of anglers we all saw and experienced in 2020, actionable conservation efforts are more important than ever. It was about this time last year that we agreed that we need to do more, in a more collaborative way,” Bristol said.
“We wanted to identify an initiative that could yield significant positive impacts. As we brainstormed ideas, we liked carrying the theme of staying close to home forward, which is why the TU Home Rivers Initiative was such a perfect organization and initiative to concentrate our efforts.”
Chad Smith discusses the next evolution in technical outerwear — Simms’ all-new CX Jacket and Bib.
In March of this year, Simms launched the all-new CX Jacket and Bib, a collection built for the grind that revels in the shine. Based in Minnesota, Chad Smith is a competitive angler who has worked with Simms for years. His passion for fishing as well as his profession keeps him on the water regardless of the conditions. Over the years, Chad has logged more time than most in virtually every jacket and bib combo Simms has ever released. While he loves all of his Simms suits, most recently, he’s been happily rockin’ CX. We recently caught up with Chad to get his first impressions and see what he’s liking most about the next evolution in technical outerwear.
Simms: I remember finding you on social media many years ago. You stood out because you were super young, an obvious fan of the Simms brand, and clearly obsessed with competitive bass fishing. At the time, we were brand new in the bass world – that’s why we initially reached out. Back then, were you new to Simms or had you been using it for a while?
Smith: No, I had been using Simms for some time even before you guys first reached out. I guess when I first started using Simms, I was in middle school. I went into Cabelas with a local guy I fished with who was teaching me the ropes of the tournament game. I just remember seeing the original Pro Dry and thinking that it was the coolest looking jacket I had ever seen in my life. I saw the price tag and knew I couldn’t afford it. But, the guy I was with made the comment “Yeah, pretty expensive, but that’s what you pay if you want the very best”. Right then and there, I knew I wanted the best, and I knew eventually, I’d earn that jacket. It really gave me something to strive for.
Simms: Obviously, you made good on the deal you made with yourself. What were you wearing prior to getting into that first Simms suit?
Smith: At the time, I was fishing opens and I was honestly just wearing whatever. As a result, I had spent far too much time being cold and wet. Finally, I came to the realization that if I truly wanted to do this, and compete, and make fishing my living, there was just going to be necessary business expenses associated with my chosen career path. And yes, obviously, I did end up getting the suit, and honestly, in a strange kind of way, getting that suit made me feel like I had arrived, that I did it – in a lot of ways, it was an eye-opener and made me internally say, ok – so I’m a professional angler now.
Simms: Pretend you aren’t talking to a Simms guy and don’t sugarcoat your answer. How important is good rain gear?
Smith: In all honesty, in my opinion, rain gear is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can have. Seriously, I find myself in terrible conditions all the time. Whether it’s warm and wet, or cold and wet – just being wet will inevitably take its toll on your mental and physical game. Being comfortable is everything. And, not just because I’m talking to a Simms guy, I’d just add that once I started acquiring more Simms gear and actually using the right stuff for the right situation, my life got way better. It really wasn’t until I started using Simms that I realized just how important good gear is.
Simms: Outside of the obvious [being comfortable], why do you think using the best gear makes such a difference?
Smith: Rods, reels, line, clothing – it doesn’t matter, when you use the best, you are setting yourself up for success because you’re enhancing the overall experience. Using gear that you know isn’t going to fail allows you to enjoy your time on the water more. It keeps you so much more engaged and not just in the fishing aspect, it keeps you so engaged in everything else and for me being a competitive angler, those details are often the difference between getting a good bag or not.
Simms: So since getting that first suit, you’ve really been through virtually every single suit we’ve ever launched. Can you walk us through that progression?
Smith: Sure. As you know, I first became acquainted with Simms via the Pro Dry Jacket and Bib, and have used literally every iteration of it. Same with the Challenger Jacket and Bib. So yeah, I’ve been in all of them and I’ve put all of them through every scenario you could possibly imagine. I mean it when I say, they are all great. For me, and all other professional anglers, you’ve got to have spares of everything and while they are all designed to accomplish the same goal, I’d say that there are nuances about all of the suits that I particularly like for different reasons. But in terms of what’s new, the CX Jacket and Bib is really standing out. I mean, at first glance, the suit just looks sick. Stylistically, it’s killer. But in terms of performance, it’s really got that technical Simms DNA from the fit to all of the built-in fishy features.
Simms: With the CX suit being so new, have you had the opportunity to put it through its paces in rough conditions?
Smith: Oh yeah. I’ve had it in the rain several times already and it’s been performing great. Honestly, as much as I loved the idea of stretch material, I was pretty skeptical of how it would perform in the rain and boat spray. So far, I’ve been totally blown away. I just didn’t think a stretch material could wick water like that. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that material is brand new for you guys, right?
Simms: Yes, that’s our C-FLEX3 fabric, it’s a proprietary fabric that we brought in specifically for the CX suit. Other than wicking properties, did you have any other concerns regarding us using a stretch fabric?
Smith: For sure. One of the things I’ve always loved about the Pro Dry suit is how light it is. I was pretty certain that a stretch material, even if it would perform was going to be much thicker and heavier by nature. But, my skepticism was once again squashed. So far, I’m feeling like the CX suit is every bit as lightweight as the Pro Dry. And because of the stretch and how light it is, I’d say that it’s the most comfortable suit I’ve ever worn.
Simms: I know you’ve only had limited time in the suit, but are there any other features that are standing out thus far?
Smith: Really, really, really loving the TruZip pocket. I’ve always liked this zipper and was stoked to see it incorporated into the new CX Jacket and Bib. It’s so nice to have a fully submersible pocket that’s accessible for small essentials that I want to keep dry and to be confident that they will stay dry. Again, it’s just one more thing I don’t have to think/worry about in a tournament. I also really like that it’s a horizontal pocket as opposed to a vertical orientation. Just makes it super easy to drop things in.
Simms: Having owned all three suits, are there scenarios when you’d grab one over another? I guess does it makes sense to have a quiver of rain suits that like you said earlier, all perform the same task but also have subtle differences?
Smith: I’d say so for sure. You know, like I said earlier, for one thing, it’s critical to have spares of everything. I think for cooler days, I might run a Challenger Suit because it is slightly heavier. For days where I’m confident I’m going to be dealing with the elements all day long, chances are I’m going to reach for a Pro Dry. In terms of CX, I just love the comfort and mobility it offers. People don’t realize how much you move when you’re fishing a tournament and battling the clock. You’re just constantly up, down, over here, over there – you’re just always moving. But really, the CX suit is so new, I’m just stoked to use it as much as possible. It looks great, it fits great, and it fishes great. So for now, that’s the suit I find myself grabbing most often. I’m just already so familiar with what the Pro Dry and Challenger can do, I’m trying to get that same knowledge based on the CX suit.
Simms: So in the relatively short period of time you’ve been in the CX suit, what is the biggest takeaway so far?
Smith: Well so far, I truly haven’t gotten wet wearing it, but it’s a rain jacket so that’s somewhat expected. I’d also say that I’ve learned that it’s also a great protector against the wind. But, what I would say outside of those key characteristics, it’s got to be the comfort. That stretch is absolutely amazing. It’s interesting because the stretch is pretty subtle to the touch but believe me, when you’re wearing it, you really feel the advantage and comfort.
Finally – the wait is over – Simms’ all-new Flyweight Collection is available now at simmsfishing.com and your local retailer. In full transparency, this collection has been a challenge to keep under wraps for so long. Why? Because we truly feel this collection features more angler-driven innovations than any collection Simms has ever released. It also doesn’t help that we’ve literally been able to see the centerpiece of the collection, the Flyweight Stockingfoot Wader come to life right here on the production floor of our Bozeman, Montana facility. Over the course of the next couple weeks, we are going to dig deep into the entire Flyweight assortment, but because there’s so much to talk about, for the time being, we’re going to focus on this amazing wader as well as three killer pieces of outerwear that have earned the Flyweight badge: The Flyweight Shell Jacket, Flyweight Access Hoody, and the Flyweight Access Jacket.
Flyweight Stockingfoot Wader When it comes to the innovations and techy features found in the Flyweight Wader, there’s a lot to talk about. We’re going to go through all of these, but before we do, we’d like to explain how these innovations apply to you and why this wader should have a place to hang amongst other waders in your quiver.
First and foremost, the Flyweight Wader was designed for high-output anglers. You know the type — those that leave the truck at sunup and don’t return until the sun dips below the horizon. These anglers are the ones who are willing to push a little harder to get to those extra special, unpressured zones others don’t dare to venture. From the top down, this wader has been designed and engineered to facilitate comfort, mobility, and breathability to the extreme in order to make these treks less of a grind and more of an experience.
Second of all, in the process of creating such an athletic-inspired wader, something else happened — we built an extremely lightweight wader with incredible breathability. So yes – the Flyweight Wader was designed for high-output anglers, but it’s also going to be an awesome wader to lean on in warmer climates as well as shoulder seasons when it’s a little too cold to wet wade, but a little too warm for a G3 or a G4.
Now that we’re ready for the full tour of the wader, let’s start with the engine – the fabric. The Flyweight Wader features three GORE-TEX fabrics. The lower portion of the wader is constructed from 4-layer GORE-TEX®, the exact same fabric found in the lower of the G4Z® and G4 Pro Stockingfoot Waders. This material is waterproof, breathable and extremely durable but it also has a great hand feel and drape that provides a comfortable fit and promotes mobility. Much like other waders in the Simms line, the upper is constructed from 3-Layer GORE-TEX® for enhanced breathability. The third fabric utilized in the Flyweight Wader is a first for Simms. In the Crotch Gusset and Side Gussets (more on these later), our product team incorporated a 3-Layer stretch GORE-TEX® fabric to provide range of motion like never before.
The fabric package alone is enough to make the Flyweight a standout, but let’s move on and discuss the most eye-catching aspect of the wader – the 5.11® HEXGRID® front panel.
In short, 5.11 is a multi-angle load bearing platform that allows the secure attachment of a variety of Flyweight pods and accessories in a variety of locations and orientations. Found throughout the Flyweight Collection, 5.11 gives anglers the ability to completely customize their kit to meet their personal angling needs. The attachment process is simple and once accessories are attached to the angler’s liking, there’s no need to detach and reattach later. It’s a set it and forget it type model. See How 5.11® HEXGRID® Works.
In addition to the fabric and the hexgrid, the Flyweight Wader also features a scalloped top hem. This is a lower hem than other waders in the Simms line. This design feature was based on deep studies we conducted on breathability and the overall heat mapping of a high-output athlete’s body. We found that a lot of breathability occurs in the mid- to upper-chest area which is why we bumped the upper hem line down. To enhance ventilation even more in this critical zone, we also built in air mesh suspender anchors.
Now, let’s talk about the stretch under the arms. Basically, these zippered side-gussets provide anglers with two different functional modes – athletic mode (zipped up) and relaxed mode (unzipped). In relaxed mode, anglers gain 4 extra inches of ease which is conducive for resting periods, extra layering or actions like rowing, but it also gives anglers much needed ventilation after long hikes to the water’s edge. When it’s time to get back on the move, simply zip the side gussets back into athletic mode and start searching for the next spot.
Other features in the upper portion of the wader include adjustable suspenders with opposing Duraflex buckles for an easy waist high conversion, a zippered stash pocket, and finally, reach-through pockets (not hand warmer pockets) to rest your hands and keep small essentials close.
Finally, as we move down, as you might expect, we’ve included our patented front and back leg seams for range of motion but we’ve also incorporated a new Hex Air Gravel Guard. Essentially, this is a perforated neoprene material that releases water quicker, dries faster and packs smaller. It also provides a really comfortable fit inside wading boots.
Flyweight Jackets In addition to the wader, the collection comes equipped with three lightweight jackets that contribute in a big way to the overall Flyweight fishing experience. Like the wader and all of the packs and accessories, these jackets are built for faster and farther pursuits.
Leading the pack is the Flyweight Shell Jacket. This is the lightest, waterproof-breathable shell in the Simms line. Powered by GORE-TEX PACLITE® Plus, the Flyweight Shell Jacket provides next-level weather protection in a comfortable, lightweight, packable package. The jacket features a fixed hood with a single cord adjustment and was designed to easily fit over a hat. For small essentials, there’s a zippered chest pocket that is also a self-stowing pouch with compatible quick clips to attach to Simms’ Flyweight Waders, packs and accessories. Two zippered hand pockets thaw cold hands and a simple cuff designed with partial stretch allow for easy on/off capabilities.
Next in the Flyweight jacket lineup is the Flyweight Access Hoody, a go-to for chilly sessions in the backcountry. The hoody balances warmth and breathability for hard-charging performance. Built from recycled micro-ripstop polyester in the main body, the Access Hoody also utilizes Polartec® Power Grid™ along the sides and underarms for an unmatched warmth to weight ratio and a totally unhindered range-of-motion. Like the Shell Jacket, the Access Hoody also features a fixed hood, a zippered stretch mesh pocket, two zippered hand pockets and stretch cuffs for easy on/off.
Finally, the Flyweight Access Fishing Jacket, another lightweight, stashable option for those days when you just don’t know what the weather is going to do. With an open Power Grid™ Fleece back, the Flyweight Access Jacket offers warmth to fight morning chills and breathability that lends aid during remote ventures. Like the other jackets in the Flyweight Collection, the Flyweight Access Jacket also comes equipped with a zippered stretch mesh chest pocket, two-zippered hand pockets, and stretch cuffs for easy on/off.
Happy International Women’s Day. To honor the day, we’d like to highlight photographer/outdoorswomen, Jessica Haydahl. It’s especially fitting to feature Jessica today not only because she’s an amazing outdoorswoman/photographer, but her latest project, Dropped In the Pacific, is a film that features seven women on the adventure of a lifetime and it’s only days away from its debut on the 2021 Fly Fishing Film Tour.
The film takes place on infamous Christmas Island, a small atoll many consider bonefish Mecca. Aside from the amazing videography, fishing sequences, and beautiful backdrops, Jessica’s work in Dropped In The Pacific completely captures the essence of what makes all fishing adventures special – camaraderie.
Together as a group, these seven women share their experiences, as well as the joys and difficulties they encountered but most importantly, they reflect on what the sport of fly fishing brings to their lives.
Check out the Q&A below and learn more about Jessica, her work as a full-time, female photographer/videographer in the outdoor space and her latest film, Dropped In The Pacific.
Check out the Full Trailer for Dropped In the Pacific Below and Don’t Miss the Debut on the 2021 Fly Fishing Film Tour.
Have you ever gone down the Google Earth rabbit hole? You know — when you scroll past miles and miles of water and terrain until a certain zone catches your eye and makes you stop. From there, you zoom in, and then you zero in. Ultimately, that’s when your imagination takes over and you begin selling yourself on all of the unpressured possibilities that await. These spots aren’t casual one-beer strolls away from the truck — to access these locations and revel in remoteness, you’ve got to be willing to pay the price of strength, stamina, and endurance. To bring these hard-to-reach places into focus, Simms is proud to release the all-new Flyweight Collection — because the fish aren’t coming to find you.
Designed and developed for high output anglers, the Flyweight Collection delivers durability in a lightweight package that offers a completely unhindered range of motion, as well as the ability for anglers to customize how they comfortably carry all the necessary gear for sunup to sundown missions. The Flyweight Collection as a whole arguably features more innovations than any other collection that Simms has ever released, but there are a couple standout features to highlight that directly address mobility and cargo carry.
GORE-TEX® STRETCH For the first time ever, Simms has incorporated stretch fabric into the construction of a wader. The all-new Flyweight Stockingfoot Wader features 3-layer GORE-TEX® Stretch fabric in two critical zones, the crotch gusset and zipped side gussets underneath the arms of the upper portion of the wader. The stretch crotch gusset provides a little extra give for long uphill strides and/or leaps from one boulder to the next. Underneath the arms, stretch fabric has been incorporated in order to give anglers two performance-focused options — relaxed mode (unzipped), and athletic mode (zipped). When in relax mode, anglers gain 4 extra inches of ease in the top of the wader, a great option that provides enhanced mobility for actions like rowing, but also offers extra ventilation after long hikes to the water’s edge. When it’s time to get back on the move, simply zip the side gussets back into athletic mode and start searching for the next spot.
5.11® HEXGRID® Now, for the most eye-catching aspect seen throughout the Flyweight Collection, 5.11® HEXGRID®. This is the first time this technology has been utilized in the fishing arena. Sure, 5.11® HEXGRID® adds a unique and cool aesthetic, but it also serves an incredibly valuable purpose — the ability for anglers to customize their kit and gear to their own personal liking. In short, 5.11® HEXGRID® is a multi-angle load-bearing platform that allows anglers to securely attach their choice of Flyweight accessories in a way that makes the most sense for their style of fishing. The attachment process is simple and once accessories are attached to the angler’s liking, there’s no need to detach and reattach later. It’s a set it and forget it type model. The 5.11® HEXGRID® is most prominently featured on the wader but can also be found and utilized on many of the other pieces within the Flyweight Collection. See how 5.11® HEXGRID® works here.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be providing deep dives on the wader, all the great packs, jackets, and accessories, but for now, let’s just take a quick look at the entire collections so you can start scheming about your perfect Flyweight setup.
This year our friends at Casting for Recovery are celebrating their 25th Anniversary! The mission of the organization is to enhance the lives of women with breast cancer by connecting them to each other and nature through the therapeutic sport of fly fishing.
CfR started with the idea to take women with breast cancer out of a clinical environment and teach them to fly fish. Breast cancer impacts all of our families and communities and sadly, for each woman CfR serves, they are turning 3 women away. Women in the US face a one-in-eight lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. In the United States alone, 250,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
This year CfR is planning to host 52 retreats in 45 states with the generous help of over 1800 dedicated volunteers. SIMMS is proud to support Casting for Recovery and the 10,000+ women they have served but there is still plenty more work to be done.
To celebrate this monumental milestone and to honor all of the women CfR has served over the years, Simms has donated 150 MidCurrent jackets (men’s and women’s) with a custom embroidered Casting for Recovery fly. 100% of the proceeds of every jacket sold goes will go directly back to CfR and the great work they do to connect more women with breast cancer to the healing power of nature.
In honor of the 25th Anniversary use coupon code: SILVER25 for 25% off your purchase.
If you would like more information, want to apply to attend a retreat or know someone who would be interested visit castingforrecovery.org Check out this recent CfR video HERE to see the magic of a CfR retreat.
The Lackawanna River in Northeastern Pennsylvania was called a “waking giant” in a recent Fly Fisherman feature article (Aug-Sep 2018), was included in the most recent edition of Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s 100 Best Trout Streams, and in 2020 it was named Pennsylvania’s River of the year. But it wasn’t always this way. Fifty years ago it was hopelessly polluted with acid mine drainage. There seemed little hope for recovery. And things got worse. In 1972 the river was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Agnes, at that time America’s most costly and damaging hurricane, and still Pennsylvania’s wettest tropical cyclone on record. In the aftermath, the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the streambed, built miles of levees to contain floodwaters, and turned the river and its floodplains into a drainage ditch. The Lackawanna was also a junkyard for discarded tires, washing machines, and televisions. It smelled of sulfur, and wasn’t even recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a trout stream.
Anthracite Coal For more than 200 years, coal mining was a way of life in Pennsylvania, and it put food on the table. The Lackawanna Valley is home to the largest vein of anthracite coal in the world, and while coal companies and American industry prospered from it, Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams did not. Textile plants, tanneries, and the iron industry also contributed their share of water pollution, to the point that when Scranton became a city in 1888, the water was unfit for human consumption. It stayed that way until the late 1960s, when the coal industry began to dwindle. In 1966 the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority and the city of Scranton’s Sewer Authority were formed to handle wastewater, and the federal Clean Water Act of 1970 provided some hope that the river might have a future. There were centuries of damage that need to be undone, but the Lackawanna River story is evidence that with help, rivers can come back. But it takes groups like Lackawanna Valley TU, the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. And it takes energetic, pivotal individuals like Charles Charlesworth to make it happen.
Due in part to his efforts, much of the Lackawanna River is now a Class A wild trout stream, the backbone of a growing group of recreational users, and an educational springboard for high school and college students who use the Lackawanna to learn how to fly fish and/or study best practices for river restoration.
As a kid, Charlesworth ran a trapline along Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River, and he remembers vividly the cold mornings he spent removing fouled toilet paper from his water traps. He also remembers how a bleach and dye plant upstream discharged effluent that discolored the water and made it stink. These early experiences made a huge impression on Charlesworth, and for the rest of his life, environmental stewardship was part of his character.
His formal involvement with river restoration started 30 years ago when he worked with Schuylkill County TU chapter members to create limestone diversion wells in the headwaters of Swatara Creek. The diversion wells used crushed limestone to reduce the acidity of the water, and created 7 new miles of trout stream where the Swatara was heavily impacted by heavy metals from acid mine drainage.
Charlesworth later moved to Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania (a few miles north of Scranton) where he worked with the Stanley Cooper Sr. Chapter to restore and rehabilitate Bowman Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna that was devastated by Hurricane Agnes decades earlier. The chapter spent a whole year working with the Army Corps of Engineers to stabilize riverbanks, create instream habitat, and to reverse the effects of channelization. It was his first successful experience in working with a government agency to reverse and repair the damage done by the same agency. It was also a glimpse of what needed to be done on a larger scale in the nearby Lackawanna River watershed.
To make that happen, the Lackawanna needed boots on the ground, so working with local fly shop owner Greg Nidoh and many others, Charlesworth started Lackawanna Valley TU (lackawannavalleytu.org) to work with existing organizations to improve the overall water quality and increase and manage trout populations. Not only did Charlesworth get the new chapter off the ground, he has served as a board member, vice president, and then president during the chapter’s most pivotal years. When LVTU first got started in 2001, most of the river was not even listed or recognized by the state as a trout stream, and therefore had none of the protective regulations that go along with it. According to Charlesworth, just filing the paperwork and getting adequate recognition and regulations from the state was an important part of the battle. The first step was to have the entire river listed as trout water, and now almost 18 miles of the Lackawanna are designated by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) as either Class A Wild Trout Water or as Trophy Trout Water. There is another 8 miles of designated Stocked Trout Water above that, in flowing water that was once too toxic to even hold trout.
“Sometimes I catch hell because I talk too much about the Lackawanna,” said Charlesworth. “Some people don’t want anyone else to know about the Lackawanna, or hear about trophy trout regulations, but this is how rivers get saved. It seems like the more attention this river gets, the better the fishing becomes.”
According to Charlesworth, the designations are a chicken-or-the-egg question. Part of the designations are due to actual habitat and water quality improvements, but part of the reason why the Lackawanna is getting better is also because of the special regulations that come along with Class A Wild Water or Trophy Trout Water. And under the leadership of Charlesworth and LVTU, the Lackawanna has gone from zero to hero in about a decade. “Sometimes I catch hell because I talk too much about the Lackawanna,” said Charlesworth. “Some people don’t want anyone else to know about the Lackawanna, or hear about trophy trout regulations, but this is how rivers get saved. It seems like the more attention this river gets, the better the fishing becomes.”
Charlesworth admits that special regulations are only a small part of the success story of the Lackawanna. Before they could worry about limits on harvest, LVTU had to ensure the water quality and habitat were adequate to support a Class A Wild trout population. Hurricane Agnes in 1972 badly damaged the Lackawanna and its tributaries, and the flood control measures implemented by the Army Corps of Engineers afterward included miles of levees and river channelization.
Under Charlesworth’s leadership, LVTU asked a habitat specialist from the PFBC to study the river and make recommendations on specific improvements to create trout habitat in places where the river was little more than a chute altered to move water downstream as quickly as possible. “We did a lot of research on flood mitigation, and we had to explain to the Army Corps of Engineers that reducing the velocity of the river is actually a good thing,” said Charlesworth. “Increased velocity only creates more problems downstream. It doesn’t solve anything.” In one instance, LVTU developed a plan for staggered boulders through a 500-foot section of river to slow the current and provide habitat for trout. Charlesworth personally arranged for a quarry to donate eight massive boulders, a half ton or larger. Charlesworth also convinced a logging company to donate eight mature split logs with the root wads still attached. And he secured a crane company to donate a 105-ton crane and operator to move all the structures into place. In the end, the completed project cost LVTU just $1,500 in engineering costs, because all the materials and equipment were donated.
Charlesworth also started a water quality monitoring program on the Lackawanna in a partnership with LVTU and Dickinson College, and that program helped trace source pollution in two cases that led to fines by the DEP against two polluters. “We were out on the river diligently testing water quality with monitoring stations above and below every well pad in the watershed, so we had a baseline and could identify even very small changes in water quality,” said Charlesworth. “In all those years, we never discovered any chemical or toxic discharge directly from a gas well. There was frequently a lot of soil erosion at the sites, but not much else. However, in one case our monitoring station revealed that one of the companies was washing their diesel engines down with a degreaser, and that contaminant was leaching into the water. Even if it’s a very small amount, our water quality testing can detect it.”
In another instance, someone stole a brass valve from a 6,000-gallon oil storage tank, and oil started flowing into the Lackawanna. But the monitoring program caught it, and the PFBC and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality were on site within the hour to shut down the flow of oil.
Charlesworth sees the watershed as the lifeblood of the entire community, but he’s enough of a realist to know that it has to be fixed one piece at a time, and when those opportunities arise, he takes action. One of those opportunities was an abandoned parcel of land along the Lackawanna that was once the site of a municipal incinerator. The soil was tainted with toxins, the land covered in invasive knotweed, and the channelized riverbed was inhospitable for trout. Working with the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (he was a board member at the time) and LVTU, Charlesworth led an effort to restore both the land and the river. Under his leadership, the groups removed contaminated soil and replaced it with clean topsoil, repaired the streambanks, and provided instream structure for trout. They replaced knotweed with a rain garden and a flowering butterfly garden, and built a pavilion for educational events.
“For instance, we did some study areas with different types of streambank restoration, like logs and rip-rap, and what we found was that one of the best ways to stabilize the bank and prevent erosion was to weave willow branches and use them as sort of a blanket along the bank. The willows sprout upward naturally from that blanket.”
Now called the Sweeney Beach Environmental Education Center, the site is a study area, with ongoing test sites to determine best methods for reducing knotweed infestations, and the best methods for streambank stabilization. “We’ve learned a lot at the site we can use in future projects,” said Charlesworth. “For instance, we did some study areas with different types of streambank restoration, like logs and rip-rap, and what we found was that one of the best ways to stabilize the bank and prevent erosion was to weave willow branches and use them as sort of a blanket along the bank. The willows sprout upward naturally from that blanket.”
The Lackawanna River Conservation Association now hosts an annual river festival at Sweeney Beach with kayak races and educational programs. High schools, local colleges, and LVTU all host educational events there, including the Stream Girls program, fly-tying classes for children in the pavilion, and casting lessons on the Sweeney Beach property.
Sweeney Beach is also a frequent home to another Charlie Charlesworth project, the Keystone/TU Teens Conservation Camp—a partnership between Keystone College and Trout Unlimited. The summer camp is for kids aged 14 to 18, with instructors from three different universities and colleges, professionals from agencies like the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Fish & Boat Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, county conservation districts, and the Penn State Agricultural Extension office. The campers are housed on campus at Keystone College, but some of their field work is at Sweeney Beach or other sites on the Lackawanna River, where they participate in conservation projects. Charlesworth didn’t just help raise the funds to get the project off the ground: He participates as a TU volunteer at each camp.
Getting youth involved in fishing and river restoration is Charlesworth’s biggest passion. He also helped start the LVTU Teens Fly Fishing Club for high school students and also the Keystone College 5 Rivers Fly Fishing Club. The Keystone College club model was so successful Charlesworth worked with former LVTU Teens club members to also start clubs on their campuses at Pitt-Bradford, Juniata College, St. Francis University, and Mansfield University. There are now 11 different 5 Rivers Fly Fishing Clubs on Pennsylvania campuses, and 150 clubs across the country.
In addition to his volunteer work with youth groups and with Lackawanna Valley TU, Charlesworth has served on the board of directors for the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, he’s been a director with the Lackawanna County Conservation District, a member of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, a member of the Pennsylvania Environment Council, and he’s a graduate of the Penn State Master Watershed Steward Program. Through his efforts with all these groups, the Lackawanna River was named Pennsylvania’s 2020 River of the Year.
He’s also had important roles as president of LVTU, president of Pennsylvania TU, and also as part of PATU’s Legislative Action Committee, which makes monthly visits to the Pennsylvania House and Senate, speaking to members about environmental issues important to coldwater fisheries. In 2019 he stepped down as Pennsylvania TU president and was appointed to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. As a commissioner, he has been involved in the classification of more than 180 new Class A Wild Trout stream sections and more than 600 new Trout Waters designations. In that role, he’s also been involved with significant dam removals in Pennsylvania and in land acquisitions and fishing leases for restoration and/or public access.
His previous awards include the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Thomas Shelburne Award for Conservationist of the Year (2015), Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited’s Inky Moore Award for Environmental Excellence (2016), and nationally, the Trout Unlimited Award for Distinguished Service (2016). He received a citation from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in 2015 for his conservation efforts.
Because of his legacy of successful environmental and educational efforts, Charles Charlesworth has now also been named as Fly Fisherman’s 2021 Conservationist of the Year, and Simms Fishing Products will make a $10,000 donation in his name to Lackawanna Valley Trout Unlimited to continue its work in river restoration, water quality monitoring, and youth education.
After many decades of fishing Pennsylvania streams, and seeing both their beauty and their many ailments, I can attest that few people have made the kinds of significant improvements that Charlesworth has. And his successes have come mostly in places that at one time were barely recognizable as trout streams, and with young people who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to get their feet wet in a trout stream, let alone explore it with a seine or fly rod. Hopefully they will follow his leadership and make similar watershed impacts, not just in Pennsylvania but wherever their careers and their lives take them.
So here we are in the midst of holiday shopping season. This time of year is branded as fun and festive, but often times, the gift giving aspect takes away from what’s advertised – especially when the time comes to check the angler in your life off your shopping list.
Hardcore anglers seemingly already have it all. Newbies might not know exactly what they need. Not to mention – obvious necessities like rods, reels, waders and boots don’t exactly reflect stocking stuffer prices. So what’s a shopper to do? The answer is simple — lean on an old holiday standby — socks and underwear.
We’re not talking about Fruit of the Loom and we’re not talking about argyle gold toes. We’re talking about the unsung (and unseen) heroes of any proper fishing kit. We’re talking about technical, performance-driven gear that keep extremities warm and functional, toasty layering options that offer mobility, and prolong the life of waders and/or fishing bibs. So sit back, relax, enjoy a stiff glass of egg nog and hook up the angler in your life with a gift they’ll be thanking you for all fishing season long.
Even in our day-to-day lives — shoes fit better with quality socks. When wearing any kind of technical footwear, such as a wading boot, the way your sock fits and feels directly correlates to how your boot fits and feels. Not to mention, quality socks keep your feet warm. Simms’ Merino Thermal OTC Sock (also available in Women’s) provides an outstanding fit, comfy next-to-skin feel, and incredible warmth. Extending all the way up past the calf, the OTC socks are naturally wicking, feature reinforced midfoot supports as well as a reinforced heel and toe. Best of all, because we all know just how funky fishing socks can be after a day of hard use, anglers will be glad to know that the OTC Socks are odor resistant. If you like what you hear about the Merino Thermal OTC Sock but are one of those anglers that prefers a thinner sock, Simms also offers the Merino Midweight OTC Sock as well.
But maybe you’re looking for something that doesn’t run so high up your leg. We get it — for some situations, a shorter sock is needed. Simms Merino Midweight Hiker Sock ( also available in Women’s) has become a fan favorite ever since it was introduced. These socks run up to the bottom of the calf. Just like the OTC, the hiker socks are also naturally wicking, odor resistant and feature cushioning in high impact areas. And once again, if you prefer a thinner variation, we’ve got you covered with the Merino Lightweight Hiker Sock (also available in Women’s).
Now that we’ve covered some of our favorite socks, it’s time to move on to the unmentionables. What you wear under your waders really depends on how warm you want to be throughout your fishing day. Before we make our recommendations, we’d like to offer the following: PLEASE — DO NOT WEAR JEANS UNDER YOUR WADERS! Trust us, you will undoubtedly be uncomfortable and you will be killing the life of your waders. Plus, we make killer pieces specifically designed to be worn under waders and bibs! Some of our favorites are below.
For chilly mornings that promise rising temps throughout the day, the Lightweight Core Top and Bottom (also available in Women’s) are our go-to next-to-skin layering option. Soft, warm, but not too warm, this layering combo boasts a super low profile that won’t hinder rowing, casting, hiking, or any other angling motion. Constructed from moisture wicking, anti-odor fabrics, the Lightweight Core Top features raglan sleeves and flatlock seams for added comfort and stellar on water performance.
Fish in colder climates or deep into the winter? If so, the Lightweight Core Top and Bottom simply isn’t going to cut it. Here in Montana, on the days we know most anglers will stay home due to the cold, we opt for the Midweight Core Top – Quarter Zip and Bottom. Once again, this fishing focused underwear features anti-odor, wicking fabrics that help generate heat by moving moisture away from your body. Yes, it’s slightly bulkier than the Lightweight Core Top and Bottom, but every bit as comfy and mobile.
We understand and love the fact that plenty of women also like to get after it despite bitterly cold conditions. For maximum layering warmth for women, we highly recommend the Women’s Fleece Mid-Layer Half Zip and Bottom. Fully functional on the water but also unmatched when it comes to post fishing lounging.
Simms Fishing Products announced today a multi-year partnership with conservation group and non-profit Trout Unlimited (TU). The partnership will focus on TU’s Home Rivers Initiative, a multi-regional program that places full-time TU staff member(s) in a watershed to live and work with, and within the local community in order to bring the full range of TU’s scientific, policy, education, and legal expertise to bear on watershed-scale restoration and protection. Over the next three years, Simms is committed to a quarter million dollar investment in the Home Rivers partnership with Trout Unlimited in an effort to protect Montana’s Gallatin River.
“Three cheers to SIMMS for stepping up to help Trout Unlimited protect and recover the river that defines their community. Restoration of the Gallatin and its tributaries will provide high-paying, family wage jobs in rural communities across Montana. It will also help improve an already great fishery in a state that many consider fishing Mecca,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “We look forward to working with SIMMS and their employees to bring people together to recover the Gallatin.”
Beginning in January of 2021, SIMMS and TU will launch a dedicated restoration initiative to improve trout populations and fishing opportunity in the Gallatin River. The initial efforts aim to protect instream flows and essential water supplies, restore and reconnect critical fish habitat, and engage local communities in citizen science and angler stewardship programs. Over the next three years, a dedicated Gallatin River Project Manager and Outreach Coordinator will work in tandem with local conservation organizations to design and implement on-the-ground habitat restoration projects in critical tributaries in the Upper and Lower Gallatin River watershed. In addition, this Coordinator will work with partners to improve river access sites, engage local students and SIMMS employees in citizen science projects and volunteer efforts, and work with growing municipalities to restore and protect cold, clean water sources to ensure healthy fisheries for generations to come.
“With this support of TU’s Home Rivers Initiative we are committing to a legacy of stewardship for one of our most important Montana rivers,” stated K. C. Walsh, Executive Chair. “Suburban development, irrigation demands, and angling pressure will continue to challenge the Gallatin River, and Simms is proud to partner in this effort with TU to drive conservation and restoration efforts.”
The Trout Unlimited-Simms Gallatin River HRI will capitalize on existing powerful partnerships with the Madison-Gallatin TU Chapter, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Gallatin River Task Force, the Gallatin Watershed Council and Custer-Gallatin National Forest to increase our collective capacity to do effective, watershed-scale conservation work.
“We’re thrilled to join forces with TU and support the Home Rivers Initiative here in the Gallatin Valley,” said Casey Sheahan, CEO. “The Gallatin River gives so much to our local community and is such an important fishery, it feels great to form such a meaningful and impactful long-term partnership with TU to ensure a healthy fishery for years to come.” To learn more about the partnership and how to get involved, please visit the donation page here: https://gifts.tu.org/gallatinHRI
Simms Releases the Next Evolution of the Ultimate Foul Weather Fortress
After its initial release, Simms’ Pro Dry Jacket and Bib (Pro Dry Suit) quickly earned the reputation as the ultimate foul weather suit. So much so, serious anglers began looking at the suit less and less like clothing and more and more like mission critical gear they wouldn’t leave the dock without. But Simms does not rest on our laurels. Since technology and performance are part of the Simms DNA, the product team spared little to no time thinking about how the Prodry should evolve and become even better. So, after countless hours of design, development, and field testing in torrential downpours, choppy open water crossings, rough seas, and high winds — the all-new Pro Dry Jacket and Bib were born.