“Well I tried to fake it. I don’t mind sayin’. I just can’t make it.” -America
(Public service announcement for non-70’s music aficionados: “Horse with No Name” was recorded by America, although often mistaken for Neil Young. Quoted here is the slightly less famous “Sister Golden Hair” which you may wish to revisit or discover for its pandemic fighting vibe).
It seems that fishing, and fly fishing, is all the rage at this point in our new pandemic reality. I can attest that the recent crowds at the Swift River seem to bear that out.
Arriving early on a weekday this week, I found plenty of space early on. A strange sensation soon crept in when the anglers seemed to multiply every time I looked up. It reminded me of animals in the pasture in Pennsylvania when, while studying stream restoration projects across that state, I learned something of the ways of cows. They would never be looking directly at you, but every time you looked up, they would be a few steps closer. When I did a double take at the fourth angler to wade in below me, I reeled up to take a break for lunch.
It’s not so much the individual anglers that are a problem; I can report only positive direct interactions with people on the river over the past year. One nice fellow I chatted with that day lamented the crowds on the river, saying that he didn’t mind, except when he found people “fishing in my spot.”
We got along fine, and I offered him the run. Afterward I couldn’t help feeling that I was the one in his spot this day. I was exploring new water as I assumed that the places I typically haunt would be too crowded.
It all builds to a point where you start to feel a bit sorry for the fish, with them getting pounded with flies and waders at a rate even more than what they have had to put up with in the past. The 20” rainbow I found in the “in between” water with the impossible lie in slack current behind a dead branch did not seem concerned with these types of large matters. That trout showed no concern for my small flies either, so maybe he was not the best barometer.
In a general sense, I am glad that so many people are taking advantage of having the time or are making the time to be active outside. Rivers and lakes are not alone, as trails, campgrounds, and even RV parks have seen big increases in recreational users.
A family friend was excited to become a new boat owner after many months of talking to dealers with no inventory. After finally purchasing a used boat two states away, they struggled to find a boat trailer to transport it. I hold out hope that this use will increase awareness of the value of our natural world and the need to plan and set aside natural areas for recreation and to preserve their many benefits to society.
It does, however, all feed into a general sense of unease that human nature leads us (some, all, most, only when no one else is looking?) to behaviors that destroy our environment. Whether it is loving a resource to death through overuse, neglecting it to suffocation with discarded nip bottles or trucks full of road salt, or outright obliterating it with a new “Whispering Brook Condominiums.”
“Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care?” -America
One place that needs care right now is the Red Brook Watershed in Wareham, MA. The Southeast Trout Unlimited Chapter has worked on restoring Red Brook for 30 years, spending tens of thousands of volunteer hours and more than $4 million to achieve a true restoration success story.
Red Brook has been restored to the point where sea run “salter” brook trout have returned and complete their life cycle in both the fresh water of Red Brook and saltwater, just like they did historically in many coastal MA streams.
Currently, there is a proposal to update the zoning for 963 acres of land adjacent to the Red Brook Wildlife Management Area and Red Brook. You can read more specific information in this letter posted on the Southeast MA TU page.
In short, this zoning change will literally pave the way for hotels, casinos, race tracks, commercial space, and roads. The Wareham planning board voted 3-1 in February to approve the change. The next step is that it will go before a town vote on April 10th.
How can you help? Southeast MA Trout Unlimited is not standing idly by, and they have set up several ways for you to pitch in. You can stand up and speak out for Salter Brook Trout by participating in Waders for Wareham events on March 27th and April 3rd. If you cannot show up in person consider making a donation to the cause to help purchase signage, placards, and disseminating information. Although just launched this fundraiser is off to a booming start.
If the town voters decide more development is the best thing for their town, that is certainly their prerogative. But those that are deciding should be made aware that there is a cost to this development with significant impacts to their environmental resources, such as their drinking water sources, the health of their streams, brook trout and many other endangered species, and the character of their community.
Thankfully, Red Brook is not a stream with no name. I am hopeful that the past year will help more people become active in protecting natural resources. We have taken more time to appreciate them recently, and we have the power to preserve them if we show we care.
Our natural spaces provide us with many benefits. Clean water. Clean air. And, like the theme of “Horse with No Name,” the power to provide us all a place to “get away from life’s confusion into a quiet, peaceful place.” This applied in the 1970s, still applies in the 2020s, and will apply in all times ahead.
“And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead.” -America