Early June 2017/Barbarians at the Gate, Angels at the Door

Im by all rights a populist.  Im for the little man, and in any given opportunity always pull for the underdog.  I come from hearty, but less than desirable,  stock of Ulster Scotts, or as they are known in these parts, Scott’s Irish.   So it should come as no surprise that I feel a kinship with the people, the peasant, the unwashed masses. Hell, as I sit here writing this now I am wearing a shirt with an American Flag on the back and the words PUBLIC LAND OWNER scrawled in bold type across the front

Yet as I drove the length of the Davidson River on a warm Sunday afternoon I began to betray myself.  I swore curses at the swimmers, tubers, pic-nickers, sight seers, looky-loos, the something for nothing crowd cramming their oversized pickups and min-vans into already over filled parking at the recreation areas.  I lit into a diatribe about “the Wal-Mart” crowd and The Tragedy of the Commons. 

“Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” ― Garret Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons

I tried them all in absentia, and brought forth before the court I was currently holding in my mind, damning evidence of discarded baby diapers, unquenched fire pits, and vehicles parked on grass.  I demonstrated to the court my value, worth, and special consideration as one who funds all of this by his land use fees, license fees, and excise taxes on his gear through the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950.  Why, I begged of the court, was I ( a contributing citizen) being excluded from the river and the land by virtue of over use stemming from those who contribute nothing. 

I continued to prosecute this case over the course of the next few days.  I brought it up to anyone who would listen.  Most of the time was spent preaching to the choir of fellow hunters and fishermen, only seeking a “hear hear” or an “Amen” from the already indoctrinated crowd.  I viewed them as my hand picked jury from which I could easily garner a conviction, though lacking any authority to pass a final judgment.

It wasn’t until I began to lay my case before a non-hunter/non-fisherman, local tree hugging artist, who takes her kids to play in the river and loves the idea of tubing down a trout stream on a hot summer afternoon, that I began to reconsider my position.  She listened quietly and patiently as I ranted and raved about litter, and the lack of access.  How I was unable to use the land and water that I had helped to preserve.  How these soft-bodied, video game playing, day-time TV watching, hamburger and ice cream cone eating day trippers were ruining what was supposed to be a quiet, meditative place, where fish rise and men cast away their troubles.   When I was done, or maybe I had simply stopped to take a breath, she smiled and asked of me a simple question.  

“So, are you going to divorce me if I take the kids tubing this summer?”

Well, shit.

After some thought I began to see more clearly my hypocrisy, and my error.  I had sunk into an elitist me and mine hole that I was digging with intense fervor.  I was looking at this thing all wrong.  I could really care less about the economics of the whole thing.  I’ve never been motivated by money. One only need to consider my choice of career to demonstrate this point.  The reason I was so upset was not the expenditure of my fees and taxes on picnic tables and restrooms. It was the lack of reverence being demonstrated, and the reason for that lack should have been perfectly clear if I had taken a moment to think.  I was there mid-day, on a weekend, in June. 

Somewhere in these Southern United States is a small baptist church, painted white, with a modest steeple and the most pious of congregations.  Their pastor is a kind, patient, long suffering, man of god.  He dispenses wisdom and shepherds this gracious flock from the position of a servant.  No where else on earth is the embodiment of their lord and savior more perfectly demonstrated.  They meet on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings to hear the gospel and sing praises to their lord. 

But without a doubt on Tuesday afternoon a drug deal went down in the parking lot of that church. In that same lot, on a cool fall Friday night, after the local high-school football game, a mid-90’s model pickup truck with a cheap lift kit and oversized tires sits lights out and windows fogged. Its occupants engaged in behavior that would certainly be consider by the members of the church to be a mortal sin.  For church is only in session when the congregation is present. Only then do angels descend from their high perch to spread their wings over the worshipers below laid prostrate in the presence of their all mighty.  Only then does this holy place truly exist. 

And so it is with the river.

It’s the height of summer now and mid-day has been given over to the casual user group. The mystery and fear of that which is beyond us occurs early in the morning fog.  The time of reverence is now the first few hours of light. The forest wakes each morning clean and new as if some overnight blood sacrifice had been laid upon an unknown ancient alter of stone, somewhere between Daniels Ridge and Dolly’s Ice Cream shop. 

If you are headed to the river this time of year make it a 6 to 9 kind of day.  Nymph fishing is very productive in the first hour or two with mayfly and caddis patterns both producing well.  A Pheasant Tail Nymph in a size 16, with an 18 or 20 Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle as a dropper, are producing well.  When the sun burns away the fog and dries the tops of the trees look for a short but productive fall of spinners from the midnight hatch.  Caddis, Blue Wings, and small Sulphurs have been returning to lay eggs around 8:30.  Watch closely as the rises will be careful and quiet with just a sip or kiss of the water in a back eddy, near the edge of a current or rock wall.  After the heat of the day sets in, if you still have the water to yourself (a week day possibility), switch to terrestrials.  Ants, beetles, and inchworms are out and a Fat Albert or Texas Piss Ant are go to patterns.  A slight breeze will increase your chances with the terrestrial fishing.  If you find yourself on the river in the PM 6 to 9 hours, begin with your terrestrials just as the crowds are leaving, but expect slow going until about the last 30 minutes of light.  The evening spinner fall and subsequent rise will begin just as the summer sun dips behind Cold Mountain, and the light begins to fade.

Peace be with you…