This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
June 27th, 2005

Fish and Tell

A few more books showed up in the mail this past week. One from Frank Amato Publications, Floating and Fishing Oregon's Wilderness River Canyons, was sent out within a day or two of its arrival to Benjamin Hart for a review. (That one will appear in our Review section next week.)

One which arrived from the Lyons Press I had heard about, and frankly I have mixed feelings about it. The book is Trout Unlimited's Guide to America's 100 Best Trout Streams. Trout Unlimited (TU) has published this kind of information before, and there are rivers which had previously been in the book which were deleted from this version. I'm going to quote from the Foreword, by Charles E. Gavin, President of TU:

"As I began thinking about what would be an appropriate message to include in a book about America's 100 best trout streams, the very notion of 100 great trout streams suddenly struck me like a thunderbolt. One hundred "best" trout streams and scores of other great ones that did not make the "best" list. That is truly something for which we should be thankful.

There remain a good number of untrammeled, pristine places in the United States, and some of them are among the locations featured in this book. But this book's unwritten subtitle is really stewardship and restoration. More than a few of the streams selected as among the best are places that, for human intervention, could have become or remained among the worse. I am pleased to say that Trout Unlimited's volunteers and staff have had a major role in that intervention and have, for almost 50 years, befriended, protected, and restored many of the 100 best and help many other quality streams."

I really applaud TU for the work they have done, and continue to do in stream restoration and protection - and for that reason I will encourage you to buy the book to help support those efforts.

However, here is the problem I have. As I understand it, the submissions as to which streams/rivers to include are made by TU members - many of whom are very proud of their local resource. Now whether the problem is it takes about a year to get a book to publication, or if the local folks are trying to gloss over a major problem so their fishery does get listed (called "follow the money"), there are streams/rivers which in my opinion do not belong on the top 100 list.

These are rivers and watersheds which are in great danger - either by lack of water and control of water releases, or in one particular case, a river which is so polluted by agriculture run off that the insect population is dying, fish numbers are down and no one seems to care - or be willing to do anything about it. I am referring specifically to the White River below Bull Shoals Dam and the North Fork of the White River below Norfork Dam. Both are listed in the 100 Best. They should be listed in the most threatened rivers of America. Shame on the local TU Chapter, The Central Arkansas Chapter for not making this a major, major issue. The businesses and local dignitaries who have made a living off this water for years should be tarred and feathered.

For the complete article on the White River problems, click HERE.

I can forgive some things being left out, for example, the State of Michigan has recently withdrawn matching funding for the in-stream habitat projects on the AuSable River which they have previously supported - and the authors of the book had no way of knowing this was going to happen. It will however impact the restoration of the mainstream which has also been a TU project. To be fair, there is also a FFF group which has been working to restore the AuSable as well.

The flows on the Delaware (West Branch) NY, are controlled by a so-called agreement with the City of New York are a disaster waiting to happen. New York City laid claim to the water shed in 1950s, and two huge reservoirs were constructed in the 1960s. Minimum flows were part of the deal - but not for fish or insect preservation - just to flush away effluent from towns downstream. TU is involved in efforts for work out a solution to keep the fishery safe (tourism fishing is the major means of income for an otherwise hard-hit area) and still provide water for the City. But frankly, this battle has been going on for a number of years and the fish and fishermen are losing.

Comments from FAOL folks who attended the recent Roscoe, NY Fish-In included the fact the Junction Pool, one of the very famous spots, had so little flow the fish were swimming around in circles like in a pond. They should have had their noses pointed into the current looking for food, but there was no current. The lack of control on the water releases also means low water, and higher water temperatures, both further stressing the fish. In fact, as of today, the river in the Roscoe area is closed to fishing because of high water temperatures...on the 25th of June! I can't believe the West Branch of the Delaware is one of the 100 Best - but I do believe it could be again. It will take more than 'discussions' - major law suit may be the only way to save it.

I've only commented on two particular streams. There well could be more. Montana's Big Horn River is also on the 'top 100' list, and even though it is said to be fishing well, the drought problems have dropped water levels severely, fish numbers (as well as insects) are down too. This is a problem no TU group or state government can fix - although I'm sure folks wish they could. Time is the only fix on that one, and we pray relief will come soon.

You may know of major problems which are not being addressed on other rivers listed in the 'top 100.' No one wants to see their local economy squashed because of not being listed in the 'top 100' - but on the other hand, the book states on the cover, "more than 30 New Streams" - which means 30 didn't make it for this edition. Which ones? Why?

No one wants to see their favorite fishing place overrun with fishermen, even if it's fellow fly fishers. So what are we to do? The Fish and Tell books seem to be more numerous, and I wonder why. How many of them do we need? Who is buying them and why?

There is one more I just have to mention, Lefty's Favorite Fly-Fishing Waters, by Lefty Kreh and (are you sitting down?) Harry Middleton. Now on the surface, this seems to be the ultimate in 'ghost writing' - and I did read enough to find the publication date on the book is 2004, and in the Introduction by Lefty himself, he explains he and Harry were working together on this one, Lefty picked the places and Harry was doing the research. Harry had, according to Lefty, worked with him on other books. Which leaves me to question, since Harry died in 1993, was the book 'shelved' because of Harry's untimely death and just recently resurrected? At any rate, it is one more in the Fish and Tell series but it does cover some warm water and saltwater locations. Lefty's book is also published by the Lyons Press.

If you are traveling a lot and have the opportunity to fish in different regions, or perhaps looking for a vacation spot which will also allow you some quality fishing time I personally feel you can get the same or better information by simply asking here on the FAOL Bulletin Board. Will the responses be 'as good' as what you can find in these books? It may be a great deal better! And with a bit of courtesy and luck, you might even get a personal recommendation from another FAOL member on the nitty gritty details. ~ DLB

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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