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March 20, 2008

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The Dirt on ATVs

I've been hearing an awful lot of negatives lately about ATVs. Trout Unlimited is on a kick to clamp down on quad riding in environmentally sensitive areas where stream habitat may be compromised. Sounds logical to me.

But I'll call myself a hypocrite before one of you does. Truth is, one of my best fishing adventures was in Alaska ... and it never involved a float plane. We fished by quad. We stayed on established trails, but we found a vast and exciting realm sandwiched between the crowded rivers by highways and the expensive fly-out lodges. Check it out:

Quads in Alaska

Seems to me that it's a matter of assuming some responsibility and doing things right. Ride like a banshee, and people will object. Ride responsibly, and the quad is your chariot to the next river over. But I wonder what you all think about the issue. What's the real dirt on ATVs and flyfishing?



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Ben Romans

I'm going to take a general stance here and go outside just the realm of fly fishing. I don't have a distain for ATVs so much as the fraction of riders that are disruptive to the environment, wildlife, and the experience of others. I don't spend weeks getting in shape to hike and hunt where few travel and enjoy hearing some fat, lazy, psuedo-sportsman who could couldn't care less about the rules/laws/regulations putter up to my camp and complain about how he hasn't seen a thing all week.

When it comes to fishing, I have the same attitude. A lot of anglers complain about crowds on the water but do little in the way of distnacing themselves from access points. When I take the time to walk a mile or two for some elbow room, the last thing I want to see or hear is an ATV plowing through the shallow-water banks like a storm trooper.

I agree with you Kirk. . . If riders are obeying laws, and unobtrusive, I don't have a problem with ATVs. Unfortunately I feel this is the exception among riders and not the norm.


Dear God! Don't you know that you can't say these types of things? This is America, where you can't ask people to be reasonable without infringing on someone's rights.

Where I am from apparently ATV riders have the right to tear down gates and fences; spin ruts four feet deep in pasture fields; terrorize livestock; mud bog in very sensitive native trout streams; ignore all speed limits and traffic regulations; run old ladies into ditches; and generally make fools of themselves.

I realize that not everyone who owns an ATV is a moron; however, apparently every moron seems to own an ATV.

As you can tell I have strong opinions on this matter. I own an ATV and have ridden them since I was a kid, but I was taught to ride responsibily. However, based on my recent experiences there don't seem to be alot of riders that are responsible or reasonable.

The really sad thing--at least around my part of the world--is that is not just kids that ride irresponsibily, but adults as well.


In 2006, I was fishing the southern coast of Oregon for fall salmon. My usual rivers (the Elk and Sixes) were blown out, but I saw on the Gazetteer that a campground 25 miles north offered public access to a nice coastal creek that might clear faster. I knew that it was a quad park -- State land, dedicated to giving quads run the dunes. But I figured, how bad could it be? May as well fish it.

I got into the day use area and a gang of morons were literally ripping around the parked cars and people in the parking lot like a jackass rodeo. You couldn't hear yourself think, and you'd better worry about your own vehicle. I walked over to the creek to take a look and people were roaring right up next to me on the bank to ask what I was fishing for.

The point of all this is that I don't think quads have a place on public land. If I'm out hiking, I don't want to have to hear somebody roaring over the sage brush on the next ridge. If I've got a remote, pristine fishing spot, I'd rather share it with people who worked for it with sweat.

Ben Romans

Sorry, got to share one more story after reading about Matt's experience--unfortunately it is not fishing related, but it illustrates the point I was trying to make, and I think underlines Matt's even more. . .

This past summer was skinny when it came to rainfall, so finding a water hole to hunt antelope over this archery season was tough to come by. I slept in my truck, woke WELL before sunrise, and hiked two miles to a spring that offered an unbelievable view in all directions. At daybreak I spotted a small group of goats 1/2 mile away coming at me slowly. When they closed the distance by half, I started hearing a motor rumbling in the distance, as did the antelope. They didn't listen long before speeding off in the opposite direction. A "hunter" (using the term loosely) pulls up and says "wow, I didn't think anyone would hike to this spring." Then speeds off.

Had he been on foot, respected the fact that my truck was at the trailhead, or simply turned around when he saw my blind, the antelope may have not turned away.

Like I said before, I'm sure ATVs are great at certain times & places, but with users like this (and those in Matt's story), it's hard to see them as anything but a nuiscience on most public lands. I simply don't believe ATV users respect the "experience" of others as much as hunters that put in their sweat time as Matt put it.

Thom Souza

I went deer hunting with my son and two nephews in West Virginia, in November 07 in the New Martinsburg area. The area is all hills, close to small mountain size, and very steep. We hunted on a 300 acre piece of private land, and that is a long walk, close to impossible to drag or carry a kill back to camp. We used two ATV's riding double, to get to the stands, and returning (with or without a deer carcass) each morning and afternoon. Driving responsibly hurts nothing in the environment, and makes for a great hunting experience. I'm 66 years old, and I could never carry a 140 lb deer more than a very short distance. ATV's don't ruin the land, irresponsible people do. I'm a member of the Somerset Sportsmans Club here in Massachusetts and we don't allow ATV's on our 236 acre property, because of irresponsible people who just want to race, rather than enjoy being with nature.

Ben Romans

Hey Thom, there's a lot of other ATV riders out there that could learn something from your example.

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