Talk about living the dream.
One recent year, Schenectady native Erin Mooney’s job entailed having fishing licenses in 16 states.
Mooney is the national press secretary for Trout Unlimited, and fishing is practically part of her job description. She needs to be on the scene of major conservation issues on TU’s agenda, from western water diversions to Marcellus shale gas drilling to mining impacts from the Appalachians to Alaska.
“It’s like a complete melding of my talents and my interests,” Mooney said. “It is a dream job. This job has allowed me to understand conservation issues and grasp the breadth of issues affecting our rivers around the country.”
Mooney, 41, a graduate of Linton High School, grew up the only child of Lynne Mooney, a longtime General Electric employee, and John Mooney, a marketing and sales professional. John is an outdoorsman, and he introduced his daughter to the charms of nature on vacations in the Adirondacks and outings closer to home.
“We would go fishing on the Mohawk River and watch the herring spawn, which was super-cool to see,” she said.
But she didn’t become a fly-fisher until after finishing college at Temple University in Philadelphia. A friend invited her to Carlisle, Pa., to fish the famed Yellow Breeches Creek. But he had neglected to have a spinning rod on hand for Mooney, so it was fly-fishing or no fishing.
“One mistake can change your life forever,” Mooney said. She struggled at first, as most of us do, but joined the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association and got some help from experienced anglers.
Today, Mooney’s a highly accomplished fly-fisher, having caught great fish in the country’s best waters. So it’s frustrating to her when male anglers assume she’s a novice or, even worse, dragged to the water by a spouse or significant other. Mooney and her longtime friend (but neither spouse nor significant other) John Winkler, another Schenectady native who now lives in Syracuse, have encountered this on the water more than once.
Male anglers “would look right through her and talk to me,” Winkler said — even though Mooney was the teacher and he was the student.
“It’s 2012, and the idea that I’m not equal that way . . .” Mooney said, letting the thought hang. “I always get really excited when I see someone with a ponytail on the river — except sometimes, it turns out to be a guy with long hair.”
And even though women hold some of the highest positions on Trout Unlimited’s national staff, as well as in state councils and chapters around the country (such as New York State Council chair Dee Maciejewski), women still comprise only 6 percent of TU’s 140,000 members. Mooney is hoping to improve on that figure; she heads up efforts to recruit more women to the organization and to fishing in general.
Mooney stayed in Philadelphia after college and went to work as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was a producer for the National Public Radio show “Justice Talking” from 2002 through 2007. She saw an ad for the TU position that year and fired off a response, late at night. By June, she had the job.
Today, Mooney is leading a TU women’s fly-fishing retreat in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The event is designed to help women become leaders within the organization, to learn what issues are most important to them, and to make plans for a bigger event next year.
Of course, there will be fishing, on the Elk and Yampa rivers. Mooney will be on hand to help those who need with casting or fly selection.
Naturally, she’ll have a Colorado license in her pocket.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]