There are aspects of America that really put leaks in my waders.
The vast majority of the seafood Americans consume comes from overseas. The top ingredient in imitation crab (not that I have ever had it) is pollock, a fish that until the 1970s, was written off by American elitism as unfit for human consumption.
I mean, who would go for pollock when cod or halibut tasted so much better?
Additionally, I can’t afford a bamboo fly rod even though I have a full-time job, some of the best fishing water and hunting land is privately-owned and the rainbow trout in the contiguous United States are not as big as they are in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska.
This stuff stresses me out, so I decided to wage a protest against the aspects of America that are detrimental to the dreams and comfort of many and Occupy the Upper Sacramento River.
I contribute money to organizations like Trout Unlimited, so a logical next step would be to support with action what I support with my wallet.
It was a pretty lonely affair, but all great revolutions start with a clear idea and the strength and courage of participants. I Occupied campsite No. 3 in an otherwise empty Sims Flat Campground. After waving my five-weight above several spots in the river last week, I returned to camp to find that others had joined in the revolt against city-life also known as congregations of capitalism.
I didn’t know just how many until I was cooking my canned soup and saw the glow and crack of other campfires. We had it right. I could feel the burden of American existence being lifted plus we were sticking it to the economic machine by paying $15 a night and cooking campfire food rather than feeding the pockets of motel fat cats with their $60 rates and their continental breakfast bailouts.
After I landed the last trout on the second evening of my two-night Occupation, I walked the train tracks back to headquarters, my two-man tent that sleeps me diagonally.
The next morning I cleaned up my campsite, because what sense would it make to soil my cause by littering, and began the slow drive home.
I was refreshed, enlightened even.
I thought about my Scandinavian family that emigrated to the US in the 19th century in search of freedom of reward through hard work, and how that freedom was later defended by my grandpa that came up through Italy during World War II and grandma that built airplanes for Beech Aircraft.
I think they all would be proud of my enjoyment of the rights protected and afforded by their sacrifice — there is land set aside for ordinary dudes like me to Occupy with a fly-rod and net; I can and do express my thoughts in print without censorship; and can look back at the minimum wage jobs I held en route to a gratifying career.
My Occupation might be seen as a pacifistic, selfish, lonely avoidance of my responsibility as a conscious citizen, but my goal was clear, my thesis tight; no yelling, just telling.
Get outside. Meaningly Occupy what is beautiful, and be thankful I can.
By taking advantage of what this country has to offer I felt much better, even though I didn’t catch a bunch of huge trout.
I caught a few nice trout. Occupation accomplished.
Outdoors Writers Association of California
Newspaper Column Category