I can't remember the last time I was able to say that. Sure, we've had occasional rain bursts that caused the rivers to run high for a few hours, but we've had high water consistently for some time now.
I've been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Now I just hope it sticks around this summer and we aren't in the same mess we were last fall.
I'm looking out the window in my studio and I can see the sky getting darker.
The weather channel says to expect thunderstorms.
It's going to be a good day.
This industry has grown fast, remarkably fast. When I first dipped my toes in the water of this sport there were far fewer anglers then there is today.
I'm selfish with my river time, I admit it. I'm a creative and my soul is filled with hours and days spent on the water. I'm left with words and images that pour out of me and keep me up nights. The solitude of the sport is my favorite thing about it. There's a quiet, peacefulness that resonates within you and you're left with a soul that's filled up. But, it's hard to find solitude on the river now. Some days you go out and are left with all the holes occupied, squeezing in where you can when you meet a gracious angler. You drive for miles to get to your favorite backcountry stream only to be greeted by four other cars sporting the dreaded fly fishing sticker collection stamped on the rear window.
I keep trying to remind myself that this is actually a good thing. The more people participating in the sport means more people advocating for clean water, public lands, etc... But more often than not, that's not actually the case.
In the past month, I've witnessed angler neglect that is heartbreaking.
I've caught fish that bore the scathing dry handprint.
I've found dead trout with barbed squirmy worms hooked down deep in their gill plates.
There've been wads of leader and tippet, paired with wounded flies laying on stream banks.
I've seen anglers and guides alike purposefully snagging fish, just to say they "caught" something.
Not to mention the ridiculous amount of trash found not only on the banks but floating downstream.
None of these occurrences have been a one-time thing, in fact, it's become more the rule than the exception.
I'd like to hope that this is ignorance and not purposeful, but either way, it's harmful.
After a few weeks of being pent up, I'm ready to spend some quality time on the river.
I hope to walk away full and not heartbroken.
You should work here.
You should wear these clothes.
You should hang out with these people.
You should look this way.
Your hair should look like this.
You shouldn't wear those sandals.
You shouldn't have those tattoos.
You shouldn't be so loud.
You shouldn't wear those hiking shorts all the time.
You should be prettier.
You shouldn't care so much.
You should be this way.
Should, should, should, should...
Well, guess what, I'm not.
Thanks for continuing to call society out on their crap.
Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone and empowering all of us to be who we are, embrace it, and support each other's journeys.
And thanks for being a company I can truly believe it!
A Force of Nature
The thermostat read 78 degrees; we checked the water, it read 58 degrees. I'd already removed most of my layers and was regretting the choice of waders. The air felt heavy and wet.
It was the second day in April.
We'd made a choice to escape early and head into the wild in search of small trouts and no people, little did we know that this may be a necessity already.
My wrist watch read 3:30, and the water was getting dangerously close to being too warm.
It was the second day in April.
The warm smell of honeysuckle, pine, and decaying bark filled the air, only every so often could you smell the crisp, clean smell of wild water. The sun was high and bright, not a cloud in the sky, and the richest blue you've ever seen. We took turns crouching in the little shade the laurels provided. It felt like the dead of summer.
If we're lucky, we may get another month of trout fishing if the weather continues the way it has been.
I'm hoping for a long, wet spring. Today is dark and gray, rain falling and I feel hopeful.
I've already set my sights on bass bugs and a six weight, just in case.
That's right, folks, my countdown is officially over! Spring has sprung!
To welcome in the season Jacob and I hit our favorite stretch of water, proudly sporting t-shirts, and tossing the flannels away. The water was cold and clear, and bugs of all shapes and sizes flew all around us. It was truly a perfect spring day.
And, best of all, the curse of the rainbow has also ended!
Bring on the Browns!!
This river trip, as all river trips, was much needed. I've spent a considerable amount of time emailing and calling my state representatives. I work from home, so in a sense, it's consumed my days and honestly caused me to become a bit slack in my duties.
Full disclosure, this is probably not healthy.
Spending my time on the water was healing, as always, but especially more so yesterday.
As always, the river showed me what I needed to see.
While the majority of the country is arguing about "Russia" and "wiretapping," I've been concerned with my rivers. Overturning the Stream Protection Rule and rescinding the Clean Water Rule are harmful acts, ultimately resulting in devastation. Damage, which will happen rapidly and take far longer to repair.
We've had problems with companies in North Carolina dumping chemicals into our water systems even when it was illegal; it scares me to think what's going to happen when the regulations are lifted.
Will the French Broad still house smallmouth for me to catch in the summer?
How many miles of trout water will become extinct?
Will I still have clean water to drink?
Does the next generation even have a shot at living a life like I do?
We have a curious little creature here in Western North Carolina that is said to determine the "healthiness" of a river system, the hellbender.
It's a peculiar river being, and their very existence has been in decline for quite some time. You see, a hellbender cannot survive in a polluted, damed, or even over harvested river systems. Basically, they don't play well with irresponsible humans.
Finding this guy reminded me that all my worry may just be legitimate. That cold, clean water is something worth fighting for, it's something that needs protecting, something that deserves a voice.
Because I'd like to spend the rest of my life looking forward to spring fishing.
Summer came early.
I woke up yesterday to 68 degrees by eight o'clock in the morning.
The birds were awake and singing their songs.
The bugs seemed to be exploding to life everywhere.
The sun shone bright and warm.
I can't lie, it was pretty nice.
But then reality set in. It's February! It's winter. There should be ice and snow, nature should be hibernating. The frozen earth should be healing herself and preparing for spring.
Yesterday, basking in the warmth of the day I began to wonder how much.
How much can we take from nature before there's nothing left to give?
We dam up her rivers, telling her we know better than she does.
We cut down her trees, convincing the world that there are so many it doesn't really matter.
Chemicals are pumped into the air and trash dumped wherever it's convenient.
Fish are taken out by the multitudes and replaced with hatchery grown biology experiments to make up for it.
We inject high pressure water into her very core, hoping to gain some oil or gas.
But one day the dams break, certain trees become extinct, the water is no longer safe, there are no more naturally occurring fish, and she literally starts breaking apart.
This isn't an environmental protest, per say, but a legitimate question I'll ask again.
How much can we take before there's nothing left?
Better yet, how much longer can we afford to take this earth for granted until we wake the hell up?
A couple of weeks ago I received a Instagram message from She On The Fly. It came after a blog post I did for the Public Lands fight, An Open Letter to President Trump.
I was hesitant to open it. That day had brought out all sorts of emotions from a multitude of anglers, all across the board. When you write on subjects like politics, you have to be prepared for that, but I was tired and just didn't want any more negative energy.
I opened it anyway and I'm so glad I did.
It was the exact opposite of negative energy.
I'd been following She On The Fly for a few months on IG and liked the premise of featuring lady anglers and cool fishy pictures, but I found out it's so much more than that.
SOTF is on a mission to not just promote females in the world of fly fishing, but to bring them together.
There's no set "type" or category you have to fit into to be in the Collective, all these ladies are totally different. The only commonality is "living life on the fly" and the conservation of the waters and fish we love.
This appealed to me in such a deep way. There's a real sense of community and acceptance, no pressure to fit into a mold, just be you. Make lasting connections with other ladies, create memories, encourage them, teach them what you know and learn what you don't.
Basically, it's what being an angler is all about.
Image credit She On The Fly
If you've read my blog you know that the chance of losing our Public Lands has weighed heavy on me for several months now. When you spend the majority of your time in them, the fear is almost all consuming.
Earlier this week Jacob and I headed into Pisgah National Forest, as we often do, to find some productive trout water. As we wound our way around the mountains, parallel to The Davidson, I started to picture what they might do to this land. I saw little fracking huts everywhere with bare forests, stumps of trees everywhere. I saw the river, almost dried up, dead trout floating downstream. I envisioned abandoned trails and "keep out" signs. My mind travelled to "The Lorax," I saw Pisgah National Forest as the valley of the Truffula trees.
(Parents read this book to your children, it will stick with them always.)
This morning I woke up to news that Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Utah, had decided to withdraw HR621.
This morning was a small victory for all those in the Public Lands fight.
Early into our fishing trip I hooked up. The trout immediately swam straight upstream. When I got close enough to almost see him, he raced downstream, me running right after him. Then back up, then back down. I was sure the thing had to be at least sixteen inches.
He wasn't, no where close, maybe 10 if I'm measuring in fisherman standards.
This little trout had put up such a fight, in an impossible situation. If I was going to land him, I was going to have to fight just as hard as he was. It was then that I realized that it's not your size, it's the size of your fight that counts.
We didn't get nearly as much media coverage as many other groups with concerns. We didn't really have any celebrities or mighty voices shouting on our behalf, that's probably a good thing. I don't even know if we had the same numbers, but we had fight.
We had something to fight for.
The past few weeks, months, have been loud. There's been a constant flow of changes, information, confrontation, and anxiety. Granted, I'm partly to blame for this noise due to my perpetual listening to NPR; although, I very much enjoyed the piece on eating a taco everyday.
It's been getting more difficult to "quiet the noises" with the influx of negative opinions and biases formed and executed through social media. The anxiety of life had start to become so crippling (probably self inflicted) that enjoying the little things began to get difficult.
Yesterday started out that way.
I just wanted to get away, find some quiet. The river was not particularly quiet. People were out and about fishing, hiking, riding their bikes, they seemed to be everywhere, and I'm so happy they were out enjoying our National Parks, but I just really wanted some peace.
And then, it happened, the quiet came.
When it snows, the whole world gets still. There's a silence that covers everything like a giant, soft, gray blanket.
Unfortunately, none of it stuck and it didn't last more than a few hours, but it gave me that peace that I so needed.
It's funny how what you need you always receive when in nature,
whether it be a "win" and adrenaline rush or just a few hours of peace.
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."
By the way, yesterday was Edward Abbey's birthday.
If you you don't know him, you need to.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.