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The arctic grayling.

In an article we published a few weeks ago, entitled How Clean is Your Stream? Ask the Grayling, we detailed a bit of the unfortunate history of the fluvial arctic grayling. This history is that has seen such grayling wiped out from their entire former range in the U.S. lower 48, save for one watershed: Montana's Big Hole River. That article also covered, in brief, the efforts of the state of Montana to encourage ranch owners in a 338,000 acre area of the Big Hole watershed to voluntarily take steps that would improve water quality, such as reducing irrigation withdraws and improving riparian habitat. Those efforts and the accompanying cooperation by ranch owners in the target area appears to be paying off, helping the Big Hole's remaining grayling population make it through some very low water conditions in recent years, according to a recent article in the Montana Standard.

Montana state fishery biologists have described the cooperation of ranchers as incredible, noting how reduced water withdraws by the program participants have kept more water in the river and resulted in more areas for grayling and other fish to seek thermal refuge during these years of extremely low water conditions. Ranchers have sought alternative water sources in their area, such as other small creeks and rivers, and in general are trying to do more with less in order to keep as much water as possible in the Big Hole. Also of note is the overwhelming rate of cooperation by ranch owners, with over 90 percent of the ranches whose water usage would affect the Upper Big Hole participating in the project.

A beautiful Amago caught on a tenkara rod (photo: Tenkara USA).

As I noted last week in another post, I finally tried tenkara earlier this summer -- quite unexpectedly to fish for Alaskan salmon -- after years of interest. There's a satisfying simplicity and unparalleled portability to Tenkara, but perhaps its most notable feature is the removal of the cast as a possible focal point for the angler. With the cast out of the way, there's inherently a much more intent focus placed on the other, equally important, parts of the fly fishing equation such as fly selection, fly placement, angler behavior and approach, and so on.

Tenkara's roots are in Japan -- where Tenkara USA founder Daniel Galhardo first discovered tenkara in his travels there years ago -- has recently returned to Japan to reconnect with his tenkara teachers, share and innovate new rod designs, but most importantly to maintain Tenkara USA's connection to Japan. According to Daniel, maintaining that connection helps maintain a connection to the philosophy behind tenkara, which shows us how "to keep fly-fishing simple and how to maintain its effectiveness without relying so much on equipment."

The Gardiner River in Yellowstone National Park (photo: Tom Estilow).

Delivering the conservation message is one of the most important tasks for anyone that considers themselves a steward of our natural environments. Unfortunately, that message sometimes is delivered in a way that seems to be asking the reader to add another task to the already long list of responsibilities that life brings their way, without reminding us in a compelling way why conservation remains such an important charge in our rapidly changing world, but incredibly rewarding.

Day After Tomorrow

In yet another piece of beautiful writing, Hal Herring poses a rarely asked question: is teaching our children and others to have a passion and love of wild places a pointless task, as those places continue to be overtaken by the unstoppable growth of human population? In answering this question, Hal takes us through his childhood in backwoods Alabama, years on a pre-tourist boom Outer Banks of North Carolina and his last few decades making a life and raising children in the wilderness of Montana's Bitterroot Valley.

I count 19 (photo: Togiak National Wildlife Refuge).

In a recent post, oh-so cleverly titled Mousing Accomplished, I related how my pledge to catch a trout on a deer hair mouse pattern while on a brief summer tour of Alaska was saved at nearly the last opportunity by a stroke of good luck. The good news is, my experience was entirely atypical, thanks to a preposterous, never-before-seen Alaskan heat wave. Normally, luring voracious Alaskan rainbows to swung and skated deer hair mouse patterns is relatively easy and fantastically entertaining monkey business.

The picture above of the stomach contents of an unintentionally mortally wounded trout caught on the Kanektok River, shared by the staff of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Alaska, should provide all the proof one would ever need to confidently tie on a mouse pattern when hunting Alaskan rainbow trout. To be fair, the unfortunate souls above are those of the common shrew, and not mice. This is, however, an altogether unimportant distinction. The point is that trout like rodents. A lot.

From left: Chris Hunt, Mark Heironymous, Kirk Deeter, Steve Duda, Hal Herring, Earl Harper, Chad Shmukler. (photo: Matt Smythe)

We don't often feature grip and grin shots here, mostly because they're not all that interesting. The image seen below, in my opinion, bucks that trend. Taken earlier this summer on a glacier-fed creek just north of Juneau, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest, it is a testament to the staggering biomass of the Tongass.

Seven Pink Salmon
Singles? Sure. Doubles? Sure. But what the hell do you call seven? (photo: Matt Smythe) Click to enlarge.

As I wrote in a post I made while on the road in southeast Alaska earlier this year, salmon overwhelm the rivers of the Tongass. When you consider that the moment captured in this image -- the result of seven anglers swinging streamers and all hooking and landing pink salmon fresh from the saltwater within moments of each other -- was neither the group's first nor last opportunity of the day to record such an occurrence, the hope is that it helps illustrate or qualify just how plentiful the bounty of these rivers is.

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