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Wet weather at midsummer

August 2, 2008
Joe Hackett, outdoors columnist

For the majority of the past two weeks, I've been wearing rain gear. Although I now own three complete sets of quality GoreTex gear, I can't manage to keep a dry pair on hand. Although it hasn't been forty day and forty nights, it sure seems it.

My hands have taken on a distinctly prune-like texture and the mere mention of "just another passing shower" sends shivers up my spine. I'm beginning to believe that some strange juxtaposition of seasons has occurred and nobody bothered to inform me. The rains and thunderstorms certainly put a damper on camping, boating and hiking.

For campers, the rains brought wet conditions and a fresh influx of bugs; for boaters, it was simply unsafe to be on the water with the threat of lightning, and hikers found steady streams and mud where trails were expected to be.

The recent rains also affected the angling prospects, making many local rivers and streams unmanageable for wading or too swift to float. I had to change plans for a trip upriver to Raquette Falls last week, due to the heavy flow. Likewise, the rapids on the Raquette below Piercefield, which are usually a hot spot for bass, had been transformed into a churning froth of whitewater that proved impossible to fish.

However, the rains did offer some consolation, as area streams and rivers received a refreshing dose of cool, highly oxygenated waters that lowered water temperatures and flushed a huge amount of food into the mix.

Prior to the rains, stream temperatures were climbing into the high 70's and trout had begun to seek refuge at the mouths of small feeder streams, or concentrating in large numbers in the deeper pools.

As a result of these conditions, the oxygen-depleted fish were vulnerable to predators such as mink, otter, birds and man. The fresh rains helped to disperse these concentrated fish. I expect we'll have greatly improved conditions for anglers as waters recede.

What happens in camp stays in camp

Over the course of my career, I have been most fortunate to visit and fish on numerous private properties and preserves throughout the Adirondacks. Several of the larger privately-held parcels offer tremendous angling opportunities, with both stocked and native fish.

Increasingly, with the ease of travel, many of these properties are frequented by traveling anglers, including some who have fished on the Madison or the Yellowstone the week prior.

Others, who drove rather than flew north, may have stopped to wet a line on the Battenkill, the Esopus or the Delaware.

Most property owners have been savvy enough to protect against invasive species arriving to their private waters by forbidding any outside boats or canoes.

However, the threat of invasives no longer affects just boaters and paddlers anymore.

A much greater danger is posed by the introduction of Didymosphenia geminata, also known as "Didymo" and "Rock Snot," which grows in thick mats that can cover native algae and aquatic insects, and make fishing very difficult.

These thick mats appear slimy, but feel more like cotton or wool fabric. The algae mats are also called "rock snot" and can be white, yellow or brown in color. The algae forms stalks that attach to rocks. While the algae eventually dies and breaks off, the stalks persist and may impact stream habitats and aquatic organisms for weeks or months.

Didymo can be introduced by anglers or boaters to public or private waters with resulting negative ecological, economic and aesthetic impacts in infested areas.

Didymo is native to the northern latitudes of North America, Europe and Asia. Its range has expanded and it now can be found in rivers in the western United States and more recently in Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont. It has also been found in three western Virginia rivers.

This range of expansion is largely attributed to anglers and boaters. Didymo can attach to waders, paddles and boats.

However, felt-soled boots and waders are likely the worst culprit in the spread of the algae since the porous material stays damp and the algae cells can remain alive in the damp felt bottoms.

Yet, it isn't limited to just wading shoes. A single cell of the single cell algae is all that is necessary for didymo to gain a toehold on a stream.

A didymo cell can be found on a damp fly left in a flybox from the river fished downstate yesterday, or it can be preserved within the damp flyline that was reeled in while angling a West Virginia river river that is only a few hours' flight from the Adirondacks. It may also be attached to the damp basket of a catch and release trout net tucked away in the luggage.

While the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Trout Unlimited and others continue to work to halt the spread of such invasives by encouraging anglers to take precautions against moving Didymo and other potential invasive species from one waterbody to another, anglers and boaters must also take responsibility for the introduction of unwanted species, some of which they may not even be aware of.

I have advised several private property owners to keep a supply of "property specific equipment" on hand to ensure their waters remain unaffected. What is used on the property, stays on the property.

If this can't be accomplished, I have recommended the installation of Clorox baths, a small tub where visiting anglers can soak their waders, nets, fly reels, waders and more.

Didymo was found in the upper Connecticut River and the White River in Vermont last year. It has now turned up on the Battenkill, the Delaware and most recently there was a discovery of a didymo bloom in the Mad River, near Warren, Vt.

Preventing the spread of Didymo is the only effective management tool for its control. Currently, there are no known methods of eradicating it once it is established. There is a growing scourge presented by a range of aquatic nuisance species and fish diseases which includes Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) and whirling disease, and only responsible anglers and boaters can head it off. We all must do what we can to protect the resource.

Good practices that help reduce the spread of these aquatic nuisances and diseases include restricting your activity to one waterbody per day, traveling in a downstream direction, choosing nonabsorbent gear, and disinfecting equipment before moving from stream to stream. Rubber-soled non-felt boots that clean easier and dry quicker are recommended.

Regardless of the official status of any specific waterbody, river users should use recommended good practices and disinfection procedures for each and every waterbody they visit.

These include: Before leaving a stream, scrub mud and debris off of boots and fishing gear. Disinfect boots and equipment by scrubbing or soaking in a 5 percent salt or Clorox solution (two cups of salt or half cup of Clorox in 2.5 gallons of water) for one minute and then let dry completely. You may also scrub equipment with dishwashing detergent and rinse well. Allowing equipment to completely dry for at least 48 hours will also kill didymo, but realize that felt bottoms of boots may require longer drying times. Soak items in very hot water (140 degrees F) or freeze them (a good method for fly boxes)

Mid term exam

With the arrival of August, we have passed the mid term of summer and the approaching school year looms large on the horizon.

As a result, I have offered a brief reminder of summer essentials not to be missed. Review the checklist to see how your family scores on summer's mid-term exam. Have you...?

1. Driven to the top of Whiteface Mountain and taken a cool ride in the elevator to the summit. It's the lazy man's way to climb a High Peak.

2. Taken a late afternoon ride on a motorcycle or in a convertible to get a soft ice cream at Donnelly's (especially if the Flavor of the Day is your favorite), a slushie at Mountain Mist or a piece of pie baked at the Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley.

3. Gone swimming in the deep, crystal clear, cool water pool of a mountain stream such as The Old Mill on the East Branch of the Ausable in Keene, Shoebox Falls at High Bridge in Keene Valley on the Boquet, Styles Brook Falls in Upper Jay, US Falls on the Branch in Elizabethtown or the slick rocks at the Covered Bridge in Jay.

4. Taken a scenic flight from the Lake Placid airport or a seaplane ride out of Long Lake or Inlet. The overhead perspective is as delightful as the combination of woods, waters and mountains below.

5. Visited the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, or The Wild Center in Tupper Lake.

6. Been a spectator or participant in local events of competition and tradition, such as the Tupper Woodsmen's Days, the Hanmer Guideboat and Canoe Race, the Lake Placid Horseshows or any of the wonderful encampments and re-enactments at Fort Ticonderoga.

7. Camped by the lakeshore, eating smores around the fire and falling asleep in the open air and while watching the sky for shooting stars and listening to the crickets, frogs, loons, coyotes and owls.

8. Visited any of the numerous area antique shops, rustic furniture builders, artisans or craft centers. Every small town has a few ranging from painters and basket makers to stained glass artisans and chainsaw sculptors.

9. Picked fresh berries for pies, pancakes or muffins. From farmed strawberries, to lakeshore or mountaintop blueberries, to wild raspberries or blackberries, the only cure for a sore back from the picking is a fresh treat made from the harvest.

10. Jumped in a lake! Or run off the end of a long dock or dropped off a rope swing on the St. Regis, Rainbow or Tupper lakes or jump off the ledges on the Lower Saranac or Lake Placid.

11. Escaped the crowds on the Ausable to cast a dry fly to colorful native brook trout rising on a foliage canopied, small mountain stream that cascades from pool to pool. Or better yet, taken a kid fishing? Whether it's a blue gill or rock bass, perch or sunnie, the thrill of a child with a fish at the end of a rod can make or break a summer.

12. Climbed a peak such as Mount Jo, Mount Baker or Silver Lake Mountain or taken a long haul over Blueberry Cobble, Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain and to finish with a cool dip in Chapel Pond. Be sure to lay on your back, at any of the locations to watch the clouds and check for soaring hawks.



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