From the Editor in Chief: Catch and Release

Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be, 

As I’ve told you before, I grew up roaming a 600-acre farm in North Georgia. If I wanted to hunt, I walked out of the back door and across a pasture. If I wanted to fish, I drove down a dirt road to a three-acre pond hidden deep in a pine forest. Conversely, my wife grew up on an acre in a town since consumed by the leviathan that is Atlanta. We have very different perspectives on the importance of land ownership.  

Now we live in a heavily wooded neighborhood made of lots smaller than an acre. It’s a lovely place, but heavily wooded isn’t “the woods”. There’s a pond in front of my house though, and that helps as I am always called to features that break up the sameness of a landscape, particularly water. Though the perpetual spray of the aerating fountain that keeps the pond from being a mosquito breeding ground reminds me that the whole thing ultimately represents an aesthetic decision by a land developer, the bass within are no less real for that. 

I recognize I am blessed to be able to step outside my front door with my daughter and let her feel the excitement of a fish exerting all its will in contravention of hers. I am grateful I can teach her the importance of catching and releasing and treating the natural world with dignity in the process. These are notions increasingly in short supply in our world. Of course, I am not the only one called to the pond in front of my house, the other one in our neighborhood, or the dock that extends out over the tidal creek on which the neighborhood sits. It’s an abundance of nature that brings people from outside, particularly young men and boys. Some lawyers might call it an “attractive nuisance”, but Edward Abbey had something to say about “those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box” and I am sympathetic to those who dance to the same songs I hear in my head. 

However, with trespassers come problems I won’t detail here, save to say my passionate commitment to both the American notion of private property and the wonder of our unique public lands system sometimes clash on convergence in my front yard. It’s a conundrum for a sportsman who decries the passing of the days when you could knock on a farmhouse door, ask for permission to hunt the woods, or fish a stream and maybe make a friend in the process. 

When I consider the extinction of that lovely bit of community spirit, of the opportunity to explore another person’s holdings and perhaps open their eyes to a new way of looking at something they love, I think it must have some genesis in our growing unwillingness to truly communicate with one another. Of course, we all talk non-stop. Social media has convinced us of the heightened merits of our voices. As evidence, look no further than me, your faithful correspondent, whispering into the void every month in hopes you are listening. Perhaps therein lies an opportunity. 

John Jay said, “Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good will and kind conduct more speedily changed.” I believe our nation’s ongoing experiment in democracy leaves room to soften the edges of our beliefs. Frankly, I think the unwillingness to do so is a source of many of our societal ills. Efforts made in furtherance of communication are efforts made in furtherance of hope. 

So yesterday, when I looked out my front window to see two young men standing in my yard throwing bait, a pursuit I wish more young men would take up, I walked out and introduced myself. I explained where they were and what that meant legally. I explained the etiquette of knocking on a property owner’s door and asking rather than assuming. I explained my commitment to catch and release in that pond and my expectations based thereon. Then I told them where the bigger bass hang out and what they best bite for me. 


Russel Worth Parker

Russell Worth Parker
Editor-in-Chief, Tom Beckbe Field Journal