|Can't fish here anymore...|
I've heard all the arguments about why landowners are wrong for posting their property. However, the simple truth is that most of them have pretty damn good reasons for doing, and if it was my land I probably would have done it a lot sooner. Maybe that makes me an asshole, but if so, then I guess that's just the way it is. If you've fished around our area for a while you've also heard about lots of half-hearted efforts to restore access, change the laws, and give the fishery back to the people. Admittedly, I shouldn't be one to criticize. I've participated in some stream clean-ups, but I don't belong to any clubs, and would never say that I've participated in a "grassroots movement" to bring the water back to the hordes of greedy anglers all looking to get tight to a big, sloppy trout.
|This was one of the aforementioned big, sloppy trout.|
Being young and on a tight budget doesn't lend itself to charitable donations or paying for club memberships; being an angler doesn't lend itself to being overly generous with your fishing holes either. Looking at it all now, my conservation efforts have been pretty selfish. I pick up the trash that I find when I'm out fishing the places I like to fish and don't leave behind any of my own. Instead of lobbying for the rights of the masses, I knock on doors with the intention of finding places to escape them. I guess with the way things are Ohio now that's kind of what you need to do if you want to have a place left to fish in solitude on a Saturday.
|Survival of the friendliest? To the talker go the spoils?|
There are lots of days where I think that if all of us were a little more selfish we wouldn't have this problem. The last thing I want to see when I walk down the bank is a plastic bag, a cigarette butt, spawn sack netting (sorry to all you bait chuckers out there - I couldn't resist the opportunity), or any other trash in a place where I go largely because this sort of stuff doesn't belong there. So I pick up what I find, and hope that at the end of the day I made it nicer for the next time I come back.
By this point you're all probably wonder what could possibly have set me off on this when nobody has been fishing our streams for the past six weeks, so here it is. The states that have high-water-mark have always had a special place in my heart. I just think there's something really cool about a state who's citizens, landowners, and government value the rights of a sportsman so much that they fight to protect them and provide them with the freedom and ability to pursue the hobbies and passions that they have.
Montana was one of those states, but that is currently in jeopardy. For those of you who don't know me very well, I've spent a lot of time in Wyoming and Montana since I was very young. It’s where half of my family is from, where my grandfather first taught me to fly fish and tie flies, and now I’m drawn back there to continue those things - but also to guide and to share that experience with others. Every summer when I return it feels like I’m home - coming back to a place where the air is cleaner, the water clearer, and the fish more plentiful and willing to take a dry fly with no regard for their own well-being. It’s the birthplace of my passion, where exposure to fly fishing started me on a trip that hasn’t ended, and I doubt ever will.
|Big brown trout, and being able to fit in while wearing a sweet 'stache builds Montana's case as one of the greatest places to fish in this country.|
After you become a licensed guide in Montana, the next thing you do is join F.O.A.M - the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana. It's a good group - they do their best to protect the rights of their members, to provide a certain degree of quality control in the guiding industry, and to keep the folks involved in the business informed about things happening in government that might matter to them. The other day, this email from F.O.A.M. arrived in my inbox:
House Bill 309 is an attempt to modify Stream Access Law by redefining the term 'ditch'. Remember that recreational use of water in a ditch without landowner permission is prohibited in current stream access law. HB309 has two key points that FOAM opposes:
1) A live, flowing braid or channel can be defined as a ditch if there is any kind of control structure at the head of the live channel, including 'natural features incorporated into the water conveyance system';
2) Recreational access is available only with landowner's permission on water bodies created at least in part by waters diverted from a natural water body where the diverted water is the principal source of water in the water body - think about low flows in August and September and the many Montana rivers and streams with side channels and braids that have diversion structures on them where return flow could be considered the 'principle source of water' in the river or stream.
#2 above could potentially turn side-channels of rivers, streams, and possibly whole rivers into ditches where recreational use is allowed only with landowner permission. The bill was 'heard' on second reading yesterday in the House and passed by a vote of 55 Yes, 44 No. It will face a similar vote today and probably pass by another close vote..."
For most of you, this will never matter. But for me, and for lots of other anglers - it might - and that's a shame. There's always lots of jargon and vague wording involved in stuff like this, but the bottom line is pretty simple. If this passes, there's likely a lot of places that anglers won't be able to fish anymore.
|This is no "ditch", but parts of this stream might be classified as one if this bill goes through.|