My exasperated Mom had a favorite expression she used with my annoying older brother Paulie and occasionally even me: “I’ve had just about enough of you…”
Fortunately she never carried out the implied threat behind that frustrated wail. But she likely had cause. These days, so do I, and, I will reluctantly admit, so do you. Probably. As an introverted, short-tempered, solitude-loving retiree, I am faced with daily doses of darned near everything that annoys me: Sold-out campgrounds. Jet skis. Wake boats. Paddleboards. On every body of water that can float a duck.
I find myself annoyed even by other well-intended fisher men and women - ones who get up really early or when it’s really really cold or wet to fish one of my favorite spots. I look for peace and quiet, and find crowds. In fairness, they’re finding me, too. In a state known for wilderness, we are jostling for space in the Great Outdoors the way New Yorkers jockey for a space to park. In one fashion or another, every Westerner, native and newly arrived, is searching for the same thing: a reasonable break from a world gone kinda mad.
Have the crowds really gotten that much worse, that quickly? Will things settle down, now that Covid-19 seems to be dissipating? Or is this merely the opening days of the 21st Century equivalent of the Oklahoma Land Rush?
I honestly don’t know. I DO know I really like an old quote by the novelist Michael Arlen:
“It’s amazing how nice people are to you, when they know you’re going away.”
I think it’s safe to conclude that the people who annoy me the most are likely not going away soon. So I will try my best to be nice, hoping you will too, as we look for ways to get along. Let’s not spend precious time and karma trying to get someone else’s chosen sport banned or restricted from the waterways and open spaces we all enjoy.
They say Daniel Boone kept pushing further and further into 18th Century wilderness as eager settlers followed in his footsteps. Did Daniel gnash his teeth at the sight of distant campfires, the way I flinch when followed into a backwater cove by paddleboarders? Probably. That pioneer blazed the “Wilderness Road” from Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. And by the end of the 18th Century, more than 200,000 settlers had poured into Kentucky by the same route.
I personally might have left the path all bumpy and discouraging, like Colorado roads and bridges. But if I have one positive thing to recommend, it is this: let’s put younger generations first. I relish the lifting of covid restrictions in large part because kids are coming back out to play. In substantial ways, we should return quickly to doing our best to encourage youngsters’ interest in fishing. (And if they temporarily step away from righteousness and onto a damned paddleboard or jet ski, we can gently nudge them back onto a path toward the fine pastime of angling.)
Also, I for one am encouraged by recent open space innovations, like introducing one-way loops into backcountry trails to keep us from constantly confronting one another. Can something similar be done on the water? Maybe. Let’s just force ourselves to:
- 1. Look at our lakes and streams from other user’s perspectives, not just our own.
- 2. Be nice - and show a willingness to compromise.
- 3. Compromise.