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How to Preserve Native Trout Species, with Ted Williams

Description: The use of the natural toxin rotenone to remove invasive, non-native species of trout to protect native species is a controversial topic. Does it really work? What does the poison do to the insect, mammal, and bird populations? Ted Williams [52:36], a proponent of these tactics in selected waters, discusses where reclaiming populations has been successful and also places where it would not make sense. Ted is one of the foremost environmental writers of our time and is never afraid to stick his neck out, so you may agree with what he says or you may not, but you’ll learn some important biology in the process.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing" podcast. This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and my guest this week is the great Ted Williams. Ted is one of the best environmental writers of our times, and the topic is a controversial one. It's one we've visited [00:00:30.411] before, and we're visiting it from a different perspective. That's the idea of removing invasive species, often brown and rainbow trout, from a stream to reestablish native trout populations or give the native trout populations a better chance to survive.
And I have mixed feelings about this, as I'm sure a lot of you do. [00:01:00.100] But Ted is gonna tell us about places where this practice has been really successful and why we shouldn't be terribly concerned about the use of rotenone poison to remove those invasive species. And I think he has a lot of good points. And it's an interesting conversation no matter where you stand on this practice, I think you'll be educated and illuminated in the podcast. [00:01:30.559]
But first, we're gonna do the flybox. And if you have a question for the flybox, or if you have a comment, or if you would like to share a tip with other podcast listeners, you can reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can either just type your question in your email, or you can attach a voice file and perhaps I'll read it on the air. And the first one is an email from Pat from Vermont, "I have a quick plug for a program and a question [00:02:00.468] for you. First of all, thanks for all you do for the sport. I have learned a ton and I'm excited to keep learning. My plug is for a Trout Unlimited Program. We all know Trout Unlimited, but one of the programs they sponsor nationwide is called Trout in the Classroom. This program allows schools to raise brook trout from eggs in their classroom and release them into the wild. The program works in partnership with each state's fish and game to get the eggs and to release the fish into appropriate waters.
This is a [00:02:30.242] fantastic way to both inspire the next generation of anglers and conservationists. Additionally, this program is not limited to classrooms. If you work or volunteer at a library, museum, or any public learning space, you can get into the program. If you don't work or volunteer with any public learning spaces, you can always volunteer to help out with delivering eggs to schools or other pieces of the program. If you're worried about funding and startup costs, there are many science and STEM grants available for programs like this. [00:03:00.563] If you're worried about lesson plans or activities, reach out to Trout Unlimited to help your schools get started with Trout in the Classroom."
Well, thank you, Pat. That's a very helpful note and it is a great program. We have it in a number of our schools here in Vermont, and it's been very successful and really has excited young students into trout biology and trout population. So thank you for that tip. Let's do another email. [00:03:30.254] This one's from Phoenix from the Oregon Coast, "Hey Tom, I hope you're doing well. I often fish in a creek close to my house and was wondering if you could help me out with some questions I have. One, what size flies do you recommend for small stream fishing? Two, what is your favorite weight, length, and action for small streams? Three, where can I find big trout in little streams? Four, should I use nymphs in small streams? I've tried a few times with no luck. Should I use an indicator or not? Five, do fish and small streams eat more nymphs or [00:04:00.494] dry flies? Love the podcast and listen to it anytime I can. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my email. Thank you for your help."
So Phoenix, a lot of this really depends on the stream. Every little stream is a little bit different, but I'll try to give you some general recommendations. First of all, size flies... Most of the times these fish in small streams are not very selective and they see a lot of terrestrial insects. So I fish [00:04:30.170] larger sized flies, and this is in streams anywhere from Vermont to Montana to Chile. I generally fish size 10s and 12s and sometimes 14s and 16s. I think average size that I fish is probably a size 12 and high floating flies really work well, attractor type flies. You don't need to go down to little, tiny flies when you fish small streams, at least most of the time.
My favorite [00:05:00.542] weight, length, and action for small streams is a relatively slow 7.5 for a 3-weight. But you can really fish these streams with almost any rod. You're not casting very far, so sometimes with a stiffer rod, you need to overline it. But you can fish a 9 foot 5-weight in a lot of small streams, and shorter rods don't give you that much advantage really, in small streams. [00:05:30.160] But I like a smaller rod, 7.5 foot. I don't like to go any shorter than that, usually. And 3-weight's nice because although sometimes it's a little bit difficult to push a bigger dry fly with a 3-weight line, it's a lighter rod and it's more fun with the small fish you usually catch.
Regarding where you can find big trout in little streams. You're gonna find big trout in the best places. So you're gonna find them in places where there's a little bit deeper water [00:06:00.530] and there's some good overhead cover. They're generally not gonna be out in the open in riffles because predators can get to them pretty easily. So, you know, just look for the best water, that's the best I can tell you, the water that looks fishiest. Nymphs often work well in small streams. Just because you haven't had any luck, don't give up on it. But, again, don't fish nymphs that are too small. These fish are always on the lookout for food, and [00:06:30.259] you know, a 12 or a 14 nymph should do pretty well for you.
Regarding the use of indicator, I don't use indicators in small streams, because these fish are often on the alert for surface food, and they'll often eat your indicator and I hate it when that happens. So I almost always fish a dry dropper in small streams because the dry is gonna be my [00:07:00.093] indicator, a nice high-floating foam-bodied fly with a white wing or something. And then I hang a nymph from that. And don't use too long of a dropper. You don't wanna be right close to the bottom in these small streams. These fish are generally looking up for their food and so you don't need a really long dropper. And so I would stick with dry dropper and not use an indicator.
Do fish in small streams eat more nymphs or dry flies? [00:07:30.386] You know, that's gonna vary with every stream. But generally, if the stream doesn't have a lot of aquatic insects and most of these small streams don't have a lot of them, at least they're not as dense as they would be in a bigger river. They're often looking up. They will eat nymphs. But dry flies are often even more effective than nymphs. But you have to find out and depends on the time of year. Too early in the season, you might do better with nymphs, and towards [00:08:00.587] summer you're gonna do better with dry flies. But you really have to experiment with your own stream and see which type of fly they like best.
Daniel: Hey Tom, my name is Daniel. Right now, I'm standing in the middle of the Esopus Creek in Shandaken, New York. I'm really enjoying beautiful fly fishing. I had two tips and a question. I'll start with the tips. I'm a young guy, I'm [00:08:30.223] 29 years old, but I cannot recommend enough, every fisherman, no matter your age or ability, get a wading staff because the only way to know that you need one is when it's too late. I took a really nasty fall, like, six months ago and never really realized how old I was until you have to recover from a big rock.
The second piece of gear that I highly, highly recommend is [00:09:00.625] some sort of retractable device that can tether your phone to yourself. I am the victim of a phone at the bottom of a river because I had a fish in one hand, a phone in the other. And when things happen, you have to choose your favorite and that phone went down. And then the question that I have is maybe elementary, I don't know. [00:09:30.448] But whenever I'm fishing a dry fly dropper, I run into this issue sometimes, that the line, especially above the dry fly, will twist up out of control. And I can see the fly twisting when it's getting cast. Is there something that I'm doing wrong? What's causing my leader, [00:10:00.424] specifically where my leader joins my tippet, to twist up like that when I have a dry dropper? Thanks so much for everything you do and for giving this young guy some meaning in life. Thanks.
Tom: Well, Daniel, those are two very good tips, both to keep yourself safe and to keep your phone safe. Regarding your dry dropper twisting, it's probably due to the fact [00:10:30.535] that you are using maybe too fine of a leader above your dry fly. You know, generally, with dry dropper, you're probably fishing a bigger, bigger dry fly. So you know, 3X or 4X tippet to that bigger dry fly will help prevent twists. If you're using 5 or 6X, you probably don't really need it, maybe 4 at the lightest. And so that may help you somewhat. You [00:11:00.302] may also try putting your dry fly on a little dropper above your nymph so that it's on a separate piece of tippet. That may help somewhat. But I think that just using a little bit heavier tippet is gonna get you out of trouble with that twisting.
Here's another email from Tom. "Hi Tom, I really appreciate your podcast. I'm really new into fly fishing. I joined a local flying club and started to tie flies," I think he means fishing club, "and started to tie flies and really enjoy [00:11:30.443] it. I have a couple of questions for you. One, when you guys talk about water temperature, how do you test? Do you test just the surface water, or do you use a probe and put it down into the water? Two, when I was growing up, my father and I used to fish for walleyes, jig fishing the lakes in Wisconsin. Is there a way to do something like this with fly fishing? If there is, what kind of flies would work and how would I set up my rod for that? I have a 6-foot-8-inch 4-weight. Would this be the right rod [00:12:00.057] to use if I was gonna try walleye fishing? Number three, I live in the suburbs of Chicago and have been going to a lot of forest preserves to fish for bass. This will be the first time out this spring. What should the water temperature be before trying to catch largemouth or smallmouth? Thank you for taking my email. I really enjoy your podcasts and all the information that you have. I'm still very new and a lot of it is way over my head. But keep listening and keep learning."
Well, Tom, yeah, that's a [00:12:30.539] good outlook because you'll always keep learning in fly fishing. So just keep listening because we all learn something new every time we go out. Regarding water temperature, you know, the surface water temperature in most streams, most moving water is not gonna be any different than it is down toward the bottom because they don't stratify the...the water mixes too much, it's too turbulent. So you don't need to stick your thermometer way [00:13:00.461] down in the water. You can just stick it, you know, just below the surface if you want, or a little deeper. It doesn't really matter. It's gonna be the same temperature. So yeah, just stick your thermometer in the water and take the temperature.
Regarding walleye fishing, there is a way to sort of simulate the jig fishing that you've done. You're probably gonna need a full sinking line or, at the very least, a sink tip. [00:13:30.560] Walleyes tend to feed deeper in the water column most of the time, and a relatively short leader, maybe 4 feet of 12 to 16-pound test. You don't need a tapered leader. And then a weighted fly. And the weighted fly will have it like a Clouser Minnow is a good pattern. We'll have a jigging action like the jigs that you use. You're not gonna be able to kind of suspend the fly as you would, you know, sitting over a spot [00:14:00.351] and jigging. You're gonna have to cast out there and then strip back. But as you strip, you wanna let that fly sink. So you wanna pause in between strips and that will give your fly a jigging action.
And you can catch walleyes on flies. I've done it before and it's a lot of fun. Your 4-weight rod's probably going to be not the best tool in the world for walleye fishing. [00:14:30.755] Casting a sinking line, you're gonna want a heavier rod. And although you could certainly fight a fish on a 4-weight, it's gonna be tough to throw the weighted fly in a sinking line on a 4-weight. So I think you're gonna need something 6, 7, or 8-weight for fishing for walleyes to get that sinking line and the heavy fly out there. Now, that'll be [00:15:00.237] a good bass rod as well, you talked about bass fishing. So I think you're gonna need a different for doing that kind of stuff.
Regarding bass, you can catch large or smallmouth bass at almost any water temperature. You know, they catch them through the ice during the wintertime, but they're generally gonna get a lot more active when the water gets into the high 60s. Again, you can catch them slow retrieve, deeper pools, deeper areas. [00:15:30.853] A slow retrieve will work, but you know, they're gonna get a lot more active when it gets to be in the 60s.
All right. Here's an email from Jared from Pennsylvania. "Thank you for all you do and the hard work you put into making us average Joe's not only catch a few more fish but enjoy and appreciate some of the little things that we don't, when we don't. A few questions [00:16:00.895] I thought of while I was out last week for the first time this year. One, when fishing a stream for the first time, how long do you go with a certain pattern before changing when covering water? Two, what is your process for searching for fish when looking at a run or a hole? Do you look systematically, or do you just look for movement?
Number three, when I caught a wild brown in a run, there were a number of stock brook trout in the run as well. When the fish got hooked and was fighting, the brook trout seemed to chase [00:16:30.000] after it instead of spooking for cover. About five to six, in fact, stacked up right where the brown was originally caught and did the same thing when a subsequent brookie was hooked up. Have you ever seen this behavior before? And is this something unique to stock fish?"
So, Jared, regarding your first question, I am much more likely to change spots or move a little bit or maybe change my presentation, [00:17:00.658] try to get the fly a little deeper or maybe a little shallower or move the fly a little bit, twitch it a little bit before I'll change patterns. If I know that there are fish, and if I know for sure that there are fish in a particular spot, maybe I've fished it before, or maybe it just looks super fishy, then I might change fly patterns. But I'm a lot more likely to change position or change spots than I am to change flies. But generally, you know, I have some [00:17:30.159] confidence in the fly I'm fishing, and that's important. So, you know, if you're fishing a pattern that you know works well in this particular water, maybe you fished it before, maybe you got advice from a guide, then I would move and try different water before you go into switching flies. Unless fish are rising, then you got a target and you know when they're not looking at your fly or taking your fly.
Your second question, [00:18:00.441] "What is your process for searching for fish when looking at a runner hole? Do you look systematically, or do you just look for movement?" Well, I for sure don't usually look for trout because, in most trout streams, you can't see them very well. It's very rare that you can actually sightfish the trout. So I don't look for movement. I look at movement of the current and I look at the way the current is moving. I look for things like foam lines that [00:18:30.488] carry the food. I look for water that's between two to four feet deep. And I look for water that's running about one foot per second which is generally slower water than it is in the middle of the river. But I don't really look for movement unless the water is really clear.
Regarding your third question, that's fairly common behavior with stock trout, because when they're fed pellets in a hatchery, [00:19:00.530] one fish starts splashing at the pellets and that tells the other fish that they're being fed. So they hear the sound of the splashing and they come over and see if somebody's throwing pellets in there. So those fish are, I imagine, very freshly stocked. And the thrashing around of the wild brown made them think that somebody's throwing pellets in the water. So I think that's why it happened. It won't happen after a [00:19:30.453] few weeks, the fish get tuned into being in the wild, and they won't do that anymore. But freshly stocked trout will respond to commotion in the water.
Terry: Hi, Tom. Terry here from New Zealand. Hey, thank you again for everything you do for the podcast. I really do appreciate all the tips and tricks that you give on your weekly updates. It's not always relevant down here in New Zealand, but there's always learning for us, too. [00:20:00.219] The tip I have is one around safety, really. I was using a large, beaded nymph in the Tongariro River we have here. We have rainbow trout that run up our rivers in wintertime. In trying to get low, I used a really heavy beaded nymph, and a stray wayward cast flew up and hit me in the face. Actually, took out my tooth, one of my front teeth. And so now I have this big gap where I'm waiting for an [00:20:30.943] implanted tooth to repair it.
But it got me thinking, and I was talking to another fly fisher person who broke a tooth with some tippet, chewing on tippet. So I think it's just a bit of a call out, really, a public safety announcement, I guess, for anyone out there. Just make sure you look out for your teeth and look up for your wayward casts when working with tungsten beads and chewing on tippet because the risks [00:21:00.303] are there. I see people wearing backpacks with babies in the back, and I often worry about their eyes and whether or not they should be protected, at least with sunglasses. I always wear sunglasses for myself.
And the question I have is, what tips do you have, Tom, for getting down to those fish that are running along the bottom in the winter? Any tips that you can have that will help us with our rainbow runs [00:21:30.496] up the rivers in winter would be fantastic. Thanks for that, Tom, and thanks for everything you do.
Tom: Well, Terry, that's a great tip. And yeah, we need to all be careful of getting hit with heavy beaded nymphs or heavy streamers, for that matter. One of the things that you wanna do is to do what's called a Belgian cast, where you come out to the side [00:22:00.409] with your back cast and then come over the top with your forward cast. And if you don't know the Belgian cast, you can find Pete Kutzer doing that in the Orvis Learning Center. So that's a good way to keep stuff out of your face and your body.
Tips for getting down to fish running along the bottom. Well, there are a number of things you can do. Of course, one is, more weight, but, you know, that's clunky and [00:22:30.533] often, you know, it's dangerous, as you stated. One of the best things to do is to use a thinner tippet. So thin tippet, you know, you might have heard the expression "thin for the win," which competition anglers use often. And a thinner tippet is gonna sink quicker than a heavier tippet because there's less resistance to the water. So thinner tippet and longer tippet. You know, if you don't wanna go too [00:23:00.215] thin, then make sure that your indicator is just above your tippet, not way up the leader, where the leader is really thick. And that area is gonna have a lot more trouble sinking.
So if you put your indicator or your dry fly, if you're fishing dry dropper, just above the tippet and then run a long thin tippet, you're gonna get down easier. [00:23:30.589] And the other thing is angles, you know, the more you cast towards straight upstream, the deeper your fly is going to go. So if you can angle yourself so that you're casting more upstream, you're gonna have an easier time of getting your fly down close to the bottom.
Here's a short email from George, "Have you found any difference in efficacy regarding painted versus non-painted barbell eyes on streamers?" George, I can't [00:24:00.164] say that I've found any difference. You know, there sometimes when a bright, you know, red barbell eye seems to work better, sometimes when a yellow one, sometimes you don't want that extra color and you use just the non-painted ones. But I don't know how you would test that. And I don't know if I can tell you if there's any difference at all. Just have to maybe tie up [00:24:30.696] some flies with painted eyes and tie some up with non-painted eyes and try them out. And every day could be different. So I don't think I can give you a good solid answer on that question.
It's an email from Corey, "Here's a useful tip for your listeners and a question. My tip may be more of a reminder to some, but for those who aren't aware, it could be a very good strategy to find desirable topics on your podcast. So here's [00:25:00.425] the tip. Rather than utilize the podcast app for searching up past shows that listeners may wanna re-listen to or search a specific topic, go jump over to the Orvis Learning Center and search or listen there. I've found that it's not only much more organized but also more navigable. Therefore, revisiting past shows or topics is a much more pleasant experience and quicker than scrolling through the apps. My question, Tom, [00:25:30.307] I have a strong desire to take creative writing classes, start a blog, and hopefully make some connections in the industry. At any point in your career, did you encounter criticism or fear of criticism when you stepped out into the spotlight? How do you navigate those waters? Have a wonderful spring."
Well, thank you for your tip. I do mention that frequently here that the podcasts on the Orvis Learning Center are searchable, but it's good to remind people of that. [00:26:00.532] Regarding your question, you know, first of all, you have to have a thick skin because people are gonna criticize you, particularly on the Internet. So, you know, if you write a magazine article or a book, not so much. You don't have to worry about that. But if you're gonna publish stuff on the internet, you're gonna get comments and you're gonna get criticisms no matter what you do. My advice is to have confidence in what you're writing about.
So make sure you really know your topic, [00:26:30.718] and if you have confidence in what you're saying, then the criticism shouldn't matter. The other tip that I got, many years ago from a great writer named Robert F. Jones who lived here in Vermont and was a good friend, he told me once that when you write, you should never think of your critics. You should always think of the people that are dying to read what you're telling them and are [00:27:00.395] getting some information out of it. And I try to follow that philosophy as often as I can. But yes, I do have fear of criticism. And, you know, you just have to let it roll over you. But again, if you're doing it on the Internet, you're gonna get criticism. So if you're afraid of criticism, don't write on the internet.
Here's an email from Porcupine, "I listen to your podcast while I'm tying flies. Keeps me [00:27:30.797] optimistic that the weather will eventually warm. I've come around to the point of view that is best to listen to all of every podcast, even when the topic sounds like something in which I have little interest. I always get at least a couple of useful tidbits from either the fly box or your guest or you. Never know when a throwaway comment will make the difference between meeting that trophy fish or just being antagonized by him or her. I have a question that is not strictly about fishing. I am a big [00:28:00.493] believer in using local wisdom whenever I travel and prefer to fish with a guide when I'm away from my home waters. Can we please get some insight and direction on tipping guides? I have not been shy over the years asking this questions of guides, outfitters, lodge managers, lodge owners, and professionals like you.
I invariably get some version of the same response. Tipping is a personal decision, and you should tip an amount with which you are comfortable, blah, blah, blah. While I understand why you all give this [00:28:30.658] answer, it is not terribly helpful. I should add that I follow advice given to me decades ago by an old timer about what three things to look for from a fishing guide. I wanna be safe, I wanna have fun, and I wanna learn something. The opportunity to cast a fish is a gift from the water and not always up to the guide. I wanna be generous to the people doing all the hard lifting, but most of us have no clue about the finances of ecotourism and fly fishing. Specifically, should the [00:29:00.436] tip be a flat amount or a percentage of how much the trip costs? Should the amount be different if you are being guided by an employee rather than the owner of the outfit? Number three, if I had a good day, I always tell the guy directly, but is there a tip amount that says the same thing in a way that helps pay the rent? Thank you for any insight you can offer. I do have a suggestion for your website, folks. It is not easy to find the email address to contact the podcast. Perhaps putting it up, front and center at the top of the [00:29:30.157] webpage and on each episode would make it easier for us older curmudgeons amongst your listeners to check in."
All right, Porcupine. Well, I do give the email address at the beginning of every podcast, but I guess we could put it in print as well. That's not a problem at all. Regarding tipping, most of the time if you're paying for a guy directly, so say you're [00:30:00.304] fishing domestically in the United States somewhere and you're paying a guide directly, it's about the same as you would tip in a restaurant, which 20% is kind of the standard. And if you have a great day, I wouldn't be afraid to tip more than 20% if you can afford it. But if you have a lousy day, you know, a 10% tip is gonna give that guide the word that, [00:30:30.704] you know, they didn't do a good job. And don't tip 10% because the fishing was poor, because the guide has no control over that. Tipping 10% or less would be if the guide was rude, yelled at you too much, unsafe, whatever.
But guiding is a hard way to make a living, and a lot of guides, you know, almost live hand-to-mouth. So the more generous you can be, particularly with a good guide, the better off they're gonna be. And they're gonna be able to [00:31:00.497] continue to guide for a living. Now, if you're going internationally where you got a package trip and, you know, you're not paying the guide directly, the lodge is providing the guide, then you really need to ask the lodge owner or whoever is running the fishing program, you really need to ask them what's the customary tip? And the customary tip is, you know, gonna be X amount. And if you have a [00:31:30.927] really good day, then you're gonna tip more than that. If you had a lousy day, you're gonna tip less than that.
I would never stiff a guide and not give them a tip at all. I think that's pretty bad regardless of how bad the guide is unless the guide is super dangerous or super irritating. But, you know, generally, that's the... You know, you pretty much hit it on the head. That's the standard for tipping these days for guides. And also, you know, there's an old [00:32:00.712] rule that you don't tip the owner of the bar if they're tending bar. But I think that regardless of... You know, a lot of these owners or, you know, head guides or outfitters or whatever, they're trying to make a living, too. And I would tip the owner. If the owners are guiding you, I would tip the owner the same as I would one of the guides that's not an owner.
Here's an email from [00:32:30.285] Nick. "Hello, Tom. I wanted to reach out to get your opinion on fly rods. I grew up spin fishing for 24 years in Pennsylvania. The end of last summer, I picked up fly fishing after finding many educational videos from yourself and Orvis. I spin fish small Pennsylvania streams with a 4-foot-8-inch rod, getting into really tight spots. I have picked up a 9-foot clear water for my first fly rod, which I find to be an outstanding rod for many streams. However, I find it to be a bit too large for the small streams I enjoy fishing. [00:33:00.086] I'm looking for a fly rod I can substitute for my spin rod on those small tight streams. I was wondering how small you would go in terms of rod length. And what might be some of the advantages and disadvantages a smaller rod might be? Thank you for your insight into the bigger versus smaller rod debate, as well as for the vast amount of information you make available. And of course, good luck to yourself. And to fellow listeners, may 2024 be filled with many great memories spent on the water."
Well, Nick, [00:33:30.657] if you listen to the podcast at all, you'd know that I'm not a fan of really short rods. Again, as I said in the previous question, I don't think you get that much of an advantage with a small, short rod in small streams. You know, there are things like roll cast and the bow and arrow cast that you can do with a longer rod. But in a really tight stream, you know, I wouldn't go any shorter than 6.5 feet, and again, I would try to get away with a 7-foot or a [00:34:00.425] 7.5-foot rod in those small streams. The reason is that you're gonna be able to control your line once it's on the water much better. With a short rod, you can't just cast your leader very easily. You can't hold line off the water to avoid drag, and, you know, when you get into a little more open area, it's just not gonna be as efficient for you, so.
And the shorter rods are a little bit harder to cast. So you can go with a short rod if you want. [00:34:30.612] If you really think you need one, go ahead. But, you know, I would stick with the really small stream to the 7 or 7.5-foot rod. I think you'll find you can do most of the stuff that you could do with a shorter rod.
Here's an email from Joseph from San Antonio, Texas. "First of all, thank you for the wonderful podcast. I wish I could express the amount of gratitude I have for content and knowledge it provides. I have a question and a compliment. Since getting back [00:35:00.363] into the sport four years ago, I've seemed to collect a numerous amount of rods, reels, waders, and gadgets that come with the sport. One piece of equipment that was a game changer for me was the Blackout Orvis Wide-Mouth Guide Net. I love this net. It allows me to have so much better leverage in bringing in fish to the net. Love it for the pictures as well, keeping fish submerged in the water. Excellent contrast of the black net in the water. On to my question, I was gonna be purchasing the [00:35:30.847] Orvis Pro LT Boots to go with my new Orvis Pro LT Waders and wanted your thoughts on the tread in the Michelin outsole. Part of me wants to avoid putting in studs because these are primarily travel boots, which would include hike and fish adventures of one to two miles before I hit river locations.
If you do recommend studs, knowing I am hiking, how often can you replace studs? Is there a point where the screw-in locations can be worn out too much [00:36:00.169] from replacing studs over and over to impact the studs holding securely with the outsole? Should I skip the studs to test out the boots for the first time to see how slip-resistant these boots are? For my everyday waders and boots at home, I do have studs. And because I don't walk great distances from the car to the river and only have to replace the studs once a season, this travel pair is expected to be used with more distance to the river, one to two miles."
Well, Joseph, thank you. I do also [00:36:30.456] love that Wide-Mouth Guide Net in the long handle. It's very, very helpful for somebody like me with relatively short arms. Regarding the studs, boy, it's a question I ask myself often, but you can't really put those studs in and take them out on a regular basis. The holes that you put the studs into will eventually not hold the studs that [00:37:00.241] well. And it's a pain. You know, it's a lengthy process to put those studs in and then take them out.
So there's not a good answer to this, you know, other than having two pairs of wading boots. That's really what most people do. A pair of wading boots for fishing from a boat or a raft where you don't wanna have studs, and then a pair of wading boots for in the boat or take your boots off [00:37:30.550] before you get into a raft or a boat, which can be a problem. But, you know, the rubber soles are pretty good. The Michelin rubber is better than other rubber soles. It's a little stickier and holds better. But if you're wadding on a lot of round, slippery rocks, you're gonna want to put studs in there. And, you know, there's no problem with walking one or two miles with the studs [00:38:00.328] in there, they don't stick out that much. They should be just barely poking above the rubber when you put them in, and even hiking a lot, those studs should last you years. I've never had to replace a stud in any of my studded wading boots, so they really hold up well. But whether you put them in or not, you're gonna have to decide how much fishing you're gonna do from a boat and how much fishing you're gonna do walking, and then [00:38:30.375] take it from there.
Here's an email from Chris, "I'm from upstate New York. My father bought me a cheap fly-fishing rod reel for Christmas. I mistakenly assume that would be my major expense of the hobby, which it could be if I was responsible. But after I've satiated my ludicrous gear obsession, I finally got on the water with a friend, fishing. We were nymphing for trout that were stocked approximately three weeks before we were there and had been fished heavily. Is the goal when fishing trout [00:39:00.267] that have seen this amount of pressure to simply stick it out? Do you have any suggestions for early spring trout that see plenty of pressure? Also, in my gear frenzy, I bought a nice pair of polarized sunglasses, but as the day went on, I couldn't see much at all. Does it make sense to have a pair of low-light glasses with the amount of gloomy days we have here? Or maybe I should be heading home by the time the sun gets low? Thank you for everything you do. You and Orvis have been instrumental to me [00:39:30.886] and many others in the sport."
Well, Chris, first of all, you know, I don't have any specific suggestions for you as far as pressured stock trout other than... Generally, in the early season, you wanna fish slower water and you wanna fish your flies slower and deeper if you can. Even if you're fishing a streamer, you don't wanna move it too fast. [00:40:00.576] And then, of course, nymphs are gonna be dead drift and so are dry flies. But, you know, every stream is a little different. And I don't have any specific fly suggestions for trout that see plenty of pressure other than try to match what's on the bottom, turn over a couple of rocks, and see what kind of bugs are in there, because hatchery fish do get acclimated pretty quickly to the food that's available. And then, you know, the good old [00:40:30.217] Black Wooly Bugger in a size 8 or 10 is always a good fly for hatchery fish, regardless of how long they've been in the river.
Regarding polarized sunglasses, at the end of the day, yeah, any sunglass is going to reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyes. And there comes a time toward the end of the day when reducing glare on the water isn't gonna help you that much. In fact, sometimes you want glare as it starts to get dark [00:41:00.361] because you can see your fly better. So I wear prescription glasses, so I just take my polaroids out. Whenever the weather gets gloomy or it's toward dark, I take my polarized sunglasses off because my eyes are gonna get more light and I'm gonna have better resolution.
There are polarized sunglasses that are low-light. They don't have quite as much polarization, but you can get low-light polarized sunglasses [00:41:30.393]. The other option is to get yourself just a pair of good quality, clear safety glasses, because you do wanna have some glasses in front of your eyes just because getting a fly in your eye is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in fly fishing. So you always want some kind of glasses. But I wouldn't be afraid to take off those polarized sunglasses when it gets too dark and just use clear glasses or low-light polarized glasses [00:42:00.320] if you can find them.
Here's an email from Rick in Arizona, "I've been doing more fishing in the winter the last couple winters. Of course, fishing in the winter means dealing with high water from snowmelt at times. My question is, how long does it take for trout to settle back to their normal habits after a snow melt, high water event recedes back to near normal flows."
So, Rick, it won't take long. Those fish will recede [00:42:30.549] from along the banks and deeper water. They'll come into shallower, slower water almost instantaneously. It's more of the water temperature. You know, after snow melt, the water is gonna stay cold for a while, but once the water heats up and it recedes, they should go into their normal habits and habitats very, very quickly.
Here's an email from RK, "Couple questions for you as we head into [00:43:00.487] spring season, though I guess it's already begun, and I'm just overworked. First, do you find in the spring that streamers become more effective as fish metabolism increase? If so, how do you present them? And how would that be different than, say, in the winter or the fall or in the summer? If not, do you attribute this to increased bug life activity and food sources that are less energy-consuming to acquire? Are there particular patterns, or I guess, rather than patterns, specifically bait fish [00:43:30.547] that you feel are more appropriate to present in the spring than others? For instance, I'm thinking, like, sculpins might be better than a crayfish, which really don't get active until later in the spring.
Second, in light of the increased bug activity, do you find spring to be the best season for presenting soft tackles and wet flies? Can you take some time to explain the method of wet fly fishing that you cover in one of your Orvis fly fishing videos, where you learn to keep the flies in one lane as opposed to swinging? Finally, [00:44:00.528] in the spirit of March Madness, perhaps you could have a single elimination tournament of tie-offs with Camisa, Flagler, Cheech, you, the final four."
Well, RK, we are gonna have another three-way or triple threat fly tying on April 15th with Cheech and Tim Pellegro and myself. The problem with doing this is that we can't get any fly tire on these competitions [00:44:30.681] because you really need a two or three-camera setup. And, you know, it's more than most people wanna invest in. So Tim and Cheech and I have invested in setups that we can use different cameras, but it's not like we can go out to any fly tire and get them on because they'd have to shoot it with their phone or something and you wouldn't be able to see that well.
Regarding streamers, yeah, you know, early season streamer [00:45:00.703] fishing is okay because the fish aren't seeing a lot of bugs yet, and they're just looking for something to eat. They're coming out of the winter but need to fish your flies fairly slowly and fairly deep. And generally, I think, smaller streamers early in the season. As the water temperatures warm up into the 50s and 60s, then the fish get a lot more aggressive. Their metabolism is in [00:45:30.603] high gear. I don't think it has anything to do with the insect life around, but the fish are much more willing to chase something. And you can get away with a faster retrieve and bigger streamers. You know, kind of the peak time here in the east for fishing streamers is generally May, June, and even July when you get high water, because, again, the water temperatures are warmer, and the fish are more willing to chase.
Similarly, with wet flies and, and soft tackles, [00:46:00.537] you need some insects in the water because, you know, theoretically, those fish are chasing emerging insects when they're taking your wet fly or soft tackle. Although I think sometimes, they may think it's a little tiny bait fish, but yeah, that's generally... You know, later in the spring is the best time for fishing soft tackles and wet flies.
Regarding the method of fishing wet flies, and by the way, [00:46:30.363] he's referring to a video on the Orvis Learning Center where I fished with B.J. Gerhardt, who was on the podcast last week, and he was showing me a method he uses. And basically, it's casting well upstream from where you think the fish is or a fish is feeding. And you throw a big mend and then you keep throwing mends out to make sure that your fly drifts in the same lane [00:47:00.707] and doesn't swing across the current. And then when you get to the very end of the drift, you stick your rod out as far as you can and just hold it there. It's like a Leisenring lift. And then hopefully, the fly will rise straight up, or mostly straight up in the water column instead of swinging across currents, which insects don't do. So, you know, it's basically kind of dead-drifting down to the fish and then trying to keep your fly in the same lane. [00:47:30.612]
Jared: Hi, Tom, this is Jared and Sage, the chocolate lab calling from Missoula, Montana. I've sent in a couple of questions before and you've answered those, so I appreciate your time, for sure. I've got another question. I run the tight line setup most of the time, and generally, my setup is some sort of leader that leads to a tippet ring. And then below the tippet ring, I'll run, whatever, six to eight feet of [00:48:00.415] some mono and then two flies off of that. And my question is, I've been running into an issue where when I snag bottom on woody debris or whatever, a lot of times when I'm trying to, you know, get the fly, well, the flies are gone, but I'm just trying to get my line back. The issue that I've been having lately is that I'll lose everything below the tippet ring.
So that knot that connects the [00:48:30.411] last bit of mono leader to the tippet ring will break and then I'll lose my two flies and everything. And usually, that second fly, the lowest fly, will be tied on with 5X, so even thinner with the hope that if that low one ever snags, but I'll just lose that. But anyways, my question is, it's frustrating when I lose my whole rigging and I'm wondering kind of what knots [00:49:00.442] do you think I should be tying at the different parts of my leader so I'm not losing everything below the tippet ring.
So essentially, you know, what in your mind are the strength knots, where I've got the strongest knot up at the tippet ring and then the kind of weakest knot at the lowest fly, etc., so when I hook and I end up losing stuff, I'm losing the least amount of gear. Hopefully, that makes sense. And then I'm just curious, too, what [00:49:30.437] knots you use at different, you know, line-to-line junctions. I think you mostly do a surgeon's knot and then do you do a double davy? Or are you doing a clinch knot? I'm usually using a clinch knot pretty much at most of the junctions. So yeah, I'd be curious to hear what you think. Thanks for your time and everything you do for our community.
Tom: Jared, I think I know what might be the problem. Is there a chance that you perhaps bought [00:50:00.587] your tippet rings online somewhere and not from a fly shop or reputable fly tackle manufacturer? Because you can buy really cheap tippet rings, but they often aren't polished well enough, and they have rough spots, and they weaken the tippet as it kind of slides around the tippet ring. And that may be why you are breaking your rig at the tippet ring. [00:50:30.746] So I would try a different brand or maybe a little higher quality, spend a few more bucks to get better tippet rings because there is a difference. They're not all created equally.
Now, if you did get good quality tippet rings, perhaps your tippet is too small in relation to the size of the tippet ring. So as a wire diameter of either a hook eye or a tippet ring [00:51:00.471] increases the lighter tippets, the knot won't hold that well because of the great difference in diameter between the tippet and the tippet ring. So try to match the diameter of the tippet ring with whatever tippet you're tying it to. And one way of... If you need to put a lighter tippet on a tippet ring if you don't have a smaller diameter tippet ring, there's [00:51:30.027] a knot that I use for tying to a tippet ring, and that's called the trilene knot. And you can find this knot online somewhere, but it's basically a clinch knot where you go around the tippet ring or the eye of the fly twice. So you go through the eye once and then you bring your tag end and go around it again, and you leave a double loop open in front of the hook [00:52:00.588] eye or the tippet ring. And then you just tie a standard clinch knot, not unimproved, but just go five times around and come back through that doubled line that you left in front of the tippet ring or the eye. That's a really good knot when there's a big difference between your tippet diameter and whatever you're tying it to. So try those things and see if they help.
All right, that's a long fly box this week. And now let's go talk [00:52:30.392] to Ted Williams about success stories in removing invasive species. Well, my guest today is Ted Williams, who I have been wanting to have on the podcast for years. For those of you who don't read or haven't read much lately, Ted is, in my opinion and opinion of many people, one of the top environmental writers, particularly in the hunting and fishing fields, but in general, one of the top environmental [00:53:00.470] writers that we have today.
And we're gonna talk about a topic that, I guess Ted and I don't always agree on, but it's about native species versus removing non-native or invasive species from trout streams. And so, Ted, you wanted to talk about some places where it's really worked and why you feel that's so important, [00:53:30.539] correct?
Ted: Yeah, it's worked in hundreds of places. The only tool we really have for restoring native salmonids and other endangered fish is rotenone, which is an organic poison that degrades quickly and is applied at, like, 50 parts per billion, with a B, [00:54:00.747] to running water and is easily neutralized downstream. So unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation about rotenone, and because of that, some environmental groups are blocking and impeding native fish restoration, especially in the West with cutthroats. [00:54:30.357] There were 16 species of cutthroats. Two of them, the yellowfin and the alvord, are believed to be extinct.
And by far the biggest threat to them is genetic swamping, hybridization with rainbow trout, which are native to the Pacific Northwest, and which were flung around the waterscape over 100 years ago in the age of [00:55:00.420] environmental unenlightenment, in the days when a trout was considered a trout. If that goes on in a lot of these places, we will lose some of these cutthroat trout to hybridization, and we're in the process of losing them now.
Tom: And there's also a threat from species that won't hybridize with a cutthroat, red brook trout and brown trout. [00:55:30.228] Brook trout from the East and brown trout from Europe that can out-compete cutthroats in those...
Ted: Exactly. There is non-native species that don't hybridize, compete, and prey on native salmonids. And as you mentioned, the brown trout is one of the worst. I think that a lot of anglers, including me, would rather catch brown trout than anything, but that doesn't mean we want them [00:56:00.191] in some of these streams. For instance, the South Fork of the Kern River was completely dominated with non-native brown trout in the '70s. And that was when rotenone was not so controversial. And because of that, the California Fish and Wildlife Department was able to get rid of them. [00:56:30.476] The brown trout outnumbered the goldens, which is a California State fish 100 to 1. And if they had not been able to do that, goldens would now be extinct, of course.
Tom: And that was successful. The brown trout were never able to reestablish?
Ted: Correct.
Tom: Did they put a barrier dam down below? How did they keep the brown trout? The, you know...
Ted: They did put a barrier. There was also some natural barriers. [00:57:00.436]
Tom: Okay. Okay. And so it's been entirely successful?
Ted: It's been very successful. You know, dozens of other really successful projects. In addition to hybridization and competition from non-native species, global warming is another really big problem. So the most important native fish recovery projects [00:57:30.341] going on now are creating thermal and genetic refuges in previously fishless water. At least fishless in the brief perspective of European Americans. Many of them probably had fish, you know, several thousand years ago. But where that's been happening, it's been very successful. I'm sure you've heard of the Cherry Creek Project.
Tom: Yeah. Why don't you [00:58:00.466] describe that for people? Because that's one of the more controversial ones. And...
Ted: It was. In 1997, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks conceived a plan to restore west slope cutthroats to the Madison drainage. And they did. They were gonna do this by creating a thermal and genetic refuge in 60 miles of Cherry Creek, [00:58:30.502] which was believed to be naturally fishless, at least in a brief perspective of European-Americans. It was infested by non-native brook trout, rainbows and cutbows, cutthroat rainbow hybrids, which were stocked, you know, over 100 years ago.
So there was a huge blow-up because local anglers went crazy about this project because they enjoyed catching these [00:59:00.265] mongrels and non-native rainbows. In June 1999, Outdoor Life published a grossly inaccurate piece entitled "Playing God on Cherry Creek." Among the copious false claims were, "Bears would be sickened by eating poisoned fish." They were never poisoned. And antimycin and rotenone, [00:59:30.244] antimycin was another [inaudible 00:59:32.085] which is no longer available, will exterminate the stream's aquatic insect populations. Rotenone does no such thing. In fact, after rotenone was applied to Cherry Creek years later, managers witnessed caddisfly larvae feeding on the dead trout and the aquatic bugs that... [01:00:00.521] a few were killed. Most of them... This is a process called catastrophic drift, where they sense the rotenone and escape by drifting downstream.
And the ones that are killed are quickly repopulated from upstream. Then most of them fly. And they generally do a lot better because they're now dealing with fish with which they evolved, rather than fish which they didn't evolve [01:00:30.263] with and which prey on them. So anyway, for years there was a huge opposition. A sportsman-endorsed property rights group called the Public Lands Access Association derailed the project for years with these screeds about how rotenone was going to poison humanity, etc. But the real issue was that media mogul and philanthropist, Ted Turner, [01:01:00.580] who owned most of the watershed, posted his land, as did previous owners. But under the Montana Stream Access Law, anglers were, and still are, free to wade the creek and fish.
So when all this opposition frightened State into withdrawing funds, Turner footed the bill. So in January [01:01:30.586] 2002, Fly Rod & Reel magazine, where I was conservation editor at the time, made him our angler of the year. And this elicited a blizzard of hate mail which we never saw before. Since I had "a political agenda." Let's see, what else did it say? I've done it for money. I was a moron, a snot nose, a nasty bully, a nature Nazi, an accolade [01:02:00.380] of Hanoi Jane, an espouser of vitriolic leftist environmentalism, etc. And preserving Cherry Creek's alien and mongrel trout rhythm was the main priority of almost all the readers we heard from.
Well, since the completion of the project in 2012, westslope cutthroats have steadily repopulated the lands. And Doctor Carter Cruz, [01:02:30.518] who is the director of science and conservation for Turner Enterprises, reports that six years ago he started getting calls from excited anglers who were catching cutthroats from the Madison, 15 miles below Cherry Creek. And then two years ago, Cruz and his team boosted the biodiversity of Cherry Creek by introducing [01:03:00.499] forage for westslope cuts, which are rocky mountain sculpins. And they're about to introduce imperiled western pearlshell mussels, which depend on cutthroat trout to carry and distribute their temporarily parasitic larvae.
And so today, because of this project, Cherry Creek is an egg source for westslope cutthorat restoration in Yellowstone National Park. So that's a huge [01:03:30.546] win. But there are other really important thermal and genetic refugees that have been stopped by this opposition. And I'm sure you've also heard of the Buffalo Creek project. That's one of these projects that have been derailed by misinformation and chemophobia from, unfortunately, quite a few environmental groups, most [01:04:00.600] strident being Wilderness Watch. And this project would have, perhaps still will create a thermal and genetic refuge in 47 miles of upper Buffalo Creek and one lake which were believed to be fishless, at least in modern history. [01:04:30.612]
So let's see if I can find Todd Cole's statement. Doctor Todd Cole is the park's Native Fish Conservation Program director. Okay. And he wrote me this, "In spring, the big migratory cutthroats move up from the lower Lamar Valley into the headwaters in remote backcountry to spawn. Then in summer and winter, they return to the lower river. [01:05:00.456] Hybrids and rainbows do the opposite. They are mostly concentrated downstream in the Lamar Canyon and lower river. So for now, we have this separation. But if we were to let everything go, we'd lose the entire Lamar system and end with what's happening in many other large river systems around here, just big hybrid swarms."
So unfortunately, these environmental groups that are blocking these projects, [01:05:30.466] fish don't count for wildlife for these groups. Fish are slimy, they're cold, they don't have fur, they don't have fish, they don't have fur, they don't have feathers, they don't make any noise. And for these groups, they're mostly unseen. So they're very happy to usher them into oblivion, which is unfortunate. So Wilderness Watch [01:06:00.444] sued the Forest Service. Buffalo Creek runs through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in the Custer Gallatin National Forest. So they sued and they've apparently, temporarily, hopefully, blocked this project. The big argument is that the Forest Service in Montana [01:06:30.684] and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trying to create a recreational fishery.
Well, a recreational fishery has existed in upper Buffalo Creek for over 100 years. It's full of non-native rainbow trout and hybrids. So all the times that the biologists from the State have been up there working, they've never seen a single angler. [01:07:00.845] It's a two-day trip to Grizzly Country, and, you know, nobody's gonna walk up there to catch seven-inch Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
Tom: So they're not so much against the use of rotenone as they are just because they claim that...
Ted: No. They claim use of rotenone and mechanized equipment to distribute the rotenone. They claim that the Wilderness Act [01:07:30.308] disallows poison in wilderness, which is untrue. They haven't even read the Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Act provides for pesticides for precisely this work. And federal grants are issued all the time in wilderness for rotenone. So Carol Endicott, who's a friend of mine, she just [01:08:00.528] retired as Montana's Yellowstone cutthroat biologist, and she says this about the opposition, they're free to make their own operational definition of what historically fishless means, but their definition is at odds with our legal responsibility. It ignores the concept of metapopulation dynamics where waters open and become blocked over time. [01:08:30.082] I know of beaver dams that have blocked fish movement for hundreds of years. Then they go away and fish move in. Same with waterfalls, especially those sitting in the world's largest super volcano.
Under policy required by law, historically fishless waters are within historic range, and we can legally put fish in them if they don't harm other species. They co-evolve with everything up there. The current areas that block [01:09:00.241] fish don't block invertebrates and amphibians. They easily fly, drift, or hop past these features. No harm, only benefit. So anyway, the Park Service now has a must-kill rule for hybrids and rainbows in Slough Creek in Lamar. And that created [01:09:30.390] another huge morale instinct. But the Park Service doesn't operate like other agencies, like the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, because in 1916, Congress passed the Services Organic Act, requiring the new agency to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife [01:10:00.611] of all units," leaving them unimpaired.
So if the Park Service doesn't restore Yellowstone cutthroat to the Lamar system, which is the biggest remaining sanctuary for them, is violating federal law. The Forest Service, on the other hand, is easily intimidated by this opposition, and because of that, the Buffalo Creek project has been on hold for two years [01:10:30.827] and may not happen. And there's another project very similar, the North Fork Blackfoot Project, that apparently has been permanently canceled by this opposition and that would have restored westslope cutthroats to 67 miles of the upper north fork of the Blackfoot River. So we're not gonna see that, apparently, which is shame, [01:11:00.370] because that is really important. And all these cutthroats are endangered, in fact, if not by official federal decree.
Tom: Ted, what do you think about the must-kill regulations for sport fishing? How effective do you think they are?
Ted: I mean, I understand why people have fished the Lamar system for years, don't like it, but [01:11:30.385] they have to understand that we're dealing with Yellowstone cutthroats, which are now considered a subspecies of cutthroat, all the cutthroats are a subspecies. But they've been isolated for 2 million years, and now there's a mission to actually identify them as a separate species. We can't lose them. I mean, I'm sure you know what's happened in [01:12:00.412] Yellowstone Lake where somebody illegally introduced lake trout. I was there the day that Farley learned about it, and he was physically sick. You know, brook trout have been introduced before that, they can be gotten out of the creeks, but lake trout are there forever. They're being managed. [01:12:30.462] They're killing a lot of them, but they'll never get rid of them.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. But as far as the... In a river stream, the must-kill regulations, are they effective? I mean, I know that, for instance, on the south fork of the snake where there's a must-kill on rainbow trout because they're trying to preserve the cutthroat population there, and it just doesn't work. You know, the anglers [01:13:00.491] and the guides don't wanna kill them. And you can't outfish a fish population with sport fishing anyway, right?
Ted: No. But it might help a little, and it sends an important message. I fished that section and caught a lot of rainbows.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Did you kill him? Did you kill it?
Ted: Yeah. And there's Slough Creek too. But, you know, I understand that most people don't wanna do that. But, [01:13:30.859] you know, the Park Service has no choice. It has to do that.
Tom: Yeah. Well, most anglers don't know how to kill and eat a trout these days, right?
Ted: It's not too hard.
Tom: I know but most...
Ted: Most of them kill them by mistake.
Tom: Yeah. But, you know, I don't know, if half the people that fish for trout these days know how to clean a trout, because they don't [01:14:00.655] keep them. Now, I understand there are some of these projects where, you know, they were "historically fishless," where even some other native fish organizations are against these refuges.
Ted: Unfortunately, that's true. There's only one that I know of, the Native Fish Coalition. [01:14:30.227] I was their national chair and by far their main fundraiser, and co-founder. And when I begged the director, Bob Miller, to check with the Park Service people before it came out officially against the Buffalo Creek project, and he didn't do it. And it was humiliating for me because I got blamed [01:15:00.205] at the National. So I had to resign, which was a very painful decision.
Tom: And what was their opposition to the Buffalo Creek project?
Ted: Their opposition was that no fish should ever be introduced to previously fishless water. But claiming that Buffalo Creek was previously [01:15:30.105] fishless is a pretty arrogant claim. You know, were they around when woolly mammoths were walking the earth?
Tom: We don't know.
Ted: Almost certainly, there were Yellowstone cutthroats in upper Buffalo Creek at one time. And even if there weren't, it's irrelevant because Yellowstone cutthroats are in such horrible shape that we need these refuges. [01:16:00.138] There's no imperiled insect anywhere in any thermal and genetic refuge that is gonna be impacted by these. They can all recover easily, as Carol Endicott mentioned. They can just fly over or drift over or fly from upstream and repopulate. And again, [01:16:30.196] they repopulate better than they did when they were dealing with fish they didn't evolve with.
Tom: Why are they able to repopulate better with fish they were...?
Ted: Because they evolved with these fish. And it's just like lampreys in the Finger Lakes. Lampreys [01:17:00.364] are native to the Finger Lakes and the Seneca strain of lake trout does great with them. When you put these lake trout in Lake Superior, the Seneca strain, they do great. We don't know why. It's maybe a behavior or a depth thing, but any organism that co-evolves, they get along. But these bugs did not co-evolve with rainbow trout. [01:17:30.442] And so the best thing that you can do for them is to get rid...for these bugs to get rid of them.
Tom: Interesting. Yeah. I hadn't thought of it that way. Very interesting. Sum up on some more examples of places.
Ted: Another great, even a better example maybe than Cherry Creek is the Silver King Creek project. [01:18:00.793] And Paiute cutthroat is the most imperiled, rarest fish salmonid in North America. It's native only to 11 miles of Silver King Creek and the Carson Iceberg Wilderness up in the ice there in Nevadas. So the Forest Service and California [01:18:30.549] Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought to rescue them from certain extinction because somebody had dumped in rainbow trout, you know, 100 years ago. Fortunately, the Forest Service biologists were enlightened enough back in 1946 to create a thermal and genetic refuge [01:19:00.284] in the previously fishless Cottonwood Creek high up in California's White Mountains.
So they had a source of pure Paiutes. But to rotenone, these hybrids out of the 11 miles of Silver King Creek was a huge political challenge. The environmental groups sued them from [01:19:30.605] 2003 to 2013, they appealed for environmental review and sued, and they blocked the project, costing the State and feds hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours. So finally, and the Wilderness Watch was leading the charge, [01:20:00.881] some of the statements from the environmental groups were appalling in their ignorance. See if I can find... Oh, yeah, here it is. This is the Western Environmental Law Center which represented the litigants, published this, "Rotenone does not just kill the fish in the water, [01:20:30.943] but the entire ecosystem, including turtles, snakes, frogs, birds, terrestrial insects, and other animals that live in or drink from the poisoned water." Complete fabrication. Rotenone does no such thing. It can't kill or even affect air-breathing organisms. Most of the insects it doesn't kill and the ones that it does kill quickly repopulate. [01:21:00.586]
So this was up on their website for six years, and it was attributed to the attorney, Peter Frost, who I confronted on it, and he claimed he didn't write it and that it was incorrect. So finally, two years ago, I got him to take it down. But this is what the public was hearing and believing. Anyway, the project finally happened. They rotenoned [01:21:30.896] out the mongrels, and of course, the anglers screamed about it because they wanted to catch the hybrids. So Trout Unlimited volunteers went up and they electrofished out as many as they could, and then they dumped them into the hybrid-infested Carson River down below the falls.
And then the agencies did rotenone the river, [01:22:00.124] and since 2017, the population has steadily expanded. Pretty soon, they'll be taken off the endangered species list. It's the only salmonid recovery project anywhere that has restored a native to 100% of its natural range.
Tom: Wow.
Ted: So that one worked.
Tom: Ted, for the benefit of people who are not familiar with rotenone, [01:22:30.826] can you tell people exactly what this pesticide does?
Ted: Right. It's an organic poison that's been used for centuries by South American tribes to kill fish for consumption. It degrades extremely quickly in the water, and it's neutralized easily downstream [01:23:00.752] with potassium permanganate. It's supplied in running water, 50 parts per billion. So if you google "rotenone," you'll hear from some environmental groups that it causes Parkinson's disease, which is total malarkey. That comes from an Emory University Study in which rotenone... [01:23:30.537] The purpose of the study was to create a Parkinson's-like symptom, which is tremors, not Parkinson's. So rotenone was mainlined into rats' brains for half a year. After that, no rat had Parkinson's. They did have tremors. This is where it comes from. Unfortunately, [01:24:00.447] rotenone is almost the only tool we have.
Electrofishing sometimes works. It's extremely labor-intensive. It sometimes works in the smaller streams, like in the Smoky Mountain National Park, it's worked for population recovery, but it basically doesn't. So rotenone is the only thing we have, and [01:24:30.795] these groups are too arrogant and lazy to learn about it. So it's a poison, and they oppose it. Here's a statement from one of the litigants in the North Fork Blackfoot project, let's see, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Michael Garrity. He claims that, [01:25:00.610] he sent out releases to the public, "Rotenone gets into the groundwater and poisons the wells." Well, it doesn't. It degrades within inches into the soil. And he further claimed that potassium permanganate, the oxidizer used to neutralize the rotenone, "targets human organs, including the respiratory and central nervous system, blood, kidneys, and can cause nausea, [01:25:30.283] vomiting, gastrointestinal irritation and burns to the mouth and throat if ingested." Well, it does no such thing. It's sold with no regulations for a food preservative, and it's applied to streams at 3 parts per million and degrades within 30 minutes to 1 part per million.
And apparently, his guaranteed source was a study entitled [01:26:00.716] "Suicide Ingestion of Potassium Permanganate," about a woman who tried to but failed to kill herself by swallowing, you know, mega doses, 10 tablets of pure potassium. So this is what fisheries managers deal with always in these projects. And it's really unfortunate.
Tom: Can you talk about some of the [01:26:30.445] Appalachian brook trout streams that have been reclaimed with electrofishing? Are you familiar with that?
Ted: Yeah. I was down there a few years ago with them. I forget the name of the... There's quite a few screens. They're an older subspecies of arboretum. Really beautiful. I have pictures of them. I wish I could show you, though. These streams, again, they were [01:27:00.398] infested 100 years ago by stock brown trout and rainbows. And what they do is they, and I did this with them, they electrofish the streams, take out the brook trout. These are tiny streams. Put them in a bucket and then they throw the rainbows and browns down over the last dam. Or sometimes they create... Well, they can't create a barrier in the park, that's against regulations. [01:27:30.717] But natural barriers, they throw them down over the natural barriers. So the anglers can't complain too much because they can still go down and catch them. But they have done pretty well down there and they're still doing it. And these guys are heroes.
Tom: And not killing any fish, but just relocating?
Ted: Unfortunately, though, for 99% of streams and ponds, [01:28:00.876] it's impossible. You need to use rotenone. And some of these anglers think that the native fish people are plotting to remove brown trout from, you know, the Madison River and Missouri. It's impossible. You can only rotenone very small headwater streams. It only works there. There's no way that's gonna happen. There's no way that [01:28:30.641] we'd want it to happen. The brown trout are there. They're doing well.
Trout Unlimited has a different mission than the Native Fish Coalition. They advocate all wild fish, which is great and fine. I agree. That's why I raise money for TU. But anglers have to understand that these little projects are [01:29:00.800] really the only hope of saving these cutthroats. And Gila topminnows, desert pupfish, a lot of other species are being saved by rotenone. If we can't use it, those fish will be extinct. Rotenone is safe and effective in restoring desert pupfish, Gila topminnows, Yellowstone cuts, westslope cuts, Greenback cuts, [01:29:30.962] Bonneville cuts, Lahon cuts, Colorado River cuts, and fluvial arctic grayling in National Park and Maine's landlocked Arctic char, Apache trout, golden trout, redband trout, and brook trout. And that's just a few. Big pond in Maine, some angler stocked smelt [01:30:00.264] because they wanted these Arctic char, they're called blueback trout in Maine to grow bigger. And it worked, they grew to be over 20 inches. But the smelt also chowed down on all the fries. So we were about to lose the population in Big Green Pond and the watershed in pond is owned by the Nature Conservancy. [01:30:30.292]
And the organization knew nothing about rotenone, but to their credit, they learned about it and the State went in and evacuated as many Arctic char as they could, hauled them in a hatchery, rotenoned the pond, and then restocked the Arctic char. For a few years, there wasn't any reproduction. Everybody got worried. But Arctic char [01:31:00.207] aren't like brook trout. They don't broadcast eggs quickly. Like lake trout, they spawn over reefs. And they don't do it often. And, you know, a couple of years ago we started to see fry. That project worked.
Tom: And the smelt did not return?
Ted: Not yet. And we hope they won't.
Tom: Are there any other ponds in Maine where they've done that with the native Arctic char? [01:31:30.334]
Ted: No, unfortunately not. The state, again, it's the opposition to rotenone. The state is intimidated. Bob Beller and I fished Round Pond in 10,000-acre tract in Maine, which was really, and I fished it when I was in college, and it was really the best brook trout fishing anywhere in the state. A lot of 15 and 16-inch brook trout. [01:32:00.170] And the bay fishermen illegally stocked shiners and chubs. And so when we fished it, every cast we had a chub or a shiner following the fly, and we never caught a brook trout. Now, those ponds like that should be rotenoned by the state and reclaimed. They could do it. And now those shiners and chubs are coming out of [01:32:30.798] Round Pond and infesting other brook trout water downstream. I guess sometimes the state does rotenone for put-and-take ponds further to the south, and that's fine, but they should also be doing it for wild brook trout.
Tom: Yeah. And chubs and shiners are not native to those lakes, correct? [01:33:00.287]
Ted: No. That's why we had so many brook trout.
Tom: Well, Ted, I wanna thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and for educating us to a greater degree on native fish and where it's necessary to use rotenone and to remove the non-native fish. And... [01:33:30.678]
Ted: Well, it was good to be with you, Tom. And thanks for making me a better fly caster.
Tom: Me? Not me, probably Pete Kutzer. He's the casting instructor.
Ted: Well, I've seen your videos. They do help.
Tom: Well, thank you, Ted. And as I said at the beginning, I've admired your writing for many, many years and appreciate you finally coming on the podcast.
Ted: Well, good. I hope [01:34:00.982] I helped.
Tom: You did. You did. And thank you very much.
Ted: You're welcome.
Tom: All right, Ted, I hope to talk to you soon.
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