Animas River Mine Spill – Update

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A Statement from John Flick, Co-owner of Duranglers Flies and Supplies in Durango, Colorado – photo taken this morning 8/17/15 at about 12pm MST.

 

So you probably have been hearing a lot about the Animas River on the news lately. This past week, we have seen images of an orange colored Animas plastered across every newspaper and nightly news network. The thing about those images is that they were images from almost a week ago. Currently, the Animas is flowing with its typical turquoise, late summer color. The river of orange lasted about a day and a half and has since passed on.

One thing people don’t understand is that this was not a disaster waiting to happen. This was a disaster that was already happening. These toxins and heavy metals have been seeping from mines in Silverton for over 100 years into the Animas River. Sometimes in a giant plume like we saw last week, but more often as a steady stream of toxic filth. As a Trout Unlimited business sponsor, we have been supporting and will continue to support the cleanup efforts going on in Silverton (and anywhere that hardrock mining pollution is present). The nation sees this incident and now demands it be fixed. We have been pushing for cleanup of the polluting mines of Silverton for decades.

In the past 32 years of business on the banks of the Animas River, we have seen these plumes of toxins come through town 4 or 5 times. These plumes have not been to the degree of last week, but they still happen. When rain, snow runoff, or landslides hit, these old mines flush their heavy metal guts into our watershed. In the past, we have fished around these plumes and still caught fish.

Now don’t get me wrong, this event is terrible and I am not trying to downplay it. It should have never happened. It affects us here in Durango and it affects those downstream who rely on the Animas River as a water source. However, it is not a catastrophic end to a once pristine and clean waterway. The mine pollution on the Animas has always been a problem and the Animas and its trout have always recovered. Studies of invertebrates of the Animas are currently showing that bug life is strong after the toxic plume. Samples are showing that caddis, mayfly, midge, and stonefly nymphs are still thriving. We have witnessed trout eating emergers and dries in the past week. We have even watched a few people catch fish on the Animas in the past few days. (We don’t recommend fishing the Animas right now, unless you want to have a talk with the La Plata County Sheriff’s department who has closed the river.)

Almost hourly, we are fielding calls from concerned customers, reporters, and curious people wondering about how this is affecting our business. Truth be told, the negative press has been hard on our shop. Tourism in Durango has diminished dramatically this past week in Durango. We are sitting here, 2nd week of August, with no one walking in the shop. This is not at all typical, usually we are very busy. Lots of our local businesses are affected. Rafting companies that rely in the Animas are completely shut down.

However, Durango is still a great place to visit despite this incident. The fishing opportunities of Durango and Southwest Colorado number more than any one person could fish in a lifetime. The Animas has only ever comprised about 5% of our guide trips. Fishable water abounds around Durango, and most of it is less than an hour drive. Waters that are unaffected by this spill include: the famed San Juan River Quality Waters, Piedra River, Dolores River, Los Pinos River, high country creeks, Upper San Juan, Rio Grande River, and Animas tributaries such as Lime, Cascade, and Hermosa creeks. We are still guiding all of these waters.

All this press exposure is bringing attention to an issue that we have been aware of for a while. The Gold King mine is not the only problem mine in Silverton, or the Western States. Currently there are around 22,000 hardrock mines in Colorado alone, many of these continue to leech toxic chemicals into our waterways. Some are just like the Gold King Mine: another toxic plume waiting to flush down river. It is very unfortunate that the Animas had to suffer an incident like this to get people’s attention. Hopefully this event will spur action to clean existing sites and also bring heightened awareness to proposed mining explorations near our fisheries. As anglers, we need to do our part to ensure generations to come are able to use our waterways and enjoy the outdoors as intended.

As with all of these incidents on the Animas, there will be fishing in the Animas in the future. We could see the Animas open for public use as early as next week. In the meantime there is lots of water in our slice of the Rockies that sits unaffected by this spill, waiting for someone to cast a fly.

Harry’s First Tarpon – By Barry Beck

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Harry Schoel is the real deal, he lives and breaths fly fishing. If it has fins and swims Harry wants to catch it, forget how big or small or if it jumps, takes a dry fly, or eats a San Juan worm. Harry really doesn’t care, he is simply in love with fly fishing. It’s all okay. An electrical engineer by profession Harry works to fuel his passion and along with fly fishing, that passion also includes fly tying. Creator, inventor and more Harry’s flies are true works of art, one look in any of his many fly boxes and one comes away salivating. Continue reading

Double Medals in Bosnia and Lessons from Their Capture by Devin Olsen

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I think most children who grow up watching the Olympics dream of hearing their national anthem played for them as they stand on the podium one day. I suppose I was no different as a child and I would watch with awe and envy as American athletes would receive their medals while the Star Spangled Banner was raised and played behind them. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Congress From Fly Fishing Industry Leaders

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May 20, 2015

An open letter to Congress from fly fishing industry leaders:

As leaders of America’s top fly fishing companies, we write to express our support for the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore protections for our nation’s headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Simply put, the proposed Waters of the United States rule is a good one, and it should be allowed to move through the federal rulemaking process without interference from Congress.

The small waters to which this important draft rule applies are the lifeblood for many of our country’s prized fisheries. They flow into rivers, streams and lakes that provide the foundation of our industry—our bottom lines depend on intact watersheds, cold, clean rivers and streams and intact, fishable habitat.

Given that fishing in America supports approximately 828,000 jobs, results in nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales and has an economic impact of about $115 billion every year (Sportfishing in America, American Sportfishing Association, 2013), it stands to reason that the health of our nation’s waters is vital to the continued success of our industry, and to the health of America’s economy. We urge you to allow the EPA rulemaking process to continue unimpeded.

In recent years, participation in fishing and hunting—fly fishing included—has grown. We are seeing robust interest in our sport and it is translating to our sales, to the numbers of employees we hire right here in America, and to the health of brick-and-mortar retailers all over the country. Like us, their businesses depend on clean, fishable water.

But, in addition to being acutely interested in the health of our watersheds, we are also concerned that blocking this rulemaking process could turn back the clock on the progress our nation has made since the Clean Water Act was put into place more than 40 years ago. Today, rivers that once actually caught fire are home to remarkable runs of steelhead and brown trout. Streams that were once uninhabitable for native brook trout are now home to robust populations of these prized fish. What’s more, our country’s drinking water is healthier and safer than ever before.

Please consider the present state of our watersheds before interfering in a proven process that has generated nearly a million comments from the public in support of this rule. While we understand that politics these days can be tumultuous and rancorous, we strongly encourage you not to play politics with clean water.

Thank you.

Travis Campbell, President and CEO, Far Bank Enterprises (Sage, Redington and RIO)
Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman, The Orvis Co.
K.C. Walsh, President and Owner, Simms Fishing Products,
John Land Le Coq, CEO and Founder, Fishpond/Lilypond Inc.

Strobel, Fly Fishing in Aboriginal Lands of Patagonia

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Photography by Isaias Miciu // written by Luis San Miguel

Lake Strobel is located in the plateau of Patagonia, in the middle of the Santa Cruz province in Argentina. Its name comes from the missionary Jesuit priest Matías Strobel, who worked in North Patagonia in the mid XVIII century.

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Australia Permit by Peter Morse

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by Peter Morse
Its not so many years since permit fishing in Australia became the game many fly fishermen want to play, and the history is brief. We always knew there was a version of these fish swimming in our waters, bait fishermen caught plenty along the coast and they were known by various names, “oyster crackers”, or “snub nosed dart”—but the first to be caught on fly was an accidental capture. At the mouth of a north Australian tidal river, charter boat skipper Greg Bethune was un-picking a tangle in his running line while his tan Clouser lay on the bottom on an incoming tide. The line snapped up tight and thinking he had a golden trevally on, Greg fought the fish hard. He’d seen plenty of schools of swimming permit over the years and true to their nature they’d frustrated him, but when this fish came into view, a threshold had been crossed and a new world opened up for fly fishermen.

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