In Praise of Ugly Streamers

It was a brutal summer in Vermont, and the Battenkill has been running so low and warm that everyone I know stopped fishing it in
August for fear of over-stressing the trout. But recently, nighttime air temperatures have started dipping into the 40s, and the leaves on the maples are beginning to turn—sure signs that fall is here. The Tricos, which started coming off last month, are winding down. They’re the last big hatch of the year on the ’kill, bringing fish to the surface again to feed on spinnerfalls at dusk…

 

It was a brutal summer in Vermont, and the Battenkill has been running so low and warm that everyone I know stopped fishing it in August for fear of over-stressing the trout. But recently, nighttime air temperatures have started dipping into the 40s, and the leaves on the maples are beginning to turn—sure signs that fall is here. The Tricos, which started coming off last month, are winding down. They’re the last big hatch of the year on the ’kill, bringing fish to the surface again to feed on spinnerfalls at dusk and emergers in the morning. But for me, Tricos are just a teaser for the Main Event: fall streamer fishing. And when I’m after big browns bulking up for the long winter, I like to throw something heavy, meaty, and ugly.

As a native New Englander, I grew up casting elegant featherwing streamers such as the Gray Ghost and hairwings like the Black Nose Dace. Something “ugly” might have been a (shudder) Woolly Bugger. But over the years, I’ve embraced the aesthetically challenged mutants—patterns like the Slump Buster, Beldar Rubber-Leg Bugger, and all manner of things featuring tungsten cones, multi-material bodies, and lots of wiggly rubber appendages. Traditionalists may frown upon such monstrosities, but brown trout love ’em.

This fall, I’m pumped to try Greg Senyo’s Olive G-String Sculpin, which seems custom-made for the Battenkill. Senyo, a partner in Steelhead Alley Outfitters has put together a real winner.

Senyo’s Olive Iced-Out Sculpin

Front Hook: Mustad 3366, size 2, cut at the bend.

Rear Hook: Gamakatsu Octopus hook, size 2. Loop attached to 30-pound Fire Line.

Thread: Olive Uni-Thread, 6/0.

Under Body: Hareline Olive Baitfish Emulator Flash.

Belly: Pearl UV Ice Dubbing.

Body: Hareline Barred Olive Rabbit Strip.

Head: Brown and Olive Senyo’s Laser Dubbing.

Legs: Missouri Craw Colored Rubber: Brown-olive-black.

Eyes: Hareline 3D silver Oval Pupil, 3/16.

Note: Dumbell eyes, if used, should be tied on the bottom or underside of hook.

I’ll fish it on a medium-action 6-weight with a floating line and a loop-to-loop sinking tip. I’ll let you know how it goes.

(Opening photo by Corey Kruitbosch)

The Future of Felt

Face it: the Age of Felt is coming to an end, and anglers will simply have to adjust. Biologists have known for years that felt soles serve as vectors for all manner of aquatic nuisance species (ANS), from whirling disease to didymo, and various attempts at solving or at least ameliorating the problem have been proposed—sprays, boot baths at boat ramps, public-education campaigns, and the like. Yet the ANS problem persists, so states such as Alaska and Vermont have passed bans on felt soles to take effect in the near future, with more such legislation from other states expected soon. (New Zealand was way ahead of the curve,…

Face it: the Age of Felt is coming to an end, and anglers will simply have to adjust. Biologists have known for years that felt soles serve as vectors for all manner of aquatic nuisance species (ANS), from whirling disease to didymo, and various attempts at solving or at least ameliorating the problem have been proposed—sprays, boot baths at boat ramps, public-education campaigns, and the like. Yet the ANS problem persists, so states such as Alaska and Vermont have passed bans on felt soles to take effect in the near future, with more such legislation from other states expected soon. (New Zealand was way ahead of the curve, enacting a ban in 2008.) When even the venerable New York Times takes notice of the problem (“Fly Fishers Serving as Transports for Noxious Little Invaders”), it’s a sign that anglers can no longer pretend that felt is a viable option.

From a pure fishing standpoint, it’s a drag, because felt works and has helped anglers reach water that was unattainable with old rubber boots. However, the new generation of rubber-sole boots shows great promise. At this point in their development, I wouldn’t recommend rubber soles without studs, though. I took a pair of first-generation unstudded boots on a trip to Spain in the summer of 2009 and nearly killed myself. And once you lose confidence in your own wading ability, your fishing experience suffers. But as soon as I tried the studded version, I felt stable and ready to wade in even the roughest water. They’re not yet as good as felt, but rubber soles have come a long way.

Keep in mind that even rubber soles don’t solve the problem of ANS transmission; they merely make it less likely. If you want to do your part in the conservation effort, you must drill into your head the mantra Inspect, Clean, and Dry. For complete instructions on how to do this, check out the Orvis Invasive Species page.

The Trouble with Brook Trout, Part I

The historic range of the Eastern brook trout in the U.S. stretches from the northern tip of Maine to the high country of northern Georgia, and from Minnesota to the Atlantic. Unfortunately, with the first appearance of Europeans on these shores, the waters that supported brook trout began to suffer from dams, deforestation, and siltation. Add in poor agricultural practices, road building, mine runoff, acid precipitation,…

 

The historic range of the Eastern brook trout in the U.S. stretches from the northern tip of Maine to the high country of northern Georgia, and from Minnesota to the Atlantic. Unfortunately, with the first appearance of Europeans on these shores, the waters that supported brook trout began to suffer from dams, deforestation, and siltation. Add in poor agricultural practices, road building, mine runoff, acid precipitation, and the introduction of exotic species such as brown and rainbow trout, and it’s no surprise Eastern brookies are in trouble.

Changes in land use and management over the last few decades have helped keep many native brook-trout populations from sliding over the edge into extinction, but the species is still far from saved. Formed in 2004 and fully funded by the National Fish Habitat Action Plan in 2006, the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) comprises public and private entities from Trout Unlimited to 17 state fish-and-wildlife agencies to renowned universities, which have joined together to halt the decline of brook trout and to restore fishable populations.

One of the organization’s first action was commissioning a report, Distribution, Status and Perturbations to Brook Trout within the Eastern United States, which offered a detailed look at the stark realities of the situation:

  • Intact stream populations of brook trout (where wild brook trout occupy 90-100% of their historical habitat) exist in only 5% of subwatersheds. Wild stream populations of brook trout have vanished or are greatly reduced in nearly half of subwatersheds.
  • The vast majority of historically occupied large rivers no longer support self-reproducing populations of brook trout. 
  • Brook trout survive almost exclusively as fragmented populations relegated to the extreme headwaters of streams.
  • Poor land management associated with agriculture ranks as the most widely distributed impact to brook trout across the eastern range.
  • Non-native fish rank as the largest biological threat to brook trout. Intact subwatersheds of wild brook trout in lakes and ponds are almost exclusively located in Maine, but self-reproducing populations remain in some lakes and ponds in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.
  • More data collection is needed to determine the status of brook trout in various parts of the eastern range, particularly in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The EBTJV is dedicated to reversing the course of the brook-trout decline by coordinating efforts that build private and public partnerships to improve brook trout habitat. For more information about the health of brook-trout populations, visit easternbrooktrout.org. There you can read the entire assessment report, state-by-state evaluations, as well as the Conservation Strategies for each state. The Trout Unlimited site also has a section on conservation efforts to save Eastern brook trout.

Conservation News 9.20.10

The proposed Pebble Mine isn’t the only place where gold mining could damage a fishery. Since four dams on Oregon’s Rogue River were removed in recent years, gold-seekers with suction dredgers have moved in to sift through the gravel that had built up behind the dams for decades. Many of these gold-seekers are from out of state and have come to Oregon because California banned the practice last year….

 

The proposed Pebble Mine isn’t the only place where gold mining could damage a fishery. Since four dams on Oregon’s Rogue River were removed in recent years, gold-seekers with suction dredgers have moved in to sift through the gravel that had built up behind the dams for decades. Many of these gold-seekers are from out of state and have come to Oregon because California banned the practice last year. As the New York Times reports, local anglers and river stewards are not happy about it. (Photo courtesy of Klamath Riverkeeper.)

 

Permit Underwater

conservation icon
From Bonefish & Tarpon Trust: “At their September 2nd meeting in Pensacola, FL, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission members decided that the draft rules recommended by FWC staff need further revision.  In an interview with the Keynoter newspaper, Commission Chairman Rodney Barreto said “These are our rock-star game fish. We asked staff to take another look at what we need to do to protect permit.  Permit is among the greatest fish we have in the Keys. We want to step back and figure out how to better protect it.” Learn more at the BTT Web site.

In the Loop 9.20.10

The Fly Fishing Hall of Fame in Livingston Manor, New York, has announced the 2010 inductees: Art Lee, author of author of Fishing Dry Flies for Trout on Rivers and Streams; John Randolph, longtime editor of Fly Fisherman magazine; Louis Rhead, and Englishman whose books The Speckled Brook Trout and American Trout Stream Insects are considered important to the development of the sport; and the iconoclastic Jack Gartside, innovative tier and writer, who died last year.

 

The Fly Fishing Hall of Fame at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, New York, has announced the 2010 class of inductees: Art Lee, author of author of Fishing Dry Flies for Trout on Rivers and Streams; John Randolph, longtime editor of Fly Fisherman magazine; Louis Rhead, an Englishman whose books The Speckled Brook Trout and American Trout Stream Insects are considered important to the development of the sport; and the iconoclastic Jack Gartside, innovative tier and writer, who died last year. The induction ceremony will take place on October 9 and is open to the public.  


fish icon The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) announced last week that the 2011 International Fly Tackle Dealer show will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s a bold move for the organization, which is looking to shake things up.



fish icon

 The Washington Post offers a great profile of Lefty Kreh.

 

Pebble Mine of the East?

For a few years now, fly fishermen have been committed to stopping construction of the Pebble Mine, which threatens the salmon runs—and the entire ecosystem—of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Felt Soul Media’s film Red Gold has helped to spread the word about the potential damage that could result from an accident at such a huge mine. But even much smaller extractive practices can do irreparable harm to fish and wildlife. In recent years, oil companies have been devoting more and more resources to getting at the huge amount of natural gas stored in the Marcellus Shale formation, which lies beneath some of the more fragile brook-trout habitat in the East. A unique geological formation more that 400 million years old—stretching from Columbus, Ohio, to Albany, New York, and south into northeastern Tennessee—the Marcellus Shale doesn’t give up its natural gas easily,…

For a few years now, fly fishermen have been committed to stopping construction of the Pebble Mine, which threatens the salmon runs—and the entire ecosystem—of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Felt Soul Media’s film Red Gold has helped to spread the word about the potential damage that could result from an accident at such a huge mine. But even much smaller extractive practices can do irreparable harm to fish and wildlife. In recent years, oil companies have been devoting more and more resources to getting at the huge amount of natural gas stored in the Marcellus Shale formation, which lies beneath some of the more fragile brook-trout habitat in the East. A unique geological formation more that 400 million years old—stretching from Columbus, Ohio, to Albany, New York, and south into northeastern Tennessee—the Marcellus Shale doesn’t give up its natural gas easily, and this is where problems arise.



To extract the gas, companies use a process called “hydraulic fracturing” or “hydrofracturing” (“hydrofracking” for short), in which they drill thousands of feet into the earth and then pump up to 9 million gallons of water into the hole to break up the shale deposits. Guess where they get the water: By sucking it right out of streams. Four companies in Pennsylvania (where as many as 700 wells have already been drilled) have already been busted for stealing trout-stream water without permits and forced to pay fines totaling $1.7 million. Of course, such a number is just a rounding error for these companies, and once they paid up, they were issued permits to carry on doing the very thing they’d been fined for.

Before the water is injected into the well, toxic chemicals are added, creating even more of an environmental nightmare. You may have heard of some of this stuff: arsenic, mercury, hydrogen sulfide, and other equally environmentally-unfriendly substances. These “hydrofracking fluids” are kept in impoundments until they can be trucked to a plant for treatment, and any kind of accidental or intentional spill would be disastrous to local waters. If you’re inclined to believe that these companies operate on a “safety-first” policy, think of the recent Gulf oil spill is a prime example of what can happen without adequate regulation and oversight of drilling operations.

There are two ways anglers can get involved. First, contact your Congressional delegation, and ask them to support the

“Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemical Act”

now moving its way through Congress. This legislation would roll back parts of the industry-friendly 2005 Energy Policy Act and force hydrofracking companies to comply with the provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Trout Unlimited is also asking anglers to become stewards of their local waters. TU has launched a

pilot program

in Pennsylvania to distribute water-quality-testing kits and train locals how to use them. For more information, visit TU.org.

The devastation caused by hydrofracking is detailed in a new film by Josh Fox called “Gasland,” and the film’s Web site contains lots of information and links to citizens’ groups advocating a moratorium on this destructive practice.





Podcast- Proper Shooting Stance From The Ground Up


Hosts Bruce Bowlen and Brett Ference discuss proper stance from the feet up in the most recent episode of Orvis Double Barrel: The Hunting and Shotgunning Podcast. Subscribe to future podcasts at Http://www.orvis.com/podcast





Hosts Bruce Bowlen and Brett Ference discuss proper stance from the feet up in the most recent episode of Orvis Double Barrel: The Hunting and Shotgunning Podcast. Subscribe to future podcasts at Http://www.orvis.com/podcast