Saturday, May 28, 2011


I’m always surprised at how enacted and proposed bans on felt soled wading boots stirs some much emotion within the fly fishing community.  I’ve heard arguments that range from it being a conspiracy by the boot manufactures  so they can sell us new boots, to more government intrusion into our lives, to “well what about shoe laces?”

Invasive species are a problem and anything we can do to slow their spread and minimize their impact needs to be done.  In my Missouri Ozarks we are faced with the Emerald Ash Borer.  The Great Lakes were devastated by sea lampreys and are now threatened with bighead carp.  We like to talk about being the “stewards of the resource”, so why when we have a reason and way to steward our resource do we balk at it?

Didymo (also called Rock Snot) is short hand for the diatom Didymosphenia geminate.  Didymo doesn’t completely decimate a stream but it does change the diversity and community structure of the food base.   The dense growth that covers the stream bed reduces the numbers of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies and increases the numbers of more tolerant species.   Add to that the esthetic impacts of stream beds that look like they are covered with toilet paper.  
 There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that invasion by Rock Snot has an adverse economic, as well as environmental impact and that as Didymo continues to spread the impact will be more intense.  My first encounter with Didymo was this winter on the lower section of the Rio Guillermo in Chile.  In Patagonia fly fishing
is important to the local economy with the many foreigners coming to stay at the high-end lodges.  The Chilean fisheries agency is serious about strategies to slow or stop spread of Rock Snot.  When we purchase our permit we also receive a tri-fold brochure in English about Didymo.  On the highway just outside the 

airport is a billboard about Didymo.  And one morning we were stopped at a police road block and asked if we had fishing gear with us.  When Ethan told them “yes” the police called over the fisheries agency to disinfect our gear.   A police roadblock is a serious commitment.  I expect that before long felt will be banned in Chile.

The cliché that the “Genie is out of the bottle” is true for Rock Snot.  We will never eliminate it.  What we have to do is all work to see that we do our part to stop the spread.  So what can and should we do?  First off, stop whining about having to by new boots without felt soles.    We older guys will miss the felt because the new soles just don’t give the traction of felt.  Hell I started using a wading staff everyplace anyway.   Carry disinfectant with you and disinfect even non-felt boots.  STREAM SIDE ADVENTURES carries a garden sprayer containing a 5% bleach solution.   When we get to the stream everyone’s boots get sprayed and when we get back to the truck at the end of the day the boots get sprayed again.   It is as easy to practice stewardship as it is to talk about it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Floods and Fly Fishing

High flows are generally not a significant problem for fish in the stream.  Cold water fish like trout have evolved in a system of periods of very high flow associated with snow melt runoff.  Sure some are lost by getting stranded in backwater pools that become isolated as the high water receeds.  But most escape the current associated with high runoff flows the same way they escape them in their everyday existence.  They find shelter in depressions and behind obstructions. If flows haven’t altered the stream bed, when the flow recede they move back into their former preferred locations. (For more information on stream flow and how it effects trout and trout fishing visit these two links

The substrate or bottom material of some Missouri trout streams is composed primarily of small, pea to walnut sized, material, sometimes called “chert”, with small scattered areas of larger rock fragments or exposed bed rock.  When streams with this type of bottom material flood, the stream velocity increases to a level high enough to erode the bottom material and move it in suspension or by dragging it along – a process known as traction.   

 It is the movement of the bottom material associated with floods that can cause problems for Missouri’s trout.   When the stream floods and moves the chert it displaces and grinds the fish food organisms – benthos – living on or between the gravel.  When the storm flows recede much of the food base is gone.   A couple of years ago I had an “Ah ha” moment about this on the way home from Missouri’s Current River  Even floods later in the year are not going to be devastating to the food base of the stream.  Midges and caddis flies are the primary food source in terms of absolute numbers and biomass.  And most of them have several broods a year.  Some midges can complete their life cycle in no more than a few weeks.  Many of the smaller caddis flies also have short life histories.  So before long there will be food on the table. 

Yes, flooding can slow down the fishing for a little while but it will recover very quickly compared to the devastating effects of drought.  To me the worst thing about a flood event is that the stream has changed so much I have to find new “go to” holes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to have USGS tell you to go fishing!

As a guide and a passionate fly fisher, I know that hitting the river at the optimum flow levels is critical to success.  Over years of fishing my favorite rivers and streams I’ve developed a feel for what river levels generally fish the best and what river levels make the river unsafe or too difficult for wading.   I have the USGS real time data from my go to streams bookmarked.   Wouldn’t it be nice if the USGS called me when the Little Piney was at the right water levels.  Guess what.  They will!

The other night I was looking at the USGS real time data for the Little Piney, trying to decide if there was any sense in making the trip to Rolla in a couple of days.   I’ve been looking at this and other USGS gauges for years and thought I knew a lot about the available 
information.  But when I looked the other night I noticed something I had never noticed before on a gauge site.  I have no idea how long it has been there.  Right below the graph of the flow was a little button.  Water Alert.
I clicked on it and boy did I find something great.   I can get the USGS to call or E-mail me with my user-defined threshold(s).  Want to be notified when the flow exceeds some level?  Set the limit and the USGS will contact you.  Has your fishing history told you that the river fishes best between some range of flows?  

 Set the range and when the flow level is in that range they will contact you.  

 How great is that!  Now all you have to do is fish often enough to establish you own thresholds.  GO FISH! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Cicadas Are Coming!

The last time this happened I missed it!  It was one of those once in a lifetime events when both a brood of the 13 year and the 17 year Periodic Cicadas emerged in 1998.  That was first time since 1777 that both broods have emerged at the same time.  This time it will just be Brood 19 of the 13 year Cicadas but I’m not missing it!

Brood 19 of the 13 year Periodic Cicadas will start to appear any day now depending on weather conditions.  I’ve heard on good authority that they have started to emerge in the southern portion of the range.  In the hearty of Missouri’s trout and smallmouth country, the emergence will likely run from the last third of May into much of June. 

 These guys are BIG and plentiful.    They can be up to an inch and a half long and are nearly an inch in diameter.   They have a blackish-brown body with rusty orange eyes, legs and wing veins.  Fish feed so wildly on them that an exact match is not important.  Any big dark floating fly will work.  Just slap your fly down hard and hold on!

The females lay their eggs by making a cut in the end of branches and twigs, primarily oaks.  The cuts cause the leaves on the ends of the branches to shrivel and die.   The eggs hatch in about 6 weeks and fall to the ground.  After spending the next 13 years underground they will return again.  

The adults get all the publicity but the nymph stage shouldn’t be overlooked.   The guru of Missouri trout fishing, Mike Kruse, took advantage of the 1998 emergence well into July when the adults were gone.  Mike came up with his “Power Worm.”   The Power Worm is a fast and simple fly to tie.  Per Mike, start with a size 8 Mustad 9672 or equivalent hook.  Tie in an orange saddle hackle (Editor’s note: Mike didn’t specify but likely by the tip) at the hook bend.  Tie in short black flash chenille and warp it forward.  Palmer the hackle over the body.  Simple as that.

It will be three months to remember.