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Old 01-13-2011, 08:32 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Default Of Otters and a Great Fly Tyer

I sort of promised, a week or so ago, to let those of you who might be interested in my thoughts on otters know when my piece on them appeared in The Tuck Reader (www.tuckreader.com). It is in today's issue of this on-line publication.

By sheer serendipity, today's mail brought correspondence from an old-time N. C. fisherman and rod builder, Jim Mills, who is if anything more concerned about the potential impact of otters on trout in the Park than I am (which is saying a lot!). Suffice it to say Jim has done a lot of research and what he has found about the lifespan of otters, their reproductive capacities, and how many fish they can consume is frightening indeed in a situation (the Park) where they have no natural enemies.

His missive also brought a gift which moved me deeply. It was a selection of six dry flies, all tied by the late Allene Hall. If you don't know who she was, she was the wife of Fred Hall, famed for patterns such as the Adams Variant and the Thunderhead. Allene was actually a better tyer. All six patterns feature hair wings--two Royal Wulffs, two Thunderheads, and two examples of a pattern I had not previously seen. It is, in essence, an Adams Variant with hair wings.

This visible link to a woman and a fly-tying tradition from a world we have lost was of great importance to me, since I knew both of the Halls as a boy and young man and love the regional history of fly fishing. Rest assured the flies will take a place of pride in a cabinet right alongside one Lee Wulff tied for me.

Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
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Old 01-13-2011, 08:59 PM
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silvercreek silvercreek is offline
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That's special. I know from past post that you shun from posting pictures, but have commented that your brother does it. Sure would be nice to have pictures of those flies posted for all of us to see. Regards, Silvercrek
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Old 01-14-2011, 08:59 AM
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rivergal rivergal is offline
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Jim, interesting otter information. Otters are cute at the zoo, not so cute
in the GSMNP .Also your Christmas pocket knife story brought tears to my eyes.
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:12 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Silvercreek--I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to technology of any kind (Paula has had to help me out a couple of times just so I could navigate my way through this forum--I do much better in the mountains than in front of a screen). My borther lives two states away, in Knoxville, so that's not a ready answer. I actually have state of the art camera equipment and know how to use it--to a point. That point comes in the transfer of stuff once I've saved the images.
Jim Casada
www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:25 AM
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silvercreek silvercreek is offline
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I can relate. I had a terrible time learning how to do it and still approach posting a photo with apprehension. I site I frequent upgraded and I was the class idiot when it came to posting a photo. Took a lot of coaching from other forum members before I got the hang of it. I've recently got an itch to learn more about the traditional Smoky Mountain flies, and have found differences in the same pattern. Seeing one tied by the Halls would be special but I appreciate your situation and your reply. Silvercreek
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:26 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Rivergal--Thanks for your kind comments about the pocket knife story. Obviously it's something of great sentimental importance to me.
Jim Casada
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Old 01-14-2011, 10:53 AM
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rivergal rivergal is offline
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My father-in-law's boyhood was tough times. A pocket knife and a box of 22 shells were hard to come by. After he passed away we found a house full
of pocket knives and 22 shells.
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Old 01-14-2011, 04:49 PM
Crockett Crockett is offline
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Jim as one who disagreed with you in the past on the otter issue I must apologize. I still haven't seen any otters in the park but I tend to stay away from the lower elevation slower pool type areas like down near the Deep Creek campground or Abrams Creek. I realize though the falicy in that point of view in that others love those areas and I might too someday. I am wondering do you think the otters will travel up to the steep tumbling streams such as Thunderhead Prong eventually or is the otter habitat better suited for lower slower type streams which aren't as cold and are more pond like? Will they migrate above falls deep into the back country?
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Old 01-14-2011, 05:24 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Adam--The otters face no real barriers in the Park, and they will go where necessary to obtrain food. It is easier for them at lower elevations, because that translates to bigger pools and slower water, but they have already been observed at quite high elevations in some areas of the Smokies. In fact, to jump outside the Park for a moment, multiple sources in Graham County tell me that Big Santeetlah is a pale shadow of what it once was, with otter incursions way into the headwaters. Also, I just today had a comment from someone who had seen one all the way up in speck territory on Big Snowbird.
Jim Mills, an oldt-time fisherman and rod maker who lives in Swain County and who has fished the Park as long as I have, sent me some truly frightening stats yesterday on the longevity of otters, their breeding capacity, the amount of food they consume, etc. One key consideration in this regard is that standard answers in their defense often hold that they eat only crayfish. Yet that food source isn't available in the cold weather months for the most part (being burrowed deep in the ground). Another thing to think about is that in some streams at least you almost never see red chorse and hog suckers, two species which were common as pig tracks a few decades back (and which are easy prey). I don't think you'll hear much about this from Park officials, because it is in essence a problem of their making. They forgot the key thing which the Cherokees lived by long before the coming of white men. Namely, balance in nature. Park policies remove the otter's prime natural enemy, man. For that matter, the same is true with bears, and those are the points I'm trying to raise and urge others to consider.
Where fecal matter is likely to hit the fan is when otters start making major incursions into restocked speck water. It may not happen, but I'm mightily afraid it will.
Jim Casada
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Old 01-14-2011, 05:31 PM
fcfly fcfly is offline
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I'm gonna weigh in on this one. I fish a bunch
in the Park's backcountry (mainly for Brookies).
I have seen a lot more Otter (or sign) and probably
fewer Brooks over the past few years.

I cringe whenever I hear someone bragging
about seeing a "cute little otter" while fishing in the Park.
Something you won't see on a trip to Abrams Cr.
are lunker sized (or any size for that matter) Brownies
that disappeared soon after the otter reintroduction.

Brownies are found elsewhere in the Park but anyone
who fished Abrams back in th' day knows it was a helluva
creek and not nearly as good today.

Of greater concern to me is the impact otters
can have on Southern Appalachian Brookies.The
bottom line is otters are about as common as cockroaches
and found pretty much anywhere there is running
water. Brookies are a treasure in both biological
and aesthetic terms.They are a spirited and relatively
rare resource whose habitat is small and dwindling.

At some point I think the park service is going
to have to prioritize what is more important:Brookies
or otters? They have done a pretty good
job on holding down wild hog numbers.
The same could be done with otters but I'm
not sure it would be politically correct and in a
way would be admitting the reintroduction was
not such a great idea. We'll see.

Freddy
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