Is it warm enough to wet wade?
Do you think it's going to rain or not?
Where's the trail?
No seriously, where the hell is the trail?
Hey Wild Water, nice to see you again, it's been too long!
This past weekend I lucked out and got to go fishing when I didn't think I'd be able to. This week, was another story.
I've been confined to the house thanks to Winter apocalypse storm Stella. Not that we received any horrific snow down in these here parts, but we did get frigid temperatures and extreme wind.
So, I spent my days dreaming and looking through photos of warmer days.
Believe it or not, this wet wading, after work, fishing expedition was exactly one year ago to the week.
I'm over waders and multiple layers.
My fingers are over being cold and fumbling when tying on a fly.
I'm ready for spring.
“I fish because I love to . . . because I love the environs where trout are found . . . because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip . . . and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant––and not nearly so much fun.”
― Robert Traver
I feel like a great many people have been concerned this week, primarily about the future. I'm one of those people.
The concerns of men often get in the way of living, have a way of creeping up and consuming our minds, therefore consuming our lives.
I can't be sure if fear is justified or not. I can't conclude that my concerns are great ones. I can't know anything for certain, as none of us can.
I can know that tomorrow I will go fishing, simply because I love it.
This week, despite the greatest of efforts by so many, congress voted to "recalculate" the way in which they can sell off Federal Lands to either the states or private entities.
It was a truly horrific event.
You can read about what the Washington Post had to say on the specifics of the vote here.
When Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt became president in 1901 one of his main goals was conservation and therefore created the United States Forest Service. By doing this, Teddy erected 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. By the end of his presidency, he had protected over 230 million acres of Public Land. These are 230 acres our deeply conservative president set aside so that all of us would have to opportunity and ability to enjoy them without the threat of industrialization and greed.
Today, those lands are not nearly as safe as they once were.
You can read more about the history of protected lands and President Teddy here.
I don't spend a lot of time writing about specifics and facts and "how-to's," mostly because I don't feel I'm very good at it. However, today it felt warranted.
A few months ago I published a post about Public Lands and how much they mean to me. I'm not sure if it impacted anyone, caused them to do some research, infuriated them, but I hope that it did, just as I hope this post does.
NPR did a wonderful story concerning the issue on Tuesday, you can listen to it here.
Yesterday, Chris Wood, of Trout Unlimited wrote an excellent piece on the peril that we're now facing. Please take the time to read it, found here.
Today I don't have any fun, heartfelt fishing stories. Nor do I have a plethora of beautiful trout pictures and bendy bamboo.
Today I only have words, words that I hope will have some impact.
However, I will leave you with one photo, of the tiniest of trouts, possibly insignificant to most, caught on Public Lands. I hope that you will find a fire inside of you to protect it just as I have.
"Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspecitive to see something familiar in a totally new light."
There’s a brief moment in angling when everything comes together. It’s the moment where you meet the fish you’ve been dancing with for seconds or hours and then let him slip away. Truly, it is the briefest of encounters, but it is the most magical of the whole event.
I get a lot of flack from those around me who aren’t fly anglers about my stance on catch and release. To them, the trout is meat, a trophy, possibly both. The trout serves a “purpose” in life, nothing more, nothing less. This is ok, I suppose. I just like to think of myself as slightly more saintly than those others.
To me it’s that instant when you let him swim out of your hand, slap the water explicitly with his tail, possibly never to see him again, that is the defining moment. Because you see, it defines you as an angler in that flash. If you really think about it, it causes you to question why. Why wouldn’t you eat something you worked so hard for? You do have to eat. Why wouldn’t you want the fish hanging on your wall? You may never catch one this size again. Do you simply release the fish because that’s what the culture, the regulations tell you to do? Why?
You do it because that moment may happen again. And again.
It may happen in the same pool or possibly a completely different river. You may be able to meet this same fish in a different season of his life. In a different scenario where you’ve both grown. You may meet again on a number 14 dry fly, rather than a squirmy worm, both older and wiser, but still coming together.
And so, one day, this compassionate culture of pinching barbs, wetting hands, defiantly making sure that this paraphyletic creature with a brain the size of a pea is perfectly unharmed becomes who you are, totally and completely. There’s no questioning why or even considering another alternative, and that’s ok, that’s just who you’ve become. Because of those brief moments that changed everything, redefined life and generally made you a much more saintly person.
Yesterday I noticed the details. I often get wrapped up with the end result, the goal, so much so that I forget to pay attention to the little things along the journey.
When fishing I often get so consumed with getting the "money shot" of a fish that I neglect all the artistry that's found in between. I often don't notice how delicately beautiful a dry fly is on a strand of fly line, the eruption of a release, or the peaceful water droplets that appear when a trout is feeding on the surface. I get caught up, as a lot of us do, with catching the fish that's "slurping" and not notice how beautiful that act is, in and of itself.
We overlook so much, not just in fishing, but in life when we become all consumed with an outcome.
I've been consumed. So focused on one thing that I've overlooked all of the amazing things that are happening all around me. And, when I started paying attention, the journey became that much sweeter.
So here's to watching that fish, not just trying to catch it.
The first time I ever heard about Eddie Pinkston was probably my second date with Jacob. My conclusion was that this man is probably part god, part degenerate. Seriously. My first time meeting Eddie, I had the same conclusion. I spent the better part of two hours listening to this man, swinging a Bud Light can around, trying to convince me that he had “spoken” a 32-inch brown trout into swimming right into his hands. Oh, and where he wanted his ashes spread. But, this was Eddie, for better or worse, he was who he was.
I was given the opportunity to work for Eddie’s family for the better part of three years, and it was a true privilege. There was never a shortage of Eddie stories around the plant, from his mother to daughter to other employees. As soon as anyone at work found out that I fly fished, a story was soon to follow, and they were always welcome, especially the ones concerning carp. Amazingly, the stories continued from every fly fisherman in the Western North Carolina area as soon as they found out I worked for the Pinkston’s. You see, Eddie was a bit of a “local hero” around here, or at the very least he was incredibly infamous.
My journey of fishing with Eddie started about five months ago, well sort of. You see, Eddie passed away winter of last year. He was cremated and parts of him went here there and yonder. One of his daughters sent a little piece of Ed our way so that he could continue fishing, even after he had left our world. And so, Eddie goes fishing every time Jacob and I do.
To say that my perspective on fishing changed a little when I started fishing with Eddie is a bit of an understatement. If I was going to fish with the man’s ashes, I was certainly going to learn about him, to know him as best I could. I read books written about him, got even more stories and tried to replay the so few conversations I’d ever had with him. And slowly, I think I’m starting to grasp him, and not him the world saw, but the angler.
I hope to one day take Eddie back to Pennsylvania to catch much more steelhead. I hope to return him to the Henry’s Fork and catch so many trout that my right arm won’t work. I hope that on our journey I’ll be able to take him to Patagonia again and see that wonderful country through his eyes. But for now, we’ll keep on going to the Davidson, the place where Avery’s creek comes into it, and we’ll keep fishing it. And just maybe, one day, I’ll be able to coax a 32-inch brown into my hands, too.
Photo courtesy of John Crane - 2007
Today I am thankful. Yesterday was a full, rich day filled with being outside and fishing for trouts. Jacob and I continued our quest to be able to catch stocked fish on dry flys. We succeeded, again. I suppose that due to the lack of rain these fish have become wise awful quick, adapting to their surroundings and no longer being fooled by "junk food." This makes my heart happy, as I loathe catching fish on eggs and worms, it just feels too much like bait fishing. Although, I'm sure that just comes back to quality of excuses anyhow.
But, I digress...
The air and the light was warm yesterday. There was a silence that filled the air and a calm that grabbed you. It was wonderful!
And then this happened...
Yup, that's the river we were fishing. Nope, that's not a photoshop trick.
A semi truck containing gallons and gallons of glass cleaner flipped over and crashed right into the middle of the Laurel River, which flows into the French Broad. A semi truck that was not even supposed to be on the road it was on. A truck driver that was traveling at unsafe speeds because he was too "experienced" to have to follow the laws that everyone else must observe. And so, we have a totally contaminated river. A healthy and prosperous fishery is no more. A popular kayaking watershed is now unsafe for people or animals to come in contact with. Oh, and we're in the middle of an "extreme drought," so nature is not going to be able to heal herself from this for a while.
But, I am thankful. I am thankful because I am not the first to become outraged over this, not even the second or third. People all over Western North Carolina are screaming out about this event and others like it.
In fact, people are doing something all over our country to speak for those who don't have a voice.
Let's Stand Together on this and be thankful for what we've got and not let it go.
When I removed my Chacos for the first time in two weeks and washed the last remains of Colorado away in the cheap motel bathroom I felt my heart break, truly break for the first time in a long while.
A few months ago Jacob and I left our beloved Blue Ridge Mountains for a two-week adventure across the country to Colorado. This was supposed to just be an adventure, a vacation, an escape from the world for a little while. It turned out to be so much more for me. We spent the days fishing and the nights drinking local beer. We said "hello" and "goodbye" to more brook trout and cutthroat than I can count. We met people and had conversations I'll never forget.
But what happened to my soul far surpassed those brief encounters. There is a beauty there unlike anything I'd ever seen. A freedom that hit my heart like a shock. It made me start to question existence and life and all of those persistent existential problems. I started to remember every John Muir quote, thought, and it finally made sense. I understood it. It only took one brief second, standing on the side of a mountain and taking a moment to look at the country I was standing in. From then on, the rest of the trip, I couldn't focus on anything but soaking in all the beauty.
So, that's where the questions come in. Have I been so busy all these years with a “goal”, with stress, with a distraction that I wasn't truly seeing everything that's around me? Have I actually been missing out all these years? Seeing the beauty, but never actually absorbing it? Society has conditioned us into believing you must travel a certain path, with a certain “job,” a certain “title,” and a certain amount of “income.” When we don’t meet those societal expectations, we’re told that we have failed at life. I have spent all of my thirty years agreeing with that, making myself completely mad trying to be and have and do what I was “supposed” to. I never paid attention to what I wanted to do, only about hitting that mark that would somehow earn me a place at the successful table.
The drive home was absolutely depressing. Loathing the impeding normalcy that was to follow. The routine.
Honestly, I'm sick of "being an adult." I'm sick of getting up everyday with no purpose or passion.
Colorado changed me. I pray for the better. To be braver, to pursue my passion, to not fear to fail.
Because I may fail. I may return to the "real world," tail between my legs in shame searching out a 9-5 once again.
But for now, I think I may just want to try being a trout bum for a while.