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.
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on becoming the 45th President of the United States. May you guide our country with wisdom and courage. You won the democratic election and I pray that you succeed, for if you fail we all fail.
I'm writing this letter for one cause, one concern, that means a great deal not just to me, but to many Americans. Public Lands.
In our great country, we have some of the most vast and diverse lands that any country or continent has ever seen. We currently have the right to get out and explore these environs; whether it be hiking mountains, fishing rivers, exploring beaches, biking the parkways or even standing in awe at the greatness that is the Grand Canyon. These lands are also currently under attack.
I am aware that you are a business man, that your sense of self is rooted in prosperity and development, but my hope is that you recognize the fragile balance between conservation and industrialization. I believe that was President Rosevelt's thought process when designating many of these lands. While he understood the need for development, he also understood the importance of conserving nature. The importance of having an escape. Whether it be for the physical endurance of climbing Half Dome or the solitude that comes from fly fishing in the great Henrys Fork. Perhaps it's the conversation you have with God after seeing Niagara Falls or the wonder you experience when you've reached the top of Snowmass Mountains.
Public Lands, the outdoors, have the ability to accomplish a great undertaking, especially in today's politically aggressive climate. They have the ability to bring people together, to heal divides. Regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, political affiliations, we all escape to nature for the same reason, simply because we love it. We are so unique in this country that we have lands designated to us, that we do not have to buy overpriced permits or seek out a small corner of the world that isn't considered "private land." Here, we all own these lands, and that, in itself, is unique and special.
You've made a promise that you will make America great again, may I urge you, in this specific case, to perhaps KEEP America great.
Sincerely and respectfully,
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.
I've been feeling creatively burnt out. The idea that I'm squandering my time and my days has been looming overhead. And so, I try too hard. Which inevitably leads to sloppy work, a forced product, I'm not proud of and am forced to throw out and start over. It's a vicious cycle.
Luckily, I have an escape, a place to go, forget and come back inspired. We associate water with cleansing, a fresh start. Whether it be in a typical daily ritual or in a spiritual sense.
Evey time I'm able to stand in the middle of the river and just be in that moment, I feel renewed. Even the sound of a running river is cleansing to the soul.
The waters have been here longer than we have. They have been teaching, growing, and adapting forever; and their inhabitants with them.
They persevere despite man's best efforts. They continue to renew us and sustain us.
I carry the river with me long after I leave. I remember her sound and smell and feel. I allow her to infiltrate my mind and renew my soul. I am of the waters and am haunted by her nightly.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories