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Five to Eleven generations and then there’s Hell to Pay »

trouts_Gone360While scientists giggle at us trout and salmon anglers, knowing our fragile quarry and how they’re damned to extinction via Global Warming, they throw us a bone by reassuring us that as climate changes over the coming centuries, we’ll not have to deal with “Quasimodo Trout” or something equally misshapen shuffling about  the muddy bottom …

… and no, they’re not concerned enough to forswear Ebola research in favor of crafting a more resilient Salmonid, they are merely reassuring us that despite the warming of the Earth’s crust and the dwindling water supply, we’ll not have to fret over Carp-Chinook hybrids or Bluegill Rainbows.

(That indignity being somehow so horrific as to make them blanch and stare at their feet hoping we didn’t notice their earlier glee.)

The latest research stems from the Lake Huron archipelago and centers on a recent study of Canadian Brook trout. Wild and hatchery fish were intermingled and the resultant prodigy examined via the genetic microscope, suggesting that while breeding occurs between wild and hatchery fish, natural selection continues to winkle out foreign genomes in favor of those developed for the unique environment and wild populations win in the end.

It turns out that within five to 11 generations of fish (about 25 to 50 years), the foreign genes introduced into wild populations through hybridization are removed by natural selection. That means fish populations previously bolstered by hatchery stock are, genetically speaking, indistinguishable from purely wild populations.

- from Phys.Org

The journal Evolutionary Applications is host to the research and while considerably harder to follow, suggests the findings are preliminary (as population dynamics are a function of time), yet interloper genes are quickly discarded and the resultant strain become genetically identical to the original wild populations over time.

Although we believe that our study demonstrates that salmonid populations can exhibit no effect of hybridization after 5–11 generations, more studies of this phenomenon are still required to aid policy makers when classifying the protection status or management practices for populations known to be hybridized. Our results additionally provide hope for wild populations of high ecological and economical value currently displaying negative effects as a result of human-mediated hybridization with domesticated conspecifics. If the incoming flow of foreign genes can be stemmed and the environment resembles that experienced by the wild population prior to hybridization, there appears to be a considerable chance that populations will recover, and possibly in less time than previously thought. Similar conclusions have recently been made about canid species exposed to hybridization, but that continue to experience the same selective regimes of their nonhybridized ancestors (Stronen and Paquet 2013).

-from Evolutionary Applications (Wiley Online Library) 8.27.14

Global Warming aside – it is a bit of welcome good news in light of how much “cross-pollination” our hatchery practices have induced in North America.

While politicians are quick to grasp any photo opportunity, they’re reluctant to pursue most forms of science beyond that practiced by pollsters. Any increase in watershed temperatures is likely to be met with a “doubling down” on stocking – versus solving the issue completely, and it’s nice to know that should we emerge from this scientific abyss, there might be a few “neo-native” fish to survive with us ..

Wherein the ravages of time and middle age require prosthesis »

It was a case of not knowing … what I didn’t know; how one day I too would be swearing at a tangle of glasses and lanyards, and how tenuous the grip on my sunglasses would be as I swapped them mid-riffle for my magnified readers …

… how I would find that suspending them from my neck just meant they would intertwine with clippers and hemostats, suck fly line into their snarl at the slightest breath of wind, and how either set would routinely tangle in branches and bankside undergrowth and threaten to garrote me should I move in any direction.

I too would learn that bifocals and trifocals suck in earnest, and how the “sweet spot” on their lenses isn’t sweet enough to bring into focus my water-refracted feet, and how anything short of a crablike scuttle is unwise while wading.

I guess my older buddies were reluctant to confess that the ravages of Time would deprive me of things I assumed I would enjoy forever – so I was ill prepared to require Little Blue Pills of Turgidity and “Coke Bottle” glasses to see tippet.

Two pairs of glasses dangling from your neck simply doesn’t work, given how quickly they will become intertwined with one another and anything else dangling from your vest. The venerable magnified loupe dangling off your sunglasses was a bit better, but after we parted company (compliments of scrub oak) I opted to abandon sun glasses altogether, and simply hung a set of 250X readers around my neck for all knot tying.

Unfortunately, you can’t wear the readers so you’re without eye protection or polarization and that solution is far from elegant.

Bifocals require you to move your head to find the small spot in the magnifying area that brings your fingers into focus, and while I’ve tried diligently to make the switch, I’ve abandoned them entirely. Too much of the lenses are neither magnified nor focused, so I find them infuriating to use.

hydrotac

I do keep tinkering with the combination of sunglasses and readers, and occasionally I spy something with the potential to alter my inelegant solution.

I am currently fiddling with the Hydrotac product shown above. These are a pair of semicircular lenses that can be stuck to any regular eyeglass (or sunglass) by simply moistening them. They peel off with finger pressure when you wish to remove them from your sunglasses.

Hydrotac_Glasses

Here is what they look like when dampened and attached. I’ve tamped the excess water off the lenses, and worn them for an hour or two fishing. They act much like a bifocal, but have the advantage that there is no out-of-focus areas. The Hydotac semi-circle are 250X magnification and the surrounding lense area are all the identical prescription for distance.

HydroTac.Nymph430

Here is a sample of the 250X magnification portion of the inserts. The magnification works quite well, and any issues of fish splatter or the lenses getting dirty can be resolved by peeling them off, rinsing them clean, and reattaching them to the glasses.

Naturally I would do this while resting comfortably on the bank. Cold fingers and fast water will likely peel these from your hands and you’ll be left with nothing.

I have not subjected the glasses to a lot of abuse so this is still a “work in progress” review. Falling headfirst into fast water may peel these off the lenses, so I don’t yet know how much stress the adhesion can withstand. Their protective container doesn’t strike me as being a good solution for your fishing vest, so some attention to their storage may be needed as well.

In either case, they work well for their purpose – and are about the same price as low cost reading glasses, about $20.00 per set. They are available in +125 to +300 magnification.

* Due Diligence: I purchased the set used in this review using my own money, no vendor freebies nor contact with the vendor was initiated nor accepted.

Takes a licking and keeps on ticking … »

An observant fellow notes a trout swimming in a Swiss lake appears odd, and discovers trout are evolving natural defenses against the local Osprey …

swissarmy_trout430

While I don’t think the Timex watch is a Swiss invention, it engenders new respect for a heretofore fragile salmonid.

swissarmy_trout2430

I imagine the local Osprey are likely perfecting the Immelmann and how best to engage fish using, “Death from the Side.”

The squeals of outrage will demand a watery Jihad »

mule300While the old adage insists, “ … in Spring, a young man’s thoughts turn to Love,” the Global Warming variant may change that antiquated lyric to, “ …in Summer, a young trout’s thoughts turn to Hybridization.”

A recent study of wild trout intermingled with hatchery fish, based on lakes and hydroelectric dams in Norway – suggests that wild fish and hatchery trout rarely inter-breed. It’s thought the high mortality rate of pen-raised, pellet-fed, fish – coupled with the inability of hatchery fish to make use of spawning creeks – means the two strains rarely occupy the same space at the same time, and interbreeding is negligible as a result.

Released trout accounted for nearly 30% of the sexually mature fish in the reservoirs and it was assumed that the prolonged use of non-indigenous and previously released fish in hatcheries posed a risk to the genetic integrity of wild fish. However, it appears that wild fish maintain their natural, genetic structure, principally due to the high mortality of indigenous and released hybrids and to the fact that released fish do not migrate when spawning.

- from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science

My tortured blend of humor and lay science suggests this phenomenon could be due to their “fast food” diet. How inhaling pellets shat from a cannon leaves hatchery trout couch-prone and listless – versus chasing a shapely wild female up the riffle and into the Gravels of Lust.

But Global Warming and its corresponding changes in water temperatures apparently changes this delicate relationship. With elevated temperatures, “Couch Potato” fish suddenly mount everything, including beer cans and sunken grocery carts and the gene pool resulting is a crazy mash up of hybridized fish.

Despite widespread release of millions of rainbow trout over the past century within the Flathead River system5, a large relatively pristine watershed in western North America, historical samples revealed that hybridization was prevalent only in one (source) population. During a subsequent 30-year period of accelerated warming, hybridization spread rapidly and was strongly linked to interactions between climatic drivers—precipitation and temperature—and distance to the source population. Specifically, decreases in spring precipitation and increases in summer stream temperature probably promoted upstream expansion of hybridization throughout the system. This study shows that rapid climate warming can exacerbate interactions between native and non-native species through invasive hybridization, which could spell genomic extinction for many species.

- Excerpt from Nature Climate Change, July 2014

As I’m one of those horribly insensitive louts that claim to have tread lightly on his environment, (which we now realize as “having our way with the Old Gal,”) and after leaving what few scraps of the watershed that remains to the New Breed of fly fishermen, can only cackle at your indignity when you see some obese Grass Carp mounting that silvery, noble Rainbow (as it lies panting in the hot water), and how righteous you’ll sound when you insist we kill everything with Rotenone, so the gene pool is kept sacrosanct …

In addition to leaving you whatever we couldn’t eat, along with the discarded plastic wrapper of everything we did consume, we’ve imparted to you our antiquated snooty attitude towards salmonids. No doubt you’ll cling to this last bit of purism despite rising hemispheric temperatures, and with the Trout-centric enviro-lobby’s urging – will launch a Genetic Cleansing, or watery Jihad … whichever Politically Correct term you’ll devise for eradicating all the warm water fish that don’t mind hybridizing with lawnmowers or Salmo Salar …

Exploring what little damp remains »

Tracking down “little blue lines” on a map hasn’t proved fruitful of late, given that which was once blue … is now overly warm or dried up completely.

Having come over the hill from Santa Rosa last week and skirting the edge of Lake Berryessa, I noted a lot more bank was visible, yet Putah Creek still had ample flow despite scarring from the Monticello Fire of early June.

Olives, Pomegranates, and walnuts are compelling, but I’d played the  “Domestic Goddess” for most of the last month – it was high time aprons and fruit Pectin played second fiddle to a wisp of fiberglass waved in anger.

Last year I had fished Putah Creek from above, through the UC Davis campus and south of Interstate 80, and while access was plentiful due to sprawling campus, the water was sheathed in oak woodland which alternated with brambles, thickets, plowed fields, and blackberry bushes. So parking nearby was easy – yet achieving the water without injury proved much less so …

Putah_Wood1

Wading being a mirror of the terrestrial experience – given the perils of interlocking wader-killing underwater limbs, slick clay patches, and rotting vegetation that appears firm until it isn’t.

Opaque olive water may be off-putting to the trout crowd, but it’s a welcome sight to us “frog water” aficionados that recognize a combination of tough access, obvious bouquet, and discolored water, are hallmarks of the “new Wilderness” … ignored by fishermen, scorned by dog walkers and joggers, and home to unknown fisheries and homeless encampments.

Putah_wood2

… and while everyone else roars past oblivious to the dark line of trees hiding the creek from traffic, it’s not without its moments ..

Black_Bass431

… and even if the bulk of its inhabitants were of the five-inch class, there were indications that an occasional resident reached larger dimensions. Naturally, they would only make an appearance when sliding across the slick clay yielded a tree branch through a wader leg – as only outright suffering makes wary fish less so.

Kelvin_CheckDam

A point debated by my fishing buddy, whose obvious delight at basking in the sun while monopolizing the only real estate permitting a free and unfettered back cast, overcame his lust for larger fish.

After clawing my way through alders, clinging underbrush, and gingerly negotiating a homeless bunker complex, the idea of resting without peril next to the babbling brook was most attractive.

While many complain about the Lack, I shift my attentions to the Plenty »

The drought and its unrelenting grip on the weather remind us of the absence of many things; moisture in any form, fishing of every type, and how Fall is being kept at arm’s length, denying us even a brief respite.

… unless you count forest fires as welcome change.

This year we had fires in every significant trout drainage in the state including; Hat Creek and Fall River, Yosemite, the Upper Sacramento, American, and anything else sloped towards the Pacific and sporting an overly warm dribble from the Sierra.

Naturally ebullient and unwilling to dwell on all the things denied us, I’ve busied myself with the Plenty, letting those prone to sourness swear at inclement conditions and hot weather.

olives1The Unexpected Plenty: defined by a big rig negotiating an onramp poorly and leaving 10000 pounds of Jalapeno Peppers on the edge of the road.

The Hoped for Plenty: that Garlic field whose harvester missed enough furrows as to allow me to squirrel away enough garlic to render myself off-putting to a Zombie Apocalypse, an uprising of Vampires, or most anyone ringing my front door.

… and the Unasked for Plenty; the appearance of enough Olives on the trees ringing the fields to allow me to dabble in toxic chemicals, converting the bitter and astringent Olive into something more docile and table worthy.

Fishing has been relegated to observation of the watershed and the realization that the two greatest despoilers of the environment are actually the root of the creek’s continued survival…

Man, for all his shortsightedness and many faults – occasionally preserves a watershed by intent. While that is infrequent in my unclean waters, occasionally we grow tired of crapping on the small and defenseless, and guilt makes us part with a few farthings for restoration work.

That other great despoiler of watersheds is the Beaver. Considered an unwelcome invasive in both South America and Europe, as it has great appetite for bank burrowing and tree felling, neither act endearing the beaver to anything else sharing the watershed.

As my creek has been dry since July, and does so each year at that time, the only life left in the watershed is contained in pockets of deep water. After the floods of Winter, the beaver rebuild their dams over the Spring, deepening the creek measurably, and these “islands of water” are all that remain for the fish, flora, and in stream fauna. Without beaver and his incessant engineering, I would have no fish.

beaver_dam

I still patrol the last few islands every couple of weekends. I carry a rod so as not to be considered a “person of interest” by the occasional jogger or landowner intent on my doings.  I note the mink and beaver that occupy the remaining water and realize that predation doesn’t need my help. In this overly warm, stagnant environment it’s likely each fish hook thrust through jawbone could weaken the few brood stock that are left, and imperil next year’s fishing.

Which will be moot if this drought persists.

Where we fish from the shores like Gentlemen »

tweedWith little to fish for and the only hatch forest fires, I’ve little to hone my skills than science.

Neovison Vison” is Latin for our pal the Mink, and a study released on the biological implications of Didymo diatoms spread via animal agent has recently concluded in Patagonia, Chile. Mink, like waterfowl, are able to travel much farther than smaller waterborne animals (up to 10 KM overland), making them a poster child for diatom spread given the damp and humid environment their fur represents.

… and how anything liable to rub onto felt soles is likely to do similar when in contact with a Mink’s arse …

Anything immersed in water and coming into contact with damp substrate can carry diatoms, but waders and shoe uppers are an unpleasantness anglers only talk about in hushed circles. We know that were we to point fingers at others with greater fervor would bring into focus our remaining unclean habits and our hypocrisy, and would force us to cast from the shoreline like proper gentlemen.

It’s my opinion our beloved pastime and its many pundits continue to ignore issues associated with waders and wading shoe uppers, having performed their “due diligence” by pointing the finger at felt soles, and ignoring the larger issues of us being the vector for a lot of watershed ills.

Unfortunately true concern for the watershed may have us ensconced in a placental plastic membrane, or Tweed and Deerstalker, as science is proving reluctant to condone anyone or anything’s feet in the water …

“.. wildlife vectors may limit or negate the efficacy of biosecurity measures focused exclusively on the human role in dispersal (e.g. ‘check, clean, dry’ and gear washing stations) to date, management of D.Geminata has not considered wildlife vectors (Reid et al. 2012) a key oversight in terms of conservation planning and efforts to contain or exclude D. Geminata”

Factor in the omnipresent nature of waterfowl and their intercontinental migration patterns, and should diatoms live within damp duck down as they do in Mink fur, they’ll be viable for sixty days flight time, akin to our damp wading gear, yet instead of drying in our garage, landing nightly in a new watershed, and spreading diatoms with each immersion.

Geese were also mentioned as having direct interaction with D. Geminata (swimming, feeding, or touching the bloom).

The article has not yet been released into the public domain, and is available only as a paid download, and therefore cannot be redistributed yet.

IT concludes that 23 mink sampled in two rivers had on average about 3000 live diatoms rinsed from their fur after capture (capture was on dry land), and the kind and type of diatom found roughly matched their occurrence in Nature.

Animals captured near heavy concentrations of D. Geminata had more cells on them than those caught in rivers of weaker diatom density. Which is not surprising at all, and is consistent with common sense.

While humans are one of the animal agents that spread algal cells, and our jets and boats and vehicles make us especially well suited in doing so, our simplistic notion of “our dirty feet” being central to diatom spread and subsequent bloom is growing more holes than a good Swiss cheese.

Dissolved Phosphorus controls the presence of Didymo “bloom” and most of the continents have their own subspecies of the diatom – and have hosted it for some time.

Of particular interest to me is the article’s mention that salmonids are also able to spread D. Geminata. To date we’ve enjoyed an egotistical notion that we are the root of most watershed evil, but even migratory fish scrub the occasional rock – and carry diatoms further up or downriver.

Rainbow trout were mentioned specifically, with a sample of 20 fish having been scraped of mucous yielding no live D. Geminata cells, but Chinook salmon were mentioned as having a better likelihood of harboring live cells in their mucous, but are as yet untested.

This notion I find completely fascinating and potential humorous, given how us anglers flock to salmon streams during migrations, and how our feet may have been blamed coincidentally for spreading the plague our quarry brought with them …

… that ought to bake your noodle.

How to tie a seven inch Rapala Rainbow Trout »

I couldn’t help thinking of some young fellow with his tongue clenched between his teeth manhandling some thick-stemmed saddle into an unruly imitation of his first fly collar. That was one of many Defining Moments for those of us persisted, as we could have cursed loudly and abandoned the sport, yet we somehow persevered until the source of our pain became child’s play.

… (mostly because we were masochists) and being one of the many that kept at it, I find myself eyeing the future and realizing some of those hardships will soon vanish, to be replaced by some other test of resolve.

At the moment it’s merely Plano and Rapala that need worry about their revenue given hard plastics are the most consumer friendly printing medium, but 3D printer technology is improving so fast that foodstuffs and metals will burst from our nozzles as precisely as they do with commercial applications and industrial printers. Like all technologies, only miniaturization and mass marketing are needed to bring their price down to the point where they’re spitting out See’s candy about as fast as you can order it from Amazon.com.

3Dblank_lure

Some canny fellow takes a micrometer to his favorite lure, pumps the data elements into his printing software, and outputs a Wee Wart or jig head, or … saddle hackle …

Textiles are likely to be a snap given most are already polymers. A hint of heat and a spiral tuck, and it’s not too much of a stretch to see fly components crapping out of that same nozzle.

Beads, jig heads, rattles, eyeballs, spat by the gross from your printer and ready for a final dusting of spray paint or glitter.

3dLure

Like the music industry and media moguls of Hollywood, angling is likely to see angry executives insistent that “home tied” Rat-L-Traps constitute the new Communist Menace, and insist on a lifetime fishing ban for the perpetrator.

… whose wife will be ecstatic at the prospect of her spouse finally shouldering chores without being nagged incessantly.

… and you hunch over to protect all the sensitive bits »

While I’m not entirely certain what felled me, the romantic version involves the rushing of air overhead, a flash of yellow, and then the snarl of a bright yellow plane climbing for altitude. It’s the Brownliner’s version of hearing the squeal of skidding tires in an intersection, yet instead of the sickening crunch that follows, we get the oily vapors of some nameless chemical descending from above.

While crop dusters are part of the watershed, the guessing game resulting from being dusted ranges the full gamut. Plane screams by overhead and chemical follow; by midweek either the thinning spot on your head has filled in noticeably – complements of fertilizer, or is thinning further, due to Paraquat.

cropduster432

You’re never sure whether the guy saw you and mashed the nipple to cover you in something he thought hilarious, or it’s your luck that made you emerge from the undergrowth just in time to take a shellacking.

I spent a week scratching most of my nether half, from crown to ankles, so the Math is fairly simple. Half the time it’s fertilizer and the other half is something to kill crop pests, and all the time they’re unwelcome.

Or it was that new concentrated purple-label Tide that smelled to high heaven. It’s even scarier to assume something that’s supposed to clean you up is more caustic than airborne Bug B Gone …

The Great Wader debate that wasn’t »

Pink_Camo197Look at this,” he says as he thrusts a pair of waders under my nose, “the thread’s broken on the knee and they’re unraveling already.”

I don spectacles so I can see where he’s pointing, little worm tracks of abrasion on his zippered breathable awesomeness, and I’m not sure whether it’s fabric that’s deteriorating or an honest abrasion that’s causing the knee to decompose.

“That’s what you get for buying these weak-assed breathables,” I says, “Neoprene is way tougher than breathables and they’re only a tenth the cost.”

He wrinkles his nose in disapproval, “Yea, but Neoprene is hot and makes you stink.”

Now I’m the one that’s incredulous, “Stink? … You’re sacrificing wading functionality over a bit of sweat?

I continue the lecture, “Stink is the essence of fishing; it’s climbing into your sleeping bag smelling of repellant and wood smoke, it’s the reason your wife backpedals on your return, and it accompanies your gift of Deadness in her sink. Stink is salmon eggs, squid, or night crawlers wiped onto a pant’s leg or forgotten overnight in your car. Stink is a mashed sandwich in your fishing vest, it’s proof of success, of Manhood, and without stink fishing would buckling under the influx of carefully manicured stubble and Metrosexuals.”

“Furthermore,” I says – with the bit firmly in mouth, “ when dipped properly Neoprene is not overly hot, it doesn’t ship water inboard when you fall in, is warm in Winter – ensuring you can outlast other anglers in icy water, is comforting if you break a leg and forced to spend the night awaiting rescue, and has a tough nylon outer fabric that resists abrasion coupled with a cushioned foot to ensure you can wade all day in comfort.”

Unconvinced, he gives me that squinched up, weaseled look. “True, but you still smell bad, and you wear pants under your waders and they get wet with perspiration …”

I chuckle, “If we’re talking about me specifically, I don’t need waders to smell bad, they only change the odor from my ‘normal off-putting’ to its unspeakable musty variant …”

“ … and”, as I deliver the death blow, “ … Neoprene is form fitting so when you emerge from the water in front of them sunbathing bikini clad 20 year olds, your ‘rubber girdle’ has a slimming effect, instead of the blousy, voluminous look that breathables have …”

He nods quietly, “I hadn’t thought of that, you have a point.”

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