A lot of anglers like to start the season opener by chasing after the stocking truck. Hit the stream hard, take a way a limit. A lot of folks (folks you’re not likely to see that often) wait a few weeks after the season opener to go fishing when the hullabaloo has died down and the stocked trout have acclimated themselves. And still another group of anglers like to start the season more quietly, chasing wild and native fish far off the beaten path.
These folks are likely to stop in the middle of a good cast because they can feel the warmth of a sunbeam, a feeling almost forgotten, buried beneath the doldrums of a long gray winter. The same folks are also likely to relish in the fact that they no longer are trying to stick the biggest fish, the most fish, even the best fish in the most remote places. They are just happy to be on the water again. They bask in the comfort of the return of yet another season full of promise and hope that this year’s fishing will be better than the last. Maybe they’ll finally take the back country hike to the headwaters they’ve planning for what must be a decade. Maybe they’ll take their nephew (he’s old enough now) to that bend in the river where you know Charlie has been holding out beneath the root ball all winter. Maybe they’ll attend that TU meeting that they’ve back burnered because there will be a presentation on brookies in Maine.
For me, the season opener is a time of hope. And nothing fills your chest with more hope for the season than having a six inch jewel of a brookie dancing on your 6x before the canopy has filled in, but just as the blue quills are coming off.
You may be a bit over the hipster thing, but hold on a minute. We owe a little thanks for this cultural moment. Why? Because hipsterism has at its core a feeling that alot of Gen Xers and Millennials dig – nostalgia. And that lust for a classic bygone era lifestyle (of which there are many) has emboldened a younger generation to start appreciating what boomers, and especially the greatest generation had access too – great music, great vibes, and unplugged experiences. And honestly, its not just an empty nostalgia. The Millennial and Gen X tendency to obsessively remix and co-create with previous subcultures is leading to some exciting new values that really distinguish this generation from recent ones. This is no more evident than in the return of the pioneering spirit of wanderlust that permeats Tumblr and Pinterest boards, retro-looking saloons and barbershops, throwback brands (and branding), and adventure media. Fueled by the explosion of access to digital archives, dead stock, and resurfaced brands and stories by niche bloggers who intimately obsess over vintage Levi’s and #Van-Life, the new spirit of adventure isn’t confined to mining the depths of the internet into the wee hours. Its coming to life as new adventurers foresake their day jobs or postpone weddings to hike the Appalachian trail or Continental Divide. The spirit is present when PhD economists apprentice for free for years to learn the art of butchery (like my brother). Its present when fishing bloggers get together to tour Alaska’s embattled Tongass wilderness to help protect it. And its present when new brands start sponsoring expeditions to help their fans make their next adventure a reality.
The Huckberry team is introducing Explorer’s Grants to create an inspirational karma loop of adventures for its fan. A few lucky applicants will get a serious cash infusion – a thousand bucks! – for their planned expedition and a selection of gear from some very cool brands, including Poler, Nemo, Topo Designs, and Goal Zero. They want you to document the journey and make the whole story available to Huckberry of course, but its all in service of the karma loop. The judge of the grants is none other than the #microadventure inspiration himself, Alistair Humphreys, a National Geographic Explorer of the Year and professional adventurer.
For the details, check out Huckberry Explorer’s Grants page here. If you’ve got an adventure planned or have a dream microadventure in mind but just needed the kick in the pants to get started, you’d better get on the application now. The deadline to submit is March, 31.
To get your juices going here’s my own microadventure idea to steal for your own to get you started:
FLOAT THE POTOMAC – starting in West Virginia on the North branch of the Potomac above Jennings Lake in Western Maryland, float the Potomac in a kayak all the way to the mouth of the Cheasapeake Bay with stops at the Savage River, Harpers Ferry (Anglers Inn), Conococheague, Great Falls, and Occoquan. My goal would be target as many fish species as possible, trout, bass, gar, stripers, snakehead, etc.
When: Mid-summer or early fall
States: WVA, VA, MD, DC
Estimated travel: 2 Weeks. 450 miles.
The water temp was 40 degrees. I was after stockie rainbows I’d helped float-stock two weeks earlier. I knew they’d put some browns in the previous week, but I wasn’t expecting to tangle with Mr. Fugly Brown. He kept his nose down, was pretty sluggish due to the temps and probably because he was new to the whole thing. Not new perhaps to the idea of being fished out of a comfortable hole, but perhaps new to the idea of living free. I hoped that perhaps he was a holdover, and had been in this hole for at least a year or more, but I knew otherwise. Though the little tailwater I fished on had just received some serious love (a repair to create a bottom draw on the reservoir a mile upstream), up until very recently, this brown had spent probably four, maybe five years in a holding tank, probably as brood stock, endlessly swimming in circles. His pectoral and caudal fins were a misshapen mess, nubs or worn down. Though he had a nice kype, he certainly didn’t fight the way a wild trout could.
I looked him in the eye, and took a picture. It was bittersweet. No, at first glance he wasn’t a very desirable kind of trophy. This was no bright and shining wild trout with clear-eyes, white-tipped fins, born free. He looked a bit world-weary. But as I held him I wondered…maybe he would live out his last days at least knowing the taste of caddis nymphs or a big juicing hopper instead of trout pellets. Maybe he’d enjoy the ability to wander, and swim down to the reservoir below and back upstream to cool water when the summer doldrums crept in. And maybe he’ll learn to chase sculpin and fall fish, to experience the hunt so long denied him. Maybe he’ll holdover now that the dam was working again. As I snapped one more picture and released him (and I may be reading into this a bit) he seemed to linger at this once-more encounter with man, and then dart away with some pep in his step.
Ok, I’ve been meaning to find a way to put some time in volunteering in 2014 and found a sweet opportunity to start. The other day I took a “voluteer” day off work (i.e. one of my vacay-days) to help my local TU chapter float stock a nearby river’s trout management area. They dropped the water-level at the dam, the weather was 50 degrees and sunny, and the company was outstanding!
I’ve put a lot of hours on this river so setting up other fly rodders to enjoy the fishing is a nice way to give back. 625 rainbows went in, and a mess of browns are next. If you’re a DC fly rodder, email Jay Sheppard at JMSheppar@AOL.com for time and location if you want to participate in a float stocking this Friday the 20th. Its a great way to meet folk who care about the water and trout as much as you do!
Of course it ain’t always about the fishing. The chapter has planted dozens of trees in key areas to stabilize the banks of this river, and recently worked with the MD DNR to conduct repairs on this tailwater’s reservoir dam to enable cold water releases to flow from the bottom of the dam to stabilize temperatures year-round. That’ll be good for the trout, and more holdovers mean more opportunities for anglers.