Understanding the Animas

No doubt by now you’ve heard of the 3 million gallon accident at the Gold King Mine, and the subsequent pulse of toxic water affecting the Animas River of southern Colorado.  The folks at Duranglers have put together a pretty comprehensive review of the chronic issues plaguing that watershed, while the folks at the Animas River Stakeholders Group have spent decades documenting chronic pollution and impairment to stream insect and fish communities throughout the basin.  It’s worth a look.

Where do We Stand with North American Trout?

More than half of North America’s native trout and char biodiversity occupy less than 25% of their native range.  A new publication from Trout Unlimited (available free online) uses the latest research describing current status and population trends for North America’s native freshwater trout and char species.  Some of them are imperiled by their own natural history- like the Paiute Cutthroat of the Sierras and the Sunapee char of eastern Canada, which had tiny native ranges to begin with.  Others are the victims of misguided efforts to improve fisheries by augmenting them with hatchery stock or introducing non-native sportfishes.  Still others are imperiled by modern threats- imperiled throughout their native range by fracking, mountaintop removal and climate change.

It isn’t all doom and gloom- the report highlights success stories of habitat restoration, research, reintroductions, and combating non-native species across the continent.The document provides managers and citizens interested in the conservation of this incredible resource strategies and insights into how best effectively implement change and turn the corner in these species’ declines.  And it drives home the point that protecting native, wild fish isn’t just for their own sake- it protects the water quality, ecosystem function, and scenic beauty of rivers and landscapes we all benefit from.

Wednesday Night Ties

I found a dusty copy of Syl Nemes’ “Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies” among the errata of my local flyshop a couple weeks back, basically it’s a chronicling of the history of soft-hackles from the mid-16th century to the modern day.  They haven’t changed all that much in all that time- in their construction or in the fact they’re a staple in many boxes but seldom treated with the reverence of dries or nymphs or streamers. I spent the evening leafing through the pages, picking out a small handful of patterns to try.  The Pismire- which appeared in “The Angler’s Guide” by T.F. Salter in 1823- a body of peacock herl wound around pheasant tail fibers and a hackle of starling.  The Winter Brown, a north-country fly with a head of peacock herl, a body of orange silk, and a collar of grouse- showing up in a book published in 1886 but a variation on a much older theme.  Lunn’s Little Red, an English pattern published in “River Keeper” in 1934, Greenwell’s Glory and a pheasant tail riff from a pattern published in 1933,

Wednesday Night Ties

It was an institution through junior high and high school- heading to the local fly shop on Wednesday night, tying flies and hanging out with the old guard as they smoked cigars and drank good beer and ate bad pizza- cracker crust, provel cheese, sausage and bacon with a liberal application of black pepper and hotsauce. It was an informal affair, a small handful of folks tying, a half-dozen or more folks standing around shooting the shit.  You’d wind up with a dozen or two flies running the gamut from western dries like the Humpy and the House & Lot to B.C. Steelhead patterns to the newest thing out of Patagonia to the mid-south standards- scuds, San Juan Worms, eggs, mohair leeches, and soft hackles.  It was more than where I cut my teeth and learned to tie, though.  It was an education in how fly-fishing cuts across social and economic barriers, an education in then far-off places from the Beartooths to Belize. Time will get away from you if you let it, and various commitments have kept me off the stream and out of the tying room for most of the spring.  So I bought a crappy pizza and a four-pack of IPA, cranked up the southern rock, and made a little time.