Ken Morrish

Meet Wild Salmon Center Ambassador Ken Morrish

Meet Wild Salmon Center Ambassador Ken Morrish

The co-founder of Fly Water Travel says it’s all about the stronghold approach.

We’re thrilled to welcome Ken Morrish, co-owner of Fly Water Travel, to Wild Salmon Center’s bran-new Ambassadors Program.

There’s no one better to preach the gospel of our last, great salmon rivers than the people out there fishing them. While this year challenged fly-in fishing across the North Pacific, fishing guides, outfitters, and lodge owners are getting back on the water, safely, to connect people with rivers and fish.

Meanwhile, we’ve been recruiting a few of these leaders as envoys for the Wild Salmon Center—folks willing to hook into our stronghold approach and head out into the world as our partners.

We’re thrilled to announce our new Ambassadors Program—literally a dream team of people who bridge the gap, every day, between outdoor adventure and heart-felt conservation.

You’re going to want to get to know these heroes, starting with Ken Morrish. Morrish is an accomplished nature photographer, the creator of wildly popular fly patterns (the Morrish Mouse, anyone?), and the co-founder of Fly Water Travel, a fly fishing travel service operating in more than 35 countries.

Below, Morrish talks about his worst job, steelhead magic, and the one Skeena lodge that might still have a spot for you.

Sunrise on a coastal winter steelhead river, Oregon. (PC: Ken Morrish)

KEN MORRISH, IN HIS OWN WORDS:

Previously I was on the Wild Salmon Center board [2014-2016] and had to respectfully bow out because of work commitments. But my affinity for the organization was so strong that I was still doing everything I was before with the exception of attending the meetings. I’ve remained deeply involved with photos, supporting staff, and leveraging Fly Water Travel’s reach to support WSC. We all said I was an Ambassador even before the development of the program—I already met the criteria. I’m just a true supporter. It was a no brainer!

When we created Fly Water Travel, my partner and I had to divide up the fishing world. I elected to go deeper into the Pacific Rim, including my home waters of the Pacific Northwest.

When we created Fly Water Travel, my partner and I had to decide how to divide up the fishing world. He took many of the exotic and saltwater destinations. While I elected to go deeper into the Pacific Rim, including Alaska, British Columbia, and my home waters of the Pacific Northwest. I met Guido Rahr and Pete Soverel in Russia and other places over time. We have the shared objective of trying to protect the anadromous fisheries of the West Coast.

I was lucky in the sense that I was born into a fly fishing family. Back to my great-grandfather, the first Morrish to be born in the Americas, they were all fly fishermen. My grandfather started fishing the Klamath in 1924 and fished everything across California throughout his life. My dad joked, as I started going down this path, that maybe I’d be the one to finally make something of it.

Keeping a Skeena River spring steelhead wet and healthy before release. (PC: Ken Morrish)

I’ve been a rod builder, a fly tier, an instructor, and a guide up in Alaska. I went to Lewis and Clark College [in Portland] thinking I’d be closer to quality steelhead fishing. Not long after college, I spent maybe six miserable months outside the fly fishing space, in a sales capacity. That was a dark time for me.

I like catching fish. But for me it boils down to wanting that connection with the rivers. I want to be immersed in the parts of the Pacific Northwest that steelhead inhabit, in particular. I have infinite interest in spending time in those environments.

I want to be immersed in the parts of the Pacific Northwest that steelhead inhabit, in particular. I have infinite interest in spending time in those environments.

We’ve done a lot of bad things to the planet, so we need a lot of good people to hold us where we are, if not make it better. I want to preserve and enhance the things I love. But there’s also that David Brower quote, there is no sustainable economy without a sustainable environment. So it’s in my own self-interest, and in the self-interest of everyone who shares this path. 

We have clients from all different political backgrounds and orientations. Every type of person. But by and large we find that we have a lot of luck getting people to support fisheries they care about, once they have that attachment. 

A cold October morning on B.C.’s Kispiox River. (PC: Ken Morrish)

I’m subtle, but I have developed an ear to hear if there’s a window to engage someone on conservation topics. If someone complains about steelhead returns or productivity, I can segue into whether they’d like to be more involved. Likewise, I speak with lots of folk each week, and many ask me which organizations warrant their support. For me, that answer has always been simple and always revolved around the Wild Salmon Center’s stronghold approach. WSC is the only organization that works across borders in the Pacific Rim and supports a multitude of smaller, locally-based organizations and advocates. Last but not least, they run lean, enabling funds to reach project sites as opposed to simply paying employees and overhead.

I speak with lots of folk each week, and many ask me which organizations warrant their support. For me, that answer has always been simple and always revolved around the Wild Salmon Center’s stronghold approach.

The Skeena watershed is one place where I’m hopeful. Right now, everyone who booked trips for 2020 has had them rolled forward to 2021, so lodges are really full up there. But we have an in with a really nice, new facility, the Skeena River Lodge, that has a really seasoned guy behind it. That is one place I can still get people on the river right now.

The stronghold approach is the right one. It’s feasible at a time when a lot of initiatives are not realistic about the end goal: protecting species over the long haul. My hope is that we can slow the current trends to the point where we’re more enlightened, and able to tread more lightly on the planet. I am hopeful we can do that.

Fall fly fishing on the Williamson, a Klamath Lake tributary. (PC: Ken Morrish)
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