Didymo in the Mad River: Fish it while you can

Things were dead on the Mad River this June. I guess that should've been a tipoff.

The three-piece and I headed out a couple times during what should’ve been easy money affairs. We even spread it out to include some before dawn action. But we didn’t get a thing.

Probably, it's because I suck. But I hate getting skunked, even on a single cast. My kids can always tell when I'm sulking over coffee in the garage.

There was some guilty solace when I asked around at the local bacon counter and found that not even the worm dunkers had been getting anything. “Really quiet out there,” one said. “Weird.”

The Mad River isn’t on the list of America’s blue ribbon fisheries. It’s much loved, but it's a struggling waterway, a put-and-take shadow of the wild fishery that it used to be.

In this ghost town for trout, the tumbleweeds scored another victory yesterday as we learned that Didymo was found in the Mad River. An invasive algae known for rapid proliferation, Didymo has no known cure, and it essentially hangs the closed sign on the door for fishermen.

The painful irony for me is that earlier this spring, my group started working with Simms Fishing Products, one of the loudest voices in the battle against Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) like Didymo. As ANS has spread from New Zealand to the Chesapeake, we’ve been trying to help Simms spread the word about the importance of checking your gear, cleaning it every time, and even investing in some ANS-resistant wading boots (ie, no felt).

I know the Mad isn’t the Madison or the Deschutes. It’s barely even a Boulder Creek. But as ANS knocks the legs out from under third world waterways, it’s just a matter of time before it steps on the throat of your own favorite river.

The arrival of ANS in minor waterways is not minor news. It's a wake-up call.


  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    It's great to see some coverage of this issue, particularly in the general ANS-spread-prevention sense. However, the phrase "it essentially hangs the closed sign on the door for fishermen." might be a little extreme.

    This year, I've spoken with fishermen who've said that the fishing on the White has been miserable, yet a long-time White River angler told me the other day he's had one of the best years ever for large, wild rainbows.

    Out west, where didymo has been in many trout streams for around 10 years, the fishing is still great. In fact, on my home river in Washington State, where didymo blooms have been seen since around 2001, they're seeing some of the best cutthroat fishing anyone can remember.

    Make no mistake, I think that infestation of the alga is unfortunate and it serves as an indicator that we, as anglers, are doing something wrong. However, there are many examples within the angling community and in the scientific literature that indicate that quality fisheries can continue to exist despite the presence of didymo.

  2. Anonymous9:30 AM

    "It's useless to cast fishing lines into these sometimes giant blooms... There is nothing like that that I have experienced. It makes streams essentially unfishable."

    "Infestations sometimes stretched from bank to bank and covered several miles. Once the blooms appeared, it was impossible to make them go away."