Two years ago, when I stepped into a trout stream I was generally thinking about bugs, flies and fish. I was often contemplating the unparalleled joys of playing hooky. I might have stopped to roll a rock off the bottom and scan its underside for evidence of the local food chain. I might or might not have attempted to identify the swarm of flying objects at the edge of my vision before tying on a Pass Lake or a Caddis. I’d scan for fishy water within casting range and would soon be lost in the transporting rhythm of fishing.
Things have changed. These days, before I even get to the water, as I pass the stream regulation posting, I think of the fisheries biologist who knows that particular stream well enough to nurture its trout through thoughtful management. I picture the stream shocking crew harnessed to their galvanized scow, slogging carefully upstream, scooping up woozy browns to measure, record and release. I am reminded of citizen monitors who patrol the banks after summer storm events or tend the finicky monitoring equipment anchored in the cold stream. As I approach the water, I’m more likely to notice recent or ancient evidence of stream bank improvements. I can now picture the ‘lunker crew’ wrestling 70 pound timbers into place or hammering home stubborn spikes in the waning light of a summer dusk. I can feel that hot knot of muscle between the shoulder blades that screams STOP a long hour before the work is done. I see a tangle of pierced and tattooed high school kids, working with the practiced choreography of a road crew. I see the hearty crew of the ‘Corps of Recovery’ taking a well-deserved rest beside a creek, having cleared acres of stream-choking debris.
Tying on a homemade scud, I see a dear friend in a yellow pool of lamplight creating tiny works of art at his vise, telling the rest of us we can too. As I strip off line to cast, I am humbled by the memory of our chapter’s best casters dropping tiny flies into perfect, impossible drifts, time after time. When the day closes down and I’m propped against my tailgate, peeling off soggy waders, I may notice the broad sweep of the handsome valley and think of the farmer who preserved his acres along the stream, or the developer who turned down a career-making sale to save the lovely bluff. I see county boardrooms and tiny town halls lined with articulate, passionate defenders of our spring creeks, waiting for their turns to speak. And when I reach for the cooler to fish out an icy beer, I’m now going to see my colleague astride a barstool smiling out from under his umbrella of cigar smoke as we wait for the rest of our esteemed board to gather on the last Tuesday of the month.
As I drove home after running my last board meeting as Chapter President, I decided to take tomorrow off ...
I’m going fishing and my chapter is going with me.