Each year, one person is selected to receive the highest tribute Trout Unlimited can bestow: The Silver Trout Award. This year, that award went to Will Daskal of Saylorsburg. He received the award at the Annual TU Conservation Banquet at the Stroudsburg Pocono Inne Town. The 2010 Silver Trout Award was presented by Brodheads Chapter TU President Tom Battista,
He said the award was given to Daskal "…in recognition of distinguished service and dedication to conservation, protection and restoration of our cold water fisheries."
"It was a huge surprise and a rare and wondrous moment in my life. I am ever so grateful that the Board of TU thought so much of local trout conservation efforts to bestow such a great honor on me. I am at a loss for words," said Daskal.
Trout Unlimited is a national cold-water fisheries conservation group dedicated to preserving, restoring and protecting cold, clean, fishable water. It began in 1959 with 16 dedicated anglers on the banks of Michigan's Au Sable River. They were united by a love of fishing and a desire to help wild trout survive. They launched Trout Unlimited to champion catch-and-release fishing and the use of barbless hooks.
Today there are 140,000 members in 400 chapters nationwide. They donate in excess of 500,000 hours every year to clean up polluted streams, restore water to dried-up rivers, and teach children about responsible stewardship and good fishing.
Daskal has been a member of TU for more than 20 years. Currently he is an active member of the Brodheads Chapter since he moved to the region in 2004. Before that, he was a Board member and a Director of the NYC Chapter of TU.
Brodheads Chapter President Battista said, "Will Daskal has been the editor of the 'Streamside Asides,' the chapter's newsletter, and is the webmaster for www.brodheadstu.org, our website for many years. For his distinguished service, the Board of Brodheads Chapter TU unanimously selected him for this honor. I was given the honor to give the award to Will. We were very careful in arranging this as a surprise. Will is always trying to help our chapter, and he can be counted upon to provide paintings for fundraisers, and to just be involved in all our activities."
Daskal says that he has enjoyed a full, rich life steeped in fly fishing and conservation efforts. He has been fortunate to have associated with so many caring, giving people who were willing to share their fishing knowledge with him along the way.
"I spent the best part of my life growing up in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York in a little hamlet called Hurleyville, where I was introduced to fly fishing and trout at the age of eight by a farmer down the road from the chicken farm on which I lived. My first exposure to trout and fly fishing was on the fabled Neversink River, a wonderful brown trout fishery back then. Once I caught my first brownie, a 19-inch monster, on a fly I had tied myself, I was hooked for life," says Daskal.
Daskal founded and opened his strictly catch-and-release fly fishing school, Wild Trout University, in the early 1990s. He was also an instructor at the Delaware Fishing Club, where he was befriended and tutored by Jim Charron, "perhaps the greatest fly fisherman I have ever known."
He lived in Livingston Manor, NY, on the Little Beaverkill River.
"I was living in fly fishing Mecca alongside some of the living legends of the sport, like the Darbys, the Dettes and my good friend, Poul Jorgenson. I knew and was tutored in fly fishing and fly tying techniques by the likes of Ralph Graves, Eric Leiser, Nick Lyons, Mickey Maguire, Ernie Schweibert, Dick Talleur, Al Caucci, Bob Nastasi, to name just a few. I somehow always managed to meet the right people at the right time to further my fly fishing education."
As an active member of the NYC Chapter of TU and Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, he served as a director on both boards and became hooked as a conservationist for life. He wrote, edited and published the monthly newsletters for both organizations. He worked on stream habitat improvement projects, created handicapped access to the storied streams of the Catskills for anglers with physical disabilities, gave fly-tying demonstrations and fly fishing lessons, helped fund-raise to support a variety of conservation projects.
After his retirement from the NYC Department of Education, a 34-plus year career as a high school English teacher, he and his second wife, Barbara, bought a home in Saylorsburg, near Princess Run, "a quaint little brown trout fishery" and he transferred his TU membership to the Brodheads Chapter, where he continues an active involvement.
Daskal is also a watercolor artist.
"Fine art has become my current vocation," he says of Will Daskal Fine Art, a web-based home for watercolor instruction and original watercolor paintings, using his Daskal Mastery Learning Approach to Watercolor. He is the treasurer of the Pocono Mountains Art Group. Each year he contributes a recent original watercolor painting of his to support the banquet program and to help generate funds for conservation and various stream improvement projects, such as the current McMichael Creek stream improvement project. He also donates private fly tying lessons, private fly fishing lessons, and gift certificates of more than $500 toward purchases of his original paintings.
Working in conjunction with the Monroe County Conservation District, he also provides entertaining lectures on "Trout Stream Entomology, Or What do Trout Really Eat?"
"My focus is singular: to provide others a glimpse of how TU has broadened and brightened my life and to make them aware of how they, too, can share in this kind of enjoyment while performing a vital conservation effort."
"We volunteer for the causes we hold dear, not for personal gain but to satisfy a simple desire to help and give without restraint. helping out and restoring and preserving their natural habitat has been, and always will be, a major mission in my life. I am just overjoyed that my efforts have been noticed only to the extent that perhaps others will jump onboard, too, and save local trout habitat and contribute even a small amount of money to help conduct stream improvement projects and restore local native salmonid habitat. After all, we all live downstream."