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Gathering On A River

Come one! Come all!

On April 28, 2024, Rhode Island’s Trout Unlimited chapter hopes you will join them at Whalers Brewing Company for a A Gathering On A River with a host of conservation and fishing folks. It’s a pretty straightforward invitation, really. Under sparkling white lights hanging from musty hand-hewn timbers in a historic mill, they want you to meet their like-minded partners, possibly have a pint of Muse, see how flies are tied by some of the Ocean State’s best tyers and understand how much TU does for our waters. There will be refreshments, probably some popcorn, and a generous raffle of hand-tied flies. Before you go home, you should look under the building. There are herring under the floor.

In their own words, Trout Unlimited brings together, “diverse interests to care for and recover rivers and streams, so our children can experience the joy of wild and native trout and salmon.” Herring could be on that list. For the Gathering On A River, President Glenn Place wants you to meet members and directors as well as other groups who power the protection of rivers and streams, pretty and mighty or not. It’s easy to not know your peaceful paddling path or new favorite grip and grin secret spot may just be there because lots of folks spend countless hours working and volunteering to keep things clean and accessible.

Pure manpower, lifting herring over a damn wall

Out back and along a front parking lot, river herring have been migrating under the mill. Beneath empty beer glasses, dodgy wood wire wheel tables, layers of well worn oak floors and a conical skin of red brick, they’re there, working in unison against ageless currents. They are traversing their natal waters for a place to spawn. You should to go outside to see them, struggling against a cold April river. The Saugatucket is their highway to Peace Dale Pond or Indian Lake, it’s where blueback’s pause briefly to lay eggs and move again.

Bluebacks, Alewives, Herring Both

Alewives and bluebacks, herring both, move with a rhythm old as time. We forced them under the brick and mortar, when migrants built granite empires on native lands, then diverted rivers like the Saugatucket to make power, jobs and itchy kersey cloth for slave clothing.

Back inside, A Gathering On A River will have many guests. This day was crafted by the chapter’s Membership Committee as a way to share what Trout Unlimited does for cold water fish, how they protect water and access to it and, when the work is all done, how to share fly casting skills, maybe on a Land Trust back forty with careful instruction or maybe solo, on a peaceful stretch of the Wood River.

Rosie and Captain Dave Monti

The Rhode Island Land Trust Council will walk you through one of their many paths through woods and along shallow waters. Their mission to, “protect scenic open spaces, farms, forests, historic sites, and watersheds that define the character of our communities,” benefits all of us who prefer muddy boots to couches, and who love open space. Rosie and her family, well known for running Rosie’s Bait & Tackle, will share fly tying tips and secrets. If you haven’t met Rosie, please make time to say hello. Rosie is a wonderful, smart, well-spoken young women who has managed to create an enthusiastic following of anglers and fly tyers who recognize her talents.
Rosie is well guided by her close-knit family and one day, you just may be sharing a fish story of the first time you met Rosie. She’s that much of a rising star. The United Fly Tyers of Rhode Island members like Greg Houde, Jeff Perry and Susan Estabrook, will help you understand fly tying basics and lead you to tying your own flies.

The Wood Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers folks will help you find waters to paddle and fish while sharing how our Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed received a National Wild and Scenic River designation. They have done enormous good to protect 300 square miles. You’ll learn a lot from them.

Hardy Reels will have a table to show off their new lines of highest quality fly fishing rods and reels. That’s a fine opportunity to ask questions as you consider purchasing a treasured piece of fishing history which has seamlessly embraced modern technologies and materials.

Because we are so close to their beloved river, Bill McCusker and his Friends of the Saugatucket will have a table.

Nips are everywhere, except in recycling bins

In addition to his endless charity and good works to protect all we love, Bill led a heroic effort to create a bottle bill after witnessing the disgusting, preventable roadside and river trash from discarded plastic nip bottles. If you are tight on time this Sunday, please at least run and shake his hand for his devotion to a seemingly easy fix. But it’s Rhode Island and, well, it hasn’t been that at all.

rivers running silver

Volunteer Bill McCusker hoists nets full of alewives on the Saugatucket River

The Saugatucket is not pretty in all places. She wanders along muddy shoulders and through long mats of reeds and plastic trash. Glass vodka bottles bob like channel markers as she weaves behind house lots, shrugging her trash strewn shoulders along endless dirty banks freckled with young deer and curious possum tracks before coming into shallow straights beneath a remarkably well built Church Street bridge. There’s an old bicycle standing guard below a winding erosion line beginning at street level where school kids walk, knowing little about such history beneath their Jordans.

My son Miles and I started lifting herring on the Saugatucket River over the Post Road dam in Wakefield, RI many years ago, before a new fish ladder was constructed, because we believed, like many urban waters, she and her inhabitants were worth protecting.

Paul Clappin, Director of the River Herring Collective, will be a featured guest as his group has taken on the yeoman’s job of protecting and counting river herring while also teaching others about these wonderful, critically important forage fishes. River herring in the Saugatucket River are a reminder of how life was before we built on every square inch we could then forgot about those who were here before us.

Please join Trout Unlimited and all their partners on Sunday, April 28, 2024, from 2-5pm at Whalers Brewing Company, 1174 Kingstown Rd, South Kingstown, RI.


  1. Bruce Valliere

    Your pen and paper always brings me closer to home.

    • Todd Corayer

      Thank you sir. Herring bring bass and bass often bring people from Florida. Come on.


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