Category Archives: environment

Sell your Rod while YOu Can

My reaction was to slide under the desk and start looking for all that 9mm I had squirreled away for the Zombie Apocalypse.  At this late stage, a life spent torturing fish (and worse, documenting same) have earned me a rarified spot right up there with Osama Bin Laden and Uncle Adolph.

As scientists have been telling us for many years – fish do feel pain when hooked, only now they’ve discovered the worst, that they can remember who done this to them and can recognize human faces from underwater …

(Queue the Jaws soundtrack …)

“… have impressive pattern discrimination abilities, but also provides evidence that a vertebrate lacking a neocortex and without an evolutionary prerogative to discriminate human faces, can nonetheless do so to a high degree of accuracy.

Jesus. We’re screwed. The only truly good news is that fish don’t have either Hellfire missiles or drones, so fleeing the parking lot swathed in Hoodie and sunglasses may get you to the Interstate.

spearedBob

It’s tough to acknowledge that PETA was right all along, and while we’ll walk soft and sheepishly avoid their gaze, their smugness will evaporate when the first near-sighted Salmon detonates itself in the reefer of that Whole Foods delivery truck on the Causeway.

Fly tiers will be the first culled given that Chickens are looking to settle scores for a half-century of heavy handed anglers wrenching hackle off their backside.

“Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus)19 and jungle crows (Corvus macrorhynchos)23 can also discriminate pictures of human faces”

The upside being all them stuffy “featherwing Salmon guys” are even deeper in the Hurt Locker.

How Misery surely Loves company

With the exception of male models in carefully creased fishing vests hawking angling gear in magazines, I’ve been reluctant to piss on fellow members of the angling brotherhood. Ditto for television and radio personalities, as I’ve assumed them to be reasonably honest versus an avaricious SOB, whose focus is to promote their guide service. Most sins of exaggeration or inaccuracy chalked up to the notion that  angling media are akin to weather people; they mean well, but rarely get the forecast correct.

That’s a nicety I’ll no longer observe.

After six or seven weeks scrimmaging with Lake Berryessa in hopes the “top water bite” would materialize, I’m convinced we won’t have one this year – compliments of the California drought.

This being in sharp contrast to the pundits on the Bob Simm’s radio hour, which insists that anything with fins is climbing the bank begging to be hooked – on dry land even.

Personal observation and discussions with fellow fishermen suggests no one can figure out where the fish are – and that extends to the Kokanee Salmon and anything else plying the waters of that drainage.

Us fly fishermen, ever mindful of Science, have always insisted on the plausible explanation and Latin-tinged theorem, rather than relying on the more mystical,  “… use the Big Red Sumbitch – Let God Sort Them Out” approach popular with bass fishermen everywhere.

While much is known about river dynamics and flowing water, lakes have always proven a bit of enigma for fly fisherman. We look for the same things we see on rivers; bugs, differing currents, weather, and cover, but we’re ill at ease given that lake fishing exposes the soft underbelly of fly fishing – how poorly our tackle sinks and how deep water is our absolute undoing.

2015 Drought

I took the above picture of Berryessa’s banks in June of last year, just before the blast furnace of summer hit the area.

The Grass Belt is the historic fill level of the lake. If the lake is full, that water will rise to that region, about 10-30 feet from the tree line. The Brush Belt is the area exposed during the 2014 drought year. It has had seeds drift into that area from both wind and receding waters, and the growth has been buttressed by what little moisture fell during the 2014 Winter and Spring of 2015. The Just Exposed Belt is the area that has receded during the meager 2015 Spring, and will dry further as the 2015 Summer bakes the area.

By the end of Summer 2015, the loss of water had exposed nearly 200 feet of bank on the steeper canyon areas – which translated into half a mile or more of shallows exposed in the wider portions of the lake.

This Spring we had one superb storm that lifted the lake level at least 30 feet from its 2015 low point. On the shallow ends of the lake those flats exposed were reclaimed by the waters, leaving shore anglers the ability to cast only to the recently reclaimed area, now thinly covered with water.

Clue 1: Those ain’t weeds, those are Stems

In the bays formed by the undulating shoreline, the sudden glut of water had covered the exposed soil in wooden debris and  terrestrial plant stems. No leaves or greenery suggesting they were of recent vintage, rather they were sodden and waterlogged, with enough woody material to lift them to the surface, where the wavelets formed by the boat traffic piled them in heaps at water’s edge.

Looking at the above picture, and remembering the sequence of events – suggested this was the remnants of the Brush Belt. Once lush and green during Spring, now dried and dead from Summer, and forced underwater by the rising lake.

The idle currents near the shore break the stems into pieces, and they have enough pithy material to float ashore. These stems represent the only cover remaining underwater, leaving a featureless dirt embankment with no cover for hiding or ambush.

Clue 2: Where’s the forage?

Any self respecting minnow knows immersion in water teeming with hungry and voracious predators, requires both cover  and shade, things that you can hide among or behind, anything that allows the minnow school to pursue insects and forage suitable for their survival

These schools of bait were visible all of last year. Weed beds and plant growth would die once the water receded and exposed them to the harsh daytime temps, but the schools of forage fish would recede with the water – as the weeds blanketed the lake floor.

Add thirty feet of water delivered over a single week of runoff, and you have many hundreds of feet of dead soil now covered with water, but lack weeds, shade, or cover of any kind.

No cover means no bait, and that means no fish other than the occasional cruising bass.

Clue 3: Where are the beds?

Bass spawn in shallow water, leaving scarred whitish areas that the female sweeps clean with her tail. Often she stays on the bed, which is part of the allure of the Spring top water bite … big fish, shallow water, and the desire to kill anything approaching the nest.

Bass anglers have always taken advantage of this phenomenon with great glee, as there’s nothing more exciting then the visual element associated with casting at visible fish. The notion of “cradle robbing” apparently is suspended for the duration of the festivities …

This year I have seen only a single bed – covered by a solitary fish. It was in a back bay whose bottom had lots of algae and cover, suggesting bass also look for cover and shade to offer protection from predators.

The clean dirt areas are devoid of life. No beds visible, almost no foliage or weed growth, and few fish prowling for food.

deadZone

The above photo shows a “dead zone” bank. All dirt, no foliage of any kind as it was dried and desiccated by 2015’s summer sun. Note the pithy debris at water’s edge – mostly dried stems and dried thistle clumps (also shown in the water).

This lack of foliage means the dust in the soil leeches into the water as soon as boat wakes bathe the area. This thick band of dirty water provides the only cover for many hundreds of feet, and I always keep a weather eye out for signs of baitfish. So far, nothing.

Conclusion: Boat fishermen are better off

With no cover available to harbor baitfish, and with the water depth denying us that area of the lake that still has cover, my dismal conclusion is that the fish, their beds, and the minnow forage, are all too far from shore for bank fishermen to take part.

Six trips, in as many weeks, has yielded no fish activity of any kind.

I’ve not seen a boat angler catch a fish either – as many are fishing in close to the bank – consistent with a traditional wet year. I’m thinking that deeper water still retaining weeds and cover are where the fish are and the typical mobile bass angler is motoring  past them enroute to joining me in the Dead Zone.

Like Misery I surely loves the company, but I wish they would heed my “wave off.”

Putah is on the wragg, and I wander in Bathwater

Took a pre-dawn run up to Berryessa again this week, just to fiddle with a few things and survey the damage from the Wragg Fire.  This area is fairly important to the San Francisco Bay area, as it contains Putah Creek , the closest trout stream to the hordes of anglers living in the City.

I don’t fish it much as the Lake has my full attention, and the mile or two of creek open to the public is overrun with anglers even on weekdays. As it is home to New Zealand Mud Snails, I cut a wide berth just to avoid inadvertently tracking the little pests into the pristine unclean of my local watershed.

Putah_Creek_Wragg2

The Wragg Fire burnt everything west of Putah Creek and Lake Berryessa proper. Those of you familiar with the area probably remember the Butts Fire (2014) burnt everything east of the creek, so the entire watershed has now been mown clean.

The picture above shows the creek just below the Canyon Creek Resort stretch. All the visible slopes have been burnt over, and the foliage is turning color as the trees die from the fire that swept through their understory enroute to the crest.

Dense timber typically burns quite a bit hotter and vaporizes both grass and trees, some of that can be seen down near the creek as well as the ridges above – like the dark patch on the ridgeline to the right, above.

Winter rains coupled with little remaining vegetation can push a significant amount of sediment into the creek, as there’s nothing to hold it in place on the slopes above. With both sides burnt over, and the rumor of a drought breaking El Nino effect possible this winter, the creek may be in for a slug of sediment.

Warm as Bathwater

Lake Berryessa proper is as warm as bath water. This being the tail end of August and the temperatures running fairly constant 90’s, any bite on the lake is short lived, but the lure picking has made up for the lack of fish, and each trip yields a pocket full of treasures.

lure_eating_log

This is typical of what I’m stumbling across. Hip boots give me an edge over the beer drinking bank crowd, as their eyes start to defocus after 10AM, and us sober types can edge them out with our ninja-like dumpster diving skills.

It’s akin to swiping golf balls off the golf course, instinctively you’re tensing up waiting to hear some fellow claim, “I just lost that, it’s mine!”

Despite the warm water and sputtering bite, pre-dawn is always worth a few fish. I am still fishing 20-30 foot deep, as the fish are preferring the colder temperatures that come with depth rather than panting in tepid near the surface.

berryessa_largemouth

I have been working on an amalgamation of fishing types to score consistently, something I’ll reveal once I get a few patterns refined better than they are now. Note the low light of the above picture, as most of the fish are coming between 6AM – 8AM, and when the light is on the water, the bite dies promptly.

I did manage to find a model forage fish for me to duplicate. A bit worse for wear, but it looks like a Shad (Threadfin?) of some type. Most the surface activity tends to be on the Northern side of points extending into the lake, and to stand and watch will reveal schools of bait and bass taking advantage of their density.

Berryessa_Shad

Once full daylight is on the water and the party barges and ski boats launch, the waves from their wakes will raise plumes of mud in the water off these selfsame points of land. The bait head for the discolored water as the predators can no longer see them distinctly. It’s akin to fighter planes using clouds for cover.

While streams and their ecology seem easier to catalog, I find the same skills in observation and the frequency of visitation are just as useful teasing the lifecycles of larger water. Come Spring, when the bite lasts all morning, it’ll be important to note those cloudy plumes hold the forage fish, and pulling a marabou streamer out of the dirty water and into view … should yield big benefits.

… and if it doesn’t, we’ll continue to add to our lure collection …

Drought, thorns, and Branch eating Frogs

The problem with declining water levels and the increase in exposed bank is finding out the floral equivalent of the Common Cockroach, the Blackberry vine, actually thrives in drought.

Drought is supposed to be the Great Equalizer, and any thoughts of a soft landing when skidding down the bank, is quickly dashed by the gaping holes in waders, the streaks of blood on palm and exposed flesh, and the sickening reality that cockroaches thrive in adversity, and are immune even to my curses.

Drought and receding water levels has made the journey between foot path and water’s edge uncertain, and in many areas, outright daunting.  Even if you’re lucky enough to gain the water’s edge upright and intact, back casts are nearly impossible due to the height of the exposed banks and their liberal cover of fly eating foliage.

Skinned knees and shredded waders are now commonplace, and I’m tired of fragile breathables and shredding heavy plumber gear, and have opted to swap out my gear entirely.

As shallow tends to be lifeless, I’ve been bypassing my normal haunts in favor of anything deep that hasn’t had the oxygen boiled out of it, and may host a few fish willing to eat.

Deep water means lakes and impoundments, and neither plays to the strong suit of fly fishing – given how poorly our gear sinks. Water less than ten foot deep is about the limit of our fishing, and while that makes us productive in the shallow edges of bays and inlets, we rarely can compete with other tackle types when the fish are deeper still.

My “exploration” rig is now a casting rod and weedless frog – and hiking boots instead of fragile waders. A 5’ bait casting rod threads through Blackberry brambles more efficiently than a 9’ fly rod, and most of my overly warm water is covered in algae and weed, so my weedless frog is a huge upgrade from flies.

Frog6001

More importantly, I can wing the frog from safety – and not have to fight my way down to the water’s edge to gain casting space. (Note the double hook riding up onto the back of the frog, imparting complete immunity from fouling on weeds and “cheese” mats.)

“Cheese” and wind-driven duckweed compound the fishing even further. Drought has reduced the water volume and summer temperatures cause the floating mats of vegetation (Cheese) to bloom sooner – and swallow entire waterways. Afternoon breezes push the floating duckweed into thick mats on the windward side of the impoundment – and flies simply bounce off the vegetation or are immediately fouled and useless.

Cheese600

Normally this envelopment occurs in August, but the the absence of Winter and the unseasonably warm Spring have give the vegetation a couple months head start – and I’m running out of open water.

In the above photo, I can cast the frog over the Cheese and walk it back over the mat of vegetation without fear of snagging anything.

This spot yielded a couple of “tail slaps” from an unknown species, and in between picking my way through thickets of Blackberry, managed to observe one lonesome 3” bluegill along with what appeared to be something feeding on the vegetation, which I assumed was carp.

I returned the following morning with fly gear and the duckweed had closed the open waterways above. I managed a bit of fishing on the far side around the downed timber, but that was fruitless given the far bank is a ten foot drop to deep water.

While I had high hopes for Largemouth, this may be a bluegill only area – and they may be quite small to boot.

Dyneema and the Demise of Monofilament

The interesting bit of switching to conventional gear is learning of the changes in the tackle since last I tossed a plug in anger. The biggest change being Dyneema braid, which has largely replaced monofilament line in both casting and spinning gear.

The new braid is a learning experience given that 30lb test has the diameter of about 8lb mono. That means an unwary angler can  shatter his rod if he’s not pulling straight back to free a snag, or could slice fingers if he were a damn fool and wrapped it around anything but a stick.

This type of braid possibly brings new life to older, smaller capacity fly reels – as you can fit a hundred yards of 30lb or 40lb test, where Dacron’s thickness might not make backing possible.

The same line is used on spinning reels as well. Most of the spool is wound with the equivalent diameter monofilament, and the last 100 yards with the braided line. 

I re-equipped my conventional rod with 10 pound monofilament backing  and 100 yards of braided Dyneema rated at 30lb test. The mono backing lessens the strain on the spool the higher rated line is capable of adding. This material requires an Albright knot to join the mono to the braid, and a Palomar knot for tying lures and flies onto the end. The line cuts itself quite easily as if using conventional knots like the Clinch, or similar.

It’s a bit heady to drop the lure into the brush on the far side on an errant cast, rip the branch off the tree, then tow the entire mass across the pond to be sorted out without fear of harming lure or line.

Us fly fishing types are not used to announcing ourselves with such environmental authority …

… and if you’ve not bought bass tackle in awhile, you’ll understand the importance of these new braids. Lures cost $7 –$20 each, and it’s my understanding that hard core bass fishermen use 65lb test braid to ensure the hook straightens and the lure returns home safely.

What’s really needed is a weave of that same braid covering for my waders. While it’s nice to be dry and absent a pant’s leg full of cold water,  it would be nicer to navigate both snakes and thorn bushes in full Kevlar.

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 …

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.

Fossil Record shows Didymo Geminata is native rather than invasive

stickey_RubberYou’d think Science, knowing our history of continental land bridges and pre-historic migrants overwhelming natives, would have consensus on how many thousands of years it takes something to dominate its surroundings to become the new “native” – but you’d be wrong …

The latest science involving Didymo rethinks the “invasive” label, as examination of the fossil record of lakes and streams afflicted by the diatom are finding the Didymo has been resident on five of seven continents for many thousands of years.

The Delaware River shows Didymo having been present for tens of thousands of years, rather than recently introduced by fishermen. Dissolved Phosphorus can dip below its normal threshold via numerous temporal phenomena, and with that change in water chemistry, triggers the visual “blooms” that gives the infestation its characteristic unappealing blanket. As quickly as water chemistry is restored, the blooms vanish, explaining one of the great mysteries of Didymo infestation.

Moreover, fossil and historical records place D. geminata on all continents except Africa, Antarctica, and Australia; records place D. geminata in Asia (China, India, Japan, Mongolia, Russia), Europe (Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden), and North America (Canada and the United States), and historical records dating back to the 1960s place D. geminata in South America (Chile; Blanco and Ector 2009, Whitton et al. 2009). The recent blooms of D. geminata are found on each of these continents, where fossil or historical records have been documented, which indicates that attributing all blooms to recent introductions or to range expansion is incorrect.

… and as the last article mentioned, our collective angst in approaching our respective legislatures was a tad premature …

In fact, citing the threat of human-induced translocations of D. geminata or other unwanted organisms, seven US states (Alaska, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont), Chile, and New Zealand have passed legislation banning the use of felt soled waders and boots in inland waters (e.g., the 1993 New Zealand Biosecurity Act, Chile’s law no. 20.254, Vermont 2013 Act no. 130 [H.488]). Although such restrictions may reduce introductions of other deleterious aquatic microorganisms, the connection to the spread of Didymo. geminata within its native range seems dubious.

What’s even more interesting is the final definitive science will employ DNA sequencing of the respective colonies to see which continents have unique strains, and which continents may have sourced strains carried by everything from humans to migrating waterfowl.

The assertion that the recent blooms are caused by inad- vertent introductions of D. geminata cells by humans comes from frequent reports of blooms in areas that are used for recreation or monitoring by various agencies (Bothwell et al. 2009). Although Kilroy and Unwin (2011) reported a correlation between the ease of river access and D. geminata blooms in New Zealand, this has not been found in North American studies. In fact, systematic observations at both rivers with frequent human activities and remote rivers not heavily used for recreation or monitoring reveal no association between human activities at a river and blooms in Glacier National Park, in Montana (Schweiger et al. 2011).
Moreover, pathways for introducing D. geminata cells have existed for decades (e.g., felt-soled shoes; the transport of fish, their eggs, and water from areas where D. geminata is determined to be native on the basis of fossil records), making inadvertent introductions by humans difficult to explain, given the recent worldwide synchrony of blooms.

Really good article for the lay person given the science is common sense and easy to follow. I recommend you read it and draw your own conclusions.

As I adore a good conspiracy theory, I find it equally interesting that our fishing media and conservation organizations have published nothing on how scientists are reconsidering earlier theories as more concrete observations accumulate.

I’m sure those that insisted we act responsibly, by first purchasing new wading shoes, donated most generously …

Felt soles and Dirty Feet exonerated of Didymo bloom, say it ain’t so …

feltsoleThere’s new evidence published today that’ll have the fishing community in a tizzy, given their common belief that unclean anglers and felt soles are the root cause of the intercontinental spread of Didymo.

The article, “The Didymo story: the role of low dissolved phosphorus in the formation of Didymosphenia geminata blooms,” cites research done in both Canada and New Zealand (by their respective governments) that suggests anglers have little to do with Didymo blooms.

Ouch.

Specifically, it mentions the linkage between our feet and the spread of Didymo bloom has proven less of an issue since the original indictment, “On the Boots of Fisherman” was published in 2009.

“The analysis of these data entitled, ‘On the Boots of Fishermen: a History of Didymo Blooms on Vancouver Island, BC’ was published in Fisheries (Bothwell et al. 2009), with the statement:

….all of the evidence suggesting that recreational fishermen
have played a role in the movement of Didymo regionally
and globally is circumstantial.

Nevertheless, the publication was widely accepted as an
important step in initiating management actions aimed at
controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species. Yet,
the explanation for the spatial and temporal occurrence of
blooms of D. geminata as the result of human vectors was
based on coincidental timing.” (my italics –KB)

Unfortunately us fishermen don’t get a free pass to trod crap through the watershed, as the article plainly suggests that we might have introduced the lifeform to the continent, but introduction of the diatom doesn’t provide the environment for it to bloom.

“However, while the presence of cells is obviously prerequisite, introduction alone is not the cause of bloom formation.”

Instead, the research suggests four factors are attributable to the natural occurrence and reoccurrence of Didymo, and are man-influenced issues consistent with exploitation of the planet and unrelated to shoe hygiene per se ..

“… we propose four mechanisms operating at
global or regional scales that could potentially result in a
decline of Phosphorus, i.e., oligotrophication, entering fluvial systems.
We outline the following as hypotheses of the potential
ultimate causes of D. geminata blooms: (1) atmospheric
deposition of reactive nitrogen resulting from the burning
of fossil fuels and urbanization; (2) climate-induced
shifts in the timing of snowmelt and growing season that
decreases P(hosphorus) inputs to rivers; (3) N(itrogen)-enrichment of landscapes
during agricultural and silvicultural activities that result in
greater retention of terrestrial P(hosphorus); and (4) a decline in marine derived nutrients, particularly P(hosphorus), resulting from widespread depletion in spawning salmon. Although these processes do not apply to all regions, they are not mutually exclusive and could act synergistically. These processes are in need of further investigation for their role in driving blooms of D. geminata.

Rather than demand the revocation of your state’s felt sole ban, and the subsequent restoration of your favorite footwear, note the final sentence of the above quote, “further investigation is needed.”

I caught hell the last time I mentioned the issue, and am likely going to do so again, but it just proves my initial beef that crowd-sourced science via fly rod, pitchfork, and public outcry, is typically a bit less exacting than that practiced by the fellows in white lab coats.

Slingblade says, “Like Coors .. it’s the water”

I was asked about the pending Turkey season and what was the local outlook, and while I typically hover around fish I do cover a lot of unkempt and out-of-the-way turf, as getting to the water without being shot, bitten, or arrested takes me all over the drainage.

Oak_Turkey_onHoof430

This year the quarry is constrained by water, and the above turkey track still had the edges folding into the depression – meaning the bird was braving the exposed bank at midday.

Turkey being notoriously shy creatures and despite your being surrounded by a flock of 15lb birds, can get by you with nary a bush moving to show their passing.

My allergy with “No Trespassing” signs often has me bursting out into their midst without warning – as the circuitous path necessary to give the angler plausible deniability takes me into inclement areas. Avoiding landowners, ambitious dogs, and the 300 beehives I disturbed accidentally – means I occasionally have to move blindly and without benefit of friendly terrain.

… and scaring hell out of the big-arsed birds means I usually emerge with a couple of extra tail feathers given their hasty departure.

Hunt water. Hunt the path between the roost and water – and it shouldn’t be too terrible surprising if the roost tree is closer to the creek than last year.

The lack of water means the ground remains hard and flinty, so I’m not seeing the usual scrape areas they work with them big clawed feet.

The lakes I hit last week had an abundance of tracks near the water’s edge, and that means they covered 300-400 yards in the open to get there.

A canny fellow would take advantage.

The Brass lining of what is likely be a journal of a drought year

snagged_lureWe had a brief taste in the Seventies where the drought became so all encompassing as to draw a halt to most outdoor pursuits, and 2014 is looking dire for California anglers.

Only about sixty days remain of our Winter, and this weekend is the first moisture we’ve seen since August of last year. We’ve had a few light sprinkles of a couple hours duration but nothing that hints of our historic norms.

The Sacramento River shows about 15 foot of bank, meaning both Shasta Lake and Oroville were deeply drawn down last summer to ship the water to Southern California and the Kern Water Bank, and “The Big Gamble”, hoping  Winter would be wet enough to hide last year’s massive transfers has failed, with accusations of water-philandering making headlines and leaving Northern California cities parched and dry.

The Russian and American will be closed shortly, along with a dozen other coastal rivers. Folsom Lake has a mile of exposed bank you must traverse to get to the water’s edge, and sunken towns have emerged from the depths, and what few salmon spawned earlier in the year have had their redds trodden underfoot.

Remembering the drought of the Seventies has me scouting the odd water, staying away from natural watercourses and hiking along canals that move water south. I’m betting what little fishing is offered in my area will be in waters that convey liquid elsewhere, figuring tomatoes will get theirs before fish get more than a droplet.

It’s a dim view to be sure, but these are about to become exceptional times.

My memories are the season will be abbreviated and our options quite small. Those that backpack or camp will be reminded that drought is both the absence of water and the threat of fire. The Park Service and US Forest Service will likely implement restrictions of fires in the back country; no open fire pits, exposed flames, and gas stoves only, followed by a full prohibition and closure if the fire danger becomes extreme.

Boat launching will be nearly impossible given the many hundreds of yards the ramps will be from the water’s edge, and anyone with more than fifty pounds of boat or gear will be changing their plans if they forget to call in advance for conditions.

All the Big Bugs that fly fishermen lust over will have hatched before Opening Day, and anything past May will fish like August – a bit of morning and evening activity with stressed and lethargic fish for the balance of the day.

But it’s not all bad. You’ll have a once in a lifetime opportunity to map the contours of your favorite lakes, and armed with a good camera and a GPS unit you can mark brush piles, old streambeds, rocky points, sunken cars, and everything else that offers cover and shade.

More importantly is the Pirate’s Treasure of Kastmasters, Mepps Black Furies, Anglia Minnows, Super-Dupers, and the acres of rapidly oxidizing purple worms available, punctuated by weights and jig heads beyond counting.

While some out of the way timber may resemble Christmas trees with their dangling monofilament and gaily colored Rat-L-Traps, the truly big scores come from a source not so obvious to the opportunistic angler. Wander the high traffic shoreline alert for tree stumps within casting range or parking lots and fishing piers.

Anglers will reel their rig back towards the shore snagging the far side of the stump. The lure remains firmly attached until the hook rusts and the lure body falls to the base of the stump. Years of sediment and algae will hide the trove under now-dry dirt, when disturbed, will yield dozens of lures from the same mound.

Armed with a box of small kirbed single hooks, snap rings and silver polish and you’ll be able to refurbish everything you find back to original factory gleam. Once refurbished they can be used lessen the pain of a family outing, as sharp hooks in unfamiliar (small) hands can place considerable strain on Poppa’s wallet.