Grateful for women who bring positive energy to our lives
This Fish Wrap adventure has placed me in some amazing places with some equally amazing people, so this week, I am reminded that many are women. Strong, smart, motivated, humble, cool women who have had profound impacts on my writing, life, waters and environment. As Women’s Herstory Month comes to a close, I’d like to appreciate a few.
Susan Estabrook is a purest angler, fly tier, spey caster and generous volunteer. Working with Trout Unlimited, United Fly Tyers, Narrow River Preservation Association or anyone interested in fishing or protecting fish, Susan provides an invaluable source of energy. Sue is humble about her fishing or her spey rod learning curve but I will attest, she is accomplished at both. When people rush to set raffle tables or wedge into last year’s waders to pick up river trash, Susan is always smiling, appearing at the right moment to help. She’ll modestly admit to fishing gorgeous and faraway lands but only in a hushed voice. “Learning how to catch fish involves so many levels of nature, all intricately connected. Fishing opens your eyes and mind to many important aspects of life, within our environment and within oneself,” she said. She is so tireless and giving and for that, I appreciate Susan.
Elise Torello is positively reserved. By that, I mean she is responsible for so much good in our shared environments without burdens of expecting praise. That’s a rare commodity in this self-media obsessed world. “I started out volunteering for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Assn. back in 2007 helping out with their mounds of inaccessible water quality data, and that turned into a contract to develop a database and reporting system for their and Salt Ponds Coalition’s decades of data, accessible through a Google Map on their website, plus I finally finished my Master’s degree at the same time. Then I started doing water quality monitoring in Potter Pond for the Salt Ponds Coalition, which led to being on their board and then being their Executive Director for two years,” she said. Elise is one of the forces behind the new, essential Friends of the Saugatucket group which evolved from six years with the RI Rivers Council. Not surprisingly, Elise is grateful for the positive impacts other women have had on her life. Julia Landstreet, Ex. Director of the S. Kingstown Land Trust, Linda Green , President of SK Land Trust and retired head of URI Watershed Watch, Angie Brunetti, Ex. Director of the Charlestown Land Trust, Alicia Schaffner, Ex. Director of Salt Ponds Coalition), July Lewis with Save the Bay, and the amazing Kira Stillwell of the RI Natural History Survey. No one can paddle a kayak with a load of river trash like Elise yet it’s not her CV, it’s her endless efforts to catalog, protect and admire our world then passing on a photo op that is so amazing. For all that, I appreciate Elise.
Janet Coit is a past Director of our Department of Environmental Management and now serves as Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. At a conference several years back, we met in a hallway. I said, “Hello Director,” and before I could say more, she said, “Hello Todd, nice to see you, I know you want to talk about river herring and restoration and I will help make that happen.” A year later we hosted a well-attended forage fish summit because she kept her word. At the 2022 Baird Symposium, Janet made time to visit, speak and impress, then caught a 30”, 10lb fluke in Narragansett Bay, which only made us more impressed. Her job is colossally demanding yet she still answers my emails, and for that, I appreciate Janet.
Mandy DeBuigne owns and builds Al’s Goldfish Lure Company with her husband Jeff. For Women’s Herstory Month, I reflected on my relationship with Mandy. It has been personal, professional and occasionally hysterical. Managing their small business, regardless of gender, requires endless hours filling orders (they missed not even one through COVID), while keeping Al’s made in America and always being grateful for the loyal customer base they developed. That’s a heavy lift.
“Let’s be honest, making tackle day in and day out can be a grind like any other job out there, so times when I have felt gratified by Al’s is, thankfully, a not too uncommon event.”
Al’s is absolutely a team effort but Mandy manages daily operations, knowing it takes real grit to run a tackle company, squaring off with global conglomerates, working on your feet through countless trade shows, and getting back home quickly to pack boxes and chase money. “We frequently have long time Al’s anglers tell us how much the Al’s lures mean to them because of the memories made fishing and catching with a Goldfish. Feeling good about banging out a case of lures in record time doesn’t match up to the positive reinforcement that your product matters to someone in the tackle industry,” she said.
Mandy knows there is room for more women to lead companies. “There really isn’t another single woman who inspires me in this industry, as there are still so few (comparatively) who are making their way in different corners of the outdoors industry, from being guides, influencers/mentors, tournament anglers, business leaders and more, that every single one who is out there facing their daily challenges just as I am, is someone I can look at when I’m struggling and think ‘they too are out there pulling up their big-girl pants, and if they can do it, so can I’“.
For remembering the group over the single, for our friendship, for so many laughs and reasons, I appreciate Mandy.
Sue Estabrook said, “Thank you Mother Nature, for the inspiration and for all the wonderful things you teach us.”
I say thank you to these and so many more women who inspire and teach us every day.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with both Susan and Elise and I have to agree with you. Both are energetic and knowledgeable and worthy of admiration for their contributions to our environment and for their friendliness to this stranger that I was when I met them.
Right? We are fortunate to have people like these four in our lives. And I’m always impressed by what people do behind the scenes without need of praise.