Monday, December 1, 2008

JMO - Freedom to wade

I've been an on and off fly-fisherman for over three decades now. I often buy the license and carry the equipment during the year but never stop and fish. It's about the freedom to wade a river and fish (and always release). I've fished in Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and now living here in Washington. I even used to fish after work streamgaging, since I was already wearing my waders, work hours were done and I was staying at a local motel anyway, so why not.

And now the Montana State Supreme Court has upheld the right of fly-fishing people to access more streams via public access. This is great, but what was more interesting is the people for the right to restrict streams that flow along or through their property. It's the list of the rich, including rock star Huey Lewis who owned land the stream went through.

Sometimes when it comes to land, we all become libertarians.

Almost every state in the West allows wading streams and rivers or walking along the banks, below high or high-high water and accessing them from any public access point, usually a boat landing, bridge, or along a highway. This is because these states have declared state, meaning public, ownership of the stream/river bed and banks. Only Colorado has a more restrictive laws given landowners the right to the stream/river bed and banks, and only allows floating on rivers through private property.

While fishing in Colorado once I encountered people who put barbed-wire fences in and over rivers to stop floaters. I kept my fishing to the Rocky Mountain NP but drove around outside to discover the fishing was limited to on and near a state highway bridge. I loved it when I returned home and could fish freely anywhere I could wade.

And that's the point, fly-fishing is like nothing else, both realistically and philosophically. It's just about being there and standing in the river with your fly rod and hope. And catching anything is extra.

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