Fly fishing gear

Should public lands be places where policy is checked at the trailhead?

My partner’s grandson and I rounded a bend on the small creek that flows near the Idaho-Wyoming border. .

It’s not a particularly wild country, but it’s a bit remote – 16 miles from the nearest town. In the middle of the day, however, I would be quite fine with letting my grandchildren run around unsupervised; a simple, “Check every half hour or so, okay? Is about all I would ask. It’s a place that I know very well, and the views are such that it is quite easy to find a child by standing on top of the cliff and looking at the meadow below.

As we came through the bend, another fisherman came towards us, armed with a fly rod, a floppy hat… and a handgun in a holster. It turned out he was new to fly fishing and he was new to this cove as well. We chatted briefly, and I offered him some pointers, added about three feet to his leader, put a strike indicator two feet above his Prince Nymph, and officially introduced myself. He was camping not too far from where Braxx and I were camping with my partner Toni and granddaughter Cyra (these kids are not mine, but I gladly claim them).

The new fisherman then noticed that Braxx was checking the gun on his hip.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I’m armed,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll need it, but it’s always better to be safe. Do I have something to fear? “

Did it bother me? Meh. This is Idaho.

This is an open port state: no permit is required to carry a firearm in plain sight, and it is not unusual in these areas to see people with firearms on. hips. It’s a tough pill to swallow at times – the idea that guns make us safer remains a strange idea for me, especially after a fairly busy spring on the mass fire front (as of this writing. lines, there have been 247 mass shootings in the United States, and 283 deaths as a result). But I live in a very red state – guns are sacred here, and have been for decades.

Did he have anything to worry about? Never in 22 years of fishing in this particular cove have I had a wildlife encounter that would give me a break. In the fall, during grizzly bear binge eating, I’ll take a bear spray with me just to be on the safe side. But I never had to open the valve. Never. So in my opinion no. He had nothing to fear.

But then it got weird.

° ° ° °

I returned to camp and it wasn’t long before Toni let me know that she had met the same guy and her son, who was, conveniently, Braxx’s age. I said he sounded like a nice guy, and by all accounts he was. But Toni scolded me quickly.

“He is a nice guy, she said. “But you don’t talk politics with him.”

It was a fair warning. For Idaho, I am a fiery liberal. I would sound like a moderate solid by the way, but here I’m a shameless left-hander.

The events of last winter and the continued perpetuation of “The Big Lie” eat away at my very solid American soul. In Idaho, I have many opportunities to engage in a political discourse on the subject, and usually it ends with a “We will have to agree to disagree” statement and a handshake.

A sad commentary about us: The fear-filled and gun-filled political divide has even reached the hinterland, once a sacred area of ​​solace for most people. What kind of nation are we becoming? What lessons do we teach, by our own example, to the next generation? Photo courtesy of Chris Hunt

Yes, it is frustrating. I am perplexed on a daily basis. But I chose to live here, in large part for what I shared with this new angler: Idaho is inundated with public land and the opportunities that these precious landscapes offer.

And, also, just for the record, I own several guns myself. I sometimes enjoy hunting grouse and ducks, and have been known to pick up an over-the-counter deer or elk tag. I am not anti-guns. Not at a distance. But I am pro-pragmatism. And, while I’m never going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t have a gun on their hip, it’s probably not something I’ll ever do.

Well… until last weekend maybe.

° ° ° °

My new acquaintance, his wife and children walked around and spent a few nights around the campfire with us, discussing this and that. I followed my marching orders. No politics.

On the second night, however, I had an extra glass of whiskey, and our previously cordial conversation erupted – luckily the kids were playing cards in the camper van and they missed the fire. Our new acquaintance took great offense at my assessment of the events of January 6 in Washington, DC – a topic he introduced (he had sipped a flask of scotch, so we were both playing with fire).

He was here at the United States Capitol, I learned, and his perspective is very different from mine. According to him, paid actors hired by the liberal left burst into the People’s House, and not peaceful demonstrators. The evil mainstream media distorted the events of the day, giving the impression that a silent protest turned into a riot that left five people dead.

What about Angela Babbitt, the 35-year veteran who was shot and killed by Capitol Police as she entered the President’s Lobby? She is also an actress and she is not really dead. Everything has been staged to shame the Trump wing of the GOP. He believe these things to be true. Down to his bones.

If you ask Toni, I reacted predictably. I said things I shouldn’t have. I said things that I regret having said. And as my new fly-fishing acquaintance stood above me, fists rose, equally offensive language sprang from her throat amid a spray of spit.

Was it really happening in a campsite, a public gate to a trout stream?

Wives and girlfriends jumped into the fray and quickly calmed things down. We were able to end the political discussion without fists flying (or a pistol coming out of its holster). With our grandchildren and their children having a good time in the woods, it was wrong to let political ideology ruin a perfectly good time.

We shook hands and changed the subject. He and I were able to put our differences aside, which I wasn’t sure would be possible after a heated exchange of insults. I’m glad we let cold heads prevail. It was the wise choice.

Now, all that being said, the reason this story has a generally happy ending is that two adult men with very deep (and opposing) political views could come to our senses and move on. But as my new acquaintance asked me a day earlier by the creek, I can’t help but wonder, “Do I have something to worry about?” “

From bears to the occasional pumas and coyote family that we spy on every now and again at the campsite or in the cove, I can definitely say ‘No’.

But my encounter on the creek was not with a wild animal. On the contrary, I would run into my political opposite: a devoted believer in a lot of things that I don’t believe either. And he was armed. There are ways this meeting could have ended differently. Tragically. And, without any political emphasis, I honestly think I have the evidence to show that when ideologues put a gun into just about any loaded situation, shit can get salty (see Kenosha, Wisc).

So I’m sitting here, reliving the evening when a serene gathering around a campfire turned into almost a brawl, and I’m so grateful that there were two more out there who were able to step in and prevent two juicy men from clashing.

But things are not improving. Things don’t get any safer. We are more divided than ever, and we are violently divided, judging by the demonstrations, the riots, the instinctive will to come to blows around a campfire … chaos.

And for the first time in my life, I wonder if I too need to be armed at the edge of a trout stream. Not to protect me and my family from wildlife. But from another human being. The mere thought freaks my stomach. Buy a gun to protect myself and the ones I love another person while I camp on public land, miles from civilization. Until last weekend, I would have laughed at the idea.

Our powerful political ideologies permeate all aspects of American life, including the once peaceful campfire where the scariest thing one encountered was an expertly recited ghost story.

I keep hearing my new acquaintance: “I don’t know if I’ll need it, but it’s always better to be safe.

EDITOR’S NOTE: How do we unite as a nation? If you have a pragmatic answer to Chris Hunt’s essay. drop us a line by clicking here and we’ll consider posting your thoughts in the space below.

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