Getting hooked on fly-fishing
These days fly-fishing involves more than just fly tying and a few fancy casts, to the Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers it’s about the preservation of the sport.
The TTFF mission statement reflects this feeling clearly.
“TTFF are committed to providing service and leadership to the community, environment and education through the sport of fly fishing.”
“To me it’s about more than just catching fish,” said club president Alex Penney. “Fly fishing is about all of the elements around you.”
It’s apparent that Penney views fly fishing through the eyes of a naturalist rather than a sportsman.
This is clear when he pulls out his small cases of flies. He not only has beautifully artistic flies for all four types of flies in this area: diptera, caddis flies, may flies, and stone flies; but he also has flies for each of the different stages each specimen goes through.
As I stood on the bank of the Truckee River talking with Penney about the prime water temperature, and what type of things to look for in a fishing spot, he pauses to point out a king fisher flying by, or to notice the type of bugs hovering around the water.
He explains fly-fishing in stages. “It’s about predicting: Where I’m going, the type of bugs that are going to be around, why type of line and rod I’m going to be using, what I’m going to be wearing.”
He runs his foot through the shrubs on the bank of the river. “I like to try and stir up the flies to see what’s around. I rarely put a fly on before I get to the river.”
Before wading out to cast he watches the river and looks for his spot. “Fish like a spot where they can just hang out. Behind a big rock is perfect because they don’t have to work hard and a lot of food will still pass by them.”
When he does begin to cast I begin to think that fly fishing could be the perfect sport for me, since my father was always telling me you can’t catch any fish if your line is always out of the water.
As he casts, the line whips backward and forward with grace and precision as he works the line right over the spot he wants over and over again.
“If I come out here and the water is flowing to fast I’ll just go over and lye in the shade to relax, that’s really why I come out here.”
Alex is very proud of the TTFF and their accomplishments in the past year. “I think we’re really doing some good things.”
Ralph Cutter and Ed Long started the group in 1984 as a conservation club.
Each year the 127 members of the TTFF are involved in nearly 50 different events.
Its activities are as diverse as the sport of fly fishing itself.
The TTFF try to stay active in the political issues affecting our watershed, and they assist in bio assessments and water sampling.
In the area of conservation the TTFF have taken on a number of different projects.
Its newest proposed “flagship conversation project” is in coordination with both the Department of Fish and Game and the Truckee River Group.
The TTFF hope to due a five-year restoration and monitoring project on the Truckee River.
The project would involve creating subtle changes in the river using large woody debris and other natural obstacles.
“We want to create a better habitat and a friendlier environment for the fish. The project will help increase the capability of the river to support fish,” said TTFF member Bruce Ajari.
The TTFF would be working with a group of hydrologists, engineers and biologists to determine a good spot on the river to implement the project.
Once the plan is put into gear the TTFF would monitor the river for up to five years to see what kind of changes occur.
“We would be looking to see if the fish respond to the changes; and to see if it creates a positive change on the watershed,” said TTFF Penney.
The project has the green light from the DFG, but the group is waiting for the final go ahead from the National Forests Service.
The TTFF also helps out the DFG put up signs posting the specifications and regulations for the bodies of water in the Tahoe region. This includes the number and size of fish, and the type of hooks allowed.
Another huge project the TTFF have taken on is called “trout in the classroom.”
The TTFF works with the DFG to get fish eggs for classrooms in the Tahoe area to raise. The TTFF supports this project in schools from Truckee to Incline Village.
The students get the trout in the egg form. They place the eggs in a chiller, which runs at a constant 52 degrees. Fast flowing water allows the eggs to stay oxygenated, which is very important at this stage. Using items they would find in nature the students recreate a riverbed for the fish eggs to mature.
Using a formula based on the day the eggs were fertilized and the water temperature in which they’re kept; the students can determine the exact hatch date. This allows the students to make sure that the fish will not hatch on a weekend or vacation time.
The project involves math, geography and biology.
“It’s really a great vehicle to get kids involved in all of these subjects,” said Al Schwartz, TTFF member and organizer of trout in the classroom for the past eight years.
“It’s a real highlight in the school year; I build my curriculum around it,” said Kirby Reid, science teacher at North Tahoe. “I’ve been involved in the program from five years, and I can’t emphasize what a great job the TTFF do.”
Once the trout get to the finger length stage, the classes release the trout into streams.
The TTFF sometimes accompany new classes to the streams to discuss good versus bad spots to release the trout.
“You don’t want to release them into a deep hole in the river where they’ll just end up food,” said Schwartz.
“My class does water monitoring in the area we’re going to release them; we also look at the types of bugs that are present,” said Reid. “On the day we release the trout we bring along my wife’s first grade class from Glenshire Elementary. It gives my sophomores a chance to be the teachers. Everyone really enjoys it.”
The results of trout in the classroom are not only positive for just the students. “We usually release 50 to 75 fish from the 100 eggs that we get. In nature it’s usually only one out of 100,” said Reid.
The TTFF also host a fly fishing merit badge clinic for the Boy Scouts.
The full day clinic consists of four different areas: conservation, casting, aquatic entomology and tying knots and flies.
“We’re trying to put them in a position to be successful,” said Penney.
The Boy Scouts still have to catch two fish to earn their merit badge.
“That’s really the direction our group wants to gravitate towards,” said Ajari. “After all they are the future of the sport. We want them to see all of the aspects and to see that it is import to preserve the beauty in our own back yard.”
“The sport of fly fishing really provides us with a great opportunity to understand the areas all around. It’s a study of nature, and it’s an art form all in itself,” said Penney.
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