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!
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.
Fishing was out of the question this weekend. There was too much to do. Jacob had a guide trip. Winter had finally hit Western North Carolina after months of being in the 60s. There was no point and no time anyway. I had geared myself for being stir crazy and bored. This is life, and you don't always get to go fishing, unfortunately.
I got the call at 10:30 to pack on the layers, we were going fishing.
Jacob's clients were unable to get out of the B&B where they were staying. There was snow on the ground, a whopping 2 inches, but in the south, those are grounds to stay in and out of the blizzard.
We arrived to find no one else in sight, despite the fact that it was nearly 12:30 by the time we found our way to the river and most of the snow was already history.
The gin clear water called for long leaders and short casts, but the trout were stacked up everywhere and on fire.
My weekend of "great un-expectations" turned into an unforgettable one.
Like fishing, you never know what life is going to throw your way. Whether it's good or bad, and so you take it in stride because you know right upstream something great is waiting for you.
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?
"...In a college town you meet some writers and some fly fisherman and settle into learn the respective crafts. You've been writing since high school and fishing since before you can remember, but it turns out you know less about either than you thought you did. On the other hand, you're not entirely surprised to find that success in both disciplines depends on patience, persistence, diligence and attention to detail. These were never your strong points, but you vow to change. You publish here and there in literary magazines for bragging rights, but no money... You also manage to catch some trout. In the grand scheme of things, these are not enormous accomplishments, but they make you inordinately happy.
-John Gierach, All Fisherman Are Liars
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,