My good friends and fellow TU employees Tom Reed and Kendall Van Dyk invited me to fish Armstrong Spring Creek in Paradise Valley over the weekend, and having never experienced the spring creeks situated north of Yellowstone National Park, I couldn’t resist.
I must admit, though, that it felt odd to fork over forty bucks for the privilege of casting a fly. I’ve fished a few private waters, but always with permission, and always for free, in my years of angling. Mostly, though, I fish public water–there’s ample opportunity to scramble up a hidden creek on public land and catch wild trout without having to dig into my wallet for the right to do so.
We enjoyed some January weather that might have been borrowed from October in Paradise Valley–the sun hit the water all day, and we found ourselves shedding layers to stay comfortable. The fishing was a bit slow, but we managed a few picky trout, and the chance to spend a few hours casting with friends was worth the cash.
But, honestly, it’s not my thing. Maybe the fish are too educated for my ham-handed angling style, or maybe the streamside trails are just a bit too worn down by the scores of wading boots that beat them down them each season. I had a fine time, but likely won’t make that journey again, knowing that, within an hour or two of home here in Idaho Falls, I have dozens of fishy options that won’t cost me more than the effort to reach them.
And that may be why I and my fellow Sportsmen’s Conservation Project employees are so passionate about the work we do–the vast majority of our efforts center on protecting public lands and the fish that swim in water belonging to every American. My New Year’s resolution: I’ve paid my last rod fee in 2010. Public land in the West offers opportunity that, if protected, will be around for generations.