It’s never too early to start over.
A conversation with a friend led to a Marie Kondo moment with my fly box- dusting off an old gray job, probably the first nice-ish box I bought after three years suffering as a graduate student. Dumping everything out only to fill it back up with whatever feels right. It’s early days, with a depauperate collection of small streamers and soft hackles. But it’s kind of nice- if you only have five patterns, you fish what you’ve got until you figure out how it works. A different friend, ages ago, asked what the best fly pattern was.
“Good presentation,” he said wisely.
He might’ve been the same friend I got into an argument ages ago, remembering the outlines as I twitched a Carey Special through a deep slot. This stream used to be the darling of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. They kept putting in log check dams and willow waddles and taking pictures and slapping themselves on the back and every two or three years six inches of rain would drop in the watershed over a couple of hours and blow out all their work and gave up. Since then, freshets and beavers had developed a pretty nice trout stream- for free. Talk about ecosystem services.
I fixed an Alexandra, a gaudy old Victorian wet fly with a silver body and peacock sword wing, ostensibly tied to imitate dark-bodied minnows, seemingly more a testament to conspicuous consumption. But I’d made them, and I wanted to try them. I wanted to be the first in fifty years to try an Alexandra here. Maybe the first in a hundred to catch a fish on one here.
That argument had been about conspicuous consumption, in a way. I’ve never understood how someone can spend a thousand dollars on a fly rod and six hundred on a pair of waders, then bitch about a $2 increase in the resident fishing license. Or drop a couple grand on a weeklong guided trip out west, to Abaco, to New Zealand, and complain about the cost of the license which protects the cost of a license whose funds protects the water they’re fishing. Never understood it. Someone could spend half as much on a rod and reel, donate the other half to conservation, and catch fish in places they know are healthy and protected.
“Folks don’t want to take a day off or burn a hall pass from the wife to go do yardwork on a stream, or pick up trash,” my friend said. I didn’t have a response then. Now, I worked the fly through a boulder-strewn run and thought about how handsomely the guys on the other side are being paid working full-time to wreck our aquatic resources- not often through malice, often just indifference. The lawyering, lobbying, public relations- it’s an industry.
I walked the road back, accumulating a grocery bag of discarded beer cans and plastic pint bottles. It isn’t a busy stream, but it probably gets fished two or three times a week, usually, and if everyone fishing grabbed a grocery bag of garbage on their way out, it’d be the cleanest roadside in the state. if everyone finding solace outside during a global pandemic walked out with a grocery bag of garbage…it might not save the world, but it’d be a far sight nicer.