Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Estimate of fish killed at Flat Branch increases to 14,000 - Columbia Missourian

Estimate of fish killed at Flat Branch increases to 14,000 - Columbia Missourian

"COLUMBIA — The estimated number of fish killed in Flat Branch Creek last week has skyrocketed from an initial estimate of 1,000 to 14,000. ..."

A lot of water was used to drown a fire that involved a lot of toxic liquids (an auto parts store as well as a beauty supply store and Chinese restaurant.  The Flat Branch flows into the Hinkson Creek and ultimately to the Missouri River.

The city of Columbia is already dealing with an EPA mandate to mitigate problems with the Hinkson, but when the watershed has so much impervious surface, it is really difficult to maintain water quality standards.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Fun Weekend...

[cross-posted from The Reformed Angler]

Every year the Boy Scout troop at my church goes on a campout called "Aqua Bumming". We stay for two days in cabins down at the Lake of the Ozarks, and run 50-60 boys through a variety of waterfront skills, including canoeing, sailing, rowing, swimming, fishing, and fly fishing.

A fellow scout leader and I taught seven boys who learned knots, how to tie flies, casting, and a variety of other skills that go into fishing with artificial flies. Then we went down to the lake shore and turned the boys loose with rods and reels graciously supplied by the Mid-Missouri Chapter of Trout Unlimited (both of us are also members of these organizations).

Starting off with the flies they tied themselves, the boys cast off the shore and some of them waded up to their waists. It was a good day for novice casters -- no wind to speak of and no one got into major difficulties with snags or knotted leaders. The major problems were the wakes from the powerboats that went by on regular intervals as well as the fact that we really weren't fishing in good habitat.

In spite of all that, four of the boys caught bluegill on the flies they tied themselves. Most of the boys had caught fish before on bait and spincast rods, but catching a fish with a fly rod was definitely a thrill for them, and doubly so because it was on a fly they tied themselves.

We'll be taking the boys to a farm pond near Columbia to finish the merit badge. The fish there don't get a lot of angling pressure, so they should get a chance to catch both bluegill and bass on a fly rod.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Wyoming Cutt Slam: A Trouting Quest

The Wyoming Cutt Slam: A Trouting Quest:
"What do you get when you cross an adventurer, a lover of beautiful places and a fly fisherman? You end up with me, who some have called a Don Quixote of trout fishing. And perhaps they're right. Of one thing I'm sure, one of the perfect places to go questing is Wyoming in search of the state's four beautiful native subspecies of cutthroat trout. Stream Side Adventures calls it the Cutthroat Adventure. Back in 1996 Wyoming established the Cutt Slam program to recognize anglers who catch all four cutthroat subspecies. To date less than 500 certificates have been awarded. ..."
This is a shameless plug for an old friend, Norm Crisp, of Streamside Adventures as well as a plug for a long-held belief that catching native species in their historic ranges is far more satisfying that catching a trophy Brown trout thousands of miles from its European origins.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Testing out Performance for Firefox

I found this add-on at the Mozilla add-on site. It is a WYSIWIG editor for firefox that permits you to cut and paste text and photos and to format your posting.

powered by performancing firefox

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chasing Wild Cutthroats in Colorado

May 29-June 3, 1996

M.R. Montgomery's book on native trout (Many Rivers To Cross, Simon and Schuster. 1995) crystalized in me a desire than had been building for several years: To seek out and fish for native trout -- not just for the fish, but because their habitat often represents some of the last wilderness in North America.

My parents live in Trinidad, so southern Colorado was a good place to start. I began making inquiries and made contact with Randy Keys of the Cottonwood Meadows Flyshop in Antonito, CO. I arranged to be guided one day while I was in the area and my parents reserved a cabin in Mogote (where the flyshop is actually located).

Shortly after we had made our arrangements, Fly Fisherman Magazine published a nice article on fishing the Conejos River, and Randy's flyshop was mentioned. One additional factor that confirmed the desirability of southern Colorado is that while central and northern Colorado experienced high run-off during 1996, southern Colorado had a fairly light snowpack, and most streams and rivers were running clear in late May and early June.

Susan, Liam, and I arrived in Colorado and spent three days with my folks in Trinidad (6100 feet) getting acclimated, and then we all drove to Antonito and set up housekeeping in the cabin (7900 feet). We spent two days exploring the area, driving up into the high country and walking about. I checked in with Randy and purchased two dozen flys of his recommendation, and went to a nice stream around 10,000 feet where I practiced flipping a fly into willows. After I switched to short-line nymphing, and began using the willows for cover, I caught and released a brookie -- feisty, and about 10 inches. This experience showed me three things: (1) I was able to handle the altitude, since this foray involved a quarter mile walk and a 100 foot descent into a high meadow (and uphill return); (2) Wind and Willows are a given for the type of fishing I was after; and (3) While you can't do anything about the wind, you can at least make the willows your ally.

The next day, Randy picked me up at the cabin at 7AM and we began a 45 mile drive, only the first 15 of which were on paved roads. The main part of the drive was on Forest Route 250, along the Conejos River valley, and my guide pointed out the areas that people like to fish, as well as some local lore and wisdom. There are many inholdings within the San Juan National Forest, especially along the rivers. Some are open to fishing, and some are leased by the Rocky Mountain Angling Club for the exclusive use of its members. There is always fishing to be had, though, even if you don't want to walk a couple miles.

Our first destination was a meadow at about 10,700 feet through which ran an easy-access creek that originated in snowfields draping the Continental Divide. While initial access was easy, moving upstream proved dicey, as it entered a box canyon and we needed to do some rock scrambling. The local Trout Unlimited chapter has done a number of stream improvements here, and the habitat was excellent form cutthroats. I caught two cutthroat in the first hour, and lost a few more. These were similar in spotting pattern to the Rio Grande subspecies, with the spots more or less concentrated toward the tail, but I suspect they were hybrids, since there were a few too many spots toward the head. There were full of fight, beautiful, and wild -- all in all pretty much what I was looking for.

After I had taken a few pictures, including a couple of a nice cutthroat, I bent over and accidentally dipped the Nikon into the creek, and even though I immediately shook it out, enough water remained inside to mess up the electronics, not to mention the water droplets inside the lens. The waterproof recyclable camera that Randy brought turned out to be defective, so we were without photos for the remainder of the morning. At lunch, I removed the film, took off the lens and back, and placed all three on the dash of his car. After the shutter fired several times at random intervals, I shut off the switch, and hoped for the best while we went fishing in the afternoon.

Our afternoon destination was a tributary to the previous creek, and was separated from the rest of the watershed by a 20 foot waterfall. This was a perfect place to see wild cutthroats, since the browns, brookies and rainbows had no way to swim up from the Alamosa river (where the creeks of this area end up), even if they could get past a sterile zone resulting from an old iron mine.

How did the cutthroats get there? Possibly by stocking truck, or maybe even aerial stocking. In any case, they were wild, having been pretty much left alone for many years. We parked at a gate that closed off an old Forest Service road and took a long walk down an alpine meadow starting at 11,300 feet. The stream had cut down an additional 30 feet or so after a long sloping meadow, so we had to do some scrambling. Once we got into the stream, Randy suggested we switch to drys, and we spent the next couple hours catching cutthroats.

These trout differed from the previous ones -- they were of the Finespotted Snake River variety as their profuse fine spots indicated. They were still feisty and beautiful. They also seemed a little more wary than the fish in the previous stream, as there were a number of late refusals.

Randy is a member of the local TU chapter, and pointed out several of the stream improvement projects they have completed. In my other fishing forays, I noticed a number of other similar stream bed improvements. It seems this chapter is quite active in doing habitat improvement.

After a couple hours of working our way upstream, we saw two fishermen a couple hundred yards upstream working their way down,so we started the trek back to the car. We had just as steep and long a walk back to the road as we had on our descent, but once we reached the road (actually a Forest Service jeep trail, since closed to traffic) it was downhill to Randy's 4X4.

That was it for the day, as I was starting to feel my physical limit, and I didn't want to have any accidents, so we returned to the flyshop around 5pm, having managed to spend more time fishing than driving. I had the pleasure making Randy's acquaintance, caught some wild, native (or close to it) cutthroat, walked through some of the most striking areas the San Juans have to offer, and only saw two other fishermen all day -- and they weren't even close enough to identify.

On our return to the vehicle, the camera and lens were hotter than a firecracker, but when I reassembled it and loaded it with film, it appeared to work properly. Fortunately I was able to get some photos of the second and subsequent streams I visited, and they turned out as well as any photographs I have ever taken. I had a $7.96 recyclable camera with me during subsequent fishing forays, which yielded some decent scenic photos, but close-ups were disappointing since such cameras have fairly short-focus lenses (i.e. wide angle). I may try the waterproof version at some point, as they seem to have a longer lens. Several pictures I took with the recyclable camera were of sufficient quality that I made them into slides for a presentation to be given to our local TU chapter.

I spent some time over the next two days exploring places I wanted to fish. I was not able to spend a lot of time actually fishing, but I did get to wet my line a time or two. One of the areas, Rio de los Pinos, was a bit of a shock. This is designated for fly fishing only with catch-and-release regulations, but the valley is being graded and subdivided for homes (Cumbres Subdivision). The stream has been channelized on both sides of Colorado Route 17 for about 150 yards in each direction. It's sad when such abuse takes place, and raises serious questions as to whether regulations can take the place of sound habitat management. One can walk upstream, though, for a few hundred yards and find better water with riffles, pools, and pocket water. (I was told that the Colorado Division of Wildlife does not, as a matter of policy, distinguish between flys and artificial lures, but that landowners can open their land to the public with such restrictions. In this situation, and a similar situation on the Conejos River, the subdivision makes the rules, and the state posts appropriate signs).

Several other creeks in that area showed more promise, and you can even wave to the engineer and passengers of the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge railroad as the train goes by (approximately 10AM and 3PM in the Cumbres Pass area). I saw an angler fishing in a creek not more than 3 feet across, and he looked like he knew what he was doing. This area is a trout prospector's dream, if you are willing to walk a mile or two from the road.

My final fishing expedition was to North Lake on Colorado Route 12 about 40 miles west of Trinidad. I had visited this lake a few years ago, and my casting skills were not equal to the wind I experienced then. This time, though, I was able to get the line out 30 or more feet into some occasionally gusty wind, and had a great time. I had rises and strikes for nearly every cast, and was able to release 4 small cutthroats and rainbows. I had about 12 hookups, but these fish were hard to bring in. One 8 incher even broke me off and took my fly as I was trying to release it properly. These were all young fish, and I believe they were wild, since none of their fins were missing or even damaged. They were truly feisty and a pleasure to catch.

A bizzare ending to this day occured when the Mount Shavano Hatchery truck backed up to the boat ramp and disgorged 2200 fairly large rainbows. Susan, Liam and I spent some time nudging 12 - 14 inch rainbows back into the water after they had beached themselves following their precipitous introduction to the lake. I chatted a bit with the driver, and he told me that these measured out at 3 fish to 2 pounds, and that smaller ones are not stocked at North Lake. This made me feel a little better, although it was more than a little disappointing to see a lake that supports wild trout being stocked -- especially with the specter of Whirling Disease looming over Colorado and the West. It also raises a question as to why North Lake is under artificials-only regulations -- but then Colorado is not the only state with regulations that are at odds with management goals. There is a place for put-and-take fishing, but wild trout waters are too precious to be used in that fashion.

The next stop was Ft. Collins and the Poudre Canyon where I spent much of my time as an undergraduate and graduate student at Colorado State (1971-1977). The Cache la Poudre river was high and coffee-colored. I didn't even bother putting my waders on, but I got many nice photos of whitewater rafters, and places which normally would be nice pocketwater, but were currently raging torrents.

This trip underscored for me the need to protect our remaining wilderness, not only from development and ill-advised stocking of non-native species, but from being "loved to death".

The Cache la Poudre river is one of the most fished and floated rivers in Colorado and it is beginning to show signs of overuse, especially in campgrounds. Being designated a "Wild and Scenic River" has been a two-edged sword -- it protects the first 18 miles and parts of a key tributary from impoundment, but it also attracts upwards of 43,000 angler days per year and 9,000 people taking float trips (1989 data, cited in Evans, HE and MA Evans. 1991. Cache La Poudre. University Press of Colorado). The areas designated as a "Recreational River", and undesignated stretches in the lower Poudre Canyon are vulnerable to impoundment, and there are some active proposals to that end. Ironically, the fact that the Poudre is designated a Wild and Scenic River has made the Front Range a more desirable place to live in many people's minds, and thus may indirectly lead to more pressure to create new water impoundments. There is an active citizens group (Friends of the Poudre) that thus far has rallied substantial public support for keeping the Poudre a free-flowing river, but if population growth is not checked, then they may not be able to prevent the dams.

The Conejos River is dewatered for 4.5 miles below Platoro Reservoir during most of the winter -- a situation that is totally unnecessary, even in low snowpack years. The typical flow during the winter is 7 cfs, but every spring they have to open the gates to deal with excess snowmelt. A little sensible forecasting could allow for a minimum bypass flow of 23 cfs, which is the minimum needed to support a year-round trout population in the stretch below Platoro Reservoir. As it is now, this stretch is stocked with hatchery fish after the reservoir flows settle down in late spring, and managed as a put-and-take fishery (8 fish daily and possession limit). It could support a wild population as does much of the Conejos, and its economic value could rise considerably, not to mention its aesthetic and biological value.

One good bit of news is that Cheeseman Canyon (South Platte River) is safe for now. While we were in Trinidad, a Federal Judge ruled that the EPA does have the right to block Two Forks Dam based on recreational and biological considerations. Of course, what the EPA giveth, the EPA can taketh away, so vigilance is in order.

I fish in Colorado more often now, then when I lived there. The past three years I have spent at least some of my time fishing or looking for places to fish. I have caught stocked fish, wild fish, and native fish. My greatest pleasure has been been when I release a squirming native cutthroat back into a free-flowing, ice-cold mountain stream. I believe that we have made tragic mistakes in how we have managed our fisheries -- not just in Colorado, but all over. We have determined that replacing natives with exotics is morally and biologically equivalent. While one can plead naivete in many of the original decisions, we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. We seem to have developed an arrogant assumption that a Rainbow or Brown trout is a "real fish" while a cutthroat is somehow unworthy of our efforts. This has contributed to the extirption of native cutthroat from 99% of their original range.

There have been four subspecies of cutthroat trout in Colorado: Onchorhynchus clarki stomias, the Greenback Cutthroat; Onchorhynchus clarki pleuriticus, the Colorado River Cutthroat; Onchorhynchus clarki virginalis, the Rio Grande Cutthroat; and Onchorhynchus clarki mcdonaldi, the Yellowfin Cutthroat. The Yellowfin is apparently now extinct. The Greenback is listed as a "Threatened" species, and the others are limited to small portions of their original ranges. Exotic cutthroats have been stocked in some watersheds, and active projects toward native restoration are going on in several locations.

In all honesty, though, I have to acknowlege that where there are wild populations of Browns, Brookies, and Rainbows in Colorado, that their wildness requires a certain amount of respect. What can we do? At the very least, let's not lose any more native trout, and let's try to restore them as much as possible. I think this can be done without laying waste to existing populations of exotics, although where cutthroat are being restored, any brook trout will have to be removed, since they tend to displace the native trout. Let's keep in mind that all trout are not functionally equivalent, and that all cutthroats are not the same. The genetic diversity that arose in different watersheds has been recognized in scientific nomenclature from species to subspecies. We need to recognize this in our management policies as well.

I fully support native cutthroat restoration in as much of their original range as possible. In my opinion this will increase the value of the resource far more than managing for exotic trout. Cutthroat aren't stupid fish; they just aren't fished for enough, thus they are naive throughout much of their remaining range. Try fishing for Snake River Cutthroats near Jackson, Wyoming, though, and you will soon realize that these fish can learn. As for waters where native restoration is not feasible, and wild populations are present, leave them alone (except for necessary regulations).

The bottom line? I spent all my fishing time in high country going after wild fish, mostly cutthroats. I deliberately stayed away from the big rivers, and as a result I think my total experience was enriched, not because I avoided stocked fish, or big crowds, but because I got away from the beaten path, exerted myself a little, and saw myself in a closer relationship with wilderness and nature.

Colorado -- September 8-15, 1994

I recently had the opportunity to renew my acquantance with the Colorado mountains. Our (me, wife, and 2-year-old child) first stop was 5 days camping at Dillon Reservoir along with my parents. For the first few days I attempted to fish the reservoir from the bank. While I had a few hits on streamers, I was not able to land anything. Things were getting a little discouraging, and it was obvious that belly boats and other craft would have been better for getting to where the fish were. The people in the next site allowed as how they had yet to see someone pulling out a fish from the particular cove in which we were camped.

I did some reconnoitering and looked over the inlets and outlet of the reservoir. The most promising locations were the Blue river inlet and the Blue River below the reservoir. The lower portion of the Blue River is designated as "Gold Medal" by the Colorado Fish and Game people. These waters represent a good chance of angling success, as well as fairly large trout. They are not all stocked on a regular basis, and the Blue River downstream of the dam has not been stocked in 10 years, according to a local flyshop (The Gold Medal Flyshop, just north of Silverthorne). The employees of the Gold Medal shop were courteous and helpful, and suggested a number of things that I could consider based on the contraints on my activities. Since the next day was the last day I could fish in this area, I listened carefully, bought several flies, and resolved to fish the Blue River the next afternoon.

The water was cold (42 degrees), clear, and running about 125 cfs (according to local information). The rocky bottom was slippery and the smooth rocks had a tendency to shift underfoot, making wading a matter of careful concentration. Casting room was good, and there were a number of sheltering lies downstream of large rocks and logs. I began with a bead-head Prince nymph (#14) and worked it in and around areas where I thought fish might be holding. This was not productive, and although I was getting a lot of good casting practice, I decided to try a dry fly.

On the advice of an employee of the Gold Medal Flyshop, I had bought several Pale Evening Duns and Blue Wing Olives (with rust dubbing -- apparently the local flies are that color). Both flies were tied using CDC in place of the standard hackling. The BWO was not what the trout wanted, so I switched to the PED. I was unable to see any fish, but I targetted a holding lie just upstream and toward the western bank of the river. As the fly drifted into the lie, I felt a tug and the line went taut as the fish headed downstream. After it jumped a couple times, I gave some sideways pressure in the upstream direction, and the fish swam past me heading south. It was large enough that I seriously questioned whether I would get the chance to remove the hook for myself. After some more maneuvering, the trout came along side, and I lifted it out of the water to remove the hook.

The local information was that the Blue River had a lot of Browns and an occasional Rainbow. The fish I held in my hand was the "occasional Rainbow". I held it up to my rod and noted where its snout reached before I released it. I estimated its depth at 4 inches. Its color was brilliant, and it swam off with no discernable recovery time. After I got back to the flyshop, I took the butt section of my rod, and borrowed a tape measure. This trout was 18 inches long, and as far as I was concerned, it made up for the 4 previous days of nothing.

The next morning my parents and my family parted ways, and we proceeded up US 6 over Loveland Pass, headed east on I-70 and then headed north on US 40 over Berthoud Pass. We then picked up US 34 and entered Rocky Mountain National Park. We climbed up Trail Ridge Road and stopped at the summit of the third pass that day -- Milner Pass. About 50 yards north of the pass (and the Continental Divide) Poudre Lake (headwaters of the Cache La Poudre River) sits. It was clear and, according to RMNP literature, held fish. I decided to fish a while and see what I could come up with. As it turned out, nothing took my flies. After the wind died enough that the lake became smooth, I saw a number of brook trout in a group about 20 feet off shore. Since we were pressed for time, and I was already in the process of unrigging my rod, I reluctantly left and headed to the Moraine Park Campground, our home for the next three nights.

In the relatively short time available for fishing, I stopped at the Hidden Valley Creek Beaver Ponds, where catch-and-release fishing is open from August 1 to December 31. These ponds are one of the sites where the formerly endangered (now upgraded to "threatened") Greenback Cutthroat Trout have been reintroduced. Access to the ponds is via a boardwalk, and people are required to confine their activity to the walkways. These walkways are about 3 feet above the water in places, and with my height, that makes for a 9'5" fisherman to the trout swimming below. So much for stealth....but Cutthroats have a reputation for stupidity, don't they? So I dropped an Olive Quill (from the Estes Angler, another fine flyshop) in the path of the closest fish I could see. It adjusted its path accordingly, and headed away from me. they aren't stupid. I decided to wait and watch. After several minutes I saw where the trout headed once they had finished cruising near the walkway. I began to cast, and managed to lay an Olive Quill 30 feet away, just overhead of a cutthroat trout.

The trout sipped the fly off the surface, and rolled away, and the fight (such as it was) was on. It was a litle one-sided, and after a couple jumps and other token displays of defiance, the 12 inch Greenback Cutthroat was below the boardwalk. I gave slack, in hopes that the fish would release itself (barbless hooks are required), but it was unable to do so. Reluctantly I reached down, wet my hands, and lifted the trout up and removed the hook. It was beautiful -- large spots concentrated near the tail and a pinkish red tinge to the lower part of the body starting at the gill covers. I released it, and it slowly swam away.

My next, and final encounter with a trout was at Sprague Lake, in a short (50 foot) creek connecting a small pond with the main lake. Several Brookies were there, and I started casting using my 8wt rod due to the stiff breeze. I lost a couple BWOs due to my bad aim, and the fact that I was trying to drop the fly under some overhanging branches. I finally was able to gauge the wind properly and placed the fly in a position where a 10 inch brook trout took it. When I removed the hook I saw that this trout was deeply colored and quite healthy looking. In fact, after I took a closer look at the creek, I saw spawning behavior.

Ordinarily I might feel bad about catching spawning fish, but RMNP is "pushing" brook trout, giving a bonus limit of 10 additional fish if they are 8 inches or under. I chose to release this one, but the goals of the National Park Service in restoring native trout are admirable. To achieve this end, the Brook Trout have to be removed from the areas where the Greenback Cutthroat Trout are being reintroduced, and in general, they would probably like to see them disappear from the park. I have mixed feelings about this, as the Brook Trout ARE part of an established ecosystem, and are reproducing naturally. Unfortunately, they outcompete the native cutthroats, and they must be removed if a successful restoration is to happen.

All in all this was an enjoyable trip, even though I failed to achieve the "grand slam" of Colorado trout by not catching a Brown Trout this trip. I caught one the previous year, so I don't feel too bad. The three trout I released were each, in their own way, worth the trip, and I look forward to a repeat of my Colorado experience. Perhaps the Poudre River next year....

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Reformed Angler Angling

(Originally posted on The Reformed Angler August 14, 2006)

Jn 21:1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, fishing and family vacations are not easy to mix together, but we decided that Friday was the day I was going to fish. Accordingly, on Wednesday I visted the Snake River Angler in Moose Wyoming (just outside the south entrance to Grand Teton National Park) and started asking for advice.

Since anglers are the bread and butter for such businesses, I bought flies as I was asking questions. The man who helped me was quite forthcoming with information, and dissuaded me from my original plan, which was fo fish Leigh Lake (north of Jenny Lake). His advice was to try the area where Cascade Creek goes into Jenny Lake, and then try Cottonwood Creek, the outlet to Jenny Lake.

All the while he was talking, he was adding flies to my pile, and I was able to stop at two dozen -- which was quite enough. My son added a t-shirt to the pile, and attempted to slip in a few other items, mostly with sharp edges. I went for the shirt, but the knives stayed at the store.

I bought a one day license for Friday, and in the morning of August 11, I got up at 6 am and walked to the boat dock for the early-bird ferry across the lake to the Cascade Canyon trailhead. Jenny Lake is a glacially-scoured basin, thus is quite deep (over 250 feet) with a steep dropoff. Where Cascade Creek comes in, it is fairly shallow, though, and I could wade it comfortably. Well, the scenery was great, and the kingfishers were out and about, but I didn't even SEE a fish let alone get one to take second look at my flies, so I took the ferry back about 9:30 am and Susan, Liam, and I piled into the car and drove down to one of the stream accesses to Cottonwood Creek.

A piece of petrified wood in Cottonwood Creek

The stream bed of Cottonwood Creek where I fished consisted of large glacial cobblestones between 4 and 12 inches in diameter (or larger). They were slick and rolled easily (you can see where this is heading...) Susan sat on a rock near the creek while I gingerly waded out to where I could cast to likely spots.

I cast upstream and let the fly drift down. There were a number of belly flashes, indicating that a trout had been interested enough to take a second look, but it seemed they were not interested enough to take the offering. At least they were looking up... I tried letting the fly drift past me and downstream near the concrete supports for the one-lane bridge. This was a bit more productive, as I felt a strike. I turned so I could play the fish more comfortable, and the cobbles rolled beneath my feet. I fell and landed on my side in the creek, but I had the presence of mind to make sure I didn't fall on my rod. Susan, who had been taking lots of pictures, somehow failed to record my undignified posture for posterity.

When I got up, I picked up the rod, and to my surprise, the trout was still on. I played it quickly, and as I took it in my hand, it squirmed and took off expeditiously for cover. It was a nice brook trout, about 8 inches.

I kept on fishing at that location, and played 4 more fish (or maybe the same fish 4 times), but these managed to unhook themselves. Or as fly anglers prefer to put it, these were LDRs (long distance releases). In any case, it was nice to be able to fish, and I decided to call it a good day, and we went back to camp and had lunch.

Wyoming (whose laws govern fishing in Grand Teton National Park), is trying to restore native cutthroat trout, and has a special bonus limit on brookies, and I was actually looking forward to helping in that process. My major disappointment though, was that I didn't catch any cutthroats. My fishing preferences tend toward small streams and native trout, and these are often at odds with the management practices. There are cutthroat trout, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and lake trout to be had in the various waters of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Of all these trout, only the cutthroat are native, and when the Lewis and Clark expedition passed near this area 200 years ago, that was what they caught and ate.

An indicator of what was on the trout's menu

Unfortunately (in my opinion), state fisheries managers had catered to the wishes of anglers to catch large fish and a lot of them, and stocking programs have imported non-native trout to fill this perceived need. It is good to see the state of Wyoming working with the National Park Service to restore the native fish, and I hope they are successful.

It was a great pleasure to fish on Friday, especially in an area of such beauty, and I hope I can fsh more. It is such a relaxing way to spend time.

All photos in this posting were taken by my wife, Susan Melia-Hancock

Why I Release -- And Why I Don't

Denis Hancock, January, 1995, with minor revisions
"In every catch-and-release fisherman's past there is an old black frying pan...." -- John Gierach, The View From Rat Lake
The debate over catch-and-release (C&R) seems to have divided anglers into several camps. One might see C&R as a religious system, another sees it as a management tool, and another might use C&R simply as a way to avoid cleaning and eating fish. Whatever the point of view, C&R is often a source of friction between flyfishers, with misinformation, personal attacks, and downright nastiness characterizing the debate at times. In Michigan, regulations governing catch-and-release on the "Holy Water" of the Ausable River pitted TU member against TU member, chapter against chapter, and resulted in divisiveness that persists to this day. We are all working toward the same goal, which is the preservation of our precious fisheries, and we should at least assume that others have the same love for the environment as we do.

Catch-and-release as a Management Tool: There is not much debate on the facts here. C&R as well as minimum length limits and slot limits, which can be considered subcategories of C&R, have demonstrated their effectiveness in a variety of fisheries. It can never be a substitute for watershed protection. In fact, by itself it often fails to achieve its goals, as demonstrated by the experience of the Saint Vrain River in Colorado where catch-and-release management was based on some unrealistic assumptions of what the average flow would be. In concert with a total ecosystem approach to fishery management, however, it is a powerful tool in restoring stressed fisheries.

Catch-and-release as Religion: This attitude bothers me for a couple reasons. First, its practitioners, like many "true believers" often have a difficult time dealing with dissent, and this does not lead to effective dialogue. Another reason is that there is no such thing as a truly harmless fishhook. There will always be a certain mortality attached to fishing whether we release or not, and we need to acknowledge this to ourselves and to the people we come into contact with. If C&R is the only acceptable mode of angler behaviour, then we are guilty of inflicting pain solely for our pleasure.

One angler and fly tyer, John Betts, came to grips with this in an article appearing in American Angler (January/February 1994) called "Pointless Fly Fishing" in which he outlined the evolution of his feelings toward the sport, and concluded that he could no longer use a pointed hook to catch fish. Instead he has gone to tying flies on hooks with the point and barb clipped off. Betts feels he can still be an artist at tying flies, and an effective angler by simply fooling the fish. The hook almost always fails to set, and the fish releases itself. Some have likened this to the Native American practice of "counting coup". I don't know whether the editors wrote the title or Betts did, but it is an effective pun. In my opinion, it is truly pointless to fish with a pointless hook. If nothing else, this harasses the trout, and it could be stressful enough to cause damage. If the pointless hook hangs up in the gills, as it might from time to time, then the damage could prove fatal. Regardless, no one can accuse John Betts of failing to have a well-considered opinion, and he must be respected, even if one disagrees with him.

Partridge is manufacuring a hook called TAG (for "touch and go") that has a hook eye at both ends, thereby making hooks virtually impossible to set. I am not sure how these are selling, but I suppose there will be a small market for them.

My Feelings on Catch-And-Release: I feel that C&R is perhaps the most effective tool for preserving populations of game fish in this era of increasing pressure on fisheries. But that is all it is -- a tool. Like all tools, it should be appropriate to the job, and if the job does not require it, then its use should be a matter of personal choice. Let's not kid ourselves -- fishing is just as much a blood sport as hunting, and like it or not, we WILL kill some of the fish we catch whether they die in our creels or die downstream of where we released them. I would prefer to fish in an environment where any given fish I bring alongside could end up in a frying pan or be released to be caught another day. The fact that I choose to release most of my catch is just that -- my choice. And my choice varies with my location. If I catch a "keeper" on Mill Creek (Phelps County, MO), I will almost certainly release it because Mill Creek is one of the relatively few wild trout fisheries in Missouri. If I catch fish in the put-and-take area of the Eleven Point River (Oregon County, MO), they will likely end up in a frying pan.

There are many fishing locations that I would like to fish once, but not regularly. Crane Creek (Stone County, MO) is one of them because it contains a rare pure strain of trout from the McCloud River in California. The beaver ponds in Hidden Valley Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park is another because they contain Greenback Cutthroat Trout, which were the original species that occupied the trout niche in the Arkansas and South Platte drainages of the Eastern Slope of Colorado. September, 1994 I realized my goal at Hidden Valley and released a nice specimen of the Greenback Cutthroat. I have yet to make it to Crane Creek, but if I do, and release a trout there, I will not be likely to return there soon. Why? Because it is strictly C&R. I prefer to have a choice when I fish. It fits my ethic of fishing a little better then simply releasing every fish I catch with no chance of actually keeping a brace for breakfast.

To summarize -- catch-and-release is a useful tool in preserving quality fishing for all, but it should not be approached as an absolute requirement in all cases. A little common sense coupled with some hard facts should be the determining factor. Of course, all Department of Conservation regulations should be observed.

Die Forelle

This article was originally posted approximately 1995 on the Missouri Flyfishing Page.

Die Forelle

In einem Baechlein helle,
Da schoss in froher Eil
Die launische Forelle
Vorueber wie ein Pfeil.
Ich stand an dem Gestade
Und sah in suesser Ruh'
Des muntern fishleins Bade
Im klare Baechlein zu.

Ein Fischer mit dem Rute
Wohl an dem Ufer stand,
Und sah's mit kaltem Blute
Wie sich das fischlein wand.
So lang' dem Wasser helle
So dacht ich, nicht gebricht,
So faengt er die Forelle
Mit seiner Angel nicht.

Doch endlich ward dem Diebe
Die Zeit zu lang.
Er macht das Baechlein tueckisch truebe,
Und eh' es ich gedacht
So zuchte seine Rute
Das Fischlein zappelt dran,
Und ich mit regem Blute
Sah die Betrogne an.

Die ihr goldner Quelle
Der sichern Jugend weilt,
Denkt doch an die Forelle;
Seh' ihr Gefahr, so eilt!
Meist fehlt ihr nur aus Mangel
Der Klugheit. Maedchen seht
Verfuehrer mit der Angel! --
Sonst blutet ihr zu spaet.

This poem was written by Christian Schubart, and the first three stanzas were set to music by Franz Schubert as a "lied" and as a series of variations that comprises movement 4 of the "Trout Quintet"

The first three stanzas leave a distinct "anti angling" taste in the mouth, but when the fourth stanza is added, it is correctly seen as an allegorical warning to young women to beware the wiles and hooks of seducers; or more generally, for youth to not be in such a hurry to lose their innocence. One can also see the imagery of the first three stanzas for what the poet intended.

A rough translation follows:

In a bright little brook
there swam, with happy speed,
the humorous trout
like an arrow.
I stood on the bank
and watched in sweet silence
the cheerful trouts bathing
in the clear little brook

A fisherman with his rod
came to the stream bank
and watched with cold blood
as the little fish swam.
as long as the water runs clear
so I thought without question
he will not catch the trout
with his hook.

But finally the wait was too long
for the thief.
He made the water malignantly turbid
and before I could think,
his rod shook spasmodically
with the convulsing trout.
And I, with my blood aroused,
looked at the betrayed.

You who wait in safety
at the golden spring of Youth,
Consider the trout
and realize your danger.
You usually go wrong
from lack of awareness.
Young women, see the seducers
with their hooks,
otherwise you will be too late.

Fly Fishing Articles

I am going to port in several pages from the Missouri Fly Fishing Page, which I edited actively from 1994 to 2003, and only sporadically thereafter.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Just Checking Out the Blogger Beta

OK. What can I do that I can't do on