A controversy with no simple answer
First published in The daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y., 11/3/11
Trout Unlimited really got people talking last month when it announced that its members may not take part in stocking “non-native, hatchery trout” in streams that already hold native trout.
The directive isn’t expected to curtail stocking, which is mostly conducted by state conservation departments. But it has stirred up a lively philosophical discussion about the merits and perils of adding catchable trout to our streams.
Many — maybe most — New York streams that have been stocked for generations also hold at least a few native trout, meaning trout that were not only born in the stream, but are in fact descendants of the trout that were here before people were here. If the presence of any native trout at all made an entire stream off-limits to stocking, an awful lot of New York trout fishing would simply disappear.
“Does one stop stocking brown trout in Willowemoc Creek, for example?” asked Phil Hulbert, chief of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Fisheries, referring to the storied Catskills stream that holds wild and holdover browns and brookies, no doubt including some natives.
“I’m confident there would be people that have opinions both ways. The way we try to deal with this is in a technical sense, not philosophical. When we decide whether a stream should be stocked, we take into account the abundance of wild trout and we make adjustments for the presence of wild trout, in terms of whether there’s unused carrying capacity for hatchery trout.”
If there are enough wild fish, the DEC doesn’t bother stocking at all, Hulbert noted.
Mike Walchko, president of the Clearwater Chapter of TU in Albany, said the chapter doesn’t take part in any stocking activity, preferring to focus on maintaining and improving trout habitat. He agreed with Hulbert that the issue of where to stock and where not to is complex.
“Since streams are continuous bodies, most brook trout populations are found in the upper, colder, cleaner headwater reaches, while the lower stretches are the sections stocked with hatchery fish,” he said. “Many streams are dependent upon these stockings to support a fishable population in these lower stretches.”
Larry Harris, head of TU’s national leadership council, wrote this week to chapter presidents that he was taken aback by the controversy arising from the new policy. After all, TU has been on record for years that stocking should be avoided if it was likely to harm native trout populations.
“I began receiving calls the very next morning after the resolution was sent to council chairs and chapter presidents,” Harris said. “What I am learning is that some chapters in several states currently stock hatchery trout in streams containing native trout.”
And so Harris and a number of TU leaders from around the country are forming a committee to help state councils and local chapters comply with the policy in a way that makes sense on their local waters.
I’ve complained in this space, and others have complained in other spaces, that some New York waters are stocked with way too many cookie-cutter trout with barely any survival instincts. But I also fish some streams where all the trout are wild, others where most are wild, and still others where there’s a pleasing mix of wild trout and holdover stockies. One of my regular spots even has a few genuine, certified, heritage-strain brookies, their DNA untainted by interlopers from California or Germany. None of these are secret or remote. Even after a century of heavy stocking, New York still offers plenty of “natural” trout fishing.
Native trout can never be replaced, and anything that will protect the ones we have is a good idea.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 11 Nov 2011 08:45 AM PST
I was was nine years old when my brother Scott gave me some advice I’ve applied to all sorts of things since then. On that Saturday, we were playing catch after watching our beloved Red Sox on NBC’s Game of the Week when I made an imaginary relay throw pretending to be the Red Sox’ shortstop, Rick Burleson. Scott, who was already a high school star, caught my near-perfect throw and proceeded to chew my butt for throwing side-armed.
“But Burleson throws side armed,” I objected.
At this, Scott walked right up to me, pointed the finger of his ungloved hand at my nose and said, “He’s not a pro because he can do it; he can do it because he’s a pro.” After giving me a few seconds to process this profundity, he spoke again—in a slightly less intense tone—and explained how throwing overhanded reduces the number of variables in calculating a release point: Overhand throws can miss high or low, but done properly the ball doesn’t end up right or left.
The importance of mastering the basics, as taught by my brother that day, has application in a lot of arenas, not the least of which is fly fishing. I’ve listed below six things that my fellow professionals in our fair sport, namely guides and instructors, do regularly that others might best avoid.
1. They twist their wrists while making a backcast. This is sometimes called “poor tracking.” The effect is such that someone standing in front of the caster sees the side of the reel rather than the line housed in it. It’s something akin to throwing a baseball sidearmed. The problem here is that this little outward twist, magnified over 9 feet or so, does funky things to your rod tip, making it travel in several directions. And, as the truism says, wherever your rod tip goes, the line will follow.
2. They fish without a net. The fact is that a lot of guides fish on their own without a landing net, especially when walk/wading. There is actually a case to be made that landing a fish without a net can be less dangerous to the fish, but only in the case of very experienced hands. But this argument isn’t why guides do it. Usually it’s because they can, and it’s less trouble than carrying a net. For most folks, using a net greatly reduces the potential of injuring fish. It also increases the odds of getting a nice photo.
3. They grab their leaders while landing fish. Want to see a guide panic? Reach for your leader as he or she prepares to net your fish. Grabbing a leader removes virtually all of your tackle’s shock-absorbing capacity, making a broken tippet very likely. Interestingly though, the pros will very often grab their own leaders, particularly if they aren’t using a net (see #2). It can be done, but you have to properly manage a whole bunch of variables. For most people, it makes much more sense to just bring a fish to net by touching only your rod handle and the reel.
4. They carry their lines off the reel in loops while moving along a river. The frustration of trying to get your line free from brush, rocks, boots, and legs is one of the universal experiences of fly fishing. It is not, however, one of the more pleasurable ones. Given that rivers are furnished with all manner of line-grabbing objects (not to mention feet and legs that come with the angler), it’s usually a better use of time to reel in before moving very far.
5. They cast heavy nymph rigs overhead, even when using a series of split shot, weighted flies, and strike indicators. Timing the backcast is tough for lots of fly fishers. An early forward stroke creates snarls for which guides have a name, “do overs.” Nymph rigs, with their arsenal of two or three flies, multiple split shot, and a strike indicator, complicate things all the more. To avoid spending your day on a monofilament Rubik’s Cube, stick with simple flip casts made by letting the current pull the line downstream and then lifting the line in a high arc upstream in one simple motion.
6. They wade and fish at the same time. Wading is inherently dangerous, and doing it well is more of an acquired skill than it appears. Trying to manage line while wading is an unnecessary risk. Do one, then the other. Live to fish another day.
There are easily more than six things the pros do that don’t bear imitation. In most cases, the pros will be the first to tell you what those are; in the end, that’s what their profession is all about. In this case, it’s almost always better to do as I say, not as I do.
Posted: 08 Nov 2011 10:02 AM PST
Back in September, we posted about a proposed art installation that would suspend translucent fabric panels above almost 6 miles of Colorado’s Arkansas River in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. One commenter on our post had this to say: “Due to the overall stupidity of this I doubt it will be approved.” We wish he were correct.
On Monday, federal regulators with the Bureau of Land Management gave the artist—who goes by his first name, Christo—the green light to proceed with the project, which he calls Over the River. The project had the backing of Colorado Governor John Hickenloop, as well as Interior Secretary Ken Salazer, who was quoted as saying:
Drawing visitors to Colorado to see this work will support jobs in the tourism industry and bring attention to the tremendous outdoor recreation opportunities. “We believe that steps have been taken to mitigate the environmental effects of this one-of-a-kind project.
Last May, the Colorado Wildlife Commission called for the feds to reject the proposal, but to no avail. The American Sportfishing Association has been consistently opposed and has argued that anglers will suffer from the disruption of the river. The project still needs approval from Fremont and Chaffee Counties, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State Patrol.
October 7, 20114 Comments
National Outdoor Book Award Winner Speaks To CalTrout
Anders Halverson is the author of An Entirely Synthetic Fish — a National Outdoor Book Award Winner and a riveting book about the spread of rainbow trout across the country, often at the expense of native species.
Author Anders Halverson
A biologist (he’s a Research Associate at the Center of the American West), Halverson has also worked as a journalist, which explains how he built a series of riveting narratives around fisheries management in the USA.
In addition to winning the National Outdoor Book Award, An Entirely Synthetic Fish has generated uniformly positive reviews. It uses the rainbow trout as a symbol for intrusive fisheries management techniques which have often decimated native species, and while you’d think a book on that subject would feel dry and technical, An Entirely Synthetic Fish is anything but.
On a recent book tour, Halverson spoke to several groups of CalTrout members, and graciously gave up some of his time for this interesting, wide-ranging interview for CalTrout’s The Streamkeeper’s Log.
Posted: 01 Nov 2011 10:52 AM PDT
Even though the quintessential fly-fishing image involves casting dry flies to rising fish, we spend considerably more time presenting flies underwater to fish we can’t see, and beginning fly fishers learn pretty early in their experience that trout feed on or near the bottom most of the time. This raises an important question: How do you ensure that your flies are getting down to where the fish are? The speed of the current, the depth of the water, and the drag of your fly line and tippet all conspire to keep flies away from the trout’s feeding zone. Here are a few ways—ranging from simple to complex—that you can ensure that your presentations are reaching their targets.
1. Use weighted nymphs and streamers. The traditional way to weight a nymph was to add a few wraps of lead wire as an underbody (there are now lead substitutes available), but some modern anglers thing that this method deadens the action of the fly in the water. I would argue that this depends on the water. In heavy riffles, the extra weight can keep a fly from being thrown around too much and help keep it in the strike zone.
2. Use beadhead patterns. A steel or tungsten bead will also help a fly get down in the water column, plus it serves as an attractor and can impart a jigging motion to a retrieved fly. Tungsten is heavier and will help a fly sink faster. (Some fly fishermen consider beadhead nymphs to be a form of cheating, but their widespread acceptance and use argues otherwise.)
A tungsten beadhead adds enough weight to make a nymph sink fast,
3. Add split shot or weighted putty to the leader. For those who want the fly to drift as naturally as possible, weight on the leader is the best option. There are many different methods for adding weight—where to put it on the leader, how much to use, etc.—but the main thing to remember is that you don’t want to use so much weight that you can’t detect a strike. Start with a little weight, and then add a little at a time until you feel you’re getting the fly where you want it to be.
4. Use lighter/thinner leader and tippet. Fluorocarbon sinks better than monofilament, but a thinner tippet can really increase sink rate, for the obvious reason that there is less drag. Instead of simply adding more weight, going from 4X to 5X or 6X might be your answer.
5. Cast upstream of your target. You want your fly to be near the bottom when it enters the trout’s strike zone, so cast upstream of there to give the fly time to sink. The faster the current and the deeper the water, the farther upstream you’ll need to cast. This is where a high-sticking approach really shines. You can cast upstream, raise your rod tip to pick up slack as the fly drifts toward you (sinking all the time) and then feed the slack back into the drift as the fly continues downstream.
6. Fish close. The more line you have on the water, the more drag there may be on your fly, keeping it from sinking as fast as it could. Many nymphing fanatics fish with virtually no fly-line on the water.
7. Lengthen your leader. The longer your leader, the less fly line you’ll need on the water. (See above.)
8. Skip the strike indicator. A buoyant strike indicator may make it easier to see when a fish takes your fly, but it can also prevent the fly from getting to the fish in the first place. Many anglers argue that, with a sensitive rod tip and a close presentation, you can sense a strike better with no indicator.
9. Use a sinking-tip line. This is an advanced technique usually used with large stonefly nymphs in riffled water or with streamers. The key to presenting a nymph with a sinking-tip line is maintaining a semi-tight line, so you can feel a strike. However, you must give the fly time to sink before you tighten up. Cast upstream, and allow the fly and line to sink. Hold your rod tip out over the water, pointing at the fly. When the fly comes tight, follow it with your rod tip until it hangs directly below you. To detect strikes and set the hook, keep the rod tip pointed at the line and follow the drift of the fly with the rod. Cover the water in front of you, adding a foot or two to each cast, and then move downstream.
Learning when and where to employ all these tactics is a book-length project, but through trial and error you can discover which work best for your fishing. One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re not occasionally snagging on the bottom, you’re probably not fishing deep enough, so it’s time to change your rigging or your presentation.
I have a few things I’d like to give you today. The first being a podcast from The Orvis Company, Tom Rosenbauer :
Crisp days in autumn bring another worldly beauty to the forest and winding Matapedia River. This is a time to get to know the river in an entirely new way.
Credit: Charles Cusson/Atlantic Salmon Federation
In the podcast this week, I go on a minor rant about the ethics of crowding on today’s trout streams, and pretty much tell you if you don’t like the crowds, take a hike (literally). I do give some suggestions on how to handle crowded situations if you have no other choice, but there is almost always another choice. And in the main part of the podcast, I share with you some fall fishing secrets. We have touched on this subject before, but since the last time I have received some more tips from all of you that I really should share.
I also announce a very special contest for the best suggestion for next week’s podcast. The prize is an autographed copy of my new book, The Orvis Guide to The Essential American Flies, which is a large format book with spectacular color photos
Click the play button below to listen to this episode. Go to orvis.com/podcast to subscribe to future episodes
If you cannot see the podcast player, please click this link to listen.
Share my fall fly fishing tips with your fishing buddies:
The second is a neat video about An American Eagle that was raised by some folks after being found blown out of its nest when just five weeks old:
By ADAM CLYMER
Published: October 22, 2011
- LEENANE, Ireland — After my years of faithfulness (well, almost) to the religion of catch-and-release fishing in the United States and Canada, I found it heretical to be told that the salmon I caught would have to be killed.
The waters at Delphi Lodge in Connemarra, on Ireland’s northwest coast. Delphi, which got into the hatchery business in 1990, releases 50,000 smolts each year; perhaps 1,500 return.
For the first five days, I fished in continual rain at Delphi Lodge in Connemarra, on Ireland’s northwest coast, it seemed a moot point. One tap, perhaps, but no real strikes. Nothing to test my faith.
But then on my last day, in another steady rain, I had a solid hookup on a Willie Gunn, a tube fly tied with yellow, orange and black bucktail. Two leaps and 15 minutes later, a seven-pound spring salmon was netted by Dave Duffy, the ghillie who rowed me around Finlough, the smaller of Delphi’s two lakes on the Bundorragha River.
Once the fish was in the boat, Duffy was excited to see that it was missing the adipose fin. That meant it was a keeper, not because it was deformed, but because Delphi runs a hatchery and clips those fins off before releasing the smolts. And the fish have to be killed to prevent interbreeding with the smaller stock of natural wild salmon. Indeed, when the season ends each fall, the remaining hatchery fish are netted and killed; the wild fish are released to spawn and return to sea.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
A crew uses heavy machinery to scoop out the bed in Styles Brook in the town of Keene late last month. -(AP)
By now, most of us who spend a lot of time hanging around creeks have heard about the so-called emergency repairs done to protected trout streams in the Catskills and the Adirondacks in the wake of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.
Numerous environmental groups, including the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited, have lodged protests with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for issuing a month-long blanket exemption from stream protection laws — an “emergency authorization” that was supposed to cover only imminent threats to life, property, etc.
Local governments and property owners appear to have taken the emergency authorization as a green light to go in and bulldoze, without penalty, streams they’ve wanted to bulldoze for years. The result has left streams all over eastern New York scraped flat and smooth, with sloping sides, like irrigation ditches, and local officials demanding the emergency authorization be extended so they can continue bulldozing.
This kind of work obviously
ruins trout habitat. But channelizing streams also makes them more dangerous, not less. Removing the boulders and contours — the “roughness” of the streambed — serves to accelerate water.