At the core of the friendship between Tracy Nguyen-Chung and Faith Briggs is a love of fishing and a commitment to change.
In the fall of 2019, Tracy Nguyen-Chung and Faith Briggs were excited to fish together for the first time, after months of trying to get their schedules to line up. Full of expectation, they headed northwest from Portland, Oregon, where they both live, for two days of chasing steelhead and camping on the Scenic Waterway stretch of the Nehalem River. Although the fishing turned out to be less than spectacular, that trip forged a strong friendship built around time on the water and a commitment to making the world of fishing more inclusive and diverse.
Tracy: I think we always had a hunch, but that trip really confirmed that we could face the planned and the unexpected together and always find what we needed in those shared moments.
Faith: We both have a kind of justice- and love-oriented anger that drives our work under the surface, but outside of that, we have similar energy in terms of our easy-going approach to life. We don’t have to catch fish, we can pick bad spots, or we can be freezing cold—we just laugh and come up with a new plan. As two like-minded women of color, the time we get to spend outside together bonding over one of our many shared loves is always really special.
Both women have found in fly fishing a passion and a mission. A lifelong angler, Tracy founded Brown Folks Fishing (BFF)—an organization that cultivates the visibility, representation, and inclusion of people of color in fishing and its industry—in early 2018. Faith joined BFF the next year, having worked previously for Soul River, Inc., a fishing-based nonprofit that serves inner-city youth and veterans and stresses conservation. They also both come from a world of documentary filmmaking, and Tracy believes that the “deep engagement and listening that’s involved in creating a powerful documentary” are useful tools for the advocacy work they are doing now.
On a more individual scale, BFF argues that, for people of color, simply getting out on the water together is an act of change, and one of their celebratory hashtags is #WeStokeJoy. Last October, Tracy and Faith finally got that fish-filled adventure they’d been dreaming of when they floated the Grande Ronde River in eastern Oregon with Orvis’s Tom Evenson and his friend, Damian Nurre.
Tracy: If the Nehalem was about those little moments, the Grand Ronde was really about the expanse: the expanse of our friendship, of the spaces we share with others, the expanse of the world around us, the wide-open possibilities. It affirmed so much of what I love about the Orvis family—grace, kindness, deep love for the environment, and profound joy in adventure. The trip was a remarkable look at what’s possible when a group of people from a range of backgrounds comes together, listens, and shares with each other, and imagines a future that not only protects the natural world around us but breaks down the barriers that others in our communities face in meeting us out there.
Faith: We caught so many fish! What I loved about the Grande Ronde trip was that we were trying new techniques. I love learning, and fishing with more experienced anglers you learn a lot. Catching fish is so exciting, and the joint celebration that everyone felt together was awesome. It’s really easy to come together over a beautiful place and a shared passion.
As BFF enters its third year, Tracy and Faith are looking to the future, and they have big plans—for their advocacy work, as well as for their fishing friendship.
Faith: I want BFF to make waves in helping more BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] and diverse folks become fishing guides. That’s a huge goal for me because it’s something I haven’t seen much in the industry. Getting outside of our comfort zones is how we grow, so I think that with more diverse fishing guides, we’ll see more enthusiastic and experienced anglers coming out of the woodwork and sharing their love and their passion. I believe in an “each one teach one” mentality, and the more we are able to share our love of wild places and understand the importance of fish habitat and cold water, the more impact we can have.
Tracy: I look forward to the ongoing work BFF will do to cultivate the seeds of those visions and support their growth. In our friendship, I am stoked to find ourselves in the places even our imaginations couldn’t have taken us. A jaunt to New Orleans for some redfish wouldn’t hurt, either!
To learn more about Brown Folks Fishing and their plans for the future, visit their website and check out their Instagram account. You can also follow the adventures of Tracy (@tracy.nc) and Faith (@faithevebee) on Instagram.