Help Slow The Spread of Invasive Species

Guest Blogger: Anchor Fly

Many fly anglers became aware of the threat of aquatic invasive species about a decade ago, when felt soled wading boots were implicated in the spread of Didymo and whirling disease, leading to felt bans in several states, and the discontinuation (at least briefly) of felt-soled wading boots by Simms. Since then, the threats in the U.S. have continued to multiply, affecting fisheries and aquatic ecosystems throughout the country.

invasive species feature

Overview Of Spread | Visible Examples

Those of us who live or fish in the West have also seen a proliferation in the state-mandated watercraft inspection and decontamination stations along main roadways since invasive mussels were found in Lake Mead in 2007[i]. In the Midwest, new reports chronicle the efforts of fish and game agencies to control invasive carp[ii]. First introduced in the Mississippi River drainage to control weeds in canal systems, carp have escaped into the rivers, in some cases entirely eliminating native fish species in local streams. In the southern US, invasive lionfish threaten both commercial and recreational fisheries, and the very existence of the remaining coral reef ecosystems in the western North Atlantic[iii].

A Tale of Two Fish

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller, OPEN DISTANCE adventure thriller & more to come

In January I spent a morning fishing a small river I’d visited several times in the prior two months, further honing my so-called “line of sight” skills and enjoying some success. I’d noticed in these outings that arriving at dawn mattered little because there was never any action until around 9 to 9:30 am…likely due to laziness on the part of the subaquatic insect life. Still I’d show up shortly after first light each time, full of coffee and hope.

This time of year this tailwater is no more than a small creek as little as thirty feet wide in some places. I always stepped in at the same hole, served by a well-beaten trail and a convenient clean log where gear (and one’s posterior) could be placed and boots could be tied. Why did I use the same on-ramp that every other joe used? Because using my own fly and my own techniques, I always still caught good fish from this little hole.

As luck would have it, this morning I’d met a fisheries biologist in the gravel parking lot while donning my waders — he was part of a team contracted by the state to perform fish counts and report on habitat. They too were getting into waders and readying non-lethal fish-stunning gear. We chatted briefly, he promised not to stick their cattle-prod-contraptions near where I was planning to fish, and he gave me his card.

I got down to the water and flogged away. At precisely 9:30am I caught a nice rainbow — one that had good size for this tiny place. About a half hour later I caught a second one on the same fly using the same methods, nearly as long but fatter. I photographed each before release. Both fish:

—   Were clearly of the Oncorhynchus genus (i.e. North American trout)

—   Were wild-hatched (adipose fins were intact)

—   Lived in the same hole

—   Subsisted on the same diet

—   Were almost identical in size and therefore probably age

—   Had never migrated to larger water despite this stream having a direct shot to the Pacific

—   Had struck the same fly at the same time of day

—   Had struck the fly exactly the same way (same “demeanor”)

Continue reading → A Tale of Two Fish

I Thought I Had Seen It All

Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria, Woodbury MN

I started fishing when I was six. We were renting a house on a small lake as we waited for our new house to be finished. We had just moved in and it was nap time. My dad decided to check and see whether there were fish in the lake. I couldn’t take the suspense so I stood on the hot water heater and watched through the slit windows to see whether he caught anything. It only took him a few minutes to land the first fish. Now I had to wait until nap time was over to go out and try my first cast. It felt like an eternity, but it was only an hour. Mom came in to tell me it was time to get up. As she opened the door, I rushed out as she tried to come in.

A few minutes later dad taught me how to cast his fake bamboo fly rod. We caught several fish that afternoon and I was hooked for life. Now it is nearly six decades later and my enthusiasm for fishing has not dwindled. In fact, it has grown stronger with each passing year. I don’t want to guess how many hours I have spent fishing (no sense in ruining my wife’s count). At this point in life, one would think I have seen it all. But this spring I had an unusual first!

It was midafternoon and I was killing time waiting for the sun to get a little lower in the horizon which usually cued a nice BWO hatch. There were some lazy risers in the tail of a long pool so I figured why not take a few casts to see whether any one was interested. I began working up the pool mostly day dreaming and enjoying the suns warmth on my back realizing it was a long shot to catch one. I went to pick up the line and felt weight on the end of the line. It happened so fast that I just got a glimpse of what was on my hook. It looked like a small branch or possibly a big piece of grass. I eliminated the grass option as the grass was only starting to bud. I heard an audible plop as it landed behind me. Hoping it would come off on its own, I heaved the line forward and watched whatever it was sail over my head and land with a large splash in front of me.

My strategy to lose the debris failed so I started hand-over-handing the line in to get to my fly. As the leader came closer it looked like the stick was swimming upstream in a writhing motion. I still couldn’t tell what it was until it was right in front of me. Unbelievably, I had hooked a garter snake in the mid-section and it was none too happy to have the hook stuck in its side. As I lifted the snake out of the water it started winding around my leader. To be honest, I am not nuts about snakes. In fact, I flat out don’t like them.

I was a counselor for a boys camp in my late teens. It was my second year and I had a group of 8 or 9 year old boys. They were a fun group of kids and more or less listened to my directions so they were happy and so was I. One of the kids was a blast. By mid-week we were best buddies. This kid loved nature and collected and picked up everything. In fact, he found a garter snake and kept it in his pocket so he could pull it out and play with it if things got too dull. I knew I had reached the pinnacle of friendship with him when he proudly and excitedly offered to let me have the snake in my sleeping bag that night. I politely declined saying something like, “I wouldn’t want your snake to miss you.” Translated loosely that really meant, “There’s no way on earth I want a garter snake in my sleeping bag all night!”

Back to the river. Not being fond of snakes and not wanting to touch the snake, if at all possible, I messed around for a while trying various maneuvers. Every time I raised the snake out of the water, it began wrapping around my leader. When I put it back in the water it would unravel and try to swim away. I gave it every possible opportunity to unhook itself (I use barbless hooks so this was not completely unreasonable) but it never happened. It became clear the only way out was to grab the snake out of the water and unhook it. If you look at the picture, the fly is clearly hooked on the top side of the snake. After steeling myself, I reached into the water and grabbed the snake on the tail end a few inches away from the fly. The hook had worked its way between two scales. It took what seemed to be an eternity (probably 4-5 seconds) to work the hook out and promptly drop the snake back into the water. Now everyone was happy again! The snake swam downstream and I continued working my way up the hole watching for other snakes before I picked up my line for each cast.

I tried to identify the snake on-line and got it down to a couple of possibilities. But could not make a definitive identification (feel free to enlighten me if you know). So I decided to go with the bail out answer of a garter snake. All of the possible snakes were supposedly common and plentiful. I have been fishing the river for over forty years and have never seen one of these on land or in the water. Two weeks ago, I saw another much smaller one swimming past me in the river. I quickly cast my line the opposite direction not wanting to do the sequel, Snakezilla 2!