When I was young in the outdoor freelance writing business I was all about providing content that would be shared. Valuable content that would appeal to readers in California (at the time). The more I wrote the more I wondered about the potential impact of my words on my own experiences. If I wrote about how good the fishing was on the Upper Sacramento River, what if my one reader (other than Mom) was standing in my favorite spot the next time I headed up there to fish for trout? The central question that floated to the surface and has bobbed more noticeably in the last year or two, is what is my impact on the resource?
When it’s not mine, I have nothing to lose. Let’s say I found a great spot I found on … let’s call it the Ohbilliam River, I talk about on a podcast or sell the information to whatever publication wants to publish it for the readers who want to go try it for themselves. Then a local, who one day wants to take his or her kid down to the secret spot on the Ohbilliam River finds the trail carved with the boots of people who only told two people about it. But one person tells one person and before you know it, the spot is ruined. The local takes his kid to the spot, they catch no fish, the kid becomes apathetic to fishing and becomes infected by the next Lil Pump.
When I was a kid, what I liked most about my secret spots on the Klawock River was that they were secret. At least I thought. As an adult, it’s the solitude I long for just as much, if not more, than the quality of fishing. I’d now rather fish my favorite steelhead river a few weeks before the run gets good, in worse weather, because the solitude is better.
It’s weird because anglers are my comrades in angling arms. I want them to read my stuff, share it, make my words worthy enough to be printed and paid for. But I don’t want them taking my spots or deplete the resource. I don’t want to overstate my impact, this is just an exercise in awareness. We are all on the same team, sharing the joys of the best that the resources can provide … as long as the resource fills my needs first, or eventually, right?
Realistically, I can’t be angry at the local B&B owner or charter captain who spends the summers teaching or otherwise working a local gig, then wants a piece of the summer tourism action. He or she is just making the most out of the opportunities here. If Dave from Delaware, who thought mooching meant calling moose until four minutes ago, catches a king salmon 20-pounds heavier than I ever have, it happens. Actually, that happens to me annually (weekly) during the summer. I just hope the owner and angler appreciate the gravity of the moment and the fragility of the resource.
That’s the thing about traveling. You don’t know everything about a place because you went there for a summer or because you’ve been going to the same lodge for 10 years. You’re a repeat user and good for you for getting after it rather than sitting at home thinking, “One of these years…” If I were to be annually invited to a fishing lodge on the Madison River, after half a decade I know I’d be tempted to look down my Ray Bans at a couple of newbs in “my spot” and think, “Too many fishermen, ruining the whole program.”
Hopefully, I wouldn’t let myself totally off the hook.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.