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The Greenville News (SC)
October 21, 2007

The way David Armstrong sees it, his favorite fish are the ones that get away.

"Because," he explains, "they're the ones you keep going back for."

It's that attitude that also has kept Armstrong active with Trout Unlimited -- the nation's largest cold-water conservation group -- for the past 25-plus years, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by TU members at both the local and national levels.

Armstrong recently received the Ray Mortensen Award, the organization's top volunteer honor, during TU's annual meeting in Boise, Idaho.

"I can't think of a TU volunteer more deserving of the Mortensen Award than David Armstrong," TU president Charles Gauvin said. "David has made splendid contributions to all levels of TU."

Armstrong became involved with TU innocently enough. He and his wife, Meta, stopped by a TU booth during a boat show in Greenville in 1981 and liked what they heard. In short order both Armstrongs were heavily involved.

"We started going to some meetings -- and here we are," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has held numerous positions with TU, including president of the Greenville-area Mountain Bridge Chapter, officer with the South Carolina Council, and chair of TU's Legal Committee.

A longtime attorney with a practice in Greenville, Armstrong currently is legal advisor to TU's National Board of Trustees and the Board's executive committee.

What makes the award more special for Armstrong is the fact that its namesake -- the late Ray Mortensen -- was a longtime friend and fishing partner.

"He was a member of our chapter when I was president, then when the Chattooga River Chapter spun off he helped get it going," Armstrong said. "His influence is still felt. He left a very good legacy in the organization."

Armstrong, 65, is flattered by the award, but the impetus for his devotion to TU remains his steadfast belief in the organization's mission.

"TU does a lot of hands-on stream restoration projects and does a lot of stuff with various agencies, but the most of all it's a voice for fishermen and fish in the public domain," Armstrong said. "But the real issue here is clean water; that's the common denominator."

Armstrong, a Pennsylvania native who grew up getting his first taste of fishing during summer trips to Vermont with his family, bought his first fly rod -- "secondhand, in a little tackle shop," he says -- when he was in grammar school, and has been fishing ever since.

He's been fortunate enough to fish all over the United States and beyond, including Argentina and Chile.

In fact, it was during a trip to Chile two years ago that Armstrong hooked one of his most memorable fish.

"It looked like 'Jaws' coming out of the water (when it jumped)," Armstrong said. "It gets bigger in my mind as time goes by, of course. It wrapped around a big tree snagged on the bottom and I had to break it off."

No problem, at least where Armstrong's concerned, because it gives him a valid excuse to return.

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