Monthly Archives: February 2011

14 posts

Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited Fly Fishing Show Tomorrow Feb 26 2011

Trout Unlimited

The Trout Unlimited Rapidan Chapter’s annual Fly Fishing Show is tomorrow, February 26th at Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Virginia from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. This is a larger venue than the Middleburg Community Center, where it’s been held in recent years, except for last year when it was snowed out.

In addition to the vendors, guides and the raffles for gear and a trip to fish Yellowstone National Park, they have a great speaker line up starting at 9:30 am:

  • 9:30  Jeff Murray – Mountain Trout Fishing
  • 10:15 William Heresniak – Flyfishing for Musky
  • 11:00 Capt. Tony Harding – Flyfishing Virginia Tidal Waters
  • 11:45 Beau Beasley – Fishing Best Waters of Mid-Atlantic
  • 12:45 Bryan Kelly – Three Moods of Smallmouth Bass
  • 1:30 Colby Trow – Trophy Fish of Shenandoah Valley
  • 2:15 Grizz Lambert (sorry, can’t find a link) – Shad Fishing on Potomac
  • 3:00 Jeff Kelble – Virginia Rivers Fish Outlook

Proceeds from the show benefit the chapter’s conservation projects, and if the wind keeps up tomorrow like it is right now, you won’t be out fishing anyway. So stop by the show.

View Larger Map

Virginia Trout Stocking Schedule February 22 2011

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Looks like a more modest trout stocking schedule this week than last time. Probably a good time to hit Passage Creek, mid-week, before the crowds get there this weekend.

Chesapeake (City of)
Northwest River Park (02/22)
Giles Co.
Wolf Creek (02/22)
Grayson Co.
Hales Lake (02/22)
Montgomery Co.
Craig Creek (02/22)
Newport News (City of)
Lake Biggins (02/22)
Shenandoah Co.
Passage Creek (02/22)

Brook Trout Fishing in 2011 – It’s Time!

Sounds Exciting

The weather forecast for last Friday was for a warm day, into the 70s. So I started watching the temperature each day in anticipation, planning to take the day off to try to catch some brook trout in Shenandoah National Park for the first time this year. Friday’s weather ended up being similar to Thursday’s, but a little warmer and with wind gusts to 30 mph. Minus the wind, it would have been ideal. For the middle of February, it still was. No one can complain about a sunny, 70 degree day in the last few weeks of winter even if it means your rusty casting skills are going to be tested by that stiff breeze. I decided to head out around 8:00 and drive to a stream in the park that I had never fished before.

Three things are unfortunate for each and every one of you who reads this. The first is that this is a stream I rarely hear mentioned, and since I’ve discovered it is a great stream, I will not name it. No stream in the park is such a big secret, though. Everyone knows that just about every stream there has at least some brook trout. So get a map, find the blue lines and head out there. That’s what I do, with the occasional hint from a few books and reports found among those who do the same. I had been eying this stream on the map for a while, but without confirmation of what’s there and knowing that a poor fishing spot means an entire day “wasted” (as wasted as a bad day of hiking and fishing can be), I’ve just never checked it out. Coupled with what looked like some questionable access on the map and some roads that seemed more like suggestions, I wasn’t sure what I would be driving into. But I figured now was the time to see. Worst case was I’d be outside sunning myself in the middle of February.

The second unfortunate thing for you is that you were not out there on Friday. No one was out there. Maybe you convinced yourself to save those vacation days for April and May, when the fishing is no doubt at its best in the park. Maybe you thought stiff winds smothering your casts wasn’t worth it. Maybe you figured since it’s a three day weekend, you’d head up there on Monday, the Presidents’ Day Holiday, because you know many have to work and won’t be out there trampling on your favorite spots. Whatever the reason, I saw no one all day once I got inside the park boundary. That’s not unusual, but it still amazes me.

First Brook Trout 2011
Nice Little Mountain Brookie

The third unfortunate thing is that you missed out on some great dry fly fishing in the afternoon. Despite the breeze, I found enough sheltered spots and enough will and technique to get a size 14 Adams where I wanted it to go most of the time. Cutting the wind with a big dry fly and having fish take it, even if they were a little slow, in FEBRUARY, 70 degrees, everyone else is at work… mana.

The stream was right at 40 degrees when I got there. By the time I left it had probably hit 43, according to my very hard to read thermometer. Definitely at least 42. That small warm up seemed to be all it took to get the brookies hitting dry flies drifted over their snouts. Since I wanted to explore this stream a bit, I had first walked upstream a few miles, then turned around and targeted some pools and runs that I then fished upstream in short segments. In the first several pools I had no luck. Then finally a good sized brookie hit my fly. It was a fat male still colored nicely, and as I lazily hoisted him he flipped off back into the pool. Awesome! I ended up not catching as many fish as I would in April or May, but these were all decent fish, similar to the one pictured which was the last one I caught and the slimmest.

Unnamed Stream
Nice Little Stream

As is the case every time I fly fish, I learned or re-learned a few things. It’s been months since I’ve fished a small mountain trout stream, and I think the reason it took me a while to land the first one was impatience. I was not fishing out every pool thoroughly. On a warm winter day, it seemed even more important to give the fish a few looks at the fly rather than one or two drifts like you’d expect in the prime time of spring. The ones I caught were taken after I floated the fly by several times, and the takes were slow, not the lighting fast strikes of spring, summer and fall. The desperate little creatures must think something like this: “Man, I’m sick of winter… Hey, was that a fly floating by? Ain’t it a little early? There goes another. Didn’t realize I was hungry. And there goes — I’m snaggin’ it!” So once I slowed down and methodically fished every seam and pocket I was successful.

I also tried another dry fly floatant, Gink. This stuff works really well. I treated the fly when it was bone dry, and until it was taken and slimed, all it needed was a good shake to restore its high-floating ways. I’ve got another dry fly floatant to try next time. The stuff I’ve been using most recently, Loon Aquel, is also good. I would have to try both side-by-side to really compare them. There are so many dry fly floatants and I’ve only tried a few. Most are silicone, so maybe they’re all actually the same. I don’t really know for sure.

Anyway, the season is upon us. Winter is revisiting for the next few days, but spring is coming quickly. Get ready.

Maryland Lawmakers Warned of Natural Gas Drilling Risks

Gas Well
Hydrofracking, courtesy of

Last week I wrote something about the potential risks of Marcellus shale gas drilling and hydrofracking and how this is very possibly something that will affect water quality and therefore brook trout. I just read an article in the Baltimore Sun about the former head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and his take gas drilling. In a meeting with Maryland lawmakers, his advice is to be careful (emphasis below is from me):

“If you have time to do additional studies up front, I would recommend it,” said Quigley, now a senior fellow with a Pennsylvania environmental group. The former manager of Pennsylvania’s state forests said his state has experienced major problems with contamination of drinking water wells, mainly from improperly drilled gas wells.

In one instance, Quigley said, a poorly drilled well caused natural gas to seep a mile underground and bubble up in the middle of the Susquehanna River. There also have been spills of diesel fuel and of the fluid used in fracking, he said.

While much of the fluid remains underground, some is pumped back out and must be treated because it is very salty and contains minerals and other contaminants from the shale, including radioactive substances.

This is exactly the kind of stuff people should be worried about. I’m all for gas drilling if it is always done safely, but many of these drilling operations have a mixed record so far.

Sage Fly Rods and Making It in the USA

Patriotic Lure

Sage is not moving. Based on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Sage manufactures all of its fly rods right there and plans to continue doing so. Seems like some recent scuttlebutt over the company possibly moving is now quashed. “I don’t ever see us leaving Bainbridge,” said Sage’s president, Travis Campbell. “At the end of the day, I think we can make a better product here.” Another reason he cites: “[T]o protect our intellectual property. If we took (Sage) to China, everybody would very quickly know our magic. Here, we can keep our secrets.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the fly fishing industry manufactures its stuff mostly right here in the USA, especially the high and mid level gear, but even a lot of the lower priced quality stuff is done domestically. See Scott and St. Croix, for example. It will be interesting to see if this serves as a model for other industries of if we’ll instead sadly remember this as the shadow of the once thriving U.S. manufacturing base.

Act Now to Save Bristol Bay

Pebble Mine
Pebble Mine Footprint

Now is the time to contact your elected representatives as well as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency if you are concerned about the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. Orvis has set up a Bristol Bay action page to send letters to your senators, representatives and Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, asking them to investigate the impact of this mine.

In case you are not aware, the proposed Pebble Mine would be sited at the headwaters of two of the main rivers that feed Bristol Bay. This watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon run in the world (by far) and is one of the largest salmon fisheries in the world. Pebble Mine is fraught with huge risks. It would require the world’s’ largest earthen dam to contain the 2 billion to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste produced, in a very seismically active area.

This mine is one of those ideas that just does not make sense in light of its risks. Contact your elected officials now to register your concerns. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote. I edited the text provided on the Orvis site:

Protect Bristol Bay – Concerns About Pebble Mine

I am writing today to encourage you to use your authority under the Clean Water Act to take a hard look at how the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed will impact our nation’s biggest wild salmon fishery, the commercial fishermen and Alaska Natives who depend on it and the local businesses who make their living off of this wild landscape in Southwestern Alaska.

If built, Pebble Mine will produce between 2 and 10 billion tons of toxic waste that will have to be treated for hundreds of years. Located in a seismically active region, the mine would require the world’s largest earthen dam to be built, around 700 feet high and several miles in length. Independent scientists have questioned whether the dam could withstand the force of a massive earthquake, such as the 9.2 quake that devastated Anchorage in 1964. Because of its size, geochemistry and location, Pebble runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay, one of the world’s last remaining strongholds of healthy salmon populations, including the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. The region provides pristine spawning grounds for trophy rainbow trout and all five species of Pacific salmon and a variety of wildlife that depends on the nutrients from salmon, clean water, and undisturbed habitat.

I urge you to initiate a Clean Water Act 404(c) process in Bristol Bay immediately. Alaska Natives, sportsmen, commercial fishermen and conservation organizations deserve a public and science-based process to determine if the Pebble Partnership’s plans to build the biggest open pit mine in North America will harm one of our nation’s greatest fisheries.

Thank you for considering my views.

Montreal University Study on the Effects of Antidepressants in Brook Trout

Happy Fish
It's All Good, Man

Fish in many waterways are loaded with antidepressants due to our increasing use of these drugs, according to a study by professor Sebastien Sauve of the University of Montreal. “Residue from antidepressants leaves through bodily waste and ends up in our waterways. Sauve said that his study indicates that the problem of antidepressants contaminating marine animals is probably global.” Waste water treatment plants are not able to filter these chemicals.

The study found that brook trout in the St. Lawrence river have large quantities of antidepressants in their livers and brains, and much smaller amounts in their muscle tissue. Even very small concentrations of pharmaceuticals in waterways have been linked to significant changes in those ecosystems.

The problem of pharmaceuticals in our rivers is not new. Reports of intersex smallmouth bass in the Potomac River have raised the possibility that this is linked to chemicals from pharmaceutical and personal care products.

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Interactive Fishing Map

Pennsylvania Interactive Fishing Map
Pennsylvania Interactive Fishing Map

Pennsylvania has a great interactive map showing the state’s fishable waters, with stocking info, directions and more. You can filter for Class A wild trout streams, stockable rivers, the whole bit. It also shows what percentage of each stream has public and private access. Very, very cool and useful. Will come in handy this spring and summer when I travel up there.

Virginia Trout Stocking Schedule February 11 2011

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Whoah, Nellie. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has been busy this week.

Albemarle Co.
Moormans River (N. Fork) (02/10)
Moormans River (S. Fork) (02/10)
Sugar Hollow Reservoir (02/10)
Alleghany Co.
Pounding Mill Creek (02/07)
Amherst Co.
Davis Mill Creek (02/07)
Pedlar River (Upper) (02/07)
Bath Co.
Back Creek (02/08)
Botetourt Co.
Roaring Run (02/10)
Buchanan Co.
Dismal River (02/09)
Carroll Co.
Crooked Creek (02/08)
Little Reed Island Creek (02/08)
Frederick Co.
Paddy Run (02/11)
Giles Co.
Big Stoney Creek (02/08)
Grayson Co.
Helton Creek (02/07)
Highland Co.
S. Br. Potomac River (02/10)
Page Co.
Cub Run (02/11)
Patrick Co.
Dan River (Below Powerhouse) (02/09)
Roanoke Co.
Glade Creek (02/11)
Tinker Creek (02/11)
Rockingham Co.
North Fork Shenandoah River (02/09)
Shenandoah Co.
Passage Creek (02/08)
Peters Mill Creek (02/08)
Tomahawk Pond (02/07)
Smyth Co.
Middle Fork Holston River (Upper) (02/08)
Washington Co.
Tennessee Laurel (02/11)
Whitetop Laurel (Lower) (02/11)
Whitetop Laurel (Upper) (02/07 & 02/11)

Marcellus Shale Hydrofracking, Pollution, Ground Water and Trout

Infrared Shot of Gas Plant
Infrared Shot of Marcellus Shale Gas Plant

The debate about the safety of hydraulic fracturing of rock deep in the Marcellus formation to recover natural gas rages on. WTAE in Pittsburgh has a story showing air emissions from a Marcellus shale gas plant in Pennsylvania, and there seems to again be controversy over what exactly is going on with these drilling operations.

I think most people would love to see Marcellus gas production if done safely. That is the whole question with hydrofracking — how safe is it? There are numerous reports of ground water contamination, improper disposal of fracking fluids into river systems, the use of highly toxic chemicals, the exemption from publicly reporting of what chemicals are used and fish kills due to Marcellus gas drilling operations. From the WTAE story, which is about just the air pollution from gas operations:

Pam and Kristen Judy say they’ve been getting headaches, sore throats and nose bleeds ever since this compressor station was built next door. DEP air monitoring in the Judy’s yard last year found evidence of methane, benzene, toluene, acetone and 12 other compounds.

John Hanger, DEP: “The total numbers, once we get to 40,000 wells in this state, of air emissions, unless the industry uses the cleanest technology, will be a problem.”

Ray Walker, Marcellus Shale Coalition: “We’re literally going to be able to move gas or compress gas or treat gas with literally tenths of a percent of the emissions that we used to.” Some of those technologies already exist but aren’t always used. In fact, they aren’t required to be used. Like vapor recovery units that can be placed on tank stacks to prevent the kind of pollution plume you’re seeing here. That’s why the group GASP wants DEP to require the use of cleaner technologies.

The concerns over groundwater pollution are much greater.

Pennsylvania, with over 5000 miles of water containing brook trout, stands to lose a lot if drillers are not responsible or if it is not possible to drill for gas safely, both of which seem to be in question. Brook trout depend on clean groundwater. Humans, not coincidentally, depend on groundwater, too. Groundwater flows deep within the earth’s crust and provides fresh water in our springs, streams, rivers, lakes, wells and irrigation systems. We don’t have maps showing where this water travels deep underground. Injecting millions of gallons of fracking fluids into a gas well is not guaranteed to be contained within the well area, and gas drilling chemicals are often not contained (this link is to a bunch of lawyers with an interest in exposing this, but the site links to actual articles on reputable news sites). And once contaminated, cleaning up a water source thousands of feet underground is not possible, and where that water flows next is not always understood.

It all just begs for caution. And these drilling companies (though I think many share these concerns to a degree) are primarily in the business of extracting gas. If they were primarily in the business of protecting groundwater, then they would be preventing the injection of toxic chemicals thousands of feet underground, and they would not be lobbying state governments and municipalities to accept their contaminated fracking water and allow its disposal directly into rivers.