Friday, October 12, 2018

Indigenous Fishes

Editor's note: Tradition has always been a common thread on this blog. The following guest post is a fine example of that, as Aaron Swanson details a unique camping and fishing trip that he and Tommy Baranowski have been going on the same weekend for years. They both captured great images that help tell the story.

Some friends and I make an annual overnight trip on Columbus Day weekend.  We hike into the wilderness and camp near a small blue line on a map, a stream far from any paved roads or signs of human development. 

I wonder what the mountain stream we fish each year on the weekend named for the fabled, if not modernly controversial, explorer looked like at the time he first stepped foot in America Hispaniola. If I had to guess, the river and its inhabitants look very much as they do today.  It isn’t the fish or the stream that has changed, but the humans that live in the area.  It is a tired point, but valid, that since European settlers colonized the place we call home the landscape has changed drastically. Much of our environment has been altered to the point where the kinds of life that once thrived here can no longer do so.  This remote mountain stream and its inhabitants are special. They have largely escaped the consequences wrought by discovery, exploration and settlement that create our shared history.

The point of this story is not to dissect the past.  Instead it is to share the enjoyment of being able to take what feels like a step back into it. The boulders and gorges that outline and dictate the flow of the stream seem so permanent.  We hop across them and find in their pools the fish that bring us to such a wild place.

Mind you, during this hike, we enjoy plenty of modern day comforts.  What started out years ago as a bare-bones hike and overnight fishing trip has, as many traditions tend to do, grown a bit more extravagant over the years.  The quality of the food and beverage we pack in has increased sharply. Yet the core of the trip remains the same; the trail, the scenery, that noticeable start of the change of the season, the fishing, the bullshitting, the laughs and the quiet remain the real draw.

A neat thing about a tradition like this one is the variety of conditions you get to observe at a familiar place as the years pass.  This year we have been blessed with plenty of rain to fill our streams, reservoirs and water table. The stream this year was full, and it made for better scenery and fishing than found in prior years when low water made the stream but a trickle.

The fish seemed energized, they were healthy and bright in hand and quick to take our flies in the water.   The fishing was fun.  If you looked at a spot that looked like it held fish, it did.

As we prepared for this year’s trip, we agreed that this little overnight has become something we look forward to and cherish. It has a special feel. Much of it can be hard to adequately describe, but can be easily seen in the pictures we take to remember each individual year. As fall is now fully upon us I’m thankful I could spend another night in one of the most beautiful places found within our state’s borders. I take comfort knowing that not much has changed here and that each year we can mark the passage of time by paying a visit to one of our state’s most beautiful indigenous fishes.