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Autumn Angling by Landon Mayer

Little Truckee by Brian La Rue MORE1

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High Country Angler • Fall 2017



J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer


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


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


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


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Joel Evans, David Nickum, John Nickum, Peter Stitcher, Jeff Florence

Copyright 2017, 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 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 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 620 Sixteenth Street, Suite 300 Denver, CO 80202 www.coloradotu.org

COVER PHOTO: By Landon Mayer

Find High Country Angler Magazine on

TOC PHOTO: by Brian LaRue


Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Autumn Angling by Landon Mayer


he time is near where we approach the fall season delivering shorter days, contrasting colors, and the hunt for gators! The key to success on the fly is paying close attention to simple details that can lead you to more success during this cooling water trend. In fly fishing, we are all anglers and can benefit from the use of “angles” to bump up our game. As the landscape colors begin to change and glow, the brown trout are also in full display below the water’s surface—the fall season driving them into an aggressive state. While these colors are bright in plain view, it can be almost impossible to find the banner yellow or sherbet orange targets in their natural environments. Let’s take a close look at three angled ways to take advantage of the Autumn days to come.


High Country Angler • Fall 2017




bout The Author.

Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books, including 101 Trout Tips: A Guide’s Secrets, Tactics, and Techniques-Stackpole/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 and follow him on Instagram @landonmayerflyfishing.


Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Light Angles Low light can deliver the best bite! This is when nocturnal predator fish have a chance to emerge in search of food or extend the feeding session into the sunrise hour. Yes, you can catch fish during the day, but your chances at numbers and size are better when the light angle is low. With so much light directed from the side, it can enhance the side of a trout’s body from the lateral line down that is not visible during high noon hours. This is caused by the refraction of light traveling from air into water: it slows down, causing it to change direction slightly. When light enters a more dense substance (higher refractive index), it ‘bends’ more towards the normal line, allowing you to scan viewing lanes and windows in search of orange and yellow targets. I am not kidding when I say that a large bright brown can stick out like a sore thumb. The key is to make sure you use this magic one to two hours in search of fish in productive water. I will look for great hiding zones like undercut banks, wood, rocks, and deep pockets during the day. These are all areas where a gator could be hiding when the sun is not at an angle, but directly above.

detection and give you a chance to make adjustments or recast when needed. I also like the fact that by simply dropping, “reaching” the rod tip to the side left or right, depending on which side of the river you are standing on, it performs a mend so you can then concentrate on the fish.

Fighting Angles Maximum pressure is what will cause a trout to headshake and tire. This aggressive thrashing is so intense that the trout’s head can smack its tail during each power thrust. Fish do tire out by swimming, but it would take forever to land the fish and run the risk of fatality if the run was too long. To make the trout headshake, you want to keep the target on a short leash when possible, to keep a convex bend and the tip of the rod at a 90 degree angle. This act is the same as walking a dog on leash, keeping it close with less distance between you and the target for full control. Now let’s say the fish decides to bolt up, down, or across stream…. should you still keep the tip up? No, place the rod to the opposite side that the fish is swimming. The fly will then have a better chance of staying in the corner of the mouth and

cause a direct pull from the behind the trout, resulting in the fish flipping and headshaking. If the fish is very erratic during the battle, you may go side-to-side numerous times before it tiers, or picks a direct path to swim. Lastly, a common question I receive on guide trips is: how do I net that fish if I am out on my own? This is another situation when the angles you choose can be the difference in landing or losing a fish. If possible, the first angle is to steer the fish to calm water or landing zones with a low angle and side pressure. It will slow things down for netting the fish, and allow you to position at a downstream angle of the fish in rivers, and behind or at the side in reservoirs. This will allow the current to drift the trout to you, and in still waters will prevent the fish from bolting. If you pay attention to the simple details in fly fishing, you will learn more every day and have a chance to fine tune your skills. Mixing up your approach and angle can make or break your fall fishing adventure. Try these “angling” tips on your next adventure and you to will see the rewards. I wish you all well on and off the water. HC

Angled Delivery The best way to increase hook ups is to not allow the trout to detect you. This is easier said than done because you will sometimes lose sight of the target when you are at the best angle to present the fly. The goal is to survey the fish and the water surrounding it, and then determine whether it is better to approach and present from below or above the target. I think above the target can be the better call when the situation allows, because the first thing that enters the trout’s view is the fly and not the leader and line. When you’re above or below, you also want to cast at a 45-degree angle from your position to the trout’s viewing lane. This will also prevent 8

High Country Angler • Fall 2017


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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Little Truckee: Small Water, Big Trout by Brian La Rue


High Country Angler • Fall 2017



n nearly four years of living at the foot of the outfit. We had seen a few heads coming up, but just Truckee River, there were times when I craved like clockwork, about 20 minutes later, heads were smaller water, yet I did not want to give up a shot joined by more heads and the hatch/feed was on. My at a real prize like a photo-worthy fish measuring in son and I soon landed 15 trout from 14 to 21 inches. excess of 24 inches. Well, the Little Truckee filled that Every time a head rose, Barrett and I landed the fly niche with epic fishing, great hatches, and willing about three feet above the form, and we were on with rainbows and browns. another sizable fish. Wow, what a fishery—and we “Early summer is my favorite time to fish the LT,” were in the driving seat with 70 yards of rising trout said Mike Curtis at Bucking Trout Outfitters. “The ahead of us. two best hatches are the PMDs in mid-June and the Back to the summer fishing, when the green Green Drake hatch in late June. In a good year, con- drakes taper off, like any Western fishery, hoppers sider yourself lucky when these hatches overlap each other. Other hatches in the evening consist of caddis and little yellow sallies. Untapped. Untamed. Of course, midges are here, yearround.” I enjoyed one epic day early in the summer a couple years ago. I was fishing with my youngster, and we had caught a couple nice fish on the standard zebras and RS2s, but nothing out of the ordinary. We started early to beat any competition, and my boy was starting to lose his concentration. Mike was walking with a client on the ridge above us, and yelled out to ask how we were doing. I replied that it was so-so, got a couple on the dry now on a smaller Royal Wulff, and he said hold on another 30 minutes and the green drakes would start hatching. He said, “What is the biggest Royal Wulff you have? “I’ve got size 8s or 10s in the box,” I replied. “Switch out to one of those bigger patterns to be ready for the hatch,” suggested Curtis. I followed his advice, as of course, he is one of the most respected guides and a local out KREMMLINGCHAMBER.COM of Reno, so I cut and re-tied my

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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


usually start up, but the fish don’t get on them until August-September. Mike suggests a hopper-dropper rig with something like a small Baetis in red or black. Fall hatches are midges, micro Blue Winged Olives and October Caddis in the evenings. As winter sets in, access to the LT can be difficult, but that can be good for adventurous fishermen. Why is access tough? They don’t plow the road and the LT is just a stone’s throw from places like Heavenly and Northstar at Tahoe, so you know it snows heavily at times. “Winter Stones start popping late November and can go all the way through March,” added Curtis. “Midges and San Juan worms are usually your best bet that time of year if you can get up there. “If you prefer to wait for a little melt, spring fishing can be fantastic on BWOs running from March through May,” adds Mike. “Because of the tough ac-


High Country Angler • Fall 2017

cess in snowy years, the fish don’t see that many people or flies, so they are typically eager to eat. Flows can be ramped up at this time and with that said, the San Juan Worm is very effective with all the bottom getting churned up.” To paint you a better picture of the LT: there are two reservoirs—much like Spinney and Eleven Mile and the Dream Stream—where a small tailwater of about three miles flows from one reservoir to the other, creating a dynamic, trophy-producing fishery—and yes, it is protected. I asked Mike, why the LT? “The Little Truckee is a great Blue Ribbon fishery and it’s one of the only fisheries where you have a really great shot at becoming part of the 20/20 club,” said Curtis. “I love technical fishing, and these fish are the epitome of technical fishing—especially in the fall when they have seen every bug known to man


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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


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and they have their PhD in flies! It’s one of those fisheries, though, that if you work hard, it can pay off with a fish over 24” on a dry fly. In the arena of fishing, that is very rare!” This year alone, one of Curtis’ clients caught the biggest fish he’d ever seen in person. His client hooked a 26- to 27-inch brown that eventually snapped the line after fighting it for several minutes. A couple 24- inchers also showed during the PMD hatch. Most of the river is a walk and wade proposition, but there is a larger section where Curtis fishes with a boat. Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get back to regulations on the LT. It is protected in that it is considered a Trophy Fishery by California, so action is on single ALL NEW FULL-COLOR 8.5X11-INCH

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barbless hooks and artificials only. “I would consider the LT to be very, very technical, with the majority of the summer calling for 5x6x tippet,” said Curtis. “In spring time and higher flows, you can get away with 4x, but that is the heaviest of tippet I will ever run here. Best hatch—hands down—the PMD/Green Drake hatch!” Overall, if you have seen the Expedia commercial that ran a couple years ago with an angler holding a big brown, and they said, “Plan your adventure,” or you’ve seen the popular Social Media video of an angler landing his fish by diving on to it in the water as it gets away, (only to be landed with the extra effort), that is an acquaintance of mine and that happened on the Little Truckee. Maybe you’ll end up in your own tug of war with a double-digit brown.…start planning and HC good luck!


bout 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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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler




Parenting Done Right

“What is your favorite time of day while camp- Last card.” ing, Dad?” I folded my hand while she placed another “That’s easy. Morning. Breakfast time.” mark in her win column. “So, what would you like She nodded. “Me too.” We were sitting at the to do today? We could go hit the main river for table, playing cards, steam rising from our respec- a bit. I also know of a place way up high, above tive mugs. Outside, the clouds from last night’s the reservoir, where three streams come together storm were slowly dissipating. The sound of the to form the river itself. It’s a bit of a hike, but we river, fifty yards away, merged with that of a gentle could check that out perhaps, before it starts rainbreeze rustling the trees. Mosquitoes hovered in ing again.” the humid air, pecking at the screens of the camper’s windows. “I like the anticipation of the bout The Author. coming day. Taking my time. Not Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander having to be anywhere I don’t want living in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, to be. That, and the excuse to eat on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a more bacon that I normally would.” semi-retired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife She rolled her eyes. “At your age, raise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real Dad, gotta watch that double chin.” estate. She laid two fives on top of the pile of cards in front of us. “Pick up ten.



High Country Angler • Fall 2017


“I do like small streams.� We’d found a new one the day before, only fifty miles away, but a good two hours’ drive from camp. Following a succession of broken lines on a topo map as she calculated distances and tried to decipher road numbers that didn’t match those signposted, we’d finally dropped down a rutted jeep trail toward a narrowing canyon. As the mud bogs and axle-deep potholes became more prevalent, we decided it more prudent to hike the last mile to the stream rather than the twenty odd back to the nearest highway. At first the water had been too slow and skinny, the stream bed covered in weeds and algae due to the summer heat, but as we worked our way downstream toward a narrowing canyon, several more tributaries fed into it. Before long, it became a delightful willow-lined brook dotted with beaver ponds and surrounded by cliffs of crumbling granite with pines growing out at crazy angles. We ate lunch next to the ruin of an old cabin before rigging up rods. It took her a while to get into the rhythm of casting and line control, but then she landed several browns and brookies whose heft belied the size of the water they were caught in. It was two tired anglers who regained the truck late in the afternoon, and we retraced our steps back to the campsite under a sky that lowered and darkened and finally became night. “Best part of yesterday was we didn’t see another fisherman,� she said. “I vote for going above the reservoir.� She began www.HCAezine.com

to shuffle the cards again. “Hold off on the next game. If we’re heading up there, the sooner we get underway the better. I’m sure it’ll rain again today, and we’ll be at a lot higher elevation than yesterday. Bacon, or pancakes?� “Pancakes, but maybe I’ll

have a piece of your bacon too.� While I worked the griddle, she sorted through the cooler, packing a lunch to take us through the day. “What time is it, do you know?� I shrugged. “Time to eat, then time to fish. I never HC wear a watch camping.� Helping You Keep Your Eyes on the Big Ones

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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


The P.A.U.S.E. Method for Matching the Hatch


xhale....You’ve done it. You’ve successfully escaped the office. You’ve tunneled under the suburb’s privacy fences, and the incessant drone cell phones and email notifications are fading into the distance behind you. In front of you lies a day without obligation and a river full of potential with the promise of hungry trout. Before you run down the trail and lose yourself on the water, though, slow down and PAUSE for a moment. Mother Nature has something to tell you, and listening will prove the difference between a day spent staring at the water, or one punctuated with tight lines and wet hands as you release fish back into the river. This message is a story about which bugs are hatching, what the trout are eating, and which fly patterns will give you the greatest chance of success on this water, on this day. The lines of this tale surround the river; it is recorded among the willows, whispered on the wind, and chiseled along the bed of the river. Guided by the acronym PAUSE, the fly fisher can interpret nature’s cues, tie on the perfect combination of flies, and be ready for an epic day on the water.


High Country Angler • Fall 2017

Parking lot to the River - Matching

the hatch starts when you park the truck and continue on your way to the water’s edge. While not the most appetizing script to read, plastered to your windshield and the grill of your car is a record of the bugs that were flying and hopping along the lake or river that you are planning to fish. The fragile wings of mayflies and sturdy grasshopper legs act like braille to the astute angler, and are the first clues as to what flies they might fish that day. As you leave the parking lot and work your way down to the water, observe


Under the Water - It is beneath

the surface of the water that aquatic insects spend 99.9% of their lives and trout do 75% of their feeding, making this the single most important point for the angler to sample. Using an Invertebrate Seine along the streambed and pulling rocks from the current to observe what is holding onto their surface will give you a detailed menu of which bugs are most abundant, as well as their size and color so that you can lay your fly box alongside and choose the closest match. The information that is colwhat is hopping and flying around you. Grasshoppers franticly leaping off the trail ahead of lected at this point will help to inform which wet you, the wayward beetle landing on your shoulder, the shrilling of the cicada, and caddis flies stirring into flight as you push through streamside trees are all indicators of food that might be falling or landing on the water. The information you collect on the way to the river will help to inform which dry flies might be working.

Above the Water - Swallows flying and

swooping over the water are going to be your first indicator that bugs are hatching from the water and dry flies might be on the menu! As you reach the water’s edge, watch for swarms of invertebrates over the water and streamside vegetation. Even at a distance, the chaotic flight of the caddis, the purposeful straightforward flight of the stonefly, and the orderly wave-like motion of the mayfly will be evident, and will help to direct you to the most likely dry flies in your fly box.


fly patterns to use.

Spider Webs - Spiders are Mother Na-

ture’s PhD level Entomologists, and are the most efficient samplers of insects along the river. If it has been hatching or hopping along the water where you are fishing, the spiders will have caught them. Look for spider webs in the bushes

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


and snags along the river, and hold your fly box up to their latest catch to match the hatch. The information we pull from the strands of the spider web will be used to inform us as to which dry flies might be on the day’s menu.

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High Country Angler • Fall 2017


Eddies - Like a black hole for trout foods, the swirling currents and

Join us for the winter 2017 addition as we teach you how to bring your sample into the fly box and choose the best fly patterns.

backwaters along the edge of the river collect a catalog of the most active bugs in and on the water. Spinning on top of the rotating current will be a sample of abandoned invertebrate cases, crippled insects, and expired post-spawn adult insects. Beneath the surface of the water, those same currents that trapped the adults in their dizzying spin also act to deliver aquatic insects to these collection points where they can be easily observed and matched by the angler. This final sample will sum up which dry and wet patterns will be working. Success never comes easily for the fly fisherman. There is no such thing as a lucky fly that will produce every trip to the river, and there are no infallible guides equipped with crystal balls through which to foresee the next hatch. Howbout The Author. ever, for the fly fisher who takes a Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner moment to PAUSE and observe, of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist the rewards will be immediate, Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, the fish will be more frequent, when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock and the experience on the water your fly box at: www.ascentflyfishing.com. HC will be that much richer!



Fall 2017 • High Country Angler



We All Need Clean Water


or more than 40 years, the Clean Water Act has been working to improve the quality of our nation’s waterways – cleaning up pollution, protecting wetlands, and moving toward the Act’s goal to have “fishable and swimmable” waters. While the job is not done, the progress made nationwide is pretty remarkable. The Clean Water Act has a record of success we should build on and certainly not roll back. So it was alarming to see the Environmental Protection Agency launch a process to first repeal a 2015 Clean Water Rule that clarified the Act’s protection of seasonal and headwater streams, and to then replace it with a new rule that would limit protection to perennial waters. The new rule being contemplated would limit protection to those described by Justice Scalia in an opinion (joined by a minority of the Supreme Court) as “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water.”


High Country Angler • Fall 2017

At one level, the issue feels like a technical, policywonk argument between those wanting to narrow the scope of Clean Water Act protection and those wanting to broaden it. But the implications are real: nationwide, some 60% of waterways and in Colorado 70% of are ephemeral or intermittent – they aren’t “permanent” and “continuously flowing.” But unlike going to Las Vegas, what happens in those 70% of streams doesn’t stay there. It flows downhill, and into the streams in which we fish, and on which we rely for our water supply. TU has urged the EPA to retain the 2015 rule to ensure that these headwater and feeder streams remain protected; if it is repealed, it must be replaced with a rule that is equally effective in protecting those headwater systems. Fortunately, we have allies in this battle. Coloradans turned out in force (and in full voice) for a Clean Water for Colorado rally in downtown Denver on Tuesday, August 22. The event was put together by TU and other conservation groups, as well as local outdoor businesses such as RepYourWater, Confluence Kayaks and Down River Equipment. The rally—right across the street from the regional EPA building—sent a clear, loud message to the EPA and elected officials back in D.C.: Coloradans care about clean water. Among the speakers was Corinne Doctor of RepYourWater. Her www.HCAezine.com

water affects our finished product,” they said. “Protecting clean water is central to our longterm business success.” You can add your voice to the effort. EPA is taking comments on its proposed repeal of the 2015 rule through September 27. You can offer your comments and stand up for clean water by visiting http://standup.tu.org/stand-up-for-clean-water/ Because trout and human alike, we all HC depend on clean water. remarks to the crowd echoed the importance of maintaining healthy streams in order to support the economy on which her business relies. “The Clean Water Rule is essential. We cannot risk having the EPA roll it back,” exclaimed Doctor. “We, in the outdoor, and more specifically fishing industry, know that without clean water, we have no business. For this multi-billion dollar industry, our economy can’t risk that.” Even beyond the outdoor industry, this action could take away protections for 60 percent of all U.S. streams, 20 million acres of wetlands and waters that contribute to the drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans. Another iconic Colorado business – craft brewing – lent their support as well. A coalition of Brewers for Clean Water have spoken out for clean water (including Colorado-based breweries Upslope, Odell, Horse & Dragon, Avery, and New Belgium) – submitting formal comments from “Brewers for Clean Water” to the EPA. “Beer is mostly water, so the quality of our source www.HCAezine.com

About The Author. David Nickum is Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Executive Director. Among his favorite places to fish are high lakes and headwater streams on both sides of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Matter Why Stream Management Plans

to Colorado Anglers What level of minimal flows does a stretch of river or stream need to remain healthy and fish-friendly? How can all of the diverse users of a watershed—from ranchers and farmers to anglers and municipal users—collaborate to ensure the best management of those finite water resources? Those are the kind of essential questions that a new state tool— Stream Management Plans—are designed to answer. And everyone benefits from having those answers, including anglers. As first conceived by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), Stream Management Plans (SMPs) aim to identify essential environmental and recreational flow needs for “priority” stream reaches, with an eye to improving flows and habitat through collaborative water 24

High Country Angler • Fall 2017

by Richard van Gytenbeek

management with other water users. Trout Unlimited strongly supported the concept of SMPs throughout the evolution of the Colorado Water Plan, recognizing that SMPs are a natural extension of our ongoing partnerships with ranchers and farmers to improve river health and maintain agriculture’s crucial role in our rural communities. TU believes we can expand those successful collaborations with agriculture to encompass all water users within the various river subbasins of Colorado. The results are community-driven plans that reflect local water use priorities, protect existing uses/water rights and enhance local understanding and management of this critical resource. Currently, there are a number of Colorado sub-basins that have

initiated these planning efforts. Each is evolving differently and reflects the unique character of their own basin water use priorities. Chris Sturm, CWCB’s Stream Restoration Coordinator, has endorsed a wide variety of approaches to these planning efforts. Some planning groups have chosen to initially examine agricultural irrigation infrastructure needs, for instance, while others have initially focused on non-consumptive flow regimes. As long as the larger goal of creating a community-based integrated water plan is ensured, the path to get there can be a flexible one. For instance, positive things are happening in the Gunnison basin. The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District (UGWCD) is at the center of a funded effort to create a Water Management Plan www.HCAezine.com

local fisheries but simultaneously benefit local agriculture and other consumptive uses, opportunities that help communities. The state legislature (in particular the Water Resources Review Committee) is looking closely at the need and interest for continued funding of SMPs in coming years. While our current state water plan and the funding to begin implementation is in place, TU and other who support a strong water plan will be pushing for continued support of these SMP efforts. For Coloradans who want to make a difference for their local waters, getting involved in a local

stream management plan effort is a great opportunity. The time to begin applying is now, with the first grant application deadline coming in early November. If you are interested in applying for a grant or want to participate in an ongoing SMP, please contact Chris Sturm chris.sturm@state.co.us at CWCB or TU staff (Richard Van Gytenbeek, r.vangytenbeek@tu.org ) to help get started. We all depend on our home waters. Stream Management Planning offers an enormous opportunity to help sustain our rivers and support Colorado’s amazing HC outdoors quality of life.


bout The Author.

Richard van Gytenbeek is Trout Unlimited’s Upper Colorado River Basin coordinator.

(WMP). In its initial stages, an ad-hoc committee comprised of irrigators, sportsmen and other water users have presented the UGWCD board with a framework plan to move forward on an upper Gunnison WMP. This innovative and holistic approach is described in the framework plan. “As opposed to viewing consumptive and non-consumptive use of water as separate elements, watershed planning recognizes that there are complex interactions between environmental, agricultural, municipal, and recreational uses of water. By recognizing this incontrovertible relationship between consumptive and non-consumptive uses of water, management can focus on increasing the adaptive capacity of the system as a whole.” These collaborative efforts can reveal opportunities that not only benefit our www.HCAezine.com

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


A River on the Rise:

Denver South Platte by Colorado TU Staff 26

High Country Angler • Fall 2017



Fall 2017 • High Country Angler



onnie Crawford explains that he first discovered the urban fishery of the South Platte by accident around 15 years ago. He was taking a couple of kids fishing with bait on the river near his house off Evans. Much to his surprise, they started catching trout. That was the simple beginning of a long-term love for fishing the “Denver South Platte,” and for introducing others to all it has to offer. For more than a decade, the Denver Trout Unlimited chapter (DTU), of which Ronnie is a board member, has been working to improve the health of the Denver South Platte – the section of the river starting below Chatfield Reservoir and then flowing through the southern suburbs and downtown Denver. Eleven years ago, the chapter held its first “Carp Slam” fishing tournament, to build awareness of the Denver South Platte and its fishery potential, and to raise funds for river restoration efforts. 28

High Country Angler • Fall 2017

As the name suggests, the Carp Slam’s fishing focus is carp—a popular fish to take on a fly—but the goal is to improve habitat in the South Platte for a variety of fish. And surprise—many anglers in the Carp Slam routinely catch impressive trout, suggesting the potential for a much more robust urban trout fishery. Restoration work started with the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District in 2012, working to enhance the reach of the South Platte by Carson Nature Center to better support native fish, recreational fishing, and riparian habitat. DTU contributed to the District’s effort with $10,000 raised through the Carp Slam and another $80,000 leveraged through a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Fishing is Fun grant. The restoration effort and partnerships have grown exponentially since then. DTU has worked with the City and County of Denver and the Greenwww.HCAezine.com

way Foundation on a South Platte Restoration plan that lays out a restoration vision for the river and corridor all along the Denver South Platte. Millions of dollars are flowing toward efforts to improve several miles of river and to create economic benefits from a healthy South Platte as a new recreational centerpiece of the Denver metro area. While appreciating the broader efforts to improve the entire greenway corridor, DTU has helped keep a strong focus on the river habitat itself. “We’re the ones focused on what’s happening below the waterline,” explains DTU member John Davenport. The Denver South Platte may seem an odd reach for a trout-focused organization to tackle. It is technically defined as a warm water stream, under the aquatic life standards adopted through the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. That classification left many skeptical about the idea of trout fishing in downtown Denver. Yet the evidence has grown over the years that trout live in these waters and, with a little help, could thrive here. “Many of us didn’t quite believe Ronnie,” admits Davenport. “So we tried it ourselves. Even as far up as 88th Avenue, there have been trout caught in the


Carp Slam – and that’s in August.” To better document water temperatures along the river and understand its fishery potential, DTU purchased and placed in-stream loggers starting in February 2016, collecting hourly water temperature data at six sites along the Denver South Platte. Results to date, Davenport says, look very similar to those for the Arkansas River in Pueblo – a river recognized as a valued trout fishery. In late August, I had the chance to join Davenport and Crawford on the Denver South Platte near Elitch Gardens and Sports Authority Field at Mile High, as they came to upload data from one of the temperature loggers – and of course, they brought along their fishing gear. In a matter of minutes, Crawford hooked into a 14-inch rainbow trout. “Do you know how hard it is to catch fish on demand?” Davenport called to Ronnie. Over an hour and a half, the two men continued to fish – while also taking time to upload data from the temperature logger and carefully replace it in its location near the river’s east bank. They hooked into three more sizable trout, as well as smallmouth bass. Meanwhile, the river’s well-known carp looked on.

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Fall 2017


“Carp are swimming all around me,” Crawford said as he waded through a slow moving stretch. “They’re very curious.” While finding a future for trout fishing in downtown Denver is definitely part of DTU’s vision, a healthy river and fishery is the key goal – not just trout. “I call this a potluck stream,” explained Crawford. “You never know what you’re going to get. I’ve hooked carp, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth – all on the same fly and some on the same day.” One of the challenges facing the Denver South Platte are its seasonal low flows, including some zero release days from Chatfield Reservoir where only seepage and input from downstream tributaries maintain flows. To help address that challenge, the State of Colorado – through the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife – have joined with local water users in a reservoir expansion project that includes an expanded environmental pool to help with downstream flows. Under the project, a portion of Chatfield’s storage that

had been reserved for flood control will be available for water supply and environmental releases. The project includes 1,600 acre-feet of storage for the environmental pool – releases from which can benefit the Denver South Platte while also delivering needed water for irrigators along the productive farmlands downstream of Denver. To expand the environmental pool and its benefits for the Denver South Platte, Denver Water in 2016 announced a challenge: it would provide $2 million – half of the cost – toward acquiring another 500 acre feet of storage to help the river, expanding the environmental pool to 2100 acre-feet. The Greenway Foundation has been coordinating matching gifts to meet Denver Water’s challenge. Supporters range from private foundations and individuals to local governments. In addition the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District – whose users will benefit from the water after it flows through the Denver South Platte – is contributing to cover the long-term operations and maintenance costs for the environmental pool.

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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


“It it’s not unprecedented, it’s unusual, exceptional,” said Greenway Foundation Executive Director Jeff Shoemaker. “The fact that so many key people, who meet in a courtroom more often than they court each other, are working together on this, that’s one of the best things about it.” As part of the environmental pool challenge, DTU pledged to contribute funds to cover at least 10 acre-feet. Some DTU members have personally stepped forward with pledges to purchase an acrefoot themselves. Among these donors are Fred and Carolyn Miller. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we’ve dreamed of, being able to buy water storage to help have manageable instream flow through the Denver metro area,” Fred said. While he rarely fishes the Denver South Platte personally, he wanted to help contribute to a healthier local river for Denver’s youth. “I like the thought that there are kids in Denver who might never get the chance to go farther away, but they can learn to fish in their home river,” he said. “The first river I fished was a small river a mile from my home; it’s kind of special to have a river close to you.” Along with contributing to the environmental pool, DTU is also spearheading a “Stream Management Plan” for the Denver South Platte – a science-based, stakeholder-driven process to understand the river’s habitat and how the greatest environmental “bang for buck” can be achieved with the environmental pool releases. With funding support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, DTU and its partners will look at flow/habitat needs for trout and other species, to help inform Colorado Parks and Wildlife decisions about when and how to make environmental pool releases. “Denver Trout Unlimited is honored to support the Chatfield Environmental Pool to protect 32

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and enhance the recreational benefits of the South Platte River,” said DTU chapter president Scott Schrieber. “This project benefits our ecosystem, especially the aquatic life that will flourish as a result of these additional flows.” For Crawford, it is all about making the most of a resource that has been hiding in plain sight. “It’s right under everybody’s nose, but they don’t think about it,” he said. “They don’t know the grand HC array of fish that can be caught here.”

To Contribute... If you’d like to contribute to the purchase of Chatfield water storage for the Denver South Platte, please reach out to Colorado TU’s development director Shannon Kindle for more information on how you can help, at skindle@tu.org.

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reated by the Community First Foundation and fueled by the people of Colorado, Gives Day is the single biggest day of philanthropy in the state. The “Give Where You Live” campaign on the first Tuesday in December each year has grown by leaps and bounds and is recognized as one of the most successful giving days in the country. Gives Day aims to increase philanthropy for organizations across Colorado through their online giving platform, and since 2010, has raised over $145 million dollars benefitting more than 2000 non-profits. Colorado TU is proud to have been a participant in Gives Day since 2013. Each year we have grown in both the total amount of donations received and the number of donors who have given. Through Gives Day over $65,000 in contributions, many from folks new to Colorado TU, have helped us to further our work protecting and restoring Colorado’s rivers and fisheries. Please mark your calendars now for Gives Day 2017 – Tuesday, December 5th. Or beginning November 1st, visit www. coloradogives.org/ColoradoTU and schedule your donation for Gives Day. Every donation made to Colorado TU on Gives Day helps us to qualify for a larger portion of the Community First Foundation’s $1 million Incentive Fund. We’d also like to ask that each of you share


the Colorado TU Gives Day link (www. coloradogives.org/ColoradoTU) with one friend who enjoys our state’s incredible rivers and fishing opportunities. Maybe it’s the person who visits each year so that the two of you can fish your favorite stretch of the Arkansas or the Colorado. Maybe it’s a colleague who is just getting into fly fishing. Or maybe it’s your neighbor who loves to hike and knows that paying close attention to our state’s water resources is more important than ever. Regardless, we at Colorado TU would greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about supporting our work for cold, clean, fishable waters. Please ask them to consider a contribution on Gives Day by visiting www.coloradogives. org/ColoradoTU. Donations on Gives Day allow Colorado TU to expand our native cutthroat trout reintroduction work, build support for waterwise and fish-friendly stream management planning under Colorado’s Water Plan, and get more youth outdoors via the Stream of Engagement youth education programs offered by many of our 24 chapters around the state. Please mark your calendars in support of Colorado TU on Gives Day 2017 – Tuesday, December 5th - and help us keep the victories flowing for rivers and trout!

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler




I Feel the Need for Speed!


orrowing a line from a famous 80’s aviation movie, which was probably borrowed from someone even before that, if one can speed up the tying process, this is usually considered a positive. Not always, though. One of the magical traits of fly tying as a craft, is that there is not a right or wrong way to tie a fly. Oh sure, there are standard patterns and well-practiced techniques, but in the end your fly is just that, your fly. You can tie slow or fast, impressionistic or realistic, minutes or wing material, to produce a shape that would hours per hook. But for those who tie in quantity, includ- otherwise be tediously hand cut—hence the ing but not exclusively production tiers, hours speed. For example, consider a caddis wing. have been spent figuring out ways to cut seconds. Considering the way you wrap the While there many materials that can be used thread, mount the material, pre-tie stages, as a caddis wing, both natural and synthetic, specialty tools, hold your scissors, etc. are all you are making a dry fly pattern and have subject to change for the sake of speed with- chosen foam for the wing. While we can say that cutting one wing by hand may not be difout the sacrifice of quality and durability. One relatively recent innovation in tools ficult, what is challenging is being consistent is a cutter. A cutter is a light duty stamp and uniform for the size of hook you are tying. Then there is tying more in a different formed by a sharp metal blade and mounted in a handle. The blade is shaped and sized to that bout The Author. of various insects or terrestrials. Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, The cutter is repetitively hand and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at pressed into a sheet of fly tying frank@hcamagazine.com. material, commonly foam or a



High Country Angler • Fall 2017


size hook, such as a size 16 vs. a size 12. Then there are stoneflies, mayflies, hoppers, Voila! A cutter punches out a dozen uni- damsels, ants, beetles, crawfish, frogs, crabs, form and consistent wings in a matter of min- poppers, and more. utes. To change sizes, simply change cutters. Check my photo of a dozen foam caddis And this is where the downside comes wings for a size 12 Roaring Fork Caddis. Noalong: while an individual cutter is affordable, tice the uniformity and I’ll let you guess to tie multiple patterns and sizes requires a how long it took to make them! number of cutters. So like many tying tools, from expensive vises to inexpensive whip finish tools, it is a trade-off between iniFRYING PAN CABIN RENTALS tial tool cost and time. With 2561 Frying Pan Rd. Basalt, CO 81621 cutters, you have to judge if • 1 & 2 Bedroom Cabins on the Frying Pan River you tie enough of a pattern to • Fully Equipped Kitchens, Outdoor Decks, Grills, Etc. justify the cost. Some brands • Approx. 1/2 Mile of Privately Owned Property • Located on the 4-Star Frying Pan River offer sets that lower the per • Close to Historic Downtown Basalt each cost. • Available for Weddings & Special Events! Two examples of specific Call for Availability & Rates cutters that get a resounding “yes” to the time vs. cost question are a hopper leg and a damsel body. These are difficult to cut even one, so If you tie in quantity, even say a 38339 US Hwy 50 small quantity such as several Gunnison, CO 81230 dozen a year, get a cutter. 970.641.1442 There are multiple instructional videos available. Some usage tips: hand press the tool—don’t use a striking tool • Walking distance to the gold-medal such as a hammer; always use waters of the Gunnison River the pad that comes with the • Near Blue Mesa Reservoir cutter to avoid damage to the cutter metal, and stamp • Vintage charm and ambiance out the quantity you will be • Great outdoor space needing all at once before ty• Multiple room layouts ing. • Fully stocked kitchens I have personally had success with cutters by River • Spacious boat parking, including Road Creations. As in my free long-term for multiple stays previous example of a caddis wing, they offer 6 hook sizes. HC

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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Donor Spotlight A conversation with River Stewardship Council member, Fred Miller In each issue of High Country Angler, Colorado TU will introduce you to a member of our flagship donor program, the River Stewardship Council (RSC), through the “Donor Spotlight.” Donors to RSC contribute $1000 or more annually to Colorado TU and provide critical support for our work on native trout restoration, grassroots engagement, youth education, and advocacy on behalf of healthy watersheds. • Fred Miller • TU member for over 40 years • River Stewardship Council donor for 2 years; Denver TU donor for 11 years

What brought you to Trout Unlimited? I have been a fisherman since I was 3 years old. What began with fishing with my dad, a cane pole and worm in hand, became a lifelong passion. I came to Colorado in 1969, and some of the first places I fished were Deckers and Cheesman Canyon. Coming out west quickly gave me a greater appreciation for water, and a few years after I arrived was when I first became aware of Colorado TU. During those first years of living in Colorado, I was completing my residency training, but on Friday afternoons I would head out to Cheesman Canyon to camp and fish. My involvement with Trout Unlimited began with joining the Wild Trout Chapter (now the Denver Chapter of TU – DTU). I would attend occasional meetings when the presentations were of interest to me, and got to know some of the key TU leaders in the Denver area – Steve Lopez and Elbert Bivins. It was around the time that the Two Forks Dam proposal was really heating up that I became more involved in what Colorado TU was doing as an organization. Over time I joined the Wild Trout Chapter Board, serving as Secretary and then Treasurer for a number of years. I still serve on the DTU Board and have helped with the CarpSlam fundraising tournament for all of its eleven years.

Why did you become a donor to Colorado Trout Unlimited?


High Country Angler • Fall 2017

Actually, my wife, Carolyn, convinced me to become a donor. We were doing some estate planning and I mentioned that I wanted to include a contribution to Trout Unlimited in that plan. Her comment was something along the lines of, “Why wait? If you give now, you’ll be able to see and enjoy what they do with your money while you’re still here.” Over the years I’ve felt a real passion for the grassroots side of Trout Unlimited, the kind of folks who roll up their sleeves and get involved with their local chapter or use their voice toward an advocacy effort in support of healthy rivers. It took me a bit to realize it takes both sides of the equation – the active grassroots members and the folks who are willing to give significant contributions in support of the work


– to make an organization like Colorado Trout Unlimited successful. Fortunately, my wife and I have been successful in our endeavors and now that our daughters are grown, we have the freedom to be able to donate and financially support the great work that Colorado TU and the DTU Chapter both do.

What are some of the projects Colorado TU works on that interest you most? In the beginning of my time with the Wild Trout Chapter, I was really interested in the Two Forks issue. Back then the chapter had very little money in the treasury, and I was one of the founding chapter members that came up with the idea for CarpSlam as a way to raise money for the chapter. I was really interested in working toward ensuring that the urban South Platte was healthy enough to be a recreational river that, among other things, would be a place for people to fish. Now in its 11th year, CarpSlam has become a sought after carp fishing tournament, and has raised significant funds for restoration projects along the South Platte as it runs through Denver. I am also very interested in the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project, and hope that by contributing to that project, we will be able to help keep the river temperatures down and allow coldwater fish to survive in the South Platte. As for the work that Colorado TU does, I am particularly interested in the stream rehabilitation work being completed around the state, and the increased focus on recognizing the benefit healthy urban waterways provide to their local communities. I also appreciate the advocacy work being done at the state and national levels, and feel it is more important than ever to have a strong, thoughtful voice for protecting clean water.

Please tell us one of your favorite fishing stories. Sometime after the DTU Chapter had made its first contribution to the Carson Nature Center project and construction had moved along pretty far in that reach of the river, John Davenport and I received permission to bypass the construction zone fences


and do some water sampling. We had brought along our fly rods, of course, just in case the mood arose. A European couple was walking along the trail, saw our fly rods, and stopped to ask, somewhat incredulous, if there were really any fish in the South Platte. We of course answered yes, and proceeded to each rig up our rods to see if we could show them. Within less than a minute, both John and I had landed rainbows to show the skeptical couple. Needless to say, it was something akin to beginner’s luck, as we fished for another three hours and neither of us caught another fish.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in New York, attended college in Chicago, and went on to medical school in New Orleans. I went back to New York for some surgical training and then to Missouri to work for the public health service before making my way to Colorado. During my time as an undergrad in Chicago, a friend asked me if I wanted to learn to ski. This was 1959, and I had never been west of the Mississippi. We loaded up a car and drove from Chicago to Iowa, then on to Denver, and finally to Aspen for a week of skiing. I remember thinking that this was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. In 1969 I made my way back to Colorado to do a psychiatry residency and have been here ever since. I met my wife Carolyn that same year, and we were married in 1973. We have two grown daughters. Over the years, I have been fortunate to travel to some amazing places. Recently I’ve been to Cuba and enjoyed the wonderful fishing, as well as the city of Havana. Carolyn’s and my next adventure will be a trip to South Africa. As I’m looking at a bulletin board in my office that holds 30 favorite photos and hangs next to the TU calendar, I’m thinking about how much fishing and time spent outdoors along a stream has helped me to deal with a very stressful professional life. Over the years, I have had to help people from many walks of life through times of incredible trauma and pain. Being outdoors and fishing has served as a very restorative activity for me.

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler



indy Gap bypass closer to reality


n 1985, the Windy Gap Reservoir was completed near Granby, with the 445-acre reservoir plopped in the middle of the headwaters of the Colorado River. What wasn’t fully understood at the time was how the on-channel reservoir would change the hydrology—and degrade the health—of the Upper Colorado River and its Gold Medal fishery downstream. The reservoir blocks fish passage and prevents downstream movement of gravel and cobblesized particles essential for aquatic habitat. . The shallow reservoir also heats up its impounded water, then releases it into the river downstream along with fine sediment, boosting algae, accumulating silt, and impairing water temperatures. Combined with reduced flows due to diversion of water to the Front Range, the reservoir is having a significant impact on aquatic life in the Colorado River. Windy Gap is like a hole in the heart of the 38

High Country Angler • Fall 2017

river. So it was a historic conservation achievement when, after several years of tough negotiations and persistence, Trout Unlimited, the Upper Colorado River Alliance, Northern Colorado water utilities, Grand County, and other river partners agreed to join forces to build a Windy Gap reservoir bypass, which will reconnect the river above and below the reservoir. The bypass is a key element in a larger vision to heal the Upper Colorado—called the Colorado River Headwaters Project—that also includes channel and habitat improvements downstream of the bypass , and improved irrigation systems as well as soil and water quality. This year has seen some major steps forward in that ambitious vision: In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded $7.75 million in fundwww.HCAezine.com

ing for the Headwaters Project to address the impacts of transmountain diversions of water on the Colorado River. Trout Unlimited led a team of partners including local government, water providers, state agencies and landowners in applying for the grant. “We’ll need more funds for the bypass based on updated construction costs, but this gets us a long way toward our goal,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. For the bypass, Whiting said the next step is beginning the NEPA/permitting/public outreach process before the end of the year, with bypass construction slated to begin in 2020. By building a channel around the Windy Gap Reservoir, the www.HCAezine.com

Fall 2017 • High Country Angler




High Country Angler • Fall 2017


Colorado River headwaters will be reconnected, improving seasonal flushing flows, allowing fish migration and enhancing river cobble and aquatic life for miles downstream. “The goal is to restore this section of river to its full potential as a Gold Medal fishery,” she said. “Anglers will benefit, and so will the local recreation economy.” The Windy Gap bypass is the linchpin of a long-term, basin-scale vision to restore the upper Colorado River. Whiting cited a group of landowners, the Upper Colorado River Association (UCRA), for their leadership and persistence in pushing for years for the bypass. Another key piece is the “Learning by Doing” program that requires water utilities and river stakeholders to work together on projects and oversight measures that ensure the future health of the river. And downstream near Kremmling, TU is working in partnership with a group of local ranchers (called ILVK) to restore the river channel so as to improve irrigation water deliv-

ery while at the same time enhancing miles of prime trout habitat. When fully implemented, the Headwaters Project will directly benefit more than 30 miles of the Colorado River and 4,500 acres of irrigated lands and make available up to 11,000 acre-feet of water to improve the river during low-flow conditions. “The Headwaters Project is a model for how water users can work together to make the best use of our water resources while restoring river health,” said Whiting. “In terms of the Upper Colorado river ecosystem, we’re making real progress in putting the pieces of the puzzle back together.” Other Headwaters Project partners who will provide assistance include the ILVK, UCRA, Northern Water Conservation District, Denver Water, Colorado River Conservation District, Middle Park Soil Conservation District, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Col- HC orado Parks and Wildlife.

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Fall 2017 • High Country Angler


Rock Creek: the Return of a Native by Colorado TU Staff


lowing down from the Kenosha Mountains in the Lost Creek Wilderness and ultimately into the headwaters of Tarryall Creek, Rock Creek might not seem like a particularly important stream from among the many thousands of miles of stream across Colorado. A collaboration among Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a local landowner, and 42

High Country Angler • Fall 2017

Trout Unlimited aims to change all of that. In the past couple of years, the uppermost reaches of Rock Creek, above a small natural waterfall barrier, became one of the first stream habitats to welcome back a long-lost resident: the native greenback cutthroat trout. Now, the coalition of partners is looking to expand that stepping stone into a larger connected habitat that can give greenbacks a more www.HCAezine.com


solid foothold in the Tarryall basin. Together, they are looking to install additional temporary barriers on both Rock Creek and its tributary Black Canyon, as well as a downstream permanent barrier on Rock Creek near the Lost Park Road. The eventual goal is to have the full watershed – eight-some miles of quality habitat – restored with the long-vanished trout that once called the area home. www.HCAezine.com

The opportunity for this ambitious project came in part from a remarkable stroke of luck. Part of the project – including the sites for the two Rock Creek barriers – occurs on private land. The landowner, Brent Mefford, retired from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2012 after a 34 year career as a hydraulic/ fisheries engineer focused on fish passage projects. “It is remarkable having a landowner who not Fall 2017 • High Country Angler





High Country Angler • Fall 2017



only values fisheries and having the unique greenback cutthroat trout on their land, but who has the expertise to help make the restoration a reality,” said Colorado Trout Unlimited Executive Director David Nickum. “We couldn’t have asked for a better partner.” Restoring native trout always comes with challenges – ensuring that existing non-native fish are effectively removed, securing the area with effective barriers to prevent re-invasion by downstream non-native fish, and ensuring quality habitat for all life stages of the trout. The Rock Creek project adds another daunting challenge: portions of the watershed have tested positive for whirling disease. Fortunately, CPW has already demonstrated that whirling disease can be eradicated from a small stream habitat. If the area can be kept fishless for some period of time – perhaps two years, maybe a bit more – the parasite that causes the disease will die off for want of its necessary fish host and the system will be cleansed of the disease. The restoration will take place in phases. The first www.HCAezine.com

constructed temporary barrier has now gone in on Rock Creek, and non-native fish above it have been eliminated using a fish toxicant called Rotenone. Because many of those fish could be carrying the spores that transmit whirling disease, TU volunteers joined CPW staff to collect and remove the fish carcasses and help start the effort to break the life cycle of whirling disease in Rock Creek. It may seem like an unlikely volunteer project, but a cadre of TUers trundled up to the stream to do their part in moving greenback restoration forward for Rock Creek. Looking ahead, a second temporary barrier will be constructed on Black Canyon, on U.S. Forest Service land, in 2018 – and similarly to Rock Creek, the non-native trout will be removed from the system to open the way for greenbacks to ultimately be restored. The final downstream barrier is planned for construction in 2019. Once whirling disease is successfully eliminated from the lower portions of Rock Creek, the stream up from that barrier will be ready for greenbacks to be stocked. “Reclamation projects like this take a lot of preparation, planning, execution, and especially partners,” said CPW biologist Jeff Spohn. “CPW is excited to be a participant in this endeavor and looks forward to the establishment of greenbacks into this system once whirling disease has been removed from the lower watershed.” In addition to the direct fish restoration efforts, the U.S. Forest Service is decommissioning a section of road and some dispersed campsites that have been harming the stream. They will install a new trailhead and parking area – providing access to the public land portions of Rock Creek, as well as to the popular Ben Tyler and Colorado Trails. “To have so many partners contributing to this effort spanning public and private land, it is really amazing,” said Nickum. “Everyone is really committed to making this watershed a healthy home HC for a Colorado native that needs it.”

To Learn More. To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Unlimited, visit, www.coloradotu.org. Fall 2017 • High Country Angler




Anti-fishing In disguise?


Catch and release might be considered to be a “Code of Practice” for many anglers, especially trout anglers who limit themselves to flies or lures. I recently heard some talk about a “Global Code of Practice” for fishing being developed. What is it about – and does it make sense for fisheries?


Codes of Practice and/or Best Management Practices seem to be an “in thing” these days. Generally speaking, I support them to the extent that they serve to protect public health, environmental quality, and consistent product quality. Manufacturing processes and even hatchery production of fish respond well to such codes and guidelines for maintaining quality. However, angling is not a matter of producing a standardized product. Angling encompasses a wide array of cultural practices and emotional responses. Commercial fishing and recreational angling can both be defined 46

High Country Angler • Fall 2017

as “capture” fisheries; however, the practices and experiences of commercial fishing are quite different from recreational angling. Management regulations for capture fisheries, commercial or recreational, usually are designed to cover a variety of cultural and biological purposes. However, they generally avoid personal beliefs and ethics. The practices of, and reasons for, recreational fishing usually are different from commercial fisheries and vary widely from nation to nation. Recreational fisheries have deep roots in cultural traditions. Management regulations typically recognize these traditional roots and avoid intrusions into personal beliefs and ethics. Management goals, objectives, and the strategies for achieving them also need to be adaptable to local conditions, biological and cultural. Local/regional human culture and ecological conditions determine the operations and regulations of each fishery. Regulations and management strategies

that are acceptable and effective in the Adirondack Mountains of New York may be anathema in the high country of Colorado. Trying to extend such regulations and management practices through a Global Code seems a fool’s errand. However, such codes and their growing application in Europe have been discussed in relatively recent issues of Fisheries, the technical magazine of the American Fisheries Society. Interestingly to me, the European codes of ethical practices for recreational fisheries appears to be focused on eliminating a common North America practice that is usually designed to maintain stable, sustainable populations of fish: catch and release. Nearly everyone involved with angling is familiar with catch and release fisheries, or other practices designed to reduce harvest, such as size limits and fly and lure only restrictions. These are regulatory concepts, usually applied locally in specific waters. They are designed to maintain fishable populawww.HCAezine.com

tions, support “quality” fisheries, and to distribute catch among more anglers. The proposal for a Global Code of Practice for Recreational Fisheries appears to originate within animal welfare and animal rights movements, which have a long history in Europe. Proponents argue that fish experience fear, pain, and anguish when hooked and captured. They claim it is simply unethical to “torture” animals simply for the purpose of recreation. Thus, it is acceptable to these people to capture fish by hook and line if, and only if, the human needs food. Subsistence fishing would be acceptable under the Global Code, but catch and release fishing as a form of human recreation would not be acceptable. The push for such a code stems from a pseudo-scientific effort to impose human qualities onto other creatures. Anthropomorphism, the practice of attributing such human characteristics and capabilities to other animals, or even to inanimate www.HCAezine.com

objects, is widespread but it has no basis in fact. Fish are wonderful creatures, great at being fish, but they are different from humans. For life in water, they are far superior to us; survival in their domain requires different capabilities from human characteristics. The ability to sense potentially harmful conditions, including escaping predators, is part of a fish’s world, but the human experience of pain after the fact of injury is of no survival value to a fish. Never-theless, many humans observing a fish’s struggle to escape when hooked by an angler attribute the struggle to pain rather than escape behavior. All rigorous scientific evidence to date shows that this

is not the case: fish have survived for millions of years by avoiding trauma, including capture; not by experiencing “pain”. However, if one rejects the science and instead imposes the human experience onto fish, it’s then an easy step to a pseudo-ethical decision to make recreational angling unethical and, if possible, illegal… unless, perhaps, the purpose of angling is to provide essential food for the angler. That is clearly the goal of the anti-fishing crowd. A Global Code of Practice for Recreational Fisheries that ignores scientifically valid evidence and instead is based on erroneous beliefs about fish “sensitivities” is unacceptable, and must be opposed. HC


bout 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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High Country Angler • Fall 2017




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High Country Angler | Fall 2017