My love for the steelhead, my tribute as an advocate, and my health as a human take me to these places of wilderness and wonderment. The wild places my travels continue to take me, and the people I meet along the way remind me of a day not too long ago.
“Should we just chill out and prep the raft for tomorrow, or do you think we should hit that run right now until dark and deal with it in the morning?”
Frozen waders and boots, feeling brittle as we pack the raft the following day, is the correct answer. The morning brings us the views of the river we will float for the next three days and the incredible wilderness and wildlife we will share as individuals. The following three days lead to no fish for us. We often spoke about how just being there with the opportunity with good friends and taking us out of our daily lives was a good second to handling a fish.
We have come to cherish these places – The Last Best Wild Places – to provide us with income, food, and health. When changing how they are managed for use, it doesn’t matter what your usage is – we all take something away from it.
One cold morning some years back sticks with me to this day, and the pictures in my mind flash brilliant hues of color in a rainy haze of the muted vibrancy of my surroundings.
It’s cold, but it’s not snowing right now, and DannyBoy has wandered off into the brush again. Damn, he will have a ton of burs to pick out later. I’m standing in an un-damned wild river with maybe two or three other people.
I’m spent anyway, and it’s barely time for lunch. The mist of rain fills my lungs as I lean back and take a long look at this run. The memories. The unique features of each fish I handled today and the couple that came unbuttoned.
Chrome with blushes of red and deep greens with shimmering opalescent scales filtered through water set against the hues of the riverbed. The green grasses set against the hexagonal basalt twitch in the breeze. The river rolls on, and I just had the steelheading day of my life. Swinging flies and going five for seven in less than an hour will rank up with my first surface take by the fantastic steelhead.
As much as I love this place for the memories it could hold for me in the future, I’m visiting and talking about this place less and less to folks. I’ve even recently tossed around the idea of writing a letter to either close it or make regulation changes for its future.
These Last Best Wild Places deserve protection/propagation plans; perhaps I can’t target them on this river. Well, as an angler – I’m okay with that. I would rather have that opportunity by putting up a few restrictions so I could try to do it again.
If I proposed that regulation be you cannot take steelhead of this particular out of the water – would they listen? The Commissioners, staff, directors, and those who manage these resources. Will they even read my letter?
Who cares if they do? I took this moment to honor each strong jaw, each ferocious run, every leap, their grit and survivability through a portfolio effect that touches all of us in some way.