Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finding Climate Change on a Trout Stream

In early 2017, the word climate has two highly divergent meanings.  In the first, it's the long-term pattern of weather for a particular region.  In the second, it means a widespread attitude related to a specific phenomena.  In today's world when we pair 'climate' with 'change' the two meaning inevitable converge.  This is easily seen when reading nearly any journalistic column or article on the topic of climate change.

It's hard to find a recent narrative on climate change that doesn't include the political controversy surrounding the subject.  When we pair 'climate' with 'change' we are simultaneously immersed in the political controversy related to this global physical phenomena studied rigorously by science, yet debated endlessly by politicians.  Hence, the convergence of the term climate.
Tensleep Creek, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Climate change is huge.  I get it.  It's so big that it's much easier to just go about your day and ignore it.  Heck, it's easy to go through your entire day without once trying to wrap your mind around the concept of climate change let alone how, as a society, we're going to address the problem.  Hey, I studied climate change in graduate school and there were definitely days when it was the last thing I wanted to think about.  On days like that my favorite thing to do was slink off to one of my favorite waters, fly rod in hand, and just let the water slip past me as I cast.

The more I gave myself up to the concentration of making the cast, the farther climate change faded from my mind.  Research and political arguments over whether to mitigate its impacts or adapt to them slipped away as I would watch for a  trout to poke its nose from beneath the water to slurp down a floating morsel.  Vulnerability of people, animals, trees, forests, landscapes, streams, rivers, lakes all vanished before the next cast, the next strike, the next fly.

Lake Golden, Cloud Peak Wilderness, Wyoming (looking west)
I was surrounded by Rocky Mountain grandeur as I cast my fly on rivers composed of the snow that melted on their granite sides, then it hit me!  What if the snow that my favorite waters depended upon continued to melt earlier and earlier every year as they'd been doing for the last decade and more?  Even more horrifying, what if the snow just simply stopped coming?  You know, like in the Sierra Nevada's over the last few years?

And like that I realized I had a vested interest in understanding climate change for a reasons well beyond the academic.  There is a terrific likelihood that climate change is going to turn my favorite sport and my favorite waters on their head.  This made everything I read in dry academic journals very real beyond what charts, graphs, and statistical significance ever could.  And this is how I found climate change on a trout stream...

Next week we'll take a look at what climate change means for many of our favorite waters.  Until then-

Cheers & Tight Lines,

Twitter- @ConserveTrout

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Meaning of Water

What do you think about when you're on the water, rod in hand?

Some of use stalk the water, others retreat to the water.  Regardless of how we approach, the thoughts that occupy our minds when on the water are telling in what angling means to each of us.

Many of my friends and family see God in the water, trees, and mountains around them when angling.  To them access to the water is an opportunity to open their soul and drink in the gifts God has bestowed upon the world; fly fishing is nothing short of communion.

Small tributary stream, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
Anglers of all ilk, regardless of geography, tackle, or economic position often return to the water to connect to the past.  In many instances this means rekindling friendships through the act of fishing, which cemented the durable bonds of camaraderie so many years before.

Then there are the hunters and stalkers.  For them all thoughts on the water are about quarry and the thrill of the hunt.  They have a mental focus most of us could never hope to achieve as our eye follows our fly over the water's surface, mind drifting from one topic to the next.

Then there are the philosophers, those who seek out the water and ply their trade to better understand themselves and the world around them.  For these anglers fly fishing provides insight into themselves and the larger world.

Personally, my mind  glides between all the different meanings of water as I move from riffle to pool on my favorite stream.  Regardless of why we take to the water, we always come away with lives and souls more enriched after having partaken of its treasures.

Cheers & Tight Lines,

Twitter- @ConserveTrout

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Angler's Soul in Winter

In reading the many angling magazines I receive every month or so it has come to my attention that I may be missing out on something big-- fly fishing in the winter.  Now, I've never considered myself simply a fair-weather fisherman, but the volume of articles I've encountered this winter lead me to wonder if I've somehow missed out on something grand?

It has become almost cliche' that winter is the time for fly tying as rods hang on the wall awaiting spring to reawaken trout and anglers alike.  By sitting at the vice in winter we pay homage to those who've come before us.  The activity is as much a connection to the past as a bridge to the future, which is only a spring thaw away.  However, rather than tie flies I write.

Writing, for me, provides a connection to sport and nature that tying does for so many anglers. Our winter activities aren't just a mental haven to dream about fish lost and those yet to be caught, they're subtle reminders of cycles of the soul.

An angler's soul is in tune with the rhythms of nature; the natural turning of the seasons, spring runoff and the spawning of cutthroat trout that follow, the life-cycle of the many aquatic insects our tying strives so hard to imitate.  But there is something else there, something that is nurtured by the our winters away from the water.

For me, its embracing the harshness of  a Wyoming winter and its cold splendor because I don't fish in the snow.  My angler soul is fed in no small part by the anticipation of the next spring as I write about the last summer's fishing trips and my daughter's first fish.  In many ways it's the same way I always endured the misery of winter field exercises in the Army as the relief that would come with walking into a warm tent at the end of it all was sweetened in a way only those who have suffered can appreciate.

Writing and fly tying nurture an angler's winter soul by subtlety reminding us of the cycles of nature and our connection to the past and the future, connections that if not tended properly, threaten to flicker their last.

Tend the fire until next time.
Cheers & Tight Lines,

Twitter- @ConserveTrout