Philosophically, I knew from an early age that gold was sometimes found in trout streams. Practically however, there is a real difference from “book learnin” and actually discovering something yourself. I think the difference was something Socrates discovered about 400 years B.C. If you figure it out yourself you will really learn something.
I first really learned that there was gold in trout streams, when I went with my Dad to the shoe repair shop to pick up a pair of fishing shoes that Dad had resoled with a new layer of felt to replace the felt that had had holes worn in it. As the shoemaker handed Dad his newly resoled boots he said “Oh, this was stuck in between the layers of old felt” and handed Dad a small gold nugget about the size of a popcorn kernel. Somewhere in his wading of countless miles of Trout streams, Dad had managed to pick up real, honest to goodness gold! The problem was, we never did figure out exactly where he picked up the nugget.
A few years later, we were fishing a remote section of the South Fork of the Merced River and happened across a couple guys panning for gold. Since we were there for trout and the other guys were seeking gold, they were glad to show off their finds for us. One of the guys reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a glass vial almost filled with small gold nuggets. They were having a pretty productive weekend and had several ounces of the stuff. I was mightily impressed and had trouble concentrating on my fishing for the rest of that trip. To this day, I still keep a gold pan handy and oftentimes slip it into the big back pocket of my fishing vest.
Although I am not a dedicated prospector, I still stop for lunch along side one of my favorite trout streams and will do a little exploratory gold panning during my mid-day lunch break. It’s probably a good thing that I havn’t found any serious gold in my lunch break gold panning, because it might present a serious philosophical choice. I often wonder which I would choose. Trout or gold? Thus far I have taken the high road and stuck with the noble trout. But if I ever found some real, decent sized gold nuggets, would I remain so high and mighty? Over the ensuing years I have run into more and more week-end gold seekers plying my beloved trout waters. For the most part, we have an amicable existence, me seeking my beloved trout, and they seeking more practical riches. In our own way we are each right.
So what does the possibility of gold in your trout stream mean for you? It seems to me that it adds another dimension to your ability to enjoy the incredibly diverse and amazing outdoor world the Good Lord created for us. Just as I thrill at the sight of a bald eagle circling the air currents above me, I freeze in momentary terror at the sound of a rattlesnake that I have disturbed with my heavy footfalls. I delight in the smell of wild azaleas that line one of my favorite streams and wonder at the amazing camouflage of a bobcat about to pounce on an unsuspecting rabbit. Of course I’m out there trying to catch trout, but all of the other extras make it a delightful trip even if I catch no fish at all. That’s why I fish the wild places, its all golden.
Until next week,