I once wrote an article for a fishing magazine about a stream that at least one person thought should be kept a secret. This man claimed that my article would attract hordes of people from other states to catch his fish. The fishery in question is in every fishing guidebook about New Mexico, in several YouTube videos, and is featured on almost everyone’s fishing report. Yet according to this person, if anything bad happened to this sweet stream—and sweet it definitely is—the blame will land squarely on me.
Since prehistoric times, it has been informally accepted that one owns a fishing spot until someone comes around with a bigger knife, spear, or army. While civilization and hatcheries have changed the rules somewhat, the game remains the same. I’m embarrassed to admit how many grandfathers I’ve encountered at “my” spots who’ve told me stories about their own grandfathers who first took them there.
In these times when our public lands are under constant pressure, we must acknowledge that the road that leads to now is long, winding, and heavily populated. And while I believe there’s nothing wrong with keeping fishing secrets, I also think it prudent to manage expectations. Some suggestions:
- When I started fly fishing, New Mexico had one million souls. There are two million now. If we want less crowded streams, we need to reduce these numbers by a lot in a very short time—very unrealistic if we rule out mayhem and mass violence.
- Those of us in real estate or the construction trades are contributing to the crowding of streams. We must accept that.
- Same if we work in the fishing industry or any tourism-related field.
- Same if we contribute anything at all to the economy; our lives create opportunities, jobs, and the need for recreation. Also, public fishing opportunities are maintained by tax and personal revenue generated by people who work during the day who are thus not swarming the streams as much as the voices in our heads tell us they are.
- Each of us is the crowd that someone else wishes never showed up. In other words, everyone is as deserving of peace and solitude as we are.
- If we don’t like seeing fishermen from other states on our favorite streams, we should tell them to go home while doing them the courtesy of not visiting their home waters either.
- Our prized fisheries are threatened in a variety of ways. If we think other fishermen are the biggest problem, it’s time to reassess. Hopefully soon, we’ll appreciate other anglers as friends instead of enemies. Friends share with friends.