Monday, September 27, 2010

South Fork Bonito Creek-Lincoln National Forest


Mark Twain's comment about golf, " a good walk - spoiled" could easily be modified to fly fishing a small stream," a good walk- completely and utterly destroyed." That's how I felt at least for the first 45 minutes or so when I fished the South Fork of the Rio Bonito on Sunday. Snags,snares,the consequent reties, and guppy sized fish all seemed determined to derail the good feelings from discovering the usually crowded campground closed for the season and the stream delightfully devoid of people.The situation improved,but not before some whining, swearing and even begging to the trout gods for some relief. I did end up catching some better fish, a couple of good sized rainbows and several decent brookies( in addition to the usual dozen or so 5 inchers). I've noticed lower down,the rainbows are the typical darkish blue color and have that dull appearance of stockers. Upstream,though, they are bright and brassy with larger spots and pale pink cutthroat markings, making me believe they have at least some degree of Rio Grande Cutthroat genes in them. Fewer in number and larger in size they are the definite prize here.It turned out to be to be an okay day on the South Fork. They are still plenty of fish here. The increase of algae growth has me a little worried,but on the whole the stream and fish seem to be in pretty good shape.For me,for now though, I feel like taking a break from the tiny creeks, the bushwacking,boulder hopping,the fly hungry trees,the finger sized fish,the steep banks,the kneeling casts,the stinging nettle and thistle. . .Well, maybe for a trip or two,I can't really stay away, these are my home streams.IMPORTANT UPDATE: this stream is mostly likely devoid of fish due to due the Little Bear fire and subsequent ash flows. ( Summer,2012).

13 comments:

rexjohnsonjr said...

If you want 15-inch Pecos strain Rio Grande cutts, direct, pure-strain descendants of the trout which originally inhabited the Bonito and Ruidoso drainages, try Indian Creek on the back side of Sierra Blanca, on the res. They were carried over in cans on the backs of mules in the 1880s, and they're still there! (You have to sneak in -- be sure to release those you catch, but there are many of them; the stream is pristine in its uppermost mile or so) Why the BIA and the USF&WS are keeping them a big secret is anyone's guess. But wouldn't it be great if some were put into Three Rivers Creek, and other streams in the Sacramento Mtns? Of course, that's highly unlikely in this brain-dead, backwards state in which we live.

devon said...

Rex,we've had the RGCT guy from game and fish come down and give a talk to our new TU chapter. He seemed to think the cutts in Indian Creek are not pure strain,but have some Yellowstone Cutthroat genes I believe(as do the ones in Holden Prong as well). Anyway,good news is the Mescaleros want to put pure strain RGCTs in the forks of the Ruidoso on the reservation. Hopefully the cutts that NMDGF put in Pine Lodge in the Capitans will survive. I've been trying to get three rivers and main stem bonito on the radar at least with this RGCT guy ,kirk patten,now that we have TU here we might have a chance. We're also trying to see the feasibility of restoring Agua Chiquita as a possible RGCT reintroduction site.

rexjohnsonjr said...

You have to take what the NMG & Fish has been saying about Holden Prong with a large grain of Salt. The most recent claim was that the cutts there were the result of the stocking of fine-spotted Snake River cutts in the stream after the McKnight Fire of 1951, which is clearly not true at all, since the fish are still dead ringers for RGCT, which look nothing like Snake River cutts. Ted Turner did release some rainbows into the stream in the early 1990s, but that is another story. As to the supposed impurity of the Indian Creek population, I would be even more reluctant to credit that opinion, since it would be politically difficult to allow the fish in Indian Creek to be pure. The Endangered Species Act protects all regional populations of native fish, with provisions for critical habitata designation and other cumbersome regulations. It is much easier to claim the fish were somehow "contaiminated". Let me point out that the people making such claims are unable to make even broad distinctions among cutt subspecies. Virtually none of the millions of proteins and genome components can bet identified, and, as with Holden Prong fish, they are making claims about a population so isolated it has virtually no counterparts with which it might be compared. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that the USF&WS has virtually extincted the greenback cutt because of its inability to identify pure-strain greenback cutts in the wild. The Recovery Team over the last thirty years or so has poisoned virtually all of the few remaining populations greenback cutts and replaced them with CO cutts. There was a serious mixup with the broodstocks (!) Obviously, this should be a cautionary note with respect to the two precious remaining indigenous populations of cutts we have here in southern NM. If I had my say I would suggest planting fish from Indian Creek, which have proven they have the ability to survive, into all streams in the Sacramentos. The worst thing that could be done would be to dump domesticated hatchery fish from northern NM into these same streams. The hatchery fish are not even a close match for any species or subspecies that ever swam in the state. I don't know whether you have caught many of these planted fish, but my own experience with them in the Jemez Mtns. leaves much room for doubt concerning their ability to survive. Ditto the gila trout, which have refused to take hold and/or reproduce in a number of streams For example, reproductive rates in Black Canyon are very low; rainbows are invading above the barrier and clearly out-reproducing the gilas. In fact, I have never seen gila fry in the stream, for a simple and obvious reason

devon said...

Rex,I wish you had been at our TU meeting. My opinion that the fish in Holden Prong should be left alone was a minority of one. I'm not a biologist,without charts and numbers,so nobody cares, but I voiced the same concern that they would be replaced with hatchery trout. I may have even suggested the Indian Creek or Peralta Creek fish as a source,which may have been a surprise that I knew about them at all,but they were dismissed as mongrels . I have seen some very small fish in Black Canyon,but precious few. So there may be some reproduction. I've only caught gilas though and haven't seen or caught any rainbows. I've caught RGCTs near Stunner CO and in North and South Crestone Creeks CO. I've also caught some in Jacks Creek and the Rio Trampas,but not in the Jemez.(I've only fished Frijoles) None of these fish had the fight of those in Holden Prong.Rex you should let your voice be heard in our TU chapter. I feel like I've been able to get some of my ideas into the discussion,but I still feel that since many of our learders are academics,there's the tendency to dismiss the ideas and opinions of anyone who isn't a professor or scientist. I'm also a citizen advisor for NMDGF, and that's an uphill battle as well,but I feel like I made at least one inroad at my first meeting by getting a fishery project funded. I know the campground host at Three Rivers has snuck over and fished Indian Creek and offered to take me there too. I'm tempted,just like I've been tempted to fish Mcknight and Main Diamond,but I'll leave it be.

rexjohnsonjr said...

TU and co. are set to do far more damage to the trout in this state than has ever been done before. We are on the verge of another trout-stocking mania similar to the one at the beginning of the twentieth century, by almost exactly the same type of well-meaning fanatics. But what is now proposed to be done is even worse. Never before have the streams been poisoned to remove all surviving well-adapted, wild fish, in order to replace them with highly questionable, man-bred stocks. This procedure of extermination should be UNTHINKABLE, but to the current generation of bureaucrats it isn't unthinkable: it's POLICY

Fish from Mora and Sterling Springs are in every sense of the word, "exotics", "pussbellies", Colonel Sanders trout", etc. Natural selection in any trout stream is extreme. Only one in a thousand survives to reproduce. Selection is ONGOING and PERMANENT, changing with changing conditions. That is why trout, like all organisms, EVOLVE. It is IMPOSSIBLE even to approximate this selection process in a hatchery. Hatcheries exist because of the need for a grotesque sort of industrial production.

The classification of the cutthroats is not at all exact; they are very, very closely related-- so closely related, in fact, that there is no genuine consensus. Nor is there any definitive way to identify them, as we have seen with the greenback cutthroat trout debacle (which should be horrifically embarrassing to the bureaucrats, but of course it isn't). The identification and classification and phylogeny of the western trouts is still essentially in a state of ORGANIZED IGNORANCE.

All of these threatened trout populations are in the future going to be so utterly incompetent that they will be be dependent on repeated stockings even to survive. And then we will have very few wild trout populations remaining. As the less-than-supremely intelligent American general said of an outlying Vietnamese village, WE HAD TO DESTROY IT IN ORDER TO SAVE IT.

devon said...

Rex,you're pushing all the right buttons with me, because bottom line I agree with you. Entities like NMDGF are,let's face it, ultimately in the hatchery business.If we had healthy habitats and wild reproducing populations they'd be out of job. Also, even though times have changed, these same entities are the ones that got everything into the mess it's in right now. I really can't imagine that hatchery trout will do well in holden prong or main stem bonito.the fluctuations are just too extreme. Maybe hatchery fish should be reserved only for streams that have been emptied by natural causes, such as the case with pine lodge.People respect you and folks like Dutch Salmon,you should make your voices heard.

rexjohnsonjr said...

Sad to say, abuse of power extends even to bureaucratic power over the poor fishes....

rexjohnsonjr said...

By the way, since you have found out about Indian Creek (and I'm sure that certain parties are quite displeased that you have, and I also urge you to visit it), you might want to try Fresnal Canyon in its box below High Rolls. Park your vehicle somewhere between the Lincoln Forest boundary and the Scenic Tunnel and climb down. Litter galore, of course, including entire old litter barrels, plus old orange barrels from various construction periods, scattered remains of antique cars and trucks, many, many tires and wheels that have bounced down into the creek bed, but also a number of nice little falls and pools, plus brook charr and rainbow trout (the biggest for me have been about 12"). There used to be browns, a bit larger, but I haven't seen one down there in a while.

I understand there are long range plans to divert this water. Oddly and interestingly enough, neither NM Game and Fish (I talked with Dutch salmon a bit about this) nor the Lincoln Forest will admit to there being any trout in this stream (as if trout streams in the Lincoln, much less trout streams just outside the Alamogordo city limits, weren't as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth). Yet this is one of the best places, maybe THE best place in the Lincoln for wild trout that haven't yet seen a fly.

Normally I don't talk about streams of this type, for fear that David Probst or someone like him will find out, too, then go do something bad (like kill the fish), but in this case the "guvment" already has designs on the water...

But maybe you've been down there, too. At least you can get your TU group to "sponsor" or "adopt" the stream, or something like that. I suggest, at the very least, a giant litter net above the stream, below the "beauty spot" where everyone pulls off, takes photos, and dumps all of the garbage out of the car.

devon said...

I did climb down there(Fresnal Canyon) on a whim once about 5 years ago. There was plenty of water ,but it was thick and brown and I couldn't tell if there were any fish or not.Every time I've tried the Tularosa it's been the same way. The climb back out was a bit of adventure. I sat by the side of the road for a good 20 minutes catching my breath.

rexjohnsonjr said...

Yes, I've seen it plenty muddy. My last time was May, 2009. It was loaded. I went with one of my UTEP students, who snapped my 20-yr-old Sage 2-wt. Sent it to Washington, got it back in July.

rexjohnsonjr said...

Tularosa has fish, too, from Negrito mouth several miles up. Hard to see how they survive, but they do. San Francisco is getting much better, now has more big trout than I've ever seen before, thanks to Kieran Suckling and co. (Cows are supposed to be off, thkx to SW willow flycatcher). I got a 21" pig at Deep Creek mouth this February (it took 200 casts to bring him out), so thick he must have gone five pounds or more.

devon said...

Are we talking about both Tularosas or just the one on the west side of the state.I've never been to that one.Just the little one that comes off the Mescalero Rez. Good to hear about the San Francisco, I've never fished there, although it might be a mess after the fires this year. I've always wondered does Deep Creek have any good water or fish. It seems like it could. Unfortunately for me the far western Gila is a little to far for day trips from Las Cruces,so I've only fished out there a handful of times. Rain Creek,Whitewater and South Fork. Thinking about doing a backpacking trip to Mogollon for a SW Flyfishing article.They were allowing fishing in Sacaton for the "impure" gilas,I thought that could be fun.

rexjohnsonjr said...

Sorry, there is a Tularosa in the Gila, with trout. On the Mescalero res., fishing has always been good from Head Spring down to the trout hatchery. Lots of browns even in the town, but below the Mescalero town there are severe watershed problems all the way to Nogal Canyon, so the water gets steadily worse, plus warmer because of elevation change. Grazing situation quite bad. The Mescaleros are very fond of their horses. Off the res nearly as bad, plus subdivisions popping up..

Yes, after the passing of the big fire, theSan Francisco is in bad shape down to the NM/AZ state line. Luna Lake lost 100% of its fish. Lots of water comes in below the fire zone, though. I bet that big guy is still there just below Deep Creek...Deep Creek, by the way, has plenty of water, but also horrific over-stocking and over-grazing by Deep Creek Ranch Gila NF permit holder.. "Deep ****" should be the name of that creek. No one ever dares to venture into that part of Catron County.

Sacaton had fish two years ago, but dried up almost completely this year (everything but the one headwater spring). Good luck finding anything...