Page 1

The Trout Tale


Survey says:

For those of you who were in attendance at last year’s April Trout Unlimited (WYTU) spring council meeting in Green River, you will recall a large portion of the meeting was dedicated to helping some of our chapters get back up and running and reengaging members. Particularly after two years of the COVID outbreak.

As part of that discussion, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Volunteer Operations, Beverly Smith, gave an excellent presentation on chapter health and revitalization, which continues to be a top priority for the Wyoming executive council today.

In addition, she also helped the council lay the groundwork for a successful council-wide survey that was conducted in mid-June of 2022.

We had 180 people take the survey that featured 10 questions and only took a few short minutes to complete and submit. The council also provided three $100 gift cards from three Wyoming Endorsed businesses that were given away to lucky survey participants after the survey was completed.

Here’s a summary of each of those 10 questions so the chapters can use this information as a tool to help members reengage in activities, events and meetings.

Q1: If known, what is your local TU chapter affiliation? All 12 chapters were represented with the Jackson Hole chapter having the most responses.

Q2: What is it that most excites you about being a member of or being affiliated with Trout Unlimited in Wyoming? Check all that apply. Over 76% selected the potential to impact my homewater rivers and streams through my local chapter, followed by 60% choosing to participate in conservation projects in my area.

Q3: For each of the general opportunities listed below, please indicate those that you would be willing to volunteer. Check all that apply. Work to help community members heal and connect through fishing (veterans, first responders, cancer survivors) was the top pick with 46.67%, followed by assist with fly fishing education (tying, casting, rod building, etc.), skills workshops for beginners with 44.85% and 42.42% of the respondents selected assist in fundraising activities.

Q4: For each of the conservation opportunities listed below, please indicate those that you would be willing to volunteer. Check all that apply. (See graph above). Over 72% of the

respondents answered planting native trees and shrubs, cutting invasive plants or constructing stream habitat. Coming in a close second, was picking up trash with 71.51% responding.

Q5: Occasionally the Wyoming Council and its chapters have a need for volunteers with specific skills or interests. If you have skills or interests in the following areas and would be willing to volunteer, please check the appropriate boxes. Respondents selected writing/editing (35.71%), photography (29.46%), event planning (26.79%) and board governance (21.43%) as the top four responses.

Q6: Would you be interested in getting notifications on issues at the state level that affect coldwater conservation, and would you be willing to contact your local representatives? 60.23% responded yes, while 26.70% responded maybe, and 11.93% responded no.

Q7: How would you like to receive communications from the Wyoming Council and its chapters — these are invitations to events, newsletters, advocacy alerts, etc. (Check all that apply). 72.16% of the respondents selected email, followed by 57.95% selecting your local chapter’s or the council’s Trout Tale newsletter. 28.41% of the respondents selected the Wyoming Council or my local chapter website.

Q8: If you live in an area with no TU chapter or a dormant chapter, would you be

willing to help the council establish a new chapter locally? 39.36% of the respondents selected no, while 35.11% selected yes.

Question 9 asked for additional comments regarding the areas of interest in volunteering or how the Wyoming Council and its chapters can provide better services or experiences for you.

The final question asked respondents for some additional personal information.

Well, there you have it. Some interesting results for sure.

The survey results show that many respondents are definitely interested in getting outdoors to help with kid’s events, veteran’s projects, conservation work, fish outings, picking up trash on a favorite water, planting trees or willows or helping with fish entrainment projects to name a few.

The chapters most certainly are not required to hold as many meetings when opportunities present themselves to have members be outside working or having fun.

And our meetings and get-togethers need to be fun.

The executive committee of the Wyoming Council has dedicated their help and assistance to any chapter that would like it. And that includes financial assistance if needed.

If anyone has any questions or needs assistance, don’t hesitate to email Wyoming Council Coordinator Mike Jensen at mike.jensen@tu.org.

Q4: For each of the conservation opportunities listed below, please indicate those that you would be willing to volunteer. (Check all that apply)


Conserving, protecting and restoring Wyoming’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds


n Kathy Buchner

Jackson Hole Chair n Sadie Valdez

Rock Springs Vice Chair

n Tom Brown


n Jim Hissong

Mountain View Treasurer n Werner Studer

Casper NLC Representative n Dave Sweet

Hanging up the TU hat

I first met Walt Gasson some years ago after he joined Trout Unlimited (TU) to head up the organization’s endorsed business and guide program. Kudos to TU president and CEO Chris Wood for hiring Walt to run the TU endorsed business, outfitter and guide program. Talk about the right guy for the right job. Chris got it right and we all owe him our gratitude for bringing a highly qualified conservationist and genuine good guy to the ranks of Trout Unlimited.

One knew immediately Walt was going to be something special and his hard work and work ethic over the years would pay big dividends, for not only TU, but especially his endorsed business members, outfitters and guides.

I was living in Evanston at the time of Walt’s hiring, and I held several volunteer TU positions with the Upper Bear River Trout Unlimited Chapter and the Wyoming Council.

Walt lived in Cheyenne and our paths crossed every now and then when a TU function happened somewhere in our big Wyoming neighborhood.

I enjoyed every opportunity to talk to Walt in person or over the phone. He was always positive, upbeat and seemed to always have a few pearls of wisdom up his sleeve.


At Large Member n John Madia

Sheridan.............................At Large Member n John Burrows

Lander At Large Member n Cole Sherard

Laramie Past Chair n Mike Jensen

Cheyenne Council Coordinator


n Grey Reef

Curt Gowdy

East Yellowstone

Jackson Hole

Laramie Valley

Little Bighorn

Platte Valley

Popo Agie Anglers


Star Valley

Upper Bear River

Upper Green River

And, of course, he was always willing to share a bit of advice if asked. Walt’s sense of humor made me laugh. A lot. He would have me in stitches nearly every time we talked on the phone or were visiting in person. Especially when it came to talking about hip and knee joints in need of repair — for the both of us. Walt’s a pro when it comes to talking about joints and how to fix them.

I always enjoyed hearing stories of when Walt was a young man and his outings with his grandpa, dad and mom. He always seemed to take a conversation and it would ultimately circle back to talking about home waters and the home place. His storytelling ability would easily bring you into the conversation and end up leaving you wanting more.

I always appreciated Walt when he talked about his family, faith and love of the great outdoors. Clearly they are at the top of his priorities and he is so very proud of his wife, Kim, his four children and 12 grandchildren.

The Wyoming council has put out this newsletter for several years. And Walt has been a big part of our newsletter’s success over that time as he has contributed to most of them. His words of wisdom, wit and perspective put one at ease as Walt’s words would take you to another place.

Even though Walt will be officially retiring from Trout Unlimited at the first of the year, I have offered him page 2 of this newsletter moving forward. Our newsletter wouldn’t be the same without some choice words from Walt Gasson.

I hope you’ll check out the Q&A Conversations piece in this newsletter where Walt was gracious to sit down and answer a bunch of my questions. You’ll also find some quotes and well-wishes from friends and colleagues.

Walt, my friend, well done on your incredible conservation career. Well done, indeed.

To join Trout Unlimited today, go to tu.org and click on the “Memberships & Giving” tab. Then choose “become a member.”

Mike Jensen currently serves as the Wyoming Council Coordinator for Trout Unlimited, and he and his wife, Jodi, call the Cheyenne area home.When he’s not at his desk, puttering around the “Lazy J” with the dog or tying a few flies, you’ll find him driving his drift boat in search of big Wyoming trout. E-mail Mike at mike.jensen@tu.org.


With Walt Gasson — recently retired Trout Unlimited staffer, husband, father, good friend, accomplished angler, hunter and outdoorsman, and longtime Trout Unlimited member, advocate and volunteer to name just a few.

Conversations: Q&A

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each quarter, we’ll seek out and sit down with a Trout Unlimited member, volunteer, staff member, conservation partner or friend to have a casual conversation about them and the outdoors. For our winter “Trout Tale” newsletter, we’re delighted to talk with a true friend of Trout Unlimited and recently retired TU employee — Walt Gasson, who calls Laramie, Wyoming, home. Below, you’ll find questions from Wyoming Trout Unlimited (WYTU) and Walt’s responses following his initials “WG.” — Mike Jensen

WYTU: Walt, by way of introduction for those who might not know you, tell us about yourself, where you grew up, and the influence your family had on you?

WG: I’m a Sweetwater County, Wyoming, guy. The Green River is my home water, and Green River is my hometown. My family on both sides goes back to pre-statehood days out on the sagebrush sea. I was born in Rock Springs in 1954, the son of a woman who loved books and a man who loved Wyoming and the outdoors. By the time I went off to college, I could find my way on gravel or two-track or just cross-country from Salt River Pass to Vermillion Creek. It was the perfect place for me to grow up.

Both sides of my family have deep roots in western Wyoming. So it was only natural that I grew up in the mountains, rivers and desert country. I don’t remember a time in my life when we weren’t hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring wild country. There were still legit pioneers on the land back then, and their stories — along with the miners and railroaders and others — were the backdrop for my coming-up years.

It came as a shock to me that there were jobs that would pay me to be in the outdoors full-time and I knew from the time I was six or seven that I wanted a career in wildlife conservation. I never considered any other options.

WYTU: Tell us about when you were drawn to the outdoors and why?

WG: It may be hard-wired in the DNA. Like my dad and my grandpa before him, I have always been in love with hard country. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the roads were few and

far between in our country. So were people. Only a few of my dad’s old cowboy/sheepherder buddies even knew some of those places existed. But those places left a mark on me, one that remains to this day. I feel crowded if I can see someone else, even if they’re a mile away. I even like feral horses — up to a point. Not very many people knew the country when it was wild, and fewer of them ever loved it. I did, and I still do.

WYTU: I’ve enjoyed, over the years that we’ve known each other, listening to you talk about your family and how proud you are of them. Tell us about that.

WG: You know, Mike, it’s not hard at all for me to talk about the Gasson Clan. It’s pretty hard for me to stop talking about them, so don’t expect brevity here! The most important thing to know about them is that it’s a matriarchy, like a herd of elephants or maybe a Navajo family. Kim is the matriarch of our clan, and if we ever amount to anything, it will be because of her.

She and I have four awesome children — Clark, Jenny, Beth and Sarah. None of them live more than a day’s drive away. We have twelve perfect grandchildren from 22 down to 9. It’s the best thing in the world, but I don’t think we’re much different than most Wyoming families. We’re people of faith who love God, one another, wild things and wild country. We are as much a part of Wyoming as Wyoming is part of us.

WYTU: Before we talk about your position with Trout Unlimited (TU), and your recent retirement from TU, tell us about your career over the years leading up to coming on board with Trout Unlimited.

WG: It’s been an awesome ride. I went to work for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department right out of college in 1976 and stayed with them for 32 years. We went from the Ocean Lake WHMA near Riverton, to Gillette during the coal leasing madness of the late ’70s and early ’80s. We moved to Cheyenne in 1982 and stayed there until 2007 when I retired as

Walt Gasson right at home Walt and Gypsy in the backcountry in 1962

a special assistant to the director. That retirement lasted about 12 hours, but I was asleep for part of it.

I moved on to become the CEO at Wyoming Wildlife Federation. The outfit had a lot of challenges, but we built a great staff and took some tough stands that needed to be taken. Joy Bannon was part of all that, and she’s the CEO there now. I retired for the second time in 2011. That retirement lasted an entire month, but I was elk hunting for most of it.

I came to work for TU in November 2011. Chris Wood recruited me. We met at a responsible energy symposium in Jackson, and just sorta hit it off. It’s an unlikely friendship between a fast-talking New Jersey guy and an ancient desert rat, but it remains strong to this day. He’s the best leader I’ve ever worked with. I retired the third time in 2022, and all indications suggest that it may stick this time.

WYTU: When you moved back east, did you miss Wyoming and the Intermountain West?

WG: I think it would have been easier on all of us if we had just put our hearts in cold storage before we began that migration, but the short answer is ABSOLUTELY! Let me explain.

It was 1997, and I’d been working for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) in Cheyenne for 15 years. I was tired and burned out and (to borrow a phrase from Waylon Jennings) “lonesome, ornery and mean.” I needed a change. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had just finished building the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. They needed a state fish and wildlife agency guy to come work with them for a couple of years to be a liaison between them and the state agencies. The bosses at WGFD were supportive, so I threw my hat in the ring and, for reasons beyond my comprehension, ended up with the job.

It was an incredible learning experience. I got to work, in one way or another, with all 54 (at that time) state fish and wildlife agencies. One of the most rewarding experiences was helping them create leadership development programs tailored for their state and their agency culture. State fish and wildlife professionals are just great folks — they work really hard, and they take great pride in the work they do. It was super easy to connect with my brothers and sisters in those agencies, no matter where they worked.

WYTU: What did it mean to you and your family when you had the opportunity to move back west? To move back “home?”

WG: Everything. I loved working there but being that far from our home country and the rest of our family was killing us. It was a road warrior job.

I didn’t keep track for the first two years, but the last year I was there, I was averaging 22 days per month on the road. Kim and Sarah had moved back home. Sarah was playing volleyball for Cheyenne Central High School at the time, and she called me late one night to tell me all about their victory over crosstown rival Cheyenne East. When she finished telling me about the game, she asked me where I was. I didn’t know the answer to the question — it was just another damn hotel room, like the last one and the one before that. I knew then that it was time to come home.

WYTU: Over the years working for Trout Unlimited, you did a remarkable job building revenue and exposure with the TU Business and Guide program. What do you attribute your success to?

WG: I’m not sure it was my success, partner. Like pretty much everything that we do in conservation, the growth of the program was a team effort. We have a truly outstanding staff and volunteers at Trout Unlimited, and they make things work. You practically never have to sell TU to someone — our work on the ground sells itself.

That said, I think there’s an important point to be made about this program, or any other conservation initiative. It took me decades to understand that our success depends on our ability to build and maintain relationships with people. It’s like living in a small town.

TU has about 300,000 members and supporters. I have the luxury of being responsible for our relationship with only about 500 of them. I can take the time to get to know them, to know their businesses and their families, their joys and their heartbreaks. They’re not membership ID numbers to me, they’re my friends.

WYTU: I’ll put you on the spot here. What was your favorite part of working for Trout Unlimited and why?

WG: The people. I got into conservation a very long time ago because I loved wild things and wild places. It took me more than two decades to realize that what I really loved was working with people who loved wild things and wild places.

The people I’ve worked with at TU — staff, volunteers, TU Business members — they’re the finest folks I’ve ever known. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

WYTU: What are some of your favorite memories working for Trout Unlimited?

WG: That’s a tough one, man, because there are so many. But one that stands out is from a packtrip I took with Dave Hettinger into Yellowstone Meadows a few years back. We wanted to see if the work that my hero, Dave Sweet, and so many others had done on Yellowstone Lake was paying off.

Walt on Jasper in a favorite place.

We wanted to be in the Upper Yellowstone when the fish were spawning, just to see if they were there. It was a daylight to dark 31-mile ride from the Turpin Meadows Trailhead. I had a great horse, but it was a marathon ride, and I was nearly done in. We came down Atlantic Creek, crossed the mainstem of the Yellowstone and were riding toward camp. The light was almost gone as we rode the trail on the north side of the river just


council and the Yellowstone Lake Project, conservation committee update, climate change committee update and youth committee update.

Reports and updates were also provided by Wyoming Water and Habitat Program Director Cory Toye and his team — NW Wyoming Program Director Leslie Steen; Salinity Control Coordinator for the Henry’s Fork of the Green River, Hillary

City, Utah, gave a presentation on what’s new in the Leaders Only section of TU’s website and Event Groove fundraising tools.

Yellowstone Lake Project Manager for WYTU, Dave Sweet, teamed up with Dr. Robert Gresswell for an excellent update and report on Yellowstone Lake where work continues to reduce the unwanted lake trout population.

Most of the afternoon’s session was dedicated to an in-depth presentation by Dr. Cathy Whitlock. Her presentation “The Greater Yellowstone Assessment,” lasted for over an hour. Following her presentation, she opened up the discussion to answer questions from the group regarding climate change and how it will affect the the Greater Yellowstone area.

The Wyoming Council would like to thank Dr. Gresswell and Dr.Whitlock for their excellent presentations and time.

The group then spent some time discussing issues that chapters were having with getting members involved and engaged.The council continues to work with chapter leadership to make necessary resources available to those who request assistance.

Walrath; Green River Project Manager Nick Walrath and Salt River Watershed Manager Tanner Belknap.The group is doing remarkable work despite serious drought conditions in much of Wyoming.

Angler’s Conservation Project (ACP) Wyoming Field Manager Amelia Howe gave an update on what’s happening with the ACP, particularly with the upcoming legislative session and Camo at the Capitol event on Feb. 2.

Werner Studer provided an update on the work being done by the National Leadership Council.Wyoming Game and Fish Department Regional Fisheries Biologist Joe Skorupski gave a report on the department’s happenings in the Cody region as well as around the state of Wyoming.

Trout Unlimited’s Online Community Manager, Doug Agee from Salt Lake

In other business, it was agreed that the spring council meeting will be held in Rawlins on May 5, 6 and 7, 2023.Watch for more information and details as they become available moving forward.

A council favorite is the presentation of the WYTU “Bucking Fish” award” to close each council meeting.The Little Big Horn Chapter presented the award to the East Yellowstone Chapter to honor all the great work done they have done this past year.

Saturday night’s dinner was held at the historic Irma Hotel in Cody.The council conducted a raffle that generated over $1,200.Thanks to everyone who donated items and bought raffle tickets. On Sunday, council conservation committee chair Larry Timchak led a field trip to both East and West Newton Lakes located north of Cody.The group had a chance to view first-hand, the work being done by the East Yellowstone Chapter and the WGFD.

THE TROUT TALE 12 WINTER 2023 FALL COUNCIL MEETING from page 11 Check out our new WYTU knit beanies featuring the new Wyoming Trout Unlimited “Bucking Fish” logo! Choose from light brown or moss green! Get yours today at wyomingtu.org/shop Stay warm. Look great!
Nick Walrath discusses TU work being done in southwest Wyoming Some of the attendees listen to a presentation during the Saturday session at the Wyoming Trout Unlimited Fall Council meeting in Cod held at the Cody Hotely WYTU photos by Mike Jensen The WYTU “Bucking Fish” award was presented to the East Yellowstone Chapter in Cody by the Little Big Horn Chapter from Sheridan. .

The best part of great conservation work is when volunteers, staff, friends and conservation partners and friends gather to get something special done...

Jackson Hole Chapter fence units on River Bend Ranch

Thanks to Leslie Steen, Kathy Crofts, the Jackson Hole Chapter and the East Yellowstone Chapter for sharing photos of their hard work from this fall...

Jackson Hole Chapter volunteers, staff and conservation partners on Spread Creek

Through the lens of a camera... CONSERVATION

East Yellowstone chapter fish rescue Jackson Hole Chapter fish rescue on Lake Creek East Yellowstone Chapter fish rescue in the Cody area

The Salt River’s trout guy

“Hey man, I heard you’ve been living in your truck? You should’ve told me. I’ve got a camper in the forest you can stay in!”

— After three weeks in the back of my truck, my newest gym buddy gave me a place to sleep. I still had to shower at the gym and cook at the office, but it was quite the upgrade! He later had me join his family’s elk camp.

“I know a guy with a nice basement that used to be a flyfishing guide. Could I get your number and give it to him?”

—The desk clerk asked that question as I got my oil changed. After a month of varying degrees of “homelessishness,” she found me a place to live!

“I think $1,200 is a reasonable price for this place. What can you afford? $1,000? Ahh, all right. We’ll cut you some slack.”

— My landlord giving me the break I needed to have a place to live. Since I became his basement dweller, we’ve gone on two float trips and one elk hunt.

“Oh, you like deep canyons with big boulders and dumb fish? You should try Bitch Creek.”

— Lee Mabey, Caribou-Targhee National Forest Fisheries Biologist recommending one of my favorite new fishing spots.

“This is the Salt River Guy for Trouts Unlimited... He pets trouts for a living.”

— A few people.

The people I’ve met in my first six months in Star Valley have been some of the kindest, most generous folks I know. Strangers have generously helped me find places to live. I’ve gone fishing and hunting with some of our agency partners. The sense of community I’ve found here is second to none.

As our first staff member in the Salt River watershed, my first six months have primarily been spent laying the groundwork for future success. Leslie Steen, our NW Wyoming Program Director for Trout Unlimited (TU), has previously built relationships in the watershed and has seen the completion of multiple fish passage and restoration projects. Under Leslie’s guidance, half of my time has gone toward increasing

Trout Unlimited’s impact in the watershed and the other half has been establishing the Salt River Watershed Group. My time outside of work has been spent chasing the trout, mule deer, elk, and pronghorn that call this area home.

My work on TU’s interests in the watershed began with getting to know our agency partners and helping them with ongoing projects. Through site visits with landowners and building relationships with agency partners, Leslie and I have begun putting together a slate of projects for coming years. We currently have applications in to fund four separate fish passage and restoration projects, and hope to add to that number. Two restoration projects in adjacent watersheds are also in the works with our partners at Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.

An important component of TU’s success in any watershed is an active chapter. Star Valley Trout Unlimited (SVTU) has seen a decrease in activity the past few years and I’m working to help reverse that trend. In October and November, we cleaned up eight fishing access sites and completed a fish rescue on the East Side Canal. This winter, SVTU will hold the first meeting its had in quite a while.

Establishment of the Salt River Watershed Group (SRWG) is the primary component of the Bureau of Reclamation grant funding my position. In December we held the second SRWG stakeholder meeting. We’ve built a 10-member steering committee of agency partners to guide the progress and objectives of the group. As SRWG develops further, representatives from additional stakeholder groups will be added to the committee. Watershed groups provide a unique opportunity to have every relevant agency and decision maker at the table. Having these folks present, along with public involvement in the group, can greatly increase the success rate of projects. In the December meeting, we began assembling working groups to identify projects and opportunities that align with stakeholders’ interests in the Salt River.

I’m excited by how much we’ve done in just six months and look forward to years of success. The Salt River is an already an incredible fishery and has abundant restoration potential in the main stem and its tributaries.


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.