With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees across the region, people look for activities to cool down, have fun and stay safe. Airport runways have been melting and forest fires are spreading in the United Kingdom. Being outside can be hazardous in high heat. One of the favorite pastimes for folks who want to be outside in nature in the dead of summer in Maryland is tubing on the Gunpowder River. Fly anglers who fish the blue-ribbon fishery will often plan their outings to be off the water before the “tube hatch”.
I know fly fishing has a reputation for being snotty or elitist, but most fly anglers I know and have met understand that our natural resources must be shared with others who wish to enjoy time outside. Fly anglers also spend time and money to protect and preserve our natural resources for others and future generations to share. I have not heard of any direct conflicts between tubers, kayakers and anglers, but it does appear that large crowds drawn to the river cause impacts.
In the last several years, lawsuits have been held over private companies establishing services to transport tubers and rent tubes. Residents have met with politicians to enact new parking and traffic policies, increase fines, and increase monitoring. Areas open to parking for occasional hikers, bikers, and anglers were overrun by large crowds creating unsafe conditions, illegally consuming alcohol, and leaving trash behind. This strain led officials to close these parking areas and issue large fines to those who illegally park or break laws.
In college, I loved to tube on the New River near Blacksburg, Virginia. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends and having a beverage while floating slowly down the river. But I always cleaned up my mess. This weekend I got out on the river early Saturday morning to beat the heat and avoid the “tube hatch”. I fished a reach I don’t go to very often and I was alarmed by trash that was left in the parking area (Heineken boxes, several different beer cans). There was only one other car in the lot and as I was rigging up my rod, two gentlemen pulled up with two kayaks. After a nice conversation with them, I headed upstream to fish.
As I walked down the point bar to the edge of the stream, I scanned for the water I wanted to fish first. I was looking for a good location to stand and cast to a fishy looking spot. Instead, I saw an abandoned and flattened tube. It bothered me. I tried to dislodge the tube from the logs and boulders it was wrapped around. I couldn’t get it loose on my own. I decided I would find a time to come back with a shovel and knife to remove it. I shook my head and fished for about an hour until I walked up on another abandoned tube, the same brand and coloration. This tube I was able to remove from the stream and carry out to my car. I disposed of it properly. Thanks to Backwater Angler for letting me use their dumpster. In the next couple weeks, I’ll head back and get the other tube.
At the risk of sounding preachy, I wanted to remind everyone to care for our resources and do our part to “leave no trace” when enjoying time in our natural resources. I believe that the more people who enjoy time spent on the river, the more stewards are created to protect those resources for the future. But seeing the large trash left behind by tubers made me question that belief. I appreciate that it is fun to relax and float the river, but please don’t change the “Tube Hatch” into the “Tube Trash”.