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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane fly fisherman ties flies, sparks national movement, to help Hurricane Dorian victims

Spokane fly fisherman Josh Mills has helped raise about $20,000 for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Mills, and other anglers inspired by his example, are tying flies and then auctioning them off. The money is going to a non-profit that works in the Bahamas. (Josh Mills / COURTESY)

It was a simple calculation.

“My ability to tie flies and sell them far outpaces my ability to write big checks,” Josh Mills said.

Last week Mills, an avid fly fisherman with a “decent” following on Instagram (3,395 followers) watched as Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas. As of Wednesday, about 2,500 people were still missing, with at minimum 50 deaths. Thousands of homes were destroyed and flooding left the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island “nearly uninhabitable,” the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Mills has never been to the Bahamas, but the archipelago south of Miami has world-class fly fishing. In fact, angling (and tourism in general) is the backbone of the island nations economy.

“They are not rich people,” Mills said.

Mills was compelled to do something. He went to Instagram, writing that he would tie a dozen steelhead bugs and sell them to the highest bidder. All the money would go to relief efforts in the Bahamas.

He tagged it “#dozenfordorian.” At first, Mills hoped he could raise $1,000. That quickly proved an unambitious goal.

This is what happened: Some of Mills’ friends who work in the fly fishing industry, including well-known photographer Bryan Gregson, shared it with their followers. The entire effort was boosted further when “MeatEater” founder Steven Rinella and others auctioned off flies they tied. Soon, anglers around the country were tying flies and auctioning them off.

By the end of the first day, folks had pledged more than $2,000. As of Wednesday, that had grown to more than $20,000.

“I threw a spark on a bunch of gasoline,” Mills said.

The money is going directly to Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation. The YDCCF is the nonprofit arm of the for-profit Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, a Bozeman-based booking service that has worked in the Bahamas for decades.

Dillon Gruber, associate director of Yellow Dog Adventures, said that YDCCF (the nonprofit) is sending money to fishermen and guides who, in many cases, have lost everything.

“None of the money that we’re raising is going to the lodges,” said Gruber. “It’s going to maybe a guide and his family who maybe lost his house and literally have nothing left.”

Because of the nature of the fundraising effort, Mills isn’t sure how much money has been pledged. Each evening he scrolls through the #dozenfordorian hashtag and tallies up the totals.

Mills said he’s encouraged those who bid on flies to send their money directly to the YDCCF to avoid any “impropriety.”

“It helps this community help a community,” Mills said of the effort.