Late last fall, I noticed something in front of my house. Hanging from a tree next to the lake was a trail of fishing line.
It started high in the branches and left a tangled web all the way to the water. I felt my blood start to heat. Who in their right mind would just leave a rat’s nest of line?
Accidents happen. I get it.
On many occasions, I too have let loose with an errant cast and ended up in some terrestrial place.
The difference is, I along with many other anglers, do everything they can to recover as much broken line as they can and dispose of it properly. Whoever left this mess in front of my house smudged the name of good outdoors folks everywhere.
My intention here is to not sound preachy and climb upon a soapbox, but in the era that we live in, people are quick to cast blame and spread their disgust across the internet.
A single incident that is broadcast widely can create harm and hate when the majority of a sport’s participants are quality individuals with the utmost respect for nature.
So how can we do something about this?
People can shout from the rooftops, they can organize awareness campaigns, they can even put together cleanup crews to go out and pick up another’s mess.
All of these actions are excellent, deserving of recognition, and positive steps in making a difference, yet there is another method of education that will reap reward for generations to come.
We need to model good stewardship of our resources for those we venture into the outdoors with.
Children are the first group that most will think of. If we fish with a child, end up in a tree, and take the time to clean up our own mess, odds are that child will repeat the process for the rest of their lives. No words even need to be said.
Children are more perceptive than we often give them credit for. Trust me. That child who watches their adult role model take the time to get their line out of a place it shouldn’t be knows they should do that as well.
Yet children are not the only people who need our gentle guidance.
One time I was fishing with a guy in northern Arkansas. We were idling our boat out of a cove toward the main lake. On the way, we decided to eat a quick snack and wash it down with some soda.
In the middle of a bite of sandwich, I witnessed him finish his drink, hold the aluminum can over the side of the boat, let it fill with water, and then release it so it sank to the bottom.
He noticed my disgust from my mouth hanging wide open. He responded with a simple, “That’s the way we do things around here.”
It was too late at that moment, even though I proceeded to let him know how stupid that was. The next time I would be ready.
Sure enough, not that many months later the opportunity presented itself again with a different fellow, on a different lake, in a different location.
As I watched him finish a drink and begin to move the empty can over the side of the boat, I interrupted him and gently told him that he could toss that can into a boat compartment and I would be happy to dispose of it properly later. He got the message loud and clear.
Modeling proper outdoor ethics is something we all need to take seriously. People are watching. Everywhere. And with social media so easily accessible, it is about time that we “share” stories of doing the right thing.
It’s up to each of us. A life or two impacted by our individual actions and lead others to follow the example. The impact can be one that carries on long after we ourselves are gone.
In the meantime, I will wrestle that line out of the tree while the ice is still on the water.
Be safe out there and leave no trace.