Monday, February 21, 2011

Troubled Waters: The Illinois River

Stream Pollution - Illinois River, Arkansas/Oklahoma

I do think that Oklahoma is not paying attention to all the urban development and pollution running into the Illinois River - through Clear Creek, Osage Creek, and other local streams . . . streams running out of Rogers, Bentonville, Fayetteville, etc.

An example of water run-off issues is that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is looking to relocate from Centerton, AR - outside of Bentonville. The spring that once gave water to the hatchery cannot provide enough outflow - the water which once seeped into the ground now flows over concrete and pavement - where there was once abundant farm land.

Those streams run off into the Illinois Watershed and into the Elk River through Sugar Creek . . . Northwest Arkansas is on several watersheds; White River, Illinois and some other stuff in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Here is an article from a group trying to get the Illinois River back on it's feet. In my opinion, it's not just the farms, it's urban development . . . the banks are washing away, algae blooms are increasing and folks are littering such as a recent issue with someone dumping port-a-potty chemicals into the Illinois River in the Prairie Grove area.

Why would they put a housing development 50 yards from the Illinois River?? Then again, we've got new golf courses popping up along the Illinois River Watershed and who knows what chemicals are running off into the streams? Not to mention that they are altering the banks and causing more erosion.


By Ed Brocksmith, STIR, Inc.

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a two-year study of Illinois River water pollution. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study is expected to set limits for pollutants that hurt the river’s water quality, safety, and recreational value. Wisely, EPA will approach the study by looking at the entire watershed, not at the singular interests of Arkansas or Oklahoma. Tenkiller Lake, having an entirely separate, complex ecological dynamic, should benefit from adoption of a TMDL for the Illinois River.

EPA defines a TMDL as: “a calculation of a pollutant load that assures that when implemented, an impaired water will attain and maintain applicable water quality standards.” Phosphorus most certainly will be an object of any TMDLs for the Illinois River watershed. From 2000 – 2004, it’s estimated that between 391,000 to 712,000 pounds of phosphorous entered Tenkiller Lake. Phosphorus does not disappear and is recycled from lake sediments for use over and over by algae.

If you will kindly indulge a comparison to a crime scene investigation on a popular television show, you might think of a TMDL study as CSI: Illinois River. Imagine forensic investigators pouring over DNA evidence and spraying luminol up and down the Illinois River, setting the entire watershed aglow. The tell tale bright green which indicates blood on TV, will instead point to evidence of phosphorus, the nutrient that promotes the growth of algae. In great amounts, algae degrade water clarity; rob fish of oxygen, and cause taste and odor problems. Some algae can even be toxic to humans, pets and livestock.

Complicating this crime scene is the fact that investigators in Arkansas and Oklahoma are not looking in the same box of evidence. Oklahoma water quality agencies conduct tests at normal, base flow, river conditions as well as during storm events called peak flow. Arkansas abandoned this type of testing, opting instead to test only at base flow conditions. This explains why phosphorus levels are several times greater at Watts, Oklahoma on our border than they are just upstream in Arkansas.

According to Dr. Bill Andrews of the USGS Oklahoma Water Science Center, the disparity in water sampling is “like comparing 19th century and 21st century medical technology.”

“Oklahoma’s flow-weighted testing is more representative of actual conditions,” Andrews told a Tahlequah meeting sponsored by the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. “We believe that we have found the right way (for both the river and the lake) to do it.”

Eliminating peak flow testing ignores phosphorus carried from fields, yards, and parking lots by stormwater runoff. Runoff accounts for an estimated 78% of the phosphorus load entering beautiful Lake Tenkiller. This is called nonpoint source pollution since there are no obvious pipes or channels. The bulk of phosphorus in runoff is from animal feeding operations and in our region, this means chicken and cattle manure spread on pastures surrounding poultry farms. When only base flow conditions are sampled, phosphorus from sewage treatment plants, estimated to be about 35 percent of watershed phosphorous, is unfairly emphasized. This has placed Oklahoma water quality agencies at a stalemate, forcing the EPA to conduct the TMDL study.

Water quality regulations themselves are different in Arkansas. While Oklahoma has what’s called a numeric water quality standard for phosphorus in the Illinois River, Arkansas has only words to describe impairment. This is called a narrative water quality standard which can be alright if supported by scientific data. But the lack of a numeric standard permits Arkansas to conveniently ignore water quality impairments in reports it has to make to the EPA. Calling Arkansas’ hand, EPA usually amends Arkansas’ list of impaired state waters, naming some streams in the Illinois River watershed as impaired.

Oklahoma’s numeric standard for phosphorus is .037 parts per million (mg/L). It has been compared to an ounce of phosphorus in an Olympic-size swimming pool. The limit has been roundly criticized by farming interests and by Arkansas authorities who are lobbying the EPA to relax standards for sewage treatment plants. The .037 standard for the six Oklahoma Scenic Rivers, all originating in Arkansas, must be achieved by 2012. The limit was driven by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling after Oklahoma and Save the Illinois River, Inc. (STIR) sued EPA over discharge of Fayetteville, Arkansas’ sewage to the Illinois River watershed. Since the high court’s ruling, and to their credit, northwest Arkansas cities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce phosphorus from sewage treatment plants. Tahlequah and Westville, the only Oklahoma cities with sewage plants in the watershed, face major upgrades to reduce phosphorus. Reduction in phosphorus from cities is believed to have greatly benefited Tenkiller Lake which, sadly, is by no means free of degradation. In the future, Tahlequah just might have to discharge its waste outside the Illinois River watershed further relieving the pressure on Tenkiller Lake.

Ahead of the pending EPA TMDL, the mood of many of our neighbors to the East is one of great anxiety because Oklahoma pledged to reevaluate the .037 limit before 2012. Recent studies by the USGS seem to show that Oklahoma .037 phosphorus limit still is viable despite claims by Arkansas leaders that it’s unachievable and would curtail northwest Arkansas’ economy. Dr. Dave Mueller, USGS Central Region water quality specialist, said recently that Oklahoma’s .037 phosphorus standard appears viable. He said that recent work at sites in Oklahoma’s EPA Nutrient Region show results “similar” to the Clark Report, the basis for the .037 standard.

Oklahoma has attempted to get at nonpoint pollution sources which, unlike municipalities, are unregulated by federal law. A verdict in a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed by Oklahoma against Arkansas poultry companies is being awaited. Poultry industry giants including Tyson and Simmons Foods defended their activities and blamed others including the cities for the huge amount of phosphorus in the Illinois River watershed.

The comparison of an Illinois River watershed TMDL study to a crime scene investigation may not be far-fetched. What’s missing are the long, fluttering barriers of bright yellow crime scene tape and detectives armed with bottles of magic fluid used to find blood traces. The cops on the beat, EPA, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, all have allowed the Illinois River to slide into decay by not establishing TMDLs which are required by the federal Clean Water Act passed more than 30 years ago. What has happened to the once clear Illinois River and to Tenkiller Lake certainly is a crime and it’s time we get to the bottom of it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Md., felt boots blamed for invasive 'rock snot'

MONKTON, Md. – As an algae with a gross nickname invades pristine trout streams across the U.S., Maryland is about to become the first state to enforce a ban on a type of footgear the organism uses to hitchhike from stream to stream: felt-soled fishing boots.

The state Department of Natural Resources plans to prohibit wading with felt soles starting March 21 to curb the spread of invasive organisms that can get trapped in the damp fibers and carried from one body of water to another.

Similar bans will take effect April 1 in Vermont and next year in Alaska, aimed especially at didymo, a type of algae that coats riverbeds with thick mats of yellow-brown vegetation commonly called "rock snot."

Maryland fishery regulators say didymo, short for Didymosphenia geminata, can smother aquatic insect larvae such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies that are favored food for trout.

"We've got to keep it from spreading," said Jonathan McKnight, associate director of the state Wildlife and Heritage Service in Maryland, where didymo was found in 2008 in the Gunpowder Falls north of Baltimore. A western Maryland stream, the Savage River, also has tested positive for the organism but hasn't had a rock snot bloom.

Didymo, pronounced DID-ee-moh, isn't a stream-killer like acid mine drainage. Fish have adapted in the northern rivers where it first appeared, but biologists can't say for sure how it will affect the ecology of Maryland waterways.

"I think the cautionary approach to that would be to assume it's going to have some adverse impacts and respond accordingly," said Ron Klauda, a Maryland freshwater fisheries biologist.

Maryland officials are taking public comments through Feb. 28 on their proposed ban. They say 2011 will be an "education year," with violators getting warnings and information cards instead of tickets. Fines and penalties haven't yet been determined and won't be effective until 2012.

A U.S. Agriculture Department map shows didymo in at least 18 states as of 2008. New Zealand has banned felt soles to protect its trout fishery.

Some anglers and policymakers, however, aren't sold on the felt-sole ban. Many anglers prefer felt to rubber — even newer, supposedly stickier rubber compounds — because they believe felt gives better traction on slippery, rock-strewn riverbeds where losing one's footing can be disastrous.

"We're going to have injuries. We're going to have people messing up their knees," said Mark Mayer, who traveled from Chattanooga, Tenn., to fly-fish the Gunpowder Falls in June.

A proposed felt ban introduced this year in the Oregon legislature is almost certainly doomed after a state Department of Fish and Wildlife official testified that the agency's own employees prefer felt soles.

"Certainly, going to no (felt) soles would reduce one vector of the spread of invasive species, but only one vector," said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Rick Hargrave. Didymo and other organisms also cling to waders, shoelaces and boat hulls, experts say.

Hargrave said what's needed is "a very holistic, rigorous program" to address the bigger issue of invasive aquatic species.

Oregon state Rep. Brian Clem, Democratic co-chairman of a committee that held a hearing on felt soles in early February, said the cost of replacement gear is another problem. Simms Fishing Products, which voluntarily discontinued felt-soled wading boots last year, offers rubber-soled boots priced from about $100 to $220.

"We don't want to price out and potentially take safety risks on a huge number of people who love this sport, many of whom come to this state to enjoy it," Clem said.

The conservation group Trout Unlimited asked manufacturers in 2008 to stop producing felt-soled footwear by 2011 to curb the spread of didymo and other aquatic nuisances. Not all have complied, but most are working on alternate materials and designing boots that clean up easier and dry faster, making them less hospitable to microbes, said David Kumlien, who heads Trout Unlimited's Aquatic Invasive Species Program.

Kumlien testified in support of the Vermont felt ban but he said Trout Unlimited isn't lobbying for prohibition, partly because felt soles aren't the only culprits. Instead of seeking felt bans, Trout Unlimited is encouraging everyone who works or plays on the water to "inspect, clean and dry" their gear after use. Montana is promoting that approach with public service ads urging people to "Stop aquatic hitchhikers!"

Still, the felt-ban debate has been helpful, Kumlien said.

"While a ban on felt soles doesn't solve the invasive species problems, it's something that will reduce the risk of anglers moving invasive species," Kumlien said. "And quite clearly, it's gotten people's attention."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dear Fly Fishing Diary,

Dear Fly Fishing Diary,

Why can't we stock these so called "fragile" streams with some bass? Lord knows some of those fish swim out of the lakes anyways. If I have another day like today, I just may sell all my stuff and get out of it. Our Ozark streams are falling apart. Progress is polluting . . . that and last year's drought dried up so many lakes and streams.

Note to self - GET A LIFE.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warden's Worry - Bass Fly Tying Pattern

I have tied this fly a few times. Don't think I've ever fished it. Hoping to try this one out soon . . . if we can get rid of this snow. Looks to be at least 15 inches thus far today. This is a Tom Nixon pattern. Not very fancy. I substituted a few materials.

Tail - Red goose wing feathers fibers.

Body - Rear half, silver embossed tinsel. Front half, yellow chenille with yellow saddle hackle wound over it.

Wing - Natural brown buck tail topped with yellow buck tail.

Shoulder - Jungle cock.

Head - Black with red and white eyes.

Hook - #2, #4, #6, 4X long.

I've tied up about 80 flies over the past 8 days. Lots of snow in the forecast today. Got my truck stuck in the driveway and street this morning. Four wheel drive is not functioning. At least it drives.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beaux - Bass Fly Tying Pattern

I listed a red and white fly on a couple of other posts and called it the Beaux. That fly is actually the Belle. I confused them. This fly is the Beaux. They are identical except in colors. The Beaux is another Tom Nixon pattern from "Fly Fishing and Fly Tying for Bass and Panfish". I changed a few materials. I have only tied this fly one other time and lost it fishing somewhere.

I hope to land a bass on this great looking fly. One that is supposedly an effective pattern. I did notice that Tom Nixon utilized a lot of yellow in his flies. I like yellow on bass flies.

Tail - Two strands yellow wool yarn and two black about 1/2 inch long.

Body - Described from back to front.
1. Yellow chenille ruff at the tail.
2. One-third hook black floss ribbed with gold tinsel.
3. Yellow chenille ruff.
4. Rest of hook black chenille with yellow hackle round around it.

Wing - Calf tail or bucktail: small bunch of yellow then black then yellow tied on with definition of a black stripe.

Head - Black with yellow and red eyes painted on.

Hook - #1, #2, 4X long.

I hope Tom Nixon's flies stick around. His most popular is the Calcasieu Pigboat. Anyone know this pattern?? I like tying this pattern but never had caught any fish with it. I have some pics listed somewhere in my blog. I just might show the photo again . . . trying to tempt my readers back . . .

cheers - hated that line but am starting to like it.

Moss Bluff Special - Bass Fly Tying Pattern

The Moss Bluff Special was a fly that was either created by Tom Nixon or a possible variant of another pattern. I received this fly (not the one pictured) in a Tom Nixon fly swap. The tyer had used black and white bucktail. Whereas, I used mallard flank. The tail was wood duck side bar flank but I used some Green Wing Teal duck on some of them . . . this one has a tail of mallard flank. I have had success with this pattern landing white bass and crappie.

Tail - Barred black and white wood duck side feathers.
Body - Orange ruff with the rest of body as silver tinsel chenille.
Wing - Calf or buck tail. White then black then white - making definition of black stripe.
Throat - Small bit of orange calf tail.
Hook - #1/0, #1, #2

I purchased a copy of "Fly Fishing and Fly Tying for Bass and Panfish" by Tom Nixon many years ago. It is awesome. I am going to look through it and tie up some patterns. I forgot about the Phideaux and Yallered flies.

I will try to post those patterns. Another goal is to list some of my angling books too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lake bass fly patterns.

I just tied this streamer up to target lake bass. I'll probably go to the store and stock up on a few more streamers. I am wondering, other than bass bugs, what patterns are you using for lake bass?? Leave a comment, I am interested.

I am hoping to diversify my fly box a little more

White Bass / Sand Bass Fly Pattern

Every Spring, I like to hit the White Bass/Sand Bass Run. I like the term Sandies but I guess we call them White Bass in Arkansas for some reason. One reason the white bass run is such a craze for anglers is the obvious, they are great fighters and willing to smash a bait or crawdad pattern.

I do think that Beaver Lake is an awesome place for catching white bass. There are several great locations around the lake or on local streams. No limit on white bass at Beaver Lake!! The obvious "go-to" pattern is a chartreuse Clouser. The Crazydad is another good pattern. I use the Clouser with sinking line. A 5 wgt. rod will provide for an excellent fight. Although, I did use my 8 wgt. last year and still had a good fight - partially due to the current.

The fly pattern shown above is obviously a Woolly Bugger. I generally tie this with a silver bead head but did not have the proper size. For white bass, I generally stick with a size 8 hook. This is a larger size for black bass but will probably suffice for Sandies.

The body is of silver chenille, chartruese hackle and marabou with a red head - tied with red thread instead of black. I usually build up the red thread behind the bead head for a nice blood or gill effect. I have also caught bream and crappie on this pattern. This is a quick, easy and inexpensive pattern to tie.

Bored today.

Bored today. Can't leave the house. Nothing but ice and snow outside. Tied up 27 flies.

Flip-Flop Fly

This is a lousy photo - took it with my phone. I posted an image a few days ago of wedges I was cutting from a flip-flop. I'm not giving instructions . . . want ya'll to figure this one out on your own.