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Live in Buena Vista, Near Colorado’s Newest Gold Medal Trout Waters Of the Upper Arkansas River

The Reserve at Cottonwood Creek For the Fly Fishing Enthusiast!

Overlooking the Arkansas River Valley

Ten lots available at The Reserve, some with frontage along Cottonwood Creek.

$69,900 to $169,000 TThe Reserve is a 100 acre development (41 lots) with 30 acres of greenspace along one mile of Cottonwood Creek, set aside as a permanent nature sanctuary protecting the Creek and its wooded wetlands. Fly fish along the Creek or in the four private catch and release trout ponds. 10 minutes from the Arkansas River. The covered pavilion provides a social venue for families and the community. A hiking/jogging trail goes along the Creek and around the perimeter. The Reserve has city sewers; lot owners drill their own well, augmented for outside watering.

$745,000

Step into this remarkable contemporary home designed and built to take advantage of the unique setting overlooking the Upper Arkansas Valley with panoramas of the Collegiate Range. 4 BR, 3.5 BA, 4,084 SF. First floor living includes a dream kitchen, an adjacent office with high-end cabinetry, a dining room/great room with walls of glass, water-milled hickory flooring from Vermont, and an enviable master suite. Take the open staircase down to a walk-out great room with fireplace, 3 additional bedrooms and 2 baths. 4th bedroom can serve as a large office. Home Warranty is included. 15 minutes to the Gold Medal Waters of the Arkansas.

Mountain Living Near the Arkansas River Custom built home in Buena Vista, CO; 15 minutes from Gold Medal Waters of the Upper Arkansas River. Unobstructed views of the 14,000 ft peaks of the Collegiate Range and Sangre de Cristo Range, San Isabel National Forest and the Arkansas River Valley. 3 BR and bonus room; 3.5 baths. 4,820 sf living area, plus sunroom. Upgrades and interesting designer touches throughout. Large decks, partially covered, for relaxing and entertaining. Property includes a detached 1,760 sf workshop/garage with wood stove and oversized doors. Oversized 2 car att. garage; storage above via staircase. Includes chef’s kitchen, sealed porcelain tile, hand crafted wood trim, custom hickory cabinetry and five panel doors throughout. Security system with five remote accessed cameras. ICF and added insulation maximize energy efficiency. Extensive fire mitigation practices. Landscaping plan has been implemented to complement the natural beauty. Beautifully maintained; looks nearly new. Direct access to the adjacent national forest.

$1,289,000

Call Dan Cooper for Details and Private Showing

719-221-8865


IT’S FALL, AND YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! Come to KREMMLING, Colorado for Some of the Best Fishing in the Rockies

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FALL 2016 VOLUME 13 • ISSUE 4 MAGAZINE CONTENTS 6 EDITORIAL

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BY FRANK MARTIN

WHEN TO PULL THE TRIGGER BY LANDON MAYER

PUBLIC LANDS PROUD

BY MARSHALL PENDERGRASS

FALL FISHING ON THE ARK BY BRIAN LA RUE

VOLUNTARY FLOW PROGRAM BY RANDY SCHOLFIELD

FINDING CLARITY ON CLEAR CREEK BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

THE BIG BRUISERS ARE BACK ON THE COLORADO BY JACK BOMBARDIER NOT YOUR ORDINARY FISHING SHOW BY PETER STITCHER

HCA GEAR BAG

BY BRIAN LA RUE

HATCHING SUCCESS BY JEFF FLORENCE

WHAT’S BEHIND CLIPPED FINS? BY JEFF FLORENCE

ABANDONED MINES BY WARREN COLYER

THERMOPOLIS: ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES & CONNECTIONS BY BRIAN LA RUE

NORTHWEST COLORADO FALL BY KEN PROPER

THE ANGLER’S ETHIC BY PETER STITCHER

THE LAST CAST

BY JOHN NICKUM

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

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HCA Staff P U B LISHER S

J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer

EDITO R IAL

Frank M ar t in, M anagi ng Editor f rank@ hc am agaz ine.co m Landon Mayer, Editorial Consultant Ruthie Mar tin, Editor

ADV ER TISING

B r i an L a R ue, S ales & M a r keting b r ian@ hc am agaz i ne.co m D i rec t : ( 714) 944- 5676 K andily n M ar t i n, Ad S ales k andi ly n@ hc am agaz ine.com Cell: ( 719) 432- 8317

DESIG N

David M ar tin, Creative Direc tor & Graphic D esigner w w w.reimaginedesigns.com

P HOTO G RAP HY

Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond

STAF F WRITER S

Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Joel Evans, David Nickum, John Nickum

Copyright 2016, High Country Angler, a division of High Country Publications, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinting of any content or photos without expressed written consent of publisher is prohibited. Published four (4) times per year. To add your shop or business to our distribution list, contact Frank Martin at 719-265-4082, or email frank@hcamagazine.com. D i str i buted by H i gh Countr y Publi cati ons, L LC 730 Popes Valley D r i ve Colorad o Spr i ngs, Colorad o 809 1 9 T E L E P H O N E 7 19-265-4082 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 620 Sixteenth Street, Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202 www.coloradotu.org

ON THE COVER: Photo by Landon Mayer

Find High Country Angler Magazine on

TOC PHOTO: by Frank Martin

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EDITORIAL •

BY FRANK MARTIN

Welcome to HCA Ezine!

T

his issue marks an exciting change for us here at High Country Angler magazine. Beginning with the Fall 2016 issue, we are transitioning to a fully digital Ezine format, and will no longer be distributing hard copies through the mail or fly shops. We instead will be distributing the magazine through direct email and other online, social media avenues. It’s a bittersweet transition for us—for me in particular. I’m a print guy to the core, and love flipping through the pages of a book or magazine. I love the feel of paper between my fingers. Even the smell makes me giddy. But it’s a changing world, and we

About The Author. Frank Martin is co-publisher and Managing Editor of High Country Angler magazine. He is the best-selling author of over 25 books, most on marriage and family dynamics. Many of his recent books are available on his website at www.frankmmartin.com. 6

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

know it’s time to change with it. Digital magazines are not only the wave of the future, but are a far more efficient and responsible way to publish. They are more eco-friendly, more convenient for readers, and much more interactive and useful. For advertisers, there is nothing but upside to this transition, since they will be able to reach far more readers at a greatly reduced cost. For Colorado Trout Unlimited, this is a natural and needed evolution. Not only will this allow them to be better stewards of their time and resources, but it will also greatly extend their reach. The email database they manage is far larger and broader than their regular membership mail list. Printing is costly and cumbersome, and limits how many copies they’ve been able to mail. But that’s not the case with a direct email distribution. There’s literally no limit to the number of people they will be able to reach, and that’s a very good thing for all of us. And we here at HCA will be able to reach more people as well! We manage our own email database, and so do a lot of our advertisers. Many of them have already agreed to begin distributing HCA to their customer email lists, giving us an initial opt-in email distribution of tens of thousands of additional readers—much greater than we could possibly achieve on our own efforts. With email distribution, the sky is the limit, and there is no cap on how many people we could potentially reach in the months and years to come. As always, we will remain a free magazine. And back issues will always be available on our website for anyone who might have missed an issue. We’re committed to remaining the most accessible and relevant magazine in the industry, and we’re constantly looking for new and better ways to communicate with our readers. This transition is just one big step among many toward achieving that goal. So thanks for staying with us for the past fourteen years. And here’s to a brave new future of publishing for HCA! www.HCAmagazine.com


Protect Ou r Rivers, Colorado! When you hit the road for you r next fishing trip, show you r su pport for Colorado’s rivers by displaying this ultra-cool license plate on you r vehicle.

Trout Unlimited Colorado Denver 1536 Wynkoop Street Suite 320 Denver, CO 80202 Office: 303-440-2937

Donate just $25 to Colorado TU, and you are eligible for a “Protect Our Rivers” license plate (plus standard state specialty license plate fee and registration). Proceeds support on-the-ground river conservation and education programs through Colorado TU – your dollars go directly back to helping the rivers you love. Get your plate by visiting www.protectourrivers.net.

www.coloradotu.org

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When to Pull the Trigger

by Landon Mayer www.HCAmagazine.com

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N

o, this is not an article about squeezing the trigger during a fall elk hunt. It is a focus on fly line control to help land the orange and yellow alligators that anglers will stalk this autumn. When we think of manipulating fly line, some of the first things that come to mind are the cast, followed by the presentation and drift, leaving the next step nearly forgotten about. By properly utilizing the “trigger finger” --placing the line underneath the index finger of your casting hand after the cast—you can better control the location to strip line. Yes, this is an effective way to manage a drift; however, it can also backfire and prevent you from landing a quality fish. Below are different ways to pull and not to pull the trigger for more success during the new seasons.

The Strip Location is everything when you are dealing with

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stripping line with control, especially for anglers that are just getting into this great sport. By stripping line from behind the trigger (index) finger of your casting hand, you can still focus on the action in front of you and know where the fly line is at all times when you’re needing to gain slack line. I find myself using this method a lot after making long casts in either moving or still water. It lets me control slack in my line with long or short strips and keep everything taut, in spite of the speed of the current or height of the waves. This will give you a better connection to the target after it takes a fly, and also provides full flex in the rod when you pull to begin a new casting stroke.

Feeling the Retrieve Sensitivity is another great advantage that you receive from pulling the trigger. Whether you are per-

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forming a long strip to imitate a sculpin pattern across the river bottom, slowly creeping a Meat Whistle on the edge of a Bass Pond, or increasing the strip as you watch a Silver King stalk the fly on a salt water flat, feeling the line rub across the inside of your finger helps you sense the action that the fish are seeing when you present the fly. It is also a great way to detect even the most subtle strikes. Matched with a pinch in between pulls, you can then supply one of the most important moments during a presentation: the pause. This halt in the action also gives you a chance to grab a new section length of fly line for the next strip.

Pinch and Lift

the risk of lining the fish, or simply missing the path that the trout is feeding along. Once you determine the distance to the target, or the target area, pull the trigger and use only the exact amount of line needed. That way, if you need to make any adjustment in distance for more or less line, you can.

When To Let Go I love watching the expression on anglers’ faces during guide trips when I tell them to not hold line in the left hand, or under the trigger. Simply hold cork without the use of a trigger finger at all! Yes, at first it will feel like driving a car without touching the steering wheel, however, if you have a taut line and leader in front of you with short distance, the lift and a set fly reel will supply all the tension needed to control the first 15 seconds of the fight. This prevents reaching the breaking point when the fish runs or headshakes. Even if the line goes slack in the first seconds of the fight, there is a good chance the fly will still remain in place while you manage the line to reapply pressure

The pinch and lift is a go-to technique for setting the hook whenever I am retrieving a fly, or having to deal with piles of slack line. By pulling the trigger with a firm pinch, followed by a lift of the arm and rod achieving a convex bend, you will place the fly in the roof or corner of the fish’s mouth. This is, in my opinion, the best way to set using streamers, as it prevents pull- 307 East First Street, ing the imitation out of the trout’s Salida, CO 81201 jaws while strip setting and causing a short strike. While squeezing the trigger is key with this technique, releasing is just as important. If the target *2 or more nights Sunday through Thursday makes a mad dash after you hook 10% off Friday and Saturday mention this ad when booking up, holding the line will cause the Must Advanced reservation required 1880s Railroad Boarding House breaking point. Instead, loosen the index grip and let the fish take line until you get it on the reel, or strip to gain control. FRYING PAN CABIN RENTALS 2561 Frying Pan Rd. Basalt, CO 81621 Keep Your Distances

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Casting is another time when the trigger can be pulled to makes every cast count. It is easy to get stuck in the routine of shooting line every time you present a fly, but this can often be a negative. By overshooting the target, you run www.HCAmagazine.com

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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from the flexing of the rod and tension from the reel. Fly fishing is all about the details to become a better angler. When you simplify the details, each step in the process is better understood and makes you a better angler by learning on the water every day, and seeing the rewards when it all comes together. For better results this fall, try to focus on the trigger while hunting on the water.

About the Author.

Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books, including 101 Trout Tips: A Guide’s Secrets, Tactics, and TechniquesStackpole/Headwaters Books. He has co-produced 2 fly fishing DVDs with John Barr, both available from Mad Trout Media. Visit Landon’s website at www.landonmayer.com. 12

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FROM THE COLORADO TU PRESIDENT • MARSHALL PENDERGRASS

Public Lands Proud

“S

shh! I am sitting in the dark timber of the San Isabel National Forest overlooking a wallow in a deep canyon, waiting with my muzzleloader for that unsuspecting elk to slip in.” Miles from the nearest paved road, house, or community, I am enjoying the solitude and the beauty of the Colorado back-country. It is mine and yours to enjoy whenever we want to – no scheduling, no expensive fees – just nature at its best. I caught a few brookies for dinner last night – a good combination of fishing and hunting! Although I am an avid fly fisherman and water conservationist, I enjoy a good elk or deer steak and have looked forward to hunting a few weeks each year for the past 25 years. I have grown to understand the relationships between wildlife, coldwater fisheries, and land and timber management; they all have to work together. Trout Unlimited has been successful in working with and developing partnerships with all the state and federal agencies involved with these natural resources. These agencies will tell you that TU is the first group they contact on any issue related to the public cold-water fisheries in the state. Nationwide, TU is kicking off a 30-day campaign on Public Lands – a month-long celebration of the “Public Lands - Best Idea This Country Ever Had.” Public lands make up 70% of suitable habitat for trout and almost 100% for Native Trout! Remember the old Woody Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land?” Well, our land is now under direct threat of transfer/sale – which would be a devastating loss for all sportsmen and women. We should all speak up for our land and be “#PUBLICLANDSPROUD!” so that our grandwww.HCAmagazine.com

kids and theirs can enjoy the same hunting and fishing that we have. Tight lines to all – I hope to see you at a TU event soon – and if I’m not there, then you know I’m out fishing somewhere nearby and I am there in spirit.

About The Author. Marshall Pendergrass is President of ColoradoTrout Unlimited. You can contact him via the Colorado TU website at coloradotu.org.

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T

he Arkansas River lives and breathes as one of Colorado’s most user-friendly rivers. It offers white water action, scenic views from top to bottom, hard-fighting trout for you and me, and it’s also home to lots of wildlife. Flowing from its source high in the mountains near Leadville, the “Ark” as most know it, flows some 300 miles, but only about half of its waters have good ol’ trout on the menu. I had so much fun writing about the tailwater a couple years ago, and this time around, I had to tackle the gold medal miles above Canon City. “Arkansas is the longest Gold Medal River in North America, with 102 continuous miles of high density trout stream,” said Taylor Edrington at Royal Gorge Anglers. “Over the last 15 years, average trout size has grown rapidly. We are seeing an average size of 12 to 16 inches with a lot of fish from 18 inches and up. What has always made the Arkansas a worldwide destination is its strength as a dry fly

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river, and vast variety of hatches. “When it comes to access, the Arkansas provides more public access than any other river in Colorado, and that’s one of the reasons it’s also the most popular river in the state based on angler use studies,” added Edrington. “In a nutshell, Bighorn Canyon will be the easiest access for most anglers, as US-50 runs the canyon’s entire length, and the vast majority of the canyon is comprised of State Park use areas and pull-offs. Lone Pine, Trading Post, and Rincon all feature fantastic trout densities and a good dabbling of big fish. Access to this large canyon is easy from Canon City via US-50 West.” Looking at water characteristics, the river from Brown’s Canyon through Salida features a great mix of oxbows and cottonwood groves as well as heavy pocket water structure. As you push upriver towards Buena Vista, you’ll cut through Brown’s Canyon National Monument, one of the wildest stretches

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Fall Fishing on the Ark

by Brian La Rue

www.HCAmagazine.com

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of river in Colorado, featuring technical whitewater and one of the highest trout populations on the river, according to Edrington. “I generally like to cut the river into six major sections,” chimed in Greg Felt at Ark Anglers. “From top to bottom you have Hayden Meadows where you’ll find high meadows with a small stream setting below Leadville and above confluence with Lake Creek (Twin Lakes). Then you have Granite Gorge/Numbers where one will find steep-boulder canyon with high velocity current and shoreline pocket water. Follow that up with Milk Run with slower current and more open channels. Then you have Browns Canyon, Big Bend with open pasture-type country with cobbles and some larger rocks mixed in. Here, flows feature a slower current velocity. Finally, Bighorn Sheep Canyon with a great mix of structure, good fish counts, good entomology and the longest season as it fishes well most of the winter.” Both guys stated what most of us know---it is one long freestone river! Felt says the gradient is fairly steep—dropping an average of 30 feet per mile— with a great variety of rock size in the river bed. The aquatic entomology is very diverse – many different mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, midges – and a tremendous population of terrestrials, but more on that later. We don’t want to get too buggy this early! “This freestone river will change dramatically through the seasons,” says Edrington. “Typical low flow times are in the Fall and Spring (300-600 cfs). Runoff occurs during the last 2 weeks of May and first 2 weeks of June, in which case the river can peak at up to 6000 cfs. And from late June through August 15th an angler can expect anything from 700 cfs to 2000 cfs depending on the water year.

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“The Arkansas features one of the most intricate flow management programs of any river in North America,” added Edrington. “Water is stored in upstream tributary reservoirs at Twin Lakes and Clear Creek and released throughout key time periods in the year to maintain the health of the trout population. After flows begin to recede in July (the hottest period in the Summer), flows are augmented to keep the water column cool for the trout and enhance other recreational aspects of the river. Through this voluntary flow management program, the river will maintain at least 700 cfs through August 15th, at which time the air temperature and water temperature begin to cool. In the same manner, flows are often released to maintain a bit higher water temperatures during the winter months. Flows are most often brought to native (lower flows) during the Spring and Fall to optimize spawning for the browns and rainbows.” If you’re ready to go fishing, in September (now— no waiting!!!) or even October, all the kids will be back in school and waters are ideal for a fall fishing getaway. You’ll find a smattering of PMDs; October caddis aren’t far off, and BWOs will soon be back, but don’t count out terrestrials and sculpin or other baitfish-patterned streamers at this time of year. “The Fall season on the Arkansas may present more variety in terms of hatches and rigging than any other time period,” continued Edrington. “Fish are still opportunistic feeders as they still chase and clobber large dries, and dry/dropper rigs are effective, especially as a prospecting method. The amount of bugs on the water in late August through October is sometimes mind- boggling. “There are a lot of summer hatches like Yellow

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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Sallies, Pale Morning Duns, Tricos, Golden Stones, and Tricos hanging on through September,” said Edrington. “In addition, fall hatches are just getting rolling, with a keen focus on Red Quills, Caddis, Blue Winged Olives, and Drakes. An angler needs to be prepared to see up to a dozen different hatches during a fall outing. Single dry fishing can be incredible, especially early and late in the day. “Nymphing really turns back on in a major way beginning in the middle of August,” suggests Edrington. “That bite doesn’t slow down until late November. The Arkansas is primarily a brown trout river, so in the months prior to spawning, fish are trying to gain every calorie possible. More voracious feeding means fish don’t take a nap mid-day, but continue feeding in the mid and low water column on the nymph lifecycle stage of all those bugs.” Midges are a key bug all year long on the Ark. Year in and year out, anglers catch some nice browns in the river on midges. If it looks like you picked a non-hatch day because of some tweak to the weather, tie on a double midge rig, and if you see some rise forms, make me proud and cut it all off and throw an adult midge. “Winter is good in Bighorn Sheep Canyon from Salida down to Cotopaxi,” adds Felt. “Below there, we have more ice due to depth of canyon and absence of sun. Fish will be congregated in winter water – deep, slow runs adjacent to current. Zebra midge, hares ear, and golden stonefly nymphs all work well, with buckskin caddis coming into play later in the winter.” Spring gets rolling with blue winged olives, just like the rest of the state’s fine fisheries. Smaller BWO emergers and dries will do just fine in late March and continue to turn heads as the caddis get into the action by April. The Ark is known for this “Mother’s Day” caddis hatch. There are some years when this hatch lasts six weeks as fishing can be red hot in the morning and throughout the afternoon. Small caddis pupa fished under an indicator or a larger caddis dry will work wonders for you from mid-April until runoff kicks in by late May. As with any dry-dropper rig, as soon as the fish begin hitting the surface fly, I usually cut off the trailer. You can 18

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catch them on the dry fly until the street light comes on and your lodge feather bed or sleeping bag calls you back to reality. This is about the time when runoff hits. Sure like any freestone, you have to lick your wounds from the spring, tie up some PMDs, terrestrials, and a few streamers, because even though the water can still be a bit high in July, action can be good. Anglers will need to look for easily accessible water—any place where fish might already be relaxing--like pools or behind boulders. Don’t be afraid to cover lots of water to find a hatch, and thus, feeding fish. I like to cover lots of water on a river like the Ark, using maybe a stimulator or streamer until I see life; then I play match the hatch. “The wild browns are not highly educated on the Ark, but they do have good instincts, so anglers need to approach the river accordingly,” suggests Felt. “Approach the river with a low profile, wear muted colors, and fish upstream; just a little attention to approach goes a long way. Unlike many of our tailwaters, these fish are aggressive and will readily rise to a dry even when there is no surface activity in evidence. Don’t forget, the Ark is also set amid small towns and BLM land, so fishing pressure is generally light.” If you get out on the Ark, Blue, Dream Stream… whatever! Tag us on Instagram at @HCAmagazine. com and share a photo of your fun. We are also on Facebook where we often give gear and maybe even a trip away every now and then, Good luck!

About The Author. High Country Angler contributor Brian La Rue enjoys giving fly fishers ideas of where to go for an adventure. Feel free to reach out to Brian at Brian@hcamagazine.com if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.

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Voluntary Flow Program Benefits Fish and Boating in the Arkansas by Randy Scholfield

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W

hat makes the Arkansas River a Gold Medal fishery, as well as one of the nation’s most popular rafting destinations? It’s all about managing the flows. For decades, the Arkansas River offered poor fish habitat—this was a river tainted by mining runoff at the headwaters near Leadville, and decimated not once but twice by toxic mine spills that wiped out aquatic life for miles in the river valley. The turnaround began in the early 1980s, when a federal Superfund designation at Leadville began the process of cleaning up the mine runoff. Then, 25 years ago, with cooperation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a group of diverse parties, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited, and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association launched the Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP), an innovative program aimed at better managing water flows to meet multiple needs on the river, including recreational boating and fishery health. The Arkansas River is somewhat unique in Colo-

rado, notes Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water and Habitat Project. “While many rivers in Colorado suffer low flows due to diversions for agricultural, municipal, or industrial purposes, the Arkansas generally has more water flow than it would under natural conditions,” he says. That’s because the Arkansas receives transbasin water diverted from the Western Slope’s Fryingpan River—water diverted across the Continental Divide, then delivered down the Arkansas for municipal and agricultural use in eastern Colorado. “That extra water, along with storage reservoirs at the top of the Arkansas drainage and in Pueblo, allow water managers to deliver water down the Arkansas in times and amounts designed to benefit recreational boating and fishery health,” says Peternell. Under the VFMP, water is released at the top of the valley, at Twin Lakes Reservoir near Leadville, and recaptured in Pueblo Reservoir downstream near Pueblo. From July 1 to August 15, the VFMP manages flows to provide at least 700 cfs during the height of the rafting season—a flow rate that supports recre-

About The Author. Randy is TU’s communications director for the Southwest region.

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ational boating. out as winners.” For the fishery, the VFMP reduces flows at other In 2014, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildtimes: in spring to accommodate the rearing needs of life designated more than 100 miles of the Arkansas young brown trout, and in late summer and fall to en- River as Gold Medal trout water—the longest stretch hance the fishing experience of anglers. Importantly, in Colorado. Along with extensive clean-up of abanthe program works to keep stable flows from the time doned mines at the headwaters, the VFMP deserves of brown trout spawning in fall through their spring credit for balancing competing interests and allowing emergence, so that incubating eggs aren’t left high and the Arkansas River to meet its Gold Medal potential. dry. The water management program strikes a compromise beHelping You Keep Your tween the needs of the whitewater Eyes on the Big Ones rafting businesses and the Arkansas River fishery. Full Service “The flow regime under the Fly Fishing VFMP is not ideal for recreational Pro Shop boating or for the fishery,” says Pe& Guide Service ternell. “But, the program clearly Schedule a benefits the whitewater industry Trip Today! 970-944-2526 during July and August, and it benefits the fishery from August Lake City, Colorado through May. Both sectors come The Sportsman Outdoors & Fly Shop www.lakecitysportsman.com 970-944-2526

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High Country Angler • Fall 2016

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Winter Classes Starting in November 2013 Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

27


A GUIDE’S LIFE

BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

Finding Clarity on Clear Creek

S

tanding on the banks of Clear Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River in northern Chaffee County, it is easy to see how this delightful stream first got its name. Ginclear water flows over multi-colored cobbles—ever y nook and cranny of the stream bed seemingly revealed. Yet somehow those masters of disguise, the high-mountain brook trout, manage to blend themselves in to their surroundings like the original camouflage art. It is mid-June, and while the main stem of the Arkansas flows high and roily, up here near the old ghost town of Winfield, the waters of Clear Creek are living up to their name, even if flowing a little high for optimal fishing conditions. Nevertheless, my daughter and I are not going to let that put us off a couple of days of camping, fishing, and the kind of quality father-daughter time that only high mountain valleys, small streams, and campfires can provide. With the creek filled to the banks with runoff, we hike upstream, away from the handful of historic cabins that are the sole remnants of what was once a thriving mining community. We come upon a place where terraced layers of beaver ponds provide a bulwark against the full force of the flow. The forbidding Three Apostles massif and Winfield Peak stand sentinel over this little valley, and it is easy to imagine this place untouched, as it must have appeared to the two prospectors who stumbled upon it in 1881, looking for a shortcut to the Gunnison valley and discovering gold instead. 28

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

One of the enduring appeals of small stream fishing is its simplicity—an underrated quality in the ever more complex world we have created for ourselves. No need to match a hatch or turn over rocks to divine what the fish may be eating. At this altitude, where snow and ice are more prevalent than fleeting summer days, a brookie will eat pretty much anything on offer. I tie a small dry fly onto my daughter’s 3 weight Wright McGill Fly Girl, the only rod she will fish with since I gave it to her for her eighth birthday, and she works line out while false casting, then sets the fly down in the middle of a beaver pond with a gentle current seam moving through its heart. Quick as a flash, a brookie strikes before she has time to settle, and she sets the hook to nothing but water and air. I laugh. “Strike one,” I say. “Two more and it’s my turn.” She casts again, up into the head of the pond where a gentle line of bubbles originates from a pour-over, and this time, the fish is bigger and the take slower. The 3 weight bucks and bends as she strips line, bringing the brookie to her feet. “It’s beautiful,” she says, “look at those orange spots - almost crimson.” I show her how to slide her hand down the tippet and grasp the head of the fly, giving it a little twist to release the fish from the barbless hook without touching it. “I want to let it go next time!” she exclaims, and for the rest of our trip I don’t touch another of her fish. Although only sixteen, she lives away from home in Denver, pursuing her dream of one day becoming a professional ballerina. If she is not studying dance or doing school work, she is often away at dance camps, sacrificing what many would regard as the trappings of teenage years - proms, homecomings, a social life - for something that burns deeper. Times and places like Clear Creek enable us to reconnect, and also serve to remind her there is a whole other living, breathing www.HCAmagazine.com


world out there outside of pointe shoes and plies. Later, we sit under the tarp draped off the back of my pickup, as a late evening thunder squall moves down the valley. Hail bounces off the tarp, brats sizzle over the grill, and we reflect on the day. “I can’t believe how many fish we caught,� she says, huddled deep in her down jacket. “This is my new favorite place.� “It’s mine too,� I reply.

About The Author.

Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander living in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a semi-retired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife raise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real estate.

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Hayden Mellsop Fly ďŹ shing guide. Real Estate guide.

Recreation, residential, retirement, investment. 5IFEJĂľFSFODFCFUXFFOMPPLJOHGPSZPVSTQFDJBMQMBDFBOEmOEJOHJU 1JOPO3FBM&TUBUF(SPVQ4BMJEB 0ĂśDF]$FMM XXX)PNF8BUFSTDPN INFMMTPQ!QJOPOSFBMFTUBUFDPN

Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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The Big Bruisers Are Back by Jack Bombardier on the Colorado

T

he almost-perfect summer of 2016 is winding down, and with Labor Day just around the corner, the peak of fishing season awaits. There are almost no bad places to fish anywhere in Colorado in September and October, and nowhere is that more true than along the Upper Colorado River. Reservoirs are nearly full, flows are high and steady and just about ideal for floating, and will stay that way until Halloween. There were a couple of weeks in July during the monsoon flows where the river did get too off-color for fishing, but that’s pretty normal here. Within a day or two of those events happening, the river clears

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High Country Angler • Fall 2016

up again with extra-hungry fish waiting to annihilate your grasshopper. And this summer, one positive aspect of those off-color days occurred to me that I had never considered: when a river isn’t perfectly clear, it seems to keep it a bit cooler, and less sunlight shining directly onto the river bottom means less algae growth. This summer, the nearby Roaring Fork River was plagued by rampant algae blooms, in part because its runs clearer than the Colorado does. So even though the Fork can be a safer bet to fish if it’s been raining, you’ll be pulling up less greenery with your dropper flies and streamers in the Colorado River. www.HCAmagazine.com


In September of 2012, Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocked 30,000 Hofer Rainbows in the river between Dotsero and the Roundup River Ranch. This was done in part to jumpstart the fishing after a major fish kill caused by flooding on Sweetwater Creek that July. Ever since then, the rainbow populations have been doing great, and the fishing here might be the best it’s ever been. When I moved to here in 1986, the Colorado River was primarily a rainbow trout fishery, with some browns mixed in. Anecdotally, the ratio seemed to be perhaps ten to one rainbows to browns. Then in the late 1980s, whirling disease hit hard, exacerbated by the new Windy Creek reservoir, and by the late 1990s that ratio had flipped with browns becoming the dominant trout species. Parks and Wildlife (then the DOW) began stocking Hofers above Kremmling about ten years ago, and slowly those fish began making their way all the way

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down to the stretch I like to call the “Lower Upper,” or the river below State Bridge but above the Colorado’s confluence with the Eagle at I-70. As of this summer, the browns still outnumber the rainbows, but by a margin of perhaps two or three to one. What that means is that we are rapidly approaching a fishery that’s nicely balanced between the two, and which should be close to a fifty-fifty mix by next year or perhaps the one after. For the thirteen years I’ve lived beside the river, the fishing has literally been better every year than the year before. One thing the river has always had is plenty of fish, but it’s never been known for having lots of huge ones. Even though the Colorado through the Lower Upper is dam-controlled, none of the dams are close enough to make the river a tailwater. Twelve to fourteen inch browns have long been a staple in the Colorado, but it seems like this year, we’ve caught more and larger fish

Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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than ever before. A twenty inch fish used to be rare, but this year we’ve already caught a half-dozen, with perhaps two dozen over sixteen inches being caught. Even my backyard has become a productive place to fish. The other night, I was fishing off my dock trying to catch one of the six-inchers shooting out of the water like Polaris missiles after caddis flies, to transplant into my wife’s new hydroponics setup. Instead, I caught a sixteen-inch brown on the size 22 Adams trailing the Elkhair caddis that I was too lazy to remove. The week before, I was doing a float trip with a father and son from Mississippi, and having a fairly productive day, boating a couple of fish per mile throughout. When we got to my place, the son cast a fly toward a fence that runs into the river to keep the dogs in. The drifting hopper suddenly stopped near the fence, and he told me later that he thought he’d snagged the fence until the line began to move. He was using a tenkara rod, and not being able to let line out, I suddenly had to start rowing hard because now I was the line backing! Only two days earlier, a customer had hooked a huge brown up in the fast water in the canyon using a tenkara rod, and we had lost that fish. When that fish was hooked it ran upstream, and I rowed as hard as I could to stay with it. Then the fish turned, and came straight at my cataraft, shooting between the pontoons as I leapt to the front of the boat with my net. The fisherman grabbed the leader as the fish went under, and the tippet broke off. This time, I was determined to not let that happen again, and we went round and round in the mellow water of my backyard until the brown finally tired and we were able to bring him to the net. After taking a couple of pictures and releasing the fish, father and son agreed that the behemoth brown caught with a tenkara using 6X tippet was the highlight of their Colorado fishing trip. But the river was not done with its surprises yet. We continued fishing, and at the other end of 32

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

my property the son caught another smaller brown, (which after the twenty-incher looked pathetic). Our trip was almost over, but just above our takeout is a curving, undercut bank, and we’ve pulled a couple of huge browns and rainbows from it this year and last. Just above it, the father broke off his dropper fly, and I said “Let’s go without it, and just fish the hopper only along the bank. Without a dropper fly, its much easier to get a fly close enough to the grass for a big bruiser to see it.” As I was trimming the tippet off the bend of the hopper’s hook, the son broke his off while tossing it towards the bank. I said, “Same thing, let’s go with just a hopper. Try and get the fly as close as possible to the grass.” I pulled up the anchor, and we began to drift towards the grassy undercut, and both men made their casts. Tenkara rods are rigged with a finite amount of line, and can cast only so far and no more than that. Their first casts were short, so I moved the boat closer and they cast again. The son’s hopper was about two feet from the bank, and he said, “How’s that?” I said, “Cast again, we need to get it a little closer.” He raised the fly off the water, and as he did I gave the boat a Offer Expires 12/31/2016

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gentle twist of my oars, rotating it slightly counter- brown trout in less than a mile! clockwise towards the bank. This time his fly landed People who have lived and fished the Upper C for about an inch off the grass. “Perfect!” I said, “Keep it years can tell stories of the great fishing before Windy RIGHT there!” With slight adjustments to the oars, Gap altered the balance of things. They talk of lots we were able to keep that fly an inch off the bank all of trout grown fat on the big stonefly hatches of the the way down. The son kept arm extended and steady, day. Although that was before my time here in the and together for just that moment we were fishing like Centennial State, I’ve never seen it as good as it right a unit, as one single connected entity. He held the now, both for the quantities and now the size of the rod, but I controlled the placement and drift of the fly, fish we catch. with the oars. I was no longer just a guide, and he the It seems like the Colorado River has more big fish fisherman, but we were both fishing together in that in it than ever. I’d like to think that it’s because after exact moment. Watching the hopper speed along the five hundred trips down the river, I’ve finally figured bank was mesmerizing. The sun was at our backs and out where they are. But these are almost all wild fish, the whole scene played out as if on stage. The grass and keep their own counsel. The river has a more was as green as the Amazonian rainforest, and the powerful and infinite force than a mere mortal like hopper looked as big as a hanging curveball does to me can ever hope to really grasp. David Ortiz. What happened next was obvious, and A river full of wild trout is like a box of chocolates; what should always happen in a just and right uni- you never know what you’re going to get. Actually, it’s verse. A huge olive snout came up, the hopper dis- better than chocolate, since its pleasures linger in the appeared, and suddenly the twelve foot tenkara rod mind long after a day spent on the water is past. Fall doubled over as an excited expression came over the of 2016 is at hand, and this is usually when the fishing son’s face. I pushed the boat towards the bank, which gets really good! If this past summer is any indication, relieved pressure on the rod, but now we were in the what’s coming next should be memorable! faster current closer to the bank, and we sped downriver with the son holding his rod up high, trying Affordable Lodging in Beautiful Gunnison Colorado to keep solid tension on the fish. There was an eddy behind a big rock coming up on the left bank, so I made for that. It was a weird 37478 W. Hwy 50 Gunnison, CO 81230 balance of rowing through the curCome Ice Fish the Blue Mesa & Taylor Reservoir! rent, while keeping one eye on my • Rooms $69 - $109 fisherman and his quarry. We got Ask About Our Fall & Winter Specials! • Continental Breakfast the boat and the fish out of the fast • Free WIFI • Onsight Massage Service water, and I jumped out of the boat • RTA Shuttle to Crested Butte with my net. The son steered him • Balconies Overlooking Golf Course into my net from above, and with • Parking for Boats & Trailers that we’d landed our second huge • Exercise Room • Laundry Facility • Friendly Staff That Loves the Outdoors!

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by Peter Stitcher

A

s much as any of us would love to have a stretch of river all to ourselves—an isolated fishing hole where big trout eagerly rise to our dry flies, and the lack of cell phone reception gives us a few hours respite from the demands of life—fly fishing at its core is a social sport. For most of us, it was under the guiding hand of a parent, grandfather, or friend that we tied on our first fly, struggled through the basics of casting, and eventually netted our first trout. There is a unique joy in sharing the water with family and friends, seeing the passion for fly fishing awaken in a new angler, and the excitement of working out a difficult drift with your fishing buddies until one of you finally catch that elusive trophy brown that has evaded you for the past several hours. Born from a passion to make the sport of fly fishing accessible to all, and to equip Rocky Mountain anglers with the knowledge and gear needed to experience greater success on the water, the Fly Fishing Rendezvous has become the fastest growing and most eagerly anticipated fly fishing show in the Rockies. Featuring only the region’s best fly fishing companies, fly tyers, authors, and guides, the Fly Fishing Rendezvous focuses exclusively on local

Fly Fishing Rendezvous Where: Jefferson County Fairgrounds - Golden, CO When: November 5th - 6th; 8:30am - 5:00pm Cost: $8 in Advance, $10 at the door Website: www.flyfishingrendezvous.com

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High Country Angler • Fall 2016

waters and local companies, and equips anglers with local knowledge for success on our waters. With its emphasis on educating anglers, the Fly Fishing Rendezvous has broken the mold of other fly fishing shows by giving participants access to more than 30 hours of classes with fly fishing’s best recognized authors, fly tyers, casting instructors, and fly fishing geeks. The topics of these classes are as diverse as the waters of our region: How to Fish Colorado’s Technical Tailwaters, How to Match the Hatch and Hack Hatch Charts, How to Sight Fish Trophy Trout on the Taylor River, as well as fly tying demonstrations with the industry’s best tyers. In addition to accessing an impressive line-up of classes, participants of the rendezvous will have the ability to interact with and buy gear or trips from more than 30 Rocky Mountain fly fishing companies. Whether it’s a new fly reel from Ross, waders from Simms, $10 dozens on flies from Ascent Fly Fishing, or a guided trip on private water, there will be something for every fly fisher at this show! Just as important as equipping anglers for success on the water is ensuring that those waters and fisheries are accessible and productive for future generations to enjoy. The Fly Fishing Rendezvous has partnered with Colorado Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters to highlight and support the vital work they are doing in conservation and support of our country’s veterans. In addition to raffles and silent auctions held at the event that support both of these groups, 10% of the admission fees go to support Colorado Trout Unlimited, and we encourage every angler to join TU and Project Healing Waters for the mission of conservation of our waters and support of the troops. www.HCAmagazine.com


If you want to start thinking like a fish and fishing like a pro, the Fly Fishing Rendezvous happening November 5th - 6th at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden Colorado is a must visit event! You can check out the full vendor and class line-up and purchase your tickets online at: www.flyfishingrendezvous.com.

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Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock your fly box at: www.ascentflyfishing. com.

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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HCA

GEAR BAG BY BRIAN LA RUE

TONGASS 1800: WATERPROOF AND FUNCTIONAL

I

f I had a dollar for every time I’ve wanted a backpack that could double as a camera bag, gear bag, fly box, sandwich carrier, and carry on---I’d be rich. Now I’ve found that exact bag, perfect for epic days on the trail, in the water or on the plane—The Umpqua Tongass 1800. Over the years I’ve experimented with going light as possible. Now that my fishing buddy, Barrett, 11, joins me too, and I don’t want to forget anything, the Umpqua Tongass 1800 is how I roll. For starters, I’ve had a lot of packs and gear bags, but none of them were functional and water proof. They either looked like my wife’s beach bag, cinching down to become a dry bag for a boat trip, or they were perfect until a couple drops of rain or a misstep and everything was wet. The Tongass 1800 answered all those questions. I tested the 1800 on my first trip to a place where I knew I needed to bring a lot of gear, it could rain, and I knew I could set it down somewhere for base camp. I was able to pack rain jackets for the two

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High Country Angler • Fall 2016

of us, chest packs for both of us, and lunch. I also tossed my Canon digital camera in there, along with a couple larger streamer boxes, and the roll-top still concealed all items with the remaining sizing of an average backpack. The 30-liter pack is spacious—allowing my son and I to carry everything we would need for four hours of windy or sunny streamer fishing. We put the pack between us on the beach this spring when we were targeting cutthroat off a spit at Yellowstone Lake. We threw sink tips and streamers and managed a handful of fish. Accessing the compartments to quickly grab another hot streamer or get the camera for a photo was easy, as the compartment opens and gives complete visibility to the user. No digging or dumping all your gear out like my old REI. You’ll never have to worry about your keys or phone or even think about them in your pocket as the hanging interior pockets are both out of the way and at your fingertips. As with any fly fishing pack, you’ll find many attachments for zingers and other goodies like your net, snippers, or hemos. The back of the pack is fully padded and the side compartments can hold water bottles, or even rod tubes if you’re headed on a real adventure overseas or across the country. Lastly, the clever slots and pockets—too many to count—are located in the best possible places. I carry bear spray, having lived and hiked in grizzly country for years. It works on people that crowd my spot too! The Tongass 1800 has a spot for everything. Yes, I’ve told a lot of folks that I try to go as light as possible, but when it comes to comfort with an 11-year-old, carrying extra food, water etc. you could say the Tongass 1800 has become my fishing buddy, too. And even when my young teen isn’t with me, this bag is my gear bag where I keep all my gear until my next trip. Check it out at www.Umpqua.com or ask to see one at your local shop.

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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Hatching Success By Jeff Florence

T

he journey to restoring Colorado’s state fish starts right within the brick walls of the Mt. Shavano Fish Hatchery. Over 30,000 Greenback cutthroat trout call the Salida-based hatchery “home.” With help from Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), these special fish have a safe place to grow before being reintroduced to their native waters in the South Platte basin. The relatively small population of Greenbacks was spawned in Zimmerman Lake by CPW with help from CTU volunteers. The Zimmerman Lake greenbacks were stocked from the Mt. Shavano hatchery years before, and are part of the pure strain of Greenback cutthroat that were found in Bear Creek west of Colorado Springs. The fertilized eggs will then be taken to the isolation unit among the Mt. Shavano facilities, where they will be raised prior to being released into the wild. 38

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

The isolation unit is one of three facilities at the Mt. Shavano hatchery. The Greenbacks in the isolation unit receive a different supply of water than the other two facilities. This is done in case there is a disease in the supply systems, protecting the separate populations of trout and salmon from getting the same disease. Prior to being released into the environment, the water from the isolation unit is treated by passing through an ultra-violet filter. Raising Greenback cutthroat trout takes a great deal of care from the hatchery and staff. “Greenbacks require fresh food, not fish pellets, they are small in number, they like to feel somewhat crowded, they are extremely skittish, cleaning the tanks puts a great deal of stress on the fish, there is no current in the tanks, and because of the issues around fresh food and static water, the tanks require more cleaning,” said Allyn Kratz, President of Cheyenne Mountain Chapter Trout Unlimited. www.HCAmagazine.com


In order to fit the needs of the hatchery and the fish, CTU chapters Cheyenne Mountain (CMCTU) and Collegiate Peaks (CPCTU) worked with the hatchery to purchase tanks specifically for these Greenbacks. “We asked Bryan Johnson, the hatchery manager, what would be ideal,” said Kratz. “He said he would love to have six small round tanks to raise the greenbacks within.” Ask and you shall receive. CMCTU and CPC-TU worked together to purchase six 24” round tanks in which the Greenbacks can grow. “We funded the purchase of several isolation tanks for the purpose of raising the only pure strain of Greenback Cutthroat known to exist,” said Keith Krebs, President of CPC-TU. “The existing tanks and raceways were too big to successfully complete this task. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to view about 30,000 3/4” fry that had been successfully hatched in the isolation unit.” “These tanks have a constant current, are self-cleaning, and are small enough to make the trout more comfortable with their numbers,” added Kratz. “The quality of the trout produced should be better able to survive in the wild.” More help is on the way: CTU and CMCTU recently received a Western Native Trout Initiative grant to help purchase more tanks for the Greenbacks at the isolation unit, as well as adding educational signage for the visitors who pass through the hatchery each year. Greenbacks raised at Mt. Shavano will eventually be reintroduced into their native waters, where they will grow and help www.HCAmagazine.com

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“Trout Unlimited has always been supportive of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, helping out on many restoration and fish management projects. I believe the relationship we have now developed between TU and the Hatcheries is another step forward to sustaining and improving our fish populations in Colorado.” –– Bryan Johnson, Shavano Manager

found new self-sustaining populations. Currently CPW is working to find suitable habitats for the Greenbacks. Herman Gulch, Dry Gulch, and Rock Creek are all planned for Greenback reintroduction, with more sites to follow. The hatchery consists of three different units: Mt. Shavano, Isolation Unit, and Mt. Ouray. The hatchery at Mt. Shavano produces approximately 2.4 million catchable (10in) and sub-catchable (2-5in) trout each year. Further on up the road sits the Mt. Ouray hatchery, which produces about 700,000 sub-catchable trout or salmon each year. All of these fish are Whirling Disease negative. TU chapters continue to work with Mt. Shavano

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High Country Angler • Fall 2016

About The Author. Jeff is the Colorado TU communication and administrative assistant.

with other projects, including fin clipping, that helps with an ongoing CPW study in Eleven Mile Reservoir (described in elsewhere in this issue). The Collegiate Peaks Chapter also helps the hatchery and CPW biologists stock fingerling cutthroats in nearby lakes and some high mountain streams. Volunteers pack in plastic bags containing about 10,000 fingerlings each and distribute them throughout their assigned water. The Greenback reintroduction journey is a long one and it certainly is far from done. But with the strong partnership between CPW’s Mt. Shavano Hatchery and CTU, the Greenback journey has a safe and stable place to start.

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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What’s Behind Clipped Fins? By Jeff Florence

F

or over 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has preserved iconic landscapes in Colorado and throughout the country. A program that helps to preserve Colorado’s great outdoors, the LWCF is supported by a responsible partnership between the federal government and private enterprise, and provides funding for conservation, helping to ensure public access to the outdoors. Throughout my time in the U.S. Senate, I have supported efforts to ensure that the LWCF remains on a stable and predictable footing. I’m proud that Congress came together and recently reauthorized the LWCF for an additional three years, because it is common sense policy, supported by sportsmen, hunters, and countless Coloradans and Americans who appreciate our nation’s natural beauty. While a three-year reauthorization was a step in the correct direction, more can be done. I will continue to work hard for a permanent reauthorization of the LWCF here in Congress, which was recently passed by the Senate by a vote of 85-12. 42

High Country Angler • Fall 2016

In Colorado, the LWCF has helped protect over 5,000 additional acres of a Colorado treasure – Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – an area with over 6,000 recorded archaeological sites. It was also utilized to establish Great Sand Dunes National Park, which protects the tallest sand dunes in North America and welcomes around 300,000 visitors each year. This type of conservation system, through vital tools like the LWCF, has helped Colorado establish an outdoor recreation economy that contributed over $13 billion of economic activity to our communities, and supported 125,000 good jobs in 2013. I recently introduced the Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions (REC) Act with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would require the federal government to measure the economic impact of outdoor recreation. This common sense policy will allow lawmakers to make informed policy decisions to further enhance the industry by understanding the impact recreation has on our economy. www.HCAmagazine.com


Conserving and protecting the public lands Coloradans cherish, which are some of our state’s most precious natural resources, are major priorities of mine that I will continue to fight for. Coloradans hunt, fish, hike, and camp on these lands, and keeping conservation properly funded while expanding the public’s access to these beautiful treasures is exactly the sort of goal that I’ve always strived for in policymaking. I’m proud to work towards ensuring that Colorado’s future generations have access to the same natural beauty that Coloradans have enjoyed going back to the founding of our state.

About The Author. Jeff is the Colorado TU communication and administrative assistant.

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Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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Abandoned Mines: Ticking Time Bombs in the Headwaters By Warren Colyer

I

n August, American Fork Creek, a popular angling destination on Utah’s Wasatch Front, ran thick and black with toxic sediment—the legacy of a hundred years of hard rock mining in the headwaters of American Fork Canyon. Last year, the Animas River in Durango turned bright orange with iron and other metals after a government official accidentally released decades of accumulated polluted water from the Gold King Mine over the course of just a few hours. Two years ago this month, the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia puked over 6 billion—yes, billion, with a ‘B’—gallons of toxic sludge into a lake in the Fraser River watershed, decimating salmon popu-

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lations that First Nations peoples had depended on for hundreds of years. In all three cases local communities were outraged. And surprised. The fact is, 40% of our headwater basins in the western U.S., and a similarly large number of watersheds in coal producing states in the East, have “time bombs” like these—abandoned mine tunnels and waste piles that tick away, leeching small amounts of toxic metals and acidic water into the very sources of our most iconic and important rivers. And every so often, something bad happens. Some ‘system’ fails. Chronic, unseen impacts become acute, and shockingly visible. People and governments and www.HCAmagazine.com


communities take notice. Raise an alarm. Become ment Affairs staff are regularly called upon to offer outraged. And, rightfully so. But the fact is we should Congressional testimony and to help draft legislation. not be surprised by these disasters. There is one waitHowever, despite all of this progress, the specter of ing to happen in almost all of our “home waters.” abandoned mines remains a massive threat to our waThe last century and a half was good for America’s tersheds and fish that goes largely unnoticed…until mining industry. Millions of tons of gold, silver, cop- it doesn’t. The recent disasters, though brutal for the per, and other metals were extracted from the moun- local communities which they affect, are raising the tains and valleys of western states, and – together with profile of the problem and highlighting the need for eastern coal – fueled the development and growth our work. of this country. Some say copper from Butte, MonState and federal agencies in Montana, Colorado, tana, actually “won World War II.” Few would dispute and Idaho are stepping up to help fund clean-up projthat mining was critical to the economic and politi- ects. Legislators have introduced bills in both houses cal successes of our country, but we deferred many of of Congress that would limit liability for Good Sathe costs of that development…and now the bills are maritan organizations like TU that want to clean up coming due. legacy mines. There is even talk of a royalty fund – Since 2004, TU has been working to defuse these much like exists for every other resource extraction headwater bombs, one at a time. With critical support industry – that would help pay for clean-ups. from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and more reThe legacy of abandoned mines in this country is cently from Freeport McMoRan and Newmont Min- an imminent threat to our watersheds, streams, and ing Corp., we have made giant strides in tackling the fish, but it has flown under the radar for a long time. problem. TU’s abandoned mine restoration projects in TU is working to change that. western states have improved water quality in over 50 river miles, restored 20 miles of stream and riparian habitat, and reconnected 21 miles of tributary streams and main stem rivers for native and wild trout. 38339 US Hwy 50 In Montana, our projects have Gunnison, CO 81230 reconnected six different tributary 970.641.1442 streams, allowing native west slope cutthroat trout to re-establish populations in streams where they had not been seen for decades. In Idaho, our mine restoration projects • Walking distance to the gold-medal have engaged over 6,500 children waters of the Gunnison River in education and service learning • Near Blue Mesa Reservoir programs that teach them about watershed health, ecology, and the • Vintage charm and ambiance legacy of mine pollution. • Great outdoor space In Utah, we pioneered a new administrative tool that facilitates • Multiple room layouts Good Samaritan (3rd party) aban• Fully stocked kitchens doned mine clean-ups on the headwaters of American Fork Canyon. • Spacious boat parking, including TU has become the leading authorfree long-term for multiple stays ity on Good Samaritan abandoned mine restoration, and our Govern-

Island Acres

www.IslandAcresResort.com

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able and close to fishing. “I’ve had two people tell me I haven’t had much interest in the rental because I’ve priced it too low,” said Pass, while we were finalizing a deal on a house in Brighton. “I’ve priced it that way so average guys like you and I could afford to take a trip, six hours north, and try the famous Wind River Canyon or run up to the Greybull, or simply fish the Bighorn through town. If you don’t have to have a mint on your pillow every morning, and you’d like a deal and an affordable place, check it out.

Thermopolis: Endless Possibilities & Connections By Brian La Rue

The Fishing

While on my own (wife and kids started school in Brighton), I took care of business and snuck out for a little fishing. The first thing I did was run north to Meeteetse about 50 miles away, to try the

I

recently found myself….well, homeless. I sold a house and bought a house (yes, back in Colorado---glad to be back after my ordeal) but had about two weeks where I found myself without a roof over my head. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but it really opened my eyes to friends and what folks will do for you in a pinch. So, my friend and realtor Dan Pass has a place in Thermopolis—a town of 300 people. It’s an older, tract home, and he bought it for people like you and me. You might have seen his ad offering a rental home in Thermopolis for $100 a night, where he actually will donate $50 to Trout Unlimited with each night at the house. Now the house is quaint and rustic, perfect for a small family on a budget or a couple of fishing buddies looking to enjoy the great fishing the area has to offer. It has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a large kitchen/living area. I’d say you could easily sleep 4 to 8 here and the best part, it is afford-

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Greybull River for the first time. I choose to hit this river first, as I made it an assignment for a destination story in a future issue of HCA. The Greybull produced numerous cutthroat on hoppers, and then extended body green drakes. It was one of the best hatches I’ve seen on a river in recent times. I had the place to myself, and one pool produced 10 landed fish on a variety of bugs and methods, but nothing compared to the explosions after the green drake hatch kicked in. Read more about it in the winter issue coming soon. The next river to talk about is the famous Wind River in the canyon. This is tricky water. This is the kind of water with little wading opportunities. You either drift it or rock hop the banks and cast away, pulling big fish. Yes, you will catch big fish out of the current before they run down river, taking everything off your reel. Today I had to steer a pair of 21 inchers out of the current on 3X and my trusty 5 wt. The other tricky part about this water: the regulations. Most of us catch and release and even file off barbs, but nothing to do with that. The water through the state park areas below the dam are Wyoming waters, but the water from the tunnels to the sign that says leaving the reservation, are Indian Reservation waters, and thus you need a special permit for them. The first day will run you $30 with each other day running $25. The fishing is well worth the investment, even more so if you have a guide or drift boat. I stayed on Wyoming water this trip, but came away satisfied to say the least. This water is known for big trout that like streamers, nymphs, and hoppers. The flows are heavy, the water is deep, and the fish will pull you down river in a hurry. You hook a fish here, get it in fast, and land it. Most guides like 5 or 6 wt rods here, and don’t be afraid to run a 7 wt for streamer action. For the Wyoming water above the tunnels, try a heavier streamer rig with perch patterns. “There’s no question you will catch nice fish in the canyon,” says Pass. “You will catch browns pushing 21 to 22 inches if you have an www.HCAmagazine.com

idea of what you are doing, and you put the time in. I’d be surprised if someone went on a July, August, or September day and didn’t catch at least a couple over 20 inches.” I did just that: they hit a hopper dropper combo with a hare’s ear under, and then a Pat’s Rubber Leg paired with the hare’s ear as they were not showing on top. I lost the fish of the day as a brown picked my nymph up in deep water and immediately ran towards the middle when hooked. He gave me back my flies so cleanly I thought he had broke me off after a surfaced torpedo-like run for three seconds. He was bigger than the 21 but we will never know for sure! Fishing right through town is another water to try. After the Wind River comes through the Wind River Canyon, there is a special spot called Wedding Of The Waters. From this point on, the river is known as the Bighorn River. Yes, the same famous river in Hardin, MT. The stretch sees less pressure but can also be fantastic. “You either want to drift the Bighorn through town, fish near the bridge or try near the state park if you’re bound to shore,” adds Pass. “The few times I tried behind the bar, bridge in the middle of town, or

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at the state park access, I’ve used larger nymphs and pulled up 18- to 20-inch browns. I had a really sizable brown on last season, but never got to see him.” The guys at the local fly shop suggested crane fly nymphs, girdle bugs, an assortment of 14 to 18 princes, pheasant tails, and copper johns. The water is typically up and a little off color, so heavier 3X leaders, maybe 4X would be the go-to sizing. Remember, lots of browns here, so streamers are a good bet, too. Something dark or white would be my pick. Lastly, the South and North Fork Shoshone Rivers are within a 100-mile drive. I’d give it at least one day if you booked 3 or 4 days in Thermopolis. They are located around Cody. I’ve been connecting with Tim Wade at North Fork Anglers for years, and found the bread and butter copper John and North Fork Special would be a good tandem nymph rig through the river’s deep boulder gardens. What’s a boulder garden? That what I call steelhead-looking green water after a plunge. You can see green, deeper water, and a garden of underwater boulders, but no fish. Then you put a nymph rig through there the next hour and pull four to six 18-inch rainbows out of the run.

It’s a great wading option. There is a ton of access points all the way to the East Entrance to Yellowstone. You’ll see more bears then other anglers on the river, so carry your bear spray or go with Tim and his team.

In Conclusion

Like the song says, “I’ve got friends in low places,” and I gotta say thanks to Dan. And just because a $100 a night sounds cheap, don’t be fooled; it’s a quaint home with a bed, kitchen, and bathroom and the price is right. Throw in four days of fishing with a few photo-sized fish, and this rental home is priceless. To learn more about Dan Pass’ pad, give my friend a call at 303-877-5715.

About The Author.

High Country Angler contributor Brian La Rue enjoys giving fly fishers ideas of where to go for an adventure. Feel free to reach out to Brian at Brian@hcamagazine.com if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.

2 bedroom 1 bath home sleeps 3-4 $100 a night $50 donated to tU from every booking!

This opportunity is only available to readers of this magazine. $50 will be donated to West Denver Trout Unlimited for every booking. Help out TU, fish the Wind River/Big Horn, and soak in the hot springs...a win-win all around!

DAN PASS, REALTOR Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage 5315 Braun St. Arvada, CO 80002

dan.pass@coloradohomes.com

Cell: 303.877.5715

Contact me for more details and a fishing report!

$100 a night

Located 1 mile from the Big Horn River in Wyoming!

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Northwest Colorado Fall A Photo Essay by Ken Proper

Kyleigh Lawler works the Main Fork of the Elk River at the zenith of fall splendor in the Christina State Wildlife Area. www.HCAmagazine.com

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Mark Darlington searches for Colorado River Cutthroat in the Zirkel Wilderness Area. Brook trout are more prevalent.

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Brook trout are the dominate species of the Zirkel Wilderness Area, although Colorado River Cutthroat populate the more remote areas.

A Main Fork of the Elk River rainbow is released to the colorful, pellucid stream.

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Rainbow from the Main Fork of the Elk River northwest of Steamboat Springs. Fooled by a Royal Trude.

Skinny Fish Lake on the west side of the Flat Tops Wilderness is a Colorado River cutthroat fishery. The best angling occurs during the Country • Fall 52 coolHigh months ofAngler spring &2016 fall.

www.HCAmagazine.com


Mark Darlington enjoys the solitude of Gilpin Lake high in the Zirkel Wilderness Area northeastofSteamboatSprings.

Jack White leads llamas, April and Ariel on a camping trek in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area southeast of www.HCAmagazine.com Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Llamas are an excellent pack animal to help with the load while hiking in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

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Colorado River Cutthroat caught & released in the Bear River Basin – east side Flat Tops Wilderness Area

Th th th ev to 54

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t e e a.

Fallen aspen leaves adorn a rock on the trail to Gilpin Lake in the Zirkel Wilderness Area.

About The Photographer

he Native American Utes called he Flat Tops Wilderness Area he “Shining Mountains.” The late vening sun on Skinny Fish Lake helps o explain why they thought so. www.HCAmagazine.com

Ken Proper is a career commercial photographer and free lance writer living for forty years in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He enjoys fly fishing, skiing, throwing the ball for his dog, Charlie and home brewing. His degree is in Microbiology from Colorado State University. He encourages all Colorado anglers to join TU and volunteer to sustain their local waters and educate their communities about cold water fisheries. www.kenproperphotography.com

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The Angler’s Ethic by Peter Stitcher

T

here was a time in each of our fly fishing journeys that we were green anglers, uninitiated, uneducated, and stumbling down the riverbank. Whether our introduction to fishing was a recent event as we accompanied a friend to a local fishing hole, or at the side of our mother (as was my experience more than 30 years ago), in spite of our eagerness to learn and participate, our casts were clumsy and our attempts to land fish heavy-handed. As time went on, our passion for the sport of fly fishing increased, fly rod and landing net became virtual extensions of our arms, and the experience of landing our first fish remains now a warm glow in our memory. Today, the sport of fly fishing is growing at an unprecedented rate. Facebook and Instagram are papered in photos of grinning faces hovering over exhausted trout beached on the riverbank. The response of veteran anglers is often a mix of horror and reprimand, and the comments left on the forums and Facebook walls leave the new angler hanging their head in confusion and wondering “Wasn’t this a fish to be celebrated?!” or “Is this not a community where we can share our success and adventures?” Fueled by this passion to preserve and protect

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trout and the waters we share, I would implore the seasoned angler to approach the fresh initiates of the fly with the same patience that our grandfathers did so many years back as he untangled our flies from yet another streamside willow. Instead of reprimand, let’s use these opportunities to educate and instruct the next generation of anglers on the Angler’s Ethic so that they too can learn to responsibly and sustainably participate in the sport of fly fishing.

Wet Fish = Happy Fish

A fish out of water is a fish that is dying. This statement might seem self-evident, but it is often one that is forgotten in the excitement of bringing a struggling trout into your net. Now, most of us would agree that we are not Michael Phelps when it comes to swimming. I would consider holding my breath for 30 seconds underwater as an accomplishment, and after that, I’m ready to come up for a breath of air. Trout are no different in that regard. Pulling fish up onto the stream bank and allowing them to flop in the grass and rocks is going to exponentially increase the chances of that fish floating up downstream and dying. In order to preserve the fish and allow it to grow www.HCAmagazine.com


and thrive in the river, try to keep the fish in the water and submerged in your landing net while removing the hook. None of us like holding a smile for a minute while we are waiting for a photographer to get their act together and take the shot. Imagine having to hold your breath for several minutes and then trying to smile for a photo! If you are going to take a photo of a fish, keep them in the water before quickly bring them to hand for the shot.

We Love Fish Slime

The slime coat covering the fish is their armor against bacteria, infection, and fungus. When pulled up onto the grass, allowed to flop among the rocks, or handled with dry hands, this slime coat is scraped away. Therefore, it is essential that anglers always wet their hands before handling fish in order to preserve the slime coat and the health of the fish.

Too Hot to Handle

Trout are known as “Cold Water Fish.” While bass, catfish, panfish, and carp can thrive in tepid or even hot water, trout do best in water temperatures between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. As water temperatures begin to creep towards 67-68 degrees Fahrenheit, trout become lethargic as they struggle to function, breathe, and feed in the warming water. Sustained water temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit is more than most trout species can stand, and if they cannot find a cooler refuge within the river, they will begin to die. Trout hooked and fought in warmer waters have a much greater chance of dying. The ethical angler should avoid fishing waters where temperatures are touching the red zone of 67-68 degrees Fahrenheit. There is plenty of water to fish, and simply by moving up in elevation or fishing a deeper, more forested reach, you should be able to find water temperatures and conditions that will not endanger the fish or fishery.

Leave When You’re Ready

Like running a marathon, battling an angler on a fly is one of the most exhausting experiences of a trout’s life. While the typical fly fisher is ready to release the fish as soon as it comes to hand, and cast their fly back out on the water, the fish needs and deserves a minute to catch its breath. Being unfamiliar with the concept of “catch and release,” trout www.HCAmagazine.com

view this battle as a life and death struggle against the angler, and expend every last ounce of energy as they fight to escape. Before releasing the trout back into the rush of the river, it is essential to let them revive, catch their breath, and leave under their own strength. This is done by holding the fish gently around the tail and working it slowly forwards and backwards through the water. This motion pushes water through the mouth of the trout and over its gills, allowing it to regain its equilibrium and vigor. When the trout is recovered, it will kick its way out of your hand and back into the flow of the river. The time needed to resuscitate a trout will increase in warmer water or after a long fight, so be patient, and the fish will leave when it is ready.

No Future Without Catch and Release

I’m not looking to start a debate with this statement or even trying to take some sort of moral high ground. Without catch and release, there would be no trout and no fishery for us to share and enjoy. Whether you fish with flies, lures, or worms, our rivers and lakes would never be able to survive if everyone was to “take their limit” or mount all of the trophies that they catch on their walls. We are participants and conservators of the wild and living world of trout. Take your photos, remove stringers full of memories, and if trophies must be mounted, let it be on your facebook wall. This is the Angler’s Ethic. By embracing this ethic and training up others, the sport of fly fishing and the fish upon which our pastime depends can grow and thrive. Like those given a great and undeserved gift, we do not own the water or the sport. We are conservators, the holders of a legacy that can only be preserved through patience, responsible use, education, and sharing this love with others.

About The Author.

Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock your fly box at: www.ascentflyfishing.com. Fall 2016 • High Country Angler

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THE LAST CAST

JOHN NICKUM

Proliferative Kidney Disease

Q

What is PKD? Why has the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks closed more than 180 miles of the Yellowstone River to fishing, and all recreational activities, because of PKD? Is it likely that fish in Colorado streams, and High Country waters, in general, are going to experience PKD, and we will be excluded from fishing these waters?

A

A major die-off of mountain whitefish, and some trout, in the Yellowstone River has caused the fisheries managers for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to recommend drastic actions. The primary reason for the actions is their hope that the disease agent causing PKD can be prevented from spreading to other waters. Whether or not it can be eradicated in the Yellowstone River is a long-range question with important implications for the fishery based on the resident trout populations. Managing a disease such as PKD is a problem with many facets. The initials “PKD” stand for Proliferative Kidney Disease. The disease agent, a myxozoan parasite with the daunting name, Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae, causes massive swelling of the kidneys in infected fish; therefore, proliferation describes the effects on the fish. The scientific name refers to the four capsules in the disease agent and its life history, which includes two host animals: bryozoans and salmonid fish. Although PKD has been recognized as a disease of salmonid fishes for more than 50 years, the disease agent causing it has been known with certainty for less than 20 years. The disease was called PKX for many years because the disease agent was unknown. That mystery was founded in part by the complex life history of the parasite. The basic factors involved in infectious diseases have been understood for at least 100 years. Three factors must interact: a disease agent (bacteria, virus, parasite, fungus), a susceptible host, and appropriate environmental conditions. Each of these basic factors has a large range of additional factors. The number of disease agents that are present can make a huge difference, as can the virulence of the 58

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agents. It’s rare for a single disease agent to be so virulent that it causes disease. The susceptibility of each host animal also varies. Their immune systems vary from animal to animal. Many fish diseases are influenced by environmental conditions as well. Higher water temperatures, and the related factor of lower dissolved oxygen concentrations, tend to favor disease agents and act as stress factors, lowering the resistance of fish. Fish disease is not a simple matter of just having a disease agent and a host animal in proximity to each other. The life cycle of the disease agent causing PKD makes the complex relationships of disease even more complicated. The myxozoan parasite infests two different species during its life cycle. One phase of its life is as a parasite in freshwater bryozoans, and the other phase is in salmonid fishes. (I suggest that interested readers conduct a brief online or library search, to learn more about bryozoans and myxozoans.) Research results over the last 20 years have established the fact that relatively small numbers of bryozoans and myxozoans parasitizing them can produce massive numbers of spores (the life stage that infects fish). Additional research suggests that the number of infecting spores required to cause disease is relatively small. The relationships of environmental conditions to the susceptibility of the host animals and the infectivity of the disease agents is not understood at this time, although it is suspected that anything causing stress to the fish will increase the probability of a disease outbreak. With this background information in hand, we can return to the Yellowstone River situation and the probabilities of similar events occurring in other high country, cold water streams. Why did an outbreak causing substantial die-off in salmonid fishes occur this summer? Was the PKD disease agent introduced recently to the Yellowstone River, or has it been present in unknown numbers waiting for the right combination of environmental conditions and susceptible fish? We do know that the parasite has been found previously in Montana; twice in the last 20

years. However, the current outbreak is the first time a major die-off has occurred. Fisheries managers and fish health specialists take the logical position that disease cannot occur if the disease agent is not present; therefore, it is very important to prevent introductions and transfers of these agents. However, it is not reasonable to conclude that the absence of serious disease events means the disease agent is not present. The fish may be resistant to the agent and/or environmental conditions may be unfavorable. One of the major gaps in the fisheries’ information base is a lack of specific data identifying the distribution of disease agents. When they are present in low numbers and environmental conditions are favorable for the well-being of fish, rather than the disease agents, it is extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to conduct sensitive, accurate surveys to detect the disease agents. When the disease agent in question is Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae, which has different host animals during its life cycle, conducting an accurate survey becomes close to impossible. I suggest that it is impossible, practically, at this time to predict where the next outbreak of PKD may occur. However, until we have better data on the distribution of the parasite and its alternate (bryozoan) host, it is incumbent on anglers, and all recreational users of our waters to practice safe fishing, safe boating, and safe swimming. Always clean your equipment, gear, and clothing when you move from one body of water to another.

About

The

Author.

John Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist whose career has included positions as professor at research universities including Iowa State and Cornell University, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fisheries research facility in Bozeman, MT, and science officer for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. He was inducted into the National Fish Culture Hall of Fame in 2008.

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HELPING YOU WITH MORE OF THESE

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