4 Reasons I’m Not Fishing the River…Yet

A confession.

It’s been difficult to give myself permission to hit the river again, despite the drop in temperatures.  I’ve hiked a few sections in the last month and just the sight of so many fish pinned down in a panic is enough to clip the desire I have to fish right now.  That said, I may need a new hobby because conditions won’t turn around any time soon and I’m going a bit stir crazy.

“In times like these, ask the question, ‘If everyone did what I’m doing, would the river be in better or worse shape?'”

The exception to going cold turkey on the Truckee was a quick trip out east with Ryan the Fly Syndicate to learn a thing or two about the carp game.  He’s a humble guy that doesn’t mind you seeing his raw passion rather than trying to look cool.  This, of course, is the coolest way to be.  We found 20-30 carp that were feeding, and in the process leaving huge mud plumes, like underwater flares betraying their position.  I stripped some crawdad patterns that were probably the right choice but in the wrong hands, namely mine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an interesting time in the culture of local fisherman, because some feel comfortable fishing the river now while others believe that anyone seen fishing on the river is asking for violence.  Passionate conservation, freedom, self-righteousness, and selfishness are all on full display in the blogs and Instagram feeds of local anglers.  In times like these, I believe it’s crucial to follow your conviction, and ask the essential question: “If everyone did what I’m doing, would the river be in better or worse shape?”

I try to not get sucked in to the spin of it, but when I see cars parked on the only hole in Mogul deep enough to house the largest trout, my stomach turns a bit.  Here’s four reasons why I believe it’s wise to avoid fishing the Truckee from Farad through town:

1. They are already fighting for their life.
I recently had a biologist tell me that the river has the highest fecal count PPM in a decade.  Disease and parasites are thriving in the current conditions.  Every fish I’ve seen in the last few months has holes bored in it’s flesh, scars down it’s side (pictured below), or is emaciated.  This is not a thriving fishery.  She doesn’t need to be kicked while she’s down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. The food pyramid is tipped.
I have never seen as many predatory birds on the Truckee as I have this summer and fall.  Not only are the local numbers up (as seen below) but species that I have never seen before on the river are in the mix too.  Bald eagles, falcons, herons…they are all gorging themselves on the easy picking.  I watched an osprey snatch 3 fish in under 30 minutes with no effort at all.  The fish can’t find cover from attacks from above.  While the predator count has sky rocketed, the prey count has plummeted.  Less river-bottom means less habitat for bugs of all kinds, less crawdads, and less bait-fish for the bigger trout needing lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. Limited real estate.
At what point is their lack of territory a crippling factor in a fair fight?  Around 100 CFS? 50? 20? The tank at Cabelas?  Trout are territorial creatures and living in close quarters raises their stress levels immeasurably.  Hunting at the zoo, as my friend Jan has called it, isn’t sporty or even impressive, regardless of what hashtags you use.  If you enjoy fishing a bathtub, find a county fair.  This picture below is what huge stretches of the riverbed (not the riverbank) look like currently.  Thank you to the gentleman who dropped his worm-bin and cigarette butts.  You’re a stellar human being.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. Necessity vs ammenity.
Chances are, you don’t make your living on the river.  Guys that do can find pockets where the water is holding healthy fish on the CA side above Farad.  But for the rest of us, it just doesn’t make sense.  Add to the mix that Pyramid is going off right now (59° at the surface and only getting better) and you can easily find places to itch that scratch.  Hire one of these guys and go break a world record.

Simply put, it seems now is a good time to exercise restraint and have the wisdom to play the long game.  I’m hoping that I get a good core workout shoveling the white stuff this winter.

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