Steve Zweber and I were walking back up
the stream to where JC was fishing. A
lovely almost summer day, laughing and
pointing out the various rainbows in the
stream, when we spotted a dead trout. A
rather large dead rainbow. We both commented
on how sad it was, and I mentioned I had also
seen another near the outlet of the first pond.
We have fished Rocky several times, and I
believe these were the first dead fish we
I asked Steve (Z) if he had noticed there
seemed to be fewer fish this year, and he
thought a bit and said the numbers might
be down, but since the water level was down
considerably perhaps it just seemed that way.
He's fished Rocky for 20 years and should have
some idea of what is going on there.
As we continued to walk upstream, we talked
about the marvelous fishery we have in Rocky
Ford Creek, and the dead fish topic came up
again. Steve's comment has stuck with me all
week, and it is upsetting. His comment was
to the effect that many who fish Rocky have
the attitude of "what the hell, they're just
Rocky is a catch and release (C&R), fly only,
no wading spring creek. FREE to anyone who
wishes to fish it. It is on state land,
managed by the Washington State Dept. of Fisheries.
Perhaps some of those who fish Rocky have no
frame of reference - they've never seen or been
exposed to Pay to Play fisheries. (Many of
which are also stocked from time to time.) The
going fee for most of the Montana Spring Creeks
is $100 per day per rod. They are also C&R,
flies only and you can wade. In the years we
lived in the Livingston region, I never saw a
dead trout on Armstrong, Nelsons or DePuys
Is it a matter of attitude? Of respect for the
fish? If you've spent a lot of money to get to
Livingston MT, and paid for the privilege of
fishing on a marvelous spring creek on private
property do you have more concern for how you
release and revive the fish you catch? Or, the
catching is so tough you just don't catch as
many so the possibility of killing a fish is
less? Or, since we've not lived in the Livingston
region for many years, perhaps the number of dead
fish is visible there as well?
Perhaps those who are willing to pay to play
are also just better anglers? The Montana
spring creeks have a rod limit - Armstrong
for example says they allow 10 rods per day.
Perhaps knowing there are 9 other people
fishing there acts as a deterrent to mis-handling
fish? Or the fact that the Paradise Valley Spring
Creeks are so famous that folks who do fish them
are in a bit of awe and just are more careful?
Or is it something else?
There have been times when I was so disgusted
with the behavior of a fly fisher, kicking a
salmon back into the water instead of doing a
proper release, or in some other way mis-handling
a fish that I wish I could just beat their heads
again a brick wall. It would take that because
they just don't have a clue. Do whatever you
want, it's not my fault, I'm not responsible.
Not responsible? Opps. Just who do you think
is responsible? Someone else to clean up your
mess, make things right, pay to raise stockers
entertain you? Unfortunately, living in the
Seattle area, there is a 'not responsible'
attitude, out done only by the la-la land of
California, the attitude is one of absolute
privilege. Everyone owes them everything. They
have no responsibility for their actions, including
how they handle fish. The 'state' will take care
Before you jump all over me for making a 'political'
statement, it is not one. It is just a true
statement of how a great majority of the folks
living out here think and believe.
They don't have to take any care in the handling
of their fish - the state will plant more! "They're
I don't have the full story on Rocky Ford Creek
yet - I'm working on it. But what I've been told
so far is the 'state' doesn't stock Rocky. It
is stocked from time to time by the two hatcheries
there by an old agreement concerning water rights
with the hatcheries. What if the hatcheries don't
have fish of a proper stocking size? What if the
hatcheries have a bad business year? Is there a
firm number of fish which should be present in the
stream? Who is in charge of such things?
At one time, Rocky was not a C&R stream. I was
told there was a great uproar when the C&R
restrictions when into effect. (I'm guessing
the flies only was instituted at the same time.)
Maybe it's time to change things again.
Just maybe folks would have a little more
respect and concern for the fishery if it
was a 'Pay to Play' stream? Or since a lot
of wet flies (scuds in particular) are fished
and are sometimes taken more deeply than dry
flies, perhaps it should be just dry flies?
Maybe a volunteer River Keeper should be on
duty to police the stream? With the ability
to ticket those who don't care enough to act
like responsible fishers? Rules which prohibit
removing a fish from the water to release it?
I don't have the answers, but something is
amiss at Rocky. I hope those who fish it on
a regular basis will take a serious look and
find solutions. It is just too valuable a
resource to be abused.
Just stockers? How about some respect - they
may be the only fish you ever have. ~ DLB
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