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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 …

Nothing makes the fur fly like using the wife’s coffee grinder

The Essentials, a round of Beaver, Woodchuck, and Red Fox SquirrelUs impressionists are a tough crowd, you’ll regret us painting your house because of all the spots we miss – but we’ll march you across the street and insist the color looks fine.

We’ve got more theories and hare-brained ideas than the average fly tyer, most won’t hold water so we wander around the fly shop sighing heavily, and then go home and make it ourselves.

Materials vendors don’t cater to guys that tinker, and that single-shade pack of rabbit would work well on a small dry fly, but we’re cooking up something with lead and multiple X’s of hook shank. Two bucks worth of bunny bottom just don’t cut it, and while the Australian Opossum was close to the right color, we could’ve snorted that microdot of hair and not sneezed.

For us, 2 x 2″ is an appetizer, and at those prices an expensive one.

I was taught that a good dubbing is crafted like a fine cigar; comprised of filler, binder, and wrapper, special effects can be added after the dubbing is complete, but the basic recipe is identical to a good smoke.

There’s an art form to winding up with what you intended to make; almost everything you construct will have some usefulness – but the thinking and planning are relatively easy – execution takes a little practice.

You’ve got only three obstacles, texture, color, and target application. I started with a couple colors of wool yarn, tossing in a hint of this and a dab of that – then when I’d stumbled onto something good – found I could never make it again.

Jotting down some recipe notes is required – some units of measure would be nice too. Square inches of hide comes to mind, as in, “I clipped four square inches of coyote, added four square inches of green mink, and dipped the result in my coffee – accidentally.”

That’s enough to get close.

With my blends I’ve learned to target a hook size with the completed product. The precise mix of filler, wrapper, binder and special effects changes depending on whether you’re crafting dry fly dubbing, a general nymph blend, or something for making giant stonefly nymphs. My General use blends target a #12 hook, dry fly blends I’ll target a #16, and for big stuff, I’ll want a long shank #4.

The above rule isn’t hard and fast, it’s my personal preference – this allows general purpose blends to work with dry flies as well as nymphs.

Once comfortable with mixing and colors, use Coffin Creek Furs to score the skins you need. Always opt for the damaged ones as they’re the cheapest and you’ll be shaving it anyways.

Be forewarned that real hides from a furrier can be a really good deal. Beaver is sold as “rounds” – the skin is stretched to a circle, a 20″ round that’s damaged may only be $10.00. That’s an “extra large Pizza” worth of Beaver – and will make you reticent to pay $2.50 for the little dust motes sold by the fly shop…

Filler: The filler is comprised of inexpensive coarser hair – it may contain guard hair, but is usually typified by “curly” fur fiber. These bends and kinks will be preserved in the final product and will add air and mass to the blended furs so it resists matting.

Example: Australian Opossum, Mohair, Wool,

Binder: The binder is usually a semi-aquatic mammal. Their fur has the smallest filament size and is quite dense, it assists them to remain warm despite constant exposure to cold water. The binder will coat the filler and wrapper and assist your fingers when you want that mess on your thread. Binder is your friend and can tame the most unruly fur.

Example: Beaver, Mink, Muskrat, Otter, (if nothing else is available, rabbit)

Woodchuck body, the blond tips and tan band will take dye really wellWrapper: Wrapper is present on blends for larger flies and can be omitted for building fine dry fly dubbing. Wrapper is usually an animal that has pronounced guard hairs – often with a light band that can absorb dye. It provides “spike” to the blend and breaks up the uniformity of the other two furs.

Just as important, because we choose it for the guard hair, we’re introducing six or seven new shades to the blend. If you’re going to dye the result those shades will break up the even color and add light and dark splotches within the mix.

Example: Hare’s Mask, Red Fox Squirrel body, Woodchuck body

Special Effects: Special effects describe any enhancements added like glitter, shine, or contrasting color. Materials chosen impart an affect to the entire mix like spectrum or sparkle.

My use of sparkle increased with proximity to Brownline prey. The waters are often milky with effluent during peak farming periods – and coupled with Winter drainage I have to help fish see my offering.

That’s translated well to trout fishing, as I’ve found the pedigreed blue water fish like a hint of sparkle in their food too. Usually the special effect component is less than 10% of the final blend.

Example: Baby Seal, Soft Crimp Angelina (Ice Dub), and Spectral

Spectral is the color combination of the primary and secondary colors of the color wheel; scarlet, yellow, cyan, orange, purple, green.

Use a coffee grinder (maybe $15) to blend colors and fur, most of the fur you’ll be using is less than an inch in length and won’t bind the grinder motor. Lacking a grinder, use a empty quart jam jar half filled with water – shaken vigorously it’ll mix hair in seconds.

If your fur source is fresh killed or road kill, toss in some shampoo to remove guts, blood, and tire marks. Repeat with clean water to rinse. Large batches are best mixed with a big container or a garbage bag.

Smaller hooks need more binder (the really fine fur), general use blends are roughly an equal mix, and the large hooks require more filler and wrapper. The completed mix shouldn’t require the tyer to load the thread more than twice to finish the fly body, and if you find yourself adding more than a couple applications of fur – your blend is best suited for a smaller hook.

The indispensable materials are Beaver and Red Fox Squirrel body, both are dirt cheap and plentiful. You’ll get additional use if your source has the Squirrel body in tanned flavor – as it makes the stunning fur strip leeches – the bands of color makes the rabbit versions look limp in comparison.

Adapt, evolve, and overcome – free yourself of what’s on the retailer’s shelf and make what you really need, just remember to clean the kitchen spotless – or it’s your hide we’ll be admiring.

A pile of polyamide scrap, some Angelina fiber and the base blend, ready for special effects

Above is a general purpose blend of Australian Opossum, Red Fox squirrel body, and dark gray beaver. In it’s present form it’s useful for both dry flies and nymphs. I’ll add chopped polyamide “clownshoes” colors – leftover from the streamers I tied for a spectral color effect, and add about 5% sparkle to the blend using Soft Crimp Angelina, in the opalescent “Aurora Borealis” color.

The Polyamide fibers are tiny – half the width of a beaver fiber, so the spectral affect will not be pronounced, it’ll still look like a gray blend until I dub the flies where a close examination should make colors  show more plainly.

Closeup of the newly blended dubbing complete with special effects

A close up of the finished blend; three natural furs, polyamide, and Soft Crimp Angelina. The polyamide fibers offer a very subtle color effect.

A #12 Copper Hare's Ear tied with the fresh batch of dubbing

… and a #12 Copper Ribbed Hare’s Ear tied with the mixture. I touched the thorax up with Velcro to add some additional scruffiness.

Total preparation time for the fur blend was five minutes, resulting in about ½ ounce of this color. That’s a ball as big around as your clenched fist – and should tie a couple hundred dozen trout flies.

The first decision is whether you’re a collector or a fisherman

I started with the best of intentions; first the news of the Hardy manufacturing exodus to Korea, and me suffering that odd moment of clarity, where I’m wondering about all those extra spools I promised myself I’d eventually get – and never did.

Anglers are a superstitious and fastidious lot – willing to put an asterisk next to any item that isn’t precisely the way it’s always been. We label items with pre- and post- to rarify them far in excess of their true value.

The best Hardy’s were always pre-War, polar bear was pre-ban, the biggest fish were post-extinction, and you fished twice as much pre-marriage, somehow we’re all inexorably tied to one or the other prefix.

Anyone that’s fished for a couple decades has a sizable inventory of hardware with years of service left, unchanged by treaty, economic uncertainty, or Act of Congress. Our reaction to change is predictable; we scramble around moaning, and score what we can before someone cleans out the spare parts.

It’s a pilgrimage to the vendor’s back room or an overlooked dusty shelf somewhere behind the register, or its eBay, that bastion of castoff’s, semi-sales, and shade-tree dealers that delight in our lust for the dubious all-star equipment of yesteryear.

Fishermen are patient, and study their prey

I was a huge fan of the old Scientific Angler System series of fly reels, made by Hardy under the Scientific Angler, and L.L. Bean labels – and sold in England (by Hardy) as the Marquis. A solid reel, not overly ornate, with a heavy exposed rim allowing you to drape a thumb on it for increased control.

I needed a reel for an Scientific Anglers System 8 (SA 8), and a extra spool for an SA 9. I still haven’t figured how I had the spool but no reel, I figure a buddy or older brother was involved.

Like a small minnow in a pond of bigger fish I darted out and slammed the first spool that showed, in hindsight paying double what it was worth.

Lesson Learned: One of them will show every week, due to the US, Canada, and most of the UK emptying their garage. Before buying, watch a few auctions to see the range in price for the item.

After my initial taste of being a “food group” – I settled in and watched a half dozen spool auctions complete – without me. Like the eBay rods, trout sizes command a higher price than Steelhead and Saltwater tackle, and an extra premium is put on pristine condition, and unique history of the reel.

As a fisherman – not a reel collector, all I’m going to do with a pristine reel is use it. I’ll swear mightily when I scratch it, get misty eyed when it’s dented, and bounce it off of every boulder and stream bank I stumble over. When I’m done, it’ll be recognizable by the patina – the record of every fish caught, every misstep taken, and every pratfall endured.

Pristine is nice, but I’ve got no business paying that extra premium.

Lesson Learned: Decide whether you’re a fisherman or a reel collector, stay out of the auctions that you don’t belong in – you’ll save a lot of money.

The discovery that professionals are involved in many trades was a bit of heartbreak, but not unexpected. I was looking to fill a simple need and some sharp fellow is in there throwing elbows to turn a profit. Feedback from past sales showed me who were players and who were the amateurs, and knowing what company I was in suggested when to bid and when to play it cagey.

They love tinhorns, we’re emotionally involved and even if it’s a couple extra spools or a Ross reel we’ve always wanted to own, they’ll descend in the last 3 seconds of the auction and snatch it away for a great price – with us fumbling to respond.

Then they put the reel up again under their name (or another account) and force the price higher.

They use bid sniping software that guarantees the bid will land in the last 10 seconds of the auction. We’re watching the clock tick thinking it’s ours – and a bargain, and they snatch it right out from under while we struggle with the keyboard.

The software is automated and requires no human interaction other than max bid, and while we’re shaking fists at the screen, they’re at work oblivious to our hatred.

The unscrupulous professional will auction the reel he’s just won a week later at a starting bid of .99 cents, and when you put down your max bid of $145, you’ve just played into their hands. Often a third account (usually with “0” feedback) is used to bump the price until they’ve recouped their costs – then they’ll allow the tinhorn’s to fight over table scraps, guaranteeing they’ll sell it for more than they paid.

Lesson Learned: Look at the feedback of the person selling the reel. Look at what they’ve bought and what they’ve sold. If it’s all fly fishing gear, you’re dealing with a professional. That’s good and sometimes bad; good because they’re describing the item accurately and fairly, and they’ll be practiced at prompt delivery. There’s the occasional “player” – who’s just trying to turn a buck, that’s not so good. Look for accounts with low (or no) feedback that come in and bump the price $5 a crack … and then mysteriously stop near some preset value.

Lesson Learned: Never bid what you’ll pay, only bid $1.00 over the current price. If there’s a shady dealer he’ll stop bumping it once he’s the high bidder. Use automated software to bid your maximum in the last 10 seconds of the auction.

On eBay a “CFO” isn’t a “C.F.O.” – and the best deals come on a misspelling or an incomplete description. Professional resellers always use the “Hardy” word in the title, “.. a Scientific Anglers reel made by Hardy Brothers,” that’s because “fly reel” is too vague, and you’re likely to use the vendor name to search for specific models. Their goal is to put the merchandise in front of the folks looking for it, so they’ll use all the keywords possible, it’s good marketing.

Someone selling a reel or spool from a deceased relative doesn’t know Hardy Bros. from Laurel and Hardy, so they’ll advertise the reel as a “Scientific Anglers System 7”  – precisely what the back of the reel says; they don’t know what it’s worth and they’re hoping you do. Absent the “Hardy” label in the text description, their auction will only see half the eyes that are looking, virtually guaranteeing the reel sells for at least $20 less than one using all the right words.

Lesson Learned: Misspellings and the text used in the advert determine how many do ( or don’t ) see the auction, if you’re after a particular model, always search for it by what it says on the back of the reel. A non-fisherperson will invariably use that as their auction description.

The Beauty of Fingerprints

Fine reels are like any finely crafted item, the marks of Time gives each a unique tale and also speaks eloquently of it’s past life and owner.

Well fished reels look the part – and while a lot of the finish may be missing around the rim – and it hasn’t been oiled recently, it still has another hundred years of service left. Reel collectors avoid the worn reels – as if a damp reel put away prematurely has lost all luster. It’ll certainly destroy the finish, and it won’t be terribly pretty, but mechanically the reel is sound.

Bent spools can be “unbent” with finger pressure, and worn latches that cause the spool to slop off can be fixed with an “elbow” from a hairpin. These are simple mechanical devices that can be restored easily. Bent rims and frames are entirely different – and typically snap if you attempt to straighten them.

I gravitate to a lot of well worn and damaged reels. I can repair many ailments myself, and a lot of parts can be salvaged to keep your current stable of functional reels tuned and precise.

Sometimes you can get the spool for half the normal price, as the reel surrounding it is damaged beyond repair. Your fellow anglers will ignore auctions with obvious damage, often allowing you to swoop in and recover the spool for half it’s normal value. Parts are in short supply, sometimes two cheap damaged reels equals a single functional reel and a reservoir of extra parts.

Lesson Learned: You don’t compete with collectors on worn or blemished reels, they want pristine condition, and a little rust or wear keeps the casual types at arm’s length.

Lesson Learned: On a damaged reel ask the seller enough questions to satisfy your diagnosis. Many will take additional pictures for you and will describe whether the spool turns smoothly or not. Be patient and thorough in your questioning – the owner may not be a fly fisherman.

Know History, or pay the price

Certain reels are worth more due to vintage, history, or some pre- or post- issue you aren’t aware of – it’s important to understand why a CFO IV sell for $320, and another just like it sells for $150.

The most highly sought after reels have always been the Hardy Perfect series. There are numerous books on the subject outlining their lineage and value, and many other makes and models have a similar legacy and a rabid following, like the Orvis CFO series.

The first CFO models were traditional click-pawl drag, and had four visible aluminum rivets visible on the rear of the frame. These are prized much more than any other variations – largely because they’re lighter than subsequent CFO designs. These rivets vanished when Hardy changed the drag design, and are absent in the current “disc” models as well.

Orvis still sells the CFO III and some of the smaller models, (made in China) but the CFO IV and CFO V are no longer made.

A similar regard holds for the Hardy Princess family; the LRH Lightweight, Featherweight, Flyweight, and Princess. If the line guard features a “two screw” attachment to the frame – it’s worth quite a bit more than the single screw model.

Lesson Learned: Due to issues of vintage and legacy some reels are worth more than others, even if they look identical. Know the differences in what makes them so – to save yourself both a lot competitors, and paying a much higher price.

Postage and Payment

It costs about $3.00 to mail a spool or a reel anywhere in the continental US – assuming adequate wrapping, some foam to disperse shock, and some tape to seal it tightly.

Always check the postage costs before you start bidding. It’s one of those really clever ways to get another $10 out of you, and is pretty common on eBay. The better vendors (those with storefronts, or are doing this professionally) will refund the difference between the stated postage and what it really costs – back to you.

The unscrupulous merchant won’t, that $12.00 shipping charge nets him another ten dollars profit over what you paid, and is part of his overall plan for world domination.

I prefer PayPal payments and don’t bid on auctions requiring a money order or bank draft. (Get your sorry, lowtech ass off my pristine electronic marketplace, Grandpappy.)

Avoiding eBay addiction

All the stories you’ve heard about eBay addiction are very real, especially when it comes to collecting sacred angling artifacts.

You have to keep iron control over what you’re bidding on – especially in the face of the increasing number of reels and spools on the market. A lot of the brotherhood are in mortgages they can’t afford, about 1 in 10 have too much house, so there’s an increasing amount of fly tackle on the auction block.

The last six months the number of reels listed has jumped from 75 Hardy’s per week to nearly 125 today, ditto for almost every other contemporary maker – regardless of arbor type. In the face of this unprecedented glut of fine tackle – you’ll need to make sure you don’t go off the deep end and use the “milk and egg” money.

I managed to get what I needed without going overboard, but the lure of quality tackle and real possibility of a bargain is so very compelling. I was innocently filling in some missing items (and lusting over almost everything) and it almost got me…

I’ll wait awhile and let my ardor cool off before I go back for that last missing 3 3/8″ Perfect spool.

Those of you with a couple decades of tackle that are interested in doing likewise, I’ll leave the field to you. Remember, you cannot possibly keep pace with the flood of goodies; be precise, be surgical, and bid only up to your preset “bargain” price. There will be an identical spool next week, so let the other fellow win some. Be patient and you’ll acquire everything you think you need at prices that’ll surprise you.