Thursday, February 18, 2016

When Cold Water Alone Isn't Enough to Protect Trout

My goal for today was not to write a blog post, but to be on the water for the first time this year.  Today the temperature is hovering right around 50 degrees Farenheit, balmy for mid-February.  It has been unseasonably warm this week and temperatures appear that they will stay the course over the next ten days at least.  This would worry me much less if here in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming we hadn't had such warm temperatures all the way through November and into early December.

As is typical when such warm winter temps strike the basin the wind is howling, which is what keeps me off the water today.  Watching the clouds whip across the sky without leaving a drop of moisture behind makes me wonder what's in store this coming summer and into the season of low-flows in the fall and next winter.  With that in mind recent research  by the U.S. Geologic Survey has revealed that streamflow along with warming water temperatures both should worry anglers.

The paper is a synthesis that examined forty-two studies from across the globe and found that reduced streamflow, in addition to warming water temperatures, are a concern for trout survival.  Anglers are well versed in the importance of ensuring that trout have cold or, at least, cool water temperatures.  Many of us carry thermometers with us in the field to inform our actions on the stream.  When waters are warm we play trout and release them quickly.  When waters are too warm, we leaving fishing for another day.  In some states government has gotten into the act by reducing the hours when fishing is allowed during times of high water temperatures or at times closing waters to angling when the peril to trout is too great.

Of greatest importance from this paper is the role streamflow plays in trout survival.  The research found a 67% negative impact to trout when streamflows are reduced.  Alternatively, the research noted a 67% positive impact to trout during times of increased streamflow.  Why does this matter to fly fishing?  Because society has control of streamflow on so many of our waters across the country.  This means that with engagement with conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and engagement with the agencies that maintain control over so many of our water, we have an opportunity to maintain healthy trout populations and habitats in times of what may otherwise seem like unavoidable losses.

Local irrigation districts to the mammoth Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers control the waters we love and therefore the habitat and ecosystems we depend upon.  Engaging and then collaborating with such a diverse set of agencies from the local to the federal level is a tremendous challenge, but one worth undertaking to protect the sport and resources we love.

The research cited in this blog is from:
Kovach, Ryan P., Clint C. Muhlfeld, Robert Al-Chokhachy, Jason B. Dunham, Benjamin H. Letcher, and Jeffrey L. Kershner. "Impacts of climatic variation on trout: a global synthesis and path forward." Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (2015): 1-17.

I first encountered this article on the February 1, 2016 issue of Mountain West News found online at


You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wyoming Mountains & Home-waters

First, allow me to apologize for my lack of content over the last several months.  This last fall I once again took-up a book manuscript that I've been working on for quite some time after setting it aside following the birth of my second little one last summer.  Work on the manuscript has dominated my time as well as my mental space so important for writing, thus the lapse in blog posts.

Much like this blog, the focus of my book is on trout conservation.  Tentatively titled, Wyoming Mountains & Home-waters: poverty, fly fishing, and conservation, the book is a call for an ecosystem-spanning view of native trout conservation wrapped in a memoir of growing up in rural Wyoming, learning to fly fish and making a life-long connection to nature.

Native trout are the twenty-first century inheritors of the conservation efforts for wild trout that have been so successful over the last several decades.  Many of our native trout are in dire need of conservation and protection efforts as they continue to lose habitat to human development.  And not to be overlooked is the fact that many of the native trout that make our home-waters special are in a losing struggle with non-native trout stocked into their habitat.  These impacts span the entirety of trout habitats from within the stream itself to the uplands, thus my call for an ecosystem-spanning vision of native trout conservation.

I want to dedicate the time and effort necessary to make this blog something worth taking time out of your day to read.  In order to ensure that your time and mine are both well spent, I'm going to, at times, use this blog as a means of discussing the writing of the book manuscript.  I expect posts of this nature to be fairly spontaneous arising from the challenges, insights, or research I've been working on most recently to inform the post.  I will, of course, continue to write posts dedicated to fly fishing and conservation, the themes and purpose of this blog.

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to spend with me and I look forward to continuing this journey as we enjoy the sport of fly fishing and the conservation of the trout and their habitats that make it possible.

Until next time,

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly