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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Final Deluge of 2010

Just before we trundle off for the holiday season, it is worth noting that the Los Angeles area has just suffered unprecedented rainfall in the past couple of days. More than 20 inches of precipitation (No, that is not a typo!) in the mountains surrounding the LA basin, while more than 6 inches (half the "normal" annual rainfall) fell in the basin itself. The media are broadcasting hourly reports of houses slumping into ravines, sinkholes opening in the streets, and flash-flood channels filled with water, debris and automobiles. In summary, the last few years have shown record precipitation events of a severity unknown in modern times, WORLDWIDE.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thanks to the Obliquity of the Ecliptic

No, this is not an expression of gratitude for the holiday recess of Congress, rather it is an acknowledgement that our days in the northern hemisphere will (mercifully) be lengthening for the next few months due to the axial tilt of the planet.  Not that we'll feel much difference soon, but there is some comfort in knowing that things are improving.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

River Eternal

Watching and feeling the extremes of seasonal changes in Minnesota are hallmarks of living in mid-continental North America. These include a landscape going from bare ground and mineral soil to croplands luxuriant with leaf and flower; temperatures ranging from -30° to 105°F; and, rivers brown and angry in draining the land from snowmelt and cloudbursts, or clear and serene in meandering to the Gulf. The constant in this is perpetuity itself with the orbit of the earth imposing adjustments on its surface, and by all who live here.  The wonder is that so much can be accomplished in so little time, a single revolution about our nearest star.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pheromones and Fear of Invasives

Every trout angler knows the dangers of invasive species, how they can disrupt native communities, destroy habitats, displace treasured species, transmit new diseases and otherwise create ecological mayhem.  Australians, especially, can attest both to the ravages of the invasives themselves, and to the perils of inappropriate control measures hastily implemented in the hope of preventing further damage by exotic species running amok.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall Storm Carnage?

Our last posting recognized the Storms of November as notable passings from a human perspective.  What do massive storm events, particularly windy ones, mean for our fish? The Great Lakes provide some interesting examples of how these disruptive forces of nature may be essential to the renewal of fish populations.  The frequent occurrence of windstorms in spring and fall seems to be at odds with the observation that so many of our favorite fishes spawn either in the spring, or in the fall. Strong and persistent winds move millions of tons of water, which, in turn, move mountains of gravel on beaches and shoals of exposed lakeshores. Doesn't this conjure up visions of fish eggs being ground to paste by pounding surf? Perhaps, unless there is some strange convergence between the ecology of gravel bars, and the physics of fish eggs.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Storms of November

Gordon Lightfoot had it right, "With the gales of November remembered."  The meteorological service and statisticians are at odds with the literati (e.g. Shakespeare, Frost, Conan Doyle, Whittier, Longfellow) who insist that  gale-force storms are more frequent and intense around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Here in Minnesota, I have to cast my lot with the literati, considering the latest cyclonic circulation. Our record low pressures, 955 millibars of mercury, and near-record sustained wind velocities at Rochester, 24-hr average over 31 mph, convince me that late October and early November bear watching for outdoorsmen of every stripe. Recent memory of such events include the Great Hallowe'en snowstorm, Oct. 30, 1991, which turned into the "Perfect Storm" when it reached Atlantic waters, the Nov. 10, 1975, "Edmund Fitzgerald" storm, and the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.  An interesting event occurred a century and a half earlier, on Nov. 10, 1835, before official weather recordings, when newspaper accounts reported the lower Great Lakes "stripped of sail" by a massive windstorm.  Fortunately for the trout in the Driftless Region, little precipitation accompanied the winds and our streams showed no obvious discoloration after the storm.  The Winona Fly Factory even reported some late season action in northern Iowa streams after the hatches had been battened down (pun intended) after the storm. Our next commentary will address the question of the role of fall storms on fall-spawning fishes in the Great Lakes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seasonal Change

Previous 5-day rainfall totaling 0.1-0.5 inches over the watershed has increased the flow, but not the turbidity, of the South Branch of the Root River. This is good news, with 98% of soybeans and 47% of corn harvested, croplands, while nearly nude, still have root structure in place that will hold soil under modest precipitation.  This bodes well for healthy redds filled with brookies and browns that will line our nets and macerate the flies of the 2013 and later seasons.

Monday, October 18, 2010


As the leaves of autumn settle in over the Root River valley, our trout season has come to a close. But the annual cycle of production has begun again as the myriad groups of shredders, collectors, filterers and scrapers begin the processing of the new litter while continuing to dodge the best efforts of their predatory brethren.

It is time now to reflect on the season past, and to speculate on those approaching. Will the new redds result in another generation of brookies and browns, or, will unseasonable torrents scour them away or smother them with silt? Will the fisher's equipment endure cleaning and storage or be transformed into cold-hardy devices to ply winter's waters with the catch-and-release opener only three months away? Time also to generate anew the tattered lines and leaders and depauperate inventory of nymphs, dry and wet flies, spinners, jigs, streamers, and plugs so that next season, we can be fishing instead of repairing our tackle as the first blue wing olives emerge to greet us.

I hope that all who visit this site will aspire to share their experiences, on the stream, and in journeys of the mind, on waters here and elsewhere. While my streamside companions and I are hunkered down in the sheltering valleys of the Driftless Region of the upper midwest, we will be looking forward to hearing of the adventures of others, that we may plan escapades of our own.