The Moonshine team knows better than most what trials and tribulations run in tandem with publishing a newspaper or magazine in today’s world. It’s a gritty fight against the odds that requires a robust balance of faith and tenacity — every issue painstakingly assembled and held together by a love of the printed page. Here, we are giving a genuine tip of the hat to Richard Anderson, a local warrior of the pen, self-publisher of almost 30 years, and public servant who has tirelessly acted as a steward for our local watersheds for the past 16 years.
Anderson — publisher of California Fly Fisher magazine, eight-year Truckee town council member, and eight-year Nevada County supervisor — moved to Truckee relatively late in life. The fourth-generation Californian grew up fishing the creeks around Long Barn in Tuolumne County, and worked as a land use economist in San Francisco until 1988 when he “kissed his job goodbye, tossed his fishing gear in the back of a crotchety pickup truck, and headed out for the wilds of the North American West, land of the festive cowboy, in a soul searing search for the meaning of life, for All The Answers. For some big trout,” he writes on the back cover of the book he published shortly afterward, Trout the Size of Footballs. Back in California at the end of his three-month trip, he noticed a niche needing to be filled.
“The state is extraordinary in terms of the number of angling opportunities it provides and, frankly, as a fly fisher, I wanted to try all of them — and I’m still trying all of them,” Anderson told Moonshine Ink, adding he was headed to the San Francisco Bay Delta the week after this interview to fish for largemouth bass.
Despite all the fishing opportunities though, California was virtually unknown and overshadowed by other fishing hot spots across the West, like Montana and Wyoming. Although he had no publishing background at the time, his book gave him a taste for the ability of writing to finance his passion for angling, and he decided to take a leap and start California Fly Fisher. It was early 1992, the heyday of travel writing, and magazines were multiplying like sunbathers on the beach, ignorant of the dark cloud ahead, when the internet would roll in to supplant print.
“I realized I was a publisher with no experience, and I was going to have to learn on the job,” Anderson said. He spent the first years of the magazine self-publishing out of an old can factory in Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, filling every role from publisher, to writer, to sales, to layout, and everything in between. “It was extraordinarily engaging — still is. I wear a variety of hats and there’s never a boring moment if you’re running a publication and you’re pretty much the guy who’s doing a lot of it.”
In the early days, Anderson said he was very much living hand to mouth as he navigated the world of publishing. He eventually transitioned from producing a free pub to making a bimonthly subscription-based paper, a structure that is still propping up the magazine almost 30 years later.
“My weakest point was probably design, but I picked that up pretty quickly, at least in terms of creating something that didn’t look horrible,” Anderson humbly jokes. He said one of the most time-consuming and costly aspects of the magazine is finding a way to fine-tune the writing of your average fisherman, who typically happens to be much more interested in pools than prose.
In 1999, and in his forties at the time, Anderson lost the lease on his city apartment and was looking for a place to move the magazine and himself. He settled on Truckee, where he had been fishing and cross-country skiing since college.
“Truckee had a certain something to it,” Anderson said. “It was a place that was in between city and forest in the sense that Truckee had a vitality to it which echoed the values of the people coming up here as second homeowners, but also drew upon whatever aspect that living in the mountains gives someone.”
He quickly took to those values, embracing the mountain lifestyle in the typical way — a mathematically impossible work-life balance of cross-country skiing, fly fishing, running a popular regional publication, and even jumping headfirst into environmental conservation. When Placer County released the Martis Valley Community Plan in 2003, including development that, due to his background in environmental policy he knew would severely damage Martis Lake, Anderson spoke up.
“If you want to get involved in the community, it’s very easy to do so in Truckee,” he said. “Why not actually be a decider rather than just a member of the public who grouses about what’s going on?”
After becoming involved in the Martis plan, and at the prodding of some local community members, he decided to run for Truckee Town Council to take a more active role in protecting the region’s watersheds and quality of life. In a 2012 profile in California Fly Fisher, Anderson succinctly summed up his perspective on the public process while bemoaning the presence of a new league of fly fishermen he said were more interested in the materialistic, gear-oriented, and flashy side of the sport than in conservation.
“If you really want to be a badass, then show some cojones and stand up in front of a planning commission or city council and fight the projects that are screwing up our fisheries,” he said. At the time of that profile, Anderson had served eight years on the Truckee Town Council, and was about to serve another eight as a Nevada County supervisor. He was a large proponent of public input.
Eighteen years later, Martis Lake is unfortunately a shadow of what it once was as a trout fishery, Anderson says, but he was able to mitigate damage from many other projects around the region during his years in public office. During that time, Anderson says some of the events he is most proud of are the oversight of important details regarding Truckee’s first stormwater management plan and his work on local trails. This includes halting the demolition of the Hirschdale bridges in order to complete the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail, and leading the conceptualization of the Pines to Mines trail that will link Truckee to Nevada City. All of this occurred while he was still wearing all the hats necessary to publish California Fly Fisher magazine.
“Balancing those two was always a challenge over those 16 years,” Anderson said. He recently retired as a county supervisor at the end of 2020 and now spends his time “engaged by life,” exploring all the diverse fishing opportunities that the state has to offer, and continuing the publication he started to glorify those opportunities. He says when a colleague asked him if it is bittersweet being out of politics he replied, “No, it’s just sweet.”