Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The *New* Website is Up!

The new website landing page is active and the link to the blog is on that page. 

I have been working feverishly, stumbling endlessly, and second-guessing myself at every turn.  I am not a web designer, and have a lot to learn!  I'm sure over the next few weeks and months that I'll change things around and make it more...better.

A few things to be aware of with the new site:

1. You should update your links if you have the chance, but I'll leave this post up for redirects.

2.  You will have to "re"-follow the site through Google Friend Connect, and I hope that you will.  
I hope you enjoy the new layout and features.  Come on over and leave a comment somewhere to let me know it's working!  Thank you to all my encouraging readers, helpers and really just everyone.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peter's Progress

I got an email from Peter C. a few days ago (ok, over a week ago...) that I haven't gotten around to posting and sharing his photos and efforts.  I have to say, this surprised me with how much he accomplished and how important it was.

There is, unfortunately, more in our drainages than just water.  Typically we think of "drainages" as basins which have naturally formed to carry water down and away, eventually into either an ocean or the atmosphere.  We have all seen that more "flows" through these basins than just water; I've seen countless tires, wheelbarrows, refrigerators, and other odd stuff.

To be fair, a lot of this is carried by flood waters (especially flash floods) as they tear through areas that aren't normally clear of debris; a lot of stuff is picked up and carried then.  We can't always blame a "dumper," but this means we have to be even more diligent about cleanup efforts since floods can and do introduce some really awful stuff (and in large quantities) into the waterways.  To That is almost certainly how this door came to be river-born.

From Peter: I went out yesterday and collected some more junk out of the river.  I found this gnarly door half-stuck in the mud on the bank.  Glad to have that thing out of there, rusted hardware and nails, and flaking paint (probably lead-based) so it's not leaching into the river.  Plus this whole bag of other stuff, cans, wrappers, etc.   
A lot of paint is missing from that door, but look at how much is still there--Peter kept every bit of that paint from leaching into the water and tainting it with lead.  Good work, Peter!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bear River

I've been communicating with Brian Kozminski throughout this trash contest, and he's provided me with some great information and some inspiring reports on the work he and his TU chapter have done in Michigan. If you don't know Brian, he is the president of the Miller-Van Winkle chapter of Trout Unlimited. He has been especially active in efforts to benefit Bear River, and I asked him to give me a little background on that waterway. Here is what he replied with:
The Bear River is a unique resource that links Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. The Bear River starts at Walloon Lake and runs east, then north, flowing into Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey. The quality of the Bear River depends upon the integrity of the tributaries flowing into it. In addition to its main tributaries, Haymarsh Creek and Spring Brook, there are several smaller unnamed springs and streams that provide cold water to the Bear River and its extensive wetland system. The Bear flows through farmland and wetland that provide habitat for deer, bear, bobcat, and other wildlife. The Bear's last mile contains the steepest drop of any river in Michigan's lower peninsula (approximately 75 feet). The Bear's watershed provides excellent recreational opportunities for hunting, hiking, fishing, canoeing, birdwatching, and exploring.

Many of the Bear's water quality and habitat problems started over 150 years ago. The Bear was considered a "working river" and its resources generated substantial economic wealth and greatly contributed to the establishment of Petoskey. The Bear's watershed provided rich fish and game resources and valuable timber. Over time, seven dams were built on the Bear to float logs to Lake Michigan, power mills, or generate electricity. As evidenced by the results of a recent river cleanup, the Bear was also seen as a cheap place to dump refuse.

Today, numerous erosion sites along the Bear River, Spring Brook, and Haymarsh Creek degrade water quality and fish habitat. Past abuses are evident in the excessive sand bed loading and widened stream channel. Beaver dams and areas where shoreline vegetation have been removed cause warming. Trash and debris defile the beauty of the river. Changes to the watershed have increased the amount of polluted stormwater runoff. An old dump along the shore has recently been exposed as a result of shoreline erosion. Because rivers carry their illnesses with them, these ailments are transferred to Petoskey's Harbor and Little Traverse Bay.

Local Support of the Bear River
Founded in 1979, the Watershed Council has a long history of working on individual projects in the Bear River watershed, including assistance to landowners regarding shoreline erosion control and wildlife habitat enhancement, review and comment on wetland permits, identification of potentially restorable wetlands in the watershed, review and comment on planning and zoning decisions, beaver control and management, water quality sampling, adopt-a-stream programs, aquatic field trips, assistance with educational interpretation by NCMC, and numerous educational presentations and programs.

In 1999, the Watershed Council initiated a project called "Healing the Bear." The goal of this project is to restore the Bear River watershed to a high quality river ecosystem through a community-based watershed approach. By fixing problem erosion sites, enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and planning for future watershed activities, the ecological integrity and recreational opportunities of the Bear will be more fully realized. Elements of "Healing the Bear" are funded by the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation, the Charlevoix County Community Foundation, and the Conservation Resource Alliance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Update on Lamprey

A few weeks ago I posted some photos of a lamprey being killed/eaten by a water snake. Some concern was expressed by some (and held by me) that it was a Sea Lamprey. Obviously, that particular lamprey would be an unwanted inhabitant; do a quick Google on Sea Lampreys in the Great Lakes and you'll see why.

I contacted the Parks Department and the Missouri Department of Conservation about it just in case it was a Sea. They got back with me after seeing the photos and definitely ruled out Sea Lamprey; it is likely a Silver or Chestnut, both are common in the Mississippi system. So, breathe a sigh of relief with me (and MDC) that the Sea Lamprey has yet to show up around here.

A Great Motto

One of the most active contestants in the Trash Contest has been Karli-Rae from Iowa; she's sent me numerous trash reports and is slowly and steadily eating away at the lead. In one of her emails, she mentioned that she had come up with a perfect catch-phrase for the contest:

"Every Ounce Counts!"

Honestly, I think that fits extremely well, both in terms of the contest and the effect on the habitat that you have through clean-up efforts. Even one bit of garbage out of their water, bank or surrounding area benefits the well-being and health of the wildlife we all enjoy. So, absolutely, EVERY OUNCE COUNTS!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oak Creek in Arizona

Another contestant got in touch with me and immediately showed a real passion for a certain stream: Oak Creek in Northern Arizona. After a few emails back and forth, I asked him to share a little bit about why that stream means so much to him. Here is his reply to me:
I really love to fish oak creek because it is so beautiful. Red rock views, cool water, huge boulders to hide behind while casting. I have caught stocker rainbows and a few stream-bred browns. Usually less than eight inches but they're still fun to catch. I've done really well on bead head PT nymphs, plus I have never bought a fly, I have always tied my own stuff. I got into tying long before fishing because I inherited some supplies and a vise from an Uncle that passed away from a heart attack when I was a kid. My grandfather was also a fly fisherman.
Any stream that has beautiful Rainbows and certainly wild Browns would definitely be a stream high on my list, too. Pretty darn cool; thanks, Peter!

(I took the liberty of stealing some photos off Google Image, and I'm glad I did--this place is amazing. Look at those boulders!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Halloween Water

"You can be whoever you want tonight." That's the line spoken to every doubting fool who doesn't take advantage of Halloween. It's the opportunity to pretend, to explore, and to fool others more than yourself that makes Halloween a grown-up's night. The children, though, are the ones who take that chance and make it the most it can be.

We all know that if we are to be successful on any given stream, we have to play by the stream's rules. The water--and her fish--decide whether we fish streamers or nymphs, whether we wade deep or stalk along the bank, whether we see what lives below the surface or remain blind to what lurks there. What comes with the hard-earned hours of being an "experienced" fly fisherman isn't the ability to always catch fish or even catch a few big fish--it's knowing that once you make the decision to fish this right here water, you are deciding to submit to its lifestyle and attitude. The trick then, is to know how to do that. The treat, if you do, is the opportunity to become someone else for just a while. You have to be who the stream is necessitating you to be. It's Halloween.

I think we all have our favorite water. Water that either is constantly calling us back, or water that we feel especially comfortable in, or even water that haunts us with challenges that have the proven ability to get the better of us. We're human, and humans choose favorites. I have my favorite which stands above my list of other waters I love. The odd thing about it is...I've only been in it twice. There is no question in my mind, though; that is my favorite stream.

I've held a theory for a while now that the streams that we are drawn to the most, and those that we are most likely to call "favorite," are streams that ultimately--perhaps indescribably--represent analogs of our own self. There is enough about life and my self in life that I do not understand; sometimes its simply "nice" to walk up on a place that is more like yourself than you knew to be true 30 seconds prior. It's a bit like going to the costume store for Halloween and seeing one labeled, "Me" and having a chance to see--and be--yourself as you really are. Stream water is brutally honest and we want to know what it has to say. Ultimately, I think that is the best reason why, as fisherman, we love hearing stories of others', but would rather be there ourselves.

When I was on that stream, and why I think about going back there, it was exactly like putting on a "Me" costume and then having fun finding where all the pockets are...knowing I've never been more myself. There are other streams that, because they have demanding rules just the same, allow me to be any number of different types...different costumes for the day. When I want to visit a place that not only inspires the core of myself to be just that--a "Me"--but inspires me to listen and look and be challenged long after I leave...then I think of my favorite water.

Some of you may have no idea what I'm talking about and think I'm drunk or just a complete crazy. Maybe you think I love "fishing" so much that I make it to be more than it really is. Maybe you think that my "obsession" has twisted my brain. A few of you, though, do know what I'm talking about and have been nodding your heads for the past five minutes. You've been to the water that hands you your "Me" costume with that first step inside. You...you know.

Take care of that water because in some very real and very fragile way, you are bound to it. The Odyssean scenes that race before your eyes when you are surrounded by that favorite water are worth learning. When you are there, remember...it's Halloween and you are dressed up as who you may not yet know yourself to be. Find out where all those pockets are while you can.