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PostPosted: May 31st, 2009, 1:39 pm 
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8,000 trout per mile?? Oh, to live in a place with groundwater and some limestone instead of granite and glacial northern New England.

BK, I had heard that the Battenkill decline was primarily a lack of larger fish, and that there were still good numbers of juveniles and fish up to a foot or so? If so, your flooding theory might very well be on the mark. A series of flood events like that could easily alter the habitat enough to remove a lot of the kind of structure that adult trout need to survive in numbers large enough to interest us anglers.

Now, are the increased floods a result of development in the watershed, climate change, or both?


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PostPosted: May 31st, 2009, 6:53 pm 
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Battenkiller wrote:
Wisconsin isn't the first place that comes to mind when folks talk wild trout, but maybe that should change.
That should not change. Its mine, all mine 8)

Actually, its really a crappy place...folks, I warning you, don't fish the Kinni! It sucks...and its in Wisconsin....who wants to go to Wisconsin?!. All they do is drink beer, eat cheese, and talk about the Packers. Naw...head to the real trout fishing in Montana and Colorado.

Save yourselves.

But since I'm stuck here, I could use a little advice...

BK, native, et. al...any recommendations on strike indicators? My eyes aren't what they were and I think I'm missing a lot of fish.

Also, how long do you play your fish? How do you know a trout is ready for the net? This assumes, of course, that I want to return the trout to the river as healthy as possible. The Star Prairie trout farm is just 15 minutes away....so if I want dinner I know where to go.

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Last edited by Strathcona on May 31st, 2009, 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: May 31st, 2009, 7:21 pm 
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There are millions of ways to rig indicators. I have two that I really like.

(1) Dry and dropper. When fish are rising, but I can't get them to take a dry fly, or when fishing shallow water when no obvious hatch is going on, I often fish standard, high floating dry fly at the end of my leader. To the bend of the dry fly hook, I'll attach 16 -36 inches of tippet with a clinch knot, than tie on a second fly that is designed to fish wet. This may be anything from a soft hackle wet fly (great during a caddis emergence) to a bead head stonefly nymph. If the dry fly pauses or sinks, it's a good bet that something has taken the dropper.

(2) Small yarn indicator. If I really want to nymph fish, I attach a small yarn indicator somewhere in the first foot or so of my leader. I like the ones that have little rubber rings to attach to the leader. As a general rule, I like the distance from indicator to the fly at the end of my tippet to be about 1.5 times the water depth I want to fish. I usually fish this with a cast of two flies. One of these will be a big weighted stonefly nymph; the other a small mayfly or caddis larvae. If the indicator stops, sinks, or moves upstream, set the hook.

As for playing fish, the faster the better. I generally fish tackle as heavy as I can get away with, and try to "land" most of the fish I intend to release without netting or touching them. Just get them close to me, reach down with a hemostat or my fingers and grab the hook, and twist to release. Barbless hooks help a lot. this won't work with larger fish or really light tippets. I carry a net for those, and try to get the fish in the net as early as possible. I'd rather lose a fish than kill it trying to land it. Never beach a fish, and keep it in the water as much as possible. If you must touch the fish with your hands, make sure they are wet.


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PostPosted: May 31st, 2009, 8:41 pm 
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Does anyone use strike indicators with dry flies? I simply loose sight of my fly. Sometimes I watch the fly float past me to get a better visual sense of what it looks like on the water...this goes to doftya's point of fishing with a bright colored fly that we can see.

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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 2:40 pm 
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No, NB, the opposite is true regarding the Battenkill. Both the smaller fish and the cover are gone, as well as the heavy insect hatches. Even the chubs are gone. All that are left are a few cannibalistic lunkers here and there, with nowhere for the young of year to hide from. I've stood in the famous Spring Hole and watched an 8" brown scramble madly across the surface with an impossibly huge shadow pursuing it at high speed. Gets your blood pumping for sure, but no one yet has been able to nail the monster that owns that pool.

I feel that climate change is responsible for the out-of-sync flooding. The Battenkill has always had big floods. It is actually quite a drainage area for such a small river. What can be seen from the record is six years in a row of major flooding during a time of year that, historically, floods are not common. For this to occur right after the fall spawning is over could only mean that the spawning redds, and the eggs therein, were being washed off the bottom and carried downstream.

At normal summer flow the 'Kill runs about 300-400 cfs. Fall flows are sometimes as low as 200 cfs until the leafs fall, stopping the transpiration of millions of gallons of groundwater back into the air. During the spring melt it reaches 2000-4000 cfs. At 4000 cfs, you can hear boulders rolling over as the current pushes them downstream (probably a good reason why spring-spawning rainbows never took hold in the river). These post-spawning fall floods in the 90s that I am speaking of were in the 8000-12,000 cfs range. The entire bottom had to be lifted and washed downstream during such a spate.

This, to me, was the smoking gun. But the politics of the situation demand a solution, and in order for a solution to be found, there has to be a causative agent that can be addressed by man. Therefore, the following sops to the public have been offered:

-Mergansers (When in doubt, always blame the mergansers)

-Bald eagle reintroduction (I've seen exactly one eagle with a fish on the river, and it was of such a size that I would brag for a year if I ever caught it)

-New waste treatment plant in Manchester is releasing less effluent into the river (Have these guys ever calculated exactly how many metric tons of detritus end up in the river due to leaf drop by way of comparison?)

-Reduction of farming has caused a decrease in fertilizer and manure entering into the water and reducing the potential for biomass (The solution for this, I suppose, would be the same as for the waste treatment facility... dump more shit into the river?)

-The development of Manchester as an outlet shopping center has increased the amount of pavement which makes the river flash flood during storms (OK, a few parking lots have skewed the groundwater flow of a river with a 400 sq. mile drainage :doh: )

-The canoe liveries (that's right, blame the lousy boaters) have been out there cutting all of the strainers from the banks to protect boaters. This is 100% total hogwash, and is a myth perpetuated by disgruntled fisherman who don't want to share the resource with the rest of the public. I have never seen a single chainsawed stump sticking out from the river bank in 25 years of fishing it. (The fact is, the liveries should do something about some of these death traps but don't. Most of the river runs through private lands, and the landowners don't think kindly toward the liveries in the first place. The last thing any of them would do would be to jeopardize their already fragile standing in the community. Instead, they leave it to the river to clean itself every few years)

-Recreational tubers (Kinda like river potatoes, I guess) are dragging their feet along the ground and disturbing the substrate with subsequent aquatic insect loss. What? (Hey, I'm actually all over this notion, as long as it works to keep the damn rubber hatch from occurring every summer. There are 10 tubers to every canoe or kayaker)


...Ah, I'll quit here, the list gets progressively more pathetic. The fact is, most of these things had already happened years ago, when the fishery was very robust with up to 3000 fish/mile in the prime habitat sections, and when Vermont had a 12 fish limit (now no-kill for the entire Vermont stretch).

There is talk of a steady 30 year decline that is said to be supported by data from shocking surveys (very suspect IMHO since all ecologic models have fish populations remaining stable during stress periods followed by a catastrophic crash when conditions fail to rebound. Where is the science that is being ignored by the scientists? If there was a steady decline, why were there so many fish in 1993?

Based purely on angler observation, it all happened in the early to mid 90s, and anyone who has fished the river for years before that will agree. The drop was precipitous, not gradual, occurring over a mere two to three year period. And... there is only one series of events that correlate to the anecdotal evidence of a rapidly declining fishery, and that is the fall floods.

When I finally convinced Bill Schach, the DEC field biologist for this area, that they should at least think about this possibility, he agreed that I was onto something, but took the approach that it was like discovering your poor gas economy was due to a hole in the tank. If the hole can't be repaired, you have no choice but to keep pouring gas into it. Most of the local fisherman on the river are meat fishermen, and they are only too glad for Fisheries to manage most of the river as put-and-take, with the addition of 1000 2-year olds released into the 3.5 miles of no-kill water. Interesting management strategy as 95% of these large stockies don't survive the winter.

My feeling is, if there are some wild fish still in the river, then reproduction is occurring. If post-spawning flooding is occurring, the successful breeders are the one digging out redds in spots on the stream that are best sheltered from the effects of the floods. If we let nature take its course, the river will be populated by trout smart enough to breed out of harms way and smart enough to fool even the best fly fishermen. That's what has always been special about the Battenkill, the challenge of catching some of the wiliest trout there are. I can't see how introducing factory fish into the gene pool will accomplish that. :-?

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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 2:48 pm 
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Quote:
Recreational tubers (Kinda like river potatoes)


o geez another coffee out the nose comment.. :lol:

Reminds me of when I went ww canoeing with an icepick on the Deerfield..to skewer the taters.

Back to the subject..sorry for the interruption.


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 3:55 pm 
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BK--

Your thoughts made me dig deep into the dark recesses of my file of electronic documents. This explains far better than I did what I was trying to say over the weekend.

You may have already seen this, but just in case:

http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/librar ... n_Kill.pdf

I think the Resource Assessment section will be of particular interest--it sure seems to confirm you assessment of a rapid decline in the early to mid 1990's.

I'm not sure how much the situation in NY parallels what has been observed in VT. One obvious difference is that in VT the stocking option was considered and rejected, while it sounds as though the opposite is true in the Empire State.

If you've not done so already, I'd encourage you to be in touch with Ken Cox, the author of the management plan for VT. I've worked with Ken a little bit on other issues, and he strikes me as a careful scientist and a good resource manager.


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 6:30 pm 
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BK-

Hearing about the decline of the Battenkill is really depressing. It used to be a destination river.

I have to say I hate canoes and kayaks on the Kinnickinnic. They piss me off to no end, as do the silly fly fishing tubes. I'm all for designated public water use. The BWCA taught me this: Not all water can be open to all types of recreation. When you have a resource as special as the Kinni or Battenkill, it needs to protected for the prime value it offers. I don't expect every lake to be canoe only, and not every river can be a tubers paradise. The Apple river in Wisconsin is also a fine trout stream - but it is pounded by the tube-party-drunk industry. Buses and buses of tubers. OK, if you want to tube, tube the Apple. Its knee deep in spent beer cans. But then please, stay off the Kinni. If I were the DNR Czar, I would make the Kinni, Rush and Trout Run fly fishing only. Ban boats and live bait. There are plenty of great rivers in Wisconsin for canoeing and bait fishing.

But what do I know, I'm just a GOF.

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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 7:32 pm 
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Where I come from, the angler/boater argument is known as Row vs Wade :lol:


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 9:39 pm 
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native brookie wrote:
Where I come from, the angler/boater argument is known as Row vs Wade :lol:
:lol:

I wanted to get back to my ant pattern. Here's the skinny...ants are the unknown hatch. In short, being a male ant sucks. Sure, you get fancy wings, but once you have sex...you die.

And the wind blows your carcass in the stream....

Image

A male ant of the Camponotus japonicus species, which fall on a leaf to die after mating

Image

So, its a great fly for early summer - especially after a rain and when the wind is blowing. Now, if any of you are up for it let me know and I will draw you a sketch.

When I grew up in Rochester (MN) there was a barber shop and the barber also ran a fly shop out of the space (when you think about it - not a bad business model). So he used to cut our hair and talk trout. He sold me all my gear, tied most the flies he peddled which were all designed for the local water, and of course he had lots of sage advice. The winged ant was his pattern. He swore by it.

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PostPosted: June 1st, 2009, 10:12 pm 
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Location: Central Maine--Sheepscot Watershed
A flying ant fall on a brook trout pond? Heaven!

There can be quite large "hatches" of large flying ants--about a size 14, carpenter ants, I think--on the ponds here. I've seen them around Memorial Day, and also in mid-September.

A southwest breeze that blows early in the day and ends during the afternoon can mean fabulous afternoon fishing for cruising trout.

I have an ugly pattern with antron wings, a single turn of brown hackle, and a dubbed black abdomen and thorax. It looks like hell, but the trout love it.

On small streams, I love a small (18) black ant as a searching pattern when there is no hatch on.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2009, 10:45 pm 
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Hey Strath, can you post a pic of that chewed up ant fly? If BK has some confidence in me, I might as well try tying one and post a pic of the finished fly to see if it passes running the gauntlet here! :wink:

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2009, 12:11 pm 
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I'd love to, but its in pretty rough shape - nuttin' but threads. I will take a couple pics of some similar patterns and draw up a sketch and post it -- I won't get to it until tomorrow, but I will.

It will be fun to see what you come up with :D

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2009, 1:44 pm 
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native brookie wrote:

You may have already seen this, but just in case:

http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/librar ... n_Kill.pdf

I think the Resource Assessment section will be of particular interest--it sure seems to confirm you assessment of a rapid decline in the early to mid 1990's.


If you've not done so already, I'd encourage you to be in touch with Ken Cox, the author of the management plan for VT. I've worked with Ken a little bit on other issues, and he strikes me as a careful scientist and a good resource manager.




Yes, I'm familiar with the Vermont report, but thanks for sending the link my way.

I don't know Ken personally, but I have spoken with him on a few occasions back in the 90s. He has a great reputation as a careful scientist, but he appears to have made a reversal in thinking since I last spoke to him.

Back then, he was quite convinced that the stream shocking studies (which must be accepted as mere "snapshots" taken at a particular time on readily accessible lies of river) showed an undeniable gradual reduction in trout population over the proceeding fifteen period. In the report he now claims that the decline was precipitous. He also felt that merganser predation was the greatest factor at the time (based strictly on anecdotal reports of big increases in the merganser population) and not the presumed (but, as the report states, not documented) decline in stream side cover that is given as the number one reason.

The dates given in the report are the accepted dates, but I now realize that my previous statement was in error, and that my personal observations were for a period a few years later, starting in the spring of 1997. One of the things that jogged my memory was that it was in the fall following the first really disastrous Battenkill season that I went on my Montana trip. I just found an envelope of old receipts from that trip, and they were dated from 1998. So that would place the day the music really died on the 'Kill two years later than I previously mentioned. Not that the fishery wasn't already appearing to be in decline, at least based on creel censuses, which is why Vermont created a two-mile slot limit area to try to improve the fishing. But, to quote the report (underlining mine):

Quote:
From 1994 to 1999 the regulation established a protected slot length limit of 10-14 inches, a reduced creel limit of three fish per day, and angling by artificial lures and flies only.

...However, it was not apparent at the time that the brown trout population throughout the Batten Kill main stem was declining.


That's because it wasn't. In fact, as long as we're on flying ants here as well, I got one of my very first glimpses into the true number on Battenkill trout during a late August ant fall on the pool behind the State Line Diner right on the NY/VT border. Always a very productive pool, this 200 yard stretch positively lit up with hundreds of risers of all sizes coming up to the ants that blanketed the water. That was in 1996. Obviously, there were plenty of wild trout in the river at that time.

That's why it struck me so profoundly when I first came across the peak streamflow data. Thinking about this today, I spent the entire morning looking frantically for my records to no avail. Apparently they are stashed on my old PC. But in my search, not only did I find the old Montana receipts, but I also discovered that the USGS data is still available online. There is a new gauging station on the 'Kill, but I was able to at least find the peak flow records for the old one. Here is the Battenkill River Peak Streamflow Historical Record for the old gauging station.

Notice that the first post-spawning peak flow of stream bed altering size occurred in Jan. 1996. This wouldn't have affected the catchable fish during the following season, but would certainly have dislodged miles of young developing fry from their shelter. That's why, IMO, the following year there were less small fish. Six more years of such late season flows in a row (12,300 cfs in Dec. of 2001) had to have taken their toll.

I don't claim that this was the only factor stressing the Battenkill trout population, but since my limited understanding of trout ecology leads me to understand that populations remain relatively stable in spite of stress until a final calamitous decline occurs, I really feel that these floods were the straw that broke the camel's back.

My friend Greg Cuda is one of the folks pursuing habitat improvement, and he has helped procure funding of close to $100K in order to "restore" the bank side cover. They are placing large root wads into the bank that are supposedly allowing cover for the young of year to escape predation.

Sure enough, the area was shocked and found to have higher numbers of young of year brown trout than elsewhere on the river. But the project is centered right upstream of the Green River, a major trout spawning trib to the 'Kill. No small wonder when a few hundred of these small fish find their way into the main river and are able to stay because of the cover. Doesn't mean squat when trying to determine if the Battenkill itself is rebounding or not.

Just above and below the Two Rivers Project area are dozens of prime trout cover areas. They may not meet the strict definition used in the report (i.e. pools>4' in depth), but they the same type of dark, sheltered spots where trout have always risen, and they appear to now be as devoid of life as they first seemed back in the 90s. I know these spots intimately, and they always held trout in the past. I don't know why anecdotal angler observations are held in such low esteem, they are really much more accurate than any shocking study, and tons more credible than a local resident claiming, "Gee, I've never seen so many mergansers."

All in all, still a sad mystery to me in its totality. But I have faith that the fishery will eventually rebound, and I give credit to guys like Ken Cox for having the integrity to try to approach this as a scientific problem, even if I have a few quibbles with his methodology.

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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2009, 3:03 pm 
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Strath...designated use is in place on some rivers in the south.
Some folks were trying to loby to get spring access for Canoes.
Fish loby is way bigger than recreational boating......communists on paper make sence to some.....but when you got a big group against a smaller lobby..... rivers are restricted or are managed to the detrament of the other interest.
Vermont releases on the West River. Going away.

There's talk of a re-habitation method of cutting trees into rivers EZ water can explain it a whole lot better. There's some ideas to chain some trees to the Tellico to improve fish habitat.
Anywho only caught it in passing.......seems real smart to me create death traps. Really be careful what you wish for.
Re-classifing rivers and tiered access, don't recall that being anything to do with firing tea overboard or come to think of it, the bearded guy sitting in the chair you all snap pictures of.....yea, I think he was on about equality.
If the fish are disappearing make it a nature zone where all activity is ceased including the disturbance caused by catch and release....... ooops.....I think another bearded chap migh have an issue with that :P

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