Friday, September 6, 2013

Ending the Drought

Its been a long time since the last entry and I apologize for a lack of river update but I really haven't known what to write.  The Elk and surrounding drainages got hammered by a heavy rainstorm and a flood that eclipsed any recordable events in the area.  The sudden surge in the water ravaged banks, ripped apart forests, ate some roads and rail lines and flooded some houses in the Fernie area.  Nowhere near as bad as what Calgary witnessed but certainly an impressive rally of rain from above.

I finished planting trees a few days after the flood and since then have been doing a lot of fishing and guiding.  After your guiding drainage gets flooded, as a guide your put on the spot to find new spots and Spencer, Jonny and myself were hard at work looking for tribs that recovered quickly enough to hold feeding fish.

William Shawler on an Early Season Elk Trib

We found some in both BC and Alberta and began our guide season in waters that are now dried up.  Was nice to find some new spots and we were both amazed at the damage the high water did to almost all of our water.

All is Not Dead in the Fording With Michael Poulin

Couldn't help but think we lost some fish with that as well and I'm sure we did but after walking miles of forest where the bank had been breached I saw nothing dead.  What did happen was the creation of many new spots.  Gravel got pushed, forests were dropped and a shit ton of top soil was tossed into the river which made the Elk the colour of poo....that's right, poo!  And it's been that way for most of the summer as thousands of pounds of silt moved it's way down river, too light to settle.  Heavy rain storms have hit throughout the summer and the Elk has turned muddy several times and has been slloooow to clear.

It's been a tough season for sure, and nymphing has found it's way into the daily program on the Elk and I'm actually using various patterns and rigs on a regular basis.  The lulls in action on the dry fly have been excruciating to say the least so dredging for meat has been an amiable solution.  And some of the pigs we've been scooping off the bottom are impressive to say the least; the fish have been making a good living on the bottom.  Lately the dry fly has been good and the indicators have been bobbing around in my boat bag instead of on the river which is damn refreshing

Kevin Lamey With a Healthy Lodgepole Cutt

The Elk Valley's human population has long been dependent on income derived from the coal mines in the Rockies.  To say it's harmonious is a stretch.  All you need to do is look at google earth and see the mountain clearing that's been done and you know there has to be some ramifications to that.  There is no way that much industrial process can be healthy for an ecosystem.  I do have great faith in Mother Earth's ability to morph and adapt in miraculous ways and the Elk system has long sustained the runoff of the mines.  The latest issue surrounding the health of our river has been the levels of selenium that have increased to levels considered toxic.  The government put an order on TECK that restricts them from opening other mines until they can reverse the trend of Se release into the watershed.  They have responded quickly with a Selenium treatment plant and only time will tell if this an effective way of handling the leaching.

More From the Fording

Our fishery is certainly not what it used to be and I don't believe it's the mine that is causing it.  I do feel the mine is in the process of wiping out the ecosystem if they continue there practices unabaded so I welcome the ordinance of the government and TECK's quick response.  I'm not applauding TECK either; truth is they've known about this for years and haven't done jack shit about it until there future expansions were threatened.  The company makes me sick at best but I realize they have their place here and we need to work together to sort this out.  The high water years of the last three summers have been the cause of the declining fisheries.  Our tributaries and neighbouring watersheds which are headwatered by pure water runoff and springs are also not producing as they used to.  Hatches are down due to scouring, not Selenium as far as I can tell.

Yes!  That's an Elk River Cutthroat Compliments of Dennis Poulin

The Fording River; which hosts three mines in it's drainage, was quoted as being dead in Drake Magazine but it still puked Golden Stoneflies in huge numbers for weeks. The Golden Stonefly being at the top of the aquatic invertebrate food chain is an indicator species.  I guided the system and hooked some nice healthy trout in there and I believe the system will recharge if spring runoff can just backoff for the next few years

Overall the Elk fishery is still an amazing destination.  The cutts that have endured the runoff beatings and are fat and healthy.  I caught fish of all sizes this year and noticed that more fish were willing to come to the top as the water cleared; which didn't happen until mid-August.  The fishing has remained good since then for dry flies as terrestrials and some mayfly hatches have the trout looking up which is a relief for those of us who honour the world of dry fly

The Nite Mayor of Kansas City, Dick Adler