I have a river that I love very much. She got her teeth adjusted by the cruel master of drought a couple of years back. On a slow day at work when I have a case of the fuck-its, limited time, shitloads of time that carry the price of a spontaneous drunk, or just some affection for the river, I’ll take a quickie from Boston to check up on the old girl as she meanders her way around the leafy outskirts of Worcester. In those lean months what I saw made me sadder every time I did it. The usual freestone had synched her girth down to something about the width of a car. Where there used to be a river, there was a heartbreaking trickle surrounded by bleached rocks and the song of the water was no longer there to lift the soul of anybody. I feared that the breeding population of brown, rainbow, and brook trout had joined a desolation of caddis flies, mayflies, crayfish, surprisingly territorial kingfishers, herons, ospreys, and everything else whose cafeteria had gone the way of the dinosaur, US manufacturing, my hairline, etc… On a day when I fished knowing I wouldn’t catch a thing I had a family of mink trail behind my wading bark playfully at me and pick prey out of the swirl of mud behind me in the current. I have seriously had sleepless nights wondering about the fate of those mischievous little thieves who barked at me so playfully, somehow knew I would not harm them, proved to me again that humans are not the only conscious beings on planet Earth, and came so close to being banished from nature by commerce more than once. I haven’t seen them since. My soul will be nourished when I cooperate with them again.
I can remember coming across another fisherman at the time. Cresting a ridge, I saw him casting into a hole… What I will never forget is the dead fish floating at the end of his stringer which was barely four inches long and bore through its deathly pallor the par marks of an immature brook trout. When a river is clearly having a hard time, and McDonalds has a 99-cent cheeseburger, how hungry do you have to be to justify such an inappropriate kill? In my mind, and I hope everybody will agree, a baby like that isn’t going extend your life by much, but its loss will kill the shit out of a river. An honorable man would just go ahead and orchestrate his own death if he can’t find a better way to keep his mortal coil.
As sportsmen we juggle an ethic that only we truly understand, yet not without argument among ourselves. We want to preserve/manage an environment so that it is rich with game. We want to adventure into said environment to harvest said game, take it home, and dine in the glory of wholeness. The trophy-hunting issue is something to discuss another day, but my rule of thumb is “if a population is being exhausted, you are an immoral person if you keep killing shit”. I carry something called a “Jungle Primitive” in my pack because I don’t want to be the guy that didn’t have a giant, honking, survival-knife, machete-looking monstrosity on the ONE day he needed it to hack off his own extremity in order to survive. The possible incarceration of my person is the only thing that kept my seriously fucking carbon-steel, aggressively notched, serrated, fuck-your-ass-up-ten-different-ways-from-Sunday knife from finding a home in that dude’s dome. Seriously, what the fuck? There are less brook trout in that river than there are assholes in Worcester.
ASO Pro-Staffer G.W. is a passionate, and outspoken trout bum. He calls it like he sees it, and that's why he's my friend.