Good evening, my friends,
We usually rush into conclusions without being aware of all the information. This reminds me of a very funny story about three religious men who were very good friends and avid golfers: a priest, a minister and a rabbi. One day, they were in a new golf course and they had to play following a group that moved very slowly. So slowly was their pace that the three religious men lost their temper and began to yell at them so that they would move faster. In the end, they even insulted the other group using dirty language. But nothing changed. The group kept moving as slowly as they could. Around seven hours later, the game was over. Then, they entered the club house and came across the manager, who kindly asked them: “Did you enjoy the match and our golf course?”. They said they had, of course, that the course was excellent, but that they had had to play following the slowest golfers in the world. The manager hit his own forehead with his hand and explained: “I truly apologize. I forgot to tell you that the group playing before you was made up by blind people”. “How terrible”, said the minister, “in my next speech, I am going to speak about rushing into conclusions and how clumsy I was”. Protesting, the priest mumbled: “What a horrible thing I’ve done! I am going to say 50 Hail Maries and beg for forgiveness”. Lastly, the rabbi screamed: “Screw them all! They should play at night!”.
How interesting. Three religious men who draw conclusions without considering the needs of blind golfers. On the other hand, the blind golfers did not have any consideration for those coming behind them. None of the two groups showed the kind of empathy that was obviously required. These two situations might be compared with the various groups that fight for water and fishing rights.
Water rights! A long time ago, it was the royalty who had the rights for hunting and fishing, and the commoners would not be entitled to such benefits. Let’s recall the story of Robin Hood, considered a criminal for having killed deer and other game animals that belonged to the king. I think it was after the French Revolution that the people claimed for these rights. The young countries in America and other parts of the world adopted these rights and the results may be seen in nations such as the United States and Argentina. The general law sets forth that all waters, especially navigable waters, are public and all of us may make use of them.
Wonderful! Who would even think to complain? However, the problem began when sport fishing became a profitable activity. Now we have people, communities, landowners and businessmen that have developed fishing lodges and… who are fighting for their own interest on these public waters.
The time has come, my friends, to proclaim a terrible but absolute truth: all and each of these groups with a conflict of interests have a reason and logical grounds in their position on Argentine waters. Let me make a brief description of some of these truths.
The local community is interested in attracting as much money, work and prestige as possible to this area. This is certainly a justified position.
The locals and the visitors claim access to the waters that are legally considered of public access. Again, a justified position.
The lodges and the independent fishing guides who bring people, money and work to the area and who have traditionally made a great effort to take care of the waters and the treasures that dwell them.
The landowners and the managers are also excellent guardians of our waters and are entitled to the economical benefits from their access and, of course, all the privacy they need.
Those who practice such activities as rafting, birdwatching, lovers of nature, etc. are also entitled to having their place in these waters.
My friends, there is one more factor we should consider and which is undoubtedly the most important of all: the very rivers and waters. Without pure well-managed waters, WE HAVE NOTHING!
I consider that survival is a basic motivation for human beings, in fact, for all beings. Then, a significant part of the survival instinct is represented by our personal interest. All of us must recognize that inside!! There is only one solution that would be fair for us all, which will remain and will not generate any further conflict or any kind of revolution. One word that summarizes this only possible solution. That word is: COMPROMISE!! We all have to give something and try to understand the other groups.
I do not consider myself wise enough or arrogant enough so as not to offer a specific compromise for each group. I can only make some broad suggestions to begin with and I hope you take them into consideration.
We all must contribute to the health and the beauty of the rivers and lakes. We must keep them clean, both as regards the purity of the water and the purity of the banks and shores. There must exist a strict limitation as to the number of fish that may be killed. The application of the catch and release concept must be considered in many, if not in all, of our waters. It would be ideal that the fish population as well as water basin may keep this critical balance point that exists in all the great fishing areas and that a philosophy that elevates the fishing experience to a superior level than that of being an instinct of man for the search of his food be applied.
The communities lying on the shores or close to the water are in fact the most fortunate. These communities, as well as the governing entities must do everything possible to keep the health and the beauty of our rivers and lakes. They must control all kinds of possible pollution and watch for the compliance with their rules and regulations. The education of our youth at school and the population in general is a requirement that will benefit us all, both in the present and in the future.
It is obvious that the landowners, the fishing lodges, the guides and all those who make profit from the waters must also fight to keep these valuable resources. They must provide their help to control the compliance with all directions established both by themselves and by their communities and contribute to the important educational process that is being carried out at present.
I repeat that these are but mere suggestions, a possibility to start working together on such a transcendental topic as the water rights.
Navigation is an easy and obvious way of access to our legally public waters, but I would suggest some limitations. For instance, the smaller rivers, such as the Quillén and the Quilquihue, would be crowded with boats, rafting inflatable boats, kayaks, etc. It would seem more logical that all kind of navigation be limited to the largest expansions of water, such as the Collón Curá or the Aluminé. There could even be seasons during which the number of boats be restricted, a policy that has already been implemented in some rivers of the United States.
The population in general and the independent guides must respect the needs of landowners of adjoining lands, whether through the payment of a fee to access these areas, the respect for privacy or whatever is required. This should also be applied to the lodges that are not related with the owners of the lands. This is an important concession as the owners are entitled to control the right of way.
The landowners, especially the owners of large estancias, should also make a commitment and permit others to pass. This has been done in Europe and in rivers of Argentina, such as the Grande River. Maybe it might be considered to permit access to other people once a week. In general, there is one day a week when guests leave the lodges and new guests come; or, maybe, they could permit access to one part of the river, as in the low pools of the Grande River in Tierra del Fuego. Another possibility would be that the local fishing club regulates and controls that restricted access in exchange for a low fee.
I would love to see professional fishing guides having a courtesy attitude towards other anglers, helping them choose the flies and the best places and even offering them the chance to be the first ones to choose an area in the water. It would represent a great advance in order to release the pressures that normally exist amongst professional and local anglers.
I only hope that all these groups with a conflict of interests may come to an agreement based on certain compromise. If we can start with that, a committee made up by one or more people from each group could be established and get together once or twice a year to solve the possible conflicts and make all necessary adjustments to the regulations in force. Agreements are living entities that must be adapted. It would be logical that these meetings be organized and managed by the community and that the government entities cooperate in all the stages of this agreement and in the water rights program.
Sport fishing attracts a significant number of tourists and money to Argentina and it offers citizens a valuable recreational activity.
WE MUST work together to present the world and our own citizens a spirit of cooperation and good will, without which WE ALL LOSE!!
Mel Krieger’s Speech addressed to the anglers in the Province of Neuquén.
April 15, 2006.
Mel Krieger (1928-2008)
On October 7, 2008, 80-year-old Mel Krieger stopped fishing and became one of the greatest myths of fly-casting. We know farewells are sad, but we are certain that every new season, our beloved Patagonia and the entire world will be honored by the memory of his greatness. Years may pass and Mel will go on fishing with us …
"There are four mainstays in the management of sport fishing: education, research, legislation and control. At present, legislation is working much better than the others. I can assure that legislation is very good, but if no control exists, it is useless. Although controlling is not everything; essentially, the angler must be educated."
"... trout are not sensitive to the cost of their equipment or their arrogance, but to technique and instinct. A technique that is only managed by means of sacrifice and an instinct that begins to take shape only after many years."