Wabbit Tracks

I’ve finally realized the American dream of home-ownership. Got to prep the nest for my wife and the baby! Beyond getting the workshop going and buying garden supplies, I’ve got plans to put in a generator, a freezer for game meat (for when I eventually bag that deer), but also cow-pooling. I noticed rabbit tracks in the snow yesterday and joked about taking them for the stew pot to my wife. I’m serious about it too, because I’ve acquired a really lovely garden with terraced walls and being half a block from a major suburban park with a large resident population of deer I’ve already started “worrying about my begonias.” I’m also looking forward to planting my first real vegetable garden soon. I see bountiful crops of carrots, beets, cucs and tomatoes ahead.

Our New House

So what the hell was I thinking when I visited my home store and purchased Round-up (Montsanto) to kill the weeds in my yard as well a big old jug full of pesticide to spray around the house perimeter?! Mind you, none of it is organic or natural. It was only today on the way to work that it hit me–of course I want a natural home. I want it free from pesticide and chemicals that will inevitably drain into the nearby creek or contaminate those plump rabbits I got my eye on. I’m an advocate for conservation and environmental protection as you well know but talk about having brain farts, the main ingredient of Round-up is glyphosate, a man-made chemical now found in many streams and creeks across the country that suffer run-off from suburban and urban areas. Its not terribly toxic and it biodegrades in 60 days, doesn’t build up in mammals or aquatic species, but frankly why risk it when there are perfectly good non-toxic alternatives out there. It still can cause breathing issues, and kidney damage at chronic levels.

So, again, what the hell was I thinking? Fact is, I wasn’t. I think I was acting on some base instinct to “protect” the homefront from invasion, and got a little too trigger-happy at the home store. Luckily, I caught myself because I think as a new home owner you get this opportunity to set new habits, to put a stake in the ground and really live your beliefs. And I’ve got big plans to create a safe, non-toxic, energy efficient home. Now I’ve got to get rid of these harmful chemicals and figure out my next move, dig in and do some research and find some natural approaches to weed and pest management. Fortunately, nature threw me a reprieve in the form of an early Spring snow-storm. Now its up to me to follow-through.


On Thursday – Keep America Fishing

Roland Martin is not only an amazing bass angler, he’s one hell of a fly fisher too. Yeah, you have to wade through a lot of plug fishing episodes of Martin’s show, but  he fly fishes every so often, they’re in there, and they’re sweet. There’s a recent episode of Martin fly fishing for tarpon in the Florida keys where he’s jumping tarpon left and right. In fact, I learned quite a lot about reading water from Martin’s 101  Bass-Catching Secrets, and any fly fisher who wants to add to their body of knowledge would benefit from picking it up.

Martin is also an ambassador for Keep America Fishing, part of the American Sportfishing Association. KAF represents the sportfishing community to make sure access to fishing stays open. Through policy, science and conservation, KSA works to minimize access restrictions, promote clean waters and restore fish populations. KAF also created an Angler’s Bill of Rights and Ethical Angler Pledge to ensure a commitment to keep our waters open, clean and abundant with fish. KAF also supports Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who along with fourteen co-sponsors, introduced the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 on September 10. The legislation provides for increased access, habitat conservation and improved fish and wildlife management. But you don’t have to be an angler to get behind the Sportsmen’s Act.

The NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and several other other national, regional and local groups are pushing their communities and members to press their Senators to pass the bill according to this Outdoor Life article. The Chicago Sun-Times makes a point that this is one case where sportsmen and government align.Of course the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act has a number of different bills in it–and you might not agree with them all. For example, the National Resources Defense Council has a problem with a bill that would exempt lead-use in shot and fishing sinkers. Personally–I’m for non-toxic shot, but not opposed to individual states deciding on the issue.

The vote is Thursday on the 14th of November, but there’s still time to have a say! You can get involved by going here and signing-up to communicate with your Senator your support for the Act.

Justice on the Jackson River, Not Yet

For my everyday readers, you’ll know that I’ve followed Dargan Coggeshall’s fight for justice on the Jackson River in Virginia. I read with sadness recently that he has lost his court battle, leaving anglers in deep doubt about their rights in the Commonwealth. From the release:

“On October 9, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Alleghany County, attorneys for Dargan Coggeshall and Charles Crawford informed the Court that their clients did not have sufficient resources to proceed further in the defense of the trespass case against them.  Accordingly, they consented to the Court enjoining the two of them from wading or walking on the contested portion of the streambed of the Jackson River.  The Court stated that although the information the plaintiffs had presented was insufficient to prove their claim of fee simple title to the riverbed, they had shown prima facie title. Prima facie title can be established by possession of the property and a current deed purporting to convey the property to the plaintiffs.”

Now, I hate injustice, and its hard to see a silver lining here. Its damn hard. I know injustice and I know Coggeshall is hurting, and all of us who support the Virginia Rivers Defense Fund are hurting. We’re in fear that any of Virginia’s great rivers, the Rappahanock, Cowpasture, Shenandoah, could be the next site for an outrageous act of cowardice from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and VDGIF if a landownder decides to sue an angler, paddler, kayaker, hunter or bird-watcher who steps foot in water where some lackey tax-collector has erred and given the landowner false information that leads them to believe they own the Commonwealth’s rivers.

But I know something about justice. It doesn’t come often and easy, but it does come.  Justice does come. Now, because the civil litigation has ended, other organizations can step-up on this issue and fight alongside the VRDF. Strangers can step out of the dark and become allies in the full light. Will you stand? Will you stand for justice? I don’t care what your other politics are, will you stand, if you stood with Dargan before, will you keep standing? Trout Unlimited, will you stand? VA National Rifle Association, will you stand? Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, will you stand? Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation, will you stand? VA Boy Scouts of America, will you stand? VA Sierra Club, will you stand? VA hunters and anglers, bait chuckers and dry fly purists, will you stand?

To those mentioned in this article, and other owners at The River’s Edge, its never too late to do the right thing. There is no shame in fighting the good fight, whensover you choose. Will you stand?

Channelization Could Make Sandy’s Impact Worse

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.

Jackson River Virginians Give Up US Citizenship?

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.


Beau Beasley

The Virginian River Defense Fund continues to need support, as their legal bills have only increased as they fight the spurious lawsuit.

Deschutes River Recordings

In the debut of the “Deschutes River Recordings,” Eric D. Johnson of the Fruit Bats belts out The Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider” with some killer sound effects. All songs, sung riverside benefit the Deschutes River Conservancy. Free downloads are available here.

In the second Deschutes River Recording, Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper gives a rough-n-tumble version of “Up on Cripple Creek.” Up next is Laura Gibson.

Sportsmen Should Support A Strong Farm Bill

September 30th is my 38th birthday. Its also the day the current Farm Bill expires. Now, there’s a lot of reasons to try and push your local Congressman to vote to get the bill done. I like the fact that the Farm Bill also supports the SNAP program which ensures struggling Americans can feed their families. Sadly, the Senate version of the bill cuts SNAP funding (wow they’re heartless), but that’s not all that’s at stake. The Farm Bill also helps maintain billions in funding for environmental conservation. This ain’t just the hippie in me talking–its my inner businessman who understands our nation’s farmers, ranchers and private landowners also have a stake in protecting the environment for their employees, customers and bottomline.

“In places like the Chesapeake Bay and in Montana and Wyoming, Farm Bill programs help farmers reduce their potential regulatory burden. The Chesapeake Bay watershed initiative incentivizes farmers to reduce their nitrogen runoff to improve the health of the nation’s largest estuary, and the sage grouse initiative in the Inter-Mountain West assists ranchers in keeping this iconic bird off the endangered species list. As these conservation goals are met, farmers, ranchers and landowners can focus on making a living and not on the threat of new or expanding regulations,” according to the TRCP.

Here, if you won’t listen to me…how about Steven Rinella?

3 X Ben Gulliver

I am about to waste your Monday. After you watch these 3 films by Vancouver-based Ben Gulliver for Canadian surf/skate brand Sitka, you’re gonna wonder why the deck under your bed is dusty, the flyrod in the closet hasn’t seen a stream in months, and the board hanging above your sofa hasn’t been waxed in a dog’s age. Once this is over, you’re gonna want to pack the car and head north, or west, or south, anywhere but where you are. You will be dreaming of tall pine trees, golden bears, gorgeous barrels, and sun-kissed girls who skate better than you. You will want to light up and recall your halcyon days of youth when falling down and falling in love was the whole point. You might stand up at your desk and take a cheap shot at your boss and storm off heading for that forest you used to play in when you were ten before they bulldozed it to make endless tract homes.

TU On the Rise

OK, technically I was half-stepping and I was putting off renewing my TU membership for month after month. Finally after a few letters, they threw in the towel and offered me both Season 1 and 2 of TU’s seminal fly fishing and conservation series, On the Rise, if I renewed. Not bad. I recalled that I might have seen an episode or two on the Outdoor Channel late one night, but the show didn’t quite grab me. However, as I sat at home packing for the move to DC, day after day, I finally unwrapped the DVD and glanced at the back…hmmm, that’s a lot of episodes, and that’s a lot of rivers too. I figured, well, I didn’t have to pay close attention, just throw on the DVDs in the background, zone in and out, keep packing.

Whoa was I wrong. I quickly became mesmerized as Frank Smethhurst (the guru from Scott Fly Rods, Boulder Boatworks, Running Down the Man (think Roosterfish + Baja) and the uber-cool DRIFT and EASTERN RISES) crossed state after state to fish storied waters and learn about TU’s efforts to protect them. I couldn’t take my eyes or ears off the fishing, the river, including Frank’s quest for a cutthroat slam, redemption on the Henry’s Fork, and even lesser known rivers like the Holston or Cleveland’s freshwater steelhead. The series was incredible, and now I find out On the Rise is up to its fourth season. Nice! oh wait, its on the Sportsman Channel now…which I don’t get in DC. Crap! That’s TWICE I’ve been foiled..first it was Rinella’s MEAT EATER, now its On the Rise.

I can’t find any high-quality clips featuring Frank from seasons 1 and 2, but here’s a good one with Frank on the Animas River and TU’s Headwaters Project, just ignore the crappy graphics upfront.

Here’s a clip from season 3 with the latest host, Montana outfitter, Jed Fiebelkorn. You can order seasons 1 and 2 from TU and do your soul and nature some good right here.

**UPDATE**I doublechecked and I do indeed have the Sportsman Channel here in DC. Quite psyched.