22 July 2008

Big Hole River Trout Fishing; Wildetarianism

Fished a couple of hours on the Big Hole River this morning. As Butte, Montana's, homewater, it's just 25 miles away and mostly via interstate at that. Still, all things are relative. Growing up in Bradford, Pennsylvania, on the Allegheny Highlands, it was a wet climate with high carrying capacity and there were numerous good trout streams within ten miles of the house. I always felt it was a little bit far to drive over to Kinzua Creek to fish the Guffey reach--by far my favorite water there.

The Big Hole River fished very well this morning. For the first hour or so, a big (size 12) Royal Wulff attractor was just the thing, and some decent (12" to 15") trout -- mostly rainbows -- were on it. Rainbows of that size are great acrobats, sometimes leaping 2 or 3 feet into the air after being hooked. More than once I've had them leap over my head as I was wading deep. A few much larger browns in the 2 to 3 pound range rolled at but did not take the fly. It's always exciting, if a little disappointing, when they do that.

There were few rises, no hatch, and only a few smallish caddis and mayflies flitting about. That was surprising, as there is usually a midmorning hatch of some kind. But it was a dark, cool, and somewhat rainy morning.

For the second hour or so, I switched to a beadhead (the Prince is my "go-to" pattern on the Big Hole) and caught several good fish before the action again slowed to a stop. Not a bad morning. As I cleaned two of the last trout I caught (for supper tonight), RTD agreed it was time to go home, especially with that larger rainstorm sweeping down the valley.

And, oh, the solitude. How ironic that in the Pintler Wilderness last weekend I was never "alone." There were always other tents or hikers in view. Yet this morning, on the Big Hole River -- one of America's truly premiere cold water fisheries -- I was utterly alone. No other anglers in site, no trucks parked at the fishing access sites above or below where I parked, and not a single raft or drift-boat passed by. What a tremendous, quality experience. Though I should note that I also had many similar days of solitude on Kinzua Creek and the "crowded" waters of Pennsylvania.

At home, lunching on a piece of chicken from the Howard-chicken that Jan roasted for our Sunday dinner, I reflected on what it means to eat only wild game, fish, and free range domestic critters. From a few Missoula guys I talked with several weeks ago, I heard the term "wildetarian," and that seems to fit pretty well.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to hunt and subsist on wild game, of course. I feel sorry for such people, and am not sure what I would do in that situation. I would not want to make a regular diet of factory-farmed beef, chicken, and pork etc. The ethics of factory farm mass production are appalling (see the video "The Meatrix").

I suppose I would be vegetarian, subsisting on nuts and tofu etc. But it would be a step down in many ways. The taste of meat is good and something that we have evolved to appreciate. Furthermore, being connected to the land and the environment through hunting is deeply meaningful.

Each time I eat elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, or antelope, I honor the individual animal, recall the hunt, and warmly think of the place where I killed it. Not all hunters think this way, though I cannot understand those who don't. For some, it's just a matter of drive the backroads, kill something, throw it in the truck, and bring it to the butcher. Many hunters do not even care for the taste of wild game, and end up giving it away, feeding it to the dogs, or even throwing it away.

Well, enough of such thoughts. For tonight there will be fresh trout, a pot of brown rice, and whatever fresh veggies Jan shows up with. Oh yeah, let'd not forget a well-chilled bottle of white wine. Enjoy.

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