Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shoshone River Decimated

Updated- December 8, 2016
Local, state, and federal agencies involved in either the causing or responding to the Willwood Dam silt release that killed trout and as smothered aquatic habitat for miles met yesterday in Casper, Wyoming.  Local papers reported rather glowingly on a meeting that provided little substance other than to study the possiblity that flushing flows from Buffalo Bill Dam west of Cody, Wyoming might be utilized to help remove the silt from behind the dilapidated dam.  The lack of ingenuity and effort leaves us to wonder just how the environmental timebomb resting behind the dam will be dealt with in a manner that protects the environment and holds those responsible for the situation accountable.

Updated- December 5, 2016
The weeks-long fish kill on the Shoshone River is set to repeat itself.  With little to no public outreach the Willwood Irrigation District refilled the reservoir pool behind the dilapidated Willwood Dam.  Refilling of the reservoir without even a half-hearted attempt at finding a solution for the estimated 530,00 cubic yards of sediment behind the dam leaves only the question of when the next trout and river killing release will take place.  For additional information on situation see the latest article in the Cody Enterprise.

After writing my series of blog posts on "how I accidentally decided to write a book" (see parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively- part 5 is forthcoming), I took the summer off to backpack, fly fish, and be a father.  I also, in a fit of writing pique, cast aside all pretenses of writing for several months following the realization that the only way my book manuscript was going to be published was if I went down the self-publishing route.

My summer off taught me that self-doubt is a helluva devil to vanquish, even in the depths of beautiful Wyoming wilderness.  I eventually made peace with the realization that I was committed to my book manuscript and that if self publishing was the only way I was going to be able to share my ideas then so be it.  Nevertheless,  I have continued to allow this blog to languish.

While resuming work on my book manuscript I went back-and-forth for a couple of months on whether or not to reactive this blog and develop new content.  It has taken a local environmental tragedy to convince me that I need to continue writing on those things I love to write about most, namely conservation and fly fishing.
Four Pelicans on the Shoshone River above Willwood Dam

The local environmental tragedy that has brought me back to blogging is the decimation of the nearby Shoshone River.  In late October, maintenance on the antiquated Willwood Dam on the Shoshone resulted in the release of immense volumes of silt that had been slowly accumulating behind the dam.  The release smothered the river bottom and fish alike for miles downstream. For weeks silt continued to pour from the behind the dam, leaving miles of riverine habitat buried beneath feet, if not yards, of silt. As of today, the reservoir behind the decrepit dam is refilling ,serving as prelude for another preventable disaster on the Shoshone River.

I will update this post as I learn more on the fate of the Shoshone River below Willwood Dam.  Until then, welcome back to the Fly Fishing and Conservation blog!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Finding Climate Change on a Trout Stream

In early 2017, the word climate has two highly divergent meanings.  In the first, it's the long-term pattern of weather for a particular region.  In the second, it means a widespread attitude related to a specific phenomena.  In today's world when we pair 'climate' with 'change' the two meaning inevitable converge.  This is easily seen when reading nearly any journalistic column or article on the topic of climate change.

It's hard to find a recent narrative on climate change that doesn't include the political controversy surrounding the subject.  When we pair 'climate' with 'change' we are nearly simultaneously immersed in the political controversy related to this global physical phenomena studied rigorously by science, yet debated endlessly by politicians.  Hence, the convergence of the term climate.
Tensleep Creek, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Climate change is huge.  I get it.  It's so big that it's much easier to just go about your day and ignore it.  Heck, it's easy to go through your entire day without once trying to wrap your mind around the concept of climate change let alone how, as a society, we're going to address the problem.  Hey, I studied climate change in graduate school and there were definitely days when it was the last thing I wanted to think about.  On days like that my favorite thing to do was slink off to one of my favorite waters, fly rod in hand, and just let the water slip past me as I cast.

The more I gave myself up to the concentration of making the cast, the farther climate change faded from my mind.  Research and political arguments over whether to mitigate its impacts or adapt to them slipped away as I would watch for a  trout to poke its nose from beneath the water to slurp down a floating morsel.  Vulnerability of people, animals, trees, forests, landscapes, streams, rivers, lakes all vanished before the next cast, the next strike, the next fly.

Lake Golden, Cloud Peak Wilderness, Wyoming (looking west)
I was surrounded by Rocky Mountain grandeur as I cast my fly on rivers composed of the snow that melted on their granite sides, then it hit me!  What if the snow that my favorite waters depended upon continued to melt earlier and earlier every year as they'd been doing for the last decade and more?  Even more horrifying, what if the snow just simply stopped coming?  You know, like in the Sierra Nevada's over the last few years?

And like that I realized I had a vested interest in understanding climate change for a reasons well beyond the academic.  There is a terrific likelihood that climate change is going to turn my favorite sport and my favorite waters on their head.  This made everything I read in dry academic journals very real beyond what charts, graphs, and statistical significance ever could.  And this is how I found climate change on a trout stream...

Next week we'll take a look at what climate change means for many of our favorite waters.  Until then-
Cheers & Tight Lines,

Twitter- @ConserveTrout