"...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
“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.
It was the best of days.
65 in January.
We literally chased trouts downstream all day.
Not one broke off.
Take note; to bend to life, chase it, and not break.
Yesterday was the beginning of the Winter Solstice and mother nature knew it. Her light shone bright and glaring for the few hours she had. The wind was harsh and bitter, but the sun warmed you quickly. It was a perfect combination for the first day of winter.
We were lucky enough to feel tugs often, but few made it to the net. The fish seemed to be aware of the trick nature was playing. Good enough to keep you there, but with just a touch of bitter discomfort to round it all out.
Winter makes you tougher as an angler.
When you're surrounded by the "comforts" of life it's good to get away from that. To remember that life is not always comfortable. You will not always win, you will not always land 60 fish in a day. Your feet will not always be warm and you will not always enjoy your entire day outdoors.
But, you will learn to enjoy different things.
The way the sun warms your face and you leave the stream with new freckles.
Multitudes of bugs floating off the surface in appreciation of the contradicting weather.
How tough your hands become, but still able to tie on a size 20 dry fly.
The way the birds sing and how much more crisp it sounds.
Healthy, happy, firm trout. No longer fatigued by the warm weather, lack of water and minimal bug life.
If you look hard enough you'll find that the winter solstice offers just as much as any other season, if not more. For it creates you and may teach you more than any other time of the year.
So, enjoy it, learn from it, come away better because of it.
Now, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
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
You wake up, it's still pitch black out. You can hear the rain pouring down outside.
Drink coffee. Grab fishing gear. Bundle up. Make sure you are as waterproof as you can be.
You leave the house and head out. Sure it's wet and cold, but the fish are already wet and cold, so it really doesn't matter.
You arrive at a soft, still, run; bubbling from what appears to be rain. The closer you get, the subtle differences between a raindrop hitting the surface and trout feeding on the surface becomes apparent. Every so often you can see bright, yellow tails break the surface, taunting you and making you even more aware of their presence.
Every cast is an effort in futility. Size 24 dry flys are no match for the mighty raindrop.
It's an excruciating process, one you only participate in if you are truly, certifiably crazy. But you will be rewarded for your mad routine, with gold, in the form of a brown trout or two. So, you continue this crazy pattern until your hands are so cold and wet you can no longer set the hook. You warm yourself with good conversation and beer and go at it again, only to repeat this pattern as well.
Eventually, you decide that you're soaked and good conversation can only go so far to warm you, the car heater does a much better job. You make your sojourn back to the car, soaked and tired and slightly buzzed. You may look broken down and smell like a wet dog, but you leave knowing that you are worth your weight in gold.
I never thought I'd be craving rain in December, let alone hoping to fish in it, but I am. I'm enjoying the way the rain hits your fingers and feels like hundreds of bees stinging you. Putting your hand in cold, running water while releasing a fish is glorious. Not having the sun there to warm you on 40 degree days is remarkable. Hanging up soaked waders in the evening and putting them on damp is sublime.
I sound crazy, I know.
But it's exciting because it's raining and hasn't been for so long.
So, here's to the rain and spending a day magnificently miserable.
"The upper Davidson along the hatchery resembles a deeply shaded ditch. That said, every lie holds browns and rainbows, and they're all huge. ... This is fly-fishing-only, catch-and-release water - only you ain't doing the releasing."
-John Ross, Trout Unlimited's Guide To America's 100 Best Trout Streams
Thanks, John, no truer words have been spoken about the hallowed Davidson.
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.