Monday, March 30, 2015

Fishing without a Pole

On the first day of Spring I found myself spending the unseasonably warm day fishing without a pole.  Perhaps more accurately, I spent the weekend on trails nears some of my favorite waters in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.  I call this fishing without a pole as even though I wasn't casting a line my thoughts were tied to my home waters as I logged mile after mile on two different trails.

The first trail paralleled the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River.  The route I followed is the Morrison Jeep Trail and offers access to superb water and splendid scenery.  On this particular day there was no ATV traffic to contend with, which if you are interested in taking the trail and want at least a modicum of peace, I recommend hiking the route between December and April in order to reduce the amount of ATV traffic you encounter.
Looking west into Clark's Fork Canyon along the Morrison Jeep Trail

During the course of the day I encountered a small herd of Big Horn Sheep as well as a numerous small herds of mule deer, much to my surprise.  I walked the length of the ATV route, about five miles, until the trail began ascending the canyon wall.  The ATV path zig-zags up the canyon wall and allows you access to the Beartooth Plateau above, but this wasn't for me today.  Instead I continued following a footpath upon which ATV traffic was barred by a wrought iron fence and gate.  Little to my knowledge the trail continued for what a little less than a mile before terminating as the sheer canyon walls pushed out to meet the edge of the water.  I had hoped to cover a bit more distance before turning back to return on the same route I came, but alas it was not to be.
Warning sign before beginning the ascent from the bottom of Clark's Fork Canyon.

While my trip had met its half-way point, I was pleasantly surprised by the new potential fishing holes I'd found as well as a most interesting collection of trees that gathered together in a small copse on my side of the river.  The little riverine community included Englemann spruce, limber pine, and juniper.  Juxtaposed against the sheer rock cliffs and the river the grove offered the perfect spot from which to eat lunch and consider the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone, fly fishing, ATVs, public lands, and the multitude of issues and conflicts that surround each.  In short, it was like fishing without a pole.

End of the trail as river meets rock

Friday, March 13, 2015

Currently Reading- The Creation: an appeal to save life on earth

Once again world renowned biologist E.O. Wilson leaves his mark on the world, this time through his book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth.  Through chapters that are structured as letters addressed to a Pastor, Professor Wilson seeks to empower secular and Christian readers to find common ground while he issues a clarion call for humanity to acknowledge and respond to mankind's biosphere-spanning environmental impacts.

Gently, but with clear purpose Professor Wilson addresses head-on the divergent worldviews of Christianity and secularists then utilizes science to its fullest potential.  Dr. Wilson presents, chapter-by-chapter, the cumulative impacts that industrialized society has wreaked on the globe providing numerous examples based on his deep background as an entomologist.  Purposefully, the reader is guided through myriad ecosystems to view with detail the globe-spanning issues and impacts that we must address if we are to have any chance at all of maintaining society at the current standard of living and while also maintaining our fragile environmental security.

Having only completed the first two sections of the book I'm looking forward with both interest and trepidation to the remaining three.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Endangered Species Act & Fly Fishing

More than forty years after its inception the Endangered Species Act has contributed mightily to the protection of the nation's coldwater fisheries.  While oft-times criticized for its economic impacts as a result of curtailing development, there can be no discounting the biological and economic benefits that have flowed as a result of maintaining native species in their historic ranges.  Nevertheless, many challenges remain for native salmonids across the United States.

Our coldwater fisheries have become biologically impoverished as a result of the loss of native trout and salmon that have either been diminished in their native habitat or have blinked out of existence following Euro-American expansion across the country.  Both the Yellowfin cutthroat trout and the Alvord cutthroat trout are today presumed to be extinct.  The Endangered Species Act has been leveraged to ensure that our remaining native trout and salmon fauna do not succumb to the same fate as the Yellowfin and Alvord cutthroat trout.

Seemingly relentless pressures from land development, water development, pollution, and the stocking of non-natives have pushed many native trout species to the brink of extinction.  As a result of these continuing pressures the Endangered Species Act is currently offering protection to a host of trout species that include:
·         Little Kern golden trout (threatened)
·         Apache trout (threatened)
·         Lahontan cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Paiute cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Rio Grande cutthroat trout (candidate for listing)
·         Greenback cutthroat trout (threatened)
·         Gila trout (threatened)
·         Bull trout (threatened)

Not to be overlooked are the numerous Pacific salmon runs that have also been designated as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

Yellowfin and Alvord cutthroat trout have both been lost to the world.  They can neither be appreciated by those who simply love the natural world or those of us whose connection to the natural world is strongest when holding a fly rod in our hand.  Forty years after becoming the paragon of conservation legislation the Endangered Species Act working to ensure waters that we love do not become increasingly biologically impoverished.The Endangered Species Act has too often been maligned as a hindrance to progress.  

If the last forty plus years have taught us anything when it comes to the protection of trout and salmon species it is that the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act have been well worth the investment. In ensuring that native species continue to inhabit their native habitats the ESA is also promoting the sport of fly fishing by allowing anglers the unique opportunity to pursue trout and salmon within their native habitats.