On Lost Flies and Earth Day

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks first of trees whenever Earth Day rolls around. I can trace my own early celebration of environmental awareness to the ritual planting of a leafless sapling on school grounds each spring. But I didn’t really begin to appreciate trees until I began to learn a bit about natural science, and then about the essential role trees play in complex ecosystems. Beyond the obvious benefits — carbon uptake and oxygen production — trees make possible the existence of innumerable other plant and animal species. Among those species are virtually every type of trout, which depend on trees to either keep water temperatures low, interrupt river flows, hide them from predators, prevent erosion of river and stream banks, store and release minerals, and support the myriad forms of animal and insect life that fish eat to survive. Not to mention all the other interrelationships we don’t yet understand.
So the next time your ill-measured backcast wraps your fly around a high branch, pause before cursing, and take a moment to marvel that the tree is there at all. Maybe, in addition to being a reason you could even hope to find a fish in that water, on that day, it is there to remind you to work on your roll cast.

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  • i remember my first earth day…having a hot hippie chick for a 4th grade teacher had its perks. but my dad also had an ecological impact on my life, too. he was an early proponent of “no trace” outdoorsmanship. but he had a dual motive. growing up during the depression, he was a world-class scavenger! an avid golfer, he spent about 1/4 of his time on the links shagging other duffers’ lost golf balls so that he didn’t have to buy as many for us. when we played, we had to do the same. it instilled a habit and an ethic in us that has stuck. when fly fishing, i go to great lengths to shag other anglers’ lost flies and indicators, left behind gear such as nets and staves, and pick up their trash. i “recycle” the flies and indicators that are in good shape. and my wife’s wading staff was found on a creek in colorado. if 1 out of 10 outdoorsmen carried a small trash bag and picked up just the easy stuff he/she passed while afield, it would have a huge impact. i can’t change the world, but i can change my little corner of it. we all can.

  • Thanks for posting this — I’ve had more than my share of flies end up in trees (usually on a backcast — something about learning to cast on an open lawn or ground free of trees AND then moving onto the water LOL LOL. When I was a kid, we didn’t have Earth Days (or video games for that matter) yet I spent as much time as possible roaming the fields and woods around my home — being a country boy I had lots of opportunities to do so. (Must admit I didn’t have any hot hippy chick as a teaher either…LOL LOL.) I loved to bird watch even at a young age; I even dragged my folks down to the nearby urban centre (Toronto)to go bird watching with a local naturalists’ group in a large ity park (High Park) — pretty silly when you think of all of the open spaces I had to do the same back at home. Later as an outdoor educator I truly enjoyed sharing my love for the outdoors and the natural environment with school groups and the general public. And I still do any chance I can, especially if it gets me out on the water too.