The Native Fish Coalition, with Bob Mallard
But first, let's do the fly box. And if you have a question for the fly box, or a comment, or a tip for other listeners on something we've talked about before, you can send it to me at
I enjoy the podcast and truly appreciate what you do and have done for the sport of fly fishing and fishing in general. That being said, I listened to the latest podcast with Kirk Deeter, and was a bit disappointed with your views and the conversation in general. Not once did you or Kirk mention a specific instance where it seemed in my opinion that wildlife fish officials went too far with native species reintroduction, or exotic fish removals.
Everything you cited seemed very reasonable, and I'm sure plenty of research proceeded it. There's so many threats to native fish in this country that need action before it's too late. It would have been nice if before the conversation you all mentioned how detrimental the movement of non-natives has been on countless fish species. This has been done by wildlife agencies as well as civilian bucket biologists over the years. I think this is something that needs to be drilled home, and to my knowledge, you mentioned very little if at all.
Here in the south, our beautiful native black bass species, not subspecies, actual recognized species are in a downward spiral due to hybridization with introduced Alabama spotted bass. It all stemmed from people/agencies moving fish around. You might shrug it off because they're just bass, but if you've seen the beauty of a red eye or knew how quickly shoal bass reached 20 inches compared to their cousins, you would understand why it's important.
To me, it's a moral issue in the end. We should be writing the wrongs we have done to native fish, if at all possible. While I don't think anyone is arguing to eradicate all non-natives, it should definitely be done reasonably. Much appreciation to you and Orvis.
Well, thank you, Matt for your very reasonable...taking me to task. And I'll admit that Kirk and I did take more or less an extreme view. And you are absolutely right. Now, I hope no one got the impression that either Kirk or I are against preserving populations of native species. Neither of us would ever want something like that to happen. And certainly, we would be strongly opposed to any introduction of non-native species beyond what we've already done. And we and we should do everything we can to make sure that the existing populations of native species are preserved. So, I want to thank you for that.
And I did...there is something that I said in last week's podcast that was inaccurate, in that I talked about the Gibbon River being quietly poisoned to remove non-native trout. And actually, that wasn't done quietly, I just kind of missed it. It didn't make national news, and I didn't see it. But I did some research and found that it was well covered in the local press in the Rocky Mountain areas. So, my apologies for that inaccuracy.
Very interesting as Bob and I will discuss the re-quote "introduction of red band cutthroats and grayling are into an area where there never were any salmonids before, be above the 80-foot Gibbon Falls." So, it's sort of an artificial refuge for these species. And I think it's a good thing. And hopefully, those fish will thrive in their protected area above that 80-foot falls.
All right, a little less controversial. Here's an email from Fred, from Ipswich, Mass. "I was mucking about on your Orvis's Fly Fishing Learning Centre, expecting to find as part of your introductory material for novice fly fishers a section on some kind on the spiritual value and nature of fly fishing, but I found no discussion of any of that. Since that is a large and significant part of the reason and motivation for taking up this lovely pastime, I would think that you'd tell people about that.
You don't know me, but I feel like I know you. We have lots of mutual friends, I'd love to take you out fishing here in Ipswich, Mass if you have any interest in doing so." Well, thank you, Fred. And, you know, I honestly, the Learning Centre to me is an educational resource, and I don't have any idea how I can teach people about the spiritual value of fly fishing. Maybe it's me, but I think that each one of us takes that as an individual and very personal thing.
And for me to lecture or to try to teach you how to get spiritual value out of fly fishing, I don't think I can do it. And honestly, I don't know of anyone who can. There are articles and books that have been written about the spiritual value of fly fishing, and honestly, I think they fall kind of flat. I think it's a personal thing. I think we all know the spiritual value we get out of fly fishing. I think you're gonna have to learn that as you go along.
And it's just not something that I would, I personally would be able to do in the Learning Centre, nor do I know anyone else that I think, would do a good job of it. So, I think we'll have to stick to a little bit more of that kind of the nuts and bolts in the Orvis Learning Centre.
Frank: Hey, Tom, this is Frank from Missouri. A while back you put out a podcast and talked about how the hero shot is actually pretty ugly, and that really stuck with me. On a recent trip last week to the Gallatin River in Montana, we got into some pretty big brown trout, and the guide asked me, "Do you want a picture with this fish?" And your words really stuck with me and resonated? And I said, "No, let's keep them healthy and put him back."
I'm running a GoPro out on the stream often, and the footage of that fish in the water's one of the most beautiful things I can think to capture. So, I just wanted to let you know that that podcast really had an impact on me and it's helping me be a better steward of the waters. Thanks so much for all you do for fly fishing and all the education you put forth for us. I hope you have a great day. Thanks.
Tom: Well Frank, that's a really nice phone call. And you know, if I've made one person move away from taking those hero shots, I feel like my week has been made. Let's do another email. This one is from Ken from Buffalo.
"First, what color of lens do you prefer for your polarized sunglasses? I know a good pair are expensive, and all I can afford at this time, so, your input would be appreciated. Second, what's up with bead heads for flies? Thirty-plus years ago we use lead wraps and tried to make our flies look as realistic as possible. I've never seen an insect with a metalhead. When I see a bead head dry fly, I'll quit."
Well Ken, first of all, amber color or a light brown, not a dark brown but a light kind of almost orangey, yellowy-brown, and it's going to vary with different manufacturers is I think the best all-around color. Works well in trout streams, works pretty well in shallower lakes, and it works well in saltwater, in shallower water. And so, for all-around pair for color, that amber or copper or you know something in that family, not a gray or neutral color.
The amber color helps increase contrast a little bit in shallow water and will help you pick out objects. So, that's the color I would recommend. And second, well bead heads. Yeah, we use lead wraps. We used to use lead wraps. Most of us don't use lead anymore, we use nontoxic wire because lead is not a good thing to put into the environment.
And no, I've never seen an insect with a metalhead, but I've never seen an insect with turkey or goose bait sticking out of it. I've never seen an insect with the peacock gorilla. I never seen an insect with hares' ear. Bead heads work. I don't know exactly why. A lot of it is probably the weight. Sometimes I think it's the flash. And they just plain work.
And you know, making a fly as realistic as possible is not...to our eye is not always the best thing, because we're trying to create the impression of an insect or a bait fish, or we're trying to just trigger a reaction strike from a trout. And you know, there are times, many times personally when I don't like using beat head flies. I like a more, I won't say realistic because I don't like realistic flies very much, but a more subtle fly without that flash and that big metal head on it. There are times when those are far more effective than beat heads. But there are many, many times when beat heads work. So, if you don't like them, don't use them, and I don't think you'll see any beat head dry flies in the near future.
Here is an email from Jerry from California. "Hi Tom. I enjoyed your Murdich Minnow Tie-Off with Tim Flagler." This is a monthly, friendly competition that I have with Fly Tyre, Tim Flagler, we do it live. And if you're interested in seeing any of those past things, there's a playlist on YouTube on the Orvis channel. There's a playlist tying with Tom, and you can find the Tie-Offs with Tim Flagler there. Anyway, I'll go back to Jerry's note.
"Looks like a winner, and I learned a few good tips for that style of fly. Tired of getting super glue on my fingers, I have a hack for gluing on minnow eyes. Take an unsharpened pencil, chopstick, or the back of your X-ACTO knife, and put a dab of sticky dubbing wax on the end. Next, press the convex part of the minnow eye onto that wax. Apply super glue to the back of the eye, press it to the fly, let it set for 20 seconds and pull away your pencil. Now, just wipe the wax off the eye with your finger or paper towel. Hope your listeners find this helpful."
Tom: Jerry, that's a great tip. I'm going to try that one myself, sounds like a really good way to do that. So, thank you for sharing that tip. Here's an email from Bob from Maine. "Hi Tom and all the folks that Orvis. Thanks for providing so much free education on the fly fishing and fly tying addiction. It has not only helped my fishing and tying game, but provided hours of entertainment that make some of the long drives to good fishing more enjoyable.
I have over a dozen bundles of dyed, strung saddle that I inherited from my dad's fly tying collection. The bundles average eight-plus inches in length with little web. It's hard to come by that, it seems these. The hackle was strung and then bundled together with elastic bands at the bottom. And whether it was the way it was stored by Dad or how he bought it all, but half of the bundles have hackles that have taken a set and are curved/twisted.
The colors are fantastic and many are not readily available without dyeing your own. I envision this as being deceiver/saltwater/Carrie Steven's hackle if it were straight. Have you had any experience trying to flatten or straighten feathers so that they be more usable as streamer wings? I am thinking of taking some of the string and getting it wetted out with warm water and hair conditioner," Del Mayser[SP] tip from way back to soften coils for quill bodies, "and then pressing it with a paper towel under some heavy books or weights until it dried out. Do you think this would work, mess up the colors, or is there a better way that you know of how to do it?
Even if I can fix a third to half of the hackle, it'd be worth the effort, I think. Thanks again for the invaluable help you and Orvis give through the podcast, and the conservation efforts of the company, and the products that make it easier to pursue our addiction."
Well, thank you, Bob. And you didn't say you tried steaming those hackles. I find that just putting a tea kettle on the stove and then and then getting some steam coming out of it, usually turn off the heat once I put the feathers in there. And I use this for Zakhar strips and various feathers. Steam seems to remove the set out of that. When you steam them, it seems to bring the curl of the feather back to what it was naturally when it was on the bird.
I don't know about very old saddle hackles, but I think that would still work. And another thing you might want to try are some of these clothing steamers that they use in stores or you know, I see them in trade shows. You know, I think that your method of trying the warm water and hair conditioner might work and pressing them, but I think you should try steaming them first, because I'm a big fan of steam, it works fairly well.
Just be careful that your steam isn't too hot that, you know, turn off the tea kettle because you don't want to burn your fingers. I usually use a pair of pliers or forceps to hold them in the steam. But also, sometimes you can actually burn the hair or the feathers, so, you need to be really careful. But try steaming them. And if anybody else has a good method for straightening feathers like that, please drop me an email.
Russ: Tom, how's it going? This is Russ from Portland, Oregon. And I've never done this before. I've always wanted to since I've been listening to the podcast, but I figured tonight's the night. So, I fish Orvis gear. I fish in Orvis rod, reel and you know a bunch of other stuff, and I really liked it. And I've had this thing... I guess that the first thing here is more of just an observation or a comment, and then I just wanted to get your take on, you know, just if you have any thoughts about it, I guess, just kind of like take it away and let me know what you think.
So, in the past few years, as I've been trying to catch trout, I've hooked up with a lot of, like an inordinate amount of white fish. So, we're out here in the Pacific Northwest, and this morning, a buddy of mine and I were out at sunrise on the river and it was a gorgeous morning and the fog banks were just socked in, and nobody, you know, nobody was around but us. We had the whole river to ourselves. And we were targeting like native cutthroat and sea-run cutthroat in this little river outside of Olympia, Washington, it was awesome.
And my buddies, you know, catching cutthroat and that's what I'm targeting as well, but the only thing I caught all day was a white fish, and it's sort of become a joke between us because on all these different rivers the shoots, that the river we're on today is actually called the Little Deschutes, in Washington, it's completely different than the Oregon Deschutes.
But, and then other rivers up in the Pacific Northwest, I've just been... I don't know what it is, but I've always been...I catch whitefish and nobody else, I don't know anybody else that I've seen or been fishing with that's ever caught one. So, I'm sure it's got something to do with my technique or just, you know, the tendency that I may have to select a certain fly over another or the weight of my line or something. But in this one today was definitely hunkered down.
And when I first pulled it into the net, I thought it might be like a sucker or something. I mean, it's got those suckerish lips. I'm forgetting the technical term for that right now, but... So, I just wanted to see what you thought about that. Like, do you think catching white fish is cool, like do you like white fish? Have you ever eaten them? And how do you catch them typically, like what's the deal with white fish?
At first when I pulled my first one in, I was like, "Oh man, is it a carp or is it a sucker?" It's got kind of like, you know, prehistoric scaling on its back. But I'm starting to kind of like them, they're pretty cool, they don't fight hardly at all. They're kind of, I've pulled some in before when I thought I might have a little small snagger, I didn't even know if I had a fish on, and I just kind of dragged them in. And they're pretty cool fish. And so, I just wanted to see what you thought. My buddy is a lister to this, I'm sure right now he's going to be laughing. But thanks, Tom, let me know what you think, white fish. Take care.
Tom: Well Russ, first of all, glad you didn't script your call to me. But if you callback, try to keep them a little bit shorter, we try to keep these under two minutes. But I liked your call, so I let you run a little bit. You know, there's nothing wrong with white fish. White fish where you're catching them are generally a native species which we should all value. They're actually more sensitive than trout to pollution and high-water temperatures, so they're kind of an indicator species too.
When you catch them, you know that you're fishing in a relatively pristine ecosystem, or at least the water quality is good. You shouldn't be disappointed or ashamed of catching white fish, they're a great fighter, they are good to eat. I've eaten them before, and they're quite good. A lot of people like them smoked. You know, if you've got cutthroats and white fish in the same stream, I would try not to fish too close to the bottom.
Cutthroats in general, are very surface-oriented fish. And whether you're fishing fish with a dry fly, or maybe a swung wet fly or a nymph, try not to fish, you know, right on the bottom, try to fish a little bit higher in the water column or fish a surface fly, and that may help you stay away from the cutthroats or away from the white fish if you don't want to catch them. Also, a little bit bigger fly sometimes, white fish has a small mouth, sometimes a little bit bigger fly will prevent you from hooking them. So, try that, try fishing a surface fly or something that's not on the bottom.
The other thing is that generally when you find trout and cutthroats in the same water, you'll find the trout in a little bit more of the optimum places. And this is going to vary, but the trout tend to be concentrated in a little bit faster current where the food is coming by at a faster rate. They're still going to be protected from the current, but they're going to be in those prime spots, and they're a little bit...trout are a little bit more aggressive than white fish and will generally push the white fish back down into a little bit slower water. Now, this isn't always the case.
But if you're catching white fish, you generally look for, okay, where's that optimum spot in this run or in this refill, where's the best place? And then you move up to there and move out of where you're fishing, and sometimes you can get away with the white fish. But they're often mixed right in with the trout. But maybe your buddies are giving you the slightly slower water or the slightly less optimum places and that's why you're catching more white fish. So, I would look for the optimum places, keep your fly off the bottom, and when you do catch a white fish, enjoy it.
Here's an email from Brandon from Minnesota. I recently listened to your podcast discussing overcrowded non-trout streams, and it reminded me of a time when I encountered salty old-timers. I had pulled up to a stream here in southeast Minnesota, and while getting rigged up, a couple of older gentlemen were making their way back to the parking area. I asked how their day was, and one of the men replied, rather harshly, that there were too many bleeping bait checkers out. By that, he was referring to people fishing with worms.
I found it a particularly ironic statement coming from someone rigged up with a San Juan worm. With my best Minnesota passive-aggressive tone, I pointed out that they had as much right to be there fishing worms as someone nymphing with a fake one. The man scoffed and walked away. I realized this may not have been the best approach to take, and I'm curious what your thoughts are when it comes to dealing with these negative attitudes in fly fishing.
It's not the first time I've come across this type of attitude, and sadly, the stereotypes people like these create for fly fishing have kept me from exploring this sport for many years. I would hate for others to miss out for the same reason. As with all your fly box questions, thank you for everything you have, and continue to do and make this sport enjoyable for all.
Well, you're asking me what I would do. And you know, to avoid this kind of thing, I generally don't talk to people very much, I don't start conversations with people when I'm fishing unless I'm with buddies, you know. I try to stay away from other people, that way, I don't get into these kinds of conversations. You know, unfortunately, when you're in a parking lot, you're kind of stuck until you get away from your car and can get away from people. So, you kind of got stuck there.
Personally, I would have just smiled and nodded my head and not said anything. There really nothing you can do to change someone's attitude I don't think on a trout stream. And I don't think it's your responsibility, honestly. You're out there to have a good time, and there's no sense starting an argument with someone. So, I would just walk away.
You know, it's different if someone had expressed this opinion in print somewhere or in a website and you could respond to it with a comment of your own, which obviously, people do quite a bit these days in social media. But as far as, you know, getting into an argument with someone about crowding or about bait fishers or whatever on the stream, I wouldn't do it. I don't do it, and I wouldn't do it if I were you. That's just my opinion if, you know, there are some people that feel that they should educate people while they're out there on the water. And more power to them, but I'm not going to be that person.
I'm going to leave you alone and I'm going to leave you to your own opinions, and probably not express my own when I'm on the water. You know, fishing time is too precious to all of us, and we don't need to get in these kinds of arguments when we're on the water.
Here's an email from Derek from Pennsylvania. I just listened to your most recent podcast while doing house renovations and had an answer for your listener with magnetized forceps. As soon as I heard your listener's question, I stopped cutting wallboard and walked to my computer before I forgot. I run into the same problem with my electronics bench for building my microphones.
By the way, Derek made this very fine microphone from Vanguard Audio Labs that I use and has improved my sound quality. Sometimes you do want a magnetized tool, and sometimes you don't. And Derek gave me a link to a $7 tool magnetizer and demagnetizer. You can find those, I'm not going to read the link, because there's lots of them out there. Just do a search on magnetizing or demagnetizing screwdrivers, which is what I did.
And I kind of...I had a question last week about demagnetizing tweezers, and I kind of broke one of my own rules, in that, if I can find something with a quick internet search, I'm not gonna answer the question because you can use Google as well as I can. And I broke my own rule, and I said I did know how to demagnetize, but then when I did a quick search I found that it's very easy, either with one of these tools or you can just use an ordinary magnet and run your tweezers or dubbing needle or whatever you want to demagnetize, perpendicular to the north and south or plus and minus poles of a magnet.
And you can magnetize by running it in one direction across one of the poles, or you can demagnetize running it at 90 degrees to one of the poles. So anyway, or you can buy one of these very inexpensive magnetizer and demagnetizer tools.
And then Derek has a question. I've been tying a lot of flies during the winter and recently I've discovered ostrich herl and been absolutely loving it as an underrated and underutilized material. It's most often used for scuds, but I've found it, use it for tiny midge flies and even stripped the dyed quills to make thin quill bodies. I've also used a few twisted ostrich herls of different colors with a thin wire wrapped to make micro buggers in size 16 and 18. Black and olive has been a nice-looking combo, sparse buggy and a really quick tie. With that said, what's the fly-tying material that Tom Rosenbauer considers underrated or underutilized, and why?
You know, Derek, I think that one of... And by the way, there are lots of patterns that call peak ostrich herl, and it is a great material. It's also great for tying woolly buggered tails, it creates quite a wiggly tail. You have to use a lot of ostrich herl, so it's kind of expensive, but it's a lot more expensive than using marabou, but it does make a nice tail on a woolly bugger as well.
I think one of the most underutilized materials is just dubbing from a piece of natural fur. Everybody buys these dubbing blends, and they're super convenient and they're really nice, but, you know, there's something I think satisfying, and, you know, you get real buggy, natural colors by taking fur from, right from the hide and tying with it like muskrat fur or beaver fur or otter fur, rabbit fur. You know, you can mix these things, you can use them by themselves. Of course, a lot of us use hairs of your fur, and you know, cutting fur from a pine squirrel skin or zonker strip makes a really nice dubbing.
So, I think using kind of raw dubbing from the skin rather than prepackaged dubbing blend is sometimes, is quite underutilized these days, and I think is a fun thing to do. So, you know, there's probably other very underutilized materials that are great. You know, I think plain old head cement is kind of an underutilized material. Everybody wants to use UV, kerapoxies, and super glue. And they're great in their place, I use super glue where it's not gonna show or it's underneath something else, and it does hold very well. But super glue leaves a kind of a whitish residue, and it doesn't look that good.
And UV kerapoxy is in many places not as durable as head cement, because it often doesn't soak in well enough and or you can't get that UV light to fully cure it all the way, especially when it gets behind another material. So, you know, plain old fashion head cement has a lot of uses. And I use it more than most tires as opposed to super glue. I do use super glue and I do use UV resin, but plain old head cement is really handy around the fly tying bench.
Kyle: Hi, Tom. This is Kyle from Utah. In your latest podcasts, you're talking with Kirk Dieter about the ineffectiveness of catch and release only regulations when compared to managing habitat effectively and to protect the resource in a more holistic level. That conversation you guys transitioned into decreasing insect numbers and the changing of the seasons that hatches take place. And I was wondering if you've heard of any trials or studies on where they might have stocked insects. That was just kind of an entertaining thought that I had, but also kind of interesting to think about stocking the eggs or whatever it might be.
I know here in Utah, Northern Utah, there's the Logan River and the Blacksmith's Fork River that both historically have salmon fly hatches. Those don't take place anymore in the Logan River, and it's thought that it's because of the heavy salting, because that's a canyon that you can drive all the way through, and so they salt it a lot more heavily than the Blacksmith Fork Canyon Road does. People try, and I think there's been college days of bringing salmon fly nymphs out of the Blacksmith's Fork, and planting them in the Logan River to no effects so far. So, it doesn't seem to be a thing that works in this case because there's that pollutant in there. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on that.
Another quick question is, what is your favorite non-fish related wildlife encounter that you've had while fly fishing? Thanks, bye.
Tom: Kyle, you know, the idea of restocking insects in stream has been tried. I remember back in the 1950s it was Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro tried to transfer green drake mayflies from one stream to another. And it was a complete failure, and they kind of got to the conclusion that well the habitat wasn't right for green drakes, and that's why they weren't there.
And I think that's the case with our insect problems. Unfortunately. You know, insects have wings, stoneflies and mayflies have wings, and they get blown a long way. Often, they get blown a long way from where they were originally hatched due to gusts of wind or storms [inaudible 00:34:59.194]. I've seen mayflies hovering over saltwater miles and miles and miles from the nearest freshwater.
So, you know, if the insects could get there, they will, because they fly. And unfortunately, our insects are declining in a lot of rivers because of habitat and water quality issues. And I don't think there's any way that we can fix that by restocking insects. I just don't think it's gonna work.
As far as my favorite non-fish related wildlife encounter, God, there's been lots of them. I think one of the most fun and interesting one was, you know, I've got a couple of bear stories, but they're, you know, typical bear stories and not that interesting. But I remember, once I was fishing a river and I noticed a kind of a slide in the streamside bank, and I thought it was beavers. I didn't realize it was an otter, and I just caught out a small brown trout, and I was playing the small brown trout. And all of a sudden, there was this big commotion behind me, and this otter slid into the river, swam out to the end of my line, and grabbed the little trout that was on the end of my line, took it off the line. Luckily, the hook stayed on my leader, and swam away and ate the fish.
And so, you know, I kind of stood there for a while and watched and waited, and because I didn't want to hook another fish. And the otter came back and his head popped up, and he looked at me like, "Okay, you got any more?" So, that was I think my most fun and interesting wildlife encounter, though not something that happens every day.
Anyway, that is the fly box for this week. Let's go talk to Bob Mallard from the Native Fish Coalition. Well, my guest today is Bob Mallard. Bob is the executive director of the Native Fish Coalition. And if you don't know who they are, I thought I would, Bob with your permission I would read kind of your mission statement from your website.
Bob: Sure. And so, evolving document, you know, as we know more, learn more, see more. It's ongoing, it's tweaked.
Tom: That's a way mission statement should be. Well, let me read it anyways. Is the belief of Native Fish Coalition that no stream, river, pond or lake is truly healthy or restored until its full complement of native species is intact, and it is devoid of non-native species and hatchery-raised fish. While clean water and healthy riparian zones are necessary foundation for establishing healthy ecosystems, they are not an absolute indication of overall ecological health. There you go. All right.
Bob: That statement, you know...
Tom: So, let's get into the nitty-gritty now.
Bob: The nitty-gritty. First, thanks for having me on, Tom.
Bob: I appreciate, I always appreciate it. And, you know, the interesting part of that statement, most people take it for what it is figuratively, not literally, in that, you know, the damage is done. I mean, you know, you've been around long enough to know the expansion of non-native fish across the nation is just way bigger than most people even understand.
And so, you know, the underlying message is, is that's the bar, that's the perfect world. And as you and I also know, you know, we don't live in a perfect world.
Tom: Really? I thought we lived in a perfect world.
Bob: Yeah, you know, we set the bar high and so as not to be self-limiting, and we work from there. Because, you know, if you don't set your goals high, then you're, you know, underachieving before you even take a step on the field. So, what is a figurative? It's an accurate statement biologically, and it's, you know, a figurative statement that says, you know, this is the perfect world and let's try to get there where it's, you know, ecologically, economically and socially possible. And so, you know, it has to be pragmatic or it doesn't work.
Tom: Well, tell us about some of the projects that the Native Fish Coalition has undertaken.
Bob: Well, right now, Native Fish Coalition started in Maine as Native Fish Coalition of Maine, and with no intentions of ever getting beyond the borders of Maine. And we did it because Maine as most know has more wild native trout, salmon, Arctic char, to protect in any state left and the east, we are in the last frontier. We have the last Atlantic salmon in America. We have the last Arctic char in America. We have 90% of the lake and pond-dwelling brook trout in America.
Tom: No way, you don't have the last Arctic char in America. What about Alaska?
Bob: Well, a contiguous United States.
Tom: All right, okay, you're right.
Bob: Yes. And that's interesting, because, you know, what it is, is that has changed under DNA, you know, stuff that we weren't...you know, the our Arctic char were once believed to be totally separate. So, Alaska, and I sometimes have to remind myself that under today's DNA, we are the last one, the contiguous.
Tom: Right, sure.
Bob: But there are certainly there are in Alaska, they're all through Canada. They're the second most widely distributed fish in North America, second, behind only lake trout. So, you know, and we have 90% of the sea-run brook trout left in America. And so, that's what we did. And what we found was that there was a lot of interest. And the next thing I know, we leaked into New Hampshire and start a chapter. And then it's Vermont, and then it's Mass and Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, West Virginia.
And then first reasons...our original plan was, if we're going to grow, we're going to grow contiguously geographically, just because we're small, and we don't have the manpower were almost exclusively volunteer. And we, you know, the burden of expansion is huge to a group of people with jobs and hobbies and families and lives. So, all of a sudden, it popped up in Alabama of all places for non-trout redeye bass.
As a result of Dr. Matthew Lewis, who was on our advisory council, he's kind of our warm water guide, and, you know, they don't have a platform, there is no trout unlimited in Alabama because there's no trout. And so, you know, the next thing I know we're starting a chapter in Alabama. And then, you know, soon after that, it's Georgia.
And Georgia is unique because that's the bridge between these rare screen residents, red eye bass, and the southernmost brook trout in the world. And, you know, right now, we're working to bring up New Jersey, South Carolina, and Ohio, they're gonna come up in some yet to be determined order, but it appears we have the critical mass, and I've got names from a bunch of other states. So, it's bigger, you know, than I thought it was, which is great.
And I think, you know, people are, you know, they're piling on. And as a guy who's been involved in hooking bullet groups, KU chapter founder, another small nonprof, legislative panels, on and on and on. What's most interesting about this, two things, one is the age diversity. You know, I speak a lot, present a lot, and oftentimes, you know, fishing clubs and KU chapters, etc, I look around the room and you know, at 63 years old, I am like by no stretch the old guy, and often I'm one of the younger.
Bob: And yet, you know, I walk into...and I have to remind myself that. But I walk into a NFC meeting and I'm like the oldest guy in the room. Notably, I think the only older is 10. And so, you know, to see something that this industry, and I've been in the industry, 20 years, 15 years shop owner, guide, writer fly designer, on and on.
To see something happen purely organically, but accidentally, that we have failed to do in my lifetime is quite interesting. And it's really made me take notice of how is it that we've tried so hard to bring, you know, our movement, our fish, fly fishing and advocacy of younger, and been so, you know, I would say unsuccessful, of only to find that, you know, this just get it on its own.
You know, we're working with a 13-year-old kid out of Boise, Idaho, called Topher Brown, they call him the Socks guy, Socks for sockeye kid, who's raised $30,000 for a sockeye salmon [inaudible 00:44:40.695].
Bob: And we've got a 15-year-old kid from Massachusetts who signed up as a volunteer on a project and now he sits on our Massachusetts board. And so, you know, and it's a higher percentage of women than any sporting-related group I've been on. And I guess an important to note there is we have a lot of scientists on our boards and advisory councils, but we're, I would say 95% anglers and serious anglers and guides and outfitters and fly-fishing retail people, I mean, on and on and on.
So, this is our fellow angler, it's your consumer, it's Kirk's member, it's my guide client. I mean, this is us, it's not anything from the outside. But, you know, going back to the original question, when you don't have a lot of money to play with, which we, you know, we're groveling you know dollar at a time, and we're financially solvent, but you know, and we haven't really cracked the grant world, but we'll work on it, we've got them in all the time, and it'll change. And when we get the first one, you know, we'll get the second and the third, and hopefully work with some of these other orgs where our missions align.
But, you know, the first thing we decided, and the thing we felt was most lacking was, we had to kind of go backwards to go forward, which is, we've done so much, and I'll, you know, use the word "damage" to our native fish, that we now have a generation of anglers that in many cases don't even know what native is, may not even know what it means. When I hear anglers, and I hear it all the time refer to their, you know, native brown trout, you know, we've got a problem, we've got an education problem.
Tom: Yeah, let's define that, let's define native fish. You know, because we do have a fair number of, you know, people that are new to the sport listening to the podcast, so we should define native fish before we go any further.
Bob: So, here's what NFC has done from the start. And it's on every presentation we do. It's on our website, in our FAQ. I tell people, you know, buzz through the mission stuff and go right to our FAQ page. We break down every question that we've ever been hit with, every accusation, and we say, here's the question, here's our position. It's much more detailed than the mission, of course, because a mission, you've only got so many words, letters to use.
But wild...but let's start with native. Native is indigenous, historically present. And what we did was rather than use, you know, slang, or you know, some common misconception, we just went to the Encyclopedia and said, this is the scientism, so we're using it as it's intended to be used, which is historically present, indigenous.
And unlike, you know, deer and stuff like mammals and birds, it's a little more specific when you're talking about fishing, it has to come down to the water itself, not the region, not the state.
Tom: Right, yeah.
Bob: So, that's what we mean when we say it. And then the next important thing is wild. And wild, our definition is, again, it's encyclopedia, it's born in nature of naturally deposited eggs. Now, you could take it a step further and say, naturally deposited eggs, laid by, you know, naturally, you know, occurring fish. But you know, you can't prove that.
So, you know, our line is drawn at, you know, fish born in nature of naturally deposited eggs, we don't really care where its parents came from, because we don't really know. And then what we do to be extra safe, so no one should ever have any doubt as to what NFC, and I believe I speak for the Native Fish Movement as a whole, we all talk, we all have the same general mission.
We use the term wild native. That way, there is no argument because, you know, a stock brook trout in Maine river is, you know, it's a native fish, it's just not a wild fish. So, that's the definition, and we've always used it, we've never wavered from it. You know, so, which brings us to the basic issue, which was, how can we expect people to understand and embrace attempts to save what native fish are left? Which is our primary goal, to restore, you know, native fish, where it's practical to do so, when they don't even know what they are or worse, why they matter.
So, we said that the one thing NFC could do, and which would help everybody on the native fish camp was to brand the term native fish. Let's start there. Let's start saying native fish. I want to see, and I have seen and hundreds of hats and decals and bumper stickers and koozies and everything else, "Native Fish." I don't care if it says, "Native Fish Coalition," I care that it says, "Native Fish."
So, that was the first thing, and that starts the dialogue and the question, what is native? Why does it matter? And that has morphed into, you know, opens the door to talk science and to talk practicality, and to say, you know, my home river, the Kennebec, it's a trout brown fishery. It is a gigantic sprawling system, with fumitories, and you couldn't pull those browns out of there if, you know, if you had a magic wand, and nobody's gonna try.
So, and I have never tried, and I've never once challenged the presence of brown trout on my own river, and I go down there after you know closing up the computer to fish like everybody else, because it's there and I didn't do it, and nothing can be done about it. And I would argue, we don't even really know what was there, it's probably mostly fall fish, you know, ahead of that, and I don't believe our native fall fish population is suffering at least based on what I catch. So, the chub mister as we called it.
I hooked a sucker down this year, Tom, and I thought it was a big brown. And I walked that thing stumbling down the rocks, risking my life only to roll it up next to the net and see a 20-inch sucker.
Tom: I've been there Bob, I've been there too.
Bob: You know, I said I can't believe I just walked 100-yard to scream, [inaudible 00:51:24.738], 20-inch sucker. So, that's what we were trying to do. And what that does is it helps people understand, why does anybody care about Atlantic salmon and Arctic char? And, you know, why Browns fine? And, you know, what belongs where? And it enables you to talk about the impact, because it's, you know, it's never a trout versus trout thing, I wish it was that simple.
When we disrupt an aquatic ecosystem, let's talk about maybe the biggest disruption on, you know, history of America, you know, that's known well would be Yellowstone Lake. You know, the lake trout got in there. I'm not gonna debate how, but the lake trout got in there, the fisher recollapsed, the cutthroat fishery. And from a pure fishing standpoint, I mean, I just, I was sick physically. I remember the days at, you know, Buffalo Forward now known as Pierce Cross, and we're, you know, 20 guys just hooked up constantly on 16-inch beautiful, big, wild native cuts. And so, you know, that's what we saw, was that impact.
What, you know, a lot of anglers didn't understand is now we got grizzlies going hungry that we're taking advantage of the seasonal runs up the stream. We've got, you know, loons and merges and whatever, diving ducks. Well, good luck diving deep enough to get a lake trout to eat, you know, if they're not easily accessible the diving ducks and otters and on and on. So, that was the classic.
And there's actually one even more famous, which is Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake in Montana, largest inland lake in the West. You know, that thing went from introduced lake trout with virtually no issue. They sat well relatively dormant for 50-plus years. And then they put the Kokanee in, and you know, Kokanee exploded, and the native cuts, you know, dropped notably, and the native bull trout dropped notably. And then Mysis shrimp came in from some source upstream and crashed the zooplankton, and then the event, Sockeye crashed and then the lake trout just exploded. And now we've got a lake full of stunted lake trout that nobody wants. Nobody goes to water for 12-inch lake trout.
Tom: Nope, nope.
Bob: So, you know, so that's where we're at because of the meddling. And so, we can't always predict what's gonna happen when we do things. You know, Maine is in the middle of a pretty much statewide crash of our once famous landlocked salmon fishery. I can't find good salmon in Maine anymore, they're skay[SP], they're ranty[SP], and you know, and I want to say that, I say figuratively, but you know, everywhere that I fish for landlocks is grossly underperforming right now. And so, something's happened.
We're having trouble keeping smelt populations in Maine, and they are the most moved around non-native, non-game fish in the state. We're seeing problems in the Rockies in the West right now with brown trout. It's interesting that after, you know, years and years and years of stability, going back, you know, to a day when the Beaverhead would be considered from a recreational angling standpoint, in my opinion the finest fishery in the country. And, you know, and all of a sudden, we're struggling with Browns all over the West, enough that, you know, they're having meetings and talking about regulations and on and on and on.
So, you know, one of the problems you have is that while these non-native introductions serve us well from an angling standpoint, for some period of time, maybe forever, they don't often or always serve us well forever. And yet, if we take care of these native fisheries, they do serve us well forever.
You know, people who don't understand Lee's Ferry. You know, Lee's Ferry, you know, what's a big fish in Lee's Ferry today? Sixteen inches. And yet when they first opened the river to public fishing after the creation of Glen Canyon Dam, if you find those old articles, they're eight, nine-pound rainbows. And now it's, you know, it's 16-inch rainbows.
You know, and there's another example of when people paint with a really broad brush and they say, you know, this is non-native movement it's like they're out there to remove every, you know, non-native in the country, Lee's Ferry it's the most manufactured trunk fishery, arguably in the world. It's in a desert, you know, it's 50-degree water, gin-clear water in a desert. You could pull every trout out of there if you wanted to, and not make a huge difference.
You know, what we are finding is the humpback chub and stuff are finding away, you know. Which again points us back to the fact that we've done a lot to disrupt the world of these native fish, and yet somehow they just continue to limp on and you know, evolve, which is a kind of loosey-goosey term, but they find a way against all odds to do well.
And, you know, two years ago on the Big Horn, we helped push a paddlefish off a gravel bar upstream of Mallard Landing, and I'm like, "I've never seen a paddlefish this far up the river." And the golden eyeshade there like exploding in that upper Big Horn. And so, you know, it's just, you know, it's time to look and say, and some of the studies right now show that it appears that brook trout might be adapting better to warming water than the introduced trout.
So, you know, there's a lot there. What I hear is your river is not doing real well right now. And correct me if I'm wrong, I've just heard from some anglers that...and I will not name your river. Or you'll probably hang up on me.
Tom: Oh, not the Baton Kill, but the river that I live on, yeah.
Bob: Yeah, but your river.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, not my river.
Bob: And in the Baton Kill, we all know what happened on the Baton Kill. And, you know, the Baton Kill is, you know, a different river today than it was. Fortunately, rolled a couple of really big fish last time I out there.
Tom: Well, it's coming back. It's coming back because we've been putting large woody debris in the river to try to... Of course, there are invasive brown trout that we're trying to bring back.
Bob: But you know, there's another example of like, who in their right mind is going to go into the, you know, middle-lower Baton Kill and try to restore brook trout when you've got brown trout all the way deep into New York, you know, you're not going to stop them. You know, is there places you can go on the upper Baton Kill and do some work to bolster the brook trout fisheries and give yourselves a little more variety? That's where I'd look if I lived in that area.
Tom: Well, there are brook trout historically. I mean, I've fished the river for 50 years, and there were brook trout well down into New York State historically for the longest time. And there, you don't see as many, and I'm afraid that it's not brown trout that are doing the number on the brook trout, it's water temperatures, it's climate change that's changing the species composition.
Bob: Well, you know, we all know the Baton Kill was historically a brown trout fishery. And, you know, younger people don't know, but there was a time when it was, you know, arguably the most famous trout river in America, long before anybody was talking about the Madison and stuff, I mean, the Baton Kill and upper dam in Maine, I mean, that was [inaudible 00:59:29.572].
And, you know, but I'm not gonna necessarily agree that brown trout...you know, that climate or warming water is what's happened. I don't know of many places where naturalized brown trout haven't had a notable impact on wild native brook trout. And, you know, it's happening in too many places to blame, you know, habitat and climate and things like that. And as trout go, for better or worse, browns are the most invasive, they're a highly piscivorous fish as we all know. They're, you know, they'll jump a flooring streamer.
And so, they're a minnow eater, they're a fall spawner, you know, they're gonna disrupt brook trout spawning, and they're capable of hybridization with brook trout. I'm seeing more and more what I believe to be naturally occurring on naturally occurring tiger trout.
Tom: Yeah, yeah, I'm hearing more of that too.
Bob: Yeah. You know, I'm getting pictures, Tom, they're a four-inch fish. The state is not stalking four-inch tiger trout. I'm getting them from New Hampshire, I've got one from Vermont, North Carolina, Tennessee. And, you know, I think biologically, I think they're mules. So, I don't believe... And by that image infertile. So, I don't believe they're gonna do to our brooks trouts what, you know, rainbows did cutthroats?
Tom: No, no.
Bob: No. But again, it's interesting that we've been doing this for generations, and all of a sudden, we're seeing these apparent wild hybrids. And, you know, so, I mean, these are, you know, it's never as easy and as simple as, you know, people believe. You can't just, you know, it's a house of cards, you just never know, what's, you know, the card you shouldn't pulled or shouldn't have played. And I don't think any of us want to destroy a fishery.
And so, you know, that's kind of, you know, the educating people as to why natives are important, what they are, why they are, you know, where do they live, where can't they live, and then do what we can to stop the bleeding. You know, I don't think any of us would disagree, you, Kirk, myself, that stopping the loss of native fish shouldn't be a goal of all of us. It gets a little sketchy when we start talking about regaining ground.
Tom: Right, yeah. And that's where the controversy comes in.
Bob: Yeah. And it comes from the, you know, proverbial camel's nose. We are sportsmen, sportsmen have been chased around by each other, and outsiders, and whoever, whoever for generations. We've got a bit of a, you know, inferiority complex going on with, you know, we hear these steps behind us all the time. And we, you know, dig in and refuse to concede any ground and fear that, you know, any concession means all concession, which is just, you know, fundamentally untrue.
I hate to use the analogy, but, you know, I'm a former hunter, I'm a gun owner, and, you know, they've been taking my guns away for 50 years, and I still have them. And, you know, recreational fishing is never gonna go away. I mean, there are people clearly who would love to see it go away, but it's never gonna happen, because it's, you know, part of who we are as a society.
And, you know, it saddens me that so much of the resistance to regaining what paltry amount of water we could regain, I mean, is it 1% of our total "trout water" that we could actually restore? Why are we afraid of 1%? And, you know, so what we have is some of the most vocal and invisible resistance is coming from our own industry, media.
And we see it, you know, it's really sad when it comes from our own advocacy machine, because, you know, we need to lead by example. I would love nothing more than to see a bunch of sportsmen, and we are seeing it, you know, step up and say, "You know what, I don't, I don't fear these brook trout."
One of the things I've told the brown trout people, and they're typically that's where the most noise is coming, for whatever reason we don't have this active and vocal rainbow trout fall, even though it's the most moved around trout in the nation, and they occur in more places than anywhere else.
You know, how many websites you see dedicated to rainbow trout? And so, this really comes down to brown trout. As, you know, and Kirk said it, you know, superior fish, and I don't think he meant superior fish, I think he meant superior game fish. And, you know, I don't...who's gonna deny that, you know, a giant brook trout slamming a, you know, four-inch streaming off a bank isn't an exciting thing?
But with that said, what really is sad is that the brown trout that you would be worried about, Kirk would be worried about, dozens of anglers around the country would be worried about, they're the last brown trout that are at risk of going away to a native fish restoration, the last.
Because if they're that big that you all want to fish for them, myself included, that means the damages is irreparable, we've gone so far, Battenkill, Missouri, Beaverhead, you know, White River. I tell people all the time, the finest brown trout river in America is the White River.
You know, I put a 28-inch brown in the boat on an 8-inch streamer, and fish with a saltwater rod. So, you know, if we could just get that far, which is to say, by the way brown trout folks, the brown trout that you're worried about they're never going to be touched, because they can't be. Where they might be touched and where they are being touched, you know, Shenandoah National Park, the Feds telling you, if you catch a brown in the streams you got to get rid of them. And if they're outside the legal limit, you got to pitch them in the woods.
And I don't believe many brown trout aficionados are going to be offended that somebody killed a six-inch brown trout from a, you know, six-foot wide stream in Shenandoah that's never going to get any bigger, that is outnumbered by brook trout, you know, 20 to 1 as it is or 100 to 1. And that's, you know, the camel's nose thing, we have to get past it. We can't keep painting with this broad brush that makes the Native Fish Movement looked like a bunch of, you know, zealots who were just going to run around the country poisoning big, wild brown trout. Because it's just not even close to true.
And, you know, I'm deep enough in it, and I've been in it long enough, I've never once heard anybody say that. And what I find most interesting is, you know, I could power up my phone and be knee-deep in the Kennebec fishing for [inaudible 01:07:08.222] brown trout and have to answer an email about why I hate brown trout.
And I'm like, damn if you knew where I was right now, and I don't think you'd say that. And again, it's not that they belong there, it's that nothing can be done about it, it is a 100-mile-long river with tributaries, with bass now, pike, crappie, you know, emerald shiners, we've got every non-native fish known to mankind in the Kennebec. And, you know, and that would be ridiculous waste of time.
And, you know, I got in trouble recently because...and this is interesting, because I didn't show up at a hearing to challenge a proposed reduction in our length limit on the river. And I didn't even follow it, it was like, you know, there was apparently they're gonna go back to five fish or they're dropping it to 12-inches or something. And, you know, some of the local anglers were outraged. And you know, they were like, "Well, you know, Bob, where were you?"
And I go, "Wait a minute." You know, I was like, when I was actually cared about stuff like that nobody had my back. And now that I don't care about it, they want my back. And you know, anybody who knows me knows that long before I started getting involved in native fish conservation, I was like all of us, I was a fishing promoter. You know, I had my own blog, my own fly shop, you know, I wrote almost exclusively where to stuff. I wrote, you know, who, where to books, and you know, countless where to articles.
And it just hit a point where I said, you know what, fishing is not in trouble. I don't know why people think it is, it's not going away, you know, it was just to societal changes like everything else. And you know, it might decrease, it might you know increase, it's more likely to go up and down, you know, year-to-year. But it's not in trouble, it's not going away. But native fish might go away.
And so, I just decided I'm going to change my focus of there's far too few people worrying about native fish, far too many working against them. And the sandbox for, you know, promoting and protecting fishing as a sport, it's a crowded sandbox, it doesn't need Bob Mallard. And so, you know, that's kind of where I'm at. And, you know, part of it is driven by loss of... I don't know if you have fish mains, you know, wild native brook trout ponds. But, you know, to me, I mean, that's as special as it gets.
And in my lifetime, you know, I lost my favorite pond, Tom. I learned to fly fish on round pond in Somerset County, Maine, hour and a half from my house. And, you know, 14-inch brook trout didn't even, you know, get attention, you know, 16-inch sure you know is gonna be a good fish. There was a betting tree where people would...a knife sticking out of tree, like put a $20 bill and whoever got the biggest trout, you know, grabbed the money.
And it was a group of guys who all knew each other, they all hung out in the same place, it's backcountry. And if you pulled that knife and tried to grab that money because you you've got a 16-inch fish, you would likely, you know, not get any money because people would say, "Are you kidding me, you're gonna take that money over a 16-inch fish?" That's how good the pond was.
It had the most spectacular hatchets I ever saw. It had the best hex hatch I ever saw. It was the perfect of a wild native brook trout ecosystem. And some anglers started using illegally golden shiners. And you know, they would carry them in a thermos, we caught them, and they, you know, of course while you might take a chance caring illegal shiners into a pond, you're certainly not going to take a chance carrying them out. So, they were dumping them.
And long story short, you know, they took over, and crashed this, you know, what I considered best in Maine, wild native brook trout pond. It was 30 acres, Tom. It was beautiful. And I've fished off to the Allagash and Rangely, I've never seen a pond as good.
And you know, that was a major wake up call to me, which is you know, what's going on here? You know, how did this, you know, problem leak into the backcountry of Maine. You know, I watched the Kennebec go from, you know, the finest remote, rugged, beautiful, wild brook trout, native brook trout fishery and wild landlocked salmon fishery to become a marginal smallmouth fishery.
Now, it's come back to some degree because of flow manipulation, where under relicensing we got a better minimum flow that we're used to, and it's less conducive to the, you know, smallmouth, but nonetheless, they're there. Nobody really wants them. They're not big. And, you know, so I saw that. I saw the, you know, the bass get themselves all the way up to grand falls on the dead river.
If you've ever been to Grand Falls, you know, I challenge anybody, find me a more beautiful spot knowingly. It was a wild native brook trout fishery with some big salmon and occasional giant rainbow, dropped down from a hatchery above way up, and now it's, you know, again, it's a seasonal trout fishery, but a marginal smallmouth fishery. And so, you know, it just, you know, some of what I do, and some of...it's just...and I've seen loss, I've seen too much loss.
And I'm spending most of my time, Tom, if I'm not on a brook trout pond, I'm up on a tiny little screen somewhere. You know, I don't like the crowds anymore, and I don't care about, you know, getting behind your stocking truck. So, I just grab a little glass rod and disappear into the woods and don't see anybody. And those are the waters that I care about.
And I care about Arctic char, because there's only 12 populations left in the country. And I care about Atlantic salmon because I believe, you know, we've lost a lot when you can't drive to Bangor, Maine, for those who can't afford to go to Iceland, or, you know, Canada to actually fish and watch fisherman angle for, you know, the king of fish, you know, that's pretty sad.
And that's a pretty notable loss. But, you know, so that's NFC. I mean, NFC is we're trying to stop the bleeding. The groups we work with, Downeast Salmon Federation, Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition, several [inaudible 01:14:14.590] chapters, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, I mean, I could go on and on and on. These are small, you know, hardworking nonprofs whose sole focus is, you know, native fish.
And, you know, I would best describe NFC as, you know, TU 50 years ago, it's the same people. You know, it's a bunch of, you know, anglers who are concerned with the loss of native fish, just like, you know, as half a century ago, a bunch of anglers were concerned with the lack of or the loss of wild fish. And based on the available science at the time, stocking was bad, wild was good. And that's what they did, because it's what we knew.
And we didn't know how to bring back brown, you know, grayling to the [inaudible 01:15:06.398]. But we did know that you could stop stalking and it would become a wonderful brown trout fishery. And we didn't understand, you know that loss of a rare species like, you know, amazingly, geographically isolated population as well, we didn't understand what that loss meant.
And so, now you've got a group of people who were sitting there, and the argument is different, instead of stocked versus wild, it's native versus non-native. And the science says, you know, you can restore if you let restore where restoration is possible. And, you know, so I just kind of cringe when I hear people calling, you know, the group rogue or whatever, or the movement, and I say, you know, 50 years ago you wouldn't have felt the same way. And I'm sure, you know, the guys at TU got bombed by their fellow anglers. As we said on the phone earlier, they did it at a time when the media, sporting media was dominated by field and stream outdoor live sports of field. Those were hooking bullets, classic hooking bullets. That "Angle or the Day," by Grand P. And, you know, you didn't, put a fish back. I mean, it was like, are you kidding me, you know, he's coming home.
And, you know, so that's what this whole thing is. And to see modern anglers and industry people challenge it is hurtful. From a pure, selfish industry standpoint, this is an addition, this isn't a subtraction, this is the reason why glass rods are selling for Orvis Scott, you know, it's why Epic can sell glass rods in the United States. It's why, you know, Redding, Ten, Echo, on and on, they're not building those rods for 20-inch brown trout, they're building these rods so you know, a bunch of young people can disappear into the backcountry. It's the same thing with Tenkara.
And so, these are additions, you know. It gets us beyond the nine-foot five weight. You know, it helps sales. And it also helps address the problem we all know, we all talk about, we rail about, which is this overcrowding. And you know, here we have an angler, who's a good consumer, who's promoting stuff above and beyond what we've been historically selling, and he doesn't even want to be in our way. They want to disappear into the forest, never to be seen again. And we're worried about that angler. We should be embracing that angler.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely.
Bob: You know, that's the best angler we could grow. You know, I don't need double the Beaverhead or the Madison, I don't need another 50 boats a day on the Madison. And as I said, what I'm seeing in the backcountry, if I spot an angler on a stream at 100 yards, they wave and they disappear. It's amazing. They're like, "Oh, dude, I'm really sorry. I just encroached in your little corner of the forest." Or you meet up and say, "Okay, I started way up." They say, "I started way down."
And then you say, "You know, don't bother telling me where I just was." And likewise, you know, "Don't bother, where are you going next?" I'm like, "Where did you start?" You just walk through the woods.
Tom: Yeah, that's the way to do it.
Bob: I mean, it's back to how fishing ethics used to be. Go elbow to elbow, squeeze between two friends on the water. You know, so I just don't get it, I don't understand where the fear is and why this isn't being embraced for what it is, which is everything we've tried to do for the last 40 years is now getting...it's happening.
And it not a threat, Tom, it's not a threat to my Kennebec. It's not a threat to you know, all you know....you know, let's talk about grayling. Nothing I have read implies that there is a plan to eradicate brown trout as part of the grayling restoration. And if it were, I would say good luck with that because I've fished those waters, again they're expansive systems. You know, the Asebo[SP] alone, north branch, south branch, mainstem. I mean, are you kidding me, you're not pulling browns out of there. It would be fool-headed.
But with that said, I'm not willing, I'm not going to say that it can't be done. Because though the clock demise of grayling coincided with the introduction of brown trout, that's anecdotal at this point. That river suffered some of the worst habitat damage of any river I've ever been on. And I'm sure you've been on it.
Tom: I have not. I have not.
Tom: It's on my bucket list.
Bob: Oh, Tom, you've got to go. Look up Brian Kozminski, I've fished with him up there, or the kid at [inaudible 01:20:26.444] Siebel. And North Branch Outing Club is just a beautiful historic Lodge, run by wonderful people. But, you know, it looks like Maine without the hills, it's sandy, sandy stream. It's low gradient.
And what you pass is literally decades and decades' worth of various attempts to mitigate the damage, most of which was channelization and structural loss due to pounded logs around it. And, you know, some of the stuff, it's been there so long, it actually looks normal, till you look in close and a little piece of rebar, or some old rugged cable.
So, you know, that fishery suffered sure, brown trout at introduction. And by the way, the worst habitat degradation I've ever seen in my life. And angler exploitation that was unmatched of Michigan, Maine, rural places like that have never been good to their fisheries. They're getting, obviously getting better because they've suffered losses as well, but you know, they all suffered from that belief that it was an exhaustible resource.
So, with all of that, who's to say which one of those 1,000 cuts resulted in the demise of that great?
Tom: Right, yeah.
Bob: And when somebody tells me it can't happen, I go, well, why were grayling able to survive the big hole on top of rainbows, browns, there are huge browns, and yet the grayling is still there? They didn't go away. Are they depressed? Certainly. I caught grayling in the upper Ruby a few years ago, way up, way up above the rest, and up in the National Forest. And again, I was sorting through rainbows and browns and picking up grayling which are part of a restoration effort. And it looks to be working.
So, rather than see it as a threat, or rather than criticize the people for doing it is wasting their time, let's be honest, we don't know what the heck took that fishery out.
And we don't know what might or might not work, and so, why not try? The grayling are of no threat most brown trout, a wimpy little grayling, are you kidding me? And so, you know, we need to stop. That is the last project we should be challenging. It's being driven by young people, scientists. There's a wonderful young woman, her name escapes me, but you know, she's done everything possible, you know, to make this happen, to meet with sportsmen. And I just cringed when I heard the, you know, the attacks on her work.
Tom: I did a podcast with her.
Bob: You know, and she's wonderful. I mean, she's everything we've been looking for in this industry, you know, young, smart, you know, lady, woman who's out there, you know, crawling around in the streams doing, you know, the right thing. And, you know, so that...
And the Gibbon River, one of the things I was actually surprised didn't come up on the Gibbon River discussions, it's not really...I might be wrong, I but my understanding was that it's not really a reintroduction. I think it was historically a fishless water above the falls.
Tom: It had, above Gibbon Falls there were sculpins, and there were no...
Bob: Yeah, yeah. So, when I say fishless I mean being fishless.
Tom: There were no grayling or Westslope cutthroat above Gibbon Falls, so they're creating a refuge where there were no salmonids before.
Bob: Yeah. And you know, to me, that's an important distinction. I would never call that a restoration. I would call that gene banking or something. And I would never oppose it, probably not oppose it, but I wouldn't have adamantly defended it. I think some people were a little bit wrong on that one, in that, was it the right thing to do? Sure. Be it for nothing else, some experimentation which is, what's going on? How can we do this? Because there's a bunch of other streams in there where it is a true restoration.
And so, it's a good playground to make it happen, and we weren't giving up anything. And grayling were in there anyway, dropping down from the lakes. And which also, you know, is one of the more interesting things that I've watched over the years, is we've been pounding grayling into the Gibbon, and by default into the Madison for generations. Incidentally, they're falling out of Gibb and Wolf Lake whatever it is. And yet, they've never naturalized. And I caught one in Ennis Lake, I don't know, 25 years ago, it was probably 14-inches when I was golfing.
And you know, I asked some people, and they said, "You know what, everyone's [inaudible 01:25:18.684]." And they say, "Like, are they real?" And nobody knew. My guess is, the guy probably started somewhere up in Gibb, and you know, flopped over the falls and wiggled downriver trying to find home. Because these are a fluvial grayling, and they don't do moving water, and they don't really probably even know how to do moving water, and that's why they've never taken. And now they're using a fluvial grayling, and the same thing with grayling creek.
An interesting thing about grayling creek is that rather than make the mistake we make all over the country, which is trying to use that a fluvial strain to restore fluvial populations, they went to the big hole, big hole rabbit to get their fish. And it's very likely to succeed. I won't say that it can't see the other way, but it's certainly, you know, a lot more likely to succeed when you use something that has evolved for that kind of condition.
So you know, this is what we've done is we're deep into the education, branding, and I tell people we're not branding at a sea, we're branding native fish. And one of the biggest contributions I believe we make is signage, because signage, it creates interest in what you're doing, it educates people. People enjoy it. We put signs up on some kiosk roadside that said this river is home to sea-run brook trout, and that they utilize saltwater habitat. And I handle, you know, emails from people who are like they're not even anglers, and they say, "Really a, little dinky brook trout goes out the ocean, you know, why would it do that?" And so, if we can get non-anglers behind fish conservation, that's another big game for us.
Tom: Sure, is, yeah.
Bob: Yeah. And because we've been alone Tom for a long time. The non-fish conservationists have been dangerously missing from the playing field for decades. And, you know, and that includes the big conservation groups, I mean, some certainly have played an important role. But in general, the water quality people, when was the last time you heard a water quality group talk about a fish? You know, they're talking about, can my kids swim? Can they choke down a little water without getting sick? But they're not, you know, concerned with whether there's any fish there? What fish is there? You know, is it a stock, not stock, whatever?
And so, if we can engage these non-angling masses to understand what we do, we're going to be better off. And we also are going to have to recognize that you're never going to win over the non-angler promoting non-natives and stalking. And we need to become, you know, the stewards that we've said we were.
You know, we have claimed to be the best steward of the resource in the sporting community since I was a child, I've always heard it. And I used to believe it. I'm not sure we can say that anymore. No group of sportsmen has become more accepting of non-natives or more dependent on husbandry, you know, hybrids, triploid, stalking, on and on and on, than the trout fly fisherman. And that's not good stewardship.
So, either we admit that we're not the stewards we think we are, or say we are, or let's become a little better steward, which would be my ideal, you know, it goes beyond habitat. You know, this isn't as simple as putting woody debris back and calling it good and moving on. In a way, it's much deeper, which kind of pushes me toward this catch and release as an unnecessary thing. I'm an angler, I find that statement absurd.
And I'll tell you, and maybe you've heard it, in Maine since I was a teen, when you bump into somebody in the woods and you've got a map out, and you're trying to figure out how to get somewhere, you're out exploring, and you say, you know, "Hey, by the way, I'm having trouble finding this pond. Is it any good worth fishing?" If it's not, you know, they say, "It's fished out. Don't bother, it's fished out."
They don't say it's habitated out or it's warm, the water warmed, or a bigfoot ate the fish or the aliens took them, they say it's fished out. That's quite telling, Tom. I don't think these people are wrong. In fact, many cases they probably did it. Who are we to say that that angler who knows way more about what's going on in those woods than we do firsthand is wrong.
I know they're not wrong, and they know they're not wrong, but somehow the industry is taking the position that these people are wrong. And I say if our harvest is non-impactful, why is it that I gonna walk from my car before I start catching fish? Why is it I have to row my boat, you know, before start catching fish? Why is all the bad habitat around bridges, 100 yards up, 100 yards down? That's, you know, fool headed, because it's simply not true.
Our impact is not compensatory, it's additive. And what's happening is in an attempt to broaden the tent, and to appease, you know, our fellow anglers, we're lowering the bar, and we're telling them that your behavior is not a problem, you are not contributing to the problem here. And yet for, you know, 40 years, we told that same angler that they were.
There was a time you couldn't buy a piece of TU schwag that didn't say, "Catch and release." Now there might be one product left. And sadly, it's called the Retro trucker hat. It's like, that's not a retro message, I can assure you, that's a message we need to get back to. We were wrong when we said catch and release was the end all to our fishing woes. We are equally wrong when we say habitat is the end of our fishing, catching, you know, and all for fishing woes. It's total solutions, Tom.
And until we stop playing with partial solutions, we're not going to get there. I find it disingenuous that some of the same people who are saying you know, our harvest is not hurting anything are sitting in meetings when their local fishery goes to crap, asking for better regs. It's like, wait a minute, you just said that's not a problem, now you're saying, you know, you need lower bag limits? You know, this is that hypocrisy that's coming out of our ranks right now.
And what's interesting is the only ones believing it is us, Tom. I'm not hearing this. I talk to anglers all day long. I'm on the water 100 plus days a year. And do you know what they tell me, that, you know, voluntary catch and release is way up. And they don't believe what we're trying to tell them, they don't even understand why we're trying to tell them that. They know that while they might practice catch and release, they've got, you know, 10 neighbors that don't that who in aggregate can do a lot of damage.
And we need to stop this stuff. We need to stop saying things that simply aren't true if we are to be, you know, taken serious. And it's same things going on with you know, the good non-native, bad non-native. We can't sit there defending brown trout, and then you know, lose our minds when smallmouth bass enter the Rapid River, which is the case and the case. Brown trout, smallmouth bass are imperiling the most spectacular wild native brook trout river in the country.
And people are up in arms. And yet some of the same people who are up in arms about them, they're defending brown trout elsewhere. You know, where are we going to be when bass find their way into the Beaverhead or pike find their way into the to the Batton Kill? Are we gonna just shut up because we should, because, you know, we didn't give the other guy that courtesy? Or are we going to be hypocrites and say, this is, you know, an outrage, these fish are terrible, they need to go?
And so, you know, I've watched us dig ourselves into a hole with these, you know, totally random positions. And I said, you know, we are just racing to a wall and we're gonna crash that wall at some point. It might be a dam, you know, we're running around every dam has got to go. Well, I'm pretty sure we're not going to be there when that dam is Glen Canyon or Navajo Dam, or Yellowtail Dam. I'm pretty sure we're gonna go really quiet, Tom.
And guess what, the world will let us know. There's a bunch of people out there just waiting to say, "Funny, you wanted my dam gone, now you don't you're your dam gone." And that's just my general message Tom, is we need a complete redial, our industry, our media, our advocacy machine, and we need to stop the extremism.
The extremism isn't coming out of the non-native side of it. These people are far from extreme. It's coming from, you know, the rank and file, the status quo. And, and I don't even know if...I think we've become so darn comfortable with what we've said for so long unchallenged that, you know, it's going to be like getting hit by a freight train when that freight train finally hits. I think there's gonna be a lot of a standard around going, "Oh my God, how do I respond to that?"
And so, this is wonderful. I was outraged when I heard your podcast. And after I calmed down, and I spent two days answering emails, and I said, this is awesome. This is something that needed to happen, and I don't care how it happened. But it needed to happen. And this is a hugely positive thing, and a bunch of people are saying it. And I don't, I heard nothing from Tom Rosenbauer that I haven't heard from 100 other people in our industry. And that's a fact.
And I'm not sticking up for you or trying to, you know, soften the blow, it's a fact. You didn't say anything that, you know, many of us haven't said, including myself at one time or another. And so, it's you know, it's kind of symptomatic of where we're at and, you know, Kirk is held to a different standard, admittedly, and I'm sure he, you know, is hearing the same thing. You know, we're all hearing right now. And probably, you know, which as you said, something is different. I wish I said something is different.
I, you know, responded very harsh to this because it hit me at home. I dedicate 40 to 60 hours a week for a stipend that barely covers the work I can't do, the paid work I can't do because I'm buried in a burgeoning, young, upstart nonprof. And so, you know, everybody got excited, people said things they shouldn't, they'd love to take back, but in the end, this is exponentially more good than bad. This was a discussion that just needed to happen and now it's happening.
Tom: Yeah, I mean it's always good to get people thinking about these things and thinking deeply about our effects on the resource.
Bob: Yeah. And the fact that it's not that simple, it's not just resource, and I told people.
Tom: No, no.
Bob: There was ethological...
Tom: Well, by resource I'm talking about, you know, the holistic resource.
Bob: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, the resource is bigger than fish, and I tell people all the time...
Tom: Yeah, it's bigger than habitat, it's bigger than fish...
Bob: It's not only bigger than fish, it's bigger than trout.
Tom: It's bigger than water. Yeah, it's everything.
Bob: I mean, if you lose your sculpin, your browns have nothing to eat. You know, if you lose your zooplankton, nobody has anything to eat. But I also have to remind people that there's ecological realities, there's social realities, there's economic realities. You know, [inaudible 01:38:09.800] is not a cheap thing to do, so you certainly don't want to do it where it's not going to work. And, you know, things like that.
And there are, you know, there's no way that any group is going to go to the Y Pool, on the Swift River, Massachusetts and stop, you know, the rainbow stocking to benefit what is actually arguably the finest wild native brook trout fishery, Massachusetts. It's just not going to happen socially, because it's the most popular river in Mass.
Farmington River is another one. You know, no conservationists in their right mind is gonna go pick a fight on the Farmington River. And you know, when it comes to these Western tailwaters, you know, nobody cares. You know, it's not that they don't care, they just can't do. And if you can't do, then move on. And but, you know, the big issue I think we're faced with is, this can never move as fast as some would like it to move, but it has to move faster than some are trying it not to move.
And, you know, it's a big boat we're trying to turn in a small sea. But science has changed, and social norms have changed, and biological, you know, ecological enlightenment has changed. So, we can't take 40 years to get from A to Z. We need to be continuing to push this needle in favor of, you know, native fish, where native fish are possible, and stop with the camel's nose, stopped with, you know, us against them. Stop challenging, you know, our fellow, you know, well-meaning customer, client member, and angler, and friend, because they're trying to do the right thing.
Yeah. And I, you know, I suspect you know we're...it's time for a little soul searching, you know, how did we get here?
Bob: Why have we not? Yeah, why have we not got better? You know, I've received more emails and PMS and phone calls over this than I might say anything since NFC's been formed, and it's overwhelmingly positive. I've seen a boost in memberships and shreg[SP] sales donations, "Thank you, Tom." And, where should I send a check, a commission check?
And, you know, so as I said, I'm a lot less angry today than I was two days ago. And I'm in fact relieved. You know, this is just a giant burden off my back, which is okay, it's out there, shoot away everybody.
Tom: Bob, I want to thank you for the education, and I admire your passion. And I'm really glad we were able to do this podcast. And I'm sure we're going to have a lot of people thinking deeply about these issues. So, I really appreciate you coming on and being so articulate.
Bob: I appreciate you having me on, Tom. You're a good guy, I've known you for a long time, you've been a great supporter over the years and Orvis is a wonderful corporate citizen. And, you know, this is a non-issue, it's a non-issue, we all benefit.
Tom: Good. Well, thank you so much, Bob. We've been talking to Bob Mallard, the Executive Director of the Native Fish Coalition. And thanks again, Bob.
Bob: Thank you, Tom. Take care.
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