The descent of Ducks Unlimited

How big NGOs get body-snatched, a case study
Lead-poisoned eagles are often debilitated, weak and non-reactive, exhibiting depressed mentation, open mouth breathing and other symptoms (photo: The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota).

For an understanding of what happens to big NGOs when they become dependent on rich donors, both private and corporate, consult the last paragraph of George Orwell's "Animal Farm": "Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

The 10 most read stories of 2018

Reader favorites from the past year
Photo: Chad Shmukler

Each December, as we look back on the most popular stories of the year, we're reminded of a couple of facts that never come as much of a surprise. Fly anglers like to read about gear. They also like to read about how to become better fly anglers. And so, each year, stories about new fishing tools—rods, reels, boots, waders and what have you—and how to best leverage those tools and others to find more success when on the water invariably dominate our annual list of reader favorites.


Not all dream trips go as planned
Chile's Rio Palena (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Sweat was beading up on my forehead as I tussled with the shoulder straps of my waders. Then the zipper. Then the goddamned wading belt. I uttered every iteration of the mother of all swear words, beginning it with the usual prefixes and ending it with all sorts of creative suffixes as I hurried to de-wader on the banks of Chile's pastoral Palena River.

I groaned in agony. My gut seized. As emergencies go, this was about as urgent as it gets on the river without life and limb at stake.

The foam line

Foam is home
A trout sips not one but two mayflies off the foam lined surface (photo: Jason Jagger).

Anybody who powered through a high-school psychology class probably remembers Maslow’s famous triangle chart—the famous Hierarchy of Needs.

At the base of the triangle lie our foundational needs—things like food, shelter, sleep, sex. Higher up, and slightly less important, are still-important needs, like safety, financial security, emotional well-being, etc. Still higher up, and still less important than the foundational needs, are things like love and acceptance, self esteem and, finally, self-actualization.


Part 2: The Arrival
Illustration: Jake Keeler

Carter met Kyle, the first time, while chasing down a glitch in the drone deployment module of TaoZon's two-hour-delivery system. The code was fairly straightforward but the storage and network bandwidth that it was consuming seemed excessive. Digging around the user interface, he found a back door to an old processor, an obsolete code repository, that was supposed to be idle but that showed a slow, steady ripple of activity. Carter had discovered URTH.

URTH, Carter figured out, was a hacked xchat partition that was being unwittingly hosted in TaoZon's hardware, providing a dark web resource for fanatic environmental political discourse and doomsday angst. Open discussion of the environment had long been banned but had found quiet, illicit pockets here and there around the net. Dubbed URTH by its participants, the User's Road To Hell, it was a bootleg outpost frequented by outsiders and the most radically pessimistic. Carter's first instinct was to expose the hack but, just before making the call, two words in the storage dump caught his eye. Fly fishing. Further digging uncovered an obscure little thread where a handful of outsiders claimed to still be practicing the arcane sporting practice. Carter, remembering Grandpa, tumbled down the rabbit hole and landed on Kyle. The hack went unreported.