From Galilee to the Catskills

Water has held a special place in the world, right from the start: "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Soon the fishes filled the waters, and the scene was set for the fishermen who followed, including some famous ones. Simon, Andrew, James and John were casting or mending their nets, and He said to them, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of people."

Traditionally fly fishers have prided themselves as guardians of the waters; if society encroaches too much, or if the water temperature or turbidity increases, even by just a little, precious trout will not survive. Now there is a problem: "For fly fishers who pride themselves on a conservationist ethic, it hurts to discover that they may be trampling on that ethic every time they wade into a trout stream." Felicity Barringer in the New York Timescontinues:


Blame their boots--or, more precisely, their felt soles. Growing scientific evidence suggests that felt, which helps anglers stay upright on slick rocks, is also a vehicle for noxious microorganisms that hitchhike to new places and disrupt freshwater ecosystems.

That is why Alaska and Vermont recently approved bans on felt-soled boots and Maryland plans to do so soon.

The hitchhiker in question is an invasive form of algae which is also called rock snot because...well, because. Some have even said it looks like toilet paper floating in the stream. It becomes deadly to the fish when it rapidly multiplies and forms a mat on the streambed, which makes it impossible for the insects that trout feed on (and fly fishers tie imitations of) to multiply. Didymo has ruined some great angling spots in New Zealand, and some suggest it travelled there on some angler's boots from North America.

Several years ago, fly fishing groups and state conservation associations offered tips on how to prevent Didymo from spreading. One could spray 409 or something similar on the boots before entering new waters, immerse them in scalding hot water with bleach added, or simply let them dry in the sun for two or three days. There is a growing consensus that these measures are not enough, and now wildlife biologists and others are suggesting that rubber-soled boots may be the best approach to take.

Nevertheless, there is agnosticism and even active dissent. Won't the Dydymo live in the boot laces? Don't the birds, bears, badgers, and beavers act as vehicles on the Didymo transportation highway? The blogshere crackles, but all hope for a return of good fishing, remniscent of this fine morning: "'Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch'...And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear."

William Van Ornum


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we vnornm
8 years ago

Thanks for reminding me of that great book. It is on one of the bookshelves here as I write. Maybe it's time for me to re-read it. However, sometimes it gets me down because all the characters in the book catch way more wish than I ever do. best, bill
Bill Collier
8 years ago
"Rock snot" aside (temporarily does seem to be an environmental problem deserving attention), your blog post and its accompanying picture reminded me of Norman Maclean's brilliant novella, "A River Runs Through It," and its unforgettable opening sentence: "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing." :)  
we vnornm
8 years ago
Hi David,

I do understand what you were getting at. Right now the Great Lakes are being threatened by gigantic Asian carp that fly out of the water and bop boaters, sometimes seriously..the carp are voracious predators and eat everything else...they are suspected of escaping from farm ponds in the south during floods! They wouldn't be able to get to Lake Michigan if a series of canals hadn't been created to link the Great Lakes with other rivers. A similar thing happened with the lamprey eels and the St. Lawrence seaway.

If you ride on Metro North on the Hudson line there are these gigantic plants taking over the shoreline just north of NYC..

Ecosystems are fragile.

Tight lines, bill


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