Tom Brokaw Receives 2015 Heritage Award
by Peter Nardini
A Great Turnout
On April 24th the American Museum of Fly Fishing had the honor of presenting the 2015 Heritage Award to angler, conservationist, and journalist Tom Brokaw. Thanks to the help of a lot of amazing people we were able to put on one extremely successful fundraiser. A majority of the funds raised will go towards our upcoming exhibition On Fly in the Salt: American Saltwater Fly Fishing from the Surf to the Flats. We will be creating a museum exhibition as well as a traveling exhibition that will tour the country. An online exhibition will launch at the same time connecting the digital elements of the project and archiving the same equipment, flies, and stories on physical display. With a relatively new but vibrant history, an exhibition on saltwater fly fishing is a natural progression of the Museum’s mandate to document the evolution of the fly-rod sport through art, craft, industry, and conservation.
We also had the privilege of having a few of our previous Heritage Award winners and fly fishing legends such as Joan Wulff and Lefty Kreh in attendance at the event. Our Honorary Event Chair Lefty Kreh introduced Mr. Brokaw, talking about their experiences on the Outdoor Channel program Buccaneers & Bones. Since meeting on the show the two have been inseparable and the admiration he has for Brokaw was very clear from Lefty’s speech. Lefty began with a story (he is well known for them- in this regard he rivals even Brokaw with all he has seen in fly fishing) and recounted how Tom McGuane asked how the first fishing trip with Brokaw, Lefty, and Michael Keaton went, to which their Bahamian guide responded that it was great - "I guided two guys with hearing aids and Spiderman". Brokaw then turned and said to Keaton, "Well, at least they got me right". The rest of the week the first actor to ever portray the caped crusader on the big screen was known around the cast and crew as “Spiderman”. The bond between the entire cast of Buccaneers & Bones has been tight but none like Tom Brokaw and Lefty Kreh. In fact, in Tom Brokaw's acceptance speech he mentioned that of all the people that he has had the privilege of meeting as a result of his profession he was always trying to figure out how he would get to know Lefty Kreh. Buccaneers & Bones provided that opportunity and Brokaw jumped on it. The rest, as they say, is history and it is apparent after only moments of seeing the two together in action that they share many of the same qualities.
Mr. Brokaw was a gracious award recipient and his speech was exactly what one would expect a speech from Tom Brokaw to be- bringing a special blend of candidness and experience to every topic that he touched upon. Just as Lefty did in his introduction, Brokaw talked about the friends that he made on Buccaneers & Bones, Lefty in particular, and also commented on the importance of the media's role in advancing conservation through similar television programs. He also recalled his very first fly fishing outfit, an Orvis 6 weight, two sections of which currently reside at the bottom of the Snake River as a result of him feeling confident enough to show off his improving casting skills to a float trip that happened to be passing by. After his acceptance speech the tables were turned on Mr. Brokaw, as he became the interviewee for a change. His daughter Andie Brokaw Simon engaged him in a loose question and answer session, capping off the event with many thrilling fishing stories that spanned from his time at home with his grandchildren to close calls fishing abroad in Russia and other exotic places.
"Part of the appeal to me is the camaraderie, the common cause that brings us together, the great idea that people can go out on the trout stream, the salmon river, the flats...or go to the far corners of the world and there you are with a fly rod and some kind of imitation fly and you are in a zone that is unlike anything else I've ever been in my lifetime. Hours go by, and you are surrounded by the most beautiful forms of life, not just in the water, but on top of the water and all around you. And it is, I think, the greatest kind of therapy that you can possibly imagine" - Tom Brokaw
The American Museum of Fly Fishing would like to thank all of those who made this such a special night in support of Mr. Brokaw and the Museum. Special thanks to Andie Brokaw Simon, Lefty Kreh, Nick Dawes, our Event Committee, and our auction donors. We are working to add more content from the event itself, including Mr. Brokaw's speech. In the meantime, check out the video below (part of our increased presence on YouTube and Vimeo) narrated by Andie Brokaw Simon and featuring tributes from Lester Holt, Tina Fey, Yvon Chouinard, Michael Keaton, and others.