Stock or Native

I  knew a man in Tennessee whose real name was John Smith.  I point out that this was his real name because otherwise you would think I was disguising it.  John lived in Tellico Plains and he’d been taught to trout fish by a forest ranger who was the best in the region.  John became an expert himself and one day I went fishing with him because we were friends.  I was no expert when it came to trout fishing.

trout-streamWe drove a long way up into the mountains and parked at the end of the road.  Then we took our gear and began hiking.  We hiked on and on, following mountain streams toward where they came from.  I wondered why we were walking so far and climbing up so high.  There was plenty of water to fish in down where we parked the car.

When he finally slowed down and I caught up with him, I asked John Smith about this.  Weren’t there fish in the streams down where we came from?  Why had we climbed all the way up here?  Down there the streams were big enough to hold a lot of fish, but up here there were some places you could almost jump across.

This is how I learned about stock trout and native trout.  Most all the fish in the lower streams have come from the stock farms.  They were raised in ponds and fed by hand several times each day, then released for people to catch.  They are easy to catch because they’re used to just gobbling up whatever food is tossed in front of them.  Bait your hook with some whole kernel corn, throw it in, and haul them out.  That wasn’t the kind of fishing John Smith had in mind for himself, or for me.

John Smith would not have gone out with rich Texans to blast farm-raised quail just released from their cages.  He would not have considered that hunting, even if one of them was the Vice President.

The trout up here in these streams are native trout, he said.  Born here, raised here.  They’re smart, and to catch one of them you have to be smart, not just lucky.  And then he began to tell me about what to use, and how to walk noiselessly, and how to approach a pool, and how to cast into the churning water and let it float down, and other things like that.  There was a gleam in his eye as he spoke about these things.  There was contempt in his voice when he spoke of the crowds that line the bank to catch the stock fish as soon as they get released.

Why is it that some people walk farther and work harder as a matter of choice?  Why do most stay on the broad and level roads, while others deliberately choose the road less traveled?

Americans have gotten used to the idea of an easy living.  We’ve gotten spoiled on easy work, easy money, easy fishing in the streams right beside the road.  But the times, they are a-chang’n.

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