Waters & words

Advocacy

The word “advocacy” is used extensively by Greg French in his recently published book ”The Last Wild Trout”.

The Last Wild Trout (1 of 1)

In reading the context in which he uses it, the meaning is abundantly clear, but for a simple starting point here is the definition as found on Google:

ad·vo·ca·cy ….pronounced ˈadvəkəsē/  : noun

public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.

example: "their advocacy of traditional family values"

synonyms:  support for, backing of, promotion of, championing of;

I found that French’s book in general, and the repeated use of this word in the informative “conservation notes” at the end of each of his chapters, resonated with me.

Each chapter deals with a Trout or salmonid or char species, the purity of its genetics, and an example of its range or location. These are locations that French visits over a number of years. What is refreshing is that he doesn’t fly in by chopper from some exclusive lodge. In fact most of the time he finds his way to spots for just a few days while on a trip with his wife to visit a friend. He no doubt sneaks in the fishing with a cleverly altered itinerary, as us mere mortals would do, and in his closing comments he mentions, without despair, some top notch places he hasn’t been able to afford to get to. I like that.

But coming back to his word: advocacy. French recognises that the future of a drainage, or lake, or species, is very closely linked to the number of people who appreciate it. For a place to have a brighter future, it needs to be valued, even revered by enough people for it to stand a chance.  In Fly-fishing terms, that means people who fish it. Not just “fish it” perhaps, but rather visit the place with interest, reverance and appreciation. Those fly-fishermen don’t necessarily have to pay top dollar, or line the pockets of the owner of a fancy lodge. They just have to pitch in with a fly rod, take offence at any litter or pollution, tell their mates about it when they get back home, and say “ooh” and “ah” enough times to be irritating. They need to revel in the view and the water clarity and the beauty of the fish. They need to want to go back. If they never do get to go back, they need to count it as a “once in a lifetime” experience that they will never forget. If they do get to go back, it won’t be to just haul in more big fish: it will be to immerse themselves in the whole experience, to build memories, and to elevate the status of the place to those heights obtained only in moments of fond nostalgia.

For each of his venues or species, French sums up the level of advocacy, and ties it to the outlook for its future.

I share his view that the link between advocacy and environmental sustainability is the very strongest thing. In a similar vein I share the well informed view of those like the late Ian Player, that hunting is the salvation of conservation, and without it, many species are doomed to extinction. The evidence for this is so enormously  overwhelming, and it frustrates me when disconnected “conservationists” with “no poetry in their soul”  like Aldo Leopold’s  “educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa”  fail to understand this….but don’t get me going on that subject…..

It is no secret that I work hard to drive up the level of  advocacy in respect of the Trout in my home waters here in South Africa. I am fearful for their future. “Hunting Trout”, to quote Tom Sutcliffe’s book title, is my thing.   I recently encouraged someone to go and fish the upper Umgeni for its pretty Browns. He responded with surprise and stated that he had been keeping away while our stream restoration initiative there is underway. I was at pains to explain to him that the very best thing he could do was to come and fish the stream. As an afterthought, the very next day I arranged for the manufacture of a dozen more fence stiles, so that when he comes, he won’t even have to climb through a fence. I do so hope he comes more than once!

Umgeni River (10 of 17)

Roy Ward fishes the Umgeni beyond  one of three fence stiles donated and erected by Trevor Sweeney of the Natal Fly Fishers Club.

I am deeply appreciative of our Trout waters. I visit them with reverence, that onlookers may at times think exceeds the quality of the experience. To them I say “open your eyes!”, and I say to them now, “Appreciate these waters today, as though they will be gone tomorrow”.

And perhaps that way, they will not.

* I was able to buy French’s book online and have it shipped to me by Boomerang Books, one of the only ones I could find in OZ who would do international shipping.

4 responses

  1. Great article Andrew. As an aside, I love the fence stiles! Have never seen those here and always had to clamber through barbed wire fences – I thought that was part of the experience 🙂 Sheena

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    November 15, 2016 at 8:32 am

    • Thanks Sheena. Our landlord on the Umgeni has re-done all his fences, and they are so tight, with strands so close, that trust me…you want the stiles! Oh, and he added some electrics too, to make it more exciting 🙂 . A dozen galvanised stiles are standing in my yard awaiting installation, and we are scheduled to spray brambles this Saturday. Your invitation to fish it will follow!

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      November 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm

  2. This sounds like a great read. Thanks for mentioning it. I like what you’re saying about how the best way for streams and water to be saved is for enough people to get out there and not only use it, but encouraging others to do so as well. That’s the second time someone has said almost the exact same thing recently and it’s starting to resonate with me. Cheers!

    Like

    November 14, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    • Thanks Douglas. I can indeed recommend French’s book. And as far as more foot traffic on the rivers goes: here in SA, I am sure all will agree that our streams are under-fished.

      Like

      November 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm

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