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Fly-fishers get fresh trout in 'Holy Water'

I had a good time in early June fishing the stonefly hatch at the "Holy Water" impoundment beneath Lost Creek dam. The only problem was a distinct lack of fish. It's not that I'm a bad fisherman. The river is usually boiling with rainbow trout attacking the real flies floating on the surface, but not mine. This year, however, not even the real bugs were getting bitten. Can't we get some more trout stocked in there?

— J.W., Ashland

Well, J.W., seems like several fly-fishers felt the same way about fishing in the so-called "Holy Water" impoundment on the Rogue River between the base of Lost Creek dam and the Cole Rivers Hatchery water intake.

This stretch of water is Oregon's first set aside for catch-and-release fly-fishing-only, and enough people apparently mentioned the dearth of trout there to the right people.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Dan VanDyke asked Cole Rivers Hatchery Manager Dave Pease whether he had a few trout lying around without some other lake or river's name attached to them. Turns out, he found 200 eight-inch legals and another 100 pound-size trout that could go there, provided they get their adipose fin clipped for release.

Pease's teenage fly-fishing neighbor, Kevin Bales of Medford, also mentioned the lack of trout to Pease, who said he was waiting for some volunteers to come clip the fish for release. So Bales and fellow fly-flicking buddy Nash O'Hara volunteered, and on June 17 they clipped the trout for release later that day.

Under normal circumstances those fish wouldn't have been stocked until this Friday because most trout fin-clipping includes use of a particular fish anesthetic that requires a 21-day waiting period to ensure anyone eating that trout doesn't get sick, Pease says.

However, these trout were clipped using new gloves that use electricity to briefly numb the trout for the fin-clipping, thereby making them instantly ready for stocking, Pease says.

VanDyke says the fin-clip is needed to ensure that any fish that get flushed from the impoundment and into the Rogue are legal for anglers to keep.

ODFW usually stocks about 2,000 fingerlings there annually, but some anglers believe these 3-inch fish contribute more to cormorant growth than the trout fishery.

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