Animas (Before And After)

            The whole mess in Colorado with the juggernaut pollution of the Animas River has weighed heavily on my mind. Not because of fishing, of which I am most fond, but of the greater implications. Implications that will remain long after the water has cleared and the event that caused this mess is relegated to remembrance.
            Several years ago, when the industrial revolution was still in its infancy, somebody should have had the good sense to keep this from happening. But during that time, the acres of untouched land in our country far outnumbered the acreage receiving the abuse so the powers that be, and the population as a whole didn’t give it much thought. And so the cogs of the machine engaged and businesses became intoxicated by the profits. What we as a species kicked into gear was a slow and self-inflicted death by agricultural attrition.
            So now, moving forward, the ancient mess has once again kicked down the door and proved itself unable to be trusted. And sadly, the voices who seek to cry out for repentance have either grown silent, or they themselves have become addicted to the process and product to the point that they try to justify the whole thing to their own satisfaction.
            We have become so accustomed to disaster that we don’t give it much thought. The electronic world we live in and the news it provides have left us to react in a way that is more resignation.  We have become numbed to the reality that we are willingly destroying the earth. We pump gallon after gallon of gasoline into our cars and trucks and perhaps never think of taking fewer trips, or Heaven forbid we walk or ride a bike if we are physically able. And earthen trinkets like coal, zinc, uranium or gold have been a siren song, calling big business and government to go to whatever means necessary to have more and more. In the wake of such desires the land is mistreated and though the propaganda says that every jot and tittle is employed in the restoration of the land, the land itself proves that it is a lie. And beautiful ecosystems like the Animas cry out for something to be done.
            So what can we do?
            It is lunacy to think that it could all come to a screeching halt.  We are too deep in the rabbit hole to break the chain and climb to the surface. We have connected ourselves to the products and finances to just drop it like a stone and forget about it.  Therefore we must settle in for the long haul and do what we can in our realm of influence and cut a large portion of patience as we try to grab a foothold on change.  Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, and to that I say amen. But the puzzle of acting out the wise man’s advice extends perhaps further than we are willing to walk.
             If you say you are against something, then by nature, you should also stand against the things it is connected to. If you are against the drilling of oil or the construction of pipelines, then you must also say that you are against those things tethered to it.  If you take a long look at oil as an example, you will quickly see that the vast majority of your life if not all of it is totally dependent upon pulling oil from the earth. Perhaps that is why the environmental causes in our country are so few in voice. It is shallow and empty to rail against something when you are actually in need of it. The voice of a hypocrite will only resonate so far.  It is when the voice is 100% committed that it begins to reverberate. You find enough people truly committed and you gain volume.
            So today the Animas is sick and as that water flows into other bodies of water, the sickness will spread.  Soon enough things will show improvement to the point that folks are at least comfortable with it. But somewhere waiting in the wings is another tragedy that will bring things back to the table for discussion. Given time, the Animas will heal itself and nature will do as it always does in that it will attempt to restore that which was damaged. But it is up to us to assist nature as much as we can, and take a long look in the mirror. Just how far are we willing to go before we throw in the towel?
            I live in coal country and could take you to a myriad of ticking time bombs. Ground so abused that entire mountain tops are as flat and clean as a dining room table. Runoff from abandoned mines that looks as if a child’s crayon box were melted down and mingled with the water. Coal was the work of my grandfathers and through it my family survived, but now, two full generations later we are left with the mess the played a part in creating which is an uncomfortable place to reside.
            If you wish to get involved then by all means do so with all the gusto you can pull from within. Just remember that there will be a point you will reach in which you must make a choice. Do you continue on and lay down the links to the problem, or will you stop dead in your tracks realizing that you are no different than the majority. You are addicted to something that will leave your voice mute.

            We need to realize that alternative options exist, get busy on setting to right as much as we can, and do everything possible to make a difference in the portion of earth in which we have been charged. Maybe if enough people will just do that small thing, it will grow into a much larger thing – a true movement. What happened on the Animas could have been avoided a long time ago. Let’s hope that we see where the next man made error is lurking and move to fix it before it is too late.


One Man, A Manifesto, And A Huge Revival

The evolution of equipment/gear is to be expected in any sport.  I am sure that back in the day, the face mask was considered cutting edge to football.  In the same manner, the progression of fly fishing equipment has always prided itself of being cutting edge.  Space age technology is as much a part of fly fishing now as the river itself and it seems that every trade show is loaded with new rods that are bigger, faster, stronger.

And from a marketing standpoint it is understood as read that the old stuff is left behind.

But don't tell that to Cameron Mortenson.

In full disclosure, I pulled this photo from Facebook.

From one dude who loved fiberglass rods and had a cool blog, it seems that an entire industrial giant has risen from the ashes.  You would be hard pressed to find any manufacturer of fly rods now that do not offer glass as an option. There is a huge number of independent guys building glass rods. (and Cameron has a list on his web site).

I have one glass rod.  An old Heddon. Heavy and slow, it seems laborious until you set the hook on a fish.  It is the sexy bend in the rod that captures the imagination.  They are similar to bamboo, yet in a way that is difficult for me to define, they just feel different.  For me, an admitted bamboo lover, I picture the cane rod along side a fedora, a pipe, and wild trout.  With glass, much in part to Cameron, I picture just about any fishing location and attire you can imagine.  They just seem to belong.

When I break out the old Heddon, I am reminded of Virgil Ward.  Perhaps many of you are unfamiliar with Mr. Ward, but he was the first fishing show I ever remember seeing on television, and I recall him being in some rough country on a raging river with a fiberglass fly rod and Martin reel fighting monster rainbows.  Crap like that hangs with you if you have the angling bug.  At least 40 years removed from seeing those old shows, but they still resonate.

Virgil Ward helped make fishing a passion for me.

Much like Cameron Mortenson has generated an interest in glass.

I would love to have a small 4 or 5 wt glass rod...and a three weight as well for my times in the Smokies.  If I ever do pick up one...or both, I think it would be cool if I could get Cameron to autograph it.

After all...he is the one who sparked the interest.

Check out The Fiberglass Manifesto...and join me in the pursuit of glass.


...also ripped this off from Facebook. (Sorry Cameron)


An Anniversary

Hard to believe that Jill and I have been married for 15 years this coming Wednesday.  A heckuva lot of stuff has happened in those years. Four kids. Sickness that just about put me under. Wrecks. Deaths. Disney. (and yes it is intentional that I placed death and Disney together in that particular order)

She has put up with more crap outta me than anyone should have to endure.  I am moody, sometimes brooding, highly opinionated, often the round peg and square hole.  My concept of how life should be lived is so off center of reality at times that it is laughable, and my disdain for most of what people call normal has been an impediment more times than not.

Yet through it all, this woman has stood with me.

She is type A. I don't think they have classified my type yet.

How many hours has this woman put up with my desire to be on the river or in the mountains.  Mornings that she wanted to sleep late and I go lumbering through the house before daylight, dragging fly fishing gear behind me at break neck speed to be the first on the river.  This also is followed by the fact that my noise woke everyone in the house.

She has patiently sat and listened as I tell her about time spent on the water.  What I saw, who I ran into.  She has called me while I am mid cast, and sometimes mid catch, and though some may say that it is intrusive to be on the phone while fishing- I always answer.  This is my Bride, and though I am away from her, I still like hearing her voice.

Jill is so talented and hard working. I on the other hand can be down right lazy at times.  She will be all over the place taking care of whatever needs her attention while all I want to do is find a place to sit and watch the day go by.

Am I lucky? I would like to think I am.

The time we actually get to spend together is rare. With four kids, finding a babysitter is hard, and with their schedules we often speak as we pass and fall asleep mid conversation.

This is where things get good.

Next week.  Two full days in the Smokies together. No kids. No work. No cell signal.

Just me and my Bride.

I can't wait.
My Bride and Elkmont...


The Houseguest

For two or three years now, we have unintentionally provided a nesting area for a Carolina Wren. On the first Spring visit, she built her nest on the top of a refrigerator that we had on our car port, she carefully constructed a safe haven inside a wicker basket that was left over from Easter.  For reasons unknown, she left and the nest stayed vacant for the remainder of the year.  The following Spring, she moved to a storage shelf. Nestled back in the corner, she once again built a home and once again, she left it without returning.  Thinking that she would be back eventually, we left the nest alone.

This year, as the last vestiges of Winter vanished, our little friend returned.  Evidently unsatisfied with her previous dwelling, she built another nest no more than a foot away from the old one.  This nest is right outside the door, so every time we came or left, she would quickly flee to the trees.  At first it was quite startling to leave the house and have a bird appear out of nowhere six inches from your head. Eventually we grew accustomed to it and began stepping to the right side of the stairs which seemed to be enough distance for her to feel safe.  But as time passed, she stopped being frightened of us and some mornings as I left for work I would stop, look in on her, and say good morning.  Our eyes would meet and most of the time she never moved.  This was not a tame bird of course, but I think she finally accepted the fact that we meant her no harm.

Then, for the first time in her many visits, eggs appeared in the nest.  The kids were thrilled to peek in at the tiny ovals no larger than your thumb nail.  I used this as an opportunity to teach them about the way that nature has built in instincts that insure the bird knows what to do without being taught.  I have used this little bird to teach them about stewardship of nature, about how nature is sometimes forced to use what man has made, and how nature will always prevail.

And so...

Yesterday as I came home, I stopped and peered into the shadows of the nest and saw four very bald, very tiny babies teetering.  I ran inside and told the kids and they were ecstatic.  So, with a tiny pin light, I let each of them take turns stepping out the door to look at the new arrivals.  Soon the nonstop chatter of hungry babies will fill that end of our home.  And with each frantic chirp, our family will know that in some part, we have played a part, albeit small, in a large and in many ways, mystical story.

The story of life.