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.

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