I stand on the porch of my office and listen to the wind push through the trees. But it is not the wind — it is the sound of traffic on the interstate, and it has been rising over the years I have lived in Truckee. This change, while disappointing, is hardly a surprise. The West continues to attract those who seek something more than could be found where they were from. California’s towns grow into cities, and our cities become metropolitan areas. Valleys and mountains suburbanize.
“Too many people in all the wrong places” is a common complaint from residents of rural communities experiencing the pressures of growth or tourism. But the reverse of that coin is that these visitors, these movers-in, are perhaps, through their interactions with California’s wildlands, initiating or deepening an appreciation for a natural world that adds immeasurably to their lives. In essence, they may evolve into conservationists, environmentalists — advocates whose voices will push for protection and restoration. The trick is in achieving this benefit while also assuring that the quality of one’s interaction with nature does not diminish because of too many people who similarly seek elemental enlightenment.
If fly fishing requires solitude to maximize enjoyment, then every person who takes up the sport has the capacity to reduce the quality of our experience. Yet every person who takes up the sport is a potential ally in the ongoing struggle to protect the places we fish. One approach toward resolving this dilemma is to spread ourselves out, exploring and fishing unfamiliar waters or for unfamiliar species.
Another solution is to create great places to fish, which is harder to accomplish, but it does occur. Degraded streams and lakes can be restored, angling regulations tightened to sustain populations of fish, and even dams torn down. These actions, though, take time and persuasion, which in turn means political activity. Clearly, the more people engaged in such activity, the greater the potential for success.
Truckee is no longer the small town I moved to, and the spots I want to fish are often occupied by other anglers. But I will not begrudge their presence. They are experiencing something special. I know they will appreciate that tug on their line, if they are lucky or skillful enough to attain it. Perhaps they will appreciate, too, the birds that flicker through the willows, the myriad colors of the grasses beside the river, the changing quality of light as the sun rises and falls, the sound of the wind as it pushes through the trees. Perhaps they will fight.
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