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> > Warm Water and it's effect on a small trout stream

MotroutAugust 9th, 2010, 9:07 am
Posts: 319
We are having an unprecedented heat wave in Missouri, and while some of the larger, more spring fed trout rivers like the upper Current are doing okay, it's putting a major hurting on the little wild trout creeks. I just visited one of my favorite little wild rainbow streams this morning with the hope of getting some early morning fishing. Instead, I found no trout in most of the usual pools, and when I came up to the point where a good sized spring flows in, dozens of trout were laying there with there noses to the spring just trying to survive. It's a sad sight on a stream that usually stays cold all year long. Of course I didn't fish for the poor fellows- I think spring-hole fishing when trout are this stressed is a reckless thing to do- dragging them away from their thermal refuge is almost sure to kill them. I found further evidence of that moving upstream, not fishing but just kind of surveying the situation. There were a few trout struggling upstream of the spring, who had not apparently made it to the thermal refuge in time. Coming further upstream, I saw a beautiful perfect breeding sized rainbow floating dead in a back water. I have never seen warm water reek such havoc upon this stream, and I hope the fish are alright. More than anything I hope that the local fisherman can take a break from fishing it for a bit. The water temps are as high as I've seen them, 75 in the main stream, although there are isolated spring holes that are in the low to mid 60s. Of course that's where most of the trout are

I know the easterners on here have probably seen some of the same sad sights this summer with the hot weather you had in July- What do you think these trout's chance of survival is?
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
OldredbarnAugust 9th, 2010, 9:33 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2587
Motrout,

This is too bad!

I ran in to a similar situation in 2004 on the Henry's Fork at the railroad ranch. It was more man-made and the elevated water temps were due to the water wars that are always taking place out there between ranchers and just about everyone else...I saw one of the largest compound hatches of my life. It literally looked like mother nature had peppered the smooth surface with bugs and no fish to be had. They had moved out.

I was pre-warned and the guy at the fly shop had given me directions to a spot further downstream where a cold stream entered the river. Like you I saw fish there and never cast to them. I sat down there and ate my boxed lunch and wondered why I had driven all that way from West Yellowstone and wasted the last couple days of my trip...I must of passed up a million fishing chances closer to where I was staying!

I went in to Blue Ribbon the next day to hear the rants of a guide in there about the situation on the Henry's Fork and to hear how wonerful the Madison had been fishing...What's that old saying, "Never leave fish for fish!" Maybe checking with the fly shop would of been a better idea prior to heading out, but I had never seen the place before.

I think in places where water temps normally can change dramatically during the year maybe the fish are on to the cooler areas. As you said in your post, some will make it and some won't. Not putting any undue pressure on them I think was the right choice and merits some cudos from your fellow Trout Nuts...That's a difficult choice to make sometimes after you have put forth the effort and dollars to get to a fishing location.

Let's hope this will pass ASAP. I think this is an issue we have touched on in many different threads here. Global warming, putting a cold water species like trout in environments that may be marginal at times etc.

This spring on the Au Sable we were pushing the envelop with 70 degrees plus in spots...This isn't normal at all there in May.

Take Care!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
MotroutAugust 9th, 2010, 10:55 am
Posts: 319
Yeah, it's sad to watch the streams when they are like this. I know what you mean about the Henry's Fork "water war" situation. I used to live in Colorado, and my home river got drawn down and warm every year because the irrigators took so much out. I understand the ranchers have to make a living, but it's really hard to watch them suck the life out of once great trout streams.

I just hope the most of the trout on that little creek make it to the spring holes and can make it through the hot weather more or less undisturbed- the hot temps and dry weather aren't showing any signs of letting up around here so things look pretty bad. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime there is always smallmouth bass...
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
PaulRobertsAugust 12th, 2010, 11:14 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
I've seen this quite a few times in various places. Bows esp, and browns, will probably do OK at 75 for quite a while. Believe it or not, they can eek out 80 for a while too, but they get thin pretty fast. (these are daily high water temps I'm talking about). They'll move into riffles/fast runs for ram-jetting (ram-jet ventilation is what it's called). In most streams (moving not stagnant) it's not correct to say that riffles "hold more oxygen" -they don't really. But trout move into them under stress to get water jetted through their gills. If there are springs...well you've seen it for yourself. Remember those springs btw -they'll be hotspots every summer, not just during droughts,and you can feel comfortable fish them during non-drought summers.

As you already said, "Don't fish em". Leave em be. But one potential option, if you have it, is choose a watershed with healthy, intact (meaning forested) headwaters. Check maps for the largest forested upper watershed you've got. Trout commonly migrate upstream in most watersheds with marginal sections. Some surprisingly nice fish can end up in very skinny water up there. If the headwaters are brush lined, here's one thing I'll do: Go UP in rod power, a short fast 5 or 6wt, to PUNCH through brush. Fish a terrestrial or buggy attractor dry, or hang a small streamer.

Good luck. Pray for a break in the weather. At this point -75F highs aren't THAT bad.
OldredbarnAugust 12th, 2010, 12:42 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2587
If the headwaters are brush lined, here's one thing I'll do: Go UP in rod power, a short fast 5 or 6wt, to PUNCH through brush. Fish a terrestrial or buggy attractor dry, or hang a small streamer.


Paul,

This is an interesting suggestion from you. This past spring at a fly fishing show I attended here in Michigan Joe Humphreys was a guest speaker. You may have seen his presentations. He always brings film of his casting in what looks like, to the rest of us anyway, a jungle! Well I actually asked him during the Q&A what rod he preferred in those situations. Most of us think small stream and a chance to head out with smaller rods and lighter line weights...Say my 6.6 3wt.

Like you he likes a rod with some power and said his favorite was a 6wt and I can't remember what the length was...maybe a 7 ft or 8...Which I was a bit surprised to hear. We think that in those confined spaces we need to lighten up and he said it isn't so. He said he wanted something strong enough to shoot it out there with authority.

Years back I saw him casting at a casting pond at a show. He had a conference type table placed across it and had us pretend the underside was some overhanging brush on the stream...From a good distance he placed his fly in the pocket everytime and never touched the imaginary over hanging brush!

On the midwest/eastern streams our Browns don't usually hang out there in the open like they do on western streams and quality casting is a must. He usually isn't going to move his nose from the cover he's found and you need to tap him on the nose sometimes with your fly...:)

I would be willing to bet a large sum that some of the grumbling we sometimes hear about the fishing on a particular stream would go away if we could just get guys to spend some time really learning to cast...Good casting skill is the difference between fishing and just getting lucky.

Thanks!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsAugust 12th, 2010, 1:38 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Spence,

Joe is who I got the idea from. For brush crashing I use a 7+' 6wt that was once an 8'5wt. It's like a spinning blank lol, and I can develop serious line speed with it. When I hang up, I go light on the touch and usually the weight of the line will allow a heavily hackle dry to tumble out. My fly for really dense crashing is a fully palmered body clipped just inside the gap, then a deer or woodchuck guardhair overwing. Great skater too.

But I use light line rods too. You are right on that casting skill and creativity is foremost. There's little that's really new under the sun, and all those casts with fancy names have been re-invented, and named a-new, by many small stream adventurers. I do a lot of bow-n-arrow, roll, circle (Humphreys), steeple, and oval casting with a dropped/pulled elbow.

Proper leaders are critical too -lotsa butt, and a fast transition to a shortish tippet. Top it off with a buoyant quick-dry fly and very few streams will keep me at bay.

I've also trimmed a bit of brush, and will move a rock or two to lengthen a tiny pool just enough that I can get my rod tip to the tail-out lip without my having to be right on top of the fish.
LJGurkeAugust 13th, 2010, 9:24 am
Andover MA

Posts: 3
Visiting the in-laws out in SW MO for a couple weeks - was looking forward to trying for some wild 'bows in an Ozark creek, and was quite dismayed reading this post - figuring I'd have to forego any trout fishing for the time being. I decided to take a drive Thursday to check out a small spring-fed creek - didn't even bother bringing my fly rod. Despite a heat index approaching 105 F, the stream was crisp and cool and in the low-60s - I took several temps and this held even in the shallow riffles. Went back this morning and picked up 4 wild 'bows in a couple hours - the fish were healthy and actively feeding, and swam away vigorously when released (though I was careful not to remove the fish from the water). There is decent water out there - despite the heat, and it looks like we will get a break in a day or two.
LJG
MotroutAugust 13th, 2010, 10:40 am
Posts: 319
I'll bet I know what stream in SWMO you're talking about- if it's the one I'm thinking of, it has a really strong base spring-flow and I've never heard of it getting warm in the summer (I've fished it during some really hot weather and have never seen the temp hit 70). Unfortunately the creek I was talking about originally in this post doesn't have it nearly as good. The springs are of the "variable flow" type. They put out more water during wet periods and less during dry periods- so now that the weather is dry and the air is hot, there just isn't enough spring-flow to off-set the hot weather.

But the creek you're talking about (if it's the one I think it is) should be fine to fish. I don't think it will get above 70 in it's better stretches no matter how hot it gets.

And we are having slightly cooler nights now- dropping down to the high 70s. This morning I visited the creek I originally posted about just to see how it was doing (I didn't bring a rod)The water temp was only 68 early this morning, although I'll bet it's up in the 70s now. Even though the temp was below 70 this morning, there were still a lot of trout bunched up at the mouths of springs.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
LJGurkeAugust 13th, 2010, 2:39 pm
Andover MA

Posts: 3
Mums the word, but yeah ... I took multiple readings and there was nothing even close to 70 F. Hopefully we are turning the corner and will get some cooler weather after tomorrow.

I was amazed at the variety of stream life in this particular creek. There were lots of big suckers, huge schools of dace, baby trout, swarms of unidentified small fingerlings, etc. Besides the trout I caught a fallfish, slimy sculpin, and a decent sized google-eye (rock bass). The sculpin wasn't much bigger than the prince it inhaled, and I was surprised to see the rock bass (which, even on a 2-wt, fought like a wet rag) - didn't know they were cold-water fish.
LJG
MotroutAugust 13th, 2010, 6:04 pm
Posts: 319
Hey, don't worry, I'm sure not gonna mention the name of that stream. If I'm guessing right I like to fish it too... By the way, about the species beside trout you found, you'll find warm-water fish like Rock bass, smallmouth bass, longear sunfish, fallfish and chubs in pretty much all the Ozark trout streams-they are the native species around here and even the cold trout waters usually have some. The streams have really diverse fish populations around here and that's why I like them so much.

I'm glad you had some good fishing.

"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
MotroutAugust 16th, 2010, 6:47 pm
Posts: 319
Finally my little creek is cool again! After several cool nights and reasonable days, the temp is now back below 70. I was just planning on checking it out again today, but when I saw that the water temp was only 67 at 7 PM, I figured I might as well give it a shot. I fished the normal water (not the spring-holes) and managed to catch 5 wild rainbows, two on a Dave's Hopper and three on my dropper (a #18 Hare's Ear). That's not quite as many fish as I would normally get on this stretch of creek, but it's good to see that some fish survived the heat wave.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
PaulRobertsAugust 17th, 2010, 8:01 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Great!

You'll still probably find more willing bows than browns at those temps, and more fish in the riffles than pools. Heads of pools and pocket water if you have it. Even shallow riffs might hold some fish. Let us know what you find.
MotroutAugust 18th, 2010, 3:11 pm
Posts: 319
Yeah, this stream is all 'bows. I haven't tried it since, but the weather has remained pretty good so it should be doing just fine... Hope I'm right.

I know what you mean about finding them in the shallow riffles when it's like this- that's always a good first spot to toss the old hopper, especially if it's near a deep pool.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
JesseAugust 18th, 2010, 5:07 pm
Posts: 378
Ran into the same problem at a small native creek that i fish and had actually recently fished not to long ago. It's rediculous because some people will build little walkways and dams throughout the creek so they can walk through it, but those pools that are formed because of it cause the water above that pool to warm a little faster. So what i did was re-arange all the rocks to provide more flow for that section of water and reduce water temp build up. Thats something that can be done even in small ways if you notice problems like that. A rock here and there being moved around; next thing you know you have better stream flow, a little cooler water, and a perfect one man stream restoration project that you can sit back and marval at while you slay some more of your native buddies ha!
Most of us fish our whole lives..not knowing its not the fish that we are after.
http://www.filingoflyfishing.com
MotroutAugust 18th, 2010, 5:16 pm
Posts: 319
Good thinking Jesse... I hate it when people put rock dams on a stream, it really can warm them up.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
PaulRobertsAugust 19th, 2010, 8:08 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
I suspect it would take a pretty good sized pool, with sun on it, to change water temps. Beavers can do it, but they are a lot busier than we are. Also, beavers and their dams clear away canopy that keeps the sun off. Stream temps are a matter of water source and canopy.

DitchAugust 19th, 2010, 9:58 am
Fuquay-Varina NC

Posts: 36
I just found a section of my favorite creek that they usually build a dam during the summer to make a bigger swimin hole that they were actually using plastic drop cloths to stop the water from getting through their little project the effect was the water was already starting to go get swampie and yes it was warmer then the rest of the creek. this is on a stocked section that the state "Maintains" lets just say that their plastic has a few holes in it now.
There are no bad fishing days.
MotroutAugust 19th, 2010, 3:27 pm
Posts: 319
I really do hate the whole rock dam thing. The Missouri Department of Conservation usually does a pretty darn good job, but they have a bad habit of putting rock dams on some of our trout streams. They build them on the heavily stocked streams so the sit and wait bait guys can have it easier... I say leave the stream natural, and you'll have lower temps, more fish migration, and less bait guys. Good news all around I'd say.

I'm getting a bit off on a tangent- sorry about that.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
http://fishingintheozarks.blogspot.com/
PaulRobertsAugust 20th, 2010, 5:38 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Wow. Drop cloths takes it to another level. I've never seen that.
JesseAugust 20th, 2010, 9:04 am
Posts: 378
Ditch thats some good stuff man i love that you torched the cloth up a little bit. I mean i honestly don't see the harm in that and i would do the same exact thing ha! Some people just don't understand that by putting up small rock dams such as those that they are actually really hurting the streams natural habitat and all that live in it. Im not saying that a small dam is going to kill the trout populations, but it is going to effect it in a slightl negative way. A lot of people just don't care either, a damn shame...
Most of us fish our whole lives..not knowing its not the fish that we are after.
http://www.filingoflyfishing.com

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