With all the uncertainty following the election this week, I was feeling some elevated tension. I noticed my tone was chippy, and I was feeling worn down. To clear my head from the stress, I went to a local stream recently stocked by my local Trout Unlimited chapter. The weather was fantastic, and I was happy to be outside.
The stream is in a neighborhood park where residents go to walk dogs, run, and hike along the stream. It’s not quite the peaceful solitude and natural setting of many of the trout streams I typically fish, but it has a nice energy and newly stocked fish. I prefer fishing for wild trout, but there is a nice feeling about the “sure thing” feeling around stockers. Feeling the tug of a flush and feeling success in netting a fish was what I needed. Within a few minutes of arriving at the stream, I found some good spots and tried my usual egg and mop fly drifts, but no takes. I switched over to a jig-headed wooly bugger, and I started to hook and land some nice rainbows. It was turning into a great afternoon.
After an hour out on the stream, several kids from the neighborhood started to join me fishing on the stream. They were energetic and fun to talk with. One young man had a fly rod and a net and was catching fish with a prince nymph under an indicator. He was a good caster and knowledgeable about fly fishing. I ran into another group of boys who were fishing the pools, and they seemed energized to be fishing. I saw lots of smiles.
I moved upstream to the largest pool. I looked down from the trail and saw an accordioned-out tackle box and a young boy, maybe ten years old, sitting with his feet hanging over a large rock. I asked him if he had caught any fish, and he looked up and replied, “Two nice rainbow trout!” with a huge smile on his face. He said there were lots of fish in this pool, and I was welcome to fish with him. He was very talkative. He told me how it was stressful to have virtual school and that his household was “blowing up” about the election, so that he was looking forward to being outside. He told me that his Mom saw the stocking posted on Facebook and that he was excited to fish once she told him about it. He caught his first fish last June on a trip to New York with his family, and since then, he has planned trips to go camping and fishing, made a list of all the fish he wanted to catch, and got a tackle box and a few rods/reels as presents for holidays/birthdays. He had been researching online about different fish species and places to go.
Thank you to Trout Unlimited. The stocking completed by the chapter is very important for these kids and fosters their connection to the outdoors, fishing, and streams/water quality. It makes a difference for the kids in this neighborhood. And it helped me remember the joy of exploring a stream as a kid; it was an uplifting conversation for me.
Being outside and catching a fish was what I was looking for as a break from the noise, stress, and glaring hypocrisy of our current political environment. But what really made the afternoon a joy for me was the reminder of experiencing streams and fishing as a kid with friends. There was strategy, teamwork, laughter, encouragement, and joy. That may be what we all need right now.