For those who fly fish, the sport is not only about the fish. It is as much, maybe even more, about community—community with nature and with fellow anglers.
At no time is this more apparent than when one of our own needs help. We’ve seen it on a global scale most recently in the form of support anglers raised for our friends in Australia after the massive wildfires of 2019/2020 as well as those whose fishing tourism businesses were affected by COVID-19.
But no one is left out, even if the crisis is personal. Fly tyer Justin Aldrich, of Georgia, has been experiencing this firsthand as the community answers the call of #AllForAldrich while he battles a particularly devastating setback with his Crohn’s disease. Aldrich told Angler’s that he knew that he was “technically” a part of the fly fishing community, but he thought he worked only in his own little world. “I keep my head down,” he said. Sure, thousands follow his popular Instagram account and YouTube channel, but Aldrich is usually so busy tying professionally and spending time with his wife and three children that he doesn’t feel like he’s big in any fly fishing scene. He doesn’t even fish a lot with the other pros in his area who he considers his friends, usually no more than four or five times a year.
After Aldrich shared online that he was in the hospital without insurance and so sick he was unable to tie, one of his Instagram followers, Stephen Vermilyea, reached out to ask if he could start a GoFundMe to help. Vermilyea is a hobby fisher who has never met Aldrich. Suddenly, Aldrich said, he realized he wasn’t just someone fly fishers think about only when they need a new fly. People he doesn’t even know care about him as a fellow human.
One of those people is Tony Saez, who won an Angler’s six-month coffee subscription as part of an #AllForAldrich fundraising auction. Not only has he never met Aldrich but he’d never even heard of him. He lives halfway across the country, in Michigan, and also fishes his local bubble, sticking with the tyers he knows. But our Instagram post about the auction led him to look up Aldrich. Saez was so moved by what he learned that he bid. He explained, “Here is a guy doing what he loves and working to make a living. A family man with a passion and works doing what he loves. What better cause to support.” Saez went on to say, “I found that the entire project was one that showed the humanity in the fly fishing community as well as in [humans overall].”
Aldrich agrees. He told us that depression plays a role in the persistence of his Crohn’s, which he’s had since he was twelve. Stress negatively affects all physical illnesses, but Crohn’s is particularly sensitive to it. Thanks in large part to the outpouring of support, much of it from strangers, Aldrich says his “mental game is on fire.” He doesn’t worry when he receives a medical bill. He is reenergized to make progress because he knows a whole world of people want him to get better. A careless word or action from a stranger in everyday life no longer immediately makes him feel sour about humanity. He’s experienced the unconditional care of others—and how that kindness easily magnifies. For example, he told us, an auction winner of a box of flies told him that he didn’t keep his prize but instead turned around and donated that box to Project Healing Waters, which uses fly fishing to aid the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans.
Aldrich can still drink coffee during his treatment, and we’re honored he likes Angler’s. He said it’s the first brew he’s had where he can taste the flavor notes on the label and loves how each sip offers a different perspective from the last. To say thanks to everyone stepping up to help Aldrich, we’re offering 15% off coffee orders with proof of personal donation to Aldrich’s GoFundMe. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for your discount code.
We think our brew is pretty spectacular and helps us get moving on the water, but this, more than anything, is why we sell coffee—to be able to give back as part of this generous community and demonstrate that fly fishing is an open, welcoming, inclusive adventure for everyone.