I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on my personal experiences regarding changes in Park fishing I have seen in the course of my lifetime, and I hope others, whether virtual tyros or seasoned veterans, will share similar thoughts. Here, in no particular order of importance or significance, are some of the things I have noticed.
1. The disappearance of smallmouth bass from most Park streams. In the 1960s the lower end of many Park streams had goodly numbers of smallmouth bass. Today, with the notable exception of Abrams Creek, that is no longer the case. There may be the occasional bronzeback below The Sinks, and that's about it other than Abrams Creek. Matt Kulp, Steve Moore, and I have talked about this at some length and we all agree that the most likely explanation is that there is far more canopy today than was once the case, which in turn translates to colder water. Incidentally, this past summer's sampling of Deep Creek, with one of the two days of work being done right in the campground just above the Park line, precisely one smallmouth was captured. There were lots of them here when I was a boy and young man.The same was true of redeyes.
2. The spread of specks. They are found over a far more extensive range than was the case a half century ago, and I suspect that part of the explanation is the same as Point 1--more canopy and colder water.
3. The continuing spread and population increase of browns in many streams. This has been dramatic in all of the big streams emptying into Fontana.
4. The changing nature of fishing. I see far more two-fly rigs, far greater use of nymphs, and less reliance on dry flies. A fair number of oldtimers of my acquaintance thought that nymphs were but one step removed (and a short one at that) from bait fishing.
5. The singular lack of a backcountry ranger presence. Too many Crown Vic cowboys today--when was the last time you were checked in the backcountry?
6. Disappearance of many readily obvious signs of human habitation. Where there were once fields overgrown with broom sedge and fruit trees which still bore every year, today you find poplars a half century old. For example, the Jenkins Fields on Deep Creek have long since ceased to fit the definition of "field."
7. Vast changes in equipment. I often saw folks fishing with a cane pole (and legally--they used nymphs) when I was a boy, and bamboo and/or fiberglass were the standards. Today we are in the grip of the graphite monster (and yes, most of my rods are graphite).
8. Seldom does one see a spin fisherman; once they were commonplace.
9. The use of waders and specially made wading boots. I never waded any way other than wet until I was at least in my late 30s, and the only footwear I knew for the first four decades I fished was Army combat boots fitted out with felt soles.
10. Catch-and-release. Almost no one turned fish loose 40 years ago. It was a hook-to-cook, release-to-grease situation.
That's a start--who'll add more (and there are many other changes)?