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Leigh H. Perkins – Former Orvis Owner – Passes Away

From Orvis:

Leigh H. Perkins, who purchased The Orvis Company in 1965 and over the next three decades transformed it into one of the country’s most respected sporting, apparel, and dog brands, passed away at the age of 93 on May 7, 2021, in Monticello, Florida.

Although he built his reputation as a shrewd businessman and marketer, Leigh was most at home wading in a trout stream or walking behind a bird dog in the field. He was a lifelong outdoorsman who hunted or fished more than 250 days a year into his 90s, and his reverence for nature was at the heart of his drive to conserve land and water resources for future generations.

Born in Cleveland in 1927, Leigh was raised by a mother, Katharine Perkins, who was a dedicated angler and hunter at a time when there were few women who engaged in the outdoors. It was she who fostered his passion for nature and sporting pursuits, and these experiences shaped his desire to conserve woods and waters so that others could enjoy them. “She taught me to fish and hunt, and she was my principal sporting companion for the first 18 years of my life,” he wrote in his 1999 autobiography, A Sportsman’s Life: How I Built Orvis by Mixing Business and Sport. Together, they caught bluegills from farm ponds, cast to cutthroats in Montana, traveled to the Atlantic salmon rivers of the Gaspe Peninsula, and shot grouse, quail, and ducks.

Although he was born into a wealthy Midwestern family, Leigh chose to make his own way in the world after graduating from Williams College in 1950. He started as a rodman on a survey crew in the iron mines of northern Minnesota, working his way up to foreman before taking a job as a salesman for Cleveland’s Harris Calorific, which made gas welding and cutting equipment. It was during this time that he discovered the value of listening to the needs of customers, which would serve him well as he built Orvis. As Leigh once told his grandson, Simon, “You always learn more by listening than by talking.” Leigh often spent time taking phone calls and reading customer letters to ensure that he was serving their needs, a practice that continues at Orvis today.

The idea of mixing business and his sporting passions first occurred to Leigh when he began looking for a company of his own to build. He had been a customer of the Vermont-based Orvis since his college days in western Massachusetts. After a nine-month courtship with then-owner Dudley “Duckie” Corkran, Leigh closed the deal on the first day of 1965. He was a hands-on owner, serving as president, merchandiser, art director, product developer, and whatever else needed doing. His attention to detail was legendary, and he personally approved every item in the catalog.

Over the next 27 years, Leigh would grow the company—founded in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis—from a niche business with 20 employees and $500,000 in annual sales to a mail-order and retail powerhouse with more than 700 employees and sales topping $90 million. Along the way, he was a pioneer in both business and product development. Among the first to capitalize on changes in the direct-marketing world, Leigh made the Orvis catalog a household fixture from coast to coast and opened Orvis retail stores in cities around the country.

Leigh prioritized products that solved problems and enhanced a person’s time on the water or in the field. He introduced the first retractable zinger to hold fly-fishing tools and the first Gore-Tex rainwear. Orvis graphite fly rods were not the first on the market, but they were better-designed and more durable than competitors’. Leigh’s love for working dogs led to perhaps his biggest coup, the Orvis Dog Nest bed—the first of its kind sold in the U.S. in 1977—launching an entire category for the company.

 

In 1966, Leigh launched the world’s first fly-fishing school in Manchester, Vermont, teaching 150 students the basics. He added a wingshooting school several years later. “It was one of the first outdoor schools of its kind,” says Tom Rosenbauer, Orvis’s chief fly-fishing enthusiast and one of the sport’s best-known teachers, anglers, and authors. “Kids got that kind of stuff at summer camp, but it was groundbreaking for adults and the industry.” The company now offers free instruction to more than 15,000 would-be anglers per year. As his grandson, Simon explains, “His passion for education and sharing has grown over the years into an important Orvis legacy of increasing access and participation in the fly-fishing and wingshooting communities.”

For Leigh, the importance of handing down family traditions—in life and in business—to the next generation was always on his mind. As his mother had done for him, Leigh passed on his passions to his children, who are all keen anglers, wingshooters, and conservationists. His sons—Leigh H. “Perk” Perkins, Jr. and David—made Orvis their lives’ work. When Leigh retired in 1992, Perk became president and CEO, with Dave working alongside him. Under their leadership, Orvis quadrupled in size. Today, the company is run by Perk’s son, Simon, while his brother, Charley, and his cousin, Hannah, also hold important positions in the business.

Leigh’s fervent belief that anglers and hunters must work to protect those resources that make time in the outdoors so fulfilling became a company ethos and business imperative. In the 1980s, he helped pioneer corporate conservation efforts by donating 5 percent of pre-tax profits to conserving fish and wildlife through organizations including Trout Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “I think this is his greatest and most lasting contribution to the outdoors and the industry,” says Rosenbauer. “It wasn’t a cynical business decision. Leigh did it because he wanted to be a steward of this world he loved. And if the company didn’t make enough profits in a year to support a project, he would reach into his own pocket, quietly, without telling a single customer or even his employees.”

He also served on a variety of non-profit boards, and in 1985, he founded the Orvis-Perkins Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to habitat and wildlife conservation efforts over the years. “It’s no exaggeration to say that Leigh Perkins was a friend to anglers everywhere,” says Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and long-time friend of Mr. Perkins. “Leigh was a lifelong conservationist. Through his generosity and clear-headed advocacy, he was an inspiration to all of us who care about the outdoors. He was one of our heroes.”

Humble with a self-effacing sense of humor, Leigh once responded to an interviewer who asked what he’d like to be remembered for by saying, “my duck soup recipe.” However, for his dedication and impact on the outdoor world, Leigh received many accolades, including the 1992 Chevron Conservation Award. Nine years later, the University of Minnesota awarded Leigh an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, for “[helping] some of the most prominent and important conservation organizations in the world to modernize their practices, create scientific research programs and achieve their potential for service,” as well as for creating a permanent forest-wildlife research program at the university. In 2016, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust named Leigh Sportsman of Year, honoring his conservation work and dedication to the preservation of the fish and waters he so loved.

Despite all the good he did, Leigh didn’t think of himself as a do-gooder. “No one feels sorry for me,” he once said. “I’ve done exactly what I enjoy most all my life.” It is that example of pursuing the real joy in life that he will be remembered for by everyone with the good luck to have known him.

Leigh H. Perkins is survived by his wife, Anne; children Perk Perkins, David Perkins, Molly Perkins, and Melissa McAvoy; stepchildren Penny Mesic, Annie Ireland, and Jamie Ireland; grandchildren Simon Perkins, Charley Perkins, Hannah Perkins, Molly Perkins, Jake Perkins, Leigh Perkins, Spencer McAvoy, Emma McAvoy, Ralph McAvoy, Melissa Mesic Marshall, and James Mesic; three great-grandchildren; and a pack of four-legged family members.

Sudan Fly Fishing, Nubian Flats: The New Dimension

When visiting Sudan and the Nubian Flats in 2019, it was my 40th tropical fishing trip. Sudan was something I kind of stumbled into by coincidence, after meeting an Italian in Oman who had fished there. He was immensely excited about the Sudanese fishery, and all that it had to offer. Of course, this was something that needed some looking into. After numerous trips to different flats fishing, and coast/beach fishing locations, I wanted something new, something different, I wanted to fly fish Sudan.

Now, 1.5 years and three trips later. Having fly fished Sudan for about forty days, walking a crazy amount of miles on the flats there, I feel like we have just barely scratched the surface.

Living on a ship for a couple of weeks, sailing from one great location to another every day, is at least to me, as good as it gets.

One day you’ll wade coastal flats, walking the seemingly endless shallows, all protected by a long barrier reef. Fishing both the actual flat, but also the reef, which is a bit more challenging. The reef can undoubtedly be extremely rewarding in terms of big fish.

The next day fishing off an island, with different habitats such as turtle grass, reef, coral, rock, with sandy areas in-between. Then onto another stretch of sandy flats, beaches, and rocky coast the following days.

We are always covering new interesting ground, teeming with marine life. Fishing in these ever-changing environments is hugely fascinating, and you often feel like you’re in an episode of Blue Planet, almost hearing sir David Attenborough narrating the scenes playing out.

The Fish Species of Sudan:

Most days you’ll find yourself casting at Titan and Yellow Margin Triggerfish, two fish that are guaranteed to make your brain boil.

Hardly any trigger is the same, and when you think you have figured them out, they will slap you in the face.

Of all fish I have targeted, I’d say the triggers are the ones that most often put me on an emotional rollercoaster. Lots of love and hate, all packed into a very compressed package.

The Bluefin Trevallies are also very much present on the shallow flats and are usually more than willing to eat anything that comes their way, be it a crab, shrimp, or a brushie. Greedy and fast as lightning, hard strikes, and even harder runs!

Then there’s, of course, the Giant Trevally and we always walk with a rod dedicated to the “gangsters of the flats”, usually armed with a 130lbs leader, and a fly tied on the strongest fly hook you can find. These fish will put both gear and the angler to the test! The stories of broken lines, broken hooks, broken rods, and broken men are endless.

I guess the craziest grand-slam of GT fuckups I’ve ever heard of, happened to a friend of mine on our March trip last year. When he pulled the spectacular stunt of breaking his rod, his line, and his hook, ALL on the same fish!

The GT has a reputation of being a mean bastard for good reason, making overpowering these brutes on a fly rod feel even greater.

In addition to the “usual suspects,” the Nubian Flats also offers a multitude of other species such as Bonefish, Indo-Pacific Permit, Milkfish, Bumphead Parrotfish, Napoleon Wrasse, Bohar Snapper, Barracuda, and more species than you can shake a fly stick at.

For those feeling adventurous, there’s also the possibility of targeting Dogtooth Tuna with heavy sinking lines and dredging flies. The doggies are abundant near the reef drop-offs and will hit a fly with unmatched brutality.

History of Fly Fishing in Sudan:

Divers have been coming to this part of the Red Sea for a long time. But it wasn’t really explored by anglers until Nicola Vitali and Federico Castignoli, of Wild Sea Expedition, set their eyes on this untouched area in 2011. An area which still to this day is pristine.

Sudan is not really a fishing nation, and the only “commercial” fishing we ever see is a couple of guys in a panga, with hand-lines, or cast-nets. Something that is in stark contrast to the raping one, unfortunately, see many other places around the world. Since the Sudanese coast is full of reef and coral, it is not an easy place to be netting or long-lining. So nature’s natural “walls” of the reef is helping to keep it free from pesky intruders.

Travel to Sudan:

Traveling to Sudan has been very easy. And Sudan should not be confused with South Sudan, which is a different country, with kind of a bad ring to it.

There’s a direct flight from Cairo to Port Sudan. Visa and paperwork are taken care of by a Sudanese agent and it is handed out upon arrival in Port Sudan. Then, after a short mini-bus ride to the port, you’ll find yourself on the yacht, ready to sail off to the realm of the Giant Trevally.

Article and photos from Johan Persson Friberg (pictured above). Additional photos from Nicola Vitali and Robert Pljuscec

If you want to plan a trip to Sudan, feel free to shoot us an email at travel@theflylords.com.

Epic GT Eat Caught on Camera

Video of the Week: SUDAN

5 Flies for May 2021

Its hard to believe that we are in the month of May already. This year just seems to be flying by, therefore you should be taking advantage of the fishing to be had. Depending on where you live, the ice has melted off and lakes and rivers are in prime condition. In this tips and tricks video of the week, Tanner of Trouts Fly Fishing highlights the top 5 flies for the month of May.

5 Flies for the Month of May

1. Umpqua’s Balanced Swim Leech – Size 10

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Great option in a few colors, but usually best in darker colors.
  • A great option as an anchor fly on a nymph rig.
  • Be creative with this one, jig it, strip it, you name it. Ultimately just fish them, they are super productive.

2. Umpqua Chrome Chironomid – Size 14

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Resembles a flashy representation of a midge.
  • At the beginning of May, the water ways are still filled with smaller midges and this fly works very well.
  • Great to bounce around on sunny days to attract attention of hungry trout.

3. Umpqua Radiation Baetis – Size 16

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Designed by Shea Gunkel and great for still waters.
  • Works much like the Chrome Chironomid and also imitates a midge pattern.
  • The hot spot head sticks out in heavy and choppy water resulting in high productivity.

4. Umpqua Rojo Midge – Size 18

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Small midges can be very productive and should not be over looked.
  • The small tuft of antron is a great attractor and can trigger a bite.
  • Trout seem to love smaller midges which are close to the banks in still water lakes.

5. Umpqua Jigged Wooly Bugger – Size 10

Image Credit to Trouts Fly Fishing
  • Black or dark wooly buggers are an excellent pattern to jig through weed beds in lakes and rivers.
  • Works very well with a strip retrieve.
  • The heavy tungsten bead and jig hook allows this fly to get down quick which is great for fast moving water or deep still water lakes.

There you have it, 5 flies to get you through the month of May. Try different sizes and color combos until you find what works best for you. Honestly, it is a game of trial and error but the time trying will pay off when you find what works.

All flies were highlighted from Trouts Fly Fishing and can be purchased by clicking here.

Women on the Water: Corinne Doctor

Photo credit: Josh Duplechian

Ten years ago, RepYourWater was a hat and an idea in the minds of two people. Now, thanks to Corinne and Garrison Doctor, it is a widely known and impactful company in the fly fishing industry. Corinne helped build this company from the ground up, all while teaching high school Spanish full-time. Now, ten years later, she has moved on from teaching and is working full-time for the company that they started together; fishing, traveling, and doing what she loves each and every day. Check out the full Women on the Water interview below.

Flylords: Tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you both on and off of the water? 

Corinne: I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, a very outdoorsy town. As a family, we did the typical camping and hiking adventures, but fishing and hunting weren’t part of our immediate family traditions. I started fishing when I was dating Garrison, who is now my husband and business partner, almost 15 years ago and never looked back. Together we started RepYourWater while we both were working other jobs. I was working as a high school Spanish teacher which I loved, but it became clear that my path was meant to be in the fly fishing world full time.

Corinne and Garrison Doctor
The co-founders of RepYourWater, Corinne and Garrison Doctor. Photo credit: Josh Duplechian

Flylords: Are there any fly fishing experiences or moments that have shaped you as an angler or as a person?

Corinne: Most of my early fly fishing experiences were just with Garrison, and like most novices, I was pretty self-conscious about what I couldn’t do. One of the first times we fished with one of our friends he offered me one simple little tip and I realized it’s not so scary, not so intimidating. Since then I have picked up new little tips and tricks almost every time I fish with new people because we all have different backgrounds, favorite flies, favorite techniques.

tarpon break off
Photo credit: Garrison Doctor

Flylords: Do you have any specific personal goals regarding fly fishing? Any bucket list fish or destinations?

Corinne: I have always loved traveling, especially to Latin America because of my background in studying Spanish, and when fly fishing and travel came together for me, it was hard to not think of that next trip. 2020 provided lots of time to think about that next trip, as we were not able to go anywhere because of COVID. We will be adventuring to Iceland early summer this year, back to the Bolivian Jungle in early fall, and who knows what will happen after that. As far as bucket list fish, I just want to keep tallying up new species. Certainly, the big names like GTs (Giant Trevallies) get me excited, but I caught my first Yellowstone Cutthroat recently and that made me pretty happy as well.

Flylords: What is the story behind RepYourWater? Where did the inspiration to start the company come from?

Corinne: We are about 10 years old now and it all started with one hat. My husband Garrison is an artist and designer and during the recession in 2008, he started doing some guiding on the side. As he spent more time in shops, he started noticing that there weren’t options for hats other than wader or sunglasses brands or the fly shop hats. There wasn’t anything in between that just said “I love to fish” or “I love to fish in Colorado.” Now we have a whole lot more than just one hat, but it is cool to think back on how one little idea can become a real job.

Photo credit: Bob Reece

Flylords: In ten years, where do you imagine RepYourWater will be? What about you?

Corinne: Since we started with one hat 10 years ago and now we have a vast expanse of apparel and accessories, ten years from now I imagine things will much different. What likely won’t change is our focus on beautiful designs and supporting conservation for fish and fisheries.

Flylords: How has being a woman impacted your experiences in the fly fishing industry?

Corinne: Women, more so than men, innately doubt themselves. So when I described earlier that I only thought about what my skills were lacking, a man with my same skill set would probably focus on what he could do. That is how women have been trained. Also, because I have a place in the industry as more than a participant; I have been afforded some awesome opportunities to speak to groups about public lands, lobby on Capitol Hill in DC, and be elected to the board of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. I am qualified for all of those things beyond my gender, but because I don’t look like stereotypical fly anglers, I stand out a little bit and as a result have been able to share my voice.

big brown trout
Photo credit: Alec Gerbec

Flylords: As an industry and sport, what can we do to be more inclusive (race, gender, age, etc.)?

Corinne: The first thing is to recognize that historically, fly fishing has not been inclusive. I don’t believe anyone sought out to have walls up, but that was the result. The second step is to realize that there is room for a diverse group of participants, ideas, techniques, beliefs, conservation goals, and so much more. We already have one thing in common, a love of fly fishing; that can be the starting point for having conversations about how we all have a place in this sport.

Photo credit: Garrison Doctor

Flylords: How can we use social media to create a more positive fly fishing culture?

Corinne: The number one thing I say about social media is that it needs to be authentic. Make sure what you post aligns with your story, the photo, your conservation ethic, etc. Some people will never be happy with social media, either on the side of the person posting or the person commenting or viewing. If you are posting a photo of a fish you are proud of or taught you something or just made you laugh, say that, do that, don’t make it anything that it isn’t.

Nothing like trout and fall colors. Photo credit: Josh Duplechian

Flylords: What advice would you give a woman or young girl who is just starting to fly fish?

Corinne: For anyone starting to fish, I would use the same advice I use for someone learning Spanish: just do it, use it, try it. There are bad apples everywhere, but in my experience, if you are trying (in an authentic way) to connect with something that someone else loves, they are going to be there to help you out. Like I learned 15 years ago, the people that love to fish love to do it because it relaxes them, challenges them, gets them outside. They will be there to help you, give you tips, and even hold your hand while you wade across the river to the next run.

Thanks so much to Corinne for the time, you can follow along with her at @csd817. Be sure to check RepYourWater online, and follow along with them on Instagram at @repyourwater.

Ross Evolution R Salt Gear Review

My Evolution R Salt arrived right on time for a trip to Florida. I had no doubts that a reel with “salt” in the name would be able to handle everything I could throw at it whether on the boat or sight fishing from the beach. At the time this was the nicest reel I had ever purchased, the Evolution R Salt 7/8 retails for $595.00. I am a firm believer in “You get what you pay for!” and with the Evolution R Salt, you get quite a lot. 

The build quality on this reel is an amazing accomplishment. It’s a large arbor reel and built like a tank but all the while it doesn’t feel heavy. One thing you will notice immediately is the drag knob is not your typical drag knob. You almost don’t even realize it’s there, it just looks like it’s part of the frame. For me, I love this design and I think it works very well. I really liked using my palm to adjust the drag and if you must it is just as easy to adjust using your fingers. One of my favorite features is the micarta handle, it is super grippy when wet. It is so much more durable than wood and has way more grip than metal. 

One thing for certain, the drag on this one has some stopping power. It has a sealed 16 disc drag system that is more than adequate to put the brakes on a fish. I know from reading its specs it has a proprietary carbon disc and stainless steel drag system that is double the stack of the Evolution R. Simply put, the reel feels like it could stop a truck. I had a very large king mackerel take a Clouser minnow and had it not been for the exceptional drag system, I probably would have been spooled very quickly.

One of my favorite fish to sight fish from the beach is pompano, permit’s little brother. They are powerful fish and will put a nice bend in the rod and cramp in your forearm. Listening to the Evolution R Salt sing as the pompano peel off the line was like music to my ears, the reel has a great sound. The large arbor really picks up line quickly, which was super helpful when a couple of fish decided to u-turn and come back at me. I spent most of my mornings and late afternoons of that trip walking the beaches sight fishing along the sand bars. I was alone most of the time and while unhooking a fish or taking a break my rod and reel would end up in the sand. A quick dip and shake in the water would clear any sand and I never once had any issues. At the end of each day, I would simply give the reel a good rinse with some freshwater and hang my rod back up till the next morning. I find the Evolution R Salt to be very low maintenance which I right up my alley.

 

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A post shared by ROSS REELS (@rossreels)

 I usually only get to the beach a couple of times a year and in between those times, I usually use this reel for carp, pickerel, pike, and steelhead. The drag on this reel has bested some rowdy carp and has a way more than enough power for pike and musky. For steelhead, I find this reel incredibly beneficial because of the sealed drag. When temps get as cold as they do in Steelhead country, a frozen up reel can end a day very quickly. If you do plan on fishing salt and freshwater this reel can meet all the demands.  

If you plan on getting a new reel that can handle the demands of saltwater fishing make sure to do yourself a favor and check out the Ross Evolution R Salt.

Article and photos from Landon Brasseur, an avid angler based in upstate New York. He spends most of his time fly fishing the small creeks of the Catskills for trophy trout. Give him a follow on Instagram at @lbrasseur.

Video of the Week: Backwater Fly Fishing’s Costa Rican Epic Inshore Montage

Image Courtesy: Backwater Fly Fishing

In this week’s segment of Video of the Week, we take a look at Backwater Fly-fishing’s crazy fishing adventures in and around Costa Rica. From crazy eats to pure disheartening refusals the boys experience it all. Enjoy as we follow Jesse Males, Federico Hample, Mark Evans, Tom Enderlin, Micah Baly, & Kevin J’s crazy footage of Roosterfish, Blue trevally, a monster dock dwelling snapper, and many other crazy inshore species willing to eat a fly.

Jesse is a Florida native that resides in Costa Rica guiding out of 506 outdoors outfitters check out more of his stuff here:

Backwater Fly Fishing 

506 Outdoors 

Make sure to check out these articles too!

Fly Fishing Costa Rica- 5 Day Adventure

Video of the Week: Anchored Outdoors: “The Truth about Fishing for Permit”

Costa Behind the Guides: Tom Enderlin

F3T Announces New In-Person Screening Dates

After a very successful virtual release earlier this spring, the Fly Fishing Film Tour has announced several in-person screenings being offered by their network of affiliate and independent promoters.

So far only five screening weekends have been announced, and we will update this list if more are released.

May 14 – Whiteface Region Vistors Bureau, Wilmington, NY

May 19-26 – Riverwalk Theater, Edwards, CO

May 20-21 – Backwoods, Fort Worth, TX

May 22 – Holiday Twin Drive-In, Ft. Collins, CO

June 5 – Expedition Island, Green River, WY

You can buy tickets for the screenings and learn more on FlyFilmTour.com!

Western States Experiencing “Worst Drought in Modern History”

From a weather perspective, drought and historic wildfires became regular occurrences over the past several years. Exacerbated by climate change, these weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity. For the American West, and its cold-water ecosystems, these changing weather trends are having profound and interrelated impacts. Trout are vulnerable species, and thus often viewed as a canary in the coal mine species. When trout species are healthy, their ecosystems are generally healthy and functioning as they should. The opposite holds true, too. So, you may ask, “how will these record droughts impact trout and fly fishing?”

While many regions in the West are not experiencing drought, the majority is, which due to the interconnectedness of water has implications far and wide. Drought stresses both humans and natural resources, and intensifies competition for diminished water resources. Just look at California, for example, where water disputes are coming to a head and will result in contentious legal fights among a range of water users. And, “forecasts from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center suggest that conditions in the West won’t get better any time soon. According to NOAA climatologists, hot and dry weather is expected through late October.” Follow along, as we dive into the intertwined implications of “the worst drought in modern history.”

Current drought conditions in the United States, U.S. Drought Monitor

Reduced Snowpack

Droughts are not solely characterized by the lack of rain. Winter snow accumulation is an important component of droughts or lack thereof, especially in the mountainous West. A region’s snowpack, or compressed layers of snow and ice that persist for extended periods, represents a critical resource for cold-water habitats. Adequate snowpack provides cold-water habitats with consistent water supply and levels of dissolved oxygen, a necessity of aquatic life, throughout hot summers. Additionally, snowpack levels and the subsequent melt-off maintain a watershed’s moisture content, an important natural defense for wildfires. “So that snowmelt provides a gradual source of moisture, keeping those fuels in our forested areas wet later into the spring and early summer. And so when we don’t have the snowpack in place, when we have a subpar snowpack, those fuels are allowed to green up and actually dry out earlier in the year,” said John Abatzoglou of Cal Fire.

“Since 1915, the average snowpack in western states has declined by between 15 and 30 percent,” according to a 2018 Oregon Climate Change Research Institute study. As droughts persist, and snowpack decreases, some of our favorite trout fisheries in the West will become more and more threatened. Most species of trout require five to six times more dissolved oxygen when water temperatures reach 75 degrees compared to when they are at 41 degrees.” The impacts of diminished snowpack, low flows and warmer water temps, have serious impacts for trout and other cold-water fisheries and will continue being an essential consideration in fishery management processes in the future.

Cameron Peak fire at Pingree Park, Inciweb

Stream Physiology

Not only can drought affect stream flows and levels, but its composition and level of habitableness are closely connected to prolonged periods of drought. For example, in drought conditions, consistent and cold water is scarcer, which has the effect of increasing stream temperature, stressing native aquatic species, and altering water composition.

When water temperatures rise and flows decrease, trout species are often forced to seek sanctuary in the system’s deeper pools. “If fish are forced to take refuge in decreasing and/ or isolated pools of water, they become easier targets for their prey, such as osprey and heron,” not to mention fishermen and women. Most trout anglers understand this, and many fly shops will tell you when local streams are too warm or low to sustainably fish.

The above example is obvious, but other stream impacts of drought are less mainstream, no pun intended, and more complex. When a watershed is experiencing prolonged and intense drought conditions, the surrounding land and dirt harden (worsened by intense wildfire), essentially creating an impervious surface that efficiently transport sediment–runoff. “Instead of water percolating into subsurface areas of the soil, most of the water directly runs off and flows into the streams. The excessive runoff has a lot of energy as it flows downstream, and it causes massive erosion events and carries huge volumes of sediment and ash into the stream channels.”

Sediment can have positive impacts for streams and rivers, including replenishing banks and sandbars or transporting nutrients downriver. However, sedimentation is more often viewed and interacts in aquatic habitats as a harmful pollutant. “Precipitation, flow and turbidity data revealed monsoon rain events delivered sediments into the Rio Grande and its tributaries from steep, severely burned hillslopes. The monsoon events caused acute and dramatic fish kills, where hundreds of trout were reported killed in one tributary in a single day event,” according to a water quality study on the Upper Rio Grande River.

Firefighters working along Dunraven Glade Rd, Cameron Peak Fire, October 17, Inciweb

Wildfires

As you’ve gathered by now–the impacts of droughts are incredibly interconnected and often exacerbate other impacts. Droughts leave higher elevations with less snowpack, which brings less cold water into a watershed, which has negative effects on trout and aquatic habitats. It also promotes and intensifies wildfires, which have harmful effects on stream and river environments. Last year marked dozens of record wildfires throughout the West, and this year may mark another “devastating fire season.”

While harmful sedimentation can occur in functioning watersheds, or those afflicted by drought, it is even more intense in areas scorched by wildfires. After a wildfire, the bare and hardened soil is amazingly efficient at transporting sediment and ash into waterways. “These ash-ladened flood events sometimes last for years and are often sufficient to wipe out any remaining fish. Ecologically, these events reset the entire stream system, the forest is essentially burned and then the entire stream network is change.”

In addition, watersheds that experience intense wildfires face harmful nutrient pollution. After a wildfire, in-stream nutrient levels–such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which feed plankton and algae–can skyrocket. “Excess amounts of these nutrients can cause algae blooms, which, when alive, decrease light penetration and, when dead and decomposing, decrease amounts of dissolved oxygen,” a requirement for trout and healthy streams.

The Colorado River Basin is experiencing a ‘Megadrought,’ drought.gov.

Despite this year expected to be the worst drought in modern history and a devastating wildfire season, watersheds are remarkably resilient. Droughts and wildfires are not new phenomenons; they have occurred naturally for thousands of years. But what we are experiencing more recently are extreme weather events in comparison. Regardless, the affected watersheds have exhibited remarkable strength and restorative properties. For example, a 2018 study found that amid “notable short-term drought impacts to trout and salamanders in 2015, populations recovered to pre-drought conditions within two years in all but the smallest stream.” While this is a promising finding, droughts, wildfires, and all the connected impacts are becoming more frequent, longer, and stronger with climate change.

As drought conditions worsen this year, it is all the more important to consider your impact on hyper-stressed ecosystems. Pay attention to local fire warnings and, when in doubt, just don’t light that roaring campfire. Even little things, like a hot car muffler, can start a wildfire. Keep an eye on in-stream temperatures–if water temps are warmer than 67 degrees, STOP FISHING! Droughts, wildfires, and climate change continue to have complex and profound impacts on our waterways and environments. As anglers, it is important that we do our part to lessen our impact and protect our cherished fisheries and resources.

Cover picture courtesy of Inciweb.gov.


 

Climate Change Is Happening – How Will It Affect Your Fly Fishing?

Organization of the Month: Science On The Fly

Colorado Wildfire Killed 80% of Resident Fish

10 Fly Fishing and Outdoorsy Gifts for Mother’s Day

Mom’s deserve the best, they are there for you through thick and thin. They congratulate you on every fish you catch (no matter if it’s big or small) and they always seem to give the best advice. This mother’s day give your mom something she will love and cherish for years to come (don’t worry we made this awesome guide to help you find that perfect gift). Don’t forget to pair it with a handmade letter or card to let mom know how much you appreciate her.

Backcountry x Simms Flyweight Waders

If mom enjoys fishing on warm and sunny summer days, she would love a pair of Flyweight Waders. They are so lightweight they feel just like wearing pants. Summer is coming and mom will appreciate the comfort and coolness of these cute Simms waders.

Check out the Flyweight Waders, here!

Cosmo Coho Fishe Wear Tote Bag

Mom always has everything you need, so get her a bag to carry extra snacks, chapstick, bandages, and all the other items she always seems to have. The Fishe Wear Cosmo Coho tote bag is fashionable and durable. If mom is more of a tarpon or brown fanatic, the tote also comes in those Fishe designs and more.

Cosmo Coho Tote

Shop Fishe Wear Tote Bags, here!

Handmade Necklace from Metal and Mayflies

Metal and Mayflies creates a variety of beautiful handmade jewelry that mom will love. The First Light Necklace is made with sterling silver and a moonstone pendant. According to Metal and Mayflies, “This collection is inspired by the dew-dropped ferns you meet on your way to the river at first light.” You know mom will love that symbolism and she can reflect on fishing memories while wearing this lovely piece of handmade jewelry.

First Light Necklace

Check out this beautiful handmade jewelry, here!

Andrea Larko Hat

For the outdoorsy mother’s that like to spend their days hiking, fishing, kayaking, or even just basking in the sun, a fun trucker hat is a great gift. Female artist, Andrea Larko sells some very fun and unique fish-themed hats. Mom will love that her gift came from a talented female artist, and you know she’ll rock her hat.

Doodle Tarpon SnapBack Trucker Hat image 0

Shop Andrea Larko’s Etsy shop, here!

Simms Insulated Mug

This mug is durable and will keep things warm for 8 hours or cold for 24 hours. Mom can pour her favorite drink in this bright insulated Mug and bring it out on the boat or on the trail. Fish it well, Mamas!

Headwaters Insulated 20 oz Mug

Shop the Simms Insulated Mug, here!

Mountain Cranberry Coconut Wax Candle

You can almost never go wrong with a candle as a gift. For the outdoorsy mom, a hand-poured mountain cranberry candle will delight her with memories of camping and enjoying the great outdoors (without the smells of stinky hiking shoes, sunscreen, and bugspray). Grey Fox Candle Co also creates a selection of other scents that mom will cherish.

MOUNTAIN CRANBERRY COCONUT WAX CANDLE

Browse the Grey Fox Candle Scents, here!

Backcountry Stretch Rain Jacket

Rain or shine, mom shows up. Give her a jacket that will keep her dry and comfy when outdoors having fun or cheering on the kid’s baseball team. The Backcountry Stretch Rain Jacket is just what mom needs for the rainy days.

Backcountry - Stretch Rain Jacket - Women's - Rich Mauve

Shop the Backcountry Stretch Rain Jacket, here!

Kombucha

Mom’s been rocking a kombucha since the ’80s… but this pomegranate lemonade kombucha is a new twist on the classic. Humm Kombucha is filled with probiotics and tasty flavors that are made to be enjoyed on the river or at dinner with the family!

 

Check out Pomegranate Lemonade Kombucha, here!

Buff Headband

Headbands are great for the active mama, they’ll keep her hair out of the way on the water, in the office, or playing with the kiddos. Buff makes cool absorbent headbands in fun designs that are mom-worthy.

 

Product example 2

Shop Buff Headbands, here!

Flylords Bear Tee

We saved the best for last… the Flylords Bear Tee is a classic gift that mom will adore. It is both comfy and casual. Mom can wear it when she’s out camping, fishing, or relaxing at home. This fun shirt comes in mint, navy, and olive.

Shop Flylords Tees, here!

Do Your Best to Support Local

Shop local and purchase locally-made items from small businesses. Head to your local florist, fly shop, bakery, jewelry store, art gallery, and more to find that perfect gift for the amazing women and mothers in your life!

Thank you to all the supportive and awesome mothers out there, we truly appreciate you.

Gasoline Tanker Spill Near Lyons, CO Kills “An incredible amount of fish”

Shortly after noon on April 27 a tanker truck carrying approximately 8,000 gallons of gasoline overturned onto the highway spilling its contents into North St. Vrain Creek. Shortly after, the EPA released a statement stating they were unsure of how much of the total fuel had entered the water, but estimated that somewhere between 500-1000 gallons had likely leaked into the creek on Apple Valley Rd. The effects of that spill were immediately felt by the trout living in that watershed resulting in a large-scale fish kill. So large in fact, that Colorado Parks and Wildlife said they would have to use “statistically valid methods” to accurately estimate the losses due to the widespread scale of the spill.

More recently, the EPA has stated that there are “free-flowing pockets of gasoline were found moving beneath the ground, countering their previous claim that they believed there were “no lingering effects” of the remnant leaked fuel.

CPW is asking anglers and river stewards in the area to keep an eye out for fish kills and to please take images and report them. You can do that by sending the report and media to LyonsFishInfo@state.co.us.

You can read more about the spill and the EPA clean-up efforts, here!