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David Brooks on Saving Water for Trout

Description: In this week's podcast, my guest is David Brooks [43:45], executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited. With prevailing drought conditions in the western United Sates and increased demand from many users, from agriculture to municipalities to recreational angling, how can we balance the use of water? David explains the difference between the riparian doctrine used mostly in the eastern United Sates, and the prior appropriation doctrine used in western states, and explains how users have come together to apportion water for human use and for keeping enough water in rivers to support healthy trout populations. It's not easy and often contentious but it's a fascinating issue and there is hope that with wise use of water by all stakeholders we can support ranchers, farmers, cities, and healthy trout populations.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And in today's show, I'm gonna be interviewing David Brooks, who is the executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited. And we're gonna be talking about water law and water appropriation, specifically in Montana, but it applies to a lot of the American West after a particularly dry summer when there wasn't enough water to go around. How is water allocated between the various users? And how do we maintain in-stream flows to make sure that we have healthy trout streams during these difficult times? So, I feel it's a fascinating subject. And I hope you agree. And I think you'll learn quite a bit about water law. And speaking of which, you know, I promised you that I'd be giving you some recommended books to read on various subjects. And if you're interested in water law and water use, the ultimate book, the iconic book of water use in America West is a book called "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner. It's a classic. It's an older book, but it's still as valid today as it was when it was first written. And I would highly recommend if you're interested in the subject, if you haven't read it already, that you read "Cadillac Desert."
And then another book that might be of some interest is by the Great Western writer, Wallace Stegner, and it's called "Beyond the Hundredth Meridian." And this is a...really, it's about John Wesley Powell and his exploration of Western rivers. But it's also very prophetic and Powell's ideas on why it would be very difficult to settle the American West really still resonate today. So, those are a couple books, obviously, outside of the fly fishing world, but I think they'll go a long way toward your education as an environmentalist and a naturalist.
And I have another announcement. I've got a communication from Kaitlin and Jess at the Mayfly Project. And we did an interview with Jess. The Mayfly Project is an organization that takes foster kids and gets them out into the field and teaches them fly fishing and just gets them out in nature and provides mentors for this kind of thing when they ordinarily wouldn't have them. And they actually, based on this podcast, they got about 60 new mentors because of the podcast, which delights me and flatters me and makes me wanna thank all of the listeners for your generosity. But they have some new projects coming up for 2022. And they have a list of cities where they're looking for mentors and someone to help start projects. And I'll give you a list of those cities. So, Houston, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, Boise, Idaho, Idaho Falls, Idaho, Cleveland, Ohio, Fennimore, Wisconsin, West Bend, Wisconsin, Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. And if you want to check out a list of the projects and get more information on these, you can go to the and then under Project Locations. So, hope you can help. And it's a very satisfying and wonderful thing to do and hope some podcast listeners will be able to help out.
All right. Enough for the announcements. Let's do the fly box. And if you have a question for the fly box, you can send it to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either attach a voice file and ask your question, or you can just type it out in an email and maybe I'll try to answer it. The first one this week is from Tanner from beautiful Utah. "Tom, sometimes when fighting a fish, I think to myself, 'Self, you just basically crawled on your belly to the stream's edge so as not to spook the fish. Now this feisty fellow at the end of your line is jumping and splashing and running.' Do fighting fish spook other fish? Why does it seem like me slipping ever so slightly spooks the whole bunch when I can cast for hours in the same spot with fish making the ruckus?" Well, Tanner, you know, I've seen it both ways. And I think it depends. It depends on how much visual obstruction there is in the pool, how much current there is in the pool, how nervous the fish are, whether they're hatchery fish or wild fish. I have seen instances where a fish fighting in a pool will spook all the other fish in the pool and they won't feed. And I've also seen instances where you can catch one fish after another even with wild fish, catch one fish after another and the other ones could seem to care less. So, I don't have a concrete answer for you, but there's not much you can do if you hook that big fish and it splashes all over the pool. So, if you hook one and then you don't hook anymore, you know it spooked all the fish. So, that's the way it goes.
Here's an email from Spencer from Arlington, Virginia. "Ninety-nine percent of the time when we fish, it's catch and release, but my youngest kid has asked to catch, clean, cook, and perhaps even eat a trout. His words, not mine. We have a relatively nearby catch and pay pond that is stocked with trout and is very close to one of our favorite rivers to fish. So, finding fish to take home is easily sorted. And we can practice catch and release beforehand. I heard that if you don't kill the trout quickly, the meat will get off flavors. My question is, what's the best way to quickly and humanely kill a trout that you do intend to eat? Thanks for the podcast. It's a great resource and we enjoy it very much."
So, the best way to kill a fish quickly and to get it ready for the table is to bang it on the head with a sharp rock or a heavy stick or to insert a knife directly into the brain cavity. I know a lot of you are cringing at this. But you wanna kill the fish quickly so that it doesn't suffer. With a smaller fish, an easy way to do is just put your thumb in its mouth and just bend the head back until the spine breaks. But that's not as easily done with a larger fish. And then the first thing you wanna do is quickly clean the trout. So, slit it open, remove all the innards, detach the head from the body so that the gills aren't touching the meat. And then there'll be a blood line. It's actually a kidney along the backbone of the fish. You just wanna run your fingernail or a knife along there and remove that. And then the most important thing to do is get the fish cooled quickly. Don't leave it out in the sun. Don't leave it in warm weather because it will spoil quickly. So, you need to cool it down, put it on some ice, or, you know, the old wet ferns will help cool fish by evaporation. But somehow keep it cool before you take it home to eat it and hopefully the meat will still be good.
Here's an email from Sean from Southwest Florida. "Two short years ago, I made the move from the small trout rivers of New Mexico to the saltwater of Boca Grande filled with tarpan, snook, and redfish. My two questions relate to this transition of saltwater fishing. My first question is, how much distance do you gain from the double haul? After two years, I feel I may not have gained any appreciable distance versus my no-haul or single-haul method. My second question is simply, what are all the reasons for strip setting on all saltwater fish and not on trout? Lastly, I have a tip. If you ever find yourself fishing in one of those streams you're able to step across like I do in New Mexico and have to helicopter or dip your fly into the stream and find yourself annoyed at the weight of the fly line falling back through your guides, just tie a small bow at the end of your fly line. It keeps the heavy line from falling through the guides, yet if needed, it allows you to still cast a short distance without undoing the knot. Thanks a million for your time and podcast."
Sean, that's a great tip about tying a bow in the front of my fly line. I think I might try that out. Just remember don't try to reel that back inside the guides at the end of the day. But that's a cool idea. And next time I'm small stream fishing, I'm gonna check it out myself. Regarding your questions, first of all, the first thing I would recommend that you do is to go to the Advanced Intermediate section of the Orvis Learning Center and watch Pete Kutzer's video on fine-tuning the double haul because as Pete makes a note in that video, your casting form has to be good before your double haul is gonna do anything for you. So, make sure that you've got your basic cast down and you should be able to get anywhere from 10 to 20 feet more with your basic double haul on your cast. And it's really all about increasing line speed so that you can shoot more line. You're not going to cast any farther theoretically with the double haul. I mean, you might cast a little bit farther, but it's really about building up that line speed so that you can shoot more line. And if you're not getting extra distance from a double haul, then you probably need to tune up your technique a little bit more because you should be able to get it. Now, you don't always need it and there are lots of times when you can get away without a double haul even for a longer cast, but again, your casting form has to be spot-on before you can do it. And a single haul is perfectly fine. If that's what works for you, then just use a single haul instead of a double haul. But there are a lot of tricks to improve the double haul. It's not an easy technique. It takes a lot of practice to refine it. So, watch Pete's video, do some practicing, and see if you can get more distance out of it.
Your question about strip-setting and also water fish, well, there's a number of reasons that you don't want what's called trout set by lifting the rod. First of all, you often pull the fly away from the fish and you don't get a good hookset because you're lifting up and sometimes that will lift the fly out of the fish's mouth. But I think even more important is that if you strip-set and you don't hook the fish, the fish may come back for a second pass and just keep chasing the fly and you might get another chance. If you rip the fly out of the water, the fish isn't gonna have a chance to get it, so, you know, it's gonna be up too high or out of the water. So, by strip-setting, you allow yourself that extra chance in case the fish misses it or just grabs on to the tail of the fly or something. And in trout fishing, you really do wanna strip-set sometimes in trout fishing when you're fishing streamers. So, it's very similar to saltwater fishing, but when you're stripping a fly and the fish is chasing it, you still wanna strip-set. So, streamer fishing would be just like saltwater fishing in that you just wanna give an extra long pole when the fish takes and then raise the rod once you firmly hook the fish. It doesn't work with dry fly fishing and nymph fishing particularly with an indicator because you have to lift up. You're gonna disturb the water too much by, you know, strip-setting with an indicator or a dry fly or something and it's not gonna hook the fish as well. And I'm not sure about the exact physics, but just take it from me and lots of other people, it works better in getting a good hookset. Not that you can occasionally hook a fish in saltwater with a trout set. You can make it work, but you're gonna have a lot better opportunity for connecting with that fish by using a strip-set.
Ty: Hey, Tom. This is Ty from Wyoming. We've been fishing on a tailwater here that holds a couple different species of trout. It also holds kokanee salmon. We're doing a lot of floating in drift boats. We've been kind of getting away with the hopper dropper for most of the year and, you know, we're starting to get to fall and we're running into issues, actually, engaging the trout, shaking hands with them, or whatever you wanna call it. I mean, we're trying a bunch of different things. We're changing depths, work in different areas of the water column, changing bugs, even on the dry side trying different things, different combos there, you know, running some old classic staple flies that were just about anywhere in the Rockies or Wyoming. The kokanee salmon are running and doing their thing and that's about the only thing we can really come up with or explain why we're just having issues getting into it and, you know, it normally fishes well, and just all of a sudden, bam, they got put down. Just kind of curious what your thoughts were on that if you've run into this anywhere else or heard of anyone or just know of this being a thing. We're seeing them run upstream and it's kind of coincidental that when this happened, all of a sudden, it just got hard to be able to hook up the trout. Don't get us wrong. We're still getting into them. It's just not like it used to be. So, I'm just kind of curious what your thoughts were on that. I'm enjoying the podcast. Keep doing what you're doing. I appreciate all the knowledge you get to bless us with and talking to the different folks, bringing on all the different folks to talk about. I really enjoy it. So, just curious to hear your thoughts on this. And thanks, Tom. Have a good one.
Tom: Well, Ty, there's a number of things that can be going on here. And they might be related to the kokanee and they might not. First of all, you know, when kokanee run into a stream, the trout are all settled into that stream, they've been in there all summer and they're happily living in their little spot, and then a bunch of fish move in and start pushing them around and vying for territories or spots in the stream. That might freak the trout out a little bit and they might get disturbed, they might move on, they might move to different places. The other thing that could be happening is that the fish...those kokanee are probably starting to drop eggs and the fish may be starting to feed on kokanee eggs. So, a small egg imitation or just any small kind of pinkish or orangish fly might work. But there could be something else going on totally unrelated to the kokanee, and that is that trout do slow down their feeding in the fall. Contrary to what most people will tell you, that trout need to, you know, pack on the pounds for the wintertime, they don't do that. They're not grizzly bears. They don't put on fat for the winter. They slow down their feeding. Water temperatures have dropped, so their metabolism is lower. And also there isn't as much insect life around hatching to get those fish actively feeding.
So, fall fishing can be tougher and it may or may not have to do with the kokanee, but things change in the fall and, usually, not for the better. Usually, it gets tougher. Now, there are circumstances where trout will get more aggressive in the fall, brown trout and brook trout getting ready to spawn. They're getting aggressive, and they'll eat things out of aggression or territoriality. And sometimes if there's a hatch in the fall, they may feed very aggressively. But often, there's not much going on and fish are slowing down and just not feeding as much. So, I know that doesn't give you much help in catching more trout, but you may have to just lower your expectations in the fall.
Here's an email from Liam from Ireland. "I just wanted to write a brief note about your podcast of January 4th of this year in which you interviewed the great Nick Lyons. The day I listened to the podcast was a miserable, wet rainy winter day here in Ireland. I was driving halfway up the country for work and was going through some tough personal stuff around that time. Listening to you and Nick talk books and fishing as only old friends can took my mind off my troubles for a while that day for which I'm grateful. The podcast also reminded me of a much happier day. My wife was expecting our first child and my job was to paint the nursery for the new arrival. That sunny Sunday, I listened to Nick's masterpiece "Spring Creek" on audiobook while painting the room. For that day, I spent happy hours listening to Nick's many successes and failures in what sounded like paradise. Nick and fly fishing were with me, not only as I was preparing the room, but as I was preparing myself for the biggest event in my life, becoming a father. Today, my son is nearly two years old and I'm looking forward to the day in the future when I can bring him out on the river and introduce him to this sport that we all love so much. Thanks to you and Orvis and Nick for contributing so much to the sport, which means so much to so many of us around the world." Well, thank you, Liam. That's a wonderful note and I really appreciate you taking the time to write and glad you enjoyed the podcast. And I forward this to Nick, by the way, who was delighted to read your email.
Here's an email from Steve. "I just started fly fishing this past year and I love it. I am a huge fan of the podcast. I've learned so much. My question is, how can I stay in the zone longer in a fast-moving inlet? I'm fishing striped bass, blues, and weakfish. I have an intermediate line and was thinking maybe a fast sink will help. Are there any other tips and tricks you can give me before my fly washes out of the strike zone? Thanks for putting out great content. PS. It seems the weakfish are chasing molot. What is a good molot fly besides popovic silicone molot? Also, do you have any tips to landing weakfish in a fly? It seems they're extremely hard to keep on the fly." So, Steve, you know, molot is a fairly broad, deep fish. And so any broad profiled baitfish imitation should work well. The one that immediately comes to mind are some of the Enrico Puglisi patterns like the peanut butter in various shades. You might not wanna tie it in the purple and black, but you might wanna tie it in a little lighter shade for imitating molot. But I think EP fly or any similar broad-shaped fly should work when fish are chasing molot. And regarding weakfish, there's a reason that they call them weakfish because they have a weak mouth. So, you just need to maybe use a smaller hook and play those fish a little bit more gingerly than you would a striped bass which have a very strong jaw. So, that's all I can recommend regarding weakfish.
Now as far as keeping your fly in the strike zone, yeah, an intermediate line and fast-moving current is probably not gonna do the job for you. So, there's a number of things you can do to keep your fly deeper in that fast-moving current and slow it down a bit. One is to use the relatively fast-sinking line. And my favorite for situation like that is the depth charge which has a long, fast-sinking front head and intermediate running line. So, it casts and shoots well, but it still sinks very quickly. A shorter leader with that line will help. A 4-foot leader, probably maximum on that. And the other thing you can do is in combination with the sinking line is to use a heavily weighted fly like a Clouser Minnow or something else that has heavy weight. And then finally, the angle at which you cast is going to affect how deep that fly drifts. So, instead of casting just across the current or across and down, you might wanna think of throwing your fly more up current and then making a couple of mends quickly as soon as the line lands and that'll help get your fly and your line deeper. And then when it swings around, then you can strip it through the current. So, the combination of the angle at which you cast relative to the current, a weighted fly with a short leader in a sinking line should help you keep your fly in the strike zone longer. So, I hope that helps.
MIke: Hi, Tom. Mike from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And I have two questions for you. The first question is in regards to dry fly-specific fly rods. I"m just curious about your general thoughts on them as well as if you were going to select one, which way would you lean in length and weight? And in my mind, it's between a four weight and a five weight and the lengths are between an eight and a half and a 9-foot fly rod. Fishing mid-size Pennsylvania spring creeks and some moderate size rivers in Montana and the Yellowstone area, Lamar and the such. So, I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on that. And also I'm interested in starting exploring some saltwater fly fishing. So, I'm curious my first fish I would like to target would be redfish. So, I'm just curious on your thoughts on tackle selection as far as rod weight and length, type of line you should be using, things like that, as well as if there's a best time of the year to give a shot at trying to get some, and if there's a best area. In my mind, I'm considering the Carolinas, I'm considering Florida and some of the Gulf Coast states like Louisiana and things like that.
Tom: Well, Mike, I don't believe that there is a such thing as a dry fly-specific rod. And people disagree with me, but, you know, when I'm fishing, I pick a rod based on the size fly that I think I'm gonna be using, size of the river, how much wind there is, and so on. And I don't worry about whether I'm gonna fish a dry fly or even a streamer. If you like the way a rod cast, it's gonna work with a dry fly as well as a nymph or a streamer. So, I don't think there's any dry fly-specific rod. And people will tell you differently, but that's just my opinion. I think that, you know, if you're thinking...if you're fishing both Pennsylvania and Montana, Pennsylvania, generally smaller rivers and less wind, more protected rivers, eight and a half foot or a four or a five is good. But if you fish in the Western United States, bigger waters, more wind, you know, wider waters, a nine-footer is probably going to be a better bet unless you're just sneaking along the edges of streams and making short casts. So, I would go with the nine-footer for a four or five. And that depends on what size flies you plan on fishing. I think either one will work. But I don't think the nine-footer is gonna hinder you much in Pennsylvania even on some of the smaller streams. So, that's what I would go with.
And then, you know, as far as redfish is concerned, there are lots of great areas for redfish. And I'm not gonna tell you where the best area is because it depends on the season and the weather conditions and so on, anywhere from Texas, all the way around the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic coast till the North Carolina area is gonna hold redfish. So, they're all gonna be good at various times a year. Equipment for most redfish, a smaller inshore redfish, a nine-foot eight-weight will be fine. Some of the bigger fish, if you're looking for big redfish, generally, Louisiana is one of the best places. And there, you might want a nine-weight. You may be fishing bigger flies and catching bigger fish. But an eight will work pretty well. And then, you know, the type of line is gonna really depend on, again, the conditions. If you're fishing inshore for redfish, in shallow water for tailing fish, you want a floating line. But if you're fishing a more offshore for bigger fish, you may want something like an intermediate or a depth charge. And the best time of year, again, is gonna vary with the location. So, I would decide where you're gonna go first. And then do your research. Contact some fly shops of Orvis store or guides in the area and they'll give you a lot better advice than I can give you.
All right. Another email. This one is from Derrick. "I've been fly fishing for about a year plus now, so not very long. I've been tying for even less time. I got my first vise about three months ago and love learning to tie. Question for you is, what's the best way to light the fly while on the vise? If I have a light behind, I block the light. If I have it next to me, I block it. Any advice would help. I know you've been tying for years." Derrick, the only solution I found is to use two lights. I use a light. And what I bought was an LED light that has two goosenecks on it. It's a single light that clamps my desk. And it has two LEDs that are flexible. And I put one of the lights on top of the fly, and then I put the other light to the right of my fly kind of at an angle. I'm a right-handed tire. And I find that, you know, with those two lights, I can usually eliminate shadows in most areas. The other thing you could try is to get a really big LED panel like they use for photography or two and put those next to your vise, but of course, you need to have light at a couple angles to be able to light your fly properly. The other thing that might help is to put a piece of white paper behind your fly, something as a backdrop because sometimes you got a lot of junk on your fly tank desk and it kind of confuses your eye, and if you put a nice plain white piece of paper or a black depending on what color fly you're tying, that may help you separate the fly from the background a little bit and get a little bit better view of it.
Here's an email from Matthew from Calgary, Alberta. "I just wanted to say thank you for all the podcasts and great advice. It's always great to see a new Orvis podcast pop up on my phone. I'm fairly new to fly fishing and have started dry fly fishing a couple years ago. Last year, I did a local fishing course and learned how to Euro nymph. Following that course, I dove right into the technique, and I've had great success. Lately, I'm now broadening my skills through working on my dry and streamer game again. Anyway, I was at a local fly shop, I won't name them, and told them I like to Euro nymph and they said Euro nymphing is cheating because it's too easy to catch fish. Happy it wasn't my regular fly shop. I was taken aback by this comment and wasn't sure how to react. I didn't really say anything. Sometimes I feel most connected to the fishing and the river when I'm Euro nymphing as I have complete control of what my nymph is doing and I'm really thinking about where the fish are feeding. I do find I probably catch more fish, but it's not a runaway compared to other techniques. Really just depends on what is happening on or under the water. Curious if you have thoughts on this subject and if there's a debate going on out there that I don't know about. Really curious to hear your thoughts here."
Well, yeah, Matthew, you see all sorts of stupid shaming about various techniques online, in social media, and you hear it in fly shops. And you know what? I would just ignore it. If you call it fly fishing and you're having fun doing it and it's legal, then don't worry about what somebody else tells you. I'm not a good Euro nympher and I'm not a huge fan of it for the most part, but, you know, I was fishing with a buddy the other day, Jesse Howler, and we were fishing a river that's not particularly good, doesn't have a ton of fish in it, but it's a big, beautiful river here in Vermont. And I was fishing streamers and I was fishing dry droppers and I was fishing nymphs with indicators. And I caught maybe two or three fish all day long and Jesse caught, I don't know, maybe 15. And he was picking apart these little pockets in some large water and I thought, "Damn, I would have liked to have caught a few more fish. I wish I had brought my Euro nymph rod, which I didn't." And although, you know, I don't like it as much as other types of fly fishing, I like to catch fish. And there are times when it works so much better particularly when the fish aren't really aggressively feeding. There are times it will work so much better than any other type that... I was bound and determined that I was gonna take out that Euro nymph rod, tie a new Euro leader, and start doing it more because I'm tired of not catching fish when the fishing is really slow. So, I don't think you should feel bad about doing it.
The one thing I will mention about Euro nymphing is that you can catch a lot of fish with it. And sometimes people really get into counting fish and adding up the numbers. And that's fine in the spring or the fall when water temperatures are optimum and you're playing and releasing the fish quickly. But you know what? When you're into the mid-summer and the water is low and the water temperature is warm and these fish might be caught two or three times a week in the same stream, those stresses can add up. You may consider, if you're Euro nymphing during the summer months, to say, "You know what? Enough is enough. I caught 5 fish or I caught 10 fish or whatever. That's enough. I'm gonna leave the fish alone for the day," because it can be deadly effective. So, anyway, those are my random thoughts about it. I think it's a perfectly valid way to fish and it can be fun, it can be challenging, and it will teach you a lot about where trout live in a stream because you usually catch them. So, again, don't let what other people say affect your fun on the water.
Here's an email from Dustin from Utah. "Thank you for all you do to help educate and inform us about various fly fishing-related topics. A couple years ago, there was a kind-hearted gentleman who offered to pay for half day of guiding for a young man who was struggling a bit. As I recall, he said he would pay $200 for the half-day and $40 for a tip. That got me to thinking, what is an appropriate tip for a guide for a day of guiding? And is it different for freshwater versus salt? I've tried to tip between $100 and $150 and I wonder if that is an appropriate amount. When you go to a destination for multiple days, is there appropriate amount or is it about the same? I can see the investment for a saltwater guide is larger than the investment for a freshwater guide, but for what I've seen, they charge more per day to make up for it. But should the tip be as large as well? Anyways, another question. I have the opportunity to go to Belize next spring and I noticed on the lodge's website, El Pescador, that they charge you for the flies. This brought a question in mind. Is it better to take a bunch of flies down with you or is it better to just buy them from the lodge because they're more locally productive? The lodge has a list of recommended flies. So, I'm planning to tie many of them, but I wonder if I should just wait to purchase them once I arrive at the lodge and if maybe that would help me have some more success. What are your thoughts? Also, what is the appropriate amount to tip guides in Belize?"
So, regarding tips for guides, you know, it's very similar to tipping for a service when you go to a restaurant. I think the bare minimum would be 15% of what the day is going to cost you. And I like to... I'm a kind of a 20% tipper and up depending on the experience. So, if a guide is not really doing a great job and not really working that hard, 15% is probably gonna let that guide know that maybe he or she needs to work a little harder. And 20% is good and, you know, is about what is expected. And don't forget that you may be paying a certain amount for guide, but the guide has to pay for licenses and maintaining a boat, washing the boat, making lunches, sometimes providing flies. And it's hard work. So, when you have a great day with a guide, you wanna reward them because they're probably not making as much money as you think they are. And also often, guiding is a very short season in many locations.
Regarding the flies at destinations, you know, you can't always count on them having the flies that are working when you get to a lodge or another location. If there's a fly shop there, a pretty good chance that they're gonna have a good selection of flies. But often, a lot of lodges will just have, you know, a small selection of flies that work well locally. And my plan is to usually tie everything I think I'm gonna need, and then plan on buying some flies at the lodge both to help support the lodge and also because they may tie their flies just a little bit differently that may work a little bit better on their local waters because they're on the water all day long, and they know what's going on. But I would always have my own flies. Don't always count on getting all of your flies from a lodge. And some lodges, some locations don't have flies at all, so you need to really research that before you go on a trip to make sure that you've got enough flies to cover yourself. And then regarding appropriate amount for tipping guides in Belize, it's somewhere around $80 to $100 per day. In Belize, most guides own their own boats and motors and they have to buy those and they have to maintain them. And it's probably even more expensive to maintain a boat and a guide in Belize than it is in the States because there probably aren't as many places to get motors and boats and have them repaired. So, that's a good tip. And if you're... Oh, you had one other question. If you're fishing multiple days, the guide is working just as hard on day one as he or she is on day five. So, I think that... I don't think there's a discounted rate for tipping for multiple days. The guide is gonna work the same amount every day. So, I would tip the same amount every day.
Charlie: Hi, Tom, this is Charlie from Maple Plain, Minnesota. I had a chance to fish for smallmouth bass a handful of times this summer on the St. Croix River and I was with a knowledgeable guide. The water I think was over 80, maybe 85 degrees at least a couple occasions. And when we released the bass, the guide would put his thumb in the bass' mouth with the bass' head facing upstream. And the bass would sort of gently chew on the guide's thumb and then 5 or 10 seconds later swim off. The guide suggested that this is a smart way to release them because they tend to know when they're ready to go again and they'll let go of the thumb and swim up. Have you heard of this? And do you believe it's effective? And might it be effective for other species?
Tom: Oh, Charlie, I don't know about that thumb in the mouth thing. And I checked and there's been no scientific studies on putting your thumb in the mouth of a smallmouth and releasing it. But I would think that that might be a clever way of doing it, but it's not natural for a smallmouth to have a thumb in its mouth or when it's recovering. And I think just holding the fish gently in the water without sticking your fingers in its mouth would probably be the best way to get that fish revived. Thumb in the mouth is kind of unnatural and might panic the fish whereas just holding it gently while it recovers in the water in moderate current is probably a better idea. So, it may not be harmful to do what that guide is doing, but I think that it's probably better to err on the side of caution and not do it. The other thing is that there's lots of fish like a big brown trout that you don't wanna put your thumb in their mouth because they have really sharp teeth.
Well, my guest today is David Brooks who is the executive director of Montana TU. And Montana Trout Unlimited has done some amazing work over the years. It's one of the most active states in Trout Unlimited. And Montana does a great job, a really great job of managing their wild fisheries. David, how long have you been executive director there?
David: I have been executive director for about five years.
Tom: Five years. And before that, what were you doing?
David: I was the conservation director for Montana Trout Unlimited under my predecessor, Bruce Farling, for a couple of years. And then prior to that, I did historical research living here in Missoula where our Montana TU headquarters are. I worked for a small company that did research on Superfund sites, mostly river cleanup sites around the country. And that came out of my background as a graduate student in environmental history at the University of Montana where I also studied Superfund and dam removals and river cleanup.
Tom: While living in Missoula, you had a lot of practice to observe that great Superfund removal site and it was the bottom of the Blackfoot, right, where it joins a Clark Fork?
David: Yeah, right. At the confluence of the two rivers is where the Milltown dam used to be. And that was the first dam removal project as a Superfund site. And the bottom portion of what then was the largest Superfund complex in the country from Butte, essentially down to Missoula. And not coincidentally is what I wrote my dissertation and book about is the removal of that dam and sort of how Superfund unfolded in its first 30 years.
Tom: And that's been a real success story. The Clark Fork fishery has really bounced back and is pretty amazing these days.
David: It has. Both the Clark Fork above and below where that dam was and it's had positive impacts for the Blackfoot as well and, you know, the tributaries above that dam as fish now are able to pass freely back up to their natal spawning waters.
Tom: Yeah. Great stuff. Great stuff. One of the biggest, I think, success stories in trout habitat restoration.
David: It is. It's really a model of how Superfund can work at its best and how cleanup and dam removal can work at their best.
Tom: But we're gonna talk...
David: We need some of those positive stories.
Tom: Yeah. But we're gonna talk about something that's a little bit different. Instead of talking about water quality, we're gonna talk about water quantity. And I thought it would be good to have a podcast on how water is managed because it's become a big issue with the increasing drought conditions and less water to go around. I think a lot of people, probably people in the West understand it better than people in the East. But I wanted to get you to explain how water is managed in various states. So, let's do a little background on it.
David: Sure. I mean, I think the two biggest divisions in how water is managed are water law, who gets what water, and those fall broadly under what tends to be more East Coast states through the Midwest water law, riparian law, which essentially is the land aside streams is what gains people a right to use the water. If you have land adjacent to water, you can get a riparian right to use that water on that land. And those rights then flow from upstream to downstream. So, the upstream users have the priority use, whereas in the West, it's called the prior appropriation doctrine. And that is essentially first in time, first in right. And so the first person to draw water from a stream and apply for a right has the highest priority use and on down through time. So, the earlier you get your water or that water right was established, the higher priority you have. Your water needs get fulfilled first regardless of where you're located on a stream. In fact, you don't even have to have land or be adjacent to a stream. You can be off-stream, and if you have a water right, you can move that water through a diversion and through, you know, a system of canals or ditches to your use or to where you're using it.
Tom: And in the East, it's not historically been a problem because most times, water use was either for navigation or powering, you know, water wheels and stuff. And there's very little water withdrawal. And the East has more water. So, it's not been as much of an issue. I don't think... Riparian doctrine doesn't include, at least historically never included the quality of the water, right? It was just the quantity of the water?
David: That's right. And you're exactly right that, you know, users in the East tended to be if they were industrial textile mills or other mills that use the water wheel. And I think the bigger issue in the East then, water withdrawal for consumptive use, you know, using the water somewhere other than in the river stream was small dams, dam water. And so you have literally thousands of small moderate-sized dams on the East Coast streams that are their own set of problems. But in terms of water use, that has certainly been an issue in the West so much so that many of our major rivers or basins are completely appropriated. If everybody used all the water they had a right to, rivers would be dry.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
David: And so it has been about that consumptive use. And early on that consumptive use was largely agriculture and the mining industry. In fact, the small-time mining on public lands is part of what led to prior appropriation, is that miners could claim, you know, a mine on public land, and so they didn't own the land, and yet they needed water. And so they could get a water right even though they had no land ownership. And hence, it became about when you claim that water, about time, first in time rather than land ownership. Now, subsequently, people claimed the water for agriculture uses and other uses that did involve land and consumptive use of water for land.
Tom: So, let's talk about its effect on fisheries and where we've run into problems and, you know, maybe some solutions that have been developed based on...
David: Sure.
Tom: ...water law. Maybe give some concrete examples or some real-world examples.
David: Yeah. Well, I mean, when all this was first being established, there wasn't much concern or any concern for fisheries. It was still the Wild West and, you know, seemingly infinite resources including fish. People could still throw a stick of dynamite in a lake or a river to fish.
Tom: Right. Yeah.
David: So, there wasn't a lot of fishery concern. Certainly, by the second half of the 20th century, late 20th century and now, there are those concerns because recreational angling has become such a big part of just our more modern heritage in the West and it's big business as well. And the concern is, again, consumptive use is that, like I said, most of our Western rivers are now fully appropriated or over-appropriated. If everybody used all the water they had a right to, they would run dry, and that's clearly a problem for fish, particularly trout who need, you know, cold water. And so the less water you have, the more inclined it is to warm up. And so, you know, I guess by late 20th century, certainly in Montana, there was more and more acknowledgment of that. And when Montana started our wild trout management policy in the state in 1971 that we're no longer gonna stock streams and rivers with trout, then the viability of the river itself became more important because it was habitat and water quantity and quality that made fisheries viable, not just restocking them with more fish.
Tom: But early on, leaving water in a stream, appropriating water for trout was not considered a beneficial use, right? So, it was illegal.
David: That's right. And overtime, laws have allowed, certainly in Montana, for in-stream flow rights as well as in-stream flow leases. And I can talk a little bit about the difference, but they're basically leaving water in the stream for fish and for recreation, for non-consumptive use. And that's legal in Montana and other places in a number of ways, one is simply a change of use. Any water right user in Montana can change their purpose of use from ag or whatever they use it for to in-stream flow and for fisheries benefit. And they still have to water right, and later in time, they could change it back or change it to something else if they go through the change process with the state. What happened in 1969 in Montana that kind of was a pivotal moment and some other changes came out of it is the state recognized the importance of in-stream flow for fisheries. And so the state of Montana actually passed a law that our Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency, a state agency could own water rights for in-stream flow. And those became known as Murphy rights. And so our state actually has rights for water in some streams. Out of that came another law, the Water Use Act, that created in-stream reservations they're called or rights for other agencies besides FWP, other state agencies, federal agencies like the Forest Service now has in-stream flow reservations or rights in Montana so that water stays in streams on the forests. And then out of that have flowed laws that have allowed in-stream flow leasing. And so non-governmental entities like TU can lease water from a landowner who wants it to stay in the stream. And so you set up an agreement where TU leases the water for usually 20-year renewable increments to keep some or all of their water in the stream rather than whatever the previous beneficial use was.
Tom: Can you give...?
David: And all of those now are considered beneficial uses. I mean, it's a legitimate beneficial use to just leave water in a river for fish.
Tom: Can you give some examples of rivers where the water has been leased for in-stream flows for trout?
David: Yeah. I mean, early on, some of the big ones that people will recognize that TU, in fact, leased water and still does lease water were in the Blackfoot, in the Madison, in the Jefferson, and in the Yellowstone. Those were four key areas that TU focused on for leasing water because there were and still are water quantity issues in those rivers. And there were... You have to have willing landowners or willing water right holders. These lease [inaudible 00:57:36] stealing water. They're not taking. It's always a willing seller, a willing buyer. You have to have somebody who wants water to stay in the stream and is willing to work to you or to do it on their own to just change their right.
Tom: So, they could just do it on their own if a landowner decides that they wanna leave the water in the stream for habitat, they can do that as well as leasing it to TU.
David: Yeah. And oftentimes, we will get calls at TU, some landowner who isn't looking to lease the water to TU, but they want TU's help to do the water right change to leave it in the stream as an in-stream flow right because it's a complicated process. It can take sometimes up to two years just for a five or six CFS water right to change it from, say, stock water or agricultural purposes to in-stream flow. You have to do historical research to prove the water right and then it's a long process of applying for this change with our DNRC or Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. And so TU has that expertise and can help landowners or water right users make that happen.
Tom: And how is it regulated? How is it monitored?
David: Well, this summer, I learned a lot about how it's not regulated and not monitored. I mean, some basins have irrigation districts where many water right users are essentially an irrigation district, they all pull their water off, say, a shared ditch. And there might be what's called a ditch rider or a monitor who actually monitors how much water is going down the ditch, who's using what. But it's not that closely monitored in most places. In fact, this summer, the Smith River here in Montana was looking as if it might go completely dry because of a combination of low snowpack in that basin over the winter or drought conditions. And then it's a fully appropriated river. If everybody takes the water they have a right to, it could run dry. It would run dry. And we were facing that this summer. And asking around about who monitors there and who could we talk to about maybe getting some people to alternately leave a little water in the stream for the fish. And there's just not much in the way of any overarching monitoring plan or group or individual in a place like the Smith. People are using their water rights as they've historically used them and it's hard to put your finger on who's doing what.
Tom: So, is there any recourse? If someone sees that, for instance, the Smith River looked like it was gonna run dry, what can agencies or Trout Unlimited or even individuals do to correct that problem?
David: Yeah. Well, agency-wise, Fish, Wildlife and Parks here in Montana does have one of those Murphy rights I mentioned into the Smith River. And we encouraged FWP to call on that right, essentially call water users who are junior to FWP. And so whatever moment in time FWP has that Murphy right around 1970, anybody who has rights that are younger than that, FWP could call on them to quit using their water so that it stays in the stream and meets FWP's right for an in-stream flow. So, that's one notion or one possibility of enforcement. FWP under our governor's direction did not make that call this summer. They decided that it was gonna be... I think the governor called it frivolous to do that, that it was uncertain whether they could call on anybody with a younger right who was actually using water. So, they didn't know that any water would actually be left in the stream. And if it were, how long would it stay in the stream? What fisheries benefit would there be? We at TU thought it was such a bad drought here this summer that we should be doing everything possible to keep some water in the stream. And how would we know whether this right that FWP has was effective unless we tried it? But that didn't happen. So, that's one possibility for some enforcement. The more common enforcement is, unfortunately, just neighbor to neighbor. What has to happen is someone in a basin who has a water right has to call the states in DNRC, Department of Natural Resource and Conservation, and file a complaint against another water user. So, it has to be one water user against another to really possibly start some enforcement on either overuse of water or misuse of water. And that just doesn't happen a whole lot.
Tom: Yeah.
David: And so there isn't a whole lot of leverage in what's been most effective rather than those avenues of enforcement are in basins where there are drought management plans. And so water users have come together, and under the notion of shared sacrifice, they have set up essentially a handshake agreement that when drought hits and hits certain triggers of flow, people will start voluntarily giving up water to the stream. And most of the time, those shared sacrifice drought management plans also include angling interest and they include caveats like, "Well, if people start giving up water to the river, anglers will start voluntarily practicing hoot owl fishing or even stop fishing when the river is that low. And those have worked. The best example, I think, that we saw, certainly, this summer was on the Jefferson river that has a well-established drought management plan. And it takes work. And in fact, one of my co-workers, Chris Edgington, who was the MTU project manager down there in the Jefferson did most of the coordination of getting the people signed on to that plan to, again, voluntarily turn down the spigots basically and keep water in the stream so that the Jefferson didn't run dry or go below some self-imposed triggers.
Tom: And there was a total fishing closure on the Jefferson for what? A couple of months at least, right?
David: Yeah. It's funny how quickly you start forgetting once it's cool and rainy, but we had a lot of those this summer. And it was pretty harrowing in that we had a full fishing closure on the Ruby River, one of the tributaries to the Jefferson in May. Meaning, in the middle of May, one of our wettest months historically, the entire stretch of the river was closed and then it reopened, but then it went on hoot owl in May, and pretty much stayed that way through the remainder of the summer. And then the Jefferson was soon to follow as were many other rivers. And we thought, the Big Hole, the upper Big Hole was gonna be dry, not low, but a true skeleton on the rocks dry. And again, the Big Hole has a drought management plan built into a plan to help restore grayling there. And that was effective in keeping that river wet as well. And so we've been really big supporters of and will continue to be. And I think this summer's drought was a spur to us to get working in whatever way we can to try to figure out drought management plans in other basins in this state that we are gonna continue to see severe drought conditions in like the Smith River.
Tom: But it's great to see that all parties are getting together and making agreements as opposed to things being dictated by government that people are voluntarily trying to manage water in these drought situations.
David: It is. And I don't wanna give the impression that it's all sitting around holding hands and Kumbaya and I think the people who were involved in the Jefferson drought management plan, certainly the Blackfoot has a robust drought management plan, they would tell you that, you know, there were tense and beyond tense moments, and it was tough and it was multi-year negotiations and lots of cups of coffee or cups of things that were stronger than coffee. But ultimately, they got done because there's a lot of shared interest in the health of our rivers, not just from anglers, but most water right users particularly on the ag and ranching side care about the resource and it does not behoove them to have rivers that are drying up every summer and they're having to call on their neighbors and fight with their neighbors over very low flows. And so that notion of shared sacrifice I think resonates. It's just, you know, where does the compromise lie?
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Now, are there states where leaving water in the stream for trout or other aquatic species is not considered a beneficial use? We've been talking about Montana. How about other states?
David: Boy, you quickly have gone off my map of water right knowledge there, Tom. I'm not a water right attorney, and so my knowledge here is limited to what I work with here in Montana. I would go out on a limb and say that probably in the West, there are states that are on the spectrum of, yes, there are as robust or more robust legal tools for leaving water in-stream as Montana has and there are some that are less so that there are not in-stream flow rights. I mean, certainly, I know that there are other tools that Montana to some degree or another has or is considering adopting that would make our in-stream flow law even better. And the two that we're talking a good bit about right now, and, again, I can't tell you what states they come from, where they have precedent, are a split season lease.
And so, so far I've been talking about in-stream flow leases like they're just TU or another conservation organization leases water and it just stays in the river all the time. But a split season lease would allow sort of a shared water right where ag or industry or whoever has the water right would use it for a portion of the season and most cases spring through the first part of the summer. And then when rivers start getting dry, when you hit a certain flow trigger, then that water right would be changed to be in-stream flow to keep the fishery and the resource healthy. And so you'd have two uses of a water right, hence the split season. And that's been done. And we're looking at doing more of that because, really, you know, through mid-summer, historically, we haven't needed more water in the rivers for fish. There's been ample water through spring and high flows and it really is late July and August that we get drought conditions in the river and fish start struggling. And so that's a great option. Another one is called a dry... I believe it's a dry season lease where the water would not be left in-stream unless there's severe drought. And so in years where it's not severe drought, you would never convert that right to in-stream flow, but on a year like this one, you would. And part of the lease might be then to buy... So, if it's an ag water user, maybe you buy hay for them or you pay them essentially to not have a second or third watering or to not put part of their acreage into production so that it would go in-stream.
Tom: Because agriculture probably needs the water in the dry season as much as the trout do, right? Everybody is scrambling for water at the same time.
David: Yeah, that's the tough part. And this summer was a classic example of that, is that when it's drought time, everybody needs that water. I was on our statewide drought monitoring meetings which were virtual this summer a number of times and it's just people from every county in the state going around the virtual room saying, "It's drier here. It's drier here. We have less grass and a bigger plague of grasshoppers." And it was kind of... It wasn't one-upmanship, but people had apocalyptic stories across the state both for growers, ranchers who couldn't grow hay for their livestock and, of course, for the rivers themselves and hence fish. So, yeah, it hits everybody at the same time.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. So, let's...
David: Which is why these compromises the shared sacrifice drought management plans, I think, are really worth the effort because when drought does hit, we're all in it together. Who's not a water user?
Tom: Yeah.
David: And we haven't even talked about municipal use. I mean, in the West like many places, larger urban areas are growing faster than rural areas, and so there's greater demand for residential use, commercial use in cities. And there are cities in the West now looking to lease or change water rights for in-stream flow until that water reaches the city so that they can have the water for all the municipal uses you can imagine.
Tom: And has that created a problem in the larger places, cities like Missoula and Bozeman? Has that been an issue?
David: Well, I think we're starting to talk about it and think about it and think about how might we... And from a TU perspective, it's certainly worth thinking about, you know, if you could marshal a municipality's needs like in Missoula where we have the Bitterroot flowing in, so just below town, and there's still plenty of residential development, and below that confluence, and then you have the Blackfoot and Clark Fork coming from above. If you could marshal water as in-stream flow from traditional users upstream all the way down in the town because the city needs it, that'd be a lot of river miles potentially that you would keep wetter than usual for fish and the fisheries benefit would kind of be a side benefit if the real intention was to get water to flow all the way to the city of Missoula for the water use. I mean, Missoula is a bad example. And I'm just using that hypothetically because we actually get our drinking water from groundwater wells that you don't see a direct impact to the surface flow, you know, with the use of those groundwater wells. But certainly, in other places, you know, leasing water to get downstream to municipalities could have a fisheries benefit because it would keep that water in-stream till it gets to the city.
Tom: Don't groundwater withdrawals affect the rivers, though, anyway?
David: Ultimately, for sure. It depends on how deep the groundwater is and what the source of the groundwater is and how much it's interacting with that surface water. In fact, you know, two of the great changes in water management that are happening here in the 21st century are just this change from other uses to in-stream flow and the requirement at least in Montana that use of groundwater necessitates a permit and a mitigation of surface water because they're connected. So, if you're gonna poke a hole in the ground and get groundwater for a subdivision, you have to obtain a permit for that that includes leaving water in the adjacent surface water stream from somewhere because the recognition that groundwater is directly tied to surface water. And so, you know, that actually came about because Montana TU was in a lawsuit in the Smith River where there were users, water users, poking holes in the ground, and getting groundwater out without a permit and it was affecting streamflow. And Montana TU got involved in some litigation that ultimately succeeded and proved that that groundwater is connected to surface water. And since it's a closed basin, no more new water rights, that if you're gonna use groundwater, you gotta find that water and leave it in the adjacent stream or river. So, somebody else has to retire their right if you're gonna start using groundwater.
Tom: Boy, that's getting complex.
David: Yes.
Tom: And the management of that and the monitoring of that has got to be mind-boggling.
David: It is, but the concept, actually, is pretty simple. It's that, Tom, there's no new water. If you get it from the ground or from the surface, you gotta have a right to do it and you gotta offset that by retiring somebody else's water right because none of these basins are making new water, right?
Tom: Yeah.
David: It's a finite resource.
Tom: So, if I wanna drill a well and I get a permit, I need to negotiate with another landowner to lease surface water so that I can withdraw groundwater? Is that how it works?
David: Essentially, yes. Now, to make it more complex, there are exceptions to that. Our state has debated over and over and changed the rules on exceptions for that. And so if you're only gonna draw a small amount of groundwater, maybe you don't have to do that. But the bottom line is it's all connected. There's no new water. And by and large, if somebody is going to be using water, they should have to have a permit for it.
Tom: Yep. Yep. So, let's crystal ball a little bit. And I know this is tough and I'm putting you on the spot. But let's say that next year we have the same climate conditions that we did this year. I hope that's not the case, but let's say that it happens again, and it will happen in the future. What things are gonna be done to help manage the water better so that we don't run into the same problems like we did on the Big Hole or the Smith?
David: Yeah. That's a very good question that many people are asking following this summer. And, you know, we certainly are in conversation with as many people as we can be, state agency, the outdoor recreation, particularly angling industry about this notion of shared compromise or shared sacrifice and can we figure out drought management plans in more places that are more robust? And that's, you know, handshake agreements. But we found them effective. And so I think we need to be moving down the road towards having those things beyond where they exist now, which are pretty much the Jefferson, the Blackfoot, and the Big Hole. And of all those, the Jefferson is the most well monitored. And so, you know, I don't know that it's my crystal ball, but certainly, it's on my to-do and wish list for the rest of 2021 and going into 2022, I do not want to get to another drought in 2022 or subsequent years and have to admit that we made no progress towards figuring out how to manage the drought in other places in Montana.
Tom: So, it's so more management plans, more mutual agreements amongst water users in other basins?
David: Yeah. I also think we're gonna see some, you know, more than just handshake agreements. We're gonna see more of this change in water rights. And again, that's among other things been a hallmark of the 21st century in water management, not just in Montana, but in the West is that transfer of water from one use to another, particularly from historic traditionally uses to new uses like residential commercial development, even alternative energy production and, as per our conversation, ecosystem health and fisheries and the recreational demands on those things. And so I think we will also see more effort, more money flowing to in-stream rights, in-stream leases, and these other tools like split season leasing, dry season leasing. I certainly hope that all happens. I hope that, you know, now that we're putting on our puffy coats and stacking caps and rain has fallen and we see snow in the high country, that we don't just forget what we went through last summer and wait till it happens again and then are literally hair on fire along with our forest on fire and have done nothing.
Tom: Yeah. Americans I think are...well, humans, but Americans, in particular, are known for our short-sightedness and short memory. So, I hope that we don't let up. And it doesn't sound like you're gonna let up. So, that's encouraging.
David: No, we're not. And I certainly have heard from the angling community that there were plenty of people who either here in Montana or came to Montana, you know, for their trip of a lifetime fishing and waiting or fishing out in this summer and were really struck by how smoky and hot and low the water was. And I hope that, you know, some percentage of those people also get activated in whatever it takes, making phone calls, writing letters to our state agency, to our governor's office, to groups like to you to say, you know, "I'm here to lend a voice or a helping hand in any way I can." Because one element of it is not just the money, the proper laws, it's also just the culture of care for the rivers and wanting to do something. All of these drought management plans that I've spoken about came about because there was public concern, even public shaming of water users. And by and large, water users don't want to be the ones drying up rivers and leading to huge fish kills or ESA species being threatened even more. They want a healthy resource too. And so that sort of culture of care for the resource matters too. What can your general angler recreate or do?
Tom: Yeah, yeah. What can they do?
David: Yeah. Well, I do think that conservation organizations like TU and many watershed-based groups, which there are plenty of around the West, certainly in Montana, are gonna be the funnel through which the public, especially the angling public, can direct some of their energy and concern. And so we will all be messaging, making calls or putting out opportunities for people to engage with us in pushing our state agencies to do what they can to set the table for discussions about drought management plans or making calls where, for example, Fish, Wildlife and Parks does have a water right and can make a call. And so, you know, just being an advocate through your local conservation organization or a statewide conservation organization.
Tom: Right.
David: And speaking from Montana Trout Unlimited and TU in Montana, we certainly will be providing the public with those opportunities. And so I would say stay tuned. And even when we're in the middle of winter, we can't forget that there are things to be done when it comes to drought and the health of our fisheries.
Tom: If people are not a Montana TU member, where can they... What's your website? Where can they keep track of these issues or where can they sign up for your probably e-news communications?
David: Yeah, We're easy to find on the internet as is, our national group. And one thing I have not touched on that is absolutely worth some time here, Tom, is that the work that TU has done in Montana and across the country for decades of restoring streams, restoring riparian areas, is as important as in-stream flow laws and leases and rights because when you restore a stream, particularly the floodplain and riparian area, you essentially create, you know, a big sponge for water that stocks up water in the spring and early summer, and then it flows out of that floodplain back into the stream and keeps base flows where they need to be for the rest of the season. And so on the ground restoration work that TU puts a lot of energy and time and brings a lot of resources to year in year out is as vital as ever. And that's something people can support anytime of the year through giving to the organization, through getting involved in a chapter and a project or, you know, donating to a particular stream project in their backyard or in their favorite trout fishery. And there are success stories like that all over the country and will be plenty of opportunities going forward.
Tom: Yep. Just planting trees is one of the best things someone can do. And it's become a problem in the East as well. We've had drought conditions that we didn't this summer, but past three summers before that, we had severe drought and now we got lots of water, but that'll change.
David: That will change. And, I mean, it really does make a difference when people get out there and volunteer or donate to a project that is restoring a stream stretch, planting willows, getting out and get your feet wet and your hands dirty, you help keep water cooler and more water in the stream. And, you know, nobody opposes that kind of work. And a lof of... And these things go hand in hand. Actually, a lot of our in-stream flow work is part of restoration work. Often when you have a landowner who wants to do some in-stream flow, transfer either a lease or transfer a right, if TU is involved, that will include improving an irrigation system, a grazing plan that keeps cattle off a stream, some fencing, maybe some actual restoration work of the stream where it's been, you know, overused through ag or ranching uses. And so these things go hand in hand.
Tom: Yeah. Well, David, I wanna thank you for a great discussion, one that I find fascinating and you've given us some hope that things can get better and that we can manage this water better. It's gonna be a tough fight, but with people like you and with Trout Unlimited, hopefully, we can mitigate a lot of these issues with water.
David: Yeah. Well, I appreciate the attention to this, Tom, and you having me on to do it.
Tom: Well, thank you. Thank you again. And I know that my listeners are gonna thank you for educating all of us about these issues. So, I appreciate it. 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 attachment. You can find more free fishing tips on