I began my Earth Day 2023 celebration at 4:15 am. Setting the navigation to Central Pennsylvania, I was excited to spend hours fishing and giving myself the chance to hook into some larger fish. There was a chance of severe thunderstorms later in the afternoon, but with an early start I would be able to have four to five hours on the river. 

As an Environmental Scientist, I think about conservation, preservation and restoration daily, but Earth Day holds a significant place in my heart. I have participated in tree planting, stream clean ups, roadside clean ups, and fish passage culvert assessments for Earth Day. Yesterday, my celebration was to enjoy time on a stream I haven’t fished before. Appreciating a beautiful setting and working toward one of my 2023 goals seemed like a great way to spend the day. 

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson established the first Earth Day in 1970. Eight years after Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, one year after the Cuyahoga River fire, and two years before the passage of the Clean Water Act, Senator Nelson initiated an annual event to bring awareness to environmental protection. Massive improvements to environmental health have occurred in the last 53 years, but far more work is needed. Without actions like those undertaken by Senator Nelson, there would likely be fewer trout streams to fish, and I would likely have not had a career as an environmental scientist. Streams like Spring Creek and the Little Juniata in Pennsylvania, protected by the Clean Water Act, were restored and rejuvenated to the elite fisheries they are today. 

Bright Red Tail on a Striking Brown Trout

As I arrived at the river, the parking lot was full. I assumed that other anglers had similar ideas as me. Later I realized that a boy scout trout was gathering to spend the morning on a kayak and canoe trip down the river, as I recognized two scout leaders from the parking lot as they passed me on the river.  I was a little frustrated as I caught two fish minutes prior to their approach, and I feared the loud, splashing boys may spook the fish feeding near me. My grumpiness was quickly dissipated as I saw they were carrying bags to collect trash as they floated the river. Their Earth Day celebration was far more charitable than mine. I smiled and sat on the bank to appreciate the effort of the boy scouts and to rest the pool for a bit.

A Beautiful Morning on the River

Over four hours, I explored a few thousand feet of the new stream and caught nine fish, losing several others. A kingfisher passed me a few times on his rounds. I was reminded how lucky I am to be able to spend time in the amazing natural resources of our area. It was a wonderful morning. Early in the afternoon, clouds were moving quickly and gathering into fierce formations to the west, framing out a picturesque sky mirroring the beauty of the stream channel. Sparse raindrops were beginning to fall, so I took that as a sign of the intense storms to follow and I headed to the truck.       

Storms Rolling In

Driving home, the storms set in, and I was glad I was off the water with the intense rain pelting my truck. With climate change and continued development our natural resources are under constant stress, including from increased intense storm events. In Maryland 75% of the streams are rated fair to very poor. Urbanization, channelization, nutrient runoff, acid mine drainage, invasive plant and aquatic species, poor bank stability, no riparian buffers, dissolved oxygen depletion, and spikes of conductivity reduce water quality of our streams. Without actions like those undertaken by Boy Scouts and others, our natural resources will be degraded. As people who enjoy the outdoors, we need to continue to work towards the goals Senator Nelson brought attention to 53 years ago. Let’s work to make sure we can continue to say, “Happy Earth Day”.

Keep Mending…

One Reply to “A Fly Angler’s Celebration of Earth Day”

  1. After lunch with a friend, I napped during the storm but did watch some BBC shows on the environment! Fascinating!
    I also watched a PBS show about Gloria Estefan getting the Gerswin Award! Also enjoyable !
    I love that you went to a new location and that you saw young people helping out!
    I would be glad to be part of a clean-up or tree planting! Let me know!

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