Saturday, 22 January 2022
RiverBum Fly Fishing Gear

Montana’s Famous Fly-Fishing Rivers Are Feeling the Heat of Climate Change

Catching a fish, that’s the moment that you celebrate But, that’s not often what sticks

It’s the day It’s Lucy going tearing after a bald eagle that jumps out of the bushes, and seeing a moose walking down the river They call this the last best place, Montana And they call the Big Hole the last best river You are kind of at one with nature

You completely forget about everything else in your life, and become totally immersed But uh, something’s going on There’s no doubt about it The Big Hole is warmer than it used to be We used to see 50 below, several days of that every year

And we rarely see 50 below, ever Our spring seems to come a little earlier and fall seems to last a little longer For certain we’re seeing changes I'm sitting here on the banks of the Big Hole River in southwest Montana Montana is an iconic place for fly fishing

People come here from all over the world to fish in these clean, cold waters But, Montana is heating up at twice the rate of the planetary average What's happening with increasing rapid warming is that it's easier for these cold, clean waters to turn into slow, warm waters in very short order Fish don't like it when the water gets warm They get stressed out physiologically, they're more vulnerable to getting funguses and diseases

In many of our rivers, the farther downstream you go, used to be trout fisheries and they're not anymore There's very few trout in them When the waters are warm, the river shuts down People come out earlier, but they stop when things start to warm up The restrictions are happening more often because our warm summers are happening more often

Now it seems like the norm, rather than the exception It’s affecting our business I talked to a lot of people this week who spend their time on the river, and there's different perceptions about what they see happening here Our winters aren’t as severe as they used to be We don’t have as much snowpack as we used to have

There’s something going on, yeah, yeah But what’s causing it, I don’t know I don't think it's manmade I don't think there's anything we can do to change it ourselves What I see about the climate is, nobody can predict it

And as soon as they do, it changes again The easy answer is, this is cyclical And, the earth has been really cold, we had ice ages The earth has been really warm, and we’re in an uptrend That’s an easy answer

But the facts are, we should be getting colder right now, and instead we’re getting warmer Montana is a deeply conservative state There are not big population centers here People are sparsely located across the landscape We solve our own issues with our neighbors

We have relationships with folks that are all predicated on trust And there’s a deep-seated mistrust of government And climate change seems to be governmental to a lot of folks here (dog barking) He’s telling me, “Let’s get going, I wanna go fishing!” I'm a Republican and proud to be one I’m for a smaller government

I’m pro-business I believe in climate change There’s just a lot of signs that indicate that things are changing Craig Fellin is an example of a conservative conservationist He, like many people in Montana, have a deep conservative political standing

But he also recognizes that having a healthy environment and being conservation-minded doesn't have to be at odds with that Many people forget this, but Republicans have a track record of being conservationists It’s very frustrating for me to not see that issue in talking points on the 6 o'clock news every night These are facts that can’t be ignored We need to evolve with this evolving change

If climate continues to change and get warmer, there may not be anything we can do in those lower reaches, which are warmer and have lower flows and those sorts of things There may not be anything we can do Ooh let me see We’re changing the climate It’s up to my generation now, and we’re going to need a lot of help

So these kids, these 6, 7, 8 and 9 year olds, we’re going to lean on them pretty heavily And I don’t think we’re going to be shy about telling them that “This is up to you guys We screwed it up It’s unfortunately on your plate to fix it

Tina’s Fly Shop

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