Wildside column: Flowing rivers inspire thoughts of connections
My paternal grandfather was a tall guy who grew up in upstate New York and was an avid hunter and fisherman. He coached me in fishing for trout when I was 6 years old standing in the Oswegatchie River near the outlet of Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. We were using his bamboo fly rod and a wet fly that he had tied. He showed me how to read the currents and to spot the places where trout were feeding. I remember his quiet observation and patient manner. I was thrilled to catch a brown trout. That outing with my grandfather led to a lifelong interest in rivers.
Ted Leeson provided wisdom in his 1994 book, "The Habit of Rivers."
"The craft of angling is the catching of fish, but the art of angling is receptiveness to those connections, the art of letting one thing lead to another until, if only locally and momentarily, you realized some small completeness."
Flowing water is mesmerizing. The sparkle of light on the water, the fluid dynamics of currents, the continuous flow and different scales of rivers from tiny brooks to huge rivers like the Mississippi inspire the kind of thoughts that flow through the language of many philosophers and scientists.
Leonardo da Vinci said, "When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come."
Canadian writer and conservationist Roderick Haig-Brown wrote, "I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water...has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river."
Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, when arguing for passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, asked, "Can we afford clean water? Can we afford rivers and lakes and streams and oceans which continue to make possible life on this planet? Can we afford life itself? Those questions were never asked as we destroyed the waters of our nation, and they deserve no answers as we finally move to restore and renew them. These questions answer themselves."
Tim Palmer wrote in his book, "The Wild and Scenic Rivers of America," "When we save a river, we save a major part of an ecosystem, and we save ourselves as well because of our dependence—physical, economic, spiritual—on the water and its community of life."
On Thursday, Sept. 21, I attended a field trip with UWRF students of Dr. Eric Sanden's Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration class on the Trimbelle River. Landowner Mike Holst said that he loves the Trimbelle and was pleased to see the restoration project happen there with the partnership of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the DNR and the Kiap-TU- Wish Chapter of Trout Unlimited. A lot of effort went into that project and it turned into a beautifully restored reach of stream. Jeff Kitelinger of the NRCS in Ellsworth explained how the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with landowners to protect streams and farmland. Nate Anderson of the DNR explained the process of restoring the stream and in-stream habitat features. Kiap-TU-Wish Chapter TU President and Volunteer Coordinator Randy Arnold described TU's
conservation, restoration and education missions.
As I was explaining to the students the importance of cold, clean, well-oxygenated and continuously flowing water to the stream ecosystem, I looked downstream as the morning sun was rising over the bluff. As if on cue, a cloud of tiny Tricorythodes mayflies was swarming above the stream doing their mating flight. The little mayflies sparkled like snowflakes. We all were impressed at the sight. I read Ted Leeson's quote. We appreciated the connections and the value of a restored stream ecosystem.
Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.