Archive for April, 2011

Shoals so dense as to slow the passage of ships…

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on April 30, 2011 by stflyfisher

Such was North America at the time is was “discovered”; fish so abundant, according to Christopher Columbus, that they swam thick as shoals, and slowed the passage of his ships. Not long after, the explorer John Cabot returned from the waters around what is now Newfoundland and reported that codfish could be caught by merely hanging wicker baskets over a ship’s side. Some, to this day, are incredulous at these and similar claims: codfish as big as men, oysters as large as shoes, 20 lb lobsters, 8 to 12 foot sturgeon, Atlantic Salmon runs that choked tributaries…

A good haul of cod in 1921 before the entire Grand Banks fishery collapsed...

It’s not like early explorers were Nat Geo-accurate. But later reports, by Lewis and Clark, seem to echo what Christopher Columbus and John Cabot saw in the new land. Consider that the Lewis and Clark expedition was stopped on the Missouri River by a buffalo herd crossing and had to wait “several hours” before the river was clear of buffalo. Indeed, the herd to the west of the Mississippi at its peak was estimated to be comprised of 30 to 75 million individuals. That’s a lot of bison burgers…

Imagine the herd all of these bison skulls belonged to... (Picture circa 1870)

Progress and the environment have been at odds almost to the day America started. The enormous cod fishery of the Grand Banks is gone. Buffalo live in herds that are a shadow of their former glory. Atlantic salmon were once native to almost every U.S. river north of the Hudson River; remnant wild populations are now known in only 11 rivers.

But Mother Nature will work with us. Give her a little break and she takes hold. A town park left alone, for example, can harbor native brook trout. Other encouraging stories abound: the re-establishment of shad runs, sturgeon, and striped bass.

The environment is cleaner these days across much of the nation and certainly in the Southern Tier. Wildlife such as eagles and osprey, once a rarity on local rivers, are now commonly seen. Fish the Chenango River as far down as downtown Binghamton, and you’re likely to see snowy white egrets also fishing the river…

Looking upstream on the Chenango River where egrets find the fishing to be just fine...

But there’s a potentially dark storm cloud looming just to our south…

A natural gas drilling rig stands amidst the autumn beauty of the Pennsylvania countryside...

Pennsylvania is sprouting up rigs like dandelions these days. The drillers have come to harvest natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, a huge formation of marine sedimentary rock underlying parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland, and named for a distinctive outcrop near, of all places, the village of Marcellus, New York.

An outcrop of Marcellus Shale

The shale contains untapped natural gas reserves that were thought to be inaccessible until technological advances in horizontal drilling referred to as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, came about. But the process of fracking as it stands now has its drawbacks, as recently explained in a presentation made by a Trout Unlimited representative at one of our monthly TU chapter meetings.

Drilling is a potential economic boom for the northern Appalachian region, a region that is not exactly prospering economically. Ironically, this same area, particularly West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is still reeling from century-old impacts of the energy industry, including acid mine drainage from coal mines and the devastating ecological impacts of mountain top removal practices. So just as the environment has a chance to recover with the help of conservation-minded sportsmen, it seems to be under siege again.

The drilling issue is divisive, even among sportsmen. NY currently has a moratorium on drilling as it rushes to better understand what’s at stake, but there are many who want action now. I know of hunters who own land currently under lease (at a good price, I might add) and who salivate at the thought of gas royalties. I also know other sportsmen who have told me, unabashedly, that if they did own land they’d “drill, baby, drill”, collect, and leave…

Most recently, another of a series of gas drilling incidents in Pennsylvania serves as a reminder that there’s a price to pay for “progress”. Personally, I can’t but help to look at our scenic creeks, streams, and rivers and wonder what their future may be…

The West Branch of the Delaware could some day serve up its water for drilling

If only those gripped by the potential for monetary gain could spend a day with ole’ Christopher Columbus or John Cabot, to see how far we’ve come…

Tight lines…

Short Casts: Could be a soggy opener for PA

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on April 15, 2011 by stflyfisher

NY trout fishing has been open just shy of two weeks. Reports have been mixed – from really good fishing to “not-a-thing”. The variation can at least partially be attributed to the whipsaw weather we’ve enjoyed – and most around these parts know what I’m talking about.

This past Wednesday and Thursday are a classic example – an all day soaking rain and chilly temps on Wednesday, just in time for bluebird skies, a warm 60 degree day-time high, and…

The lower section of Nanticoke Creek on Thusday, 4/14 - robins singing, the sun is out - what more could one want...?

high water with a distinctive muddy stain to it on Thursday. The picture above was taken by yours truly while on lunch break. I hate to admit it, but on beautiful days when I have to work, and could be enjoying the inspiring environs of trout, I’m selfishly glad for high water.

Thanks to two days of drying out, local creeks and streams are settling back down to decent levels, as evidenced by this pic of the Owego Creek gauge…

Owego Creek is back to good fishing levels - just in time for more rain...

and just in time for Mother Nature to throw more slack in that drift with a forecast of steady rain and cool temps for Saturday, which just happens to be the opener to the south of us in Pennsylvania.

Dark green is not good for anglers...

Early bird anglers will be cold, but best off, as the rain isn’t really supposed to kick in until noon. Water levels could be back up by late afternoon with the ground as saturated as it is, so if you plan on hitting the opener in pee-aayy, or some of our local re-stocked creeks in NY, don’t sleep in.

Tight lines…