So I was browsing the internet last week, checking out my regular selection of websites, when I came across Joel Shangle's new blog on the NW Wild Country site, and it got me thinking. The post is about the influential outdoorsmen in the Pacific Northwest, and Joel's proposal is for a "Mount Fishmore" - which 4 outdoorsmen would you nominate to have their faces carved in stone, forever?
I think its easy in today's world to get caught up in the latest and greatest: the newest gear, the modern technology, the new "celebrity" anglers, etc. There is so little left to explore and find out for ourselves that we turn to competition to keep ourselves entertained. Who has the best gear, who is the best caster, who caught the biggest fish, has the fastest boat, fished the most water, tied the most productive fly, fished the most days this year, had their face/photo/story in a magazine/book/movie...
Sometimes we need to take a step back and pay our respects to those who paved the way for us. I'll admit, I fall into that trap. I'm a self professed gear junkie who's eyes light up when a brand new rod comes into the shop and my fingers itch to play with that new material. I'll go into a run that a friend told me about and be thrilled that I can throw a cast to the far bank. I'll immediately flip through a new magazine, looking for the latest news and information. I revel in the luxury of cushy seats and a cold bottle of beer on the jet boat while cruising up and down the river. I thank God for Gore-tex and neoprene and polypropelene.
But I do try to pause sometimes, to take a moment and look around, wherever I am and really see where I am. To close my eyes and picture the anglers that have stood where I stand, to wonder at the people who explored and discovered this place and made it possible for me to be here. To look down at the sand and imagine the layers and layers of vanishing footprints. To take some time before I go on a trip and discover the history behind my destination. To really know a fishery, I think it helps to know both the past and the present. It doesn't mean that I need to live in the past, but to know and understand it gives me a much greater appreciation for the sport in general. Everyone likes to know where they came from.
That being said, my contribution to Joel's list is decidedly fly oriented, as that is my experience and my passion. So maybe we can do one called Mount Fly-Fishmore??
As a BC fly angler, where would I be without Simon Fraser and David Thompson? How about author A. Bryan Williams and artist Tommy Brayshaw? Then there is Boris Peetz and the Peetz salmon reel for saltwater anglers. General Noel Money and the Stamp River. No one can argue that Bill Nation, Jack Shaw, and Brian Chan successively created the world class interior lake fishery. How about steelheaders, authors, conservationists and local legends Art Lingren, Lee Straight, Harry Lemire (okay, he's from WA, but a staple on many BC waters), Van Egan and Jerry Wintle? Dick Blewett on the Dean? Rob Brown on the Skeena? Bob Clay on the Kispiox? Peter McVey and Corbett Lake. Joel already mentioned Roderick Haig-Brown, so don't think I forgot him. And so on and so on.
Now that I look at this list, and think of all the names that still could mentioned, it occurs to me that maybe 4 isn't enough. How can I possibly pick a handful when so many gave and shared so much? Can I argue that one person's contribution is greater than another's, if it all leads to where I am today? When many of these people inspired and supported each other in their endeavors? When one person's work carved the path for the next, and so on and so forth? I've probably already failed to mention some very obvious and important nominees.
I'm going to say Joel, that your mission is impossible. It cannot be done, even if you were Tom Cruise. There are too many.
Maybe each river, lake and ocean inlet, each mountain peak and valley floor, each grassy plain and pine topped ridge should have its own monument, to commemorate those that had an impact there. That way, we can be reminded of those that came before us when we are there, walking in their footprints.