Todd Tanner's blog

10 things we can do to protect our fisheries in 2024

Angler activism takes many forms, here are just a few
The North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River in Oregon (photo: Bob Wick / BLM).

It’s 2024 and far too many of our fisheries here in the U.S. are in serious trouble. Fortunately, there are some positive steps each of us can take going forward. While not every suggestion below will be a good fit for every single angler, be sure to check as many as possible off the list this year.

The yard list

Taking stock of what's important
Photo: Todd Tanner

Most of us live in cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80% of Americans currently reside in urban areas. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I suppose, other than that cities are so … limiting. Sure, you can shop to your heart’s content or visit any number of restaurants, bars and clubs. You have your choice of gyms and coffee shops and schools for your kids. And yet the very essence of city life is defined by concrete, steel and asphalt.

The future of fly fishing rests in our hands

The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Sunset on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho (photo: Bob Wick/BLM cc2.0).

Let’s start off with two vital questions. What happened on August 16th, 2022? And will that date go down as the single most important day in the history of fly fishing?


Think back. Did someone land the world record brown trout last August? Invent the perfect fly rod? Design the ideal knot? Create the first unbreakable leader? Publish the ultimate book of fly fishing secrets?

No, it wasn’t any of those things.

Fishing crowded rivers and streams

Other wading and casting anglers might not have the outsized impact you think they do
Photo: Matt Shaw / Matt Shaw Creative.

When I was considerably younger and living approximately 2,000 miles east of my current Montana address, I had an experience that helped shape my ongoing fly fishing journey in ways I couldn’t really appreciate at the time.

Truckin' to the river

What a long, strange trip it's been
Photo: Jeremy Roberts / Conservation Media

My fly fishing is starting to rust. That’s never a good thing when you’re in love with your angling.

I’ll get back to the rust in a minute. First, though, I wanted to share a few things I’ve noticed over the years.

Fly fishing is more popular than ever

What are longtime anglers to do?
Photo: Chad Shmukler

While I’ve been sticking close to home for the last year or so, I keep hearing that I’m pretty much the only one. Reports from rivers across the West, ranging from the Frying Pan in Colorado, to Idaho’s South Fork of the Snake, to the Madison right here in Montana, are all in agreement. There are more fly fishers on the water than ever before.

The sword and the Senate

The Sword of Damocles hangs over our angling. Congress needs to act.
Photo: Todd Tanner

Portland and Seattle are in the Pacific Northwest, a region known for its rain and cool temperatures. Until recently, the all-time high temperature in Portland was 107 degrees, a record set back in 1965. On Saturday, June 26th, 2021 — a little over a month ago — the city set a new record of 108 degrees. The next day — a Sunday — Portland broke its all-time record yet again with an astounding 112 degrees. On Monday, June 28th, the city literally blew that number away when it reached a hard-to-fathom 116 degrees. The average high temperature in Portland, Oregon at the end of June is around 76 degrees.

The fact that Portland set a new record high temperature on three consecutive days is certainly newsworthy. The fact that this happened at the end of June — a month not normally associated with high temperatures in Oregon — is more so. The fact that the new record exceeded the old 1965 record by 9 degrees and topped the date’s average temperature by 40 degrees is astounding. And when we consider that Seattle also set a new high temperature record of 108 degrees, and that Salem, which is 45 miles south of Portland, topped out at 117 degrees … well, it’s probably not all that surprising to learn that a subsequent headline in the Seattle Times proclaimed: “Crushing heat wave in Pacific Northwest and Canada cooked shellfish alive by the millions.”

A Montana fishing story

There are days when it feels like I’m Charlie Brown and the river is Lucy, just begging me to kick the football
Photo: Todd Tanner

There’s a river I fish on a fairly regular basis that’s less than a 10 minute drive from my front door.

While it’s relatively large — at least for a Montana trout stream — it runs warmer than our other local waters because it flows into, and then out of, a natural, un-dammed lake. Except for the cooling influence of the occasion spring or seep, the river water below the outflow is approximately the same temperature as the lake’s sun-baked surface — which means things warm up quickly in the spring and stay that way into October.

The winds of change

The new infrastructure bill could help prevent the worst climate impacts
Photo: Todd Tanner

Last week was wild. The wind screamed down from the mountains with gusts pushing 50 miles per hour and the massive spruce tree less than ten feet from our back door bent first with grace, and then, as the storm’s fury increased, with a sudden and jarring violence.

The long green limbs acted like a sail in the wind, putting immense pressure on the shallow root system, and we watched the ground on the tree’s windward side bulge up three or four inches with each house-shaking gust.


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