The River Doesn’t Owe You Anything

by | Apr 28, 2019 | 23 comments

The river doesn’t owe you anything.

It’s been here for millennia. It has bent and grown, widened and shaped the surrounding mountains and carved the bedrock beneath. It will outlast you and everyone who carries your name hereafter. The river is a rolling time machine, carrying a history of the earth, the evolution of life, and yes, even the stories of fishermen.

The river will swell to full capacity. It will flood and wash away island braids that have stood since your grandfather first waded across the current to hunt whitetail on the other side. It will delay the hatches of mayflies and midges. It will run low for two years straight and then blow out during the Green Drake hatch. It doesn’t care about you.

It doesn’t care about your five-hundred dollar waders or your thousand dollar fly rod. It doesn’t care that you spent a full paycheck in travel expenses to get here. The river follows no hatch chart, no timetable of expectations, nor any hopes and musings of a fisherman. The river doesn’t care about your plans.

A lifetime of casts to the water are but a half-frame of time in the eons of life flowing with a river. And yet, here you are — part of it all.

This is the majesty of fishing a river: to be among something so grand, so full of life and death — future turned to history — to walk upstream through a perpetual flow, to be immersed in a forever cycle as water passes through, knowing that someday, somehow, those wet molecules will return to this very place to flow again. And all of it, every piece of it, every moment, is here for you and your children, as it was for your father and his father before him.

The river doesn’t owe you anything. And yet, if you are humble, if you care for the river and protect it, if you are thankful for the experience, careful enough to learn its nuances, appreciative of the peace and the challenge it provides, the river will be kind in return.

The river gives you what you need. The river gives you what you earn.

Full of wild and wonderful trout, this river is not easy. But it educates. It teaches and nurtures and offers endless opportunity.

The river doesn’t owe you anything. But it is yours, if only for a short while.

Fish hard, friends.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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23 Comments

  1. A beautiful observation.
    Fly anglers, those fishing for trout anyway, seem to be afflicted more than most with a belief they are owed something.
    When reading catch reports the sentiment of being owed seems to mirror the level of excuse making.
    We all make excuses sometimes but maybe they are just a cover for our missing skill sets.

    Reply
  2. Replace “river” with “universe” and “fish hard” with “live hard” and you have a daunting but beautiful philosophy of life.

    Alex

    Reply
    • I really like that take. Resonate with these places we like to frequent and interact. A Franciscan and not Cartesian view for sure. Mystical.
      T

      Reply
      • Are you saying Descartes was a dry fly man?

        Reply
        • Interesting posit. I do feel pretty confident that Francis wouldn’t have practiced even catch and release.

          Reply
  3. Well written! We are but momentary guests in the river. What comes of our visit is strictly up to chance. That’s a fact I strive to teach my grandsons.

    Reply
    • Up to chance, and a little up to us, I believe. At least, that’s what gets me out there . . .

      Dom

      Reply
  4. Thanks for putting into print what I think many of us feel, I wish more folks respected and loved our rivers a little more.
    Mike.

    Reply
  5. These observations are worthy of the company of Barry Lopez and Also Leopold.

    Reply
  6. Best of your writings fellow fisher.

    Reply
  7. A fine article. I’ve met anglers on the stream that have cursed the river, the weather, their lack of success, loss of flies and many other things as if they were owed something for their time expended. Fishing isn’t a profit/loss chart. As you wrote, the river owes you nothing, if anything you owe it a debt of gratitude.
    Cheers,
    Steve.

    Reply
  8. Great piece Dom. None of us are owed anything in this life. Period. Not from the rivers, the land nor the sky. We are the indebted ones that should be grateful for the natural beauty around us. Hopefully those of us that choose to spend time outdoors never expect anything and are humble and grateful. It was a pleasure meeting you last week.
    Kind regards,
    Randy

    Reply
  9. Wonderful prose and excellent sentiment. I look forward to the book of the best of Domenick….

    Reply
    • Thank you.

      Reply
  10. It’s difficult for me not to appreciate the fact that the river is always there….waiting. I dislike generalizations but I think many of us have had that day or two where we thought some level of output was owed to us by the rivers we fish. Especially if a certain level of proficiency is obtained. If you fish enough though…the river will quickly bring you down to earth! In the past few weeks its rewarded, scorned, beat, and revived my soul. I’ll let it have its way with me until it can’t anymore.

    Reply
    • Nice.

      Reply
  11. Domenick,

    I keep rereading this piece and don’t know that I’ve ever read a finer set of words strung together. Maybe just because it’s about my passion, but I don’t think so. Rarely do I ever reread anything, but this is truly exquisite elegance, and it demands thought.
    And this is a perfect example of why you are my go to fly fishing blogger!
    You’ve almost got me putting 24 feet of mono on my reel too, it’s getting harder and harder for me to keep fighting the urge!

    Reply
    • Ha. Nice.

      Thanks for the kind words, Jason.

      Dom

      Reply

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