Affluenza and Apathy

Last week, just as our first decent spring rains were arriving to break the drought,  I started building my case. Today, with a full week of inclement weather behind us, I plan to let you in on where this affluenza thing is going. Work with me please.
If you didn’t read what I posted here last week, perhaps you would like to pause here and do that to better understand where I am coming from.
So: in our quest for a magazine cover life, and a magazine cover fishing life in particular, we go in pursuit of the best water, right.
Nothing wrong with that, you may say .
Of course not: Mongolia in the autumn as the larch trees are turning and the Taimen are taking medium size rat imitations.  The highest stretches of some local mountain stream, that is pure champagne. The very best fishing club stretch on the Mooi. The Yellowstone rivers. South island. All good.  We are fishermen. We enjoy good fishing, and we seek it out.

But what about that little stream that you fished as a youngster? The one your grandfather told stories about. The one choked in wattle and bramble. The one beneath the road bridge that we cross at 120km per hour on our way to some better water. What happened to it?
It went downhill, didn’t it. Became polluted, or silted up, or mysteriously fell quiet and lost favour amongst fly-fishermen. So we moved on.
Here in the KZN midlands, we have the Mooi, and the Bushmans as top rated midlands “rivers” (streams really, but here in dusty SA, they qualify as rivers). If I don’t count the high berg catchments for now, what else is there?  The Umgeni, the Elands, The Lions, the Yarrow, Little Mooi,  Walters creek…..need I go on. You haven’t fished them have you?  Very few have. I am certainly guilty of passing them by.
And if the Bushman’s or Mooi were to suffer some disaster; an invasion by some or other unwanted fish species; or the banks were to become overrun in some thorny alien invasive plant; would we just move our fishing to the dams, or to the North Eastern Cape, or to the upper reaches of the rivers in the Drakensberg ?
In other words, would we abandon our Trout rivers, and move on like some cut and burn practice?
Have we abandoned the Yarrow, The Little Mooi, Walters creek, the Umgeni, the Elands?
I don’t know the answer, but it fills me with dread to think that we may have abandoned them: lost any desire or inclination to conserve or improve them. Given up on them, and are content to read stories about them in days gone by.
Here on the African continent, we can but dream of the weight of public spirit carried forward into action by the likes of Trout Unlimited. Here we live amongst environmental degradation and abuse of resources on a scale that becomes quite overwhelming.  It is difficult to muster the energy to nurture a small patch of nature, amongst all the un-nurtured. In a world where conservation is hip, but only as far as buying the bumper sticker and organising the raffle, who cuts down the wattle trees. Who gives up their fishing day to pack stones in the donga, and spray brambles, or cut bugweed.  And if one reader of this piece was spurred into action to do this, would his entire month’s work achieve even a pin-prick of noticeable success?
Am I guilty of an apathy brought on by my affluenza?


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2 Responses

  1. Rather than being apathetic, you seem very concerned, as you, and we, all should be. The home waters, however humble, should be our first concern, but granted, it’s hard to muster energy for stream improvements if you don’t have much support. As I wrote in my book River’s Edge, “For myself, at least, I know that if the local waters are enjoyed, I can justify my splashing outward, my lengthening casts, in a widening spiral of recreational pursuits.” Hopefully support groups can grow and flourish in your region.

    1. Let’s hope that we can create enough awareness that concerned fishermen will get involved. The World Wildlife fund recently employed a full time environmentalist to manage the upper Umgeni catchment, and the Natal Fly-fishers club are about to announce a work party on the same river: so there is some hope!

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