Not too very long ago Henry David Thoreau wrote a short quip that goes as follows, "In Wildness is the preservation of the World". If what Thoreau said is true then the preservation of the World seems horribly in trouble. From the air we breath to the land we walk upon to the rivers we fish and find our souls in; all are losing their battles to preserve their essential wildness. What troubles me the most is that nobody seems to care. As an American fly angler and traveler I set out on a multi-year tour in a 30 ft motor-home called "River Gypsy" to seek out and fish the most beautiful wild rivers of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. Basically, I wanted to see for myself what was going on and to fish my way through the best (or worst) of it.
"An undisturbed river is as perfect a thing as we will ever know..." ~ Thomas McGuane
I'm hardly the first. The true great fly-fishers and river explorers that come to mind are Roderick Haig-Brown (1908 - 1976) and Ernest G. Schwiebert (1931–2005). They are each in their unique way my hero's and have been for decades. Each wrote not only of the successes and trials of their fishing, but also of the beauty of the lands and the rivers they visited and their romances with them. As archetypical traveling fishermen they were The First of Us and the rivers they fished world-wide were still essentially wild.
Here's my first impression to date: In the wildness of my eyes I've seen the worrisome and persistent drought of southern Texas and New Mexico. I've seen rivers bottled up with massive earthen dams to create muddy reservoirs for irrigation; the rivers and their hundreds of tributaries now utterly dry. I've seen rivers and lakes stocked with fish that never belonged there. But worst of all, I've seen the usual assortment of pop bottles and beer cans along the shorelines of otherwise breathtakingly beautiful streams. Too many. What brings anyone's mind to think 'this wild place is the perfect spot to throw my garbage' is beyond me.
I'm hopeful I'll yet see and fish beautiful, wild rivers on my journey. But what if I don't? What will become of us when the last pristine river is polluted, it's clean, cold crystalline liquid now colored and brown and warm, it's life smothered by silt, neglect and beer cans? Will we stop fishing altogether? With fly rod in hand each of us still have a chance to connect with, confirm and celebrate the one all-important need that we share with Thoreau - that wild places still exist. Do it now. When the end of beauty comes, will it take with it the last of us? - WES:::