Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fly Fishing "Hot Spots" and Crowding

The following is an e-mail from TPFR President, Dan Davala

"I have a few opinions and philosophies on this topic that I’d like to share. None of these are directed at any individual either, so we’ll get that right out of the way.

For whatever reason, I have always been very aware of contradictions and double standards in all walks of life, and fishing happens to be full of them. I’m certainly guilty of a few myself, but I always try to pan out and play devil’s advocate by looking at the big picture from a different angle. This is why I have always been so quick to point out how many non-native and technically “invasive” species we fish for on a regular basis without having an issue whenever the topic of the Snakehead comes up. Brown Trout in this country, Great Lakes Salmon and Steelhead, Brookies out West, Rainbows out East, Largemouth and Smallmouth in the Potomac (established in 1854) etc., etc., etc. We are all entitled to our opinions and preferences regarding these species, but in a black and white sense they are the same.

About the issue of “hot-spotting”, “spot-burning”, or whatever we want to call it, we really need to pan out and get a wider view as this is another topic where double standards abound. For instance, I’ve never been in a fly shop anywhere that didn’t carry a wide selection of local guidebooks, and even guidebooks for other states and regions thousands of miles away. The authors of these books are often regarded as local celebrities and are invited to shops and events to sign their books and talk about local opportunities. These books include everything – maps, where to park, where to access the water, what flies to have, where to eat, where to sleep, etc. Most shops (mine included) have no problem burning 100 spots at a time for the price of $28, and most anglers don’t even think of it in this way when we are paying it. I know because before I sold these books I bought them all myself, and I still do. Yes, it still requires a bit of exploration, but I sure wouldn’t call it finding our own fishing spots. Destination pieces in Fly Fishing magazines are no different, all of which feature “if you go”, “what to bring”, “where to stay” sections.

Another double standard is how quick we all are (not just shops, but fellow fishers) to “burn” a spot when it is in someone else’s region. ALL of the Erie and Ontario tribs are a great example of this. Most of us here locally have no problem trading good access points, streams, pull-offs, trails, cheap hotels, less crowded runs, best times to go to avoid crowds, etc. when it comes to planning a Great Lakes Steelhead trip. But all we’re doing is burning the local spots up there, they just don’t happen to be “ours”. Come to think of it, why do our area shops (mine included) even stock Salmon and Steelhead flies, lines, and tackle to begin with? It can only be to supply our local anglers and send them to OTHER PEOPLE‘S HOT-SPOTS, either by plane, train, or auto. There isn’t even a Steelhead fishery within 5 hours of here. The closest thing would have to be the annual late winter run of “Mcchonaughy” rainbows that make a spawning run up the Jackson from Lake Moomaw. Ooops, was that a secret? Nope, it’s right here on page 61 in Beasley’s book, and 248 in Hart’s.
Besides our typical fall/winter Steelhead trips, I’m sure more than a few of us on this board will head to the Northeast for Stripers and Blues, or down to Harkers for Albies in the next few months. Anyone have a spring Tarpon trip to the Keys planned? Who’s spots are these? I’m sure the locals at those destinations would tell you. It really is no different.

I’ve always felt that if we can spill information and “burn” other people’s hot-spots in other regions and can’t share our own local ones with each other then there’s something wrong with this picture. At least here through TPFR, it’s not for profit and serves the purpose of educating our local fly fishing community about the great fishing we have at our fingertips, some of which is quite unique to our watershed. It is a local board, not a regional or national one, and while I realize the message board can be viewed on-line by non-members, I doubt many out-of-towners will be traveling or commuting through traffic into the D.C. area on a day off to catch an outgoing tide at Gravelly. For those traveling to the area on business, or planning a potential move to the area for a job on the other hand, I hope they scour the internet and find our site. When they do, at least they will know there is plenty of fly fishing here and a friendly group of anglers willing to help them out.
I agree with Richie and his “certain bearded employee” 100% about teaching people how to FIND good fishing spots. We could even call Gravelly the “Sacrificial Lamb” of the Tidal Potomac since access is easy and it has so much to teach us. Here is an excerpt from a post I made on this topic last year when the topic of crowding at Gravelly came up. On November 2, 2009 I wrote:

“Next, I want to emphasize that Gravelly Point is not an anomaly. These are not the only Stripers in the river, and Stripers don’t only gather at Gravelly Point. It should, however, be viewed as an excellent classroom for how, where, and when to look for fish in a Tidal River, at least from shore. There is a tremendous population of Stripers in the river, and they are always looking to feed. Outgoing tides at Gravelly are desirable, but incoming tides will concentrate these fish in other areas too. What Gravelly Point does have is predictable, concentrated tidal flow, and a good population of baitfish coming out of the Duck Pond. Look at it on the map, and apply what you have learned to other places that share these characteristics. Both outflows of the Tidal Basin are examples, but there are so many others, all the way down the river to the Bay. Look at all the tidal creeks spilling in. Get creative, explore, discover, and share your experiences (successful or not) just as we have here. This is a HUGE river, and there is no reason we should limit ourselves to one spot, even though it is a good one.”

It might be a good time for new members to review that post here: Alek’s post is a great example of applying the dynamics found at Gravelly and finding them in another place, at the mouth of Little Hunting Creek. It is also a fine example of a completely unselfish post and demonstrates the type of sharing this club is built upon. Thank you Alek. If anyone is mad at Alek for posting about Little Hunting, don’t be, I posted about it last

November here: People wanting to keep a resource all to themselves is nothing new, in fact it is quite normal. What is not normal is having such a large group of fly anglers so willing to share information with each other, and for that I am very proud of this club. This level of camaraderie in a fly fishing club is truly unique. How many of you now know and regularly fish with people you didn’t know before joining TPFR? How many of you have learned things you didn’t know about fly fishing, this fishery, or casting since getting involved? To all of you who have contributed to the knowledge base and growth of this club, I thank you and I encourage you to continue. 
See you all on the River,

P.S. If there’s one thing this club has definitely done is pull a LOT of pressure OFF many of the smaller, more fragile fisheries in the region. If anyone is looking for solitude, I suspect there is a lot more of it available out there now."


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