Fishing for Stories

Fly fishing and finding topics for magazine articles have more in common than might be immediately apparent to the uninitiated. Both involve searching the best spots, perseverance when the quarry doesn’t reveal itself, spotting what’s a keeper and what should be thrown back, and finally, once a suitable catch is made, preparing a final product that’s enticing, aromatic, and ultimately satisfying.

We had a strong intuition when we sent Rose Cahalan and Anna Donlan, senior editor and staff photographer, respectively, to tiny Irwin, Idaho, that a prime story lay waiting at a remote fishing lodge on the banks of the Snake River. That’s one of the great luxuries of an alumni magazine—if an alumnus is involved in the story, however far away, it’s fair game. We once wrote an article about a UT graduate who had started the World Championship Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival in Throckmorton, Texas. How’s that for casting a wide net?

What brought Rose and Anna to Irwin was an alumnus named Steve Davis, BBA ’78. Four years ago, Davis organized a camp to bring adolescents who had suffered from abuse or neglect to escape to a pristine river, learn fly fishing, and together try to heal. Over five days, Rose and Anna got to know the teens, the staff, and the fishing guides who volunteer their time to give these kids an experience they would almost surely never otherwise get. Many of the campers wondered to Rose and Anna why any magazine, let alone an alumni magazine, would care about them, though by the end of the trip it was obvious they had wrapped their minds around it: A common question Rose and Anna got as they were leaving was, “Are you going to put me on the cover?”

The story that Rose and Anna prepared about this camp and the effect it has on the campers beautifully encapsulates why we are willing to cross the country to find ones like it. It is a story about an alumnus who changed the world, not in a flashy, Nobel Prize-winning way, but on an intimately personal level. (Full disclosure to alumni: If you win the Nobel Prize, we will write an article about you.) Davis’ story is one of personal growth, professional success, and ultimately a desire to give back to those who could benefit from his experience. It impressed and moved us all, and it made us feel proud to be affiliated with a university that, perhaps quite distantly, had some small role to play in the trajectory of Davis’ life.

Happy fishing,

Tim Taliaferro


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