Hi, new to the board. Great site!
I'm just getting back into fly fishing after a seven year "break." I started fly fishing at around age 12 on the Blackfoot river near Missoula, Montana, and it quickly became my primary summer activity. What a great river that was some twenty years ago. There was amazing access and if we saw just two or three other people at our special spots, then it was getting pretty crowded. We didn't have any teachers so my technique developed such that I could put a fly into some location, somehow, and catch a fish. To this day I get weird looks when people see me doing things like casting backwards on a windy day when there are lots of fun things to snag on in the opposite direction of where the fish are (literally backwards, facing the wrong direction and landing the fly by memory. Hey, it seemed like the normal thing to do when I was a kid.)
I continued fishing heavily around Missoula and then Bozeman where I reside now until about the age of 24. That's about when I started developing some weird feelings about fishing. I cursed myself with the notion that ripping fish out of the water by their little fish lips for my own personal amusement was probably not a responsible thing to be doing. After all, they're not particularly intelligent creatures and fooling a trout into slurping a dry fly isn't exactly difficult or wonderous. And besides, things had started get a little crowded on the rivers. Yipes! I still believe these to be true to some degree, but I also realized that I *need* to fish in order to reconnect with myself in a way that only fishing provides. I bought my first fishing license since 1999 and have been out on the rivers having a wonderful time despite the wicked runoff this year.
Here's the rant part:
My favorite place to fish around here was never really a secret, and there were always a number of people out and about the area. But there was always enough room for things to be nice enough for a wade fisherman (never liked fishing from boats, despite it being easier). The year I quit fishing was the year they started to make a bunch of "improvements" to make the area more accessible, which was probably the main catalyst for the sourpuss outlook I developed.
How to destroy a river in one step: put in parking lots.
The area now contains RV campgrounds, big parking lots, and nice groomed camping spots that can be used for a fee (groomed = trampled).
I'm usually fairly laid back, but the few times driving past that area recently (which is very, very large) to get to some water that would be a little more private (e.g. a completely different river), I've just felt completely disgusted. It's less of a blue ribbon trout stream and more a Montana Theme Park. I have never in my life seen so many people on a five mile stretch of river in my entire life. Quite literally hundreds of people, from fishermen to girls in bikinis. Drift boats were coming down the river in a parade, barely 50 yards between them. Inner tubers dotted all the spaces in between like blue ribbon chicken pox.
Which brings me to a question: can anyone recommend a good pellet gun that can pierce an inner tube? While I think that the drifters are insane for fishing an area in such huge numbers, they are almost always very respectful of wade fishermen, and have almost always given me plenty of room. But tubers have no such understanding and will float right through the water I'm fishing with that dumbfounded look that a person gets from laying on a piece of rubber in the sun with a twelve pack of beer for three hours.
Anyhow, it suddenly felt like California had leaked into Montana! Damn.
Oh well, there's no point in complaining other than that it makes me feel a little better. People have the right to live where they want to live, and use the rivers as they see fit. It's a shame though, a real shame.
Hopefully weeknights will still be ok on the nearby waters, but weekends will surely mean treking out 70-100 miles (no, I won't say where! hehe).
What I would like to see is more access through private lands for wade fishermen. One river I've come to like quite a bit has access points with long corridors of access on the shoreline above the high water mark, which is an important feature when the water is *at* the high water mark. Access of this nature requires cooperation between land owners and groups like Trout Unlimited (I suspect it's a cash-related deal, but maybe I'm too pessimistic), and I would like to see the state becoming more involved with things of this nature and less involved with installing parking lots, boat ramps and bathrooms.
"Hey, maybe you should get involved?" Damnit, you're probably right.