Podcast: Talking Trout with Kirk Deeter

[Interview starts at 44:41]

This week, my guest is Kirk Deeter, editor of Trout Magazine.  Kirk is never one to shy away from controversy, and our topic this week is the concept of native species and the feasibility of trying to turn back the clock.  We also ramble a bit about the state of the fly-fishing world in general, but as always Kirk is thoughtful and incisive in his views.

In the Fly Box, we have some especially great tips from listeners and some interesting questions:

  • Some great tips from a listener on how to hook gar on the fly without resorting to yarn
  • A comment from a listener on the probability of tiger trout being produced naturally in wild trout populations.
  • Do I need a click-and-pawl reel on my bamboo rod, and do I need to get a special fly line?
  • Do you have some tips for catching bonefish in the Florida Keys by wading from shore?
  • How should I clean my waders if I fish multiple watersheds in a single day?
  • Because mayfly nymphs wiggle their tails in the water, why don’t we tie more nymphs with flexible tails?
  • What are the essential fly materials to take if you’re going to tie on a fishing trip?
  • How can I catch smallmouth bass on a fly in deep lakes?
  • A great tip from a listener on how to pick up beads and hooks around your tying bench–and also to recapture flies that fall out of your box on the river.
  • A great tip from a listener on how to practice casting heavily weighted flies.
  • I found a fly line that had been soaking in salt water.  Do you think it’s still good to use?
  • How do I de-magnetize a pair of forceps?
  • How can I target trout in small creeks during the winter?

25 thoughts on “Podcast: Talking Trout with Kirk Deeter”

  1. The title of this post is concerning, and symptomatic of a much bigger problem – the #1 obstacle to true fish conservation, and there is no conservation in naturalized nonnative, might be us… Would we ever say this about eagles? Bison? Wolves? Griz? California condors? Desert bighorn? Doubtful… The native fish movement is long overdue, fresh and young. It is led by those who understand that modern trout conservation is flawed, and has been from the start, and that a paradigm shift is needed. Can we undo all the mistakes we have made regarding the proliferation of nonnative fish? Of course not. Should we save what we have left in regard to native fish and restore some of what we can? Of course, because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s all get behind it, not throw obstacles up..

  2. Oh, yes, we have gone too far with native species, meaning, state fish and game departments and others have promoted non-native fish species over many native species for more than a hundred years in the United States. In terrestrial ecosystems, conservation biologists and other professionals are doing everything they can to protect and restore native biodiversity including by controlling invasive, non-native species. It’s way overdue in aquatic ecosystems, and to hear a representative of a national fish “conservation” organization claiming that it is okay and even preferable to manage for the dominance and proliferation of non-native species at the expense of our beleaguered native aquatic species is both disappointing and unacceptable. In fact, you can’t call yourself a legitimate conservation organization and espouse such anti-science views. Kirk Deeter doesn’t even understand what an invasive species is. Both Deeter and Monahan not only defend invasive fish species, they also argue that invasive species in general are okay in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. There is not a conservation biologist alive who would support these views, or fail to point out how anti-science they are being. This is dangerous and anti-science rhetoric, and completely indefensible in any real circle of conservationists.

    1. Exactly what Tom Hoctor said. Thank you for this succinct comment.

      The idea that we’ve “gone too far” restoring native species’ populations is laughable.

  3. In addition, if Deeter really wants everyone to “work together” and things to not be so “divisive” then he needs to get onboard with restoring native fish species in National Parks and in cases such as restoring native grayling in Michigan versus claiming that those projects are somehow wrong because they will kill invasive lake trout (in Yellowstone NP) or brown trout in Michigan. Working together means compromise, and in this case compromise means protecting and restoring native fish in the way too few places where it is feasible. There are plenty of places where invasive species including brown trout will remain, so live up to your words and work with the biologists and native fish advocates who are working very hard to protect and restore now rare or even extirpated native fish species in the very few places it can be done instead of making harder to do so like you and Tom did in this podcast.

  4. As an original founding member, former Maine Chair, and current National Vice Chair of Native Fish Coalition (NFC), an organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and restoration of wild native fish species with chapters in nine states and growing, I am frankly offended by the content of this podcast. Many of the statements made within are inaccurate, unscientific, and inflammatory.

    In the interest of fair play, sound journalism, scientific analysis, respectful debate, and full disclosure, I strongly recommend that you invite NFC’s founding member and Executive Director Bob Mallard on your podcast to provide an opportunity to rebut, refute and respond to the claims made in this podcast and give voice to a very important and growing movement that is focused on conversation of wild native fish species.

  5. I’m still numbed by the comments made by Tom and Deeter. I honestly thought we had gotten beyond this. When TU puts fishing ahead of fish, and challenges native fish restoration, they have compromised science, conservation, and fair play. And as an industry leader, Orvis should know better. There are certainly things we cannot change, but they should not be defended , especially when nothing is threatening them. To imply that the native fish movement, a movement made up of sportsmen, is out to eliminate all nonnative fish is polarizing and divisive. As I noted in a thread elsewhere, as someone who has been deep in the native fish conservation game for 20 years, I have never once heard what Deeter refers to as gospel – the underlying goal of eliminating all nonnatives. This is was a shameful and unnecessary event that has damaged the reputations of both Orvis and TU.

  6. Having been an ardent fan of Tom and Kirk for years, I gotta say that I was astonished and distressed by their recent podcast. (Tom and Kirk: Please understand that my comments are not meant to scold but to prevent you from embarrassing yourselves again and from circulating misinformation that threatens native fish.)

    In the podcast Kirk entreats fish advocates to “work together.” I cannot imagine a better way to prevent that and to alienate the native-fish community than by hatching a title like “Have We Gone Too Far With Native Species?”

    To the general public, including a large element of the angling community, fish don’t count as wildlife. Fish are furless, featherless, cold, slimy, silent and generally unseen. Would anyone suggest that “we have gone too far” in, say, recovering the 186 endangered Mexican wolves that remain on the planet or the endangered black-footed ferrets that were once declared extinct? How about recovering westslope cutthroat, endangered in fact if not federal decree and eliminated from 97 percent of their native range?

    If we are to believe the podcast, westslope cutthroat recovery has “gone too far.” Consider Tom’s statement: “The National Park Service kind of quietly poisoned the upper Gibbon River to try to reestablish native cutthroats. I agree with you; I don’t believe in poisoning streams to reintroduce native species.”

    Westslope cutts had essentially been extirpated from the park. And fluvial Arctic grayling and been completely extirpated from the park — both by alien, invasive salmonids. The rotenone project on the upper Gibbon restored both westslopes and fluvial Arctic grayling.

    The park did not undertake this important project “kind of quietly.” The public was kept abreast at every step. After being contacted by the park, I wrote about the project in Fly Rod & Reel. What’s more, the park had no choice. Protecting and restoring native ecosystems and, within reason, allowing natural processes to proceed uninhibited is the mission of the National Park Service. If it fails to protect and restore native fish, it violates federal law. In 1916 Congress passed the Service’s Organic Act, requiring the new agency to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife” of all units “leave[ing] them unimpaired.”

    Tom further states that he is “not a big fan of rotenoning rivers.” One cannot be pro-fish and anti-rotenone. Rotenone is by far the most effective tool and usually the only tool for preventing native fish from being hybridized or competed off the planet. Shortly before his death Bob Behnke wrote me as follows: “Without rotenone, restoration of native fish is essentially impossible.”

    Fisheries managers apply rotenone, an organic piscicide, to running water at 25 to 50 parts per BILLION. Rotenone’s half-life in running water can be less than one hour, and it’s easily neutralized below project areas with the equally short-lived oxidizer potassium permanganate. In modern fisheries management rotenone has never been seen to permanently affect a native aquatic ecosystem except to restore it.

    No one, including Kirk, likes to catch brown trout more than I. But pretending that they aren’t “invasive” because they “didn’t swim across the ocean and climb into these rivers” is doublethink and serves your audience badly. Brown trout are the quintessential invasive species. They’ve critically depressed native trout, especially in the West. Kirk went on to claim that people are advocating that “every brown trout in the country should be eliminated.” No one has advocated any such thing. It’s impossible anyway. Invasive brown trout can only be eliminated from the smallest streams. I don’t disagree that “we have bigger battles to fight than poisoning out brown trout.” But by no means does that mean we should not poison out brown trout where they threaten native fish.

    Dr. Phil Pister, retired California Department of Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist, told me this: “When we first learned of the extent of the brown trout invasion into the South Fork Kern River, the brown trout outnumbered the goldens by 100:1. The goldens, California’s state fish, were nearly gone. Happily, this recovery was started back in the 1970s before the use of rotenone became so controversial, and I was able to use rotenone to remove brown trout. I can safely say that had I not been able to use rotenone, the California golden trout would now be extinct.”

    Rotenone helped save Gila trout from being eaten, outcompeted and ushered into extinction by brown trout.

    Saved by rotenone from certain extinction was the rarest trout in the U.S., the Paiute cutthroat, native to only 11 miles of California’s Silver King Creek in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of the high Sierras. In fact, that rotenone project has been the only restoration effort that returned a native salmonid to 100 percent of its native habitat.

    Rotenone has safely and successfully slowed loss of Gila topminnows, steelhead, all five species of Pacific salmon, kokanee salmon, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, westslope cutthroats, Bonneville cutthroats, Lahontan cutthroats, Colorado River cutthroats, fluvial Arctic grayling, landlocked Arctic char, redband trout, rainbow trout and brook trout, to mention just a few. And it has prevented extinction of desert pupfish, golden trout, Volcano Creek golden trout, Gila trout, Apache trout, greenback cutthroat trout and Paiute cutthroat trout.

    Tom, I appreciate you’re considering me for a podcast rebuttal. But, again, I’m not right for it. I can hold my own in any written debate, but I’ve stepped away from podcasts because I tend to swallow my words. Emily would be do a good job, but as Native Fish Coalition CEO Bob is the obvious and fair choice. It is only decent of you to give him a chance to present our opposing views. Please do so.


    Ted Williams
    National Chair, Native Fish Coalition

  7. Yikes…if this is what Orvis now backs as responsible stewardship then I think many folks are probably going to start rethinking where they buy their gear. The very notion that there’s too much native fish conservation and restoration when such efforts probably account for less than 1 in a thousand miles of fishable waters nationwide is such a skewed perspective. How can they call for reduced conflict while at the same time telling the native fish protection and restoration groups that even that meager 1 in a 1000 footprint is too much? That’s pretty much saying they’re willing to compromise as long as the native fish folks don’t want anything.

  8. There is no such thing as “too far” when it comes to native species. I’m
    Concerned with the motivations of a title like this.

  9. Great comments from the restoration folks, much appreciated. I tend to agree that restoring populations of native fish certainly at times requires the killing off of introduced species. I thought the podcast as a whole was pretty informative and got me thinking. Climate change, increased fishing pressure, pesticides, seasonal fish migrations, winter refuges, all very interesting variables. I find that with any controversial subject, folks have there ground that they are willing to defend to the death, be they restoration ecologists, or fly fishing fishermen that work in the industry. No easy answers I’m afraid. Too many people I think.

  10. Hi Tom,
    I’m a longtime fan of your podcast, but as a Native Fish Coalition member, I felt that both the title (“Have we gone too far…”) and the content were at best ill-informed. I hope you’ll give Bob Mallard or Emily Bastian from NFC a chance to correct some of this podcast’s inaccuracies and mischaracterizations in a future edition.
    Best wishes,
    John Strucker

  11. Seriously?!! This kind of unscientific ignorance is given a national platform?! As a long time listener I am deeply disappointed. As a long time Orvis customer I am appalled. Mr. Deeter should resign or be removed from his position. I am now forced to rethink my support of Orvis and consider taking my business elsewhere.

    1. Ok… on reflection maybe I’m being a little harsh. I also like to fish for various species but not at the expense of native populations. I understand Mr. Deeter is allowed his personal preferences but Orvis has enhanced its brand on conservation. The conservation and restoration of native fish is a scientific, policy, and social issue and I’m disappointed the podcast is undermining that work on all three fronts.

  12. Hearing such archaic and unscientific views put forth by a conservation organization, just proves what so many have suspected for a long time…..TU is more concerned about fishing rather than the fish themselves. It’s a shame that Orvis would align themselves with this view and now I will seriously rethink buying anything from them in the future. Such a shame.

  13. I fail to see what is to be gained by an opinion piece like this. Automatically placing those with differing opinions in extreme opposing positions ignoring nuance is at best intellectually lazy, and at worst specifically designed for easy mass consumption to further divide people. I think we see enough of this tactic already in other arenas, do better Orvis.

  14. Tom, Thanks for a very thoughtful discussion on trout management in the US in your podcast with Kirk Deeter. As Kirk noted, the key goal of Trout Unlimited (TU) is habitat and native trout species recovery and protection wherever possible in our drastically altered landscape. As a grassroots conservation leader with TU and other groups at the local, state, regional, and national level for over 40 years, I can attest that native trout have been the ‘top of the pyramid’ as Kirk stated as the main TU conservation goal. TU’s Mission Statement has been recently revised for more focus on more inclusion, but still maintains that conservation is directed as it has been since founded in 1959 at ‘native’ and ‘wild’ trout fisheries.
    TU has always supported a stream-by-stream evaluation of each fishery with management tailored for each individual trout water based on science and the goal of doing what is best for the fish, not the fisherman. This approach has resulted in many TU conservation projects to restore ‘native ‘species where the habitat is right for them. When the habitat is not right for native trout, and cannot be reasonably restored, but where other species will thrive and reproduce as ‘wild’ trout fisheries, then those are supported. That is often the case below deep water draw dams producing many world renown tailrace ‘wild’ trout fisheries with predominantly rainbow and brown trout usually more suitable for them in what used to be in most cases warmwater rivers.
    Kirk’s broad knowledge of the fishing industry and conservation puts him in a unique position to comment on not only TU’s mission and work, but also on the angling public. He has been thoughtfully raising many important questions for polite public discussion on the TU TROUT magazine website for years – https://www.tu.org/magazine/category/fishing/trout-talk/
    Conversations he has started have included topics such as: Good Dams/ Bad Dams, How versus How Many, Invasive Threats, and Playing the Numbers Game. I appreciate Kirk sharing his personal views, explaining TU’s goals and work, raising questions, and welcoming others to join in. The Orvis Podcast hopefully will encourage many to join in the online discussions on both the TU and Orvis websites.

  15. The title “Have we gone too far with native fish species?” is concerning considering it is being associated with two groups that are aligned with fish conservation. Does this title suggest we do less? This was my first impression. What is too far? Why even imply this when there is so much more to be done?

    Tom, you stated at the end that Kirk Deeter ” hadn’t said anything that TU would not agree with” Kirk responded, “I don’t think so”. For the editor of Trout magazine to comfortably make some of the statements it makes me pause and think…are the anti-fish conservation comments contained in this podcast the prevailing mindset at TU?

    Many of the statements in this podcast undermine fish conservation and would severely hamper those trying to right the wrongs man has brought upon our wild native fish communities. Tools such as rotenone are absolutely necessary for certain circumstances and we shouldn’t be hamstringing our biologists by taking away “tools”.

    Habitat is indeed of utmost importance but many times when an invasive fish species is introduced habitat alone won’t keep the resident wild native fish species from being “bred out” or “digested out” of existence-removal of the “invasive” fish such as brown trout is sometimes necessary.

    Those I know involved with wild native fish conservation are hardly zealots and find them quite reasonable. I would say that many of us enjoy angling for all types of non-native fish species. I don’t know of anyone that wants to or thinks it’s reasonable to remove all non-native fish.

    However, when special populations of wild native fish species are threatened with eradication we should all be on the same page to save them and this should never be deemed “too extreme”.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t feel this particular podcast helps things or brings conservation-minded anglers to work together as I was hoping.

    I have been a longtime listener of your podcasts and really enjoy them but with this one, I think it
    went too far and was off base with criticism of those who protect our wild native fish species.


    Bob Dalton
    Massachusetts Chair, Native Fish Coalition

  16. The notion that nature should be farmed for our idle leisure should be anathema to both Orvis and Trout Unlimited. Fortunately, we have the answer to both commercial enterprises: rotenone.

  17. Bad take by Deeter. The only thing worse than a bad take is giving that person a microphone to broadcast it

  18. The thing about unscientific remarks, similar to the ones stated here, is that science isn’t a belief system. A belief system falls in the realm of tooth fairies and santa.

  19. I hope the people who complained about the positions expressed in this podcast will at least acknowledge that — a month before this episode — Mr Rosenbauer and Orvis devoted a podcast to an interview with Doug Thompson (“The Stupid Things We Do for Trout,” posted on January 14, 2022).

    There, Prof. Thompson made strong arguments on behalf of native fish and the dynamic habitats in which they evolved. He also recited a litany of sins against nature committed in the name of angling by sportfishing interest groups, government agencies, and contractors (the “iron triangle” well-known to students of public policy): eg, transplantation of species, hatcheries, hybridization, and uninformed habitat tinkering.

    I, for one, commend Mr Rosenbauer and Orvis for their willingness to provide a civil and respectful platform for diverse and unorthodox views of the relations of outdoor recreation to nature.

    I’ll leave it to TU to deal with Mr Deeter.

  20. Dear Orvis,

    Too much to say about these statements by these supposedly “authoritative” voices who supposedly don’t speak for their representative organizations — but it seems that they do.

    Dare I say it, but I should think – given all due respect – both Tom and Kirk would know better.

    Big “hats off” to Bob, Emily and Ted and the broader NFC for helping to flesh out these issues.

    I would love to have been a fly-on-the-wall when each get into discussions with their higher ups in response to this kerfuffle.

    Personally and professionally, I am actually glad for the controversy as these topics apparently need some airing out -both here and elsewhere – and “some” just ain’t going to do the job, as far as I’m concerned.

    I too am pleased that Tom and others have already interviewed NFC’s Bob Mallard with promise for more – so thank you to Orvis’s Tom Rosenbauer for being open to this.

    We know restoration works for native brook trout. There’s no doubt about it.

    If you do have doubts, please come to SE Mass and I’ll be happy to show you around.

    There are dozens – if not hundreds – of dedicated TU volunteers who would be more than happy to do so as well. After all, they’ve been doing it (and inspiring others) for close to 50 years.


    Geoffrey Day
    Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition
    Newburyport MA

  21. Some organizations reach points at which they become much more about conserving their own funding than anything else. Is TU reaching that point? The fact that its leadership closed ranks behind Deeter after he belittled grayling restoration efforts and demonstrated a serious misunderstanding of what constitutes an invasive species sure has me wondering.

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