Over the last few months I have published C.A.R.E. Report emails & Blog Posts broken down of Conservation, Advocacy, Rehabilitation, & Education Categories of our accomplishments, on-going projects, and future projects/plans. As I sit here trying to write this for the last two weeks and for the 4th time, not only in a somewhat depressed state due to our current uncontrollable problems of the weather and water conditions around here. Which I am assuming unless you've been completely disconnect for reality, off the grid or living under a rock you know about the Extreme record breaking to almost record breaking heat & drought we've been in since last fall, the low, hot water conditions, wildfires, and so far a lack of normal average Summer Monsoon Storms. But I have also been in the hospital, doctor’s appointments, dentist appointments, being in extremely poor health due to an infection that had spread through my body and be heavily drugged to kill it before it killed me. This has taken a toll on my body and it's not only been painful, the limited liquid diet, the drug side effects I have been completely exhausted and could not properly organize my thoughts as I would normally, hence writing this four times. As horrible as the last few weeks were on a more positive note this all happening at the worst possible fishing conditions we’ve had here in 16 years I wasn’t missing much in the last few weeks. I am feeling better as of about a week ago and even better daily so decided to try to work the last few days and even accomplished some outside electrical work before the Monsoons rolled in throughout the week. So on a brighter note it’s raining here a little more lately.
Not going to lie there is a lot of gloom & doom in this post but that is the reality of the situation around here and unlike most people I don’t stick my head in the sand, I confront, change, and try to make the best of situations. The silver lining though is we are experiencing a little cooler weather with a little more moisture. Also as I have been discussing a lot recently with people ideas to help our mission in these tough times, we have great people involved in Sacred Waters who all share the “always find a way” mentality. Based on the cyclical nature of our historic weather patterns, these kind of droughts, wildfire years through recorded history go on about 12-18 year cycles. My theory is this stuff has happened most likely since we entered this age even before accurate recorded history. Most of us know these forests have burnt for thousands of years and need to to be healthy. We know as well the USFS admits they mismanaged wildfire for most of their existence until recently. My theory is Nature has its ways whether we like it or not. Yes our wildfires are more intense and do more damage than good due to 75+ years of wildfire & forest mismanagement but I’m just considering this current state of affairs as a cleanse and yes the recovery time will take longer in some areas. The purge or cleanse of these wildfires, and drought conditions killing off some flora & fauna can also be viewed as a survival of the fittest and a the strong will survive is just another step forward in the evolution of our flora & fauna. As our plants and animals are thinned out by wildfire, lack of food & water, the strong will survive and eventually thrive creating healthier, smarter, stronger class of genetics in our fauna & flora in the long run. Another light at the end of the tunnel is historically speaking and if history repeats itself after a year or two of severe drought we usually have 1-3 years of above average precipitation, then leveling off to right around average plus or minus just a little for another 10-15yrs. So not all is lost!
So here we go, since all of everything we do, try to do, &/or planning to do are very much interconnected between multiple or all the pillars of our Mission/CARE Goals I'm not going to break it all down this time per pillar.
We have of course limited fishing/guiding pressure on all our Conservation Waters. Weather and water conditions started becoming worse around the week of June 24th or so on the larger lower elevation waters, and starting reaching up further into the waters by week of July 8th with the worst of it affecting most anything under 8300 ft from the week of July 15 to present. Following suite we have completely or conditionally closed down some of our Conservation Waters to Fishing or Guiding. Including shutting down of 3 out of the 4 Weber Ranches -W4 (very limited & conditional fishing on the Upper Ranch), East Fork Ranch(staying below lethal temperatures but has got close & extremely low, clear, & glassy is also extremely difficult to successfully fish, conditional limited fishing), Fairway Ranch (Completely Shut Down), most all of our Public Waters of the Animas River and San Juan River and National Forest waters we guide through other USFS Permitted Outfitter partners. Which leaves us with our most fishable waters of the Pick Bar Ranch and Wommer Ranch on the Pine/Los Pinos bottom release tailwater running an average of 550-600 CFS Full & Cold, with a maximum water temp reaching 66-67F occasionally. Standing strong on our Mission please try to schedule your trips as far in advance as possible and please understand that we may need some flexibility on those days to not over-pressure these two locations, as well as fulfil some contractual obligations that limits the number of people &/or number of days we can fish each of these locations. Some high country/backcountry trips through our partner Outfitters. Also please understand and be willing to start very early in the morning, that the day may only be a half day trip(as per average conditions have been, and that we will call a trip short if the water becomes too warm to ethically fish. We also have warmwater lake fishing on Vallecito Reservoir for Smallmouth Bass, Pike, &/or Walleye can not guarantee how long this will last due to they ever falling lake level if things do not change soon we may not be able to keep the boats slipped or have access to launch sooner than later. The word from VSCA a couple days ago though is Vallecito will shut down to boat traffic August 5th, 2018.
I would like to Thank as well as all our staff our Sacred Waters Donors & Donor Members for making this all possible. So should anyone else who is not a Donor, Donor Member, Guest, Charity participate always remember in the future as you fish around here the quality of fishing be it on Sacred Waters Conservation or waters affected by and influenced by our Conservation Waters that these 2017 & 2018 Donors & Donor Members made this possible. At least we have Sacred Waters CO doing the best we can to save what we can. But everything above or below our Conservation Waters we don’t have any control over. But fish don’t have boundaries so the fishes protected in all our waters will help repopulate everything else that gets abused & destroyed like every year. This is our reality every summer just a lot worse this summer.
Sadly but necessary changed the dates of a Veterans Fishing Events with Patriot Anglers & Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Groups. Currently in process/communication with PHWFF Group to change to a more warmwater/lake fishing venues, or figure out how to get everyone out on the best, coldest, most ethical waters we can which are few & far between nowadays with our possible upcoming event starting 8/8/18. But lets hope no matter what we will get in some good rehab & healing for this PHWFF Veterans group and make some new friends.
As some of you may know we started our CARE Campaign of providing Free Loaner Thermometers for people to use while fishing the Pagosa Springs, CO. Area at Let it Fly & Ski and Bow Rack. We've also handed out or emailed Fishing Water Temperature Charts to local businesses to not only educate them but for them educate their customers. Due to a lack of access to purchasing thermometers here locally we are loaning them out for now. I did get a connection to purchase more at a very good price once those are received we will distribute many more at as many places possible throughout Pagosa Springs, Vallecito, and Durango to take and keep for Free with optional donation jar available. We had also left charts explaining the different temperature ranges and thermometers at most of our Conservation Waters/Ranches for the Landowners, ranch hands, property managers to help us monitor conditions, &/or to use themselves or if family wants to fish. As well as if we (Your Professional Anglers) lose, forget, break, misplace our own.
We all have been posting daily on Sacred Waters CO Facebook & Instagram Pages as well as our own personal pages Alerts from the US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Weather, Drought, Wildfire & Water Conditions Reports. As well as really advocating and honestly shaming the CPW, USFS, the town of Pagosa Springs and unethical Outfitters towards stepping up for what is right for our fisheries. Have actually seen some positive results too from this. Mainly in the fact of the other outfitters around know that we are watching, we know what they are doing and are not seeing some of their unethical behavior as offer or at all.
We have also planted some more small fishes 3”-9” where needed mainly our lakes/ponds on our Conservation Waters. Some being 7-9” Tiger Trout for population control of self sustaining naturally reproducing trout species that have/are getting overpopulated and showing signs of stunted growth rates. Tiger Trout are sterile hybrid cross between a Brown X Brook Trout (meaning they do Not Reproduce, have hybrid aggression = eat more, easier to catch, fight harder & grow faster). and is a bonus exotic beautiful fish to catch.
Weather, Water, & Fishing Report:
On a more positive and optimistic note. It has been raining some locally and have somewhat of a normal Monsoonal storm systems cooling down the temperatures. Rains started July 3rd as usual right on schedule, problem at first were these weren’t normal Monsoonal storms they were very strange Northern or North-easterners which rarely ever happens in this micro-climate of Pagosa Springs so the amount of rain and isolation/concentration of where if deposited was not normal either. After that storm system had passed as predicted by my buddy Ollie and eventually by the pros our normal Southern or Southwestern Monsoons started rolling in, we did experience a uplift of sorts of extremely hot dry air under these storms which made it harder for them to really stack up and really dump a lot of rain or if so it was extremely isolated events. This may have been partially caused by all of the wildfires & their heat due to the fact when these storms hit land they hit fires from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado having widespread intense wildfire activity. But with some added humidity and some decent precipitation it seems like the suppression of the these fires growth &/or total extinguish of some is helping these storms spread out more and drop more precipitation.
Long range Forecasts are currently stating an Above Average Amount of Precipitation/Moisture & closer to Average Temperatures for August.
Click: NOAA Weather Outlooks
A few days ago my good friend Oliver from Hawaii called me with his personal forecasts. Some of you have heard me talk about Ollie being my personal meteorologist and much more accurate than most professional meteorologist. Ollie had been a fly fishing guide in the Pacific off of HI longer than most any guides in that area so his knowledge of weather & ocean conditions are spot on, then becoming paralyzed about 6 yrs ago now he sits around watching the ocean & sky and as sad as it is became even better at predicting our weather since it all starts down there. Anyways Ollie stated we should be seeing more normal monsoonal storms with more moisture and spread out more across the area and he has been 100% correct so far, it has just taken me too long to write this. His future outlooks he stated another heat wave & drier for 3-4 days which started 2 days ago and then another week of normal more widespread Monsoons with good moisture. Local Forecasts are all now stating the same, and we are finally starting to see somewhat of a cool down too.
As for our local waters and their fishing as stated in the beginning of this post things aren’t all that good around here and we have shut down a lot of our waters to guiding/fishing but do have some limited conditional availability on the Pine/Los Pinos Tailwater Wommer Ranch & Pick Bar Ranch, East Fork Ranch (EFR), #1 Upper Section of Weber Ranches (-W4), and backcountry small stream or alpine lake overnight, multi-day horseback or hike-in trips through our partner Outfitters. Seems like we may be getting somewhat past the worst of it if things continue to cool down and rain more as it has been and is predicted to do here through the next 3 months.
This has definitely been a season of “you should of been here yesterdays or should of been here last weeks”, but sadly of present has been “you should of been here last month even 2 or 3 months ago.” June’s and 1st two weeks of July’s fishing had been good-excellent for our Donor Members, Guests, and Charities. Some great dry fly fishing! But, as I have been stating in posts on emails, Blogs, and Social Media as many of you know I am usually pretty darn good at predicting things as for future weather, water, hatches, fishing conditions and that this 2018 Season I wasn’t even going to try to too far out into the future cause this year Mother Nature has thrown us curve balls everyday since last November. This year has been anything and everything but normal or average. We ended May and started June with blanket hatches of multi-species of aquatic insect actually most all of them that should hatch on average all throughout June, July, and August but all hatching in about a 3-4 week period of time. The fishing was awesome but in many cases unpredictable. One day we would catch tons of fish & trophy sized fish most all on dries all day long with a fish or 2 coming on a nymph here or there. Then the very next day we could fish a section of the same streams a few yards above or below where we fished the day before without any changes to the conditions and not get a single fish to even look at a dry fly but have excellent fishing on nymph rigs. Alex “Xenie” Hall said it best about this year so far is “the fish are being Moody” and hasn’t that been the truth so far. My regular quote to people through other this year so far has been “the only consistency we had this year is Inconsistency”. As for what to expect currently on our local waters is bottom release tailwaters like the San Juan at Navajo Dam, the Pine/Los Pinos, and other similar bottom release tailwater rivers is about as normal as we have this year being dam controlled and bottom releases they are full and cool with classic tailwater fishing. Hatches of midges, some caddis, PMD’s with some baetis & terrestrial activity. Fishing is good and will continue to be without any major changes to the flows if water flows drastically increase or decrease fishing conditions will drastically change too. As for the freestone streams as stated earlier nothing has been anywhere near normal. Places that are ethically safe to guide/fish are tough fishing but possible but as for hatches little to none cause most everything has already hatched earlier in the year. Terrestrial fishing should be good, usually is on hotter, drier years seem to be better terrestrial fishing Summers this year the grasshopper population so far is not too good yet hopefully that will change here soon. One thing I have been noticing in the streams that are staying cold enough though is the aquatic insect activity at present is similar to our others earlier in the year with bugs that should be hatching in Aug., Sept., & Oct. have been hatching some in July like, some terrestrials, Tricos, Baetis, micro caddis, etc…
Matt & I have been driving around, horseback riding & hiking checking water temperatures around the Pagosa Springs area since we can't ethically fish & we can't be stuck indoors for too long. Multiple locations checked in the Piedra River drainage most daily with us being at Toner Ranch Outfitting often. Air temperatures low -mid 80's F partly cloudy to mostly cloudy afternoon towards dark. 2 Thermometers Standard & Digital average water depths 8-12" in Sun & in shade. Lower Piedra upstream of Hwy 160 around 6600' in elevation. Upper Piedra near Piedra Rd. 7600'. Williams Creek below reservoir 8000'. Middle Fork of the Piedra upstream of irrigation ditches 8200'. Please carry & use a Thermometer before & while fishing! Many people wonder up into the Piedra area and feel they are in the middle of nowhere, way up high in the mountains, and the small creeks up high have to be cool. The people I asked advice or what I read online says go into the highcountry, fish smaller mountain creeks, etc... Problem
#1. Here & also why we posted the elevations though it seems like you are climbing up into the mountain going up Piedra Rd the actual elevation is only about as high as most of Town(Pagosa).
#2. Irrigation water is pulled off of many of these streams so depending on location flow & temperature can be extreme differences.
#3 Williams Creek is a Spillover tailwater (not bottom release).
#4. All of these streams & their tributaries flows through a lot of wide open meadows being baked by the Sun all day. Best tips we can give, do your research, look at maps, get above irrigation pull offs, get above open meadow areas, look for areas near colder tributary creek confluences, get above 8600' in elevation, and please use a thermometer regularly…
Scary, scary... I can not wrap my head around it!!!
#1.) Why is the fishing closures voluntary & only in a few places?
#2.) How can USFS &/or CPW allow their permitted Outfitter's to still guide these waters & how could you so-called Guides/Outfitters continued to do so?
Please use a Thermometer!
Average High Water Temperatures throughout the last 3 weeks.
Lower Piedra 70-74F
Upper Piedra 78-80F
Middle fork Piedra 68-73F
Williams Creek 78-83F
San Juan up & downstream of town 70-75F
Weminuche Crk. 65-68F
Pine/Los Pinos Tailwater 58-66F
East Fork of the San Juan 58-62F
My Last Rant & things to Think about:
A highly respected Fishing Industry Professional recently posted online about the Voluntary Fishing Closures in this part of the world due to our current lethal weather & water conditions in our lower elevation larger rivers & lakes. That it does not mean you can not fish & hiring a Guide or getting local Fly shop advice you can still enjoy your vacation, get in some fishing, and help our local economies.
He is Correct for the most part, but here's the problem.
There are more Outfitter's/Guide Services that are way more concerned on taking your money than being proper ethical stewards of our forests & waters.
And many of you do not know who's who...
We are seeing guide trips being run on waters in Voluntary Closure after 12pm. Or 2pm. as posted in these areas.
We are seeing guided trips on the Animas that is currently having major fish kills not only due to high water temps, but also from the 416 burn scar ash run-off and now recently a Sewage Line break in Durango dumping raw sewage into the Animas.
We are seeing trips being done on waters we have personally got water temp readings well into the 70f's or more regularly.
We have seen & heard of fishless guide trips since Nov-Present on waters that have suffered since this drought has started.
We have seen plenty of social media posts & photos of Outfitter's claiming they have cold high country/backcountry trips with cold safe waters. Well most of us here at Sacred Waters CO have been Fishing &/or Guiding these waters longer then most of these so-called "Guides" have even been in business, guiding, fishing, &/or even alive on this earth. We tend to know most every landmark, rock, tree pool, etc on our local waters we aren't fooled all that easily. We do have a lot of lower elevation, front-country areas that look very remote, I personally have seen this claim on a post I knew exactly where they were & happened to have to go that way the next day so I took a little detour to temp the river it was 70-72F, just plain sickens me to the core.
When we started our last CARE Campaign of purchasing or acquiring Thermometers to loan out for Free. We went into &/or called Sporting Goods Stores/Fly Shops to acquire more thermometers. Here's some things we ran into.
#1.) Most gave us thermometers for free or at cost (wholesale).
#2.) Most had very few to no thermometers. Why? Because they are the worst, lesser selling fishing accessory of all the fishing accessories. I know this to be true also from a half a lifetime in this game. Lets Please Change this Fact!
#3.) While venturing around to Sporting Goods Store, Hardware Stores, Fly Shops looking to purchase Thermometers and push our Conservation/Education campaign. I went into a fly shop started talking to a kid behind the counter asking about thermometers & explaining our campaign. After a brief discussion and him reading our flyer he states "WOW Thank you I did not know all that, this is an awesome thing you're trying to do here." With the shop being out of thermometers (because, you know they don't stock many cause they don't sell well enough) he borrowed one of our loaners and himself as well as another young man who works there have been using them daily and has been a good resource of data for me now too. That right there makes me feel like "Mission Accomplished" we educated 2 young men just getting into the fishing industry and who will hopefully from now on educate their customers and be better stewards for our fisheries. Stating the obvious though, The Problem Here: There were 2 young man (early 20's) working in a Fly Shop, Guiding, & personally fishing more than your average anglers that did not have thermometers in stock, did not own their own, and did not know about lethal thermal problems fishes face.
#4.) One store did not stock them at all & the man behind the counter stated we don't stock them they don't sale. I have just been sending everyone to the lakes.
Here's the issue with that. In a Stillwater/Lake you have what is known as the thermocline it is a layer of cold water hovering somewhere in the water column. Fish in this layer may be cool, happy, healthy, and hungry... The Big Problem is, when you hook, fight, and land these fishes you are pulling them out of that layer into ever increasing oxygen deprived waters temperatures as they come shallower towards the surface. As this happens these fishes are slowly suffocating, continually build up acids in the muscle tissue(cramping), long story short slowly dying...
Relative Human Example: Come here from a few feet above sea level, 1st day here exert yourself at 7000+ feet above sea level and see what happens! You'll be at minimum much more tired, winded/breathing-trouble, get dehydrated faster/worse, cramp up faster or worse, get what is know as altitude or elevation sickness, or even worse could die. Why? Lack of Oxygen! Same with Trout, Char, & Salmon, the warmer the water the lesser the dissolved oxygen level.
#5.) Had purchased all the thermometers in stock at their store. Explained our campaign and asked for a discount at minimum a Guide/Outfitter discount, the man behind the counter gave us 5% off also on thermometers that were at 100% markup. I been in this game a longtime I know MSRP & MAP Pricing as well as Wholesale Prices. Also every time I've been in a fishing store anywhere & asked for a guide discount at very minimum got 10% but on average 20% or more especially after showing a business card, outfitter registration card, etc... And considering what we are trying to do here that's just Sad... Why? Now this is an assumption but this store is also one that is continually guide some of the Voluntary Fishing Closure Areas and other marginally safe to unsafe areas. Also to add more fuel to the fire had a prospective client call about a trip on a marginal waterway and we did not book the trip. The next day I run across photos of said client on a guide trip with them on the same waterway...
The Sad thing is for many of you who may lack trout fishery/biology knowledge you may need some help and may depend on a Guide to provide this knowledge.
Only Tips I can give you is please do your research before hiring an Outfitter/Guide!
In a lot of places outfitting has little to no requirements, standards, or lacks proper regulations &/or enforcement of the sort. Please help police our Outfitter's, call your own trip early if needed, report violations, concerns, issues with an Outfitter/Guide to the local Forest Service Office, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Office, Colorado Dept. Of Regulatory Agencies.
Check out websites, blog posts, fishing reports, social media post, use your truth filter if it's not about bottom release tailwaters, the true high country, South of the I-70 corridor and everything is super positive fairy dust & unicorns that's what it probably is a fairy tale.
If the water feels warm to you it is probably to warm to fish for Trout, Salmon, &/or Char.
Buy, Borrow, Use a Thermometer!
Temp a waterway before booking a guided trip if that water is 68f or higher and they agree to doing the trip do Not book with them.
Carry & use a thermometer while fishing guide trip or not, police yourself, police your guide if the water temp hits 68f pull off the water.
The simple signs:
If you see more than the 1 occasional dead trout.
If the water's murky/dark from debris or ash runoff.
If making a drift is painfully slow.
If the fishery is a spillover tailwater.
If it's a Stillwater (lake\reservoir) below 9000' and the larger & more Sun exposed the worse.
Check the stream-flows & some gauges now have temperature readings too @ http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/Default.aspx If it's breaking 68-70F+ daily, for extended periods of time, &/or greatly less than the 25% average be extremely careful & cautious of water temps throughout your day of fishing and again if the water feels warm its probably too warm to fish for trout.
Not relative to current time frame but a sign to look out for on the ethics of your guide in the future.
If a guide is putting you on redded up/spawning fish, may want to question this, it is not illegal in Colorado, but does not make it right or ethical. It is illegal in some places, some sections of fisheries, some time frames, etc. Please do some homework and be aware of such laws, closures, etc.
A Redd or referred to by some as a bed. Is a pile or depression of clean sand or gravel.
Spawning fishes, signs:
1. Sitting on a redd.
2. Will not leave an area or if they do spook off they come right back.
3. Two fish of the same species but not always same species very close together or touching, or erratically turning sideways, slapping their tails on the bottom, and the obvious the sight of sperm &/or eggs being deposited. Or discharged upon handling after being caught.
4. Most to All of the fish are in shallow waters, side channels, very heads or tails of pools.
5. If it's Springtime and you are supposed to be fishing in a primarily Rainbow &/or Cutthroat trout fishery. Or it's Autumn and you're supposed to be fishing a primarily Brown Trout or Brook Trout/Char fishery.
If it's a fairly mixed species fishery and your guide has you fishing areas stated above in #4 and especially if most of your fishes being caught are that time of year's species to spawn.
You may want to be concerned or the ethics of your Guide/Outfitter.
Finally my personal opinion if a fishery is under our current Voluntary Fishing Closure it is for a reason please just go find something else to fish...
New or Renewing Donor Memberships:
Donation amounts for 2017 Charter Donors are set for Life at the discounted rate if renewed Annually as discussed last year. 2017 Donors that have not renewed in 2018 will not get the 2017 discounts in the future.
For New/1st Time 2018 Donors/Members their rate will be set for 3 yrs at discounted rates listed below benefiting them to renew Annually if we ever have to raise the rates in the future.
Discounted Rates for 2018:
Rates for New Donor Levels for 2018 :
Bronze Level: Was $150.00. Now Only: $100.00, Applicable Guide Fees Apply and less (-)$25.00 on total Guide Fee on Bronze Level Donor Trips for all your trips in 2018.
Silver Level: Was $3500.00. Now Only: $3400.00, Less(-)$25.00 off for Guest Guide Fees for all trips in 2018.
Gold Level: Was $5500.00. Now Only: $5200.00, Less (-)$25.00 off for Guest/s Guide Fees per person per trip for all Trips in 2018.
Platinum/Corporate Level: Was $10,000.00. Now Only: $9500.00 . Less (-)$25.00 off for Guest/s Guide Fess per person per trip for all of 2018.
*Please keep in mind if you do donate in 2018 this will also be your membership renewal level for up to 3 years if you consecutively renewed annually.*
(*After December 31, 2018 all Donor Member Level Packages will go back up to Original Pricing, Guest/s Fees will also return to original pricing, and all level prices are subject to increase as we expand through the future.*)
Please review the FB & IG Social Media Pages and our Websites. I hope it can help show you all more easily and clearly the Efforts and Accomplishments SWCO has put forth with your and others donors generous donations.
Your Support of Sacred Waters is even More Crucial than ever..... And if you want to get some of the best fishing anywhere in a 100 miles of Pagosa Springs, CO in the future here. Donate Today and help us protect our local fisheries. We can't really predict or control/change the weather, but we can provide the best fishing at the best times and protect our waters and fishes at the worst times. But we can only accomplish this with your generous donations.
Thank you, Be Safe, Tight Lines,
If my 15 pages of rambling wasn't enough or if you were off the grid all July of 2018 below are local News Stories The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Let's be the Change with some C.A.R.E. ing.....
Our President Joseph Eichelberger, with 20 years of guiding experience and a long family heritage of responsible outdoorsmanship, brings a unique perspective to our blog as he promotes fishing conservation and education in Pagosa Springs, CO where he's lived since 2008.