I had a good conversation with a couple of friends over the weekend about the difference between hunters and anglers, and why it’s important for Trout Unlimited to engage with the hunting community, particularly when it comes to keeping our most productive backcountry habitat intact.
Here’s my logic: Fishermen are wanderers. We are the dilettantes of the sporting world, always seeking something new, something different… something unique. Hunters, on the other hand, have very intimate connections with specific landscapes. They return, year after year, to the same camp, and they hunt the same hills for birds or big game. They go with their fathers, their sons and daughters and eventually their grandchildren to the very same place. They truly get to know the country, from every hidden canyon to landmark trees to the best stream crossings to the best meadows likely to hold a bull elk at first light and good grass for the stock in the afternoon.
In my opinion, that’s why hunters are so important to TU’s efforts to protect iconic landscapes in the United States. Hunters are the experts when it comes to the land and the magic it possesses. For the most part, anglers merely appreciate the beauty of a single place, and then we’re off to find beauty elsewhere.
Now, there are exceptions to every rule. Last weekend, I attended my local Safari Club chapter banquet, and these guys get all geeked about far-flung hunts in places like Namibia or the steppes of Mongolia. And while they occasionally make these hunts happen, simple economics keep these hunters home most years. And most years, they hunt the same unit because that’s what they know so well. They love the “home place.”
Anglers, too, have favorite streams, or even favorite sections of streams, but the nature of our craft makes it easy to look to the horizon and wonder what swims in the hidden creeks the next drainage over. It’s easy to pull out the gazetteer, follow a blue line on the map with our finger and then be there the very same day, fly rod in hand and a taste of wanderlust on our tongues.
As I said, we wander. I’m living proof.
Over the years, I’ve managed finagle a host of fishing trips to far-flung places, and in just a couple of weeks, I’m making my first trip to the Bahamas to chase bonefish. It’s a trip I’ve long dreamed about, and dreams and fishermen go together like peanut butter and jelly.
So it’s no wonder that, as I scanned the pages of Midcurrent this morning, I became enamored with yet another destination. The video below had me making travel plans and maxing out the credit card (again). Thankfully, restraint got the best of me (for now).
And, when it’s not some distant lake in the remote Argentinian outback, it’s a hidden north woods river burgeoning with grayling, or a Gulf Coast flat where redfish lurk. Or maybe it’s that unnamed stream in the heart of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, where I caught Dolly Varden so vibrant and beautiful that no camera can do them justice. Perhaps it’s that Appalachian brook trout stream hidden from view by dogwoods and redbuds, or maybe it’s that Montana wilderness river where native cutthroats watch the surface for hoppers like Jaws watches for waterskiers.
I know these places, but they keep their deepest secrets hidden, simply because I never stick around long enough to learn them. There’s always another stream, another lake … another float plane ride to another fish destination that I can’t wait to meet.
And I’ll leave too soon, yearn to come back and probably never will. I’m a wandering fly fisher, after all.