Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Bring a bag

By Eric Booton

It’s spring again and it’s hard to sit still. I am at the point where I am hoping for one more powder day on skis but would be more than content with the warm weather and soft water.

I was at a similar point last April. The snow was starting to melt as the sun returned to the frosty north. Ski season was coming to a close, more daylight had been added to the daily routine, and soaking up some sun was at the top of the “to-do” list.

I biked down the road to my favorite urban fishing hole. It was the earliest time in the year that I had ever attempted to fish it so I had figured I had a 100 percent chance of wetting a line and a 50 percent chance at best of finding a tug.

The temps were rising, and what was previously a light blanket of snow had quickly disappeared, revealing a thick layer of accumulated litter. Beer cans, fast food bags, soda bottles… you name it, I saw it and it was simply off putting.

alt=”” title=”” />As anticipated, the bite was non-existent, and as the hopes of finding a hungry trout dwindled I stumbled upon an empty grocery bag pinned against a small log jam. In a “eureka!” moment, the focus of the day took a 180. I started working my way back downstream while filling the bag with trash. Shortly after filling that first plastic grocery bag I caught the first fish of the season, and the biggest fish I’ve found in that small urban stream to date.

When I got home that afternoon I rummaged up a handful of plastic bags and stashed them in my fishing bag. I participate in a handful of annual creek and river cleanups every year, but what’s stopping me from cleaning up the river everyday? I’ve always gotten odd looks wandering the bike paths and urban creeks with my fly rod; now I get odd looks while wandering the bike paths and urban creeks with my fly rod AND a bag or two filled with trash.

This is one of my special places. It may be in the heart of Anchorage, and have problems with water quality, but I prefer it to be litter free and I have to imagine the fish do too. I might be the only one that notices the difference, but at the very least I get to enjoy a sense of pride at the end of the day when I toss the bags of trash I collected, and that’s a win in my book. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll inspire another angler or two to bring a bag too.

Eric Booton is the Sportsmen Engagement Organizer for the Trout Unlimited Alaska program and acting Conservation Chair for the Southcentral Alaska Trout Unlimited Chapter. ​

By Chris Hunt.