It's the Least I Can Do by Mark Usyk

It starts as several little branches, wandering through the Adirondacks like lost souls without a care. Some begin as the outflows of small ponds with no names in a boreal forest, some gather the trickles of streams that only flow in the spring as snow melts and gradually become larger streams, and yet others appear from the ground itself. These are the beginnings of an Adirondack water shed I’m only just beginning to get to know, yet I feel as connected to as if I’ve known it my entire life. These branches flow through dense, pathless, near impenetrable forest, and as they gather the miles they also gather width and depth, but still remain what you’d call a stream. They flow into one just before entering a notable lake, and through this lake these waters flow, until it becomes the outlet of this fine lake which at the same point becomes the growing inlet of a great lake some six miles downstream. These waters hold wild Brook Trout, and it’s because of the trout that I’ve spent so many days over the past two seasons hopping from rock to rock, crouching on the bank in the cover of green ferns, and exploring around each new bend, pushing farther upstream or down from either end, making it my goal to finally say that I’ve fished the entire thing, and this past week I could say that I have done just that.

That of course doesn’t mean that I know the stream with any intimacy, although there are a couple runs I can say I know very well. I could never claim to know where all the deep holes are, or where the largest fish live, although the fishing can be so good that I have in fact only ever been skunked on it once, and that blame I lay on the storm the day before rising the water level to raging white waters on several runs. In this stream, what I’ve learned is if it looks fishy you cast to it. There’s probably going to be a flash of coppery pink, the tea color tinted waters playing on the pink belly of a Brookie. If it doesn’t look fishy, well, even then I’ve found many times the dart of a black fish shape and the same flash as a fish takes and turns.

This is nothing but a tiny pin point on the map of the Adirondack Park, yet to fish it and be totally honest with myself, I know I’ll never discover all of its secrets. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, but to be honest again, I’m not sure that I want to. Somethings are greater with mystery, so I travel to this water shed not trying to pry answers from it, but more waiting to see what information it willing gives up. This is not my stream. I think it’s completely the opposite. The stream doesn’t belong to me, I belong to the stream. And so I’ll do what I can while sharing its space to protect it. I’ll carry out what I carry in. I’ll catch and release, I’ll tread lightly and leave no trace. This is the least I can do for such a great friend that I’ve only just met. It’s already done more for me than I could ever repay.