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Saving rivers, with Western Rivers Conservancys Sue Doroff

Description: This week's podcast is a recording of a live interview I did with Sue Doroff [48:56], co-founder and outgoing president of The Western Rivers Conservancy, which does amazing work throughout the West by buying valuable riparian land, making the surrounding habitat more natural and resilient, and enhancing public access to many of our important trout, salmon, and steelhead rivers. You'll learn how Western Rivers finds these areas, the financial model for how they do this, and how most are eventually transferred into public ownership. It's fascinating story of how a small organization punches well above its weight.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And this week my guest is Sue Doroff who is the outgoing president of Western Rivers Conservancy. And Sue and I did a question-and-answer live in San Francisco last month. And I thought I would share it with you because it really tells you about the work that the Western Rivers Conservancy is doing and the fascinating and efficient way that they are working to protect rivers, protect the river ecosystem and riparian zones, and also preserving public access, and in some cases, gaining public access where there was none before. So, it's a great organization. I hope you enjoy this live podcast, or not live, but it was live when we did it with a real studio audience. And I think you'll learn a lot about the great work that they do. And hopefully, you'll be inspired to support this group.
And before we get into the Fly Box, I just wanted to announce a new product that you may or may not have seen because it just went live very, very recently on the Orvis website, and that is the new and improved and updated Battenkill reels. I was sitting in Shawn Combs's office the other day, the rod and reel designer, and I picked up a reel that I hadn't seen before, and I was playing with it, and it felt really good, it looks sexy, and it sounded really great. And I said, "What reel is this?" He said, "Oh, that's the new Battenkill." Well, I'm a Mirage kind of guy for my reels. All my reels are either Mirage's or CFOs because they're the best and because my price is a little bit better than yours, and I appreciate that they're 100% made in USA.
But, you know, if you don't have the money to spend on a Mirage or a CFO, the Battenkill reels are an incredible value. They're beautiful reels, they're rugged, they look nice they feel smooth. And the new ones are updated. They've got tighter tolerances, they're smoother, more efficient, and the look of the reel is really, really nice, you know, on your good rod, Battenkill reel will really dress it up a bit. And also, they're available in some cool colors. They're available in copper, black, and olive. So, they're a nice compliment to your reel. And they're available in both a disc version and a click-and-pawl version. So, if you're more traditionalist and you like click-and-pawl, you can get that.
If you need the power of a disc drag, you can get that. They're under 200 bucks. So, they're a great deal for a reel that will really last a lifetime. They're a mid-arbor ported design, which means, you're not gonna get quite the same retrieve speed as you would with the hydros, which is the large arbor kind of partner to this reel, or cousin to this reel. But this is a mid-arbor, so it's gonna retrieve faster than something like a traditional CFO that has a really narrow arbor. You're not gonna have to put as much backing on it. You can put a lot of backing on it, but your line isn't gonna be quite as kinked when it's wound on the reel because it's over a wider diameter.
You get a little bit better retrieve speed than a standard arbor. And most important thing is they're a little bit smaller footprint. You know, for a larger of a reel, you're gonna have a bigger, wider reel on your rod. So, if you like the look of a slightly smaller reel and still want a little bit of an increase in retrieve speed, then this is a great reel for you. But it's been a super popular reel for many years. And the new version is even better. So, check it out. It's on the Orvis website. It's a great reel for under $200.
All right. Let's do the Fly Box before we go to our live interview. The Fly Box is where you ask me questions or you pass along tips to other listeners. And I try to answer your questions if I can. I don't answer all the questions. I do read them all. Some of them I just don't feel are gonna be of... Some of your questions are not that valuable to the rest of the listeners, or maybe I've just answered the question recently. But all the interesting ones that present an interesting problem I do try to answer.
So, without further ado, let's go to the first one, which includes, this is from Andrew, an email from Andrew. This one includes both a couple of good fly-tying tips and new questions. So, first the tips. Number one, "I keep a pair of Orvis flat-faced forceps on my tying desk when making nymphs. I use this to crimp down and smooth out the rougher ends of my lead-free wire, or I pinch it off. This has helped me avoid inadvertently splitting my thread over the rough edge." Number two, this is tip number two, "I'm not sure if this happens to a lot of people or just me, but when securing counter wrap material like wire, I often use the waist end of the wire to reverse my thread direction and then completely forget to use it to revert it again before helicoptering the wire off. This makes the next wrap super awkward. My tip is that you can use a bodkin placed point down on the fly to reverse the thread direction again, then simply pull the bodkin out or dubbing needle and secure it with a couple of wraps and you're good to go." Maybe a niche tip, but there you go.
And I got a couple of questions too, "How the heck are you supposed to get deer hair wings to cooperate? Every time I tie them in on stimulators, etc., I end up both crowding the head of the fly and making the whole mess spin around the hook. None of the tricks about wrapping through the head appear to really work for me. Any tips?" And second question, "Any tips on fixing eyes to GameChanger heads? I'm currently coating the heads in what is probably too much UV epoxy, but everyone seems to have GameChangers with eyes not under a coat of clear goo, how do you do this? I'm using a polar fiber brush, if that makes a difference."
And then his third question, "Any tips for nipping really small brook trout streams? I always seem to produce on parachute atoms, but anytime I try a nymph, I've not caught anything, even on the dry dropper. The streams I fish are small, like you can hop across them and generally pretty shallow. I love indicator nymphing on bigger rivers. So, any tips you have to bring this to the small streams would be welcome." Well, thank you very much for those, Andrew. It's a little bit difficult to understand your second tip for a lot of people, but let me try to put that into context. When you counter-wrap a wire rib, in other words, you're wrapping in the opposite direction to the way that you wound your body material, when you tie that off with the thread, you're gonna be pushing against the wire instead of winding down on top of it in the same direction that the wire was wound.
So, it kind of tends to push the wire away, and that's why Andrew reverses his tying thread. And that's a good idea because then he's gonna tie down the wire more securely. And what he's doing is just using a bodkin to kinda hold the thread in place while he makes a couple of wraps over it, and then he can reverse his tying thread back in the other direction. So, that's a great tip, Andrew, and I never thought of doing it that way, so I personally appreciate that.
Now, for your question, "How do you get deer hair wings to cooperate?" Well, you know, a lot of it's thread tension, a lot of it's the amount of material you use, and then the quality o of the deer hair. Deer hair varies greatly in thickness and in the way it behaves. You know, some deer hair is really fine, some deer hair is really coarse. Some deer hair is more hollow than others. So, part of it may be material selection, but I don't know of any special ways to get the deer hair wings to cooperate. Possibly you're not using thread that's strong enough. You know, you probably want use 6.0 thread at least, and maybe 3.0 or even, I hate using it, but gel spun polyester, which is very strong. It's a little slippery to wrap, but it's very strong.
And you do need to put a lot of pressure on the deer hair, but you need to do it in you need to do it in increments. You need to start with a fairly soft wrap and then really bear down on the deer hair if you don't want it to spin. And then hold it in place with your thumb and your forefinger so that it doesn't slip around the hook. And the other thing is, make sure you have a thread base, a good solid thread base, or even a little bit of dubbing. If you don't want that deer hair to spin, you may wanna put a little bit of dubbing on the hook before you tie on the deer hair, and you can even put a drop of super glue there too to secure it. But, you know, it's really gonna be practice and thread tension with that, and material selection.
So, hope that helps. It's, you know, difficult without me sitting next to you to figure out exactly what kind of problems you're having. But try those tips and see if they help. Your second question, tips on fixing eyes to GameChanger heads. Well, I think your number one problem is that you're trying to use UV epoxy to put eyes on GameChangers. It doesn't work very well because when you cover that UV epoxy with the eye, you can't get in behind it with your UV light to really cure that stuff. And it's gonna stay liquid if it never gets any UV light. And it's gonna be tough to get that UV light in there. So, I would not use UV epoxy for your GameChanger eyes.
A couple of things to do. One is to cut a little divot into the side of the head where you're gonna put your eyes so that there's a little bit of a hole there. And then what you wanna do is...the two things I found that hold eyes best on flies are number one, product called Liquid Fusion, which is a clear glue that comes in a bottle. So, one part glue, it's not an epoxy, but it holds really well. And then the other thing you can try is Marine Goop, Marine Shoe Goop. I think it's just called Marine Goop. But this is a kind of a gloppy, maybe a silicone-based glue that is used to secure, you know, various parts on boats and things like that.
And those two products I found will hold the eyes. Now, eyes are gonna get knocked off eventually with any fly. But I think if you use one of those two products and really dig a little hole in there and fill that hole with the glue until the glue penetrates right to the shank of the hook and the thread wraps, and then stick your eyes in that little divot, they should hold pretty well for you. Regarding your third question, you know, those trout may not be that interested at the subsurface food. Brook trout in really tiny streams don't get a lot of their food from underwater. You know, there's an old cliche that says trout do 80% of their feeding subsurface. I don't think that's true in small brook trout streams.
Most of the stuff they eat is gonna be falling in the river. So, a lot of it's terrestrial insects. And, you know, they're in clear shallow water and they're looking up most of the time. And a dry flight may be the most effective thing, and they just may not be that interested in eating your nymph. One thing you can try is to, first of all, don't go too small on your nymph. You know 12 or a 14 or a 16 is as small as you should go. Those fish are generally looking for, just looking for something to eat, and you wanna catch their attention. And then don't put a long dropper on your dry dropper. Make it really short. Make it only, I don't know, maybe 6 inches from your dry fly, 6, 8 inches. But don't put a long dropper on it and don't use a heavily weighted nymph.
Those fish may be actually missing that nymph because it's tough to see it underwater. It's a lot easier to see it when it's up against the surface or closer to the surface. So, that's what I do in small streams for catching brook trout on nymphs. And I use an unweighted nymph, or I use a very, very lightly weighted nymph. A heavy beadhead, I think, just gets down below where they're looking for their food. So, try those. If that doesn't work, then, you know, I just go with dry flies and enjoy it. Maybe use a double-dry instead of a dry dropper.
Ed: Hi, Tom. Ed in Central Oregon. I have a couple of questions. We have a local beautiful river that's notoriously tough to fish. It's a Spring Creek that stays probably between 42 and 45 degrees throughout the year. And I wanted to get your thoughts on how you thought fish behavior would be with consistent temps like that. It's not your textbook river where the conventional wisdom would say that when it's, you know, 55, 60 degrees during the summer, and then it drops off to much colder temps in the winter, fish will locate in much different locations. With such consistent temps, we certainly get a difference in bug activity that would have an impact, but below the water level, it would be the same throughout the year for the fish. So, just wanna see what you thought about that.
Secondly, on that same river, recently, I was fishing a size 24 black beauty mercury midge that I tied. I normally don't tie fish or tie and fish flies that small, but I did this time and I lost all three of them. Two of them were quite close to the net and I thought I was doing everything I normally would do with side pressure and good tension on the line, but nonetheless, the last two, they kind of popped their heads or changed the direction of their heads and came off. And I wonder if my lack of experience on the size 24 flies might be a problem, but ethically, I pinch all my barbs and I did on these two, but on a size 24 fly, that barb is so small, what are your thoughts on keeping that barb intact? That might've made the difference between keeping them or losing them as I did in this case.
There's also a very small glass bead, which does take some of the real estate up, and that might have an impact too. But just wanna see what your thoughts are on barbs on small hooks. A little side note on that, I tied these with silk thread, and I really enjoyed listening to you and Tim Flagler talk about the evolution of fly tie materials, and silk thread was not talked about very nicely, but I normally wouldn't use it, but on small flies like this, it does work pretty well, and it's quite strong. Anyway, just a little side note that people are using silk thread these days. Anyway, have a great 2024. Thanks, Tom, for all you do.
Tom: Well, I think you're right that, you know, there shouldn't be much difference in how the fish behave during the winter. I mean, you're gonna have fewer hatches. The hatches that are gonna be available are gonna be probably midges and small bluing olives. So, keep your flies on the small side, particularly your nymphs as you obviously have been doing. And I think that the winter fishing in this stream should be, you know, almost as good as the spring, summer, and fall fishing because of that cold water temperature. Now, the fact that this water never gets to the, what we consider the optimum for trout, that optimum for trout is only in kind of average streams that see a range of temperatures. Trout can get acclimated to those colder temperatures.
So, those fish might be as active at 43 or 44 degrees as other trout would be at 50 or 55 degrees just because they're acclimated to it, you know, their physiology has adapted to that colder water. So, in a stream like that, I wouldn't use those rules of thumb that we use in most trout streams to apply because a fish just never see those warmer water temperatures. As far as landing a fish on a size 24 midge, you can try not debarbing the hook, but I don't think it's gonna make that much difference. As you noted, the barb is so small anyway, you're just gonna lose more fish, particularly close to the net when a rainbow trout or even a brown shakes its head, the fly's gonna pop out.
You don't have the same holding power you do in a 14 or 16 or an 18 hook. Sometimes a 24 can get really lodged in there and will hold really well. But those little hooks, you know, there's not much of a bite there. And so, I wouldn't worry about it. You're just gonna lose more fish on those smaller hooks, particularly close to the net. And I'm also glad that you are having good luck with silk thread. It's nice stuff. I just don't like the fact that it doesn't hang around very long before it gets weak.
Tom: Okay. Let's do another email. This one's from Peter, "Two questions, if you please. One, I have and love the action of my Gen 2 Recon 9-foot 5-weight. I'm looking to expand my collection with either more Recons or into the Helios line of rods for this spring. How would you compare the action of my rod to Helios 905D versus 905F?" So, Peter, the Recon action, as I see it, is kind of halfway between the F and the D. So, you know, it's a real all-purpose action, and it's not gonna be quite as mid flexing as the F, and it's not gonna be quite as tippy and fast as the D, but it's gonna be right in between those two.
So, you know, depending on whether, you know, if you're doing a lot of long casts and you've got a lot of wind and you're throwing some bigger flies, I'd go with the D. If you are casting a little bit shorter, you know, 905F will cast 70 feet, but the D's gonna be better. The 905F is gonna be slightly more delicate in the range that you're gonna be doing most of your fishing and a little bit more tippet protection because it's a little bit softer. So, it depends on really what you're doing, but that's the main difference between the two.
And then his second question, "I'm looking for a dedicated streamer rod for smallmouth bass and trout here around Denver, Colorado. I have a 6-weight non-Orvis brand. I won't mention the name already, but it's too stiff for my liking. I feel like more power would be nice for the wind we get and the bigger fly I may be pushing. What would you suggest in Recon or Helios lines. Well, the Recon, I would suggest just for smallmouth bass and trout streamers, either at a 906 or a 907, depending on how big your flies are. You know, if you're using smaller bass flies and bigger trout streamers, the 6 would be good. If you're using a little bit larger bass flies, you know, a little bit more wind resistant and you're using more bass bugs surface flies, either cork or deer hair, then I would go with the 907.
And if you're going with the Helios line for those, I would probably, because of the wind, I would go with the Helios D version. I should note here, if you're hot to buy a rod and you got a question for me, I'm happy to answer your questions about rod selection, but I don't always get to these right away, and you might wanna get a rod like tomorrow. We do have a great team of 11 experts either on the phone or through chat who are very experienced anglers who are available through working hours, both on the East and West Coast to answer your questions on the phone or on chat or via email. So, if you need a quick answer, podcast is probably not the place to go. Again, I'm happy to answer your equipment questions, but this team of experts on the Orvis Outfitter team, they're gonna be just as knowledgeable as me, and they're gonna be a lot quicker. So if you're in a hurry, you're better off contacting the Outfitter team.
Here's an email from Micah from Little Rock, Arkansas, "I turned 13 in November and celebrated a year of fly fishing and tying, I learned a lot about trout and bone fishing in a year. Well, a tip I would like to share is that bonefish can be found in popular places. I hooked into a 6-pound bonefish in Tranquility Bay, Belize. Most people travel there, but you can still have a chance of some huge bonefish, just like how you hooked that cart by a cafe. I walked 10 yards from a restaurant and hooked a 6-pound bonefish. It was my first time bone fishing, so I did not know what to do. My question is, how to start a commercial fly-tying? Thank you so much for the podcast. I'm also thankful for the information from the podcast and connecting the fly fishing community."
Well, Micah, a 6-pound bonefish in Belize is an incredible catch. Most bonefish in Belize are much smaller than that, so that's a great first bonefish. And yeah, you can catch them pretty close to civilization in Belize and in other places. They're a lot tougher in those locations, but you did a good job and caught one of those. They're not easy at all. Regarding commercial fly tying, I can answer this question easily because I started when I was about your age tying commercially. And what you wanna do is pick a pattern that's super popular like a Woolly Bugger or a Prince Nymph or a beadhead, hair ear, or something like that.
Tie a couple dozen of them and make sure that they're consistent and that they're durable and that your heads are finished properly and that they're not gonna fall apart. And take them into the nearest fly shop and ask them if they would like for you to tie some flies for their shop. Often fly shops will get a lot of their fly on commercial operations, but there's certain local patterns, local specialties that they just can't get through their normal sources, and so they'll have local tyers doing them. And, you know, most of these shops really like to help out kids that are starting out. So, I would do that.
And, you know, I would also maybe find out some local favorite flies that aren't available any place else, and tie a dozen of those. But you don't wanna go in with just one or two. You wanna be able to show the people in the fly shop that you can tie consistent flies so that, you know, when they fill their fly bins, they all look the same and they look professional. That's what I would do. That's how I started out. And good luck.
Scott: Hey Tom, this is Scott from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Recently I was on my local water during high cloudy conditions. I was trying to get the flies down to the bottom where I thought the fish were by trying different weights of flies and adding split shot. I was snagging bottom quite a bit, and as I was tying the fly onto the end of my tippet using a clinch knot, I typically start it with the hook facing up, tie it. I was wondering if that had any influence on the direction that the hook rides in the water. I know with certain hook styles like jug hooks the shank is bent pretty severely but other ones like nymph hooks, dry fly hooks, the shank behind the eye is not bent quite so much. So, I was looking for your insights on this matter. Thank you for everything you do for fly fishing. I look forward to hearing your response.
Tom: Well, Scott, first of all, if you're hooking bottom consistently, you may be too deep. Fish don't actually pick your flies off the bottom. They're looking up and you need to be close to their level, but you wanna be above their level and not below it. So, first of all, you don't need to be ticking bottom that often. If you tick bottom, you know, once every half dozen casts or every 8 or 10 casts, you're probably getting deep enough in the water column. So, you may wanna, first of all, ease up on the number of split shots you have on there, or the size of the bead you have on your flies or whatever.
Regarding the clinch knot, the clinch knot really is a straight pull. It's a straight pull from the eye no matter how you tie it, whether you've come from one direction or come from the other direction. Once you fix that knot to the eye of a hook, it's gonna come out straight regardless. So, I don't think that's gonna affect how your fly rides in the water. And some weighted flies do ride upside down like a jig fly even though they're not tied on a jig hook. So, I wouldn't worry about which direction you're tying your clinch knot, maybe ease up on your weight and you should lose fewer flies.
Another email, this one's from Mike from Austin, Texas, "I primarily fish the Guadalupe River, which unless I'm mistaken, is the southernmost trout fishery in the U.S." I don't think it is Mike, but it's certainly down there. "Due to the extreme heat in the summer months, most of the fish die off, but there are some holdovers that get quite big. This means we're mostly fishing for stock trout. The only problem is that a lot of anglers know where the fish are stocked and those spots get hit pretty hard. I would rather move further from the crowds and not waste time on over-pressured spot. So, I have two questions. One, how far does stock trout travel? I've heard that they often stick within 500 meters of where they were put in. Is this true? I find it hard to believe. And when they do travel, do they usually move up river or down, or does it matter?"
"Number two, what is the best way to target the larger holdover trout? Should I fish my usual nymphs and hope to catch one mixed in among the stock trout? Or would they be sticking to their deeper pools and holes that allowed them to survive the summer heat? If so, would it be better to target them with streamers? If you could, I'd like to give a birthday. shout out to my dad, Matt. He's turning 54 in January and is a long-time listener of the podcast." Well, happy birthday, Matt. And Mike, regarding your questions, you know, I think those are mostly rainbows that are stocked in the Guadalupe. I've fished it once. And rainbows move around quite a bit and I don't know if they are more likely to move upstream or downstream. I think they might go either way. But they will move.
Rainbows, if they don't like what's around, much more than brown trout will book out of there and go somewhere else. If it's too crowded or it's too pressured, or the water temperature isn't quite right or they don't like the pool that they've been put in, they'll move. And I don't know whether they're gonna move upstream or downstream, but I wouldn't be afraid to fish pretty far from the places where they're stocked because, again, you're gonna have a little more solitude and the fish aren't gonna be as spooked and maybe not as pressured. So, I think that's a good idea, but I would try way upstream and I would try way downstream and see what works best.
Regarding targeting the larger holdover trout, yeah, they might be in the deeper pools. You know, it's interesting that holdover trout ones that are stocked and then survived to the next season, they get hammered pretty hard and they get pretty tough to catch. So, honestly, I would stick with nymphs, but I would go with a little bit lighter tippet than most other people are using because It's gonna give your fly a little bit more of a natural drift and may fool those smarter holdover trout a little bit more. I don't know if a streamer is necessarily the way to go. Again, those are mostly rainbows, so you don't want to go too big on your streamers. If you do try streamers in the deeper holes, I would use something that imitates a crayfish, or, you know, woolly bugger, even some sort of something with rubber legs that imitates a crayfish, maybe a tequila fly.
And don't make them too big. Don't use the size of that streamer that people use for brown trout, the big long ones because rainbows tend to like smaller streamers because I think they eat more crayfish than bait fish. And so, something along that line. And sometimes a white streamer works pretty well for rainbows, you know, white zonker or a white marabou muddler or something. But, you know, every river's different, every day is different, you're gonna have to experiment. So, do some exploring and try some different flies.
There's an email from Nick, "I'm a fairly new fly fisherman, just about a year in. In the warmer months, there's a place that I love to go to catch smallmouth. I catch at least one every time I go, and I've also caught white bass that definitely shouldn't have been there. I see huge carp every time I go, just cruising around. My question is with my 8.5-foot-5-weight, how would I go about bringing one in if I were to accidentally hook up on one? I know you're a huge fan of carp fishing, so I figured you'd be the guy to ask. I also remember from one of your episodes, possibly the carp fishing episode, your guest said he's brought in carp on lighter rigs. Any information would be super helpful. Thanks so much for the weekly podcast and everything you do for the sport."
So, Nick, yeah, you can catch a big carp on an 8.5-foot-5-weight. It's gonna be a pretty good battle and you're gonna wanna put a lot of pressure on that fish. And, you know, with a 5-weight, you're probably using a 12-pound or 16-pound tippet for those carp. You can put a lot of pressure on that fish and you're gonna wanna do that because carp don't give up easily. Probably the most important thing is to use side pressure on that fish. Don't try to raise your rod overhead and fight the fish with a high rod. Keep your rod low, use side pressure, try to turn the fish opposite the way he wants to go. And of course, let him run. You better have a good drag on your reel because you're gonna have some pretty strong runs with a carp.
And, you know, use the butt of the rod to fight the fish. Don't use the tip of the rod to put pressure on the fish, but use the butt of the rod. And it's almost more like kind of pointing your rod dip at the fish and turning your body to put some pressure into the butt of the rod because that's where the strength is. Now, if you try to hold your rod high, you're not gonna be able to put the same kind of pressure on them. So, you know, maybe watch some videos of people playing tarpon or bigger saltwater fish and you'll see how they use their core and their whole body to put pressure on the fish. It's gonna be fun and it's gonna take a while, but you can do it with your 8.5-foot-5-weight.
Here's an email from Pete from Toronto, "My question is about fishing streamers. I've heard in many of the Orvis podcasts and videos mention of fishing streamers with syncing lines and sync tips, but now with using split shot. Am I wasting my time using split shot? Your advice is always appreciated." Pete, absolutely not. You're not wasting your time trying split shot. You know, sometimes if I'm fishing a streamer and I come to a deeper hole and I wanna get that streamer down deeper, I'll put some split shot in front of my streamer. And you can put it almost anywhere. You can actually crimp the split shot right to the head of your streamer. You know, fish eat streamers with cone heads and beadheads. So, having a split shot right in front of the fly shouldn't matter a bit.
And it's a good way to quickly add some weight without having to go to a sinking line. So, yes, you absolutely can use split shot. You may wanna use a little bit longer liter or tippet, that's gonna allow the fly to sink better. But yeah, you can definitely use split shot. You can put it right at the head, you can put it a couple of inches away from the fly. You can put it six inches away from the fly. Try putting your shot in different places, but don't be afraid to try it.
Here's an email from Keith, "I'm considering adding a fiberglass rod into my collection. I would like to experience the slower, more methodical casting that I understand these rods offer. It seems more contemplative and relaxing. That said, Orvis does not offer the standard 9-foot-weight that seems to be traditional introductory setup. My home waters are panfish plentiful, Northwest Florida with the occasional bass. And I'm curious as to your recommendation. Should I go with a 4 or 5 or 6-weight at 7.5, 8, 8.5-foot respectively?" Keith for the fishing you wanna do, I would go with the 8.5-foot 6-weight. It's gonna be great for smaller bass, smaller bass bugs and panfish.
The reason that fiberglass rods are not made in longer than 8.5 feet. Now, you can make them longer, but the problem is that fiberglass is such a heavier material, and also it doesn't come back to rest or it doesn't track as well because it's not as stiff a material and it doesn't recover as quickly as graphite. You know, a 9-footer is just gonna wiggle more in the air after you complete your cast. And it's also gonna be heavier. It's gonna be quite a heavy rod. That's why they're not made in 9-footer or so. But I think an 8.5 or a 6 is gonna be just fine for the fishing you're gonna be doing.
Here's an email from John, "I'm returning from an afternoon at the local delayed harvest stream here in North Carolina. I've been fishing for three years and I feel I'm getting better at it, but this fall and winter's results aren't showing it. And thinking about why and starting to think it might have been something to do with the fact that they stocked the stream with browns, whereas I've mainly caught rainbows in prior years. My go-to especially in winter, is nymphing with some version of waltz worm and maybe an egg pattern. Water temps are pretty cold today, 40 degrees, and flows strong."
"So, I'm using a 4.6-millimeter tungsten bead waltz to get down and fishing riffles runs in deep pools. I even added a third beadhead nymph at one point to make sure I'm getting to the bottom. It is too cold for top water bugs and the only thing I could find under rocks was a tiny crawling stonefly-looking bug. I got one brown bird. I'm pretty sure if there were rainbows, I would've done better in some of those riffles. I know rainbows handle faster water than browns, so I made sure to focus on seams and pocket water next to the riffles. So, the question is, do I need to adjust water type or tactics for browns versus rainbows for winter fishing? What would you change? I've learned a lot from you and your peers over the past few years, so hope to hear your thoughts so I can adjust for the rest of the winter."
Well, John, in my experience, browns and rainbows will mostly inhabit similar water types, with rainbows slightly favoring riffles and faster water and browns slightly favoring slower water. But honestly, I catch them both in all kinds of water. I catch browns in really fast water and I catch rainbows in really slow water. So, I don't think it's a water type. Maybe just the stocking program that they had in your stream that you're not catching rainbows. But for all those species, if water temperature's 40 degrees, you wanna be sticking for the most part to the slower, deeper pools, at least start there.
When the water gets cold, the fish aren't gonna hang in the faster water as much, and their metabolism is gonna slow down and they're not gonna be, you know, in the riffles eating regularly. They're gonna be kind of tucked down in the deeper pools and just occasionally taking a bite of something. So, I would stick to the slower deeper water. And, you know, I think you're gonna catch... If there's equal browns and rainbows in there, you're probably gonna catch them equally well. I don't think they're gonna be in that different of a water type in the wintertime.
Here's an email from Mitch from Utah, "Something that has been helping me at my tying has been a silicone tool tray. I've had them for working on cars, but I threw one with a magnet tray directly under my tying vise, and it has been awesome. The silicone really clings to materials of all kinds and keeps things from bouncing away when I drop them. The magnet tray always keeps hooks and beads from escaping." Well, Mitch, that is a great tip. I don't know how many beads I've lost on the floor under my tying bench or hooks for that matter. And then, of course, I find one stuck in my sock, or even worse, in my wife's sock. She finds one in her sock. So, that is a great solution. And I'm gonna run out to the hardware store and look for one of those silicone trays, especially one with a magnet.
And here's an email from Antonia from Ohio, "What tips would you recommend for a partner of a fly fisherman who wants to be more involved with their hobby, but has no idea where to start? I listen to everything he says, content-wise, and what he's doing, but what can I do to better his experience while he is fly fishing and I'm with him? I'll happily tag along while he is fishing and read or do something, but I don't know if I just get in the way or seem disinterested." So, Antonio, here's my recommendation. If you don't wanna go fishing with your partner, then hopefully, you can find something that you can do along a lake or a stream that interests you. Because if you're gonna be just sitting there, even if you don't bother your partner or pressure your partner, they're gonna feel pressured anyway because they know you're sitting there kind of waiting for them.
And yeah, you're being patient, but they really aren't gonna be able to enjoy their passion as much if they know that there's somebody that's just kind of sitting there waiting for them. So, maybe if you don't wanna fish, maybe you could get into wildlife photography or wildflowers, or foraging for wild plants, or, you know, something that engages you and something that you might have a passion for at the same time in the same place. I know my kid doesn't fish, but what we do is we go somewhere where they like to hike, and I go brook trout fishing in a small stream. And I tell them, "Well, why don't you take a hike and I'll meet you at the upper part of this stream in two hours."
Tom: And so, I have two hours of fishing where I don't have to worry about my kid and they know where to find me. And then we meet up and we walk back together. And they're into botany and wild plants and stuff. So, they go looking for that kind of stuff. So, anyway, what I would do is try to find a passion, try to find something to do other than just sitting on the bank and reading that you can do while your partner fishes. And I think both of you are gonna be a lot happier.
Andy: Hey there, Tom, Andy Steger here from Denver, Colorado. Thanks so much for the episode a couple of weeks back on the great fly fishing literature, fiction and nonfiction. I loved it. I loved your guest, Michael, and I loved his list. And I came across some authors I was not aware of. I thought I would leave a comment and let listeners know about an author that you may have heard of, many have heard of, but wasn't on the list. I've just discovered Harry Middleton, one of my mentors in writing passed on "The Bright Country" to me about his time fishing the South Platte and living in Denver. And then I read "On the Spine of Time" about his love for the smokies. And then I read, what is it? "The Earth is Enough," about his childhood, growing up and fishing in the Ozarks with his grandpa and his great uncle.
And I just think he's phenomenal. He's my favorite by far fly fishing memoirist now. Wondered if you had read him, wonder if other listeners have, I wonder where people that know think he stands on, you know, their lists and where he's at in the pantheon of fly fishing. Memoirist Harry Middleton is really good. And so, there is my recommendation to listeners is to pick up some of those books. I'm sad that he's gone because that means no more literature from him. And he was still so young and had so much more to write. But we're lucky to have had him, Harry Middleton. Thanks Tom.
Tom: Well, Andy, thank you for that recommendation. Yes, Harry Middleton was a great writer, and he should be on lots of people's lists. And if anyone that enjoys fly fishing literature hasn't had the pleasure of reading Harry Middleton, I would try to get one of his books because he was brilliant and he is highly regarded by a lot of people who enjoy fly fishing literature. So, that's a great tip. Thank you very much. All right. Let's go talk to Sue Doroff about the great work that the Western Rivers Conservancy is doing.
Sue: It's a privilege to be able to sit down with you tonight, Tom.
Tom: Well, thank you, Sue. And it's an honor to be here tonight live and to finally meet you in person, and be part of an organization that I am just so enamored of because of amazing work and the focus that you have. So, thank you for inviting me.
Sue: Well, it's all sharks. Well, Tom, would you have any questions you'd like to ask?
Tom: I do. I do, Sue.
Sue: Do tell.
Tom: And I'm gonna start with you, and I know you don't like this.
Sue: I don't.
Tom: I know you don't, and you think that you're not interesting, but the human element of these things, I think, always adds a dimension that people can relate to. So, you've been with this organization for 33 years. You were a founder of this organization. How did it get started? Talk about yourself a little bit.
Tom: Talk about yourself a little bit.
Sue: Thanks, Tom. Well, you know, I feel like all of us spend our lives and our careers trying to find our passion and something we care about and something that makes us wanna get up every day and go do it again. And I was fortunate enough to have a partner in crime, Phil Wallin, who was really the founder of the organization. And he wanted to make sure rivers continued to be free-flowing. And his idea was that there would be some people fighting, doing advocacy, and then there would be some people doing conservation, just being an apolitical entity out there, making sure that there's a tangible outcome where we can protect the most important properties along rivers in the West.
And so, Phil and I separated the organization that had advocacy and land conservation in 2001, which is how I am a co-founder, and we created Western Rivers Conservancy. I'm not a westerner by birth, I was born in Washington, DC, but I'm a westerner at heart. It's the landscape that I love. And my real estate chops are what brought me to this wonderful career. I started out in commercial real estate, Tom, building high-tech flex buildings, possibly mowing down a couple of wetlands. And somewhere along the way, I had the opportunity to take my real estate chops and apply them to conservation. And so, for me, I can't imagine a luckier outcome. It's the best career in the world. And being able to have my children and my family and my friends all know about the legacy that all of us at Western Rivers are creating is something that I'm just deeply grateful for and honored to be able to do. Talking about myself. Can we?
Tom: Yeah. Give us good. That was good. I'm proud of you. Okay. So, for the benefit of people who maybe don't know Western Rivers that well and how you operate, let's unpack a project. So, pick one, maybe the one you're most proud of.
Sue: That's easy.
Tom: And let's talk about, first of all, the environmental reasons why you wanna protect this river, and then how you do it. You know, get into the financial stuff. Because I don't understand, and I do understand rivers a little bit, but I don't know...I have no idea about the financial stuff, and I'm sure a lot of other people don't.
Sue: Yeah. Well, I was asking you today about what your favorite river is, and of course, you don't have one.
Tom: Right. The one I'm on. The one I'm on. It's time.
Sue: Exactly. Yeah. And it's a little bit how I feel about our work. I am proud of each and every project, frankly. But the one that is, you know, a really great example of what you're asking is Blue Creek on the Klamath River. And the owner of that landscape was a resource company called Green Diamond Resource Company. Great guys. And we had just completed a project together in Washington State. And they came to us and said, "Hey, we've got one for you."
Tom: The state came to you?
Sue: No, the Green Diamond Resource Company came to me, and said, "You know, there's this landscape that we own, but the Yurok tribe would really like to take title to, and we're ready to do it, but we need your help." And what we learned was that there was this landscape, 47,000 acres, 3 1/2 times the size of the island of Manhattan. An amazing, amazing project from the scale of it, but also the importance of it from a resource perspective. Blue Creek is the first cold water tributary fish encounter when they return from the ocean. It's at river mile 14 or 15. A hundred percent of the Chinook salmon stop at Blue Creek and lower their body temperatures by 8 1/2 degrees because they become so super-heated in that one 15-mile run. And the way the salmon survive in the Clamus system is to go from one cold water refuge to the next. And without Blue Creek, that run would cease to exist. Tragic. So, this project that Green Diamond brought to us, which was, you know, $55 million back then, a very big project. It has a bazillion miles of tributary streams.
You can get in a jet boat and drive for an hour and a half and be along the project area the whole time. It's a big place. And it's the finest marbled, murrelet intact assembled habitat in its range. Who knew? We were there because it was an important fishery. The Klamath is an important river. And with or without dam removal, protecting that first cold water tributary was critical. And you'd say, "Well, you know, what did you need to do? How is it threatened?" And what happens when you have industrial timberland operations is you have roads. And those roads need culverts to go under them, and they get blocked, and they fail. And then you have the sediment load that gets delivered to the stream. And if that happened at Blue Creek, it would be catastrophic. The stream would lose its capacity, its ability to hold fish. And the fish would no longer have this cold water refuge and salmon sanctuary.
So, with our project, we were able to gain control of that landscape at the worst time in recent memory, it was 2008 when we had to begin buying, and all of our funding sources dried up. It was a terrible moment. And yet we were contractually obligated to buy this property in four phases. And I haven't even talked about the importance of this landscape to the Yurok people. The Yurok are a very sophisticated tribe. They have a really great natural resource department, a great fisheries department. They very much wanted to see these lands returned to their people. It's the spiritual center for the Yurok people. And so, we felt that the resource value and the unintended but wonderful outcome of returning these lands to the Yurok was critical and we had to figure out how to do this deal.
And so, we did what we love to do. We love problems because we get to solve them. And we're kind of good at it. And so, we came up with all these innovative financing schemes. So, first, we used a fund from the EPA that is a revolving fund, a revolving loan fund that's intended for bricks and mortar, you know, sewage treatment plants, water treatment plants. And we said, "You know, forestry, you generates non-point source pollution, and we're going to prevent that. We think we're eligible for your program." And so we were able to borrow just shy of $20 million at 0% interest for 20 years, and changed the management regime to have one that was for conservation and sustainable forestry.
That was only for half of the project. And then we had to fund the rest of it. And so, we noticed there's a program from the Treasury Department to help generate jobs called New Markets Tax Credits. And it's not for the faint of heart. It's complicated. It's frightening, it's expensive, it's risky. But it could generate 20 cents on the dollar. So, for, you know, a $10-million phase, we could generate 2 million from new markets tax credits. And so we figured it out. And our jobs that we generated were jobs in the woods. And they're not jobs for two years for construction, they're jobs forever, because the restoration, and the ongoing management, and our vision was to achieve a late-seral forest, an old-growth forest status for the salmon sanctuary in Coldwater Refuge, and to create a community forest, an economic development opportunity with the remainder of the lands. Pretty exciting.
Tom: The natural reaction of people is, you're removing logging, so you're taking jobs away. But you found a way to show that you're gonna actually add jobs.
Sue: A hundred percent. And sustainable forestry, like, outside of the Blue Creek watershed, the remainder of the land, we used another program, carbon sequestration. Everybody thought carbon was all smoke and mirrors, and that it was, you know, a made-up program when we started. But with carbon, you still have forestry, you just have these very long rotations, and you're taking only a third of the trees that would otherwise be taken to qualify for the sequestration calculation and all that kind of good stuff. And so, not only were we able to have jobs in the woods for restoration, but we could continue having responsible sustainable forestry on the lands outside the Blue Creek watershed. So, it's win-win-win.
Tom: Do you go to like a broker for carbon sequestration that sells the credits? Or how does that work?
Sue: You know, it's complicated.
Tom: Okay. Well, never mind.
Sue: I think at the end of the day, we did it ourselves, but what we don't know in-house, we seek out. And so, we had consultants to help us. The carbon market is very robust. And we have what's known as a charismatic project, so people are pretty attracted to buying our carbon credits and being able to share our story. It's pretty neat.
Tom: So, you got the money, borrowed the money. You bought the land. And then you don't hold on to it for long. Right? You come in as kind of the white hat and you're quicker, and you're more nimble, and you can get these things when they're available?
Sue: Exactly. Blue Creek isn't the best example of us being nimble on the release of the lands. We do, that's our model, is to gain control of a property from a willing seller and give them, you know, business-like transaction, and borrow funds to hold those lands. And then move them to a long-term steward who's gonna manage those lands in perpetuity according to our shared vision. And ideally, that happens in pretty short order, in two, three, four five years. I know that doesn't sound short, but it really is short. And with Blue Creek, it's just a bigger project and more complicated. And we've remained engaged, one, because new markets tax credits has a seven-year forbearance period where we're obligated to own it for seven years. And two, we're really working in partnership with the tribe to get our management plan in place, and to be able to convey it to them with a management fund that we've built up from our carbon sales.
And we hope to convey those lands... We've already conveyed a portion of them to the gear rock, but we hope to complete that conveyance next year.
Tom: Wow. Yeah. And then, is there a covenant that when you turn a property over to, whether it's a state or federal government or whatever, is there a covenant that stipulates that they can't be clear-cut or it can't be developed for home sites and things like that?
Sue: You bet. You bet. So, it's a good question because all of us wanna see any conservation project we touch to be protected in perpetuity. A covenant has a legal connotation and that we would restrict it prior to conveyance. And we can't do that. It diminishes the value of the property, and we need to sell it for what we bought it for. But what we do is we try to ensure that the most restrictive management overlay is available. And so, in the case of conveying to one of the four federal agencies, those properties are protected with the intent of the Land And Water Conservation Fund, which is the source of funding for conservation land acquisitions for the federal natural resource agencies. But that protection is enhanced greatly when it's in a congressionally designated area.
So, if it's in a national monument or within a wild and scenic river corridor, things where Congress has spoken and said these lands shall be managed. And so, it would take an act of Congress to change it. So, we're always trying to achieve the greatest level of protection. And in different cases, we have different opportunities available to us. When we convey to the state, we have the state's overlay and vision. And so, in the case of Blue Creek, the grants that we received from the state, because when we funded Blue Creek, it was an extraordinary funding strategy, and more than half of the funds are private. You know, either we generated them through carbon or through new markets. But because we did secure a relatively small amount of state funding, about $5 million, their grant agreements overlay the whole property.
We've put all of our contributions underneath that state grant. And so, that grant has restrictions. It has a management plan that's attached to it, it has to be updated regularly, it has to be approved by the state regularly. And so, it is protected by virtue of this grant agreement that runs with the land.
Tom: I sort of understand that.
Sue: I know.
Tom: But I trust you. It's gonna work.
Sue: Well, it's important. Every steward has a different opportunity that we have to tease out to make sure we get that perpetuity for our conservation vision.
Tom: So, let's talk about another river, one that's a favorite of mine, and that's the Big Hole that you have an ongoing project on. So, talk about the situation there.
Sue: You bet. And you could probably talk about the situation with the Big Hole fishery better than I, but certainly, water temperatures and water levels and flows are a big deal on the Big Hole. And it's reaching crisis level,
Tom: Just not enough water for everybody.
Sue: Yeah. It's just not enough water. And so, one way we can help with land acquisition is to put water back in stream or change how water is managed on the lands that we acquire. And some properties, some ranches have more senior water rights than others. And so not all water rights are created equal. So, we had this neat opportunity in two different places, one on the Wise River and another on you know Cox and Tim Creeks. So, two different ranches, both had critical water rights. And so, when we purchased those lands, we worked with Trout Unlimited, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and with a Forest Service to understand how best to benefit the river and the fishery with the water rights that we were taking control of. And we pursued and have executed this really innovative strategy. Because the first strategy for water rights is put them in stream.
Tom: Put them back in.
Sue: Yeah. Put them back in.
Tom: Just put it back in. Don't use it. Right.
Sue: Right. Which is great. And if they're senior water rights, which means they're older than other water rights further downstream, then that water has to stay in stream because that's what happens. But what the new thinking is, is there's maybe a more can have more finesse with water rights. And so, in this case, we've discovered that we can irrigate the wet meadows. We don't have traditional agriculture. One of the properties has wild hay growing. So, the rancher next door can harvest that wild hay that we're irrigating the meadows. And then when the stream needs the water, we divert it straight into the river when it drops so low, it's needed. But in the meantime, we've recharged the groundwater system and the wet meadows, which is super, and we didn't have to dry up the landscape, and we don't have weeded problems, and we didn't have to remove infrastructure. So, it's a win-win for agriculture and conservation.
And we were able to set that scheme up on both of these properties. And so, we're delivering cold, clean water and recharging the groundwater system all at the same time.
Tom: And that groundwater probably, it probably cools the water because it goes down through the ground and the ground's cooler than the air. So, instead of sitting on top, it's going down through and back in the river.
Sue: Absolutely. And it's natural, 100%. And it filters it. So, it's not just temperature, but also quality.
Tom: Right. So, how many CFS are you at a low flow? How many CFS are you putting back into the Big Hole that wouldn't have been there?
Sue: So, at the Eagle Rock Ranch on the Wise River, we control 11 CFS. I think three and a half is going into meadow system no matter what. But eight and a half CFS is delivered in stream when the stream needs it. And at Cox and Tim Creek. I don't remember.
Tom: Okay. I don't know what the flow of the mainstem of the Big Hole is, do you, at like really low levels?
Sue: I don't recall. I don't recall.
Tom: Gotta be 100 or something like that.
Sue: I think it could be less.
Tom: So, that's significant.
Sue: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's a huge percentage. Yeah.
Tom: Which one do you wanna talk about?
Sue: Gosh. On water rights, I do want to say that it's really important to be innovative, you know, because that, for us it's politically unpopular to be denying agriculture their way of life, agricultural interests. And so, when we can come up with these creative solutions for water rights, which we did on the little Cimarron in Colorado, and we also, I guess, on the Antoine Creek, Antoine Valley Creek in Washington, which flows into the Okanagan River, we were able to purchase a ranch that controlled 95% of the water that flows in Antoine Valley Creek and subsequently into the Okanagan. And in that case, we left a dam in place. It's the second-highest earth and dam in Washington. And we owned it for a little while. That was a little scary.
And some of my board members are here, and they were very gracious about us taking a risk of owning the second-highest earth and dam in Washington. Thank you. But that dam what we're able to do is we're able to replicate a more natural regime by releasing water as agriculture's, pulling it out during the season, trying to maintain flows that are sufficient for the fishery to survive and thrive. So, that's a really neat project that has another innovative approach to water rights. And for us, you know, we are opportunistic, you know. We created an inventory of the rivers of the West called the Great Rivers of the West, the namesake for this series.
And we took everybody's view of what rivers are important. And so, you know, the agency's views, the other NGO's views, everyone has a list. And no list is wrong, but no list is right either. And so, we compiled them all and kind of put them through our filter, which is that of opportunity, you know, where there's not a fragmented landscape and where, you know, it's not damned, where we really can make a difference. And we took all of those priority rivers and put them through our lens and created this inventory. We don't follow it as this is what we should do next, but it informs our work. But at the end of the day, we are a conservation real estate outfit. You can't always buy the most important project. You can't always buy number one on the scientists list.
And so, we are always scanning the landscape for finding that strategically important property that will make a difference. Because at the end of the day, we don't wanna color the map green. We wanna understand what will make a real difference, have impact for the river system, and bring our resources to bear to see that that functions in perpetuity.
Tom: Well, I think that's why you're so effective, because you're focused on one thing. You're not worried about management or anything else, you're worried about the habitat and preserving or enhancing habitat.
Sue: Yeah. That's it. I like to say, we do just one thing and others go, "Well, it's a really complicated thing you do." But it is, we're very disciplined.
Tom: Now, public access. Let's talk about that a little bit because it's also now part of your mission statement, right?
Sue: Yeah. We added access...
Tom: Give me some examples of places that had been locked up and now have public access because of what you guys have done.
Sue: Yeah. Boy, that's just such a great question because we have such... So, we added access to our mission, because our mission, first and foremost, is to permanently protect the great rivers of the West for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and people. And we added, and where it's compatible to ensure there's public access. Because, you know, to know a river is to love a river. And we believe everyone should be able to get out and enjoy their local river and stream. And when we're doing a project, we really don't want to lock it up unless there's a reason. And so, one time with the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, just outside of Chico, adjacent to Bidwell Park, we did not deliver unfettered public access. There's still public access, but it's controlled because it's a research environment.
But my favorite public access project is the John Day. I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to go out to the John Day River. It's in Oregon. It's the longest undammed River west of the Rockies. It has a bunch of endangered and threatened Salmonid species. And in the lower John Day, there are four critical cold-water tributaries. And we were able... Oh, and one last fact. And BLM, the Bureau of Land Management, has a tremendous amount of ownership throughout the John Day Canyon. And there are three wilderness study areas stacked up one after the other. And you can't get to it. It's all private land. And the only way to get to this canyon and this wilderness study area until we were able to get involved, was to put in at river mile 110 and float for five to seven days depending on the flows, to take out at river mile, I don't know, 30 or something. And that's about 80,000 acres of public land that you couldn't get to.
And so we were able to buy, and many of you who do know the John Day will know the Rattray Ranch. And there was a ranch owned by five sisters, the Rattrays and another ranch right next door to them owned by the Campbells, five brothers. And they didn't know each other. That's the best part. And the Rattray always sold access to people so they could come in. And that was about at river mile 45. So, halfway through this canyon. And the canyon is spectacular. And the fishing is some of the best in Lower 48, especially the steel heading in the winter. There's also smallmouth bass fishing in the summer.
And the Rattray put the ranch up for sale. And what was possibly gonna happen was it was gonna go private and you would no longer be able to get in and do a float or a hike in the middle of the canyon. And so, that really was an opportunity we couldn't resist. And so, we bought these two ranches. We secured funding from BLM to convey it to BLM. BLM now controls...there's a permit system for the river to control this wilderness experience. And so, there's public access, the wild experience is being protected. Thirtymile Creek, which runs through these two ranches is the most productive creek for the endangered fish that call it home. And I'm forgetting what run it is of fish right now.
And so, for us, we delivered public access. We protected this amazing cold water tributary and recreation and conservation. Had a win-win.
Tom: And you have a new project just outside of Denver, of tributary of the South Planetary, Elk Creek?
Sue: We do. Have you fished there?
Tom: No, no.
Sue: I hear it's amazing.
Tom: Well, I think it was private, so I couldn't before, right? Now I can.
Sue: Well, almost. On December 1st, we will buy this ranch. We call it Collared Ranch. It's on Taral Creek. It's about 40 miles upstream of its confluence with the South Platt. This is part of South Park. And so, it's an hour and a half or so from Colorado Springs, from Denver. And it's a treasured fishery. It's also an important migration and movement corridor for large charismatic critters. And so, we'll deliver 5.5 miles of both sides of the stream for anglers and recreationists. And there's about 13,000 acres of state wildlife area that it will become a part of. And if we get a wildlife pass over the highway, it'll be just an amazing conservation accomplishment.
Tom: Yeah. And public access is so difficult in Colorado right now, because if someone privately owns both banks, you're not going in there.
Sue: You're not going in there.
Tom: You're not getting in there at all.
Sue: Yeah. And I didn't realize when we first got involved in this project, we kind of are experiential learners. And so, you know, we knew this was a great project. We could see it fit into other conservation lands. But as we, you know, dug deeper into the project, we came to realize how important this is to anglers and how important this is to the migrating critters for winter range. And so, it's so great to take on a project and then realize the tremendous importance that it has.
Tom: Yeah. Side benefits that you didn't even know about.
Sue: Absolutely.
Tom: Can you talk about some projects that are on the horizon, or is that....?
Sue: That's forbidden?
Tom: No. Is that kind of top secret? Because you don't want...
Sue: So, we have 25, 26 projects in 7 Western states right now.
Tom: That are ongoing, or?
Sue: Yes, they're in our pipeline that either we are actively negotiating on them or we own them. And that's probably the two.
Tom: But you can't talk about specifics?
Sue: Well, but I can talk about some of the ones we haven't talked about. So, McDermott Creek in Oregon, it actually straddles the Oregon-Nevada border. And it's the only place to recover this particular species, subspecies of Lahontan cutthroat trout. So, cool, this one ranch. And we spent years and years talking to the family, this matriarch, and we're finally able to gain control of the property right before she actually passed away. And we bought the ranch and we're working to secure public funding for it. That ranch and many NGOs and Fish and Wildlife Service and other fishery agencies in both Nevada and Oregon are all interested in pursuing this aggressive recovery strategy for Lahontan cutthroat trout. And now we find that the largest lithium deposit in the region and maybe in the country surrounds our ranch.
Tom: Oh, no.
Sue: It's kind of exciting. But whether those precious metals are gonna get mined from this area, that ranch is gonna be protected. We're going to be able to recover that species in that stream and with or without the lithium mine taking place.
Tom: You have enough buffer around it.
Sue: We have enough buffer. And with the funding source that we're using, you were asking about protections, we are using Endangered Species Act funding Section 6, as we like to call it. And that is from a recovery of an endangered species pot of money. And so, that has an easement overlay, a protection overlay that will be something that when the mine tries to operate, it will have to honor those protections. So, it's kind of exciting. So, we have that. We at Dillon Beach here in the Bay Area, there's the...I always get this wrong, it's the Estero de San Antonio River that flows into the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay. And we'll be acquiring that property in December. And it's this patchwork of conserved areas that this property kind of stands guardian over. And we'll be conveying that to a Native American tribe, the Graton Rancheria, and returning those lands to them. So, that's exciting and new.
Tom: That's a steelhead spawning stream.
Sue: Yeah. It's pretty great. What other streams? Have we talked about Badger Creek?
Tom: No, we haven't.
Sue: I knew you'd wanna talk about Badger Creek. Well, many of you know this, that in Idaho, flowing off of the Tetons are Badger Creek and Bitch Creek flow into the Teton River. And the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Idaho have been working to conserve the Badger and Bitch Creek watersheds. And this lower Badger, lower Bitch Creek ecological unit is really important for the genetically pure Yellowstone...
Tom: Snake River, fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat.
Sue: No, it's Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Tom: Oh, it's Yellowstone cutthroat.
Sue: Yeah. And it's interesting because on Badger Creek, the Yellowstone cuts, and there's a couple of people here who know a lot more about this than I do, so you guys can correct me. But the opportunity is to acquire this property that's on Badger Creek, have it join this lower Badger, lower Bitch ecological unit and deliver a migration corridor for pronghorns and mule deer and some of the other charismatic critters that come down off of the Tetons and need winter range. And it gives us an opportunity to work with the stream and the wildlife and fishery folks to address what's a pretty gnarly issue of invasive rainbows. And then the genetically pure Yellowstone cuts. So, that property, we hope to gain control of in the coming months.
Tom: And that's gonna just help the interconnectedness of these lands here?
Sue: Yeah. It'll actually be the final piece in the assemblage for that ecological unit.
Tom: So, how are you going to get rid of the invasive rainbows?
Sue: Oh, I knew you were gonna ask that. I'm not gonna do anything because Western Rivers Conservancy does just the land acquisition entity. And it's funny because we were chatting about this earlier and, you know, we are not involved in fish management or in policy, but we do know that both the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to eliminate rainbows from the lower Badger system. And in the hope of, you know allowing the Yellowstone cuts to come back because they've been squeezed out.
Tom: They interbreed too. And they don't like...
Sue: They don't like that either.
Tom: Yeah, they don't like that.
Sue: And it's been impacting this amazing fishery that's in Bitch Creek. And you've spent time there, haven't you?
Tom: Yeah. One of the greatest fisheries in the country.
Sue: That's what I'm told.
Tom: Yeah. Amazing place.
Sue: Yeah. What else is burning in your mind about...
Tom: I always have lots of places.
Sue: I know.
Tom: Have you ever, you buy land with the idea of quickly transferring it to someone who is going to be their caretaker of the land and take good care of it? Have you ever been stuck with a piece of a river?
Sue: We haven't, but you know, it's...
Tom: Somebody pulls out of the financing at the last minute?
Sue: Totally. When we look at a property, you know, ideally, we would have some very good ideas about how we would permanently protect it. So, for me, I like to have Plan A and a Plan B, and in some cases a Plan C if Plan A and B are a little flaky. But if the property, if the resource is special enough, we will do it and we'll figure it out.
Tom: Worry about it later.
Sue: Well, we kind of. An example is the Hoh River. Have you fished in the Hoh?
Tom: No.
Sue: So, the Hoh which is on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, it flows off of the flanks of Mount Olympus. It drains one-third of Mount Olympus actually. It is the most biodiverse river in the Lower 48. It has 11 different salmonid species plus two resident species. It's amazing. It's also the most revulsive river in Washington state, and maybe the most revulsive river in the country, which means it jumps all over the place, has this huge channel migration zone. Very exciting. And on the Hoh, we had an opportunity after finishing a transaction with a timber company, they said, "Hey, I've got one for you," just like with Blue Creek.
And they show us their ownership. And in this 30-mile stretch from Olympic National Park and Mount Olympus, there's 30 miles of industrial timberland, and then there's a little strip of National Park at the ocean because that's it, it flows from Mount Olympus to the ocean, boop, in like 30, 35 miles. And they own a third, this timber company own a third of the lands in this 30-mile stretch. And so, when I looked at the ownership, there was this timber company, Rainier, a second timber company, and then the state of Washington. That was it, for this whole stretch of the most biodiverse river in the Lower 48 We said, "We've gotta do this. We'll buy it." And we had no way to fund it. You know, this was the heart of the spotted owl wars took place on the Olympic Peninsula.
And it was not near a National Forest and the state of Washington, the Department of Natural Resources, it was politically, you know, untenable for them to acquire it. But, you know, you know it when you see it. This was so amazing to have this opportunity to protect this 30-mile corridor. And so we bought the land, and, you know, with really nice supportive lenders. It's a couple of foundations. And we bought it over a period of time, and we, you know, went scratching around for how we might fund this. And we came up with a relatively new funding source at that time, which was the Section 6 Funds for the Endangered Species Act. And instead of being a recovery pot of money, this was for complimenting a habitat conservation plan.
And so, we got smart real quick about Section 6, and we were probably one of the first people to utilize that fund. But we needed someone to take title to the lands and the state wouldn't do it, and the Forest Service wouldn't do it. And so, we formed a land trust, brand new land trust, and we populated the board with people from the Puget Sound area, as well as people from the Peninsula. And we stood this NGO up and we bought the land. Super exciting. And then we made a deal with the second landowner, and we had to chase those lands through three different landowners because the first landowner didn't like our price and sold it to...I think the first landowner was a timber company, and they sold it to CalPERS.
And then CalPERS decided to sell it, and they sold it to a TIMO, a Timber Investment Management Organization. And we wanted to buy it from that TIMO, and we made a deal. But we needed six months to get our loan lined up from our friendly foundations, and they weren't patient. So, they accepted a lower price and they sold it to yet another owner. They sold it to California Fruit Growers. And then we were finally able to buy the land from California Fruit Growers. It was exciting.
Tom: So, now that whole quarter's protected?
Sue: That whole quarter's protected. And there's an epilogue to that, though. The NGO that we formed really never got traction., because, you know, an NGO needs to have a solid capacity to manage lands. It also needs a nice bank account. And we had hoped it would be able to fundraise and build its resources. And it really never did it. It just bumped along. And so, at the end of the day, the Nature Conservancy bought lands next door. And so, we struck a bargain with Nature Conservancy to have them take over the landscape and manage it together with their others. And so, it's an exciting story really to have a win-win and see that entire western end of the Olympic Peninsula managed for conservation.
Tom: A simple mission statement, but a complicated process. Wow.
Sue: That's it. Well, I see Jim standing over there, and so, Tom, thank you for visiting with me tonight.
Tom: Well, it's been a pleasure. It's always fun talking to you. But I have one more question for you.
Sue: Sure.
Tom: Can we have one more question? Okay. So, how can people help you out? How can people get involved in this process? Because I'm sure there are people watching on online, you know, most people in this room probably know, but how can people take part in this? How can they help?
Sue: Thank you for that question, and I appreciate it. You know, there's lots of ways to help. Funding is what everyone thinks of. Yes, giving to Western Rivers will help. We need two kinds of funding. We need funding to help us develop projects, to pay for staff and appraisals, and we need capital. And it's that funding for projects that when a donor gives us funds, that's what they're giving toward. But, you know, talking to your friends about us, you know, getting out on rivers and taking other people out on rivers. At the end of the day, we want to have healthy, free-flowing rivers that are good for fish, that are good for wildlife, and they're good for people, and it's not just for fishing. It's important for us as humans to get out on rivers and be around free-flowing water and get out in nature. And so, doing any and all of those things is what you can do to help. Thank you for that.
Tom: But also donating, right?
Sue: Donating. Give often, often.
Tom: There's a lot of money involved with this stuff.
Sue: There is. There is. Thank you.
Tom: Yeah.
Man: Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the body of an email or as a voice detachment. You can find more free fishing tips at