Friday, August 22

Private Water, The Problem with People, Too Much Beer, and a Heavy Heart

Private water...I can hear the mismatched and conflicting gears in my head turn at the mere thought.  I was recently granted permission to fish a 3 mile stretch of private water...water that hasn't been fished in 20 years.  Water that holds the promise of fish that have never seen a fly, much less a person...or a worm with a hook through it.  I'm torn.  I'm torn because I don't believe in private water...YET...I asked for permission to fish this water...however... I don't believe that a river can belong to one person or organization, so I shouldn't NEED permission.  I'm torn because I'm excited about fishing it.  In fact, I can't wait.  It was only last year when I heard myself utter these words:  "I am philosophically opposed to private water."  (I think I stole that from John Gierach though).  It was in response to a question posed by a friend whilst trespassing on newly purchased property.  Property that we used to be able to walk through to get to our spot. Our spot.  The question he asked was:  "how much would you pay to fish here?"  An innocent enough question I suppose.  But I'm sure he could hear the venom in my response.  "PAY TO FISH HERE?  This is practically my spot already!"  And there it is...ownership.  We all want it, we all have those secret urges.  (mine aren't so secret). If I could afford to purchase a section of a trout river and legally keep people out, would I?  Probably.  Why?  I don't trust my species.  I don't trust them to appreciate, understand, and conserve what is beautiful and worth conserving.

I am opposed to private watershed ownership, yet, my deep love of trout somehow reconciles that it may be necessary. To steal and paraphrase Harry Middleton:  the fact that we have to protect our natural resources is both sad, devastating in fact, and understandable.  Not only do these "private" places or "national parks" give us a glimpse of what once was, but more ominously, a sense of what could have been.  What could have been if we would have changed our course.  What could have been if we didn't have to fence off sections of wilderness, nature, so as not to be disturbed, not to be destroyed and sacrificed for the newest strip mall, walmart, coffee shop, or mining operation.

Why is private ownership necessary?  Well, I still don't know that is is, but what I do know is that it is amazing how many beer cans you can find in places that I consider hard to get to.  It's amazing how many favorite spots I've had that have been sacrificed in the name of progress.  (It happened again today.  Not entirely, but it's a start:  in the form of a "Logging" sign recently tacked to a tree  a few hundred yards from my put in.)  It is amazing how many rivers and their unwitting inhabitants have been destroyed by "safe" mining operations that didn't quite deliver on that promise.  By dams gone awry.  A few years back, 30 minutes from my home, more than 500,000 trout were killed due to negligence...neglect...of a dam that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

But here I sit with my conflicting views.  My conflicting views, trying to reconcile private waters, the nature of people, and writing about trout.  Writing about trout and other collateral damage when over 1.1 million children in the U.S. are homeless.  Read that again.  That's 1.1 million HOMELESS CHILDREN in our "great nation."  But I write about trout...conserving and protecting a fish I hold near and dear, and hope that I/we can help.  I write about trout, and at the same time, 16 million kids go hungry...16 million, in the U.S. Where do we go from here?  I don't know, but what I do know is that it's not the direction that we're headed.  It is not this direction.  But I write about trout.  I am conflicted.  But I write...I write about trout.

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