I wanted to write this so you would have a chance to understand what happened. What
really happened. I don't trust history to treat the matter fairly. Guilt may prevail and perhaps
force a bit of a cover-up. You see, there are a lot of good people in this country of ours,
real good people. The problem seems to be they didn't always agree on how things
should be done. That is why your grampa can not fish anymore. If I do I will be a
I am sure it was not the real intent at first, just a group, and soon a few other groups, of
well-meaning folks who figured it was not a nice thing to catch a fish and put him back.
They felt the fish had feelings and didn't enjoy the pastime. They didn't seem to mind if
guys caught fish and used them for food, especially if the fish was killed quickly and
'humanely.' That may be where all the trouble started. Fish are not human. They somehow
didn't quite see it that way though.
Before long they had banded together, raised a 'war-chest' of money and started promoting
their ideas on a wide scale. They fought against 'Catch-and-Release.' They pestered
fishermen on the streams and lakes, causing disruption of the fishing. Tempers flared
and some nasty events evolved. With these on film they prevailed and grew larger and
stronger. The news media gave them opportunity to tell their story. Over time they
But, I am drifting from the point here. Lately, notices were placed in the papers, it was
on radio, TV, the computers, and even the major news programs announced the final
end of fishing. It was a strange day indeed. Folks at lunch-counters, in barbershops, on
the street, by telephone, at meetings and just about everywhere were talking in low voices
about the final day. It would be here soon. How many of us would become criminals. How
many of us would not turn in our fishing rods, at least not all of them. How many would
choose to become criminals by hiding some, perhaps a cherished old cane Payne, or
Leonard, or a classic hand made Kusse?
You see, in the beginning some thought if they could keep us from catching fish and putting
them back, the fish would not be harmed and only a few would be killed. To a point, they
may have not been too far off. What happened however was this. When the Federal
Government outlawed 'Catch-and-Release' in the whole country, fishing fell of dramatically.
When a fellow could not go 'astream' and enjoy the company of his companions and the
total experience of an "Aldo Leopold' afternoon, they simply gave it up. They quit fishing.
For, fishing is not just about catching fish. The others never understood that point. They
had no frame of reference for the 'oneness' with nature and her beauty, the feeling of
freedom fishing, any kind of fishing, brings to those fortunate enough to have found it.
They never knew. I think I even felt a little sorry for them - - - for a while.
And so, my darling grand-daughter, the day has now arrived. Today the police will come
up my walk to take my rods. I expect them any time now. They have won. They have
succeeded in stopping all fishing, period.
When we quit fishing, the license fees quit coming in. The hatcheries had to close due
to lack of money. Trout Unlimited and FFF collapsed. The work they had been doing
stopped as well. Water quality in general diminished and fish became scarce. Tighter
controls were instituted to attempt to save the struggling fishery nation wide. Not willing
to admit failure, groups demanded more and tougher controls. Well, there are only a
few fish left. Many have whirling disease and are not multiplying. That program was
dropped too. I do think they were very close to controlling it, darn shame.
But, today it is over. To protect the few fish left it is now illegal to fish. That's it, it is
finished. I will mail this after they have gone. Their car is in front of the house now. I
knew they would come, after all, you know how much I have enjoyed all those years
with your dad on the streams even before you were born. How about the time just
you and I took the old boat out and got all those blue gills, didn't we have a time
though? I can still taste them, your mom sure did a fine job frying them up for us,
didn't she? Think I can still taste them. Be right back . . .
They are gone now, the two guys from the police department. I think I may have seen
one of them somewhere before, I'm not sure though, about the only places I have gone
these last years is fishing, be a funny thing if that is where I saw him, wouldn't it?
Remember that old casting rod you used on the lake? It's gone now, they took it. So
are a lot of the other rods. You know, they had to pick up my reels as well, it's the law
now. Funny how a person can get attached to a darn old fishing reel. The spinning rods
went, reels and all, too. I think one of the guys recognized the old fly rod your dad grew
up with. He seemed to be only following orders, actually felt a bit of pity for the chap.
Those old H.I.'s were collectors stuff. He took it right down from the den wall.
I hate to tell you, honey, your dear old grandpa is now a criminal, at least if they dig
around in the back yard by your grandmas yellow roses. The ground is soft there and
we always keep it loose and cultivated. Not hard to dig in. There is a long aluminum tube
there now, by the third rose from the left. Someday when I and grandma are gone you
might consider doing a little gardening, perhaps a bit of cultivating, kinda look after
the old folks rose garden.
Your loving grandpa, Jim
( This column was inspired by a story written by a real writer, Gene Hill, and published in his
book Hill Country, published by Countrysport Press. It was about hunting and guns.
I felt compelled to write this.) ~ James Castwell