How Does Your River Run?

I was up early today and took the time to visit two of my favorite trout streams in the central Adirondack Mountains. I only fish these streams twice during trout season and by so doing I have been able to keep them alive and productive for nearly 20 years. I can always count on catching my daily limit of nice speckled trout whenever I am on either. Beyond that it’s a joy and a quiet pleasure just to walk them and smell the pine scented air.

To my great surprise, the first stop found me on the banks of “my river”, but it was in a raging flood stage. Apparently it had rained hard last night in the region just north of where I was, and all the runoff had gorged the river with more water than I have ever seen. It was a roaring, swirling mass of liquid. Some rocks had been upended, smaller logs were floating down stream and the banks, although holding their place, were clearly overwhelmed by the sheer mass of water moving by.

In spite of the adverse conditions I pulled out my ultra-light trout rod, put a night crawler on a fresh hook and dropped my line into the water. The current quickly swept it away so I knew there was no point in wasting any more time in that place. It would have to wait for another day, when things were back to normal. So, I hiked back to my Trailblazer and moved to plan “B”. I would drive another 30 miles northwest to my second secret stream.

When I finally arrived at stream number 2, I was please to see that the water level was much lower than in my previous location. However, I knew it had received the same deluge of rain and wondered what had happened because of it. Within the first 100 yards of walking up stream I discovered something even worse than I expected. The rain had hit the stream hard, runoff came quickly and in so doing, it had actually changed the “character” of the stream. I am a trained field biologist and to me that means the stream bed and banks had actually been changed over night. It was evident that for all practical purposes my beloved stream was now totally different and perhaps even dead.

The volume of water that had rushed down the valley was so great that it actually changed the course of the river. It altered the distribution of river bottom gravel and produced sand bars where none had ever been. As a result, places that had once been deep clear trout pools were now gravel filled rapids. Sharp, tree covered bends that once provided dark cover for big speckled trout had been cut off and were now part of a brand new riverbed. Logs, sand, sticks and boulders were piled in tangled heaps wherever a bank had not given way. It was both a sickening and an amazing sight to see.

Why do I bring this up? Because we are all like those riverbeds in one way or another. Most of us are fixed in place and we like to run a certain way. We know our territory, we know where we are productive and we have learned how to thrive in things the way they are. And then along comes a storm! The river level rises, the rain falls, and when it does the pressure gets turned up. How deeply our river runs will determine just how much destruction comes our way.

If we are shallow and lack true spiritual and emotional substance, like river number two, every storm that moves through has the potential to upend us in a dramatic way. The debris of life and the emotional baggage of unresolved issues quickly floats to the surface and clouds our vision. The sand, (abrasive things) rocks (hard places) and logs (stubborn selfish flesh) all  create blockages that can end up changing the entire course of where we are going. If, however, we are like stream number one, deep and well established on bedrock, the end result is much different. The same storm may fill our banks and muddy the waters, but in the end all is well and we have not lost our focus or our ability to sustain vibrant, emotional and spiritual life.

My questions for the day are: “When the storms of life come, what kind of stream are you? What kind do you want to be? Are you willing to do what it takes to make that change happen? Your life is in your own hands. As long as you are breathing there is still time to make it what you want it to be. Let me encourage you to man up, face the issues at hand and get to it! When you do it will change not only your life, but even more importantly, it will change the lives of everyone you are destined to touch. That, in the final analysis, it the real prize you are after. Now stop making excuses, get up and do it!

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