It looks like things will be a little different this
coming season. Some test streams, and notably, a nine
mile section of the Bighorn River in Montana, will be
off-limits to anyone not fishing dry-flies. The idea
has been under consideration for some time now and with
the approval of the newly instituted 'Fly-fishing Competency'
regulations going into effect next year, many thought it
would be a good time to continue the goals of the project.
For those of you who have been unaware of the above
proceedings, let me try to bring you up to speed. There
have been, over the past several years, many factors adverse
to the proliferation of our native species and those
introduced as well. Drought, unregulated forest fires,
diseases and mismanagement of certain watersheds have
all combined to deplete the stock of stream game fish,
The impetus started some time ago with the creation of
an organization of fly fishers who only fished with dry
flies, deploring wets and nymphs. As their ranks swelled
they applied for certain stretches of some streams to be
'Dry Flies Only.' Their requests were considered, but in
light of the recent ruling which went against some sections
being set aside for 'Women Only,' the agency felt it would
only rekindle hard feelings. They opened a site on the
Internet and formed 'D.F.O.' Dry Flies Only. Soon, with
world-wide recognition they gained the necessary voice
to be reckoned with.
At about the same time, another group of fly fishers felt
there were far too many inept and neophyte types causing
irreparable harm to the remaining trout fishery. Too many
fish being gut hooked and if released, done so with no
regard to the well being of the trout. In an effort to
curb this reckless practice they lobbied for a regulation
to be applied to some of the more fragile 'Blue-Ribbon'
sections of a couple test streams to see if it would make
the necessary difference between being able to fish or not.
The information about both of these events did not surface
to most of the general public as it was all done with an
eye to determining results to be used in further study.
It came as a complete surprise when it was brought out
of committee, to the floor, voted on, passed and was
signed into law last Thursday.
The fee to apply for testing will be held at twenty dollars
for the next three years and will be divided equally between
the testers and the Fish and Game Department. A special light
blue 'patch' will be provided along with a certificate upon
completion of, and passing of, the fairly stringent 'Fly-Fishing'
F&G field officers will be furnished with a list of flies
considered by the State to qualify as 'Dry Flies' and the
details will be listed in the next printing of the F&G
regulations, be sure to check page 27, item 'M',
Some of the finer details at this time which will be
implemented are: no 'blind' casting of attractor flies,
casting only upstream, casting only to 'rising' fish,
if a fish gets more than fifteen feet downstream from
the angler it must be immediately broken off by either
cutting the line or jerking severely on it, no 'shadow'
casting as it annoys fish and is considered as 'harassing'
Of course, as you all know, the old management tool of
'Catch & Release' has finally been abandoned as it was
proven that a very high percentage of fish were in fact
killed and it was better for the fishery to adopt the
European form of 'Catch & Kill' as it had less impact
on the actual numbers of fish harmed, therefore, all
fish caught count against the yearly aggregate limit
of three fish and must be kept upon landing and duly
recorded in the provided ledger (in ink).
That seems to be how it will be for the opening day of
2020. We have come a long way in the management of our
resources and I think we all owe a great debt of gratitude
to those worked so long and hard to give us the privilege
of enjoying our marvelous fly-fishing heritage.
~ James Castwell