Last month I learned that the Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union in Bailey, Colorado, will close its mile-plus of the North Fork of the South Platte River to the 75 dues-paying members who have been fishing it for years, as well as outfitters and their clients. A wealthy individual agreed to pay $80,000 per year for five years to lease the property exclusively. So, he gets the big “F.U.” from the rest of us.
The Rocky Mountain Angling Club also described in its last letter how an outfitter and his sugar daddy financier wheedled a lease from the group by promising untold riches to a landowner. Then of course, there is the infamous Donny Beaver squeeze on Pennsylvania’s Little Juniata … and Montana, it seems, is always beating back efforts by wannabe land barons to undo what may be the most enlightened stream access law in America.
Don’t get me wrong, I support private landowner rights, and fish private water often myself. But the trend of privatizing, excluding, and raising the price of admission will kill this sport … at least as far as trout fishing is concerned. And it’s time for all the shops and manufacturers who collectively fret and whine about the shrinking fortunes of the flyfishing market to wake up and admit the obvious … flyfishing is killing itself. Unless we all get aggressive about expanding stream access nationally, there will be a few winners, and everyone else will lose.