I am walking alone along the deep green canyons of a lush coastal rain forest and while I should have felt joy at being here and enjoying the beauty of this river all I felt was discouragement and sadness.
I should have felt lucky to be able to fly fish in this pristine place but I just couldn't feel that way.
As I watched the multiple aquatic insect hatches of the evening I should have seen the surface of this small coastal river come alive with trout rises but there were none.
The coastal cutthroat trout that I sought were not there! In the early season I should have had several hook ups but all I could manage was a few hatchery smolt.
So who is to blame for dismal early coastal trout season? I am of course and so are you!
It would be easy to blame ODFW for their mismanagement of this wild trout population but who was it that sat by silently while this state agency appointed incompetent people to be stewards of these wild trout? We did!
It would also be easy to blame profiteering internet fishing forum owners who made money off of these wild trout but gave nothing back but who is it that populates these personality cult forums and send money to them? In the past I certainly did and I'll bet a few of you did too!
I've gotten a few "atta boys" for my work last year in trying to stave off a wild coastal trout. It did wonders for my ego but in reality someone should have said "Hey Shane, where the hell were you 15 years ago when we started to see the demise of these trout?" That would have no doubt offended me at the time but in reality I would have had nothing to say.
When I first came to the Pacific Northwest some 36 years ago I was rabid to catch as many fish as I could. I was obsessed with it and thought the notion of conservation and especially catch and release were for nut jobs like Bill Bakke.
Little did I realize that all these years later I would admire Bill as a pioneer in wild salmonid conservation.
I would bet that even a man like Bill Bakke would say he wishes he could do more.
I was perfectly satisfied with killing my limit of salmon or steelhead and thought little of the warning signs that the enlightened folks of the time were telling us about.
So here we are in 2009 and our cold water fisheries are in serious and quite possibly irreversible trouble!
We didn't do enough when all this damage could have at least been slowed and because of our apathy we are where we are today. Face it folks we blew it! I think I can safely speak for all of us in saying that. We can take a bit of satisfaction in knowing we did realize what was happening to our fisheries but was it too late?
I can't say except there is damage that cannot undone all I know is I waited too long to get involved. Are you involved? Did you wait too long?
Folks I would like to be optimistic about the future of our wild salmonids but reality is a harsh mistress and it cannot let me be hopeful.
Can we, at least, sustain what we have and avert further damage? Absolutely we can but it should not take an old fool like me to motivate.
Look around and see what needs to be done! Attend meetings and make your voice heard!
Bitching about the lack of fish to catch on an internet forum will do nothing.
If you have the means to support groups like Trout Unlimited or Native Fish Society then please do so.
The bottom line is, and I've said it before, apathy will kill more fish than any incompetent fish and wild life biologist, gill netter or hydroelectric dam will.
By doing nothing we become nothing more than enablers.