Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Currently reading: Year of the Big Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910

It's been a longtime since I last checked out a book from the public library, but research does occasionally pull me in to the doors of the Park County Library (Cody, WY).  Looking for some specific material, I have since become hooked into Stephen J. Pyne's Year of the Fires (Viking Press).  The tale of the conflagrations that shaped fire policy in the U.S. for nearly a century as well as much of the culture of the Forest Service is an engrossing story.  From the personal stories of those who lived through the inferno to the communities and agencies that sought to respond to the disaster as it unfolded, the story of each is compellingly told.  It is unfortunate that an event such as this has become largely forgotten when the scars and impacts continue to be felt in contemporary natural resource management.

Currently reading: Cutthroat & Campfire Tales

Cutthroat & Campfire Tales: The Fly-fishing Heritage of West by John H. Monnett (University Press of Colorado) is a delightful book on the history of fly fishing from the Rocky Mountain perspective.  Wonderfully easy to read with chapters that are just the right length, John Monnett treats the reader to the colorful antics of western fly fisherman from a variety of vantage points.  Each chapter stands alone and is a joy to read unto itself.  The greatest aspect of the book is the manner in which John seamlessly threads the history of western fly fishing into the broader tapestry of East Coast and European fly fishing history.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wild and Scenic Rivers

America has been blessed with an abundance of beautiful waters that flow across our landscape from coast-to-coast.  In 1968 in recognition of the development pressures that were quickly stripping many of our waters of their very character, particularly as a result of dam building, the Wild and Scenic River Act was passed by the U.S. Congress.

The Act established the Wild and Scenic Rivers System in order to provide some protection to the nation’s still free flowing waters. Unfortunately the lofty ideals encompassed in the legislation have largely gone unrecognized.  Today less than a quarter of one percent of our free flowing waters have been protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 
The Wild and Scenic Northfork of the Flathead River looking into Glacier National Park

Free flowing waters within the Wild and Scenic Rivers System fall into one of three categories, which can be found on the National Wild and Scenic River System’s website at www.rivers.gov.
  1. Wild River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America.
  2. Scenic River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
  3. Recreational River Areas: Those rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, that may have some development along their shorelines, and that may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past.


The Wild and Scenic Rivers System fairly glows with unrealized potential.  A perfect example is the vaunted Yellowstone River, the largest remaining undammed river in the lower 48 states.  Only a meager 20.5 miles of this still untamed river have been designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; the entirety of which can be found within the limits of the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. 

In 1979 all federal agencies overseeing public lands were directed by President Carter to inventory the waters that flow through their lands and determine which waters held the characteristics for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River System.  While only a quarter of one percent of our nation’s waters are currently protected under the Wild and Scenic River system 3,400 individual segments have been inventoried within the National Rivers Inventory.  Take a moment to see if your favorite fly fishing destination or home waters have already been identified within the inventory.  There may be a tremendous opportunity to see your favorite waters designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, ensuring those waters near and dear to your heart are protected for generations to come.

Take a moment to look at your favorite waters and ask yourself whether they deserve protection and recognition under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  As is so often the case in conservation, a proposal for designation is most powerful when it is homegrown.  Successfully obtaining a designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act ensures that the character of your river and its angling opportunities will be maintained for generations to come.

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Adventures on Familiar Home Waters

One of the wonderful aspects of fly fishing high mountain waters, whether it be headwater streams, alpine ponds, or mountain lakes, is the discovery of previously unknown areas.  Take for instance my journey this last summer to Bear Park in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Bear Park overlooks many of the waters I've fished since I was a child, but for some inexplicable reason I have never followed the trail that led me up the side of mountain to Bear Park.


Barely legible Forest Service sign announcing Bear Park


Home waters provide us a sense of familiarity, but as I learned this last summer there exists opportunities for new adventures within or near our most familiar home waters.

Bear Park from an adjacent trail
Although I've fished the waters on this side of the Big Horn Mountains for the majority of my life, taking the time to explore new paths lead me to new stretches of water previously unknown to me.
Tensleep Creek from the bridge along the trail to Bear Park

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Currently Reading: River's Edge, A Fly-Fishing Realm

River's Edge: A Fly-Fishing Realm by Walt Franklin is a work of short essays and reflections on the the connection to nature derived from pursuing the sport of fly fishing.  The stories are largely set (at least to this point of my reading) within the eastern U.S. covering waters of Appalachia country.  For readers and anglers who are most familiar with the waters of public lands in the western United States, such as myself, the volume is a great introduction to the qualities that make the waters Walt Franklin describes unique, worth pursing trout upon, and worth conserving.  The waters, the trout, and the flies Franklin describe paint a vivid picture of the natural art that fly fishing provides in the most subtle of moments.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's been a year... how embarrassing

The New Year has come and gone and along with it a year with far too little angling and even less blogging.  I allowed my attention to this blog slip after accepting a new position in my native Wyoming and all the things that are involved with moving across state lines.  After returning home to my native Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem I had only a few opportunities between new job and new house to reacquaint myself with old waters, namely the Shoshone River and the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone.

After getting settled in I've been dedicating a great deal of my time to working on a book manuscript on the role of fly fishing in conservation, but more on that at a later date.  So, putting my embarrassment aside it is my goal to once again dedicate a portion of my time to this blog and continuing the conversation on fly fishing and conservation.  Stay tuned and I look forward to our future conversations!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Fly Fishing Perspective to Ecosystem-based Management

It has become common knowledge in the conservation community that managing natural resource in a world divided by artificial political boundaries is challenging and at times seemingly impossible.  These challenges become even more daunting as habitat managers and species managers rarely are one and the same.  Couple this with a mix of public and private lands through which waters carve their path and we begin to get a sense of how natural resource management and conservation become so difficult.

Ecosystem-based management is a natural resource management protocol whose simplicity in concept belies its application.  At its most basic ecosystem-based management encompasses two broad concepts: 1) managing natural resources along ecological boundaries rather than political boundaries and 2) managing the ecosystem as a system rather than by individual land cover types, habitat types, or species.
A river in New Hampshire, late summer.

Intuitively we in the fly fishing community have long understood that a healthy fishery requires more than a population of trout.  We long ago moved past the era of stocking and assuming that the presence of trout in a body of water constitutes either a healthy or adequate fishery. Likewise, when lifting our gaze from the water we have long recognized that the uplands, their use, development, and health all influence the health of local waters and the fishery.  In many ways we've known for quite sometime that a healthy watershed requires more than just clean waters, but a healthy, functioning upland ecosystem as well.

In landscapes as complex as those we love to fish throughout the United States implementing something as conceptually simple as ecosystem-based management is itself a complex endeavor.  Bringing together a diverse set of stakeholders, natural resource management agencies, industries, and private landowners to craft a vision of a healthy ecosystem as well a means of achieving goals within an ecosystem context is as daunting as any conservation challenges we seek to tackle.  Nevertheless, ecosystem-based management serves as an effective means of understanding and addressing the complex environmental impacts threatening our cold water fisheries and the sport we love.

A future post will explore upland ecosystem connections to a healthy native trout population.