Board of Directors
Rich Simms, Honorary Director
Backstory: Rich grew up in Poulsbo, WA, fishing the many steelhead streams of the Olympic Peninsula. He learned to mooch for Chinook salmon with his father on Puget Sound. He’s had an undying passion for chasing steelhead since his childhood, and now fishes for steelhead all around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.
First Steelhead: As a twelve-year-old, Rich caught his first winter steelhead on a frigid January day with leaky hip waders on the West Fork of the Humptulips River; a day he will always remember.
What He Does: Rich is a founding board member of the Wild Steelhead Coalition and has been its President since 2003. He is an Industrial Design professional with 20 years experience in project management and problem solving processes. Rich’s experiences as a designer and project manager help him to see the big picture without forsaking the details, and to understand that success is a collaborative effort.
Personal Philosophy: “I still get as excited about steelhead fishing as when I was kid. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to fish for steelhead on the streams of Hood Canal. That’s not possible anymore: these streams– along with many other fine steelhead streams– have been reduced to a fraction of their past abundance. I’m committed to steelhead recovery and to engaging all anglers and conservationists to help recapture the steelhead legacy of the Pacific Northwest.”
Lindsay Cleal, Director
Backstory: Lindsay grew up in western Montana being able to fish in Lolo Creek that ran through the front yard, and hunt in national forest that bordered the back yard. After making a move to the Seattle area in 98’, he continued his passion for the outdoors in the northwest whether that be skiing, boating, fishing, or hunting. Trips to Alaska over the last few years for various species have also solidified his desire to ultimately chase big trout and steelhead.
First Steelhead: As many others have had to, Lindsay considers himself still “paying his dues” in the pursuit for steelhead having had his first experience on the Skykomish River in 2012; only to have the fish release about six feet from where he stood on the it’s last run. That one experience was enough to fuel a desire to keep trying and learn more about this incredible species.
What He Does: Lindsay began his career managing both commercial and residential real estate over several states within the continental US for over 10 years. He then moved his focus to the financial industry as an independent advisor with emphasis on financial planning and asset management for both individuals and small businesses. This experience and skill set then transferred into a high net worth individual and institutional focus incorporating financial and estate planning strategies, asset management, as well as addressing insurance needs.
Personal Philosophy: “These fish and the rivers they run in need more advocates to ensure that each generation has the opportunity to have their first encounter just as I did.”
Brian Bennett, Director
Backstory: Growing up in Boston, MA, Brian was far removed from steelhead and the myriad of challenges they face. All that changed in 2004 when he took a job with Patagonia as the REI Account Manager and relocated to Washington State. As a passionate fly fisherman who cut his teeth plying the rivers and lakes of Colorado and Wyoming, he quickly embraced the challenge of chasing steelhead on the fly.
First Steelhead: Brian hooked his first wild steelhead, a beautiful dime bright 8 pound hen, swinging a blue Tomine String thing on the Cole Slaw run, on the Buckley River in BC.
What He Does: Brian is the Fly Fishing Sales Manager for Patagonia. In that capacity has been active in helping direct support from Patagonia, and the fly fishing industry at large, to the WSC.
Personal Philosophy: “For me, being passionate about fishing for steelhead goes hand in hand with being passionate about protecting these special fish and their habitat.”
Josh Mills, Director
Backstory: Growing up, hunting and fishing was always the focal point of Josh’s life. It’s served as the foundation what revs him up in life. Born in Spokane and ran around baseball fields through college and at age 19, took up fly fishing.
What he does: For the past 10 years, Josh has sold advertising for a group of radio stations in Spokane and for the the past four years, runs the fly fishing blog Chucking Line and Chasing Tail. He lives in Spokane, WA with his wife Kallie and their two sons Carson and Mason, and is only a short drive to the great eastside steelhead rivers.
First Steelhead: Twenty-two-years-old on my first guided steelhead fishing trip on the Grande Ronde with my father, OMR and guide Rick Hedding. Rick worked his ass off to show me the river and on that fateful day, I landed my first steelhead in the last run before the take out. It was a bloody amazing experience complete with fist pumps, chest bumps and other crazy behavior. A picture of that day hangs in my man cave and reminds me where my journey started.
Personal Philosophy: I have engaged in the conservation arena because I want to know that what we have now will be there for my children when they grow up. I have to know that I have given back to the things that I hold so dear. As sportsmen and women, we cannot just take and expect others to do the dirty and hard work to maintain our sporting heritage. Get out there, get involved. Now.
Chase Gunnell, Director
Backstory: Born in Seattle to a family of diehard Pacific Northwest hunters, anglers and outdoors-people, Chase grew up salmon fishing out of Neah Bay, digging clams at Hood Canal, snowboard mountaineering on the Cascades volcanoes, and chasing birds around Eastern Washington. He inherited a healthy obsession with fish and wildlife and the wild places they inhabit, as well as a strong desire to make a positive impact on those surroundings.
What he does: Chase is the Communications Manager for Conservation Northwest, a regional non-profit that works to “Keep the Northwest wild” by protecting and connecting old-growth forests and other wild areas from the Washington Coast to the B.C. Rockies. His professional background is in PR, public affairs and political campaigns.
First Steelhead: Hooked while side-drifting on the Cowlitz River when he was a boy, Chase still remembers the power of his first steelhead. And how quickly it went airborne and spit the hook. Though he’s been a diehard salmon angler his entire life, he didn’t catch the steelhead bug until after college, when he brought a perfect 37” wild buck to hand on a coastal river and was ruined forever.
Personal Philosophy: One of the slogans of Washington state is “Innovation is in our Nature.” But today our nature badly needs innovation if we want to preserve the rich natural heritage we’ve been blessed with. Whether it’s declining wild steelhead returns, decades of abusive forest practices or unsustainable development, we need smart people working together with idealism but not illusions, or we risk losing what makes this spectacularly evergreen corner of the world so special.