Last fall Tropical Storm Irene and Lee did a number on the Hudson and Adirondack watershed in NY, but then the following Spring, the fishing was absolutely spectacular in rivers left to their own devices to heal. At that time, in a blatant act of dumb reaction and vote-mongering, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended heavy machinery permitting and gave upstate counties in NY carte blanche to channelize (read: flatten and straigten) the local creeks and streambeds doing even more damage than the storm. Vermont had a similar problem. TU and other conservation organizations had to sue to get them to even acknowledge the problem. Channelizing the rivers doesn’t dissipate flooding, it actually makes it worse.
From the PA TU Council describes channelization: Stream channelization may reduce or prevent localized flood damage; however, it has negative impacts on the stream environment. The spilling of streams onto their floodplains is a natural event. Stream channelization creates a false confidence and leads to increased pressure for development in flood-prone areas. To the extent that channelization is successful in keeping water out of the floodplain in a localized area, flood damage is almost certain to be increased downstream. The increased volume and velocity of water downstream exacerbates flooding and erosion; threatening homes, businesses, bridges and roads
With 100-year storms turning out to be once-a-year storms, God help the folk downstream of channelized rivers and streams… Hopefully the same mistakes won’t be repeated in VA, MD, PA, VT, NJ, NY and the other states affected by Sandy.
Meanwhile, might as well organize the flybox.
Hit the Wolverine Company Store in Nolita last week. I practiced restraint. The missus did not. But you can see why.
There really is great fly fishing within a 45-minute drive of DC. Of the three major Maryland watersheds that empty into the Chesapeake (Potomac, Patapsco, and Patuxent), my favorite is perhaps the most intimate one…barely a creek at first, it eventually becomes a major tidal river. You just can’t be precious about it. There’s the occasional intrusions of civilization, but then, you get to fish early and be home in time for football!
ROHAN ANDERSON: THE SMOKEHOUSE “Try and con your friends into coming to help you peel the logs.”
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: THE HILL “It seems shameful that people are willing to let it go by the wayside.”
JOHN CHO MOORE “I was designing fleeting things.”
BRYAN JOHN APPLEBY
TIM FLAGLER: ISO SPINNER “These are large bugs that elicit aggressive takes.”
JOHN NEEMAN: CHISEL
BENTON FAMILY CURE “Even a blind hog gets an acorn every now and then.”
THE DISTILLERS: HUDSON WHISKEY “I come in at 6:30 am in the morning and am tasting whisky by 7am.”
Sometimes you have to just take it easy. That means going with the flow and being open to opportunity. Such was the case on Friday night. At the tailend of the day I learned the MD DNR started the fall stocking and a nearby stream got its quota of trout. A quick text to my bro and an hour and twenty minutes later we were casting against a setting sun.
OK so what about Saturday then? Enter SNALLYGASTER, a craft brew festival on the Potomac River Yards where over a hundred fresh brews from all over the US would be on tap.
And Sunday, I decided to hit one more stocked stream just to round things out for the weekend. Sneak in a few casts before the Skins vs. Vikings game. I had the stream to myself most of the morning. Though the trout were very spooky, they took green and black buggers on occasion. In my haste I broke the tip of my new 5wt Rise rod. I dunno, I kind of new it was a shoddy rod, I should have considered it as my backup rod instead of my main rod. Oh well, catching rainbows and fall fish on my Orvis Clearwater felt a whole lot better. I even spotted a couple golden trout but refused to cast to those abominations. Just kiddin’, I ain’t precious.
Visited Beaver Creek in Maryland twice now. Lovely little limestoner that runs through beautiful farmland west of Frederick, Maryland. I bumped into the man responsible for restoring this gem, Doug Hutzel. Through the work of countless volunteers, neighbors and anglers, the Beaver Creek Watershed Association act as riverkeeper here. The morning I was out, Hutzel was leading a group of veterans from Project Healing Waters for a few hours of fishing on one of the private stretches.
Now, folk swear Beaver Creek, despite its diminutive size, holds some bigguns. James from the Beaver Creek Fly shop was happy to prove it when he pulled out his cell and showed me a monster brown, easily 26″. Later as I dragged copper wooly bugger through the bottom of a pool I watched a +20″ drift through shadows after it, but he got wise to me. I also took a few shots at a +20″ rainbow under a log who just wouldn’t come out and play no matter what I drifted by his maw. I suspect I didn’t have anything in my flybox small enough. And on my second trip I watched a 25″ rainbow cruise right by me. The water was so clear I could see the scar from where he’d been caught before. I could swear he was giggling under his breath as he swam by me.
No matter, I know you gotta earn your shots and put your time in. Beaver Creek is just a little far, far enough that you wonder why you didn’t just hit the Gunpowder instead with its 1000 finicky trout per mile, it would have been just as challenging. And yet the Beaver is an alluring piece of water with big, tough, old wild trout that surely beckons me back…
Did you know certain Virginians would rather give their fealty to the British Monarchy than the United States of America?
Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but its true. You see CERTAIN Virginians claim Crown Grants to a riverbed that dates back to British rule of the colonies in order to keep their fellow Americans off a small stretch of the Jackson River in VA, a legally navigable tailwater in Southern Virginia. I’ve written about this problem before you may recall a YEAR AGO, but it seems as if the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries continues to prefer bangers over hot dogs, Speckled Hen over Old Dominion, bowlers over baseball caps, tweed over jeans, Rod Stewart over Bruce Springsteen, Marmite over PB&J, Fawlty Towers over Seinfeld, Doctor Who over Star Wars, high tea over whiskey, idiocy over common sense, and monarchy over democracy. Where’s that independent spirit Virginia?! Nah, the VGDIF and its cronies would rather let a bunch of rich folk with decidely un-American attitudes deny other Americans the right to enjoy the Jackson River. Nevermind its something the Virginian tax dollar and the American tax dollar paid for when the state and Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river that created the tailwater years ago. Virginians ought to be ashamed that a small group of fools are giving VA a bad name with this ludicrous Crown Grant assertion. Seriously. Here’s an idea. If you assert a Crown Grant, you give up your US citizenship in exchange? How about that?!
OK. I am somewhat inelegant on the issue. You may wonder at my indignation, but frankly, the British law has implications on American waterways all over. Clearer on the issue is Beau Beasley, respected Virginian, author, fly fisher and citizen. Here, via Midcurrent, is his latest article/letter to the VDGIF asking for clarity on the issue.
Dear Chairman Reed, October 1, 2012
Thank you for your response dated August 2, 2012, regarding my concerns for anglers legally fishing along the Jackson River. My questions were in part to help me understand VDGIF’s policy and position on this issue and what the public should expect from your agency going forward in this matter. My questions have been answered but your responses and the VDGIF white paper which was written as a result of my inquiry on the subject have generated further questions.
I understand that your agency has no ability or authority to get involved in the current lawsuit North/South Development v Crawford along the Jackson River. Further you have made it clear that you will not discuss whether you have asked Attorney General Cuccinelli to intercede on the angler’s behalf who here represents the public, because this is privileged attorney/client information. While this is certainly understandable, this is regrettable because this is the second time since 1996 that an angler has been sued for fishing along the Jackson River on property widely advertised as public by VDGIF.
I was particularly concerned by the following statement in the white paper on page 5 section 2 (a):
while much discussion has been had over the effect of a fishing license issued by the Department, in no case does a Department hunting or fishing license grant access to private property. They are instead authorizations to engage in the hunting or fishing activity in a lawful manner; the decision as to where to hunt or fish is a separate issue that must be addressed by the sportsman.
No rational sportsman believes that purchasing a Virginia hunting or fishing license means he is entitled to hunt or fish on private property. Rather, the purchaser of such a license believes it entitles him to hunt or fish on state property, or other property advertised by the state as usable by the public as long as they follow the fishing and hunting regulations written by your agency. The latter part of the statement I find particularly galling:
The decision as to where to hunt or fish is a separate issue that must be addressed by the sportsman.
This statement appears to be legalese and essentially states that while VDGIF will gladly tell sportsmen where they can hunt and fish, if they encounter legal troubles such as trespassing for going precisely where the agency advertised as public, they are on their own. How are sportsmen supposed to know where to go? I suspect few if any license holders in this state know that once they take the state at its word as to where they can hunt and fish they are engaging in what could be legal jeopardy and that doing so is “a separate matter that must be addressed by the sportsman.”
Since the beginning of this year VDGIF has issued nearly 30 press releases informing the public on issues ranging from White-Nose Syndrome of bats to warnings about not handling snakes and fawns. Yet your agency is silent on issues that have much greater import to many license holders, namely that we can’t rely on VDGIF to protect us in court for hunting or fishing in places you advertise as public. While you have posted a white paper on the Jackson River, few if any anglers would go beyond looking at the state maps you provide on line, or at the river’s access points. Given the statements above I would like to know the following:
1) Why has no mention of the current legal troubles been made public via a press release, when nearly every angler I know is confused on the issue of where they can and can’t fish on the Jackson River?
2) When the Army Corps of Engineers created the Gathright Dam, part of their Environmental Impact Statement included language that said they would create a public downstream fishery below the dam. Since 1996 two anglers have been sued and spent tens of thousands of dollars defending themselves while the state of Virginia stood on the sidelines. How can the Army Corps of Engineers have met its obligation to create a public fishery, if the public can’t go there without the fear of litigation?
3) While your agency may not engage in legal action protecting this angler, what steps have you taken to prevent other anglers from suffering the same fate on this river?
4) Is VDGIF considering putting a warning label on state signs and licenses informing sportsmen that following all VDGIF instructions as to what is public property, in no way protects them against being prosecuted for trespassing?
The public places a great deal of trust in the VDGIF, and when sportsmen purchase a license, and follow signs with your imprimatur, they assume that they are engaging in legal activity. There is no doubt that the angler being sued for fishing on the contested section of the Jackson River stood his ground because he trusted the VDGIF signs and what he was told by VDGIF staff members. If this angler loses his case, no doubt VDGIF will then be forced to change their signs. There is also very little doubt, however, that the current system uses law-abiding sportsmen as guinea pigs to find out what is and what is not public property.
Chairman Reed, in closing let me say that I realize the VDGIF is in a very difficult position and is working under constraints that may have existed long before you or your fellow commissioners began serving. I also recognize that the issue of crown grants is something that is best dealt with legislatively by the General Assembly. But until such time as these matters can be resolved, VDGIF must act to protect law-abiding sportsmen who are guilty of little more than taking VDGIF at its word. I fear without clear direction the ambiguity that revolves around the Jackson River, and now other rivers like the Hazel where crown grant ownership is being asserted, could result in depressed license sales and fear among sportsmen in Virginia.
I look forward to your response.
The Virginian River Defense Fund continues to need support, as their legal bills have only increased as they fight the spurious lawsuit.