I roll over to him and put my window down and say " Hey how's it going man, where are you going to fish?" He jumps out of his rig real quick and gets all bowed up and starts grabbing his rod like if he has it in his hand he gets the run. He says " The Gorge" and I say " yeah no kidding,I figured that much since that's where we are. Are you gonna fish all of it"? There are three distinct sections there thus the reason for my inquiry. My purpose was to try and communicate with this guy and see what he was gonna fish and maybe we could have worked something out and both been able to fish some of the water in there. You know, share some water, which could have easily been done. I was also hoping that if I talked to him for a second he would realize it's all OK, I was just out fishing like him, and he can slow down and relax a little. I was also hoping that in talking with me he would offer me a chance to fish the upper or lower section knowing he was a little hasty and possibly out of line for racing me to the spot. None of that happened. Communication is always good on the river and something that I try to pursue when the opportunity arises. It is also something that is truly lacking the last few years. Any way he says, "No were fishing all of it"!!! "Well OK, that's fine have a good night" I say as I drive off slowly. Now I could care less that he got the run and I wasn't going to make a big deal about it. I know the river well enough that I always have a plan B and beyond. My point is, I tried to have a friendly interaction and was met with someone who was all about themselves and what they wanted to do. He was in such a hurry to beat me to the run that he forgot he was just fishing and it was supposed to be fun. I could see in his eyes that he needed to fish that run more than me. Have at it buddy, knock yourself out. He was spinning his wheels!
That's not the way the river and it's history were passed down. It's not the way I will show the river to people either. Sure there has always been competition and friendly rivalries but that's what they were, friendly. Sure, the early risers got the first shot at the run and that's fair and the way the game has always been played. Now days it's gone to the extreme. People are going to ridiculous lengths to fish some runs in the Campwater. Guys spending hours before sun up waiting for the Station. That's fine and all but it just makes a competition out of a leisure sport. I don't fish to compete.
Many have learned or are learning bad etiquette from others. Many of those anglers that are supposed to be leaders are not leading well and that is now the legacy that is being passed on. The 5 miles below Steamboat Creek has become so crowded that I often avoid it all together, maybe fishing a small percentage of the runs I used to fish. They can have it all. I would rather fish the upper river or the lower river in relative peace than deal with the dog and pony show that has evolved in the last few years. Little does everyone realize or even consider that the wild fish they love so much are the very ones that are being relentlessly pursued day after day so close to their final spawning destination. The river is being loved to death before our eyes.
In the old days, which were not that long ago, people talked more on the water, people exchanged flies and information with total strangers, people shared runs or sections of river when they came together at the same time. People would gladly give up or share a run as a gentleman knowing that it was not worth the conflict. They knew full well the favor would come back to them down the line. People respected others space. The pace was more laid back. There was room for everyone. It is still like that in many ways and those friendly exchanges still happen don't get me wrong. But we all have to work a little harder to help keep it that way.
The dynamics of the river have just changed in many ways. The players have changed. A new breed of angler has come to the river. A new generation that has no idea about the history and personalities that have made this river what it is. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us and we can never forget that. The "Me/Entitlement" generation has come and it's effects are far reaching. The youtube and How To videos of the river from a few years ago have literally gone worldwide and the river is seeing pressure like never before. People come more and more to catch fish and that was never the sole reason to fish the North Umpqua. The fish will come when they come if you put in your time. For many the catching of the fish and not the total river experience has become the goal. Turning the river into a self serving steelhead slot machine demeans the sport, the river and the legends that made her great. If you want numbers go to the Deschutes, the GR,Trinity, Klamath or Rogue.
As the years go by, the old guard is slowly dying off and with it go much of the stories, history, ethics, soul and the very fabric that hold the river together. It doesn't have to be that way. Do your part to have pleasant exchanges on the water. The day you save may be your own. Lets try and keep the class and elegance of The North intact. It will take all of us to do it. It's worth it.
Do your part out there and don't spin your wheels..........