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The Alder Fork a Fishing Idyl

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This is the text of Leopold's essay "The Alder Fork" paired with beautiful images. This presentation can be used as a backdrop to help illustrate public readings of the essay.

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The Alder Fork a Fishing Idyl

  1. 1. On this SlideShare page, you will find several Power Point presentations, one for each of themost popular essays to read aloud from A Sand County Almanac at Aldo Leopold Weekendevents. Each presentation has the essay text right on the slides, paired with beautiful images thathelp add a visual element to public readings. Dave Winefske (Aldo Leopold Weekend eventplanner from Argyle, Wisconsin) gets credit for putting these together. Thanks Dave!A note on images within the presentations: we have only received permission to use theseimages within these presentations, as part of this event. You will see a photo credit slide as thelast image in every presentation. Please be sure to show that slide to your audience at least once,and if you dont mind leaving it up to show at the end of each essay, that is best. Also please notethat we do not have permission to use these images outside of Aldo Leopold Weekend readingevent presentations. For example, the images that come from the Aldo Leopold Foundationarchive are not “public domain,” yet we see unauthorized uses of them all the time on theinternet. So, hopefully that’s enough said on this topic—if you have any questions, just let usknow. mail@aldoleopold.orgIf you download these presentations to use in your event, feel free to delete this intro slide beforeshowing to your audience.
  2. 2. The Alder Fork-A Fishing Idyl
  3. 3. We found the main stream so low that the teeter-snipe pattered aboutin what last year were trout riffles, and so warm that we could duck inits deepest pool without a shout. Even after our cooling swim, wadersfelt like hot tar paper in the sun.
  4. 4. The evenings fishing proved as disappointing as its auguries. We askedthat stream for trout, & it gave us a chub. That night we sat under amosquito smudge & debated the morrows plan. Two hundred miles ofhot, dusty road we had come, to feel again the impetuous tug of adisillusioned brook or rainbow.
  5. 5. There were no trout. But this, we now remembered, was a stream of parts.
  6. 6. High up near the headwaters we had once seen a fork, narrow, deep, &fed by cold springs that gurgled out under its close-hemmed walls ofalder.
  7. 7. What would a self-respecting trout do in such weather? Just whatwe did: go up.
  8. 8. In the fresh of the morning, when a hundred whitethroats had forgotten itwould ever again be anything but sweet and cool, I climbed down the dewybank & stepped into the Alder Fork.
  9. 9. A trout was rising just upstream. I paid out some line-wishing it would always stay thus soft and dry and,measuring the distance with a false cast or two,
  10. 10. laid down a spent gnat exactly a foot above his last swirl. Forgottennow were the hot miles, the mosquitoes, the ignominious chub.
  11. 11. He took it with one great gulp, & shortly I could hear him kicking in thebed of wet alder leaves at the bottom of the creel.
  12. 12. Another, albeit larger, fish had meanwhile risen in the next pool, whichlay at the very head of navigation, for at its upper end the alders closedin solid phalanx.
  13. 13. One bush, with its brown stem laved in the middle current, shook with aperpetual silent laughter, as if to mock at any fly that gods or men mightcast one inch beyond its outermost leaf.
  14. 14. For the duration of a cigarette I sit on a rock midstream and watch mytrout rise under his guardian bush, while my rod and line hang dryingon the alders of the sunny bank.
  15. 15. Then-for prudence sake-a little longer. That pool is too smooth upthere. A breeze is stirring and may shortly ruffle it for an instant, andthus make more deadly that perfect cast I shall shortly lay upon itsbosom.
  16. 16. It will come-a puff strong enough to shake a brown miller off thelaughing alder, & cast it upon the pool. Ready now! Coil up the dry line& stand midstream, rod in instant readiness.
  17. 17. Its coming-a little premonitory shiver in that aspen on the hill lets me getout half a cast, and swish it gently back and forth, ready for the main puffto hit the pool. No more than half a line, mind you! The sun is high now,and any flicking shadow overhead would forewarn my hunker of hisimpending fate.
  18. 18. Now! The last three yards shoot out, the fly falls gracefully at the feet ofthe laughing alder-he has it! I set hard to hold him out of the junglebeyond. He rushes downstream. In a few minutes he, too, is kicking in thecreel.
  19. 19. I sit in happy meditation on my rock,pondering, while my line dries again,upon the ways of trout and men.
  20. 20. How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatevernew thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon theriver of time!
  21. 21. And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook.Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its objectprove true or false. How utterly dull would be a wholly prudent man, ortrout, or world!
  22. 22. Did I say a while ago that I waited ‘for prudence‘sake? That was not so. The only prudence infishermen is that designed to set the stage for takingyet another, and perhaps a longer, chance.
  23. 23. Time to be at it now-they will soon stop rising. I wadewaist deep to head of navigation, poke my head insolentlyinto the shaking alder, and look within.
  24. 24. Jungle is right! A coal-blackhole above, so canopied ingreenness you could notwave a fern, much less a rod,above its rushing depths.
  25. 25. And there, almost rubbing his ribs against the dark bank, a great troutrolls lazily over as he sucks down a passing bug. Not a chance tostalk him, even with the lowly worm. But twenty yards above I seebright sunshine on the water- another opening. Fish a dry flydownstream? It cannot, but it must, be done.
  26. 26. I retreat & climb the bank. Neck deepin jewel-weed & nettles, I detourthrough the alder thicket to theopening above. With cat-like carenot to roil his majestys bath, I stepin, & stand stock-still for fiveminutes to let things calm down.
  27. 27. The while, I strip out, oil, dry, & coil upon myleft hand thirty feet of line. I am that far abovethe portal to the jungle. Now for the longchance! I blow upon my fly to give it one lastfluff, lay it on the stream at my feet, & quicklypay out coil after coil. Then, just as the linestraightens out & the fly is sucked into thejungle, I walk quickly downstream, straining myeyes into the dark vault to follow its fortunes.
  28. 28. A fleeting glimpse or two as it passes a speck of sunlight shows it stillrides clear. It rounds the bend. In no time-long before the roil of mywalking has betrayed the ruse-it reaches the black pool. I hear, ratherthan see, the rush of the great fish; I set hard, and the battle is on.
  29. 29. No prudent man would risk a dollars worth of fly and leaderpulling a trout upstream through the giant toothbrush of alderstems comprising the bend of that creek.
  30. 30. But, as I said, no prudentman is a fisherman. By &by, with much cautiousunraveling, I got him up intoopen water, & finally aboardthe creel.
  31. 31. I shall now confess to you thatnone of those three trout had to bebeheaded, or folded double, to fittheir casket. What was big was notthe trout, but the chance.
  32. 32. What was full was not my creel, but my memory. Like the white throats, Ihad forgotten it would ever again be aught but morning on the Fork.
  33. 33. Photo Credits•Historic photographs: Aldo Leopold Foundation archives•A Sand County Almanac photographs by Michael Sewell•David Wisnefske, Sugar River Valley Pheasants Forever, Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, WisconsinEnvironmental Education Foundation, Argyle Land Ethic Academy (ALEA)•UW Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium, R. Freckmann, V.Kline, E. Judziewicz, K. Kohout, D. Lee, K Sytma, R.Kowal, P. Drobot, D. Woodland, A. Meeks, R. Bierman•Curt Meine, (Aldo Leopold Biographer)•Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)•Hays Cummins, Miami of Ohio University•Leopold Education Project, Ed Pembleton•Bird Pictures by Bill Schmoker•Pheasants Forever, Roger Hill•Ruffed Grouse Society•US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service•Eric Engbretson•James Kurz•Owen Gromme Collection•John White & Douglas Cooper•National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)•Ohio State University Extension, Buckeye Yard and Garden Online•New Jersey University, John Muir Society, Artchive.com, and Labor Law Talk

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