Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Seventy-nine

No Fishing?

By Deanna Birkholm publisher@flyanglersonline.com

Summer and Fall can be wonderful times to fish. Or they can be a killer. Literally.

Fly anglers must be aware of the conditions where they plan to fish. Fishing in water too warm or too low is inexcusable. We do not live in a society where we must kill fish to eat, and it is unfortunate the magazines have failed in their responsibility to the fisherman and the resource. Instead of articles on the dangers to the fish in warm or low water conditions, there are articles on how to fish 'spring holes' or tributaries.

We were in New York the last week of July, and some waters WERE too warm to fish. Water levels in some places were TOO LOW to fish as well.

Some states, Montana to name one, have closed waters because of those conditions. Voluntary restrictions are in place in many others. Yes, those closures are going to cost the guides, fly shops, restaurants and motels money - and that costs the state money from revenues as well. But it is obvious the proper emphasis in Montana is on protecting the trout fishery. Even though anglers in other states have brought pressure on their state departments which regulate fisheries to close under the same conditions, the money rules and fish are the losers, the rivers remain open.

There is a group of people who are concerned especially with the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Rivers in New York, and they have formed the 'Beamoc Coalition.' They pass out a card, (shown here) to anglers on those rivers, or leave the card on the windshield of vehicles parked at access points.

Here is what is says:



Did You Know?????

- that fish gathered at mouths of tributaries and in spring holes are struggling to survive when the main stream is 70 degrees or more?

- that catching fish in these locations during warm water conditions can deplete their remaining energy and cause their death?

- that small mesh landing nets remove less of the fish's protective slime than nylon nets?

- that using hooks that are too large can damage a fish's eye or brain?

- that hooks with barbs pinched down are much easier to remove?

- that dry hands can remove a fish's protective coating? Try not to squeeze fish; handle very gently!

- that streams are closed during spawning season to protect the spawning areas?

The Beaverkill and Willowemoc Rivers (known as the Beamoc) are pristine, free flowing waters. They provide great fishing in the spring and fall for both wild and stocked trout.

However, at times in the summer, the water temperature can rise well above 70 degrees. When the temperature is 70 or warmer, fish that are caught and released will often not survive to grow and reproduce. A good practice is to not fish within 200 feet of a tributary or feeder stream.


Talk to one of the Roscoe or Livingston Manor tackle shops for advice. In order to ensure their survival, it is better to fish cooler waters that are fed by dam releases such as the West Branch of the Upper Delaware River.

Try to schedule your fishing for early morning or late evening. It also helps to carry a thermometer. Practice catch and release. These rivers are easily reached from your headquarters in Roscoe and Livingston Manor.


If you see a problem such as suspected snagging, use of bait in restricted areas, or anglers keeping fish in catch and release areas, please call the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at (914) 255-1626 or the local conservation officer.


Beamoc Coalition P.O. Box 611, Roscoe NY 12776-0611"

Folks in other regions with similar conditions might get involved as the Beamoc Coalition has. TU and FFF Chapters could print out cards with this type of information and distribute them to local fly shops and license dealers to be handed out to every customer. The fly shops could do it themselves!

From inexpensive to free thermometers

Many years ago when JC and I guided for Dan Bailey's in Montana the 'Guides Rule' was fish NO water at or above 70 degrees. Period. Montana is blessed with many waters which can be reached when water temperatures and levels are dangerous for the fish elsewhere. There are wonderful lakes, tailwaters, and high country waters which do not suffer lack of water or high temperatures. However, some guides (and anglers) are too lazy to drive a few extra miles from the 'name' waters. Anglers are there to fish the "whatever" and since they don't live there they could care less if they destroy the fishery. I ran into a person recently who told with pride of his catch and release of over a hundred 'nice browns' on the Madison. When I asked what the water temperature was he said, "I don't know, I don't use a thermometer. It felt ok." Duh. Trust me, he knows he did wrong. I let him have it with both barrels. By the way, he is an attorney, and has the best of equipment. Dressing the part doesn't mean squat.

Dorks and slobs. They do exist in fly fishing. And it's not okay. There is no excuse for not knowing a fishery is in trouble. Pick up the phone and call. Check regional fly shop websites. Look at the water levels, USE a thermometer. They are cheap (some companies give them away as a promotion.)

The same dorks and slobs exist in the fly shop world too. Fly shops need to get real and honest with their customers. If they have river conditions on their website they need to update it daily. Water conditions not suitable for fishing? Then do what Dennis Sharka at the Catskill Fly Shop in Roscoe, NY does. Post the conditions with a notice: DO NOT FISH. Here's a link to their website: http://www.Catskillflies.com/streams.htm Take a look for yourself. I noted another Roscoe fly shop had no such information and had not updated their "stream report" in several weeks. They may have done so to not discourage people from coming to fish. Dumb.

The State of Oregon sent out an advisory today as well. Rivers in Eastern Oregon are in trouble because of the heat too. Here is part of that advisory:

"Those who choose to angle can opt to fish in the morning, when water temperatures are cooler, or fish at a different location if water conditions are unfavorable at their usual site. Because mortality levels increase drastically when water temperatures are over 74 degrees, anglers should voluntarily limit fishing to protect native trout. Anglers can also aid the effort when releasing fish by using barbless hooks, keeping fish in the water as much as possible and limiting the amount of handling time. It is also advised that anglers wet their hands before removing hooks, and take care not to touch the fish's gills."

The water temperature at which point endangers the fish depends on the amount of flow and the amount of oxygen in the water. Frankly, from what I've read and heard over the years, trout are under great stress at 70 degrees, 74 is well over the limit. Often fish will congregate at creek entrances and springs for the cooler water temperatures and higher oxygen, all grouped up nice and tidy. Is this where you should fish? Just remember WHY they are grouped there. They went there because they were already under stress!

As fly fishers we each have responsibilities - we may not like it, but that is the truth.

It's not enough to know you can't fish under some conditions - you don't do it and if you see someone else doing it, let them know it is not 'okay.'

Protect the fishery, just don't fish when the conditions are bad. ~ LadyFisher

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