The Moorman's Solution

This evening I eschewed cocktails at a friend's place to hear the Rivanna Water Authority describe their new plan for Charlottesville.  Almost all the people who attended the water meeting were over the age of 65.  The scene reminded me of the polling place during the Virginia primary election.  Old folks have the time and interest to engage in issues affecting the community. It would be great if more people my age could could get involved.

The long-term Charlottesville residents told me about some of the changes that have happened to local rivers over the past thirty years.  Tremendous growth has put pressure on existing reservoirs and the Water Authority has had trouble planning for the new developments.  Some developers have not even informed the water authority of new housing sites.  Another problem is the lack of rainfall.  As one Trout Unlimited member said, "It just used to rain more."  

The Moorman's River has suffered from the lack of rainfall and increased demand.  It used to "roar" every Spring, but now just has enough to survive.  The river dries up in the summer and all the fish stocked in the winter die.  At the presentation tonight, however, the Rivanna Water Authority issued a plan for the Moorman's restoration.  No, the Sugar Hollow Dam will not come down, but the new goal is to equal "in-flows" with "out-flows."  This means that flows coming in from the North Fork of the Moorman's will equal flows heading out the bottom of the dam.  A small concrete barrier in front of the dam will come down, also increasing flows.  

The new plan is contingent on the enlargement of a dam at the nearby Ragged Mountain and a new pipeline connecting Ragged Mountain to the South Rivanna River.   Basically, the Water Authority is enlarging the capacity of one area to relieve the Moorman's.  Hopefully the plan will be completed while I am still in Charlottesville.  Charlottesville and the folks living in the city needs to come up with a plan of sustainable growth to ensure that water resources remain intact. 


A Little Practice

I have been rather lackadaisical with posting the past ten days or so.  I owe my friend Rob a post on hunting and I wanted to do a piece on the fly-fishing industry.  These will have to wait. Two excuses for this laziness.  First, I've got a rather nasty cold.  Second, I have my comprehensive exams coming up this weekend.  Four 8-hour exams to determine if I can move on to the dissertation stage of the Ph.D. process. Bleah! 

Anyway, I just got back from a run and some fly-casting.   I'm trying to fix my wristy-canted cast into some tight loops.  I've got a pretty sick double-haul, but my fundamentals are shoddy.  I'm also perpetually annoyed by all the people who say "Catch Anything" when I'm practicing outside. They all think they are so original and clever.  My friend Nick, out in Utah, once said in response, "Just Your Mother's Crabs ..."


Fishing at the Moorman's

Today my friend Paul and I went to the Trout Unlimited section of the Moorman's River just outside of town.  The future of the river is going to be a hot topic in the next few weeks.  Trout Unlimited will be meeting with the Director of the Rivanna Water Authority to see if the dam above the river can be removed.  At the very least, it would be nice if the dam released more water.  

Fishing today was pleasant.  The past few days have been sunny and warm, but today the temperature dropped down to the 40s.  Some trout were feeding on midges coming off the surface, but did not seem to enjoy my imitations.  I switched to a trusty hair's ear nymph and hooked a nice rainbow.  A local streamer that called a "Christmas Tree" also proved effective.  

Fish cannot resist the hair ear nypmh

Paul with the first rainbow of the day.  This catch was awesome.  We saw a fish about 7 feet in front of us.  Paul cast a nymph 20 feet upstream and let the fly dead drift down.  The fish moved into position and chomped when the fly arrived. 

The author with a shiny rainbow 



7 Reasons Why Fly Fishing is Better than Golf

I used to be delusional.  There was once a time, 5 years ago or so where I thought that golf was fun.  I took lessons, bought all the fancy gear, practiced a lot, and played some rounds.  My father even took up the game despite previous lampooning of "gophers."  Sorry dad for bringing the game home.  Each time I played, the only fun was masochistic pleasure at my own inability.  For a while, I convinced myself that if I only I practiced more, received more lessons, bought more gear, I could get better.  Then I just realized, why not go fishing?  Thus, the top seven reasons fishing is better.  Please send me more.  

1) A lot of golf courses are not environmentally sustainable.  Think Phoenix. People see the Masters on T.V. and want their home courses to look just as green.  Thus, managers take water from shrinking rivers to give the annual three feet per cubic foot required.  They also spray pesticides and herbicides all of the place.  A planned golf development near the Yellowstone River in Montana is using irrigation to draw water from this famous trout stream. 

2)  You do not have to pay hundreds of dollars a day to go fishing (usually--there are some ridiculous "rod fees" on some rivers). 

3) Beer can be kept cool in the river

4) This guy is not a fly fisherman:

5) What is more exciting, tying into a 6 pound Brown Trout or hitting a shank into the woods? 

6) The excitement of  fighting a huge Jack Crevalle can last for 20 minutes.  Even a 275 yard bomb will land in under ten seconds. 

7) Hitting bad shots generally leads to a bad golf round.  Even if your not catching fish, standing in a river and enjoying the natural surroundings is great. 


The Conway

I went fishing at the Conway River today.  The Conway flows down  from the Shenandoah National Park to just outside the town of Stanardsville, Virginia.  Unfortunately, despite wonderful temperatures and overcast skies prompting a hatch of blue wing olive mayflies (BWOs for all you fishermen), I did not catch a single fish.  I did not even see trout feeding on the naturals.  The only fish I did see were some large suckers feeding on the bottom.  

The Conway was the subject of some controversy a few years back.  Word got out that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) was going to remove all brown trout from the river in order to rehabilitate it for native brookies.  Local fishermen had some debates at Trout Unlimited about whether this order was appropriate.  A few weeks later, rumors went around that the VDGIF and removed "hundreds" of browns, "big ones too."  Though later denied by our local Trout Unlimited President, I found myself wondering if there were any fish left in the river.  This summer's drought certainly did not help. 


No More Romney

Today, after a substandard showing in Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney dropped out of the race.  Why should fly-fishermen care? Romney, like many others on the right, has made a business in climate change denial. 

 First, the oil and coal industry with some Republicans told people that science was inclusive about how the earth was changing.  All assertions otherwise were wrongheaded attempts by "liberals" to issue regulations and control people's freedom.  Second, they told people that the earth was not warming, it was cooling.  Right now, the current line is that the earth is warming, but humans are blameless.  The presence of scientific disagreement is taken as "proof" that climate change is only a "theory."   This tactic is absurd.  Any high school science student knows that a "theory" is an explanation of an event confirmed by repeatable experiments.  Hence, the "theory" of gravity.  

Nevertheless, former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay claimed on T.V. this evening that there is "absolutely no scientific evidence to show that humans are causing global warming."  Where has Tom Delay been?  In February 2007, a report by 600 scientists from governments, academia, environmental groups and business claimed that the evidence of human-based climate change was "unequivocal." Trout Unlimited, hardly the bastion of radical environmentalism, released a study explaining the effects of global warming on cold water trout populations.  The news was sobering.  

Bull Trout populations will decline by 90% in the West.  Salmon and Steelhead species may decline by 40%.  Out here in the East, native brook trout populations in the Appalachians could also decline by 90%.  Worse yet, the Brookies would be replaced by warm water species such as Bluegill.  

It is high time for politicians, Republican and Democrat, to take notice of this issue and stop sticking their heads in the sand.  I hope that with the success of John McCain, global warming will cease to be a political football and our elected "leaders" will come up with solutions to it.  



The other day at a local fly shop (the evil one, but that's for a later article), I tested out a new type of line by Scientific Anglers called "Sharkskin."  Unlike most fly lines Sharkskin has a textured feel to it that the company says make the line float longer, reduce friction, and allow both for better roll-casting and distance casting.  Since I tested it in a parking lot, I cannot comment on the flotation or roll-cast ability.  The line did shoot farther than anything I experienced both with a Scott G2 and a Sage Z-Axis.  Nevertheless, I have several quibbles with it.

1) When going through the guides, the line has a hissing sound just like a pissed-off cat.  I am not sure I could get over it.

2) The texture of the line feels harsh at times.  I tore up my hand on a smooth line fishing for a week in Baja.  I would hate to think what this line would do to me.  Stripping glove are probably a must when using it. 

3) This comment is pure speculation, but I worry that the textured line could pick up dirt and grime.  My lines got filthy this summer when fishing for bass.  I could imagine that the Sharkskin could be worse. 

4) The $100 price tag.  While the fly line and fly rod are the most important pieces of gear in your arsenal (besides a good attitude), this seems a bit excessive.  The top end Rio line is $64.95

Fly Fishing Film Tour

A whole new set of fly fishing films are coming out for 2008.  You can check out the website at www.flyfishingfilmtour.com.  After looking at some of the previews, I was most intrigued Fish Bum I: Mongolia, Equilibrium, and Fishizzle.  Fish Bum is about fishing for Taimen, supposedly the world's largest trout, in Mongolia.  I am not sure, however, that Taimen are the largest.  Steelhead, after all, show almost no genetic variation with rainbow trout.  Which is bigger, a British Columbia Steelhead or a Taimen?  Someday when I have more money and time, I will find out for myself.   Equilibrium is a film about the Bristol Bay Pebble Mine and features Gary Loomis, the founder of G. Loomis Rods who now dedicates a lot of his time to conservation efforts.  Finally, Fishizzle looks like an entertaining take about fishing in Alaska.

Luckily, while I am at the Environmental History Conference in Boise, ID, the Fly Fishing Film Tour is there.  Hopefully I'll be able to dodge an awkward dinner with fellow academics to see some fishing.  Maybe next year the tour will come out to Charlottesville.  


Fly Fishing Films

This past Thursday night, I showed The Hatch to the local branch of  Trout Unlimited.  

The Hatch is a film by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel of Felt Soul Media, a new video production company. The Hatch along with The Trout Bum Diaries, by AEG Entertainment, started a new type of entertainment in fly fishing.  Previous films mostly showed old men teaching people how to fish in boring detail with classic music playing in the background.  These new films remind me of the "new school" skiing films by Matchstick Productions, TGR, and Poor Boys.  The Hatch tries to capture the excitement of a salmon fly hatch on the Gunnison River in Colorado.  Knight and Rummell also interview several of the people fighting to protect the river's water supply from thirsty farms and booming suburbs.  The focus is on the environment and the fishing with first rate cinematography.  Though only 20 odd minutes, the film is highly engaging and worth watching on a big TV or projector. 

When the movie started, I wondered if the other members of Trout Unlimited would enjoy it. As a friend pointed out, I am about half their age.  It was a big success.  They all loved it despite the colorful language in the film from a Gunnison Guide.  Roger, a TU member, used the opportunity to show the group some pictures  from his trip to Colorado.  These new films have the potential to do to fly-fishing what the new skiing films did to skiing; attract younger people to the sport and push it into new paths.  The films by Felt Soul Media add another dimension, however, using fishing and beautiful images to protect areas from the destruction.  Their new film, Red Gold, comes out in May 2008 and explores a proposed mining project in Alaska's Bristol Bay.  

Report from the Moorman's

The North Fork Moorman's River today was cold but had a surprising amount of water.  The fish did not want to take anything that I had to offer, but I had fun teaching a friend how to cast and enjoying the good weather.  There were some small mayflies coming off, probably blue-wing olives, but the fish did not eat any of  the naturals.  

The Trout Unlimited section of the Moorman's is not in good shape.  The water is very low and and frozen in some locations.   The dam above it was not releasing any reservoir water.  A local conservation group used to pressure the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, the group in charge of the dam, to keep the river going.  In drought conditions, they rarely oblige.  Here is a link to an article from 2002: http://www.readthehook.com/Stories/2002/09/19/newsTrickleDownTheMoormans.html

The dam itself should not be there.  The water from the Moorman's flows into the Rivanna, where yet another dam is.  One wonders why the Water and Sewer Authority needs two dams, when the Moorman's does not provide power.