They’re Paving Paradise Like Joni Mitchell Said

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George Liset photo


    It was a beautiful day and I had to drive up north from the seacoast. If I am not in a hurry I try to take the road less traveled, which means that I try to drive by any body of water that I can.

This is especially true of rivers and streams that I fish. In New England in general, there are many roads that parallel rivers and streams. This makes for easy access for many fly fishers.

     I have a few spots that I like to fish because they are out of the way and quick to get to if I only have an hour or so to fish. I can get on the water and wet a line and just enjoy being outdoors. As I was driving by one of my go-to spots I was intently watching the water. I checked out water levels and river flow. I checked for signs of other fly fishers and planned my next outing.

George Liset

     As I reached my destination I realized that there was a sign posted by the river at my favorite spot. I was a little unsettled. The only sign that is good by a river is a “Fly Fishing Only” sign. On the way home I drove by my spot and my heart sank. It was a realtor’s “For Sale” sign. All I could think of was Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” and the verse, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

    When I first moved to the seacoast and started fly fishing, I would pump my friend Charley for some of his better spots. Charley would sound a lot like most of the old timers that would tell you how great the fishing used to be. How you could walk up and down rivers and catch fish and not see a person or a house. Charley said he doesn’t bother anymore. The allure of fishing is the solitude. Charley now solely fishes remote ponds in his float tube.

    When I saw the sign my mind went down the rabbit hole. All I could envision were kids yelling and dogs barking with “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. As John Denver versed, “More people, and more scars upon the land.”

When I got home I looked up what they were asking for the property. Three and a half acres for two hundred thousand dollars.

     The person who was going to buy this property wasn’t your average Joe. The author John Gierach talks about how gentrified and crowded Colorado is becoming, and how the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires. The TV mogul Ted Turner owns over one hundred and fifty thousand acres near Bozeman, Montana. That’s almost a quarter of the size of the state of Rhode Island.

    Now, I have no problem with people buying land and doing what they want on it, that’s one reason I live in “Live Free” New Hampshire. I just wish that everyone who bought land on or near rivers and streams were fly fishers. I know it is a lot to ask. More and more of my friends are heading north to fish rivers on state forests or national park lands. There are still places where you can find solitude and fish.

Other friends are going full on saltwater fly fishing which is probably smart. You can be on a boat and be an island unto yourself. No kids yelling and no barking dogs. I don’t think you’ll ever see a “For Sale” sign out in the Atlantic Ocean, and if you do, the Zombies are coming.

George Liset of Dover is an award-winning outdoor writer and avid fly fisherman who shares insights of his time on the water exploring New Hampshire streams and rivers as well of those around New England. George is a graduate of Wheaton College, Illinois, and the University of New Hampshire. His column Writing on the Fly has been honored by the New England Press Association and the New Hampshire Press Association.

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