A Stauffer Story & Its Perspectives

I was close with Barry Mitchell. Barry loved Stauffer Creek and our central Alberta brown trout streams. He also understood the phenomenon of Alberta – our high country waters are closed until mid June and our mountain rivers blow out every year mid May through late June. So what has that historically left us? Essentially the central Alberta brown trout streams. Let me paraphrase one of about 40 similar conversations he & I had about Stauffer Creek over the 20+ years we were friends.

“Davie, it’s the same shit every year”, he’d say to me. That one’s a direct quote and if you knew Barry, you knew the smile on his face. “It’s like clockwork. The Bow blows out so everyone comes up to Stauffer. It’s the only clear water many years. Yeah, it kind of sucks that there’s 4, 5, or 6 cars at the bridges or that the Buck For Wildlife Parking lot is jammed pack at the peak of things – and it’s been that way since the 70s that I know of. But you know what? Within a month everything opens up and people spread back out. You want to know why? Because people only ever want easy trout. And by the time people finish fighting for space and spooking the hell out of those trout, they sure aren’t easy to catch. It can be tough some days. I recall back in the early days – in the early 80s – when word got out through the fly shops about the green drake hatch. One day I got jumped by 7 different groups, every one trying to out walk the other. All you need is 8 or 900m of stream to have a great day, but here these guys were walking miles and miles just because they thought they could get ahead. So, I just started asking them to leave me 3 or 4 bends. What do I care? There’s usually only time in any hatch for 2 or 3 hrs fishing anyway and that’s enough distance to enjoy the water.”

And he’d always come around to these same points, and always saved the same point for the end of our talks. “But you know, if it wasn’t for everyone pitching in, in their own way, we’d never have gotten Stauffer back to what it is.”

Of course, the province of Alberta has grown from about a million people in the late 70s to 4.5 million people today. We drive faster trucks on more paved highways to more streams and rivers. With or without digital media, simple extrapolation of numbers has led to more people fishing these waters at this time of year – especially in years like this one when all our mountain rivers are swollen, and particularly after two drought years in a row in which droves of anglers discovered the joys of central brown trout streams in unusually favorable conditions that left many trout exposed to easy fly fishing. It’s not so easy this year, our expectations are high from the two easy years, and our collective efforts are certainly magnified, focused on the few that have decent conditions. 

As the above goes cyclically, so too the following example of emails and social media PMs that some folks have sent me through the years. I’m not going to filter this, just a simple copy-paste. This one is fairly tame, so let’s use it as an example of what kind of messages I/we get when we post photos or videos of even simple artistic appreciations of a moment in time such that today’s video shared. If you’re listening closely, that’s Jim McLennan on the guitar. Here’s the video we shared:

Here’s the message received from sharing a moment in time on a warm, early summer’s evening while parked literally on a highway bridge enjoying the sunset:

“Hey Dave, just wondering why in the fuck you’re publishing on social media when the hatches are goin down? It may seem wildly obvious to you and many people when the hatches are or should about be happening. But it sure isn’t to a lot of other people. Are we trying to get our rivers jammed up like the east coast or even some of Montana’s? You get to fish all over the world all the time, most people do not. Don’t ruin it for the locals who stay local please.”  Name not needed

Knowing what I know of how things work with Stauffer, my lack of any desire for conflict, my simple desire to share the love of a moment on a warm, early summer evening in a scant moment in time with my wife, I replied with the following, hoping to help and connect someone who might not be as familiar with the history of how things have long worked, have long “been”:

“Hello ___. By your logic, a fellow can’t simply share an artistic bit of video from a gorgeous evening? Do you have any idea of how long this kind of phenomenon (blaming, hating, chastizing) has been going on? People used to throw the same darts at Kerry Wood for talking about it in the old club back in the ’50s, Barry for running the AFG, McLennan for his writing & tv show, the fly shops since the 80s, and Scammell for his writings over several decades. I am not too sure that one or two 50 second videos that help & inspire people to simply enjoy their time will ruin it for everyone. Or perhaps the videos will help them come to the true realization of those videos – that wonderful, joyful moments of fly fishing are fleeting and sometimes we need to simply slow down and enjoy those moments beyond the fly fishing, beyond our projection of what trout & result based activity means – to appreciate the moments that hatches bring and what they are in their ecosystem-level fullness. It sounds like maybe you might need to consider that? I truly hope that you enjoy your time on the water beyond the fish, maybe considering people like Barry Mitchell & Bob Scammell who have recently passed, coming long before you to lay the work on these streams to ensure there was habitat to sustain what we have – most of that done by inspiring & encouraging people to enjoy these streams, including them in fund-raising and in-stream work to ensure that habitat effort took place. Cheers.”

Hopefully a few more folks can better understand how things have long worked and appreciate perspective on larger, more global-minded discussion. Yes, we all want what we want, when we want it, how we want it. Me too. But the world is an involved place. Further, seeing things on the internet brings everything so close to home for some. Me too sometimes. It strikes so many personal cords that maybe some of us aren’t prepared for, maybe that we don’t want to see from our perspective even though the other person is simply sharing it from theirs. Life means so many different things to each of us. For Amelia & I the main reason we love camera work so much is that it allows us to enmesh ourselves into that one moment, to simply enjoy all that we can in that single engagement in a stream environment. As we’ve discovered in a lot of places we’ve fished, there is never a guarantee that we’ll get more than one such moment on any given day on any given water. In fact, most often, there are only 2 or 3 magical moments any day on a trout stream. How we choose to appreciate them and how we choose to allow our presence to process them, that’s up to us regardless of who else is on that water. 

This was a great opportunity to simply share my/our perspective on these kinds of things. We can’t control what 7 Billion people on the planet do, much less what their values are. I wish I didn’t also have to re-learn that lesson in life, but hopefully this helps a fellow angler. If not, and we continue to get the same email or PM, I’m happy to have taken the time to type out my reply here, with its positive, encouraging intent, so that when this & next year’s 10 – 15 messages come in I can simply send them the link to this post. The neat thing is there is nothing to argue, it’s simply sharing a perspective. Happy fishing everyone.

Dave & Amelia Jensen.

4 thoughts on “A Stauffer Story & Its Perspectives

  • June 24, 2017 at 12:39 am

    A great reflection on the age old story of population overrunning super trout streams and habitat.

    • June 24, 2017 at 12:56 am

      And no matter how many Vans Deferens are snipped, it won’t get any better.


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