August 7, 2023 By: Richard Donnelly

“River bank classic”  Image by Mike Doughty

I am a fly angler, and like a lot of sportspeople (and what are we if not sporting) I will find, pick up, and throw away the occasional plastic bottle. Or aluminum can. Or rusting Honda 125 motorcycle gas tank. How some of this gets in the river I do not know.

I do this for myself as much as others. Fly fishing is done in beautiful places, and it represents that rare opportunity to escape the highways and retail strip centers and contemplate nature’s subtle moods. A discarded 44 oz. Big Gulp plastic soda cup (with straw) doesn’t help.

As I drive along gravel roads I see an awful lot of beer cans. I’m not sure why someone needs to throw a beer can out their car window, particularly in trout country. Of course, someone who needs to drink while driving through the flower-filled valleys of Wisconsin is perhaps seeing things a little different than you and I.

To be fair, a lot of the junk is no one’s fault. Often it is the result of booming thunderstorms that dump six inches of rain in three hours. Creeks overflow. Small streams become raging torrents, flooding farmland and yards. Anything that can float (and a lot of things that can’t) get carried off. I have picked up badminton rackets and plastic bowling pins, bicycle tires and hot water bottles. I’m sorry, Suzie. But you probably won’t be seeing your Hello Kitty School Bus anytime soon.

It’s funny how you never find anything of real use. The football has a hole in it, the canoe paddle broken in two. While fishing I’ve never picked up a box of flies. I have managed to drop a couple. You would think the law of averages would eventually even up, but no.

I’ve never found a name brand fancy waxed logger cap, either. Not saying I lost one, but if you come across it I want it back.

Not everyone is unlucky. My friend, Mike, picked out of the creek, intact and undamaged, a five weight vintage Hardy bamboo rod. He cleaned it up and proceeded to fish with it, but something was wrong.

“I couldn’t enjoy myself,” he told me. “It wasn’t mine.”

Finding the owner would not be easy. As it turned out, the owner found him. Or his story did. The gentleman had been crying on every shoulder he could find at the local Trout Unlimited chapter. Mike heard about it and handed the rod back. The guy was so impressed he tried to make Mike keep it.

“He really wanted me to have it.” Mike said. “I had to make him take it.”

Fly anglers. They are a different breed.

But back to trash. The other day I picked up a couple empties in a favorite little valley, poetically named Bucksnort. One was a half pint of whiskey. The other read Super Estrus Deer Urine. I do not even want to speculate how this is used.

If I met the guy I wouldn’t ask. But I would tell him this: Friend, in this lovely country, meant for the enjoyment of all of us, even the animals, don’t go tossing your bottles of whiskey and deer urine around.

One more thing: You might not want to get the two mixed up.