Thompson River Steelhead Now Officially Endangered

 

Thompson River steelhead are now officially considered endangered under Canada's Species At Risk Act (SARA). Russell Miller photo

Thompson River steelhead are now officially considered endangered under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). Russell Miller photo

In the April May 2018 issue of Fly Fisherman (on sale now) we reported that Thompson River steelhead are on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 200 fish expected in the final tally of fish returning to spawn in late 2017. The cause is legal but indiscriminate gill netting in the Fraser River by First Nations and commercial fishermen. We also reported that the only way to save Thompson River steelhead may be a a listing of the fish under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA). A SARA listing could outlaw all activities endangering Thompson steelhead.

Update: Since that story went to press, The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) completed its emergency assessment of Thompson River and Chilcotin River steelhead and has determined both populations are at imminent risk of extinction. Both were assessed by COSEWIC as Endangered and recommended for an emergency listing order under SARA.

Only 177 adult steelhead returned to the Thompson in 2017 and only 58 fish returned to the Chilcotin. Both are tributaries of the Fraser river and are impacted by downstream gillnetting. In both cases, the numbers represent the lowest ever recorded.

The new COSEWIC assessments have been forwarded to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, The Honourable Catherine McKenna, who  will make recommendations for listing and protecting the two species.

For more information, see the April-May 2018 issue of Fly Fisherman or newswire.ca

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Fly Angler Prevails at 2018 Cuda Bowl

2018 Cuda Bowl

They can be big, they can be bad, and if you don’t keep your wits about you, things can go sideways in a hurry — but they can be a ton of fun!  The results of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament in Key West are in, and it appears that a good time was had by all.

The Florida-based salt water flats fishing challenge brought anglers from all over the country to compete in catching and releasing Atlantic Barracuda, with both Fly and Spin fishing divisions represented. This year’s overall winner was a Fly angler who traveled from the neighboring state of Georgia to participate.

Barracuda are one of the larger and most plentiful inshore game fish, inhabiting reefs and flats as an apex predator. While they eat almost anything they can get their mouths around, they subsist primarily on Needlefish, a similarly proportioned shallow water fish.  Known by anglers for their amazing speed and acrobatic leaps when hooked, Barracuda also wield a mouthful of razor sharp teeth that not only necessitate the use of steel leaders to keep them from biting off the fly, but also require extreme care in handling, with unhooking for release generally being done with long nosed pliers and Boga grips.

As reported by the Florida Keys News,  “Scott Christian of Alpharetta, Georgia, released 246.75 inches of barracuda to win the fly division of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament that ended Feb. 3 in the Lower Florida Keys. Guided by Captain John Benvenuto of Key West, he earned the title of divisional grand champion.”

“Christian’s catches included the fly division’s largest individual barracuda, measuring 48.75 inches. Tournament organizers said the fish was the event’s largest ever caught on fly. Christian also took top honors for the most barracuda releases on fly.”

2018 Cuda Bowl

Christian’s largest fish of 48.75” was only two inches off the mark for the largest overall fish taken in the tournament, a 50.75” inch Cuda taken on spinning gear. The tournament’s Facebook page posted photos of competing anglers and their catches, including winners in the women’s and junior divisions.  The flats challenge drew 46 boats and 75 registered anglers who released a total of 431 barracuda over two fishing days.

The 2018 Cuda Bowl proved once again that salt water fly anglers can take on just about any species, including one the spookiest fish in the sea.  Just watch where you stick your fingers!

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Fly-Fisherman Takes Home 2018 Cuda Bowl

2018 Cuda Bowl

They can be big, they can be bad, and if you don’t keep your wits about you, things can go sideways in a hurry — but they can be a ton of fun!  The results of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament in Key West are in, and it appears that a good time was had by all.

The Florida-based salt water flats fishing challenge brought anglers from all over the country to compete in catching and releasing Atlantic Barracuda, with both Fly and Spin fishing divisions represented. This year’s overall winner was a Fly angler who traveled from the neighboring state of Georgia to participate.

Barracuda are one of the larger and most plentiful inshore game fish, inhabiting reefs and flats as an apex predator. While they eat almost anything they can get their mouths around, they subsist primarily on Needlefish, a similarly proportioned shallow water fish.  Known by anglers for their amazing speed and acrobatic leaps when hooked, Barracuda also wield a mouthful of razor sharp teeth that not only necessitate the use of steel leaders to keep them from biting off the fly, but also require extreme care in handling, with unhooking for release generally being done with long nosed pliers and Boga grips.

As reported by the Florida Keys News,  “Scott Christian of Alpharetta, Georgia, released 246.75 inches of barracuda to win the fly division of the 2018 Cuda Bowl Tournament that ended Feb. 3 in the Lower Florida Keys. Guided by Captain John Benvenuto of Key West, he earned the title of divisional grand champion.”

2018 Cuda Bowl

“Christian’s catches included the fly division’s largest individual barracuda, measuring 48.75 inches. Tournament organizers said the fish was the event’s largest ever caught on fly. Christian also took top honors for the most barracuda releases on fly.”

Christian’s largest fish of 48.75” was only two inches off the mark for the largest overall fish taken in the tournament, a 50.75” inch Cuda taken on spinning gear. The tournament’s Facebook page posted photos of competing anglers and their catches, including winners in the women’s and junior divisions. The flats challenge drew 46 boats and 75 registered anglers who released a total of 431 barracuda over two fishing days.

The 2018 Cuda Bowl proved once again that salt water fly anglers can take on just about any species, including one the spookiest fish in the sea. Just watch where you stick your fingers!

The post Fly-Fisherman Takes Home 2018 Cuda Bowl appeared first on Fly Fisherman.

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Public Stream Access in Colorado Becomes Federal Issue

Public-Stream-Access

Greg McDremid photo

Public stream access in Colorado has once again become a contested issue, and this time it’s being argued in federal court.  Landowners in the centennial state claim that they own not only riverbanks, but river bottoms, and that fishermen wading midstream are committing criminal trespass.

As reported last week in the Denver Post, Colorado Springs angler and guidebook author Roger Hill has brought suit in US District Court, maintaining that the bottom of a river is actually public property. At issue is a federal doctrine called “Navigability for Title”,  where in cases that people or goods have been historically transported on the water, it establishes public utility of the resource — but only if the use was prior to the designation of statehood.

Hill is suing landowner Mark Warsewa, who holds title to property that spans both banks of the Arkansas River. Hill has had repeated confrontations with Warsewa after accessing the river from a public access point, and wading into the section of water that runs between Warsewa’s holdings.

Cable-Preventing-Public-Access-to-River

Steel cable across the river from bank to bank, presenting an inobvious but potentially lethal threat to anyone floating the river.

The Arkansas has a long history of commercial use, from the downstream floating of raw railroad ties in the mid-19th century to today’s white water rafting industry, with proponents claiming the river is one of the most heavily used recreational waterways in the nation.

Coverage in the Post continues, quoting Hill’s attorneys as stating,  “There has been a lot of confusion around this. Private landowners have been led to believe that they have the right to block access to waterways in front of their property, but that is only true if that river was not navigable for title purposes,” said Mark Squillace, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School who, with Dillon attorney Alexander Hood, is representing Hill. “This case has the potential to bring some clarity to the law and show that, yes, like any other state in the country, we have the right to access state-owned river beds under navigability for title.”

Neighboring states in the region, notably Montana, have had the question resolved for some time, with Montana stream access laws allowing wading anglers full access to stream beds up to the high water mark of navigable watercourses there. The question of what comprises the definition of navigability then comes into question, and what vessels were intended to be accommodated by early lawmakers. If river barges were part of the original intended vision, then inflatable rafts that only draw inches of water — and certainly free floated logs, despite historical precedent — might not be encompassed within legal bounds. Currently, navigability remains legally undefined in Colorado.

Warning Sign for Public Stream Access

Public warning sign by Forest Service to anglers.

One hundred miles west of of Warsewa’s property lies the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, a much smaller stream than the Arkansas. Here, a rancher sued in 2001 to bar rafting access to outfitters through his property. To reinforce his position, the rancher strung a length of 1/4” steel cable across the river from bank to bank, presenting an inobvious but potentially lethal threat to anyone floating the river. As of August, 2017, the cable remained in place, with the only public warnings being printed cautions from the Forest Service attached to pit toilets in a campground upriver nearby. As with the question of access rights, whether this comprises felony menacing is apparently a matter of definition, as local law enforcement has not intervened.

Public stream access is an ongoing and thorny issue that is still winding it’s way through the court system, and any resolutions are bound to have broad implications for sportsmen and property owners alike.

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Bonefish Spawning in Captivity

Bonefish Spawning in Captivity

Bonefish have now been observed attempting to reproduce in captivity, a new development in marine fisheries science.  As reported by our friends (and yours) at the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, schools of Albula Vulpes have been recorded exhibiting spawning behavior in the large aquariums at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

Bonefish, a favorite target species for salt water fly rod anglers, have global tropical distribution but are a major focus of an extremely developed and mature sport fishery in the Caribbean ocean.  Fisherman from around the world travel to area resorts and employ local guide services in pursuit of a fish that can sprint at over 50 mph when hooked. Along with Tarpon and Permit, Bonefish are part of the highly prized “Caribbean Grand Slam”, where anglers catch — and release — a specimen of all three species in a days fishing.

Despite the sporting and economic importance that Bonefish represent to the region, little is known about their reproductive and migratory habits.

Recent press from the BTT reports, “Over the past ten years Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, working alongside our many collaborators, has gained valuable insight into bonefish spawning behavior, but there is still a lot we don’t know. One way we’re trying to decipher the riddles of bonefish spawning is through the Bonefish Restoration Research Project, a collaboration with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, which aims to spawn and rear bonefish in captivity. Spawning and rearing bonefish in captivity will help us understand the ecological and physiological requirements for bonefish to spawn, as well as for the survival of their eggs and larvae.”

Bonefish Schooling

After hearing rumors that schools of captive specimens at the Atlantis Resort appeared to be engaging in reproductive activity, members of the BTT inquired with management at the private aquarium and were shown video footage that backed up the claim. The aquarium at Atlantis is big enough to accommodate large numbers specimens of a given species, which seems to drive spawning behavior in Bonefish when total school size reaches a certain point. This would be supported by anecdotal reports from guides observing pre-spawning schools of several hundred fish staging in the wild for spawning in deep water.

After coordinating with project member organizations, Bonefish Restoration Research Project researchers mounted a collection expedition to the Berry Islands, and working with local guide Percy Darville netted over 200 fish which were transferred to the Atlantis tanks unharmed. Members and volunteers included Dave Wert (Atlantis Aquarium Director), Todd Kemp (Atlantis Head Collector), Vernel Ching (Atlantis Aquarists), Justin Lewis (BTT Bahamas Initiative Manager), and Nina Sanchez (Bahamian student and BTT research assistant)

BTT staff reports, “Our hope is that the bonefish added to the aquarium will help trigger spawning activity in the near future, which will help us gain a better understanding of bonefish spawning behavior. This information will be directly applicable to ongoing efforts to identify and protect bonefish spawning locations in the Bahamas, and will also inform the work that is ongoing at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.”

Readers should please consider making a tax deductible donation to the efforts of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, in the interest of maintaining the sustainable health of all species Caribbean sport fish.

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Ancient Lake Ontario Salmon Were Not Migratory

Lake-Ontario-Salmon

Ancient populations of Atlantic Salmon in Lake Ontario were completely landlocked, never venturing to the ocean, according to a recent study from Canadian researchers. Now-extinct strains of Atlantic Salmon (Salmo Salar) in the easternmost of the Great Lakes apparently had a life cycle that was based entirely in fresh water, contradicting decades of accepted scientific consensus in regards to the migratory behavior of the species, which have a native range from the Upper Atlantic Seaboard to northern Europe and Russia. The functional extinction of Atlantics within Lake Ontario was recorded by the year 1900, and is widely considered to be the initial motivation for modern fisheries conservation policy in the Americas.

Lead authors Eric Guiry and Suzanne Leeds-Howard from the University of British Columbia and the Perca Zooarchaeological Center analyzed the carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes found in scale samples from taxidermy mounts dating back to the 1850’s, and in skeletal remains from native Iroquoian campsites both on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario and from the middle section of the St. Lawrence river, much closer to the sea. The St. Lawrence is the massive downstream outlet for the entire Great Lakes system, draining the largest freshwater impoundment on the planet. However, any upstream movements by salmon into the upper lakes system starting with Lake Erie would be prevented by an insurmountable migratory barrier, Niagara Falls.

The researchers found that the isotopic signatures in the samples from the western Lake Ontario data set showed clear differences from those from the St. Lawrence, indicating long term exposure to either fresh water or marine elements during the fish’s life cycle. This means that while the St. Lawrence populations were anadromous (running downstream to the ocean to mature), the western fish were entirely potadromous — living their entire lives in fresh water after being spawned in tributary streams, and using the giant lake itself as a maturing ground. Outside of the incidence of small numbers of relatively stunted “Landlocked Salmon” in New England lakes (probably of introduced origin) this is counter to most perceptions of Atlantic Salmon being uniformly anadromous and requiring access to salt water to support self-sustaining populations.

Lake-Ontario-Drainage-Basin

The cause for the initial demise of Salmo Salar in Lake Ontario is still subject to speculation, despite the application of modern science to the question. However, historical overfishing, overall pollution and degradation or blockage of spawning stream resources have all been implicated as a cause. Despite this, modern aquaculture and sporting introductions of species of Pacific salmon into the Great Lakes system — notably Chinook and Steelhead — have been wildly successful, despite those species exhibiting anadromous behaviors in their home range of the Pacific northwest and far eastern Russia. This would indicate that current environmental conditions for reintroduction of Atlantic salmon into their ancestral potadromous home range could be acceptable. The Great Lakes have been subject to decades of regulatory directives that have resulted in improved water quality since a low point in the late 1960’s, with the start of the modern environmental movement after the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland caught fire due to hydrocarbon pollution.

It is unknown if the currently established pacific species in the Great Lakes were forcibly adapted to the necessity of landlocked behavior, or if a subset of the introduced population carried a predisposition in the first place. If so, that knowledge would be crucial for fisheries planning. The authors of the study conclude that re-establishing the Lake Ontario Atlantics will be dependent on identifying strains or certain races of the fish that are genetically inclined to potadromy, if the goal is to have similar success to that of the Pacific species.

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Trout Bum Love: Granny and Jeff Currier

Jeff-and-Granny-Currier

In 2015, I drove from Bozeman, Montana to Victor, Idaho—through the Madison Valley elk herd, by the monster trout of Henry’s Lake, over the Ashton railroad tracks, past the siren call of huckleberry shakes at the Victor Emporium, took a right at the Knotty Pine Supper Club, and ended up in a chicken coop which was converted to a recording studio by bluegrass legend Ben Winship. Filmmaker RA Beattie and I met there with pro angler Jeff Currier to record segments for the fly-fishing film Turning Points North.

The goal of the film was to capture Currier landing a 50-inch Saskatchewan pike on his 50th birthday. Jeff Currier is a prominent pro angler in the Greater Yellowstone region. He’s known for having hit all the hot spots before they were hot spots—whitewater trips for mahseer in India, jungle tarpon in Central America, trout on the Henry’s Fork when the fishery was at its peak. But he’s also known as a do-it-­your-self achiever. As he told me at the time: “Growing up in New England, I never saw myself as an office boy. I studied to be a naturalist in college, and held a lofty goal for after graduation: to be a fishing bum.”

He started at the bottom of the totem pole at the Jack Dennis fly shop in Jackson, Wyoming, working for $4.75 an hour, made his way to manager, and then became more of a guide, instructor, book author, and artist.

“I was always drawing knots for people,” he said, “So, I wrote my first book on saltwater fishing. Gary LaFontaine told me I would have to pay an artist to illustrate it. I said ‘screw that’ and decided to teach myself to paint. I illustrated the book and Gary published it.”

Jeff now focuses on traveling around the world for exploratory and hosted angling adventures and produces original artwork, as well as maintains an impressive travel blog. After recording, we returned to Currier’s place to peruse his trophy fishing photos, and view the mounts hanging in his garage from his days as a budding taxidermist, like a possum hanging from a branch and holding a beer can. We snapped a few photos, and on the way out the door, I noticed a pair of boots with elaborate white quarter stitching, the kind of boots that separate the women from the girls.

“Jeff,” I asked. “These are clearly not yours. Who do these boots belong to?”

“Those are my wife’s. I love it when she wears those boots!” he exclaimed.

Jeff, as it turns out, is married to a kickass fly fisher who also has fabulous taste in Western footwear. But I was late to the game. Everyone from the Henry’s Fork to the Snake knows that the Jeff Currier story is actually the Jeff and Granny story. So I returned to Victor in Spring 2017 to get the other half.

In the early 80s, Jeff was a sophomore at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, an outpost town located 5.5 hours north of Milwaukee on the shore of Lake Superior.

“I fished every single day of college. I met her at the college bar, back when you had a bar on campus,” said Jeff. Granny—who at that time went by her given name, “Yvonne”—was smoking and playing quarters. Jeff worked his way into the game and asked her out.

“Our first date was ice fishing,” Granny recalled. “Jeff picked me up in his ’76 Dodge Aspen. I stepped into it and asked, ‘What is that horrible smell?’ He said, ‘Oh shit, I spilled a bucket of minnows in here and haven’t had a chance to clean them up.’”

“There are probably still a few in there,” Jeff said. The Aspen was Jeff’s grandmother’s, and now sits on the Curriers’ lawn in Victor. He drove it from age 17 to 43, with 517,000 miles on the odometer by the time it found its final resting place, where it’s now filled with firewood. In their bathroom hangs a photo of Jeff and Granny sitting atop the Aspen in its glory days, parked on frozen Lake Superior on one of their dates.

“I’m from Harlem, so I had never even been on ice like that. I’d never seen a frozen lake,” Granny explained.

Escape from the City
Granny’s father was a German who in his teens was forced to join the Hitler Youth. He immigrated to New York after the war, worked as a carpenter, and met her mother, an African American woman from Florida, in a Harlem nightclub. The two married and had Granny and her sister.

Harlem has always been marked by a series of boom-and-bust cycles. Life there in the 60s and 70s hardly reflected the 1920s Harlem Renaissance of jazz, art, and literary vibrancy often glorified in historic portrayals. In Granny’s time, the neighborhood was dangerous as hell, riddled with violence and crime.

“I’ve seen it all. And by all, I mean all,” she said. “You didn’t go fishing. You were just trying to stay alive—not get shot, not get into drugs, not get pregnant.”

In spite of living in one of America’s most dangerous urban areas, Granny dreamed beyond the concrete.

“I always loved the outdoors,” she explained. “I watched Marlin Perkins and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. I wanted to study animal husbandry. I got into Northland College. My parents didn’t have the money to send me to a private school. They told me, ‘If you’re serious about this, there’s a Chase Bank on the corner down the street and we suggest you go there and get a loan.’ They couldn’t believe I got on a plane on my own and headed to Wisconsin. But I wanted to get out of New York and that was my chance.”

Soon after she met Jeff, her father died and she returned to New York.

“I got temp jobs and worked just enough weeks to buy a plane ticket back to Wisconsin. My mother wanted to kill me. But I was in love. We did that for two years,” Granny said.

“She loved to fish, I think,” said Jeff.

“And ride in the stinky Aspen,” countered Granny.

Granny-Currier

The two drove the Aspen west during the summers of ’86 and ’87 to work in Yellowstone National Park. Jeff scooped ice cream for tourists, and Granny cooked meals for wranglers. They built their life around a fishing schedule.

“We fished Slough Creek five days a week. Our shift was seven in the morning to two in the afternoon or two to eight at night. So we fished around those hours,” explained Jeff.

“We fished the Henry’s Fork and Madison on our days off.”

For Granny, the summers away from the city solidified her direction.

“I just knew that was me, living that natural lifestyle, being outside. The city has too much static for me,” she said.

“It was fun for me because it was easy to impress her,” said Jeff.

Jeff had his world to share with Granny, and she had her world to share with Jeff. He’s rustic, soft-
spoken and down-to-earth, an old-school New England Yankee in many senses (with an unexpected love for the Chicago Cubs).

Granny’s urban upbringing within a cross-cultural family gave her worldly understanding. She’s louder than Jeff, vivacious, and ­sophisticated, with incredibly refined taste in everything from art to Champagne. But in spite of their on-paper differences, the two have held a common goal of building a life together focused on fishing.

After those Yellowstone summers and Jeff’s graduation, the two moved to Jackson, Wyoming. Granny worked in retail at Lee’s Tees and Hideout Leather—classic rites of passage in Jackson. She moved on to the Belle Cose furniture and clothing store conglomerate, another Jackson staple where she is still an employee. Jeff worked at the fly shop, and brought shop orphans home for the holidays and all-night Wiffle Ball games.

“I made a big spread, and Jeff told me I was like a little Granny, and the nickname just stuck. But now I just say it’s because I’m his old lady,” she joked.

Back then, the same as now, they fished every minute they could.

“We could not wait for opening day on the Henry’s Fork,” said Granny. “We spent two months on the Fork, fishing every one of our days off—leave Monday night, sleep in the back of the Aspen or on the ground, and fish all day long, way past sunset.”

“Granny’s an incredible dry-fly fisher. Precision casting is her thing. She has stealth and finesse on the Henry’s Fork, fishing with an 18-foot leader,” said Jeff.

“Would you call yourselves hippies?” I asked.

“‘Hippies’ would not be the word for us so much as ‘fishing bums,’” quipped Jeff. Their story may be called “Trout Bum Love,” but remarkable relationship aside, Jeff and Granny are the last of the true trout bums, bootstrappers who made their way West with no money in their pockets, did whatever it took to stay there, and planned every aspect of their existence around fly fishing. Neither mentioned the word “barrier” once in describing their individual and combined journeys from the East Coast to Wisconsin to the West.

Henry’s Fork fixture Mike Lawson, angling author and founder of Henry’s Fork Anglers, got to know the Curriers very well. He and Jeff often worked at the same fly-fishing shows and events together.

“Nobody could ever miss that car on the Henry’s Fork. It was an icon,” said Lawson. “I can tell you Jeff wouldn’t have done the stuff he’s done without Granny. She loves the experience of fishing and going everywhere. And she’s humble. She’s never wanted to get noticed for it. She’s just done it.”

The Curriers moved over Teton Pass to Victor in 1991, bought a house with a northern view of the Grand Teton, and have been there since.

“There were 191 people living in Victor at the time we moved here,” said Granny. “We virtually had the Tetons to ourselves. The Knotty Pine was filled with ranchers. People rode horses in the Timberline Bar.”

“Wading on the Henry’s Fork is why we live in Idaho. We don’t get to fish it as much as we used to, but it’s our favorite for sure,” explained Jeff.

Jeff worked his way up in the fishing world and began hosting trips in Belize in the early 90s. With that, the Curriers started traveling internationally. “I went out on a limb in 1988 and invested my entire savings, 2k or so, in a trip to Belize,” Jeff said.

“It turned out to be the best month of saltwater fishing of my life. Between 1988 and 1992 I went to Belize every spring and fall for about a month at a time with clients. Every time I finished those hosted trips, I hopped a bus to Guatemala or Costa Rica and kept going further south—Peru, Venezuela, fishing my way through South America.”

Granny joined Jeff for a Belize honeymoon in 1993.

“Granny got her ass handed to her by a tarpon on that first trip,” Jeff said. “But we returned in 2011 and she got it done.”

“I decided I was going back to catch my damn tarpon,” she asserted. And she did, landing a 150-pound specimen. That tarpon ranks second in Granny’s epic catches, right after a 65-pound yellowfin tuna at Christmas Island.

“I swear that tuna went to the bottom of the ocean,” she said. The guide whispered to Jeff, “I don’t know how she’s hanging on to that.” But Granny brought the fish in. As they sank the gaff, her rod shattered.

“I thought your salmon in Iceland was pretty epic,” said Jeff. “Yeah,” she responded. “That one was pretty good too.”

A Life of Fishing Travel
Cruise ships and five-star accommodations aren’t really the Curriers’ thing. An international challenge is more their style. Jeff, now 51, and Granny, 50, are extreme travelers.

Longtime Jackson Hole fishing guide Scott Sanchez met Jeff and Granny in ’87 or ’88, he can’t quite remember which year. But it was when the Dodge Aspen had floorboards and Granny still went by “Yvonne.”

Granny-Currier-Rowing-Boat

“When I met Jeff, that car had a flat tire. And Granny was a New York girl and couldn’t drive. She didn’t get a license for years,” says Sanchez. (Granny finally got a license when she was 33.) “She’s into doing her own thing, really independent. And she could always fish really well. Those two have always been very adventurous. They’ll take off for places where there are civil wars and that doesn’t seem to bother them one bit.”

As recently as 2015 the Curriers went to Salalah, Oman, at which time the Saudis were conducting air strikes in Yemen. The two rented a camper and drove north along the coast in pursuit of African permit and giant trevally.

By “along the coast,” I mean “on the beach.” Jeff plowed the camper through sand dunes with flocks of seagulls pelting the windshield. King tides crept up to the camper wheels in the middle of the night. The Oman military visited their beach encampment in a tank to check on them, and ended up offering friendly fishing advice. The Curriers spent entire days in sweltering heat fishing the surf. Just over the border, missiles were being launched and could be heard and seen at night.

And then there was that time in 1996 that Jeff and Granny hiked the Inca Trail on their own, with the Shining Path militia fading in and out of the area. For Jeff and Granny, danger equals advantage—hostel rooms open up, rates drop, and normally packed trails are empty.

“Without the Internet it was hard to plan trips. We used Lonely Planet guides and other books. We planned our self-guided trek in Nepal to the Everest Basecamp that way,” said Jeff.

“We almost had to cancel that trip to India and Nepal because of the Maoist Revolution,” said Jeff. “We went anyway and rode buses and trains and got Salmonella. We returned to Kathmandu to celebrate the end of the journey. There was a curfew at sundown.

“We went to a bar and it got late. The owner urged us to leave, so we walked out. As we headed down the street, a group of teenage boys started
toward us. We took all the napkins at dinner because there was no toilet paper anywhere. I had a wad of napkins in my pocket that looked like cash. These kids surrounded us and started to pickpocket me. I had purchased a few books about mahseer and carried them in a plastic bag. I swung the bag of mahseer books and hit one of them with it. I got him good, and the others ran off but by then our toilet paper was stolen.”

Jeff-Currier-Painting“For the most part, we’ve been very lucky,” Granny said. “Jeff always has to go to the roughest part of town. He knows there will be a fish market there where he can examine fish and take pictures. I always say, ‘Why do we have to go to the worst part of town? I grew up in the worst part of town. I already know what it looks like.’ But nobody ever messes with me. They’ll mess with him first. I’ve got street smarts.”

In April, when I interviewed them, the Curriers were putting themselves through roosterfish bootcamp. Weights were tucked in the corner of their living room along with a stack of high-intensity workout DVDs. Jeff and Granny take their expeditions seriously and train for roosterfish beach sprints and Everest basecamp hikes in their living room and throughout the Tetons. They have high expectations of each other to fish as hard as possible.

“Some women complain that they enjoy fishing, but their partner doesn’t take the time to show them how. Jeff has always been generous with his knowledge and time. He’s always wanted to make me a better fisherman,” said Granny.

“That’s right,” Jeff responded. “Granny’s totally spoiled. She’s never seen bad fishing.”

What has it meant to share a passion like fly fishing with the person you feel most passionately about?

“It’s meant I’m damn lucky. When I met Granny 30 years ago, it was hard to find a gal to fly fish with.  I think she feels lucky too, coming from her background,” said Jeff.

One thing is certain: Jeff and Granny will always be on the water somewhere, and often a place most wouldn’t dare to go. And the Aspen will always be parked on the lawn.

Sarah Grigg (sarah-grigg.com) is a writer and editor based in Bozeman, Montana.

The post Trout Bum Love: Granny and Jeff Currier appeared first on Fly Fisherman.

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Salmon in Patagonia Show Diverse Lineage

Trophy Salmon in Patagonia

Salmon in Patagonia have become big business, both for aquaculture and sportsmen. Deliberate and accidental introductions of pacific salmon in the binational region that encompasses areas of both Chile and Argentina have established self-sustaining populations of anadromous fish that run from the ocean to headwater streams to spawn. New genomics research published in the online scientific journal Nature.com is showing a wide diversity in the genetic lineage of non-native Chilean salmon that can be traced to various sources.

Initial commercial attempts to stock Chinook salmon (Oncorynchus Tshawytscha) worldwide date back to the 1870’s, but outside of their native range in the pacific northwest, only populations in New Zealand and Patagonia have become embedded in local ecologies. Prior to their introduction, neither region had native salmonids, owing to their positions in the southern hemisphere and the thermal isolation tropical seas present to migration for cold water species. And while the strains of fish that have adapted well to the South Island of New Zealand have origins that can be traced to specific gene pools of the Sacramento river in California, the fish of Patagonia show more genetic diversity spread over a much larger geographic area, with wider climate and aquatic variables. The success of various bloodlines in diverse stream and river environments may give an indication of how certain races of fish may have become better adapted to specific conditions in North America that are paralleled in Patagonia.

Researchers Cristian Correa of the Universidad Austral de Chile and Paul Moran from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle sampled tissue from fin clips taken from Chinook captured in coastal Chile across a wide area ranging from 39 to 48 degrees south latitude. This represents a distance of nearly 800 miles. With the advent of salmon aquaculture in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, many new strains of fish were introduced to the region via both open-ocean and net-pen operations. Open-ocean farming techniques release juvenile fish from hatchery operations into waters that flow to the ocean, where the fish mature and return to the streams to spawn, homing in on them via a poorly understood mechanism that probably includes both olfactory and magnetic geolocation. Net-pen operations, on the other hand, raise fish in enclosed pens in salt water pens offshore for the entire life of the fish, when they are harvested. However, net-pen operations have proven to not have acheived 100% containment of their product, with large numbers of both reported and unreported fish escaping into the environment.

Map Showing Salmon in Patagonia

In contrast to the New Zealand fish and the incidence of a very small number of Chinook sampled in the Chilean far South that show Sacramento genetics (below 51 degrees south, where limited farming is conducted), the fish in the northern reaches all appear to have come from Lower Columbia River and Puget Sound stock, with certain rivers seeming to have favored specific races of fish. An example of this would be where three strains of Chinook were introduced into a small stream on Quinchao Island, Chiloe at 42 degrees south. The fish had origins from the Cowlitz river spring run originating from the west slope of the Cascades in Washington, a strain from the Bonneville Hatchery on the Columbia, and a strain from the University of Washington at Seattle of unnamed origin. Of the three, only the Cowlitz spring run became established, raising questions of whether conditions in the Chilean stream were favorable to fish that had attributes for spring run spawning, such as lower temperatures or other chemistry such as elevated tannins from snowmelt.

If adaptive characteristics in specific races of fish that provide advantages in the natural world can be identified, then conservation efforts in reintroduction of native fishes to remediated or newly protected environments could be enhanced. Insights being provided via the new sciences of genomics and metabolomics are beginning to show promise for more effective management of fish living in the wild.

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Thomas & Thomas Exocett SS

Exocett SS

The successful Thomas & Thomas Exocett saltwater series turned heads when it hit the market two years ago, and showed it has more that just technology and slick components. The series hits an appetizing balance between weight and power, where the casting is so tactile and rewarding, it’s almost surprising to feel the power in the rod when it’s time to do the dirty work of lifting and pulling—perhaps part of the reason the Exocett has become a common fixture at some of Earth’s most challenging saltwater locations. But an interesting thing happened with this “saltwater” series. I started to also see it in the hands of fishermen in Africa with tigerfish, cradled under the bellies of golden dorado in the freshwater streams of Bolivia, and in my own hands fishing for taimen in Mongolia. The Exocett, it seems, isn’t just for salt water. With that in mind, rod designers at T&T came up with the newest iterations called Exocett SS ($825, thomasandthomas.com), two 8’8″ rods with steep taper at the tip end, so they have extra lifting power for sinking-tip lines, and for casting heavier short-head floating lines. I used the 350-grain Exocett SS at the annual Cheeky Schoolie Tournament, and throughout the day used increasingly larger flies (to keep small stripers off my fly) and heavier sinking tips (to sink below small stripers) and while I never did find bigger stripers, I did find there was almost nothing this rod couldn’t handle. For heavy lifting, carrying short lengths of heavy heads, and for drilling large flies into a headwind, the Exocett SS (also available in a 250-grain version) is also perfect for muskie and pike fishing; largemouth bass in heavy cover; for snook under the lights, docks, and other structure; and for baby tarpon snacking within the mangroves.

On a recent trip to the Rio Marié in Brazil, I also found the slightly shorter 8’8” Exocett SS to be the best rod in my arsenal for peacock bass. It was a powerful tool for fighting fish near the boat, slinging line low under overhanging branches, and for lifting sinking-tip lines near the boat for the next cast. For long days of casting with heavy lines and big flies, it was less fatiguing than other rods because it loaded with less effort.

To find out more about the best new rods, reels, lines, and other tackle for 2018, pick up the FLY FISHERMAN Gear Guide on sale at newsstand nationwide or at osgnewsstand.com.

 

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Bucket Biology Case Renders Giant Reward

Bucket Biology Case

A massive reward is being offered for information related to illegal stocking of walleye in Swan Lake, located near Kalispell, MT. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Trout Unlimited are offering a reward of up to $35,250 for information on the illegally introduced fish.

As reported by KTVQ.com, “According to FWP’s Region 6 Office, two walleye were found in Swan Lake in October 2015. The two walleye were caught in a gill net. FWP says it was the first time walleye were discovered in Swan Lake.”

“FWP biologists used chemical analysis from the fishes’ inner ear bones to trace their origin. They compared their findings to walleye from more than a dozen other popular Montana fisheries. Through their analysis, the biologists learned the two fish came from Lake Helena and had been illegally introduced into Swan Lake sometime in the Spring of 2015.”

The FWP posted photos of the walleye captured in 2015 on their Facebook page.

Swan Lake is has a long history of management by the state of Montana to favor native fish, in particular, the threatened Bull Trout. According to the state Fish and Wildlife department,

“Lake trout were first detected in the Swan River drainage in 1998 and juvenile fish were first captured in gillnets in 2003, indicating that reproduction was occurring. A graduate study initiated in 2006 revealed that lake trout up to 16 years old were present in Swan Lake, and confirmed that the population has been steadily increasing since the early 1990’s. Although the exact mechanism causing the recent decline in bull trout numbers is unknown, it is likely that 20 years of increasing lake trout numbers could be a factor.”

Walleye — while considered an excellent sport and table fish when taken from their native waters — are voracious predators, and can decimate populations of juvenile trout. They are typically successful in reproduction as well, and represent a significant competitor to trout for food sources. The introduction to Swan lake may represent a greater threat than that of Lake Trout owing to their faster maturation and associated population increases.

Illegal stocking of non-native fishes by the general citizenry represents a threat to not only environmental balances, but to taxpayer funded sporting resources. When someone engages in “Bucket Biology” to introduce their favorite fish to a foreign watershed, they are essentially stealing millions of dollars of funding for fisheries operations, manpower and enforcement.  Please report all instances of suspected illegal stocking to your local fish and game management office.

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