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Popper Fishing for Bass by Brian LaRue

Predator on the Fly by Landon Mayer

2021 COLORADO TU ANNUAL REPORT

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FALL 2021 VOLUME 18 • ISSUE 4

MAGAZINE CONTENTS 08

PREDATOR ON THE FLY

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FRIENDS OF THE FISH

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31

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56

64

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BY LANDON MAYER BY JOEL EVANS

POPPER FISHIN’ FOR BASS BY BRIAN LARUE

BOOKENDS ON THE BOULDER BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

COLORADO TROUT UNLIMITED ANNUAL REPORT BY CO. TU STAFF

INSTARS

BY PETER STITCHER

SUMMER 2021 IN CTU’S HEADWATERS YOUTH PROGRAM BY GEOFF ELLIOT

THE LAST CAST

BY JOHN NICKUM

High Country Angler • Fall 2021

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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 : ( 303) 502- 4019 M ar k Shulm an, Ad S ales Cell: ( 303) 668- 2591 m ar k@ hc am agaz i ne.co m

DESIG N

David M ar tin, Creative Direc tor & Graphic D esigner aisthetadesign.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, Peter Stitcher 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 1536 Wynkoop Street, Suite 320 Denver, CO 80202 www.coloradotu.org

ON THE COVER: Erin Crider, Courtesy of Christopher Dowell Photography

TOC PHOTO: by Landon Mayer www.HCAezine.com

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TIGER MUSKIE, CAUGHT BY CHRISTIAN PETER NEUKOM PHOTO BY LANDON MAYER

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High Country Angler • Fall 2021

by L and o n Maye r www.HCAezine.com


Pointers for Predator on the Fly T

o catch a predator fish, you need to think like a predator fish! I love the challenge of hunting large trout and e sox because the risk can be worth the reward. Yes, there are many hours and days with not even a hint of a giant, but the effort will supply so much knowledge—making every new adventure more successful. The following list of pointers are helpful tips for rivers and still water alike:

1)

TIMING IS EVERYTHING—whether you are timing the season, hatch, or time of day, this is very important for locating giants. While these aggressive fish are opportunistic, they are also creatures of habit and can be very lazy by nature. A favorite example of this is Callibaetis May Flies on still water. Callibaetis—or as I like to refer to them, trout candy—are a favorite food supply of large trout with massive hatches that can last hours. In addition to the fact that when the duns and spinner adults land on the water surface, they make like a statue and don’t move. This becomes a nonescaping meal for trout, and one they will not pass up. When timing this hatch, keep a close eye on the weather.  On warm days, the hatch kicks off at 9-10:00 am, and on those cold brisk late-summer early-fall mornings, the hatch can kick off as late as 12:00-1:00pm. While you can catch fish before and after this bug fest, the largest trout in numbers will be here feeding hard near the bank, around weeds and structure in reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and creeks. In still waters, the draw of numbers of trout will sound the alarm to other predators like pike, and Tiger Muskie.  Up to 60 percent of the largest E Sox that I or clients have landed are during the feeding frenzy. To ensure a chance to catch trout and e Sox, I like to mix the food supply imitations with a Candy Shop Callibaetis dry fly on the surface, while dropping a Mini Leech Jig Radiant, or Mini Leech Jig Damsel below for the large water wolfs that cruise the bank looking for bite-sized snacks between eating other fish. For river timing, it is hard to beat the evening Caddis hatch in the last hours of light. Try to time it when you see millions of fluttering adults above the vegetation lining the river’s edge, and ultimately the skittering and diving adults that the trout goes nuts over. Skating an adult imitation like a #14-18 Puterbaugh Caddis dry fly with a trailing #16-18 brass bead Guides Choice soft hackle Hares Ear 18-24 inches below can be very effective. 


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2)

PRIME FEEDING ZONES- When searching productive water for predators, try to imagine where you would hold if you were at the top of the food chain. The location that offers cover, oxygen, and food with the element of surprise—locations that offer a chance to ambush their prey. For river settings, I like to target the transition spot when a riffle or soft seam drops into a deep run, in front of rocks and boulders, and the edge of the river next to undercut banks and hanging grass. A lot  of

these locations can be found in the water between deep conventional runs that receive too much pressure and cause most fish to spoon—including predators. For still waters, I am a huge fan of dark water deliveries. Hunters like Pike and Tiger Muskie often hang out in the warm vegetation at the bottom of a bay, waiting to ambush their prey. Drop lines when the water depths can go from a few feet, to 10 feet or more in the length of a few feet. This will create dark water gridirons that large trout can cruise and hide in while searching for food. Lastly, look for vegetation and rocks for structure that draws in food supplies like bugs, bait fish, and crayfish. Big fish can lie in wait for these meals to arrive, or simply sneak up on them.

3)

MATCHING THE MENU- Take the time to research not only what food supplies are available for fish at the top of the food chain, but how they move. My favorite examples of this are crayfish. Not only are these tail-flipping creatures known to grow to lengths up to 7- inches, they are a favorite of water wolves and trout. For all food supplies I look for three

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key features: size, color, and movement. Along with matching the hatch with insects, don’t be afraid to downsize the fly. This can help the imitation appear natural to the fish, because the meal can come in a variety of sizes.  When selecting color, the most effective approach is to try at least two different shades. This can change day- to- day and with the time of day with different light, water clarity, and locations. Crayfish are another great example of this, with body shades in olive, rust, and ginger; there’s also a hint of blue from the claws in many species. The final piece to the menu puzzle is movement. From getting jiggy with it using imitations such as the Mini Leech Jig Radiant/Damsel, Meat Whistle, or Lunch Manet, to swimming style flies such as the Finesse Game Changer, Drunk Disorderly, and Muddled Daddy. You want imitations that move like the real thing and that with a changing speed of the retrieve, can trigger a take. I wish everyone positive results for the pointers in

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this article, and please remember to protect spawning trout by fish (pre) before and (post) after the reproduction ritual begins. For more detailed tips like this, check out my latest The Hunt for Giant Trout book (Stackpole Books 2019).

About The Author Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books. His newest books, The Hunt for Giant Trout, and Sight Fishing for Trout (Second Edition) can be purchased on his website, at www.landonmayerflyfishing.com. His newest video, Master the Short Game, by Headwater Media, can be purchased at www.mastertheshortgame.com. You can follow Landon on Instagram at @ landonmayerflyfishing.

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Friends of the Fish by Joel L. Evans


3,400 feet of river. $1,586,000.

D

evelopment. Floodplain. Flow modifications. Encroachments. Bank stabilization. Storm water. Functional ecosystem. Channel alignment. Marginal fish habitat. Improved fish habitat. Angling access. Reservoir releases. Land donation. Native vegetation. Overly wide channel. Riparian habitat. Altered flows. Mineral content.

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Urban Renewal Authority. $784,000 in grants. Colorado Water Conservation Board. Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Colorado Healthy Rivers. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Like puzzle pieces waiting to be joined, these numbers and buzzwords and partners have indeed been joined at the Uncompahgre River in Montrose. Follow me on a journey of the Uncompahgre River – past, present, and future.

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Past – Colorado has mountains, mountains have snow, snow makes rivers. If you were to read a Colorado fishing guidebook of 10 or more years ago, well known rivers would make for chapter after chapter. But unlikely to be found among the chapters would be the Uncompahgre River in west central Colorado. Change for the better began in 1987 with the completion of Ridgway Reservoir near Ridgway, Colorado. The Uncompahgre headwaters south of Ouray, flows 75 miles north thru the Uncompahgre Valley in the vicinity of Montrose, eventually joining the Gunnison River at Delta. Historically a river of sediment, high mineral content, and warm temperatures, the trout fishery was marginal. Ridgway Reservoir, built primarily for agricultural irrigation storage, changed the river dynamic. The reservoir collects sediments and the Uncompahgre River exits cleaner and cooler. The reservoir is also a Colorado state park, important for public access. Present – Except for a significant city park section within the city limits of Montrose, the Uncompahgre River flows mostly thru private land. One such piece

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of undeveloped private land within the city limits, acres actually, is on the northern / downstream end of Montrose. Enter Colorado Outdoors. Colorado Outdoors is a private development company that purchased 164 acres of land just a few years ago, including Uncompahgre River frontage on the north side of Montrose. Colorado Outdoors is building an outdoor industry campus, to be built out over multiple years. Not coincidentally, the owners of Colorado Outdoors are also the owners of Mayfly Outdoors, which manufactures fly fishing brands Ross Reels, Abel Reels, and Airflo flylines. Ross Reels has been headquartered and manufactured in Montrose for decades under different ownership. Mayfly built the first structure in the new river property development and moved the Ross manufacturing operation to the new facility. Other buildings are in process. Very important to this story, is that because of the fly fishing passion, Colorado Outdoors donated the recently acquired river portion of the development to the City of Montrose via the Montrose Urban Renewal Authority.

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Yes, that is correct, a private land developer didn’t just allow public access to the river, they deeded the river corridor to the City. So previously private land is now public. Over the past two years, an advisory river committee met and guided a significant river habitat improvement project. Partners include: Colorado Outdoors, Gunnison Gorge Anglers the local Trout Unlimited chapter, Friends of the River Uncompahgre, Telluride Outside, a local fly shop, Montrose Urban Renewal Authority, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and City of Montrose. Recall my opening numbers 3,400 feet of river and $1,586,000? This represents the linear feet of river being treated and the cost. The 3,400 feet, over one-half mile, is Phase 1, which was comwww.HCAezine.com

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pleted this past spring 2021. Work started the previous winter while flows were naturally low, allowing extensive in-stream improvements, with professionally designed pool and riffle sequences using natural materials to mimic a natural stream look. Ecological Resource Consultants did the design and Naranjo Civil Constructors did the work. Future - Phase 2 and Phase 3, construction to be completed later, will add another 5,300 feet making the total over one and one-half miles. But even without improvements, the yet to be treated Phase 1 and Phase 2 sections have some natural habitat and hold fish, and importantly, are open to public fishing. I’ll come back to the present and the Uncompahgre and the Colorado Outdoors story, but some background first to give a perspective of why this latest work is significant. As I mentioned, the Uncompahgre River has historically not been a healthy trout fishery, but change began with the building of Ridgway Reservoir and Ridgway State Park. The park boundary included about a mile of river below the dam. Coincident with the completion of the dam, due to the efforts of the Gunnison Gorge Anglers, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, plans were in place for a major river habitat restoration for the tailwater. Pac-Co-Chu-Puk, a Ute Indian name for the park

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section below the dam, is indeed now a well-known fishery on the Uncompahgre River. New river fishing guides do now have an Uncompahgre River chapter. I won’t go into access and fishing detail about Pac-CoChu-Puk here, as that is not the point of this story. What’s important for this story is that Pac-Co-ChuPuk, due to money and cooperative efforts of many interested but divergent partners, has become an outstanding fishery, demonstrating that the Uncompahgre River, in spite of being fish habitat-challenged and with minimal public access, can be transformed. A model for other habitat improvement projects. One other such river habitat project occurred a few years ago, in two phases, within the Montrose City limits. Riverbottom Park, a longtime city park, includes the Uncompahgre River, which flows not just near Montrose, but actually within Montrose. Again, the Gunnison Gorge Anglers spearheaded the restoration idea, and with grant money from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and funding from the City of Montrose, about a mile of public river is now a quality fishery. See a trend here? The story I want to tell is that the Uncompahgre River has great potential, and while one isolated habitat improvement by itself is wonderful, it is the cumulative addition of each project that gives critical environmental mass. The story I want to

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tell is that the recent Colorado Outdoors project not only adds to the linear footage of improved river, it is a fishery tipping point that connects with previous work; it began not with public property, but private property, all within the city limits of a town. Today, within the Colorado Outdoors property, 41 acres of river corridor has been donated to the public, a concrete walking path extends along the river, the river has significant trout habitat with more river work to come, and presumably of great interest to you and me, a large biomass of trout is present for us to fool with a fly. This town section of the Uncompahgre is somewhat different in its annual flow regime. Due to irrigation inflows and outflows at multiple points upstream of Montrose, the river thru town is non-typical in that flows in summer don’t abate after spring run-off. Irrigation flows remain high until late summer or early fall. While fishable year-round, when irrigation flows discontinue, fishing heats up. To protect and improve

the fishing, the Colorado Outdoors section is fly and lure only, and catch and release. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife has stocked rainbows, and due to the water quality and habitat improvement, along with the restrictive fishing regulation, there is a wild population of fish—primarily browns with a few rainbows— some measured in pounds instead of inches. Visionary thinking projects a future with additional habitat work and public access. Sometimes a river is a naturally excellent fishery, and sometimes, like the Uncompahgre, it just needs a friend.

About The Author Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at frank@hcamagazine.com.

STONEFLY NETS Reclaiming a Tradition

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Popper Fishin’ For Ba Fun Stuff, No Matter Where!

W

ell, this year has been full of twists and turns--mostly thanks to our late, heavy winter storm-- then a quick runoff, and finally, hot and dry La Nina conditions hampering much of Colorado, and the West in general. For Father’s Day though, I enjoyed a trip with my kids to visit my parents, and of course, no travel is complete without a little fishing. With that said, Southern California’s Barrett Lake called to us. Yeah, for sure, a bit

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of a curveball from my normal destinations, but I gave our CO waters a break this summer! The morning we fished started out cool and calm, and stick-ups were moving in the shallows. If you have ever bass fished, that means a fish is slowly swimming through the flood bushes, looking for a meal. That also means it’s a great time to throw a weedless topwater treat: something like a Freaky Frog, Skipper Frog, Classic Popper or a Silver Shiner.

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ass

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by Brian La Rue Fall 2021 • High Country Angler

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Man, was I rusty. I haven’t done this kind of topwa- for a short season, three days a week, and tickets must ter fishing for bass in cover for years! I enticed three be bought about a month ahead of time via Ticketstrikes on the white/shad colored weedless popper master (as they sell out within minutes each month on the first three casts along the shoreline. Armed when they go on sale. If you want to go in June—sales with a 20-pound, 7-foot leader—I was thinking more typically go live early May etc.). The barbless, catchabout pulling the 2- to 5-pound bass out of the thick and-release fishery rivals all the Southern California cover fast, more so than letting the bass take the pop- lakes, and the limited access makes it one of a kind. I per down and then hitting it with a hard hookset, to fished this lake a few times 20+ years ago, and knew counter the weedless rig. I was 0/3 off the bat---yikes. my son would get into to some serious bass fishing for I was fishing with my son and an old friend, both of whom were using baitcasters and spinning setHelping You Keep Your ups with poppers and plastic frogs Eyes on the Big Ones with barbless hooks. I was falling behind quickly until I remembered how to be patient on a strong Full Service hookset, powering the 8WT to get Fly Fishing Pro Shop the hook into a fish. Soon enough & Guide Service I was catching largemouth in the Schedule a 2- to 3-pound range regularly. The Trip Today! fishing here is always unbelievable 970-944-2526 and I’ll tell you why. Lake City, Colorado Barrett Lake is about 1,000 acres FULL in size, and only open for fishing The Sportsman Outdoors & Fly Shop www.lakecitysportsman.com 970-944-2526 COLOR

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High Country Angler • Fall 2021

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the first time! The topwater fishing is unbelievable there-- always. You’ll find flooded brush, sunken trees, and grassy inlets offering willing fish. It’s the kind of fishery that, If it looks fishy and your cast is somewhere near structure, you will get a hit within two or three twitches. Sometimes, just the splash of the popper landing is enough! The three of us shared a rental boat— one of the boats that are “rented” via your entrance ticket. For about $90, you get a boat and up to four anglers on it for the day. They maybe allow 10 rental boats a day and then a small number of tubers/ kayakers as well. Back on the water, it started to get hot! The heat was taking its toll on us, but the fishing was still on. It was only about 11 AM, and we’d caught and released 60+ bass. The topwater bite had slowed a bit, so something like a worm/leech pattern in blue/green or brown/blue did well. Also, action is good on crawdad imitations like a Chuckwagon,

CreekCrawler or a Hell Razor Craw. Browns, blues and blacks will turn heads here, much like anywhere you target bass. The lake is far enough away from the city that you also see a bunch of wildlife while you are fishing. On this day we saw a few deer running down a hillside.

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They were acting like something wasn’t quite right. A few seconds later a doe and a couple fawns came over the rise. One fawn broke off from the group and that’s when we saw the mountain lion that was creating all the fuss. Pretty amazing site to see the live action about 300 yards away. The chase went back over the hill and out of sight. Later in the day, maybe two hours later, we saw about 10 buzzards circling the spot where the chase went over the hill—so I’d say the cat got its prize. So back to the fishing. I highly recommend Barrett Lake. If you ever find yourself traveling for business or pleasure to the San Diego area, you owe it to yourself to plan at least a month ahead and get tickets to hit this amazing fishery. Fishing here will make your trip to crowded California more enjoyable and

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exciting. Just remember, when you fish poppers for bass, Tip #1: you must wait even longer than the time you spend waiting for a Green River trout to rise to a well-placed cicada. Tip #2: if you fish a weedless fly, make sure you have a rod with a little backbone so you can set a hook—not like Bill Dance—but awful close! Happy Trails. As always, reach out with any questions and I’ll be glad to help you out.

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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A GUIDE’S LIFE

BY HAYDEN MELLSOP

Bookends on the Boulder

S

caring the daylights out of me, an owl alights from a willow branch and ghosts between the trees, dissolving into the darkness of the meadow beyond. Heart racing, I empty my bladder against the trunk and return inside, light a burner and boil water. Outside again, dressed against the chill, sipping hot tea in silence, I watch as the sun’s first rays color the mountaintops to the west. Back inside, I flick on a light and study a rudimentary map, deciding on a course of action. Within an hour’s drive from the cabin flows any one of a number of famous rivers, but my interest is drawn elsewhere. The cabin sits toward the narrow end of a tapering valley which, yesterday upon arrival, had been soaked in the soft glow of evening, long shadows cast across cattle grazing on a checkerboard of hay meadows interspersed with the occasional barn or ranch house. The road and a small river intertwined like two strands of DNA up the valley’s center, with mountains rising in the distance, squat and purple in the gathering darkness. On the map, the blue line of the river and the black of the road come together where the valley pinches close like the waist of an hour glass, then rise steeply before the countryside opens out again into a serpentine valley. The black line peters out after several miles, while the blue line continues to meander. I decide the famous waters can wait. Unable to decide between bacon and sausage, I cook some of each then point the truck upcountry, toward the highlands. The blacktop ends where the valley constricts, at first to manicured gravel, until I cross a bridge and the potholes and rock ledges begin. The mountains part sufficiently to allow

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both the river and an occasional small meadow to nestle between them. I drive until I guess it’s been a half hour since I’ve last seen a telephone pole or side road, then turn down a narrow rutted track through mud and standing water to a flat spot among some trees and park. Across the river a meadow’s grasses hold the last traces of summer’s color, and an occasional aspen flares golden amongst the uniform green of the firs blanketing the higher ground. The river flows clear over grey and tan cobbles with wisps of dark green algae that undulate gently in the current on the downstream ends of the larger rocks. A surging wind gusts from several directions at once, and off-white clouds scud between the peaks, but the air is warm and pleasant. After fifteen minutes of carefully working the current seams and eddy lines of the first run, an elbow bend that empties into a cut bank, I take a nice rainbow. The fish rises to sniff at my dry and at first refuses, before following it downstream, indecisive, nose high, weighing its options before committing. Over the next six hours, I hike a couple of miles of stream and see not another fish, nor trace of one. Suddenly, I notice shadows are falling across the water in dark fingers from the firs lining the opposite bank, and I reach a place where a rapid tumbles out of a steep dog-leg in a series of boulder-y drops. I stand at the base of the last of these, the water soft and aerated, white like a veil laid down on emerald, and drift a semisubmerged mayfly emerger along a bubble line that snakes between large boulders. The fish rises to it in the shadows and I don’t see the take, but set by instinct to a gentle disturbance on the water’s surface. I play the fish around a

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couple of boulders before kneeling in the water rock and water reasserts itself and my footprints and drawing it to my hand. Its dark olive topside disappear. fades to pale yellow along its sparsely spotted It is late in the evening and I sit again on the flanks, the slashes under its jaw vibrant orange, deck, this time margarita in hand instead of tea, matching its gill plates. It lies quietly across my thinking of bookends and late-day salvation. Alpalm with apparent acceptance of its fate until I though the sun has set, its rays curve from below lower it back in the water and it slowly swims free. the horizon to light the bellies of the clouds orStanding, I stretch out my back and look up- ange and red. The marg performs its magic, unstream toward the head of the pool and the cas- tying the fisherman’s knot in my shoulders and cade beyond. I wonder how long the river here easing the ache in my calves and thighs. I toast has been tumbling its course, and how long cut- Montana, and cutthroats. throats have lived and died in this thin ribbon of About The Author life, playing their part in the great clockwork, and Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander living in the for how much longer they mountain town of Salida, Colorado, on the banks of the will. While standing my Arkansas River. As well as being a semi-retired fly fishing boots have sunk an inch or two into the pea gravel, guide, he juggles helping his wife raise two teenage and as I turn and wade to daughters, along with a career in real estate. shore the equilibrium of

Hayden Mellsop Fly fishing guide. Real Estate guide.

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

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TROUT UNLIMITED in Colorado FY 21 IN REVIEW


Chapters

Co l o TU in Colorado & Chapters’ Impact

rado

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Alpine Anglers Boulder Flycasters Cherry Creek Anglers Collegiate Peaks Colorado River Headwaters Cutthroat Denver Trout Unlimited Dolores River Anglers Eagle Valley Evergreen Ferdinand Hayden Five Rivers Gore Range Anglers Grand Valley Anglers Gunnison Angling Society Gunnison Gorge Anglers Pikes Peak Purgatoire River Anglers Rocky Mountain Flycasters San Luis Valley Southern Colorado Greenback St. Vrain Anglers West Denver Yampa Valley Fly Fishers

April 2020 - March 2021

28,558

Total Volunteer Hours

12

Veterans Programs

Featured FY 21 Report Cover The Colorado Trout Unlimited FY21 report features Dr. Ashley Rust, an Aquatic Scientist/Limnologist with DiNatale Water Consultants, standing among the burn scar of the historic East Troublesome Fire outside of Granby, CO. Dr. Rust’s current research is focused on forest fire impacts on water quality in streams and lakes. Dr. Rust is also conducting research in stream restoration for a project on the urban corridor of the South Platte in Denver. She is a technical advisor for both Colorado Trout Unlimited and National Trout Unlimited when they need to participate in water quality policy advisory committees. Learn more about how more frequent and large fires will affect Colorado’s stream habitats on page 12. Photo by Joshua Duplechian/Trout Unlimited.

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Youth Events

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Conservation & Community Science Events


A Note from Matt Moskal, CTU President ANTI-FRAGILE: SO MUCH MORE THAN RESILIENT

The concept of anti-fragility is not new. Its roots lie in mathematics and philosophy, but the term returned to prominence after Oxford University’s Nassim Taleb popularized it in his 2012 book by the same title. The definition is simple - something that is anti-fragile does not merely withstand a shock but actually improves because of it. The obvious analogy is the immune system. Expose the body to a small or inactive quantity of a pathogen and the body manufactures antibodies to fight off future infections resulting in a more robust immune system. 2020/21 was hell for far too many people and I’ll admit that Colorado Trout Unlimited wasn’t immune to the hardship of the year. But in the depths of our lowest points, as the pandemic prevented many of our in-person efforts and record wildfires ripped through some of our most cherished watersheds, something spectacular happened to our organization - we not only survived, we grew stronger. If Colorado Trout Unlimited had antibodies that work to keep it healthy, those antibodies would surely be its people. It was our members, donors, volunteers, staff and partners who stepped up to ensure that despite the challenges, we continued to fulfill our stated mission. This report is a summary of those successes state-wide and, in my humble opinion, serves as evidence of our collective resolve, our ability to adapt, and our inexhaustible commitment to the fight for cold, clean, Colorado watersheds. I’m not a scientist. But most of the smart people that I know have pointed to climate change and the front range population explosion as indicators that our western watershed challenges will intensify. This only makes our mission more critical, but our ability to improve in the face of those challenges is what will truly even the odds. When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’. With deep gratitude for your continued support,

12,620 Grassroots members

24

active Chapters

28

professional Staff

$815K+

Volunteers’ time value*

*based on Independent Sector’s study estimating Colorado’s 2020 volunteer value of $28.54 per hour.

Table of Contents I M PAC T & P R E S I D E N T ’ S L E T T E R

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ADVOCACY

4-5

N AT I V E T R O U T

6

DEMAND MANAGEMENT

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H E A D WAT E R S P R O G R A M - YO U T H E D U C AT I O N

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STREAM MANAGEMENT

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H A B I TAT R E S OT R AT I O N

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P U B L I C L A N D S A N D H A B I TAT

12 - 13

A BA N A D O N E D M I N E R E C L A M AT I O N

14 - 15

TU’S LEGACY OF PROTECTION

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AWARD RECOGNITIONS

17

FINANCIALS & DONORS

18 - 19

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ADVOCACY

New gravel mine defeated along the Colorado River Colorado Trout Unlimited rang in the New Year by playing a prominent role in pushing back a proposed industrial gravel mine along a section of the upper Colorado River that many anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers consider nothing short of “sacred.” TU members and locals rallied together to speak out against the plan by a newly formed company known as Rincon Materials to remove some 225,000 tons of gravel per year from a privately owned 107-acre parcel abutting the popular Dotsero Landing boat launch purchased through Eagle County Open Space tax funding and managed for recreational access by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Members of the local angling community spearheaded the opposition to the mine that would scar the hillside for decades to come, including Ben McCormick of Cutthroat Anglers and Jack Bombardier of Confluence Casting as well as the local Eagle Valley Trout Unlimited chapter. Through written comments and in-person testimony, they spoke out against the plan to dig multiple pits along the river corridor adjacent to the 38-acre Dewey Park conservation easement, just downstream from the mouth of the Deep Creek Wild & Scenic

River nomination. “Considering the outdoor recreation and agricultural value of this area, putting an industrial site at its gateway makes no sense,” Bombardier stated. “It will permanently alter the landscape while benefiting very few.” Ultimately, the Eagle County Planning Commission agreed, voting 4-2 against awarding both a special use permit for the sand and gravel pit and an exemption from the Dotsero Area Community Plan governing land use, which prioritizes agricultural and recreational use of the area and with which the proposed mine did not comply. This victory was largely due to the local activism led by members of the angling community.

“The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives”

J AY N K A R L

RSC and Stream Guardian Society donor

Photo Credit: BLM Photo by Bob Wick

Feds Put Brakes on Risky Tennessee Pass Railroad Proposal

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he Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) put a pause on the Midland and Pacific Railway Company’s effort to fasttrack approval for leasing the Union Pacific

Railroad line over Tennessee Pass through STB’s exemption process. The railroad had requested a streamlined “non-controversial” exemption that would move ahead its lease for the line. The STB rejected that request in order to allow time for a more robust review of the proposal. Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups, along with Chaffee County’s Board of County Commissioners and many local citizens, filed comments with the STB raising concerns and making it clear that the proposal certainly was not “noncontroversial.”

Along the Arkansas River near Granite. Colorado. From Wikimedia Commons

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The Tennessee Pass line has been dormant for 24 years. During its previous operations, it had a history of safety concerns

including derailments. In a joint letter, Colorado TU and the Collegiate Peaks, Eagle Valley, and Southern Colorado Greenbacks chapters raised concern that the operations could put at risk fisheries in both the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers that have improved dramatically over those years – including more than 100 miles of Gold Medal water on the Arkansas. A derailment could release significant volumes of hazardous materials into the river, jeopardizing its high-quality fishery. Given the importance of river-based recreation to communities in both valleys, it would have also jeopardized local economies as well. Thankfully the STB heard the concerns of TU and other local advocates and denied the exemption.


West Slope Water Funded through Ballot Measure 7A Colorado’s western slope voters showed a broad and bipartisan consensus of support for investment in the Colorado River. With approval from more than 70% of voters, Ballot Measure 7A easily passed and will provide much-needed funding to the Colorado River Water Conservation District. The measure was supported by a diverse coalition of interests – including Trout Unlimited.

Responsible Oil and Gas Development in Colorado

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s the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) passed new regulations, Colorado TU and National TU worked in harmony to secure groundbreaking changes for protecting aquatic and riparian habitat. Colorado Senate Bill 19-181 required the COGCC to expand the agency’s mission to safeguard wildlife and its habitat against potential adverse impacts of oil and gas development. This provided a once-ina-decade opportunity to ensure strong protections for wildlife and its habitat, which include cold-water fisheries, streams and riparian zones across the state. Massive stakeholder input started in November 2019 and concluded in November 2020. The rulemaking hearings spanned 180 hours of presentations, witness testimony and deliberations. CTU joined as a formal party to the hearings as part of a coalition with aligned sporting conservation groups, which included Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation. CTU members provided expert witness testimony, wrote letters to publications and sent in over 500 written comments to the COGCC in support of additional protections for cold-water fisheries. To that end, the Commission voted unanimously to adopt revisions to its rules to:

Increase buffers from 300’ avoidance to 500’ protection around important aquatic habitats - an increase around cutthroat and Gold Medal waters.

Create 500-foot ‘No Surface Occupancy’ buffers for all aquatic High Priority Habitat streams identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, including designated cutthroat trout habitat, Gold Medal streams, sportfishmanaged waters and native species conservation waters. Nearly all of Colorado’s trout habitat will enjoy this increased protection.

Require stronger spill prevention measures within 1,000 feet of aquatic High Priority Habitat.

For pipeline stream crossings, mandates to bore beneath streams in aquatic High Priority Habitat areas rather than trenching across it, which will help avoid impacts to fish habitat.

In addition, COGCC will require operators to consult with Colorado Parks and Wildlife for locations proposed in migration corridors for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn. They also must prepare Wildlife Mitigation Plans if approved to operate in migration corridors, which should plan to minimize impacts on wildlife and habitat and offset adverse impacts through mitigation projects or fees. The new rule marks the end of a six-year effort to protect Colorado’s most valuable waters. Wins like this don’t come easy, but we don’t give up on good ideas, and we leverage the power of TU staff and grassroots to finish the job when we have an opportunity to succeed. That hard work pays off for the fish, streams, rivers and for anglers everywhere.

The voter-approved measure will increase property taxes by a half-mill – or an extra $1.90 per year for every $100,000 of residential home value. While a modest cost for property owners, the measure will provide nearly $5 million annually for the River District to invest in securing western slope water. Funds will be used for projects across five categories: productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, and conservation and efficiency.

Following passage of 7A, the Colorado River District’s Board finalized a new program (The Partnership Project Funding Program) that will fund West Slope water projects. The first project funded by the program was the Colorado River Connectivity Channel near Windy Gap Reservoir in Grand County (pictured above). The longplanned yet underfunded project will receive $1 million in support of healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality.

Learn more about the Windy Gap Bypass Project:

www.coloradotu.org/ the-colorado-river

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connectivity helps trout take care of themselves N AT I V E T R O U T

Restoring Colorado’s Native Trout

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rout Unlimited continued to help lead the way in restoring Colorado’s native cutthroat trout in FY21. Collaborations with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the US Forest Service (USFS), the National Park Service (NPS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other non-profit and TU partners have resulted in great progress for native trout restoration work. YO U ’ V E G OT B AC K PAC K S , W E ’ V E G OT GREENBACKS

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n July 28, 2020 over 700 native Greenback Cutthroats were released into the East Fork of Roaring Creek, representing the first population restored in Poudre Canyon tributary since the Greenback species was rediscovered in 2012.

R I O G R A N D E C U T T H R OAT R E S TO R AT I O N O N S A N D CREEK

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he Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado’s iconic settings and is also home to the most significant Rio Grande Cutthroat trout restoration project in Colorado. Sand Creek, nestled above the dunes in the spectacular Sangre De Cristo mountains of southern Colorado, provides an opportunity to restore Rio Grande cutthroats to 14 miles of stream and two outstanding natural lakes high in the headwaters and is well situated to persist in the face of drought and a warming climate. Ultimately, this became a driving factor for why Sand Creek was well suited for re-introduction. The mainstem was just right, benefitting from solar thermal gain at the two lakes in the uppermost sections of the watershed at 12,000 feet in elevation. These lakes are very productive, and the genetics work showed that fish could also reproduce successfully in them. The information was very promising and so the Sand Creek project elevated to the top of the list for CPW, and the stage was set for a monumental undertaking. In the summer of 2020, CPW, NPS, and TU staff joined up to cut trails and flag routes, and identify springs and seeps. A gauge system was installed to monitor stream flows. Every inch of flowing water was scoured for the presence of fish and importantly the young of year fish emerging from the gravel. During September 2020, 44 people, mostly from Colorado Parks and Wildlife journeyed into Sand Creek to start removal of non-native trout. The effort included all of the streams above the waterfall barrier, while the helicopters got running, delivering boats and motors and barrels to treat the waters within the lakes and a section of the creek with a natural chemical to remove the current population of fish. This effort was done in order to prep the area for Phase 2, which if all goes as planned the Rio Grande cutthroat trout will be stocked in their native waters in the fall of 2021. This was a huge step forward for the project and it was in part thanks to generous donors through CTU, The Greenbacks, Running Rivers and the San Luis Valley Chapter.

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The effort looked a little different this time (pictured left) due to mandatory social distancing requirements with the COVID-19 pandemic. 43 volunteers and 15 agency staff (CPW & USFS) managed a series of staggered start times, social distancing, groups of less than 10 people each, and a much more strenuous trek to complete the 1st stocking of Greenbacks into new habitat on an important Poudre River tributary was a success. Thanks to all of the volunteers and agency partners, the effort was a huge success! This project is adjacent to a much larger effort called the Poudre Headwaters Projects (PHP) that is planned to be the largest Greenback Cutthroat recovery project in the history of Colorado. The goal is to restore these native fish back into a part of their historic range on the upper Poudre - including nearly 40 miles of streams and Long Draw Reservoir. The PHP will create a “metapopulation” of Greenback Cutthroats that will be resilient in the face of future climate change and catastrophic events.


DEMAND MANAGEMENT

Keeping up with water scarcity through collaboration and leasing

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s most Coloradoans know, water supply on the Colorado River is not keeping up with increasing water demands, and changing climate patterns have the potential to exacerbate this problem. Facing this reality, Colorado is considering the adoption of a demand management program. Demand management would be a program under which water users are paid to temporarily and voluntarily cease water use. TU supports this concept because we see it as a step towards balancing water supply and water demand on the Colorado River system, and such a program also has potential to produce stream flow benefits. We also support the notion of allowing water users increased flexibility in how they use their water, including the option of using less or even no water on a temporary basis.

Over the past several years, TU has participated in policy discussions around the feasibility of demand management. We have also worked with water users to develop on-the-ground demand management demonstration projects. In these projects, we have raised funds to compensate farmers and ranchers for temporarily foregoing water use, and we use the projects to conduct research on the impacts of demand management on crops and stream flows. Through both our policy work and our on-the-ground projects, we believe that a program that compensates water users for foregoing water diversions on a temporary and voluntary basis has potential to help address the supply and demand imbalance and to improve flow conditions in the Colorado River basin.

B E F O R E of an outdated check structure on the Upper Gunnison basin. Checks are structures placed across an irrigation ditch to block it temporarily and to raise the upstream water level.

A F T E R of the new check structure.

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Updating irrigation infrastructure in the Upper Gunnison Basin

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n the Upper Gunnison Basin, TU works closely with water right owners to update antiquated irrigation infrastructure to improve instream habitat, reduce irrigation labor and minimize annual in-channel maintenance. This diversion (pictured below and left) is located near a USFS campground on Needle Creek, tributary to Tomichi Creek, east of Gunnison, CO. Tarps, t-posts and other handy material were historically used to raise the water elevation to the headgate pipe. These makeshift dams are very common and often lead to a cycle of channel instability and regular in-channel disturbance. At this site, TU coordinated with the water right owner to construct a rock cross-vane diversion structure that maintains the water elevation needed for the headgate, provides deep pools for trout refuge and helps to reduce channel erosion near the site.

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H E A D WAT E R S P R O G R A M - YO U T H E D U C AT I O N

Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program Goes Virtual in 2020

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midst the school closures, public health orders, and social distancing during the pandemic, CTU and local chapters adapted the Headwaters Youth Program to a virtual format. This included connecting with high school youth through TU Teens Live after cancelling the in-person River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp, developing a self-guided STREAM Girls program with instructional videos while in-person gatherings were not possible, and integrating increased technology

into Trout in the Classroom to ensure ongoing student engagement while schools transitioned from full closures to virtual and hybrid learning. Through these adapted approaches, CTU was still able to connect with hundreds of youth from across the state despite the challenges presented.

This is a great program to introduce girls to fly-fishing and knowledge of local streams. It was a well-thought out, self-guided program that covered a great deal of information. We had a fun time doing all of the steps.” Parent Feedback on STREAM Girls Program

STREAM Girls goes Virtual with Self-Guided Programs

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TREAM Girls is a watershed education program developed in partnership with Girls Scouts to engage girls in STEM-based exploration. Beyond STREAM Girls’ focus on watersheds, STREAM also stands for Science, Technology, Recreation, Engineering, Art, and Math. Through inquiry-based learning, girls connect with their local watersheds, develop new outdoor skills, and increase their understanding of real work applications of STEM. After a successful year piloting STREAM Girls in 2019, CTU had to cancel its scheduled in-person events in 2020. To keep the program alive, CTU staff and volunteers created videos and sourced educational resources to support a self-guided STREAM Girls program. Over the course of fall, CTU hosted STREAM Girls programming through four virtual events engaging 60 girl

scouts from across Colorado. Beyond the participating girls, the virtual programming engaged entire families in exploring local watersheds. CTU was the first to pilot virtual/self-guided STREAM Girls events across the country. CTU is proud to have shared our success and lessons learned with Trout Unlimited staff and volunteers nationwide.

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Stream Girls events

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STREAM Girls volunteers

Girls Completed the STREAM Girls Program


Trout in the Classroom adapts to a dynamic school year

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rout in the Classroom (TIC) offers K-12 students the opportunity to raise trout from eggs to fry in a classroom tank. While raising the trout, students learn about trout biology, aquatic ecosystems, watershed science, and river conservation. Beyond the science applications, teachers integrate the program into diverse subject areas ranging from art, history, and writing to physical education. The pandemic posed significant obstacles to TIC with uncertainty around schools opening and how student learning would occur. During the 2021-22 school year, 11 TIC sites, including six new locations, hosted the tanks and trout. These schools were spread across the state with tanks in the San Luis Valley, Gunnison Gorge, and along the Front Range from Pueblo through Lyons. To support tanks and ensure students could connect with the trout in light of ever-changing school environments, teachers developed virtual learning platforms to engage students in tank updates and the trout life cycle. Across the 11 sites, hundreds of K-12 students were engaged! The Denver Trout Unlimited Chapter (DTU) also recognized these challenges and seized the opportunity to innovate by finding new creative ways to host the program. Through an existing relationship with the Greenway Foundation, DTU expanded their partnership to include a TIC site at Greenway’s office along the South Platte in Denver. The “EDDY Tank,” as it has come to be known, provided virtual access to classroom teachers through webcams and a remote water quality sensor.

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trout released by students

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Students participated in Trout in the Classroom

River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp becomes TU Teens Live amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

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ne of CTU’s most impactful programs is the River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp. Established in 2006, this week-long immersive service-learning experience is transformative for high school campers. Due to concerns surrounding group size, social distancing, and shared equipment, Camp was incompatible with the uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic in 2020. To continue to empower high school youth passionate about rivers, trout, and fly fishing, CTU converted the camp curriculum to a virtual series of educational programs spread across five weeks. These virtual programs covered watersheds, native trout, macroinvertebrates and flies, natural resource careers, and the Fly Fishing Film

Tour – F3T. Over 20 high school youth from across the state and beyond participated in these virtual sessions and completed doit-yourself activities over the course of the five weeks. Those who finished the program entirely received an Orvis Encounter package thanks to the generosity of Orvis and Front Range Anglers.

Chapter Spotlight Gore Range Anglers

Connecting with university students Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) 5Rivers Club connected with Gore Range Anglers while they were establishing their club in 2020. Since, Gore Range Anglers has connected with the Club through the 2020 F3T film festival in Silverthorne, donated fly tying gear and equipment, and fly casting lessons to assist in their fly fishing skills. These sessions have helped establish a lasting relationship with their members. Beyond these events, the CMC Club has some ambitious goals to provide a leadership role in the Leadville community and is planning several conservation and educational projects. During the Blue River Integrated Water Management Plan process, Gore Range Anglers needed a way to effectively share where and what type of work was occurring across the watershed. Garret Christie, the President – Costa 5River Fly Fishing Club at CMC in Leadville stepped up looking for a project to utilize his newly developed Geographic Information System (GIS) knowledge. He developed an interactive map in ArcGIS to show the county and pinpoint all of the water testing sites, including a summary of testing data and includes photos of the river at each location. The Costa 5Rivers Fly Fishing Clubs are the capstone of the TU Headwaters Youth Program. These clubs seek to engage college students in TU’s mission across the country. Clubs connect with a local TU chapter and work in the community on conservation activities and local outreach. The program rewards students by offering professional discounts on fly-fishing equipment and gear. 99


STREAM MANAGEMENT

Stream Management Planning

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ncluded as a core part of the Colorado Water Plan, Stream Management Plans (SMPs) lay the framework for water users and community stakeholders to identify and address critical issues in their basins. With a strong focus on environmental and recreational needs, these watershed plans also engage agricultural producers, water providers, and local governments to assess the health and resiliency of nearby streams and generate multi-beneficiary projects. TU and local chapters are heavily engaged in SMPs across the state – including the South Platte River Drainage, Blue River, Eagle River, Middle Colorado, Upper Gunnison River, Clear Creek, San Miguel, Rio Grande, South Boulder Creek, and the St. Vrain. The Colorado Water Plan set a goal for 80% of locally-prioritized streams across the state to be included in an SMP by 2030. By advocating for the long-term environmental and recreational health of our waterways, Trout Unlimited and its partners are making a lasting impact on the future of water in Colorado.

You can learn more about all the stream management efforts in Colorado by visiting:

www.coloradosmp.org

Blue River

Upper Arkansas Watershed Resiliency Plan

The Blue River Integrated Water Management Plan is wrapping up its first phase in 2021, which focused heavily on identifying the likely environmental conditions leading to the decline of the Gold Medal fishery. Local stakeholders have received additional funding from local partners and the Colorado Water Conservation Board to conduct a series of enhanced studies for phase 2 that will help define the most likely variables leading to poor fish health – and begin to identify projects that can help mitigate them. Studies will be conducted primarily above Green Mountain Reservoir, including reaches below Silverthorne and above Breckenridge, and include:

This stakeholder-driven effort will assess riparian health, fluvial hazard areas (i.e. post wildfire floods), agricultural needs, and water quality in Chaffee County. The goal of the project to enhance water quality and quantity, protect critical riparian habitat and working lands, and improve land use strategies to reconnect floodplains to mitigate impacts of post-fire flooding to the Gold Medal Arkansas River. The project will leverage over $150,000 in local and state funding to perform the initial assessments that will identify high-priority areas for protection and restoration.

Geomorphological/Hydrologic habitat study to better understand the relationship between current/future flows and suitable habitat for various life stages of trout (spawning, rearing, feeding, refugia, etc.)

Periphyton study to better understand the spatial and temporal presence of periphyton species and quantity (algae) that is a critical food source for macroinvertebrates

Macroinvertebrate study that will build on data from 2020 to provide spatial and temporal data on the species and quantity of macroinvertebrates in the Blue River – a critical part of the food web for trout.

Temperature study that will use data loggers placed throughout the mainstem of the Blue River and major tributaries to assess the impacts of water temperature on fish/macroinvertebrate lifecycles.

Pueblo Tailwater This project seeks to improve riparian habitat and bank stability at four sites along the Arkansas River tailwater reach below Pueblo Reservoir. Current erosion is generating significant sedimentation of downstream spawning areas and macroinvertebrate habitat, as well as over-widening the channel in several sites. The project is being led by the local Southern Colorado Greenbacks Chapter of TU and will work with CPW and private landowners to develop a site assessment and engineering designs to reduce the erosion at key locations. Additional efforts will include replanting native vegetation that will improve the overall riparian habitat for wildlife and aquatic species.

Upper Gunnison The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) and local partners are continuing to make headway on the Gunnison Watershed Management Plan – which will identify the condition and risks to a variety of water uses in the Valley in order to support a more resilient watershed. The UGRWCD partnered with CTU and American Whitewater to assess the existing recreational values – which led to the creation of a Boatable Days Tool that can be used to forecast the number of user days in different river reaches under a variety of flow conditions. User days are a critical piece of the local tourism economy and can be impacted by drought and wet years. The UGRWCD and CTU have also worked together to coordinate a forest health initiative that will assess the threat of wildfire and other risks to ecological values, water infrastructure, native trout populations, and other assets in the basin. The plan is expected to be completed in 2022.

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H A B I TAT R E S TO R AT I O N

Habitat connectivity helps trout take care of themselves

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or TU and local agency partners, the Poose Creek Project in Colorado served as an opportunity to test, validate and perhaps even contribute toward a framework of knowledge around fish passage and habitat connectivity. When TU and its partners sampled the headwaters of Poose Creek in 2012-2013, native Colorado River cutthroat trout were almost completely absent from the reach above the one road-stream crossing but relatively abundant in the reach below the crossing. Moreover, at long-term monitoring stations upstream and downstream of the culvert, cutthroat densities were 0 and approximately 437 fish per mile, respectively. This contrast confirmed a standing assumption that the box culvert under the road was, and had for decades been, a complete fish passage obstacle. In 2014, TU and the U.S. Forest Service retrofitted the box culvert with a vertical slot fishway, also known as a fish ladder. Although the fishway was designed to pass adult trout (which are better swimmers and jumpers than their juvenile counterparts), the ultimate goal was to facilitate repatriation by the native cutthroat above the culvert. In 2015 and 2016, TU teamed up with CPW to evaluate the first hypothesis — that the fishway would effectively restore fish passage. Cutthroat trout began using the Poose Creek fishway within a year of its construction. In

fact, the fishway was completed in fall of 2014 and the inaugural trips through the structure coincided with the spring spawning season of 2015. Approximately 4 percent of all PIT-tagged trout approached the fishway, and 100 percent of the fish that approached it succeeded in entering and passing the new structure. These findings, satisfied the first goal of restoring passage. Nevertheless, questions still remained about the ultimate effect of restoring connectivity. In fall of 2020, approximately one and a half to two cutthroat trout generations after the fishway was installed, the second hypothesis was tested— that restoring fish passage would lead to recolonization of upstream habitats. From a once vacant stream in 2012 to at least 589 cutthroat in 2020, the project proved to be a great success. Similarly, the same long-term monitoring station that contained cutthroat at a density of 0 fish per mile in 2012 contained cutthroat at a density of approximately 2,752 fish per mile in 2020 (817 fish per mile excluding the 2020 year-class). Just as importantly, the presence of multiple age classes, and of young-of-year fish in particular, confirmed that Colorado River cutthroat trout were spawning in and recruiting to the headwaters of Poose Creek. All this work showed that removing migration obstacles from rivers and streams helps fish restore their populations.

Slotted baffles in the 150-foot long fishway allow fish to swim up the ladder. Brian Hodge/ Trout Unlimited

Colorado River cutthroat trout make their way to spawning grounds. Brian Hodge/ Trout Unlimited

A 108-foot long, concrete culvert and apron were installed at Poose Creek in the 1960s. Brian Hodge/Trout Unlimited

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P U B L I C L A N D S A N D H A B I TAT

How will the huge wildfires of 2020 impact Colorado’s trout fisheries now and in the future? Insight from Dr. Ashley Rust

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his year was an unprecedented one, as Colorado experienced three of the largest fires in the state’s history; the Cameron Peak fire, the East Troublesome fire and the Pine Gulch fire, each burning well over 100,000 acres a piece. With climate change, Colorado’s fire season each year is two months longer on average, starting a month earlier in the spring and lasting a month longer in the fall. Combine a longer, drier season with current forest management practices and more people living in the wildland-urban interface and we are observing fires that are larger, more severe, and more costly than ever before. We are reckoning with our attitude of fire suppression, which has been a warfare on fires, allowing forests to age and fuels to accumulate. However, fires are a part of the forest landscape. The severity of a wildfire’s burn is assessed by how much of the vegetation was destroyed. The low severity fires leave most of the vegetation intact, while the high severity fires completely burn away the vegetation. Moderate and high severity fires, where vegetation is completely combusted and the ground is scorched, result in higher streamflows and compromised water quality

for 1-5 years after the fire. The greatest impacts on streams have been observed after rainstorms where we see reduced infiltration capacity of the soil, more surface runoff, and higher flows that scour stream bottoms that flush fine sediment and material from the system. During Colorado’s monsoon season late in the summer, we then see short intense rain events can also cause soil erosion and delivering soil to streams. The eroded soil carries nutrients, like nitrates and phosphates, and absorbed heavy metals from ash and minerals to the stream. Algal growth has also been observed to increase in some areas after a fire because the streams are receiving more nutrients and sunlight. These are temporary effects that are more common in landscapes where the fire burned at a moderate to high severity; large but low severity fires do little to change the stream. While the total number of insects in streams remains the same, the diversity of species changes as a result of fire. Some aquatic insects, such as the stoneflies and the mayflies, are temporarily absent from the streambed while the others are

more tolerant to the runoff. The high flows following storms also remove many species from the streambed. Though, this acts as a re-set to the ecosystem and these areas do see the pollution tolerant insect species coming back withing 2-5 years. Anglers may notice a change in their local hatch, but those changes are very localized and are patchy throughout a burned landscape. Fires can kill stream fish, like trout, by causing them to die from the heat and high suspended solids in the water. These components can also kill them within a few years after a fire if they are trapped in streams with poor water quality. Even when a fish kill occurs, the fish can rebound quickly and the key to that is if they have high connectivity to escape a poor water quality event. Fish can be very resilient and fires may temporarily disrupt their populations after a severe fire, but for them it is not a catastrophe but a moment that allows a rejuvination of the ecosystem. DR. ASHLEY RUST

Technical advisor for both Colorado Trout Unlimited, National Trout Unlimited and researcher and professor at the Colorado School of Mines

“We have to get used to a future with more fires. It is hard to watch, but the change that follows as the landscape recovers from black and scorched to a fresh bright green, scattered with wildflowers and new young tree growth is awe-inspiring.”

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#ResponsibleRecreation businesses in Colorado Fishing provided an outlet to get outdoors, social distance, and get to know your local waters during the COVID-19 pandemic. These were the steps people took in the name of #ResponsibleRecreation. Some notable Colorado businesses adapted to the changes and encouraged all anglers to recreate responsibly. Both Fishpond and Rep your Water continued their work to keep the sport alive during the pandemic and getting the message of conservation out there. The industry saw a large growth of new anglers and outdoor enthusiasts during this time, which allowed for more opportunities to communicate about conservation.

Medano Creek at the Great Sand Dunes National park. NPS Gallery.

For that, TU appreciates the work that these businesses did and continue to do by incorporating conservation and responsible recreation into their messaging.

A Landmark Win for our Great Outdoors

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n August 2020, The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was signed into law. This was the most significant national conservation legislation passed in a generation and permanently secures funding for public lands and outdoor recreation under the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as well as providing much needed funding to address the maintenance backlog on our National Parks and other public lands. For more than 50 years, LWCF has set aside and protected special places in Colorado and nationwide. With LWCF funds invested statewide, from iconic landscapes like the Great Sand Dunes, to boat launches on the Colorado River, to community parks and trails in our own backyards – there’s a good chance you’ve enjoyed lands or facilities that LWCF helped provide. LWCF doesn’t rely on your tax dollars, but rather is funded by an earmarked portion of royalties paid on offshore oil and gas development. Unfortunately, that dedicated stream of revenue has been regularly raided for other purposes in the annual politics of the appropriations process. More than $22 billion has been diverted from LWCF over its history – but it won’t happen again. With the GAOA now the law of the

land, the funds committed to LWCF are permanently dedicated. And that is great news for our public lands and the multibillion outdoor recreation economy they help sustain. The other key portion of the GAOA originated as the Restore Our Parks Act and will provide $9.5 billion in dedicated funding toward our public lands deferred maintenance backlog. TU played a key role in ensuring that this maintenance funding included public lands beyond just the National Park facilities – funding partnership projects like replacing undersized culverts that are blocking trout and salmon migrations, and fixing roads that are bleeding sediment into streams. Passage of the GAOA is a victory that has been many years in the making. It was the result of hard work from countless TUers and conservation allies, from volunteer advocates who reached out to their elected officials and wrote letters to their local papers – to staff and interns who helped us research LWCF projects in Colorado and prepare publications telling the program’s story – to grassroots leaders who flew in to Washington, DC to make the case for LWCF in person.

"I am a second generation Colorado native and appreciation for the environment, especially our rivers and trout, was an important part of my upbringing. The mission of Trout Unlimited to protect and preserve cold-water fisheries and their watersheds aligns with my values and the grass roots work of Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) supports my vision for Colorado. I am certain that CTU will continue to be the preeminent steward for Colorado rivers and trout well into the future. This is why I am proud to make a financial contribution." SHARON LANCE

RSC and Stream Guardian Society donor

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A BA N D O N E D M I N E R E S TO R AT I O N

Goose Creek bank stabilization at the 4UR Ranch

T

U’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation program manager carried out a critical bank stabilization project at the 4UR Ranch on Goose Creek near Creede, CO. During the fall of 2019, TU was notified that the previous spring’s highwater flows took out the foundation that supported the smokestacks of a former historic mill building. Later in 2019, the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) staff performed an emergency stabilization by installing new guy-wires, but there was no money or personnel suited to perform the critical bank stabilization. Over the winter of 2019, TU worked with ranch staff to finalize a plan and prepare for construction before spring runoff in 2020. As the project began gearing up, notifications and various government orders restricted travel to non-essential workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, construction was deemed essential, and TU staff commuted to the project site daily to complete the work. This project proved to be a great experience given the pandemic conditions since it was limited to two TU staff and one operator. Work took place during the week of April 24th, 2020, and was completed by May 1st, just before an early runoff season started for the Rio Grande Headwaters.

AFTER 3 MONTHS of the project, runoff is showing extremely good vegetative success.

The most critical piece of the project was stabilizing the bank and large foundation block before further erosion would take place. The cutbank was 15 feet tall with some overhanging sections of 14 lateral feet from the edge of the river. These conditions made for unstable ground during the stabilization. In total, nine structures (seven root wads and two rock structures), seven willow clump transplants, and 500 willow cuttings were installed along the project reach. The root wads and rock structures were set slightly below bankfull elevations along the bend, with portions of the root wads extending the entire lateral distance of the cutbank (pictured right). This allowed TU to build an accessible floodplain along the reach that was both stable and functional from a habitat perspective. Once the bank was constructed, the willow clumps and cuttings were installed to help lock in any unconsolidated soils. This project was an unlikely addition to our annual project list that focused on stream restoration techniques at a historic mill site. The property owner of the 4UR ranch was pleased with the outcome of the project, which will hopefully lead to years of partnership in this area.

BEFORE showing TU staff working with local con-

tractor Steve Gates to install and place root wads in degraded bank along Goose Creek.

AFTER showing conditions where bank was stabilized and rebuilt with root wads, willow clumps and rock.

You can learn more about TU’s Abandonded Mine Reclamation work by visiting:

www.coloradotu.org/ tuaml 14


Waldorf Mine outside of Georgetown, CO Before

showing Waldorf Mine site aerial

After

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n the summer of 2020, Trout Unlimited, in partnership with the US Forest Service, completed reclamation at the Waldorf Mine outside of Georgetown, Colorado. The Waldorf Mine sits above Leavenworth Creek, which is a tributary of South Clear Creek, the drinking water source for Georgetown. This project was completed as a Non-Time Critical Removal Action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. A culmination of nearly seven years of planning and restoration within the watershed, the Waldorf project included construction and

T

U partnered with John Reams and Reams Construction Co. who won a competitive bid for the Atlas Mine and Mill reclamation project outside of Ouray, Colo. This project sits on the edge of a 100-year floodplain on Sneffels Creek where the former Atlas Mill stood years ago. This project was a long time coming and was on the radar of partners for years, but due to ownership, lack of funding and agency hurdles, it never came to fruition. However, two years ago, TU was selected to manage this project as a third party based on its expertise in the field of abandoned mine reclamation on mixed ownership sites.

showing constructed wetlands on Waldorf Mine

expansion of wetland ponds downstream of the site, construction of drainage controls, application of erosion control products, installation of traffic controls on the site and construction of a passive water management system. These constructed components will manage flows from the Waldorf’s draining adit, add capacity to existing wetlands on site, reduce erosion of the Waldorf mine waste pile, improve downstream water quality and provide for site safety and stability into the future.

The Atlas Project outside of Ouray, CO This supplemental environmental project (SEP) was funded through various private sources of match, as well as penalty funds levied through water quality discharge exceedances by the previous adjacent landowner. Construction alone on this project totaled $178,000 and included a substantial match from Ouray Silver Mines Inc.

revegetated out of the 100-year floodplain to mimic surrounding topography. The native vegetation will develop over time and reduce non-point source loading and sedimentation into adjacent surface waters. Run-on/off controls were constructed with locally sourced riprap to reduce amount of runoff or storm-related water from eroding the reclaimed site.

The main goal of the project was to prevent the mobilization of contaminated material off-site or downstream to adjacent properties. The large volumes of mine waste and tailings present on site were consolidated, graded, amended, and

The team at Reams Construction made the reclamation project a success and TU is looking forward to future opportunities with them.

AFTER conditions show fully reclaimed

yellow and grey consolidation areas with constructed drainage channels along the margins of each area.

BEFORE conditions show 4.2 acres of

yellow and grey barren former tailings and waste rock areas from a vantage point at the former Atlas Mill Building.

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TU’s Legacy of Protection in Colorado Hermosa Protection Act Hermosa Creek is a major tributary of the Animas River in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Encompassing more than 107,000 acres of national forest, the basin is the backyard playground for Durango and parts of northern New Mexico, southeast Utah and northeast Arizona. For anglers and hunters, the Hermosa Creek area is a true treasure, and is home to healthy elk herds, abundant turkey and deer, black bear and grouse. It is also a stronghold for rare Colorado River cutthroat trout, and is the site of the state’s largest cutthroat reintroduction program in the Colorado River basin. In 2006, Trout Unlimited staffers and chapter volunteers played a lead role in developing, convening and funding a river protection workgroup—a local, stakeholder-driven collaborative designed to produce legislative recommendations to the Colorado delegation. In support of the legislative effort, TU developed and coordinated the Sportsmen for Hermosa group providing representation and support for the angling and hunting values in the legislation. In December 2015, President Obama signed into law the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, permanently protecting the entirety of the Hermosa Creek watershed. The legislation included a 107,000-plus acre Special Management Area, and 38,000 acres new wilderness.

Roadless Rule Efforts

Roan Plateau

Colorado is home to more elk than any other state, trophy mule deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, and of course, our numerous native cutthroat and introduced trout populations.

The Roan Plateau is located north of the Colorado River that stretches about 100 miles or so west and north, starting just above the town of Rifle. It’s a high-desert region that was once part of the country’s oil shale reserve system. In the mid-2000s, plans were afoot to turn the Roan into an industrial pincushion.

In the early 2000s when the Bush administration asked the western states to review the Clinton-era Roadless Rule that protected 58 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land in states from Alaska to Arizona, Colorado was one of only two states that stepped up to do so. At the table from the very beginning was TU, armed with data, volunteers, the CTU state council, and national staff all pushing to keep the Centennial State’s roadless land pristine. The collaborative process took seven years, hundreds of meetings and a lot of compromise and agreement. In 2012, the roadless rule was finalized, highlighting the culmination of years of cooperation, of people with different ideas and ideals working together to protect a beloved landscape: 4.2 million acres of that landscape, in fact. TU was a leader at the table throughout the process. The Colorado rule was a hand-crafted, Colorado-specific rule designed to manage the state’s best fish and game habitat. It ensures continued access to the backcountry by anglers and hunters, and it emphasizes the need to keep native cutthroat trout habitat healthy and intact. In Colorado, roadless areas provide the majority of habitat for Colorado’s three subspecies of native cutthroat trout, as well as vital habitat for deer and elk.

TU was not convinced that the energy development potential of the Roan was worth the risk. The Roan is one of the richest landscapes in all of Colorado when it comes to fish and game resources, home to one the West’s most prolific elk herds and perhaps the most productive mule deer herd in the nation along with a genetically unique population of Colorado River cutthroat trout. After years of working with the BLM and through the courts with generous pro-bono assistance from EarthJustice, TU put put the finishing touches on the campaign in 2016 when the BLM released a final drilling plan that was the product of nearly two years of negotiation. The plan reflected a 2014 settlement that was reached between energy and conservation interests to allow development to proceed in carefully selected and less-sensitive areas. It was a plan that TU —and, more importantly, the Roan’s wild and native trout — could live with. Energy companies could lease parcels of the Roan, but drilling in cutthroat trout watersheds was out of the equation. Importantly, as part of the agreement, energy companies would contribute to the restoration of native cutthroat in the streams atop the Roan. The Roan Plateau is still wild today, and it takes some commitment to get to its deeper reaches where trophy animals will roam for years to come.

Continue TU’s Legacy of Protection story:

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WWW.TU.ORG/LEGACY-OF-PROTECTION


THANK YOU TO COLORADO TU’S RIVER CHAMPION AND RIVER GUARDIAN P R OT E C T O U R R I V E R S CO R P O R AT E PA R T N E R S ! These business partners provide critical support for native trout reintroduction, habitat restoration, youth education, and so much more.

And a special thank you to our 2020 award winners: O U T S TA N D I N G VO LU N T E E R S Tom Palka for his tireless work in maintaining creative and effective communication and engagement with Collegiate Peaks chapter membership. Mickey McGuire for his leadership in restructuring the Rocky Mountain Flycasters board to instill values of leadership development, committees, and succession. His leadership has empowered others to grow and be successful in the organization. Allyn Kratz for his dedicated efforts in conserving and protecting Bear Creek and educating the community and state about its unique population of Greenback cutthroat trout Stephen Brant for his leadership in developing cooperative relationships, sound science, and projects to protect and improve stream health in South Boulder Creek through its Stream Management Plan EXEMPLARY PROJECTS San Luis Valley Chapter for their leadership in the Sand Creek Reclamation Project to begin restoration of the Rio Grande Cutthroat trout to a stronghold watershed that can support native trout for generations to come Dolores River Anglers for their vision and leadership in developing The Upper Dolores Stream Protection Working Group, a model for science-based, collaborative conservation efforts. EXEMPLARY CHAPTER Denver Trout Unlimited Chapter for their outstanding efforts in restoring habitat, engaging the community, educating youth, and overall raising the quality of their homewaters on the Denver South Platte. E X E M P L A RY YO U T H E D U C AT I O N Gunnison Gorge Anglers for their collaborative effort with the STREAM girls programming to bring an outdoor watershed experience that employs STEM education plus recreation and arts to explore a local stream. Pikes Peak Chapter for their collaborative effort with the STREAM girls programming to bring an outdoor watershed experience that employs STEM education plus recreation and arts to explore a local stream.

"RareWaters is genuinely honored to support and be affiliated with Colorado Trout Unlimited. We believe Colorado Trout Unlimited's commitment to the sport of fly fishing and conservation is what keeps our sport thriving. In addition to doing exceptional work, everyone on the Colorado Trout Unlimited team is a delight to work with. The RareWaters team looks forward to evolving our partnership and helping in any way we can for many years to come." B R E N D E N S T U C K Y & C L I N T PAC KO A CTU River Champion Protect Our Rivers Corporate Partner

T H E J O H N C O N N O L LY O U T S T A N D I N G C H A P T E R CO M M U N I C AT I O N S AWA R D St. Vrain Anglers for their newly redesigned website, strong social media, Speaker Series, and email communications, as well as local partnerships to broaden community outreach DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARDS Dale Smith for his years of service and leadership in establishing the Dolores River Anglers chapter as a strong TU presence in Southwest Colorado, and his work in engaging other volunteer leaders to carry it forward. Barbara Luneau for her dedicated and effective efforts to build programs and deliver “Stream of Engagement” youth education from the annual youth camp to STREAM Girls, as well as her local conservation leadership in the St. Vrain watershed. S I LV E R T R O U T AWA R D – P R E S E N T E D B Y T H E S I LV E R T R O U T F O U N DAT I O N Buck Skillen was recognized for his many years of volunteer leadership in the Durango area including his work to promote protection of the Hermosa Creek watershed and of the rediscovered San Juan lineage cutthroat trout. Paula Fothergill was honored for her long-time efforts as an instructor, organizer, and mentor, helping TU chapters and allies to engage more women with fly fishing and conservation.

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Financial Summary

D

espite the many challenges posed with the pandemic, over the past fiscal year (April 2020-March 2021), Trout Unlimited in Colorado invested nearly $5.9 million toward its mission. These funds included the work of the Colorado Council and its 24 local chapters—from legislative advocacy at the General Assembly to youth education projects to on-theground restoration projects; as well as Colorado-based National Trout Unlimited programs and staff working on initiatives for river conservation, agriculture partnerships, public land protection, and abandoned mine reclamation. These dollars were further leveraged by nearly $1.1

million more in partner funding toward our collaborative projects, and $815,000 in sweat equity – the value of more than 28,000 volunteer hours contributed by our members, even through a uniquely challenging year. Through the leveraging power of its partnerships and grassroots volunteers, TU helps make your donor dollars go farther for our conservation mission. Individual donations of approximately $800 thousand were leveraged by nearly $5 million in funds from corporate and foundation grants, events, and other matching funds. When you add the value of leveraged partner cash funds and volunteer time, more than

$8 of conservation value was generated from each $1 of individual support to Trout Unlimited in Colorado – and that doesn’t even include the substantial in-kind partnership support of collaborating agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The vast majority of TU funds go directly into programs for conservation, education, and grassroots engagement. For fiscal year 2021, 88% of TU in Colorado funds were directed toward program services, with 12% supporting administration and fundraising efforts.

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Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DNR) Eagle Valley Chapter of TU Eleven Experience Factor Design Build Fish Ski Provisions Fishpond FlyFish Colorado Freeport McMoRan Freestone Aquatics Gates Family Foundation GMUG – Gunnison Ranger District Grand County (Open Lands, Rivers, and Trails Fund) Gunnison Basin Roundtable Gunnison County Intel Corporation Jacobs Jones Family Foundation Madison Valley Ranch Maris Group Mayfly Outdoors Metro Basin Roundtable Middle Fork Adventures Mile High Flood Control District Molson Coors National Fish and Wildlife Foundation National Forest Foundation Natural Resources Conservation Service New Venture Fund Newmont Mining North Fork Ranch Northwest Council of Governments (through Summit Co. Water Quality Committee) Ouray Silver Mines Inc. Patagonia RareWaters Rep Your Water Ripple Creek Lodge

April 2020 - Mar 2021

88% Programs 12% Administration & Fundraising

Protect Our Rivers Partnership Program

Major Corporate, Agency, and Foundation Supporters 8 Rivers Rodeo Alamosa River NRDS Almont Anglers American Whitewater Anglers All Aurora Water Black Canyon Anglers Blue Quill Angler Blue River Watershed Group Blue Valley Ranch Bonneville Environmental Foundation Bureau of Land Management Can’d Aid (Oscar Blues Brewing) Carroll Petrie Foundation Central Colorado Conservancy Chaffee County Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Citywide Banks Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Water & Power Authority Colorado Parks and Wildlife Colorado River Basin Roundtable Colorado River District Colorado River Water Conservation District Colorado Rodmakers Reunion Colorado State Land Board Colorado Water Conservation Board Community First Foundation Conejos River Anglers Confluence Land Co. Conscience Bay Company Cutthroat Anglers Dan Pass Real Estate Del Corazon Consulting Denver Water

Distribution of Funds

River Restoration For Tomorrow Rocky Mountain Angling Club Ross Reels Running Rivers San Luis Valley Chapter of TU Scott Rods Scott’s Roofing Set Fly Fishing Silver Trout Foundation South Platte Basin Roundtable Summit County Summit County Water Quality Committee Suncor Energy Telluride Outside The Oak Foundation The Pew Charitable Trusts The Precourt Foundation The Wiegers Family Foundation Three Rivers Resort Tiffany & Co. Foundation Town of Gypsum Town of Silverthorne Trois Coeurs Foundation Trout and Salmon Foundation Trouts Fly Fishing U.S. Bureau of Reclamation U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service Upper Arkansas Conservation District Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Upslope Brewing Company Walton Family Foundation Wayne Swanson Charitable Fund WENCK Environmental Consulting Western Energy Project Western Native Trout Iniative William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Williams Wyss Foundation

Protect Our Rivers Partnership donors are corporate partners who care about healthy rivers and fisheries and contribute annually in support of Colorado TU’s work to protect and restore our state’s watersheds and wild places. Our business partner program connects businesses and Colorado TU members and supporters who share an interest in protecting and sustaining Colorado’s rivers and fisheries.

"Not only do folks at Upslope love fly fishing, we also love great beer. And high quality beer requires high quality water which we have for now in Colorado. By supporting Trout Unlimited we are able to help protect the future of both which seems like an obvious choice to us." HENRY WOOD Co-Founder of Upslope Brewing Company & Protect Our Rivers Business Partner


Griffith Circle/River Stewardship Council Donors Bruce Allbright Ravel Ammerman Craig Andersen Mary & Dan Armour Jerry Arnold Cherie Axelrod Joe Baggett Mike Batzer Joshua Beasley Joshua Becker Sanford Bell John Bender Paul Benedetti Ron Benson Gregory Biesecker James Black John Black Jon Boesen R. Morton Bolman Blair Braden Stephen Brant Richard Brennan Mark Broste Roger Brown Jon Bruss Graham Buggs Tim Burke Travis Campbell Jodi & Mike Carrillo Cam Chandler Bob Chastain Adam Cherry Ken Cicuto Justin Clarke Bill Cobb LuLu Colby Robert Collins David Cowden Bob Coyle Steve & Tracy Craig Gordon Crawford Chris Crook Drew Crosby Joe Cunningham Mac Cunningham Lawrence Dale Colin Davis Terrence Deaton Michael & Jean Delaney Sean Devin Thomas Dick

David & Michelle DiGiacomo Chris & Joy Dinsdale R. Stanton Dodge Steve Dorland Andrew Draper Michael Duffy Glen & Jackie Edwards Roe Emery Terry Escamilla Joel Evans Patrick Even Doyle Family Darryl Farrington Eli Feldman Richard & Cathey Finlon Gregory Forst Christofer Framel John & Denise Frontczak Timothy Gablehouse Terry Gallagher Robert Gann Thomas Gargan Caleb Gates Jr. Michael Giebler Angie Giustina David Gorney Harry Grabarz Stan Graff Joseph Guiles Benjamin Gust Ian Hagan Lindsay Hale Darren Haller Charles Hamlin Gary Hansen Greg Hardy Wil Harmsen Stanley Hayes Charles Heck Louis Hegedus Ed Heinz Thomas Helmer Kent Heyborne Brian Holaway Tami & Jeff Holley Craig Holmes Robert Holton John Hood Craig Hopkins

Chuck Howard Larry Howe Wil Huett John Huff Richard Hus Michael Imhoff Bud Isaacs Chip & Jill Isenhart Jim & Ann Jackson Gregory Jackson Woody Jacober Ken James Sam & Barbara Jampolis Paul Jarosz Linda Jefferies Michael Jefferson Pitch Johnson Todd Johnston William Johnston William Jones Scott Jordan Jayn Karl Robert Kendig Randy Keogh Ken Kinsman Richard Kliner Charlie Kunkel Jennie Kurtz Wilbur Ladd Cory Landers Jon Lang Allan Larson Rob Lauer Robert Leavitt Michael Ledger Paul Lombardi Thomas Lorden Mark Rayman & Barbara Luneau Grant Lunney Cargill MacMillan, III Joe Marr Don Marshall Corey Martin Lee Mather Chris Maughan Nowell May Michael McClarran Mike McCurdie Tom McDermott Douglas McDonald

Peter McDonald Michael McGoldrick Casey McManemin Troy Meyer Fred Miller Peter Millett Thomas & Elene Mooney James Morris James P. Morris John Morton Matt Moskal Nancy & Mike Moskal Richard Munsell Forrest Murphy Jarrod Musick Madoka Myers Steve Nading Bryan Naegele Ray Nagashima Joseph Ness David Nickum J. Cavanaugh O’Leary George Orbanek Clint & Kallie Packo Dennis Pade Kathleen Parrish Scott Patten James Peyton Robin Phillips Joel and Karen Piassick Doug Pierce Keith Pitman Mike Plummer Bret Poppleton Jeffrey Protsman Tom Rand Justin Reynolds Robert Rich Angel Rojas David Rootes Duncan Rose Ronald Royce Alex Rugoff Paul Rullkoetter Jerry Ryan Ray Samuelson Ian Saunders Justin Schiavone Tim Schlough Thomas Schultz

Stream Guardian Society Mary Klinnert & Allen Adinoff Charles & Debra Andres Doug Bennett Thomas Borstad Brian Brown Reid Bryson Larry Bussey Michael & Jean Delaney Libby Earthman Jerome Firpo

Tony Gist Stanley Hayes Louis Hegedus David Herm Kent Heyborne Wil Huett Richard Hus Jayn Karl Sharon Lance William Mach

Richard Morris Robert Morris Steven Murray John Okada Robert Rice Thomas Schultz J. Sedillo John Williams Harold Wilson

Elizabeth Searle Darren Shaffer Chuck Shaver Kevin Shea Jeremy Siefkas Todd Siegler Jim Sinclair Frank Skillen Mark Smith Kurt & Liz Soderberg Brian Spear Josh Stapp Mark Starosciak Samuel Steen Rick Stephens Kay Stevens Tanya Argo & Chris Striebich Scott Stryker Pat Stucker John Surek Eric Swanson Celia Sheneman & Nick Sweeney Stephen Thompson John Toaspern Josh Tomes Raymond Trontell Philip Turner Daniel Vail Elizabeth Vaught Kellie & Rich Ward Chris Warner Eric Warner Curtis Weller Dave & Julie Wenman Chris Wheeler Bryan White Jim Whiteley Charles Whiting Alex & Connie Wiegers James Williams Alex Woodruff Donald Woods Jon Wright Joe Zell

Donor Levels The Stream Guardian Society

(SGS) is a group of committed Trout Unlimited supporters who have made one of the most sincere and lasting commitments to TU’s conservation mission by naming the organization as a beneficiary of their estate or making a life income gift. A legacy gift is one that provides for future programmatic and organizational security and can help to balance a donor’s financial and philanthropic goals. Members of SGS are securing a better future for Colorado’s rivers and wild places, and for that, we thank you!

The River Stewardship Council (RSC) donors provide core support for Colorado Trout Unlimited’s work on habitat conservation, native trout restoration, watershed education for Colorado youth, engagement with our 24 chapters, and more. This community of donors is committed to conserving, protecting, and restoring Colorado’s rivers and wild places. As members of our flagship donor society, RSC donors contribute $1000 or more annually and enjoy exclusive trip invitations and an annual donor dinner.

The Griffith Circle honors the

legacy of the Trout Unlimited foundation in 1959 when George Griffith brought together a group of anglers at his home on the banks of the Au Sable River in Michigan. The Griffith Circle honors the legacy of these founding members while raising essential resources to continue the march toward their vision. Griffith Circle members make annual contributions of $1,000 or more and support the full range of nationwide Trout Unlimited projects.

The Silver Trout Foundation

was established through a generous bequest from former CTU president Steve Lundy and funds are managed by past recipients of the prestigious Silver Trout Award. The Foundation manages endowment funds for the long-term benefit of CTU and provides donors interested in making endowment gifts a vehicle for leaving their own legacy of coldwater conservation. If you are interested in learning more about our different support levels and opportunities, please contact David Nickum, Colorado TU Executive Director at david.nickum@tu.org

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Colorado TU State Council Officers Matt Moskal, President Greg Hardy, Vice President Larry Howe, Secretary Tom McDermott, Treasurer Marshall Pendergrass, National Leadership Council Representative Buck Skillen, SW Regional Vice President Barbara Luneau, NE Regional Vice President Erin Crider, Metro Regional Vice President Terry Deaton, SE Regional Vice President Ben Bloodworth, NW Regional Vice President

Colorado TU State Council Staff & Contractors David Nickum, Executive Director, dnickum@tu.org Andrea Smith, Communications & Membership Coordinator, andrea.smith@tu.org Geoff Elliot, Youth Education Coordinator, geoff.elliot@tu.org Jen Boulton, Legislative Liasion, jenboulton1@aol.com Anthony Ortiz, Advocacy Intern & Office Assistant, anthony.ortiz@tu.org Ashley Rust, Water Quality Technical Consultant, ashleyrust@gmail.com

TU Western Water & Habitat Program Staff Drew Peternell, Colorado Director, dpeternell@tu.org Brian Hodge, Yampa/White River Basin Project Coordinator, bhodge@tu.org Cary Denison, Gunnison River Basin Project Coordinator, cdenison@tu.org Mely Whiting, Colorado Water Project Legal Counsel, mwhiting@tu.org David Stillwell, Program Coordinator, dstillwell@tu.org Jesse Kruthaupt, Upper Gunnison Project Specialist, jkruthaupt@tu.org Richard Van Gytenbeek, Colorado River Organizer, r.vangytenbeek@tu.org Kevin Terry, Rio Grande Basin Project Manager, kterry@tu.org Lauren Duncan, Abandoned Mine Restoration Project Manager, lduncan@tu.org Jason Willis, Colorado Abandoned Mine Program Manager, jwillis@tu.org Tanner Banks, Mine Restoration Project Manager, tanner.banks@tu.org Sara Porterfield, Water Policy Associate, sara.porterfield@tu.org Lydia Bleifuss, Regional Farm Bill Associate, lydia.bleifuss@tu.org Kaitlyn Vaux, Yampa-White River Basin Project Coordinator, kvaux@tu.org Ian Wilson, White River Project Manager, ian.wilson@tu.org

Denver

1536 Wynkoop St Suite 320 Denver, CO 80202

Durango

1309 E. 3rd Ave Suite 109 Durango, CO 81301

Grand Junction

115 North Fifth St Suite 409 Grand Junction, CO 81201

Salida

128 East 1st St Suite 203 Salida, CO 81201

W W W. T U. O R G

W W W. CO LO R A D OT U. O R G

TU Communications Staff

Kirk Deeter, Vice President of Trout Media, kirk.deeter@tu.org Joshua Duplechian, Senior Producer, jduplechian@tu.org Kara Armano, Southwest Region Communications Director, kara.armano@tu.org

TU Angler Conservation Program Staff

Stephen Kandell, Angler Conservation Project Director, skandell@tu.org Ty Churchwell, San Juan Mountains Coordinator, tchurchwell@tu.org Scott Willoughby, Northern Colorado Field Organizer, scott.willoughby@tu.org Jay Chancellor, Southwest Regional Director, jay.chancellor@tu.org

Credits

Content: CTU & TU staff and volunteers Additional Images By: Joshua Duplechian/TU, staff and volunteers Design and Layout: Andrea Smith/CTU

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W

hile one heck of a musician, when Dave Grohl was the drummer and the backup singer for front man Kurt Cobain in Nirvana his potential was never fully realized. It was when Grohl stepped to the front of the stage, founded the Foo Fighters, sold more than 12 million albums in the US

and won 11 Grammys that his musical genius and stardom was fully seen! While we all have our starting lineup of nymph patterns such as the Pheasant tail and black Pat’s Rubber Legs, it is the underrated and overlooked fly patterns matching the mayfly and stonefly nymphs’ Instars that can really take the river by storm!


Defining Instars As mayfly and stonefly nymphs mature from egg to adult, they go through a number of stages of development called instars. Depending on the species of mayfly or stonefly, they might go through between 10 to 45 of these transitions, or instars. The key physical transformation that marks the instar is the shedding of the nymph’s exoskeleton and the emergence of brightly colored nymph ready to take the stage and grab the attention of hungry trout!

Instars Put on a Show for Hungry Trout Mayfly and stonefly nymphs that were a mottled and muted camouflage of blacks, browns, olives, and dark yellows before their instar, now emerge into the water varying in hues from an almost albino peachy/white to a bright yellow! What were black salmonfly nymphs hiding in the shadows, and the brown/grey blue winged olive nymphs blending in with the algae on a rock, will for a couple of days look like Axl Rose in the spotlight donning bright yellow spandex! Having just passed through an instar, these nymphs can’t help but stand out to the hungry eyes of feeding trout, and this creates an amazing opportunity for the fly fisher to mix up their fly patterns and turn an average day on the water into one for the record books!


Hot Fly Patterns for Matching Instars Nymph patterns tied in yellow, white, gold, and cahill are going to be your best ones for matching the instars! Some of my personal favorites are:

THE PAT’S RUBBER LEGS IN GOLD Matching Large Stoneflies in hook sizes 8-14

THE BEADHEAD LIGHTNING BOLT IN YELLOW Matching Small Stoneflies and Mayflies in hook sizes 12-18

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& THE BEADHEAD PSYCHO PRINCE IN METALLIC YELLOW Matching Small Stoneflies and Mayflies in hook sizes 12-20

So, the next time you are on the water and turn over a rock to be greeted by the bright yellow flash of a nymph freshly molted from an instar, tie on the brightest yellow bugs in your fly box and hold on tight because the show is about to get started!

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.

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A RETURN TO IN-PERSON: SUMMER 2021 IN CTU’S HEADWATERS YOUTH PROGRAM

by Geoff Elliot www.HCAezine.com

Fall 2021 • High Country Angler PHOTO BY EMMA BROWN

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hroughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program was forced to cancel or postpone many programs, while others were adapted for virtual deliveries. As we began planning for this past summer, we leaned into optimism and planned for the worst amidst the uncertainties around the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, Colorado Trout Unlimited excitedly (albeit, cautiously) returned to in-person youth education programs in June 2021, thanks to help from incredible program volunteers and guidance from TU National’s Headwaters Youth staff. The 2021 River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp kicked things off in mid-June. Amidst the uncertainty around the pandemic leading up to camp, CTU followed CDC guidance to reduce overall capacity by limiting camp applications to youth who applied in 2020 or participated in the TU Teens Live program last summer. Beyond the reduced capacity, we integrated several other protocols including daily health screenings, masks indoors, and cohorts for small group activities. With the mitigation measures in place, thirteen high school students joined eight volunteer counselors for a seven-day experience at AEI Base Camp in Taylor Park area of Gunnison County. Over the course of the week, campers:

• Sampled macroinvertebrates to evaluate stream health; • Learned about hydrology and stream flow from Natural Resources Conservation Service; • Participated in water management discussions with TU National staff; • Developed and honed fly fishing and fly tying skills; • Restored a river corridor by removing aban• Conducted a fish population survey with Colo- doned and problem beaver dams; rado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife • Practiced Leave No Trace and Keep ‘Em Wet Service; principles; and,

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• Built a community of young fly fishers to carry their experience and passion moving forward. To reflect upon their camp experience, we asked campers to submit a “Spirit of Camp” creative project. On the last night of camp, the counselors gathered to review submissions. Submissions ranged from photo collages to sculptures to poems. The artwork highlighted new skills, friendships, or interests they developed throughout the week. Beyond demonstrating the incredible creativity of the campers, the projects underscored the transformative power of the camp experience. Campers from Colorado and New Mexico came together and established friendships. Young adults explored possible futures for themselves. New anglers and fly tyers developed their skills alongside peers and passionate volunteers. Counselors of all ages left with smiles inspired by the energy and passion of the high schoolers. The post-camp evaluations reinforced this sentiment. Campers indicated growth in their fly fishing (specifically casting) and fly tying skills, an increased awareness and understanding of fisheries conservation, watershed management, aquatic ecology, and a desire to support on-the-ground conservation efforts moving forward. In addition, all campers identified increased desire to share outdoor experiences with friends and family and explore post-secondary opportunities in natural resource management and outdoor recreation. With the goal of developing the next generation of river stewards, these evaluative outcomes recognized the success of camp and provided opportunities to build upon this year to enrich the experience further. In addition to the River Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp, CTU piloted two new programs this summer. The first of these was an adapted STREAM Girls program focused on reaching underrepresented and diwww.HCAezine.com

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verse audiences through partnerships. In June and July, CTU hosted three STREAM Keepers events in partnership with Littleton Public Schools Extended Middle School, Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement – A GOCO Generation Wild Coalition, and Lincoln Hills Cares. In partnership with these groups, CTU provided hands-on STEM-based opportunities to more than 100 youth and families. This included students who struggled amidst the pandemic, Latinx families, and youth from immigrant communities. STREAM Keepers participants explored local riparian ecosystems, learned fly casting skills, surveyed macroinvertebrates, and fished local waters. At the conclusion of these STREAM Keepers programs, participants expressed their excitement to continue fly fishing (some participants even caught their first fish during STREAM Keepers) and shared their appreciation for local watersheds. Furthermore, these pilot programs helped CTU foster partnerships with organizations that will carry forward to allow for further opportunities to connect with youth audiences. In addition to STREAM Keepers, CTU offered its first reengagement program for STREAM Girls alumni, STREAM Girls 2.0. After a year of virtual programming, we had over 80 STREAM Girls participants who completed the selfguided program with their only guidance and interaction through a Zoom call and educational videos. After reviewing evaluations from these virtual programs, it was clear the self-guided program fell short in the skill-based learning opportunities. To reconnect with these audiences, we welcomed 8 STREAM Girls alumni back for a fly fishing clinic focused on setting up fly rods, knots, fly casting, and fishing in mid-August. Volunteers provided individualized mentorship to reinforce and build 60

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upon skills introduced during the virtual programs. We are excited to continue these STREAM Girls 2.0 programs to provide opportunities for the STREAM Girls community to grow across Colorado! A big thank you to the volunteers, chapters, and donors who help to support Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program. Across all these offerings, we supported opportunities for over 125 youth and families to connect with watersheds, develop fly fishing skills, and learn about conservation efforts. To learn more about Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program, explore volunteer opportunities, or donate to support our efforts, visit coloradotu.org/youth-education or email youth@coloradotu.org.

About The Author Geoff Elliot is the Youth Education Coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited, based out of Glen Haven.

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Have you considered a planned gift to Colorado TU? A legacy gift to Colorado TU helps to secure our future and enables us to continue our work preserving and restoring Colorado’s watersheds for years to come. It allows us to improve wild trout habitat in your homewaters, to restore native cutthroats, and to offer our River Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp to more of Colorado’s youth. By making Colorado TU a beneficiary of your estate, you are making one of the most sincere and lasting commitments to our conservation mission and supporting cold, clean, fishable waters in Colorado. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss planned giving options with you further. Please contact Shannon Kindle at (303) 440-2937 or skindle@tu.org to www.HCAezine.com Falllearn 2021 •more. High Country Angler

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THE LAST CAST

JOHN NICKUM

Tough Times for Trout Are trout populations in the western United States in serious trouble?  News reports are filled with stories about drought, wildfires, climate change and legal battles over water allocations.  What can trout anglers do?

Q

Good questions. You have identified serious issues facing not only trout anglers, but everyone living in the western third of the United States.  Although these issues are affecting the western areas more directly than the central and eastern areas of the U.S., these problems affect the entire nation and other nations as well.   Trout are adapted to clear, clean, cold water.  Trout habitat in western America, and North America in general, developed in its present form and geographic distribution over the last 10,000 to 12,000 years following the retreat of the continental ice sheets that marked the last Ice Age.  Trout physiology and genetics adapted in harmony with the changing environment over all those years.  Although there have been an array of perturbations in local areas and even fluctuations in climate over broader areas, there have not been major climate disruptions of the magnitude seen in recent years.  Recent climate disruptions point toward serious longterm degradation that threatens trout and trout fishing as we have known it. The environment can change more rapidly than trout can adapt.  Prior to 1800, fossil fuels (coal and petroleum) were not in common use for industrial and transportation purposes.  Although there had been short periods of above normal temperature conditions, as well as "little ice ages" that lasted two to five years, climate as a whole had been relatively constant.  The relative con-

A

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centrations of gases in the Earth's atmosphere had been quite steady for centuries, but have changed substantially over the last 200 years, and especially over the last 100 years as modern industries and transportation systems developed. The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has nearly doubled just since 1950.  Atmospheric scientists now agree that greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and methane, are responsible for global warming and more frequent catastrophic weather events.  Climate change is a complex phenomenon, but it is driven primarily by warming ocean waters, especially the Earth's largest ocean, the Pacific Ocean. Weather in western North America is influenced strongly by changes in the surface waters and currents in the waters adjacent to our continent.  The extreme heat events experienced this past summer and the drought conditions in the southwestern U.S. are correlated with temperature changes in Pacific Ocean waters.  Dry stream beds and/or miles of streams with waters exceeding 80 F are lethal to trout and migrating salmon.  Northern California has experienced numerous examples of such conditions this year.  When water rights for agricultural purposes and domestic water supplies are diverted from trout and salmon rivers, the needs of the fish often are ignored.  Even in streams still holding water, the needs of fish for cooler water temperatures cannot be met.  These are tough times for trout.   The Western U.S. has experienced record wildfires in recent months.  These wildfires are directly related to higher than normal temperatures and tinder dry conditions in the forests and scrublands of States from California and Oregon to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.  Wildfires may affect trout and salmon directly, but the aftermaths of the fires can be even more disastrous. When rains do come to www.HCAezine.com


the parched lands, they often arrive as local downThese are tough times for trout, but they are not bursts dropping inches of rainfall in short periods hopeless - IF we work together for the common of time. Flash floods carrying huge amounts of de- good of our lands, water, air, wildlife, and all life bris from the fire-scarred areas destroy the stream forms with whom we share a fragile planet. habitat that has supplied  trout and salmon with food items, shelter, channels for migration, and spawning areas bout The Author for centuries.  Warm water and debris-clogged gills do not proJohn Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist whose vide salmonid fishes with the career has included positions as professor at research physical conditions they need for survival. universities including Iowa State and Cornell University, Is there anything that trout director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fisheries anglers can do to ameliorate the research facility in Bozeman, MT, and science officer for onslaught of the unrelenting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. challenges of climate change He was inducted into the National Fish Culture Hall of and the physical conditions Fame in 2008. caused by drought,  wildfires, and elevated water temperatures in the streams, rivers and Save 10% - Use Promo Code HCA1703 Offer Expires 12/31/2022 lakes of the western U.S.?  The massive scale of warming, drought, reduced stream flows, and wildfires demand physical and financial abilities beyond anything that individual anglers can bring to bear on the problems; however, there are things individuals can do.  First, they can make adjustments in their individual lives to reduce the amounts of greenhouse gasses they pour into the Earth's atmosphere.  Individuals can lend their political voice to conservation, supporting resource agencies that manage the lands, waters, and fishes of the western US. Anglers can adjust their own fishing behavior to give stressed fisheries a break during tough times, moving to cooler and less depleted waters.

A

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Colorado Trout Unlimited's

River Stewardship Gala March 10, 2022

Join your fellow river and trout conservationists for a wonderful night of drinks, dinner, and live and silent auctions filled with world-class fishing opportunities, tickets to shows, getaways, and so much more! The Colorado Trout Unlimited River Stewardship Gala is an event not to be missed. Funds raised at Colorado TU’s Gala are used across our beautiful state to restore trout habitat and reintroduce native cutthroats to their home waters, engage youth in conservation education, partner with our 24 chapters on local projects, and advocate for Colorado's rivers and fisheries.

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