In the late 1970s, Phoenix had two active Federation of Fly Fishers (“FFF”) chapters: The Arizona Flycasters (meeting in Phoenix) and the Desert Flycasters (meeting in Mesa). These groups were primarily devoted to promoting the sport of flyfishing. Each group had a segment of its membership which was concerned about the natural resources on which the sport depends. But while each group had its own “conservation committee”, some members felt that those committees were not effective enough to meet the needs of Arizona and its limited coldwater resources.
Being members of the national FFF organization, these local members were also aware of Trout Unlimited (“TU”), an international conservation organization which had been founded in 1959 in Michigan and which was growing in strength and influence as a credible environmental force. TU members were primarily flyfishermen, but the organization was not a “fishing club”: It was formed with a mission to preserve, protect and enhance trout and salmonid species and the coldwater resources on which they depend. Around 1979, the Phoenix area FFF members held public meetings to attempt to form a local TU chapter.
The attraction of a TU chapter was the possibility of working in an organization of volunteers dedicated to: 1) Enlightened fishing regulations, such as “catch and release / no kill” rules, which would promote wild trout reproduction and reduce reliance upon hatchery trout, where feasible; and 2) Environmental and conservation activities to protect Arizona’s limited coldwater fish habitat and its two native trout species. The chapter struggled initially. The “fun” aspects of flyfishing were well-covered by the FFF groups, and the “work” aspects of the sport were not attractive to large numbers of fishermen. But the chapter persisted. Since around 1979, it has been active in projects such as Canyon Creek improvement, and in regulation discussions with the Game and Fish Department and Commission.
In the early years, the Chapter had been known simply as “Trout Unlimited” and it continued informally. But another TU chapter had begun forming in Tucson as an outgrowth of the original Phoenix group. It is now known as the Old Pueblo chapter; the Phoenix chapter needed its own name. Phoenix anglers who frequented the small lakes and streams of the Mogollon Rim area were familiar with the name and legacy of Zane Grey, a famous writer and angler who had a cabin in the Rim area. The chapter had several outings and meetings at the Zane Grey cabin near Tonto Creek. The name of Zane Grey seemed to be a perfect fit, and was adopted without much controversy. In 1987 the chapter was officially incorporated as the Zane Grey Chapter of Trout Unlimited. We hope that Zane Grey would be pleased.
Carm R. Moehle, founding member, ZGTU