Thursday, November 10, 2011

20 Questions: Tom Sadler

Tom Sadler and a Rapidan brookie.
Lt. Commander (U.S. Navy Reserve, Retired) Tom Sadler is easy to be friends with. And we're great friends. I think that's because, in our hearts, we're after the same thing--the protection of the places that matter, and not just to us, but to the future of our hunting and fishing heritage. The thought of our kids or our grandkids growing up without knowing what the natural world has to offer is dead-on frightening.

And we both love brookies so much that it's borderline inappropriate. Borderline.

For years, Tom worked the halls of Congress, first as a Senate staffer, then as a (gasp) lobbyist. He understands how the sausage gets made and, like me, deplores the process but values good results. Perhaps that was why he was able to stomach it for so long. It's also clear that he understands the essence of politics and what it means to be calculating and crafty (I looked everywhere for unflattering photos of him, with no luck. Even the photo I shot of him in an interesting little establishment on Bourbon Street has magically disappeared).

More recently, Tom began to put his passion for the outdoors to good use. He worked for a time as the president of the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, and then moved onto the Izaak Walton League and then to the Trust for Public Land. He understands the importance of protecting habitat if we're to hope for opportunity, now and years from now. And, as proof that he knows how those in Congress think, he's added what I like to call the "kicker" to my favorite phrase:

"Habitat equals opportunity ... which translates into economic activity." Brilliant. Maybe one day, when our elected representatives aren't too sidetracked by politics, they'll pay attention to those five words.

These days, he's the proprietor of the Middle River Group, where he "plays Doc Holliday to the Wyatt Earps of the fish and wildlife conservation world." He's taken up the Tenkara rod (another shared passion), and guides anglers from his Shenandoah Valley home in search of brookies in the mountains of western Virginia. You can lean more about him at his blog. You'll love it. Trust me.

On with the questions:

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 
Cooking a big dinner for friends and family. The kitchen is my outdoors, indoors. Like a campfire, it is the place to gather with friends and craft something all can enjoy. It improves with dogs underfoot and there should be whiskey involved…

What is your greatest fear?
A slow and painful death. I don’t fear dying just fear a lingering, useless end.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Doc Holliday, at least the movie versions in Tombstone and Wyatt Earp. The notion of being a trusted and loyal ally to someone who is trying to do the right thing is pretty appealing. The flaws are part of the package but the loyalty and grit to stand with a friend is what I identify with.

Which living person do you most admire?
My wife. She is an OR nurse, was a single mother, raised two great kids, started her nursing career as a single mother in her 30’s, keeps her head on straight in a crisis and loves to fish. Why she married me is a mystery.
Doc Holliday. I see the resemblance.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I have acquired a bad habit of interrupting people. It is appallingly discourteous.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Self importance. People are rarely as important as they act. Truly important people don’t need to tell you or show you they are important.

What is your favorite journey?
The one that brings me home.

Which living person do you most despise?
Any person who would intentionally make an animal suffer. And yes I recognize the irony of that coming from someone who fishes and release most fish. How that plays out for me remains to be seen.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Tomorrow. I may be kidding myself every time I say it.

What is your greatest regret?
That my father died before he met my family. He would have been thrilled to have a grandson and granddaughter.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My dogs. They have shown me unconditional love, loyalty and joy beyond measure. Ashby was the last and she has a special place became she picked my wife Beth. Fortunately Beth understands this and is another reason I love her.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Brook trout. Perfection in water.

What is your most treasured possession?
Memories of fishing. With my wife first and foremost, my friends, my dad, my son, my brother, my dogs.

Where would you like to live?
Surprisingly I love where I am now in the Shenandoah Valley. It is an outstanding retreat from the city, bracketed by brook trout streams, yet an easy launching pad for journeys around the country and the world.

Who are your favorite writers?
Robert B. Parker, Dan O’Brien, Tom McGuane, John Sandford, W.E.B. Griffin, Robert Heinlein

Who are your heroes? 
The late, great Jim Range.
Jim Range. A true Wyatt Earp of the hunting, fishing and conservation world.

How would you like to die? 
Quickly, painlessly and with some semblance of dignity.

What’s on your iPod?
Chris Ledoux, Jimmy Buffett, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, Chuck Leavell, the Rolling Stones, Emmy Lou Harris, Zac Brown Band.

If you were a pet, what would your name be? 
Zeke, it is a good name for a dog.

What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? 
Piano player in a whorehouse. No, wait a minute that is too much like being a lobbyist, I’ve already done that. How about a cowboy, a real one working. On a real ranch. Maybe working bison instead of cattle. On horseback most of the time. Tough, honest, outdoor work.

BONUS QUESTION: If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? 
If there is a Heaven, and I go there, and there is a God, I hope he says, “Try a size 16 BWO emerger over in that slick there…”


  1. One of the people I would like to meet and you've taken me one step closer. Thanks for that.

  2. I hope you do get the chance to meet him, Howard... he's one of my favorites!

  3. Nice - Tom is a great guy. I love working or just hanging out with him. His knowledge goes beyond the world of politics and fly-fishing. It seems I've known him forever, even though it's only be a few short years.

  4. Like I said... he's easy to be friends with. And, like you, it's only been a few short years for me, too. But I love the guy and feel fortunate to count him among my closest friends.

  5. Thanks, Chris and thanks for all you do, Tom. Great stuff, as always, Chris.

  6. Thanks for stopping by Dean... much appreciated!

  7. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Tom via many phone conversations, and came dangerously close to meeting him in person this year. The promise of actually sharing a cocktail and a trout stream with him one day gives me reason to keep living. I'm quite certain this is not a mutual sentiment. Great interview.

  8. Kirk, I agree with your sentiment. I love the questions and the glimpse into the personal dimensions of folks like Tom, whose work many of us appreciate and look up to.
    Thanks, Chris for the 20 questions, great reads on great people in our sport and fighting for our waters.