Wandering willows

The wind in the willow played Love's sweet melody -- Blueberry Hill (1940)

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The water willow...No tree is so wedded to the water, and harmonizes so well with still streams ... Thoreau

Off and on for about ten years I have been wandering around sticking willow branches in places where clearcutting operations have taken the last tree on the riverbank, and in places where I felt shelter was needed, or where a bank was collapsing. Some of these places I have never been back to, or I've forgotten where I put them, so I don't know how they're doing, but I do know where they have taken and to see them mature is a heart-warming experience. Besides which, it adds yet another dimension to my love for fly-fishing.

Willows have preformed root initials all along their stems. Cut off a healthy branch, insert it into some moist earth (I actually stick mine in an old milk bottle with some water) and roots will form within a month or so. Do this in early spring or late winter and allow for some shade from the sun. The alternative is simply to stick the branch in the site where you wish it to grow.

If you haven't read the short story of The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono then perhaps you should.
It is the story of how one man, a shepherd, changed an entire, barren, desolate wilderness into a flourishing forest. "For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had sprouted. Of the twenty thousand he still expected to lose about half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before."
And that is only the birth of the forest, there is much more to this story of hope and renewal.
In W.A. (Bill) MacDonald's book, Trout Tales and Salmon Stories, there is a chapter entitled Fish Grow on Trees.
In this chapter, Bill was flying over an area that he'd fished 25 years before when he spotted a clearcut. He landed and revisited a stream where..."at one time cutthroat trout were plentiful and, during late summer, steelheads and coho salmon used to mount swift-flowing rapids and rest in deep pools together...The September stream had all but disappeared, and so, I was to learn, had the fish...A widening spiral of devastation had sprung out of a loggers greed and a humus killing fire that had eaten hungrily through neglected slashing...So you see, fish do grow on trees."

And in Charles Bradford's book The Brook Trout and the Determined Angler (1916) he states ... "that without trees there can be no waters, that without waters there can be no fishes, and that without fishes there can be no fishing."

Of course, there is always a downside to everything, as was the case when Jimmy D. Moore humorously stated that..."I knew my tippet was too large when the willow tree I'd hooked on my back cast came flying over my head."

Anyway, just a suggestion...but maybe the next time you go fishing perhaps you might take a tree cutting of some kind and plant it in a spot where it would be of help to the river. It would be a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

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Pat Donoghue, Canada, ©1997