This stream, in the upper Genesee River watershed of New York, does not yet have any public fishing rights, as far as I know, but folks are working to make a change.
A truck pulled beside me as I prepared to fish on a cold and snowy day in early April.
The bearded passenger, sitting shotgun in the truck, rolled down his window and said, “Hey, I don’t have any posted signs here, but I don’t want guys fishing near the house. I’ve had people throwing shit into my yard and leaving it there for me.”
He didn’t seem to remember that we talked a couple of years before. It had been on a cool October day, the final day of the regular New York trout season, and the old guy had thought the fishing season was closed. He thought that maybe I was poaching near his place, at one of the few easy access points along the creek. We had a brief but good discussion that October day.
“Are you a veteran?” he inquired. It was the same question he had asked on our first meeting. Then, as now, two large flags waved prominently in his yard.
“No,” I answered. “I’m not a veteran but I’m a landowner, and I understand your concerns about discourteous guys who trash your yard and property… I make it a point of picking up a few pieces of garbage every time I fish, no matter where I am. If there’s something we don’t need, it’s an idiot who trashes the land and water and makes it difficult for everyone else who cares.”
Goddamnit, I was sounding kind of holy on a Sunday morn! But I meant it. The landowner and the driver of the truck sat with heads nodding agreeably, as if to a sermon on the mount, and saying something like, “Yeah, you go fish, and have a good one. You don’t need to be a veteran to fish here.”
For a few moments I felt… ambassadorial… to a creek. Not in any regal or important sense, like Uncle Ben Franklin chosen to represent a young America in Europe, but in a simple, everyday fashion, as if speaking for an understated trout stream.
I was feeling good, as on a recent occasion when I saw my book, River’s Edge, among some very good literary company, photographed by South African blogger, Trutta. Thanks for that, Andrew! (See photo below).
I thanked the fellows in the truck and slid down to a cold, full-flowing creek still rimmed with ice. Maybe I could find some new experience worthy of the stories told in my fly-fishing book. But I was tired of the heavily fluctuating weather conditions, of tropical warmth followed by frigid temperatures, etc., as almost everyone seemed to be these days. I waded carefully among Chenunda’s icy holes and rocky edges.
Thanks to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the fishing regulations here were changed about six months ago. They changed from a regular six-month open season to one that doesn’t close, including a no-kill, artificials-only regulation existing for the months of October through March.
I was feeling a little guilty for not yet fishing the stream in the coldest months, but I had reasons for being reluctant and taking it easy, no doubt like some of the landowners along the creek. (I might have been dreaming of an upcoming visit to St. Croix, photo by Alyssa Franklin).
The DEC had posted the new regs along the creek, but I figured that a few landowners might need time to adapt. The creek needs public fishing rights along its banks. Trout Unlimited and other interested parties are being asked by state officials to talk it up with landowners in the hope of eventually buying public access.
I went fishing on Chenunda, pretty sure that I had been a good ambassador for public recreation.
A hefty brown trout answered my wishes and fought me to the bank. I took its photo as if a trout’s image could be a word of thanks for what I’d done.
I was sitting here, composing on computer, thinking about what it feels like to be… ambassadorial… when the phone rang. I answered it. I don’t have Caller I.D. If I had known that a young male caller would identify himself (with a heavy Indian accent) as representing “Windows,” to give an urgent plea to fix my computer before it crashed and took the whole damned country down with it, I wouldn’t have answered the ring tone with “Hello.”
I’d have been a real ambassador for everything good and sacred in the blogosphere. Instead of saying, “Hold it, man; you say you’re from Windows and my computer is about to blow, but Windows doesn’t call me or anybody when the ship goes down. This is bullshit, and you know it!” No, I wouldn’t have talked to him like that if I had known beforehand who was calling.
I would have answered with, “Hello, you’re on the Air!”
I would have listened to him capsize and go silent, as he went when I reamed him out with my tutorial.
That’s what I plan to do the next time “Windows” comes to my rescue, if I can guess correctly on the call. Then I might feel more like a veteran of the social wars, and perhaps a little closer to old Ben Franklin, too.