Jenny Bishop’s Ladies Fly Fishing school this month was for local girls…high school kids that wanted to learn fly casting, trout habits, stream habitat, bugs & stuff. She was doing it for free to give back to the community and help the kids. It was an annual event the whole school looked forward to, a highlight of the summer.
She asked me, Corky and T-Bird to help her with the group of eight students. The plan was to spend the morning showing the kids the basic fly cast and then float fish downstream on the Madison until we got to The Outlet, stop there for some wade fishing and lunch. There was usually some fish rising in the main pool at The Outlet and it was also a good spot to turn over some rocks and find some insect life to show the kids.
We had a fun morning catching some trout on dry flies…the weather was pleasant, partly sunny, high 60s at mid-day. I was lead boat down. I eased over to the East bank and headed for the mouth of the Outlet. As I got nearer, something did not look right. The landscape looked different. A blue heron and some magpies flushed. I left my two girls in the boat, walked up the bank, wriggled through some scrub willows and looked over the edge to check for rising trout.
There weren’t any. In fact there was no water!
The stream was bone dry except for a shallow puddle a couple of inches deep where the main pool used to be. I walked over to see a dozen dead trout belly up, with a couple more barely twitching in their death throes. Raccoon and bird tracks were everywhere as I continued up the channel. Around a bend and up 60 yards to where the former tributary forked off I saw an electric fence…and a sign “No Trespassing, Keep Out”.
And a dam.
Not a beaver dam, a man-made dam. It was about sixteen feet long and four feet high. Someone had brought a back hoe in and carved out the bank of the spring creek, filling in the Outlet channel and blocking it from flowing to the Madison River. The dam included rocks and gravel, the kind you see in driveways or parking lots. I followed the electric fence downstream and found another dam where the second channel formerly entered the river.
By this time Jenny, Corky and Skeeter and the rest of the high school girls had caught up to us. They were scattered up and down the creek bed checking out the dead and rotting fish.
“What happened? The fish are dead…the creek is dry.”
We were all struck with dismay and disbelief. Who would commit such a disgusting, disrespectful act? And why?
I had an idea.