George Disborough, 1925-1985, artist, scholar, sportsman, and trout fisherman was aptly described in one phrase by Michigan DNR Fisheries Chief, Dave Borgeson. At a dedication of a memorial to George on the banks of the Coldwater River, Freeport, Michigan, Dave opened his remarks with, “George Disborough was a gentle man.”
Born in Indiana, George cut his teeth, so to speak, as a smallmouth bass fisherman on the rocky limestone creeks of his native state. Upon moving north to Michigan in 1960, he found that the equivalent waters here supported a significant population of trout. It was, therefore, only natural that his passion for fishing would undergo a transfer of species to salmonids. He avidly pursued his sport, reading much of the available literature. He was a charter member of the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited and enthusiastically used his many talents to promote the growth of the chapter and the ideals of the national organization of Trout Unlimited.
His philosophy was, of course, consistent with his personality. He never really counted the number of trout he caught, but rather counted the hours of enjoyment and solitude that he spent on the stream. The act of pursuing and fooling a good trout with a well presented fly was not the only objective; he enjoyed the whole experience. The sight of a doe leading her fawn to the stream to drink the clear waters was a savored occasion. The thundering wing beat of a grouse or the whistling flight of a woodcock weaving its way through the tag alders added to the musical sounds of the river. The call of the whippoorwill signaled a good evening hatch. Even the frolicking play of a family of otters could be appreciated, though he knew that they would figuratively scare the spots off any trout in the vicinity.
Over the years, George was keenly aware of the attrition caused by overuse and misuse of our streams. This “gentle man” was never strident, but he was firm in his persuasion that the future of trout fishing lay in conserving, maintaining, and enhancing the resource. His skills created and fostered an advertisement that explained the “catch and release” posture with the admonition: “Don`t kill off your sport – limit your kill, don`t kill your limit.” The reclamation and restoration of trout habitat were also items of prime importance.
It is therefore fitting that the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited has established the George L. Disborough Trout Unlimited Research Grant to aid and encourage the recipient graduate students and research fellows in their studies to attain these ends.