Environmental Sciences 316: Advanced flyfishing: river stewardship, reflection, and native trout

2 credits

Summer Quarter 2013:  September 2-7 in Idaho and two prior 2.5-hour evening sessions on campus


Instructors: Leo Bodensteiner and Steve Meyer, Dept. of Environmental Sciences, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University

Office: Environmental Studies 442

Phone: 650-7375 or 715-9143 (Leo’s and Steve’s home)

Email: Leo Bodensteiner & Steve Meyer

Purpose:  The purpose of this course is to further explore and develop concepts established in ESCI 315: The Art, Science and Ethics of Flyfishing.  This will be accomplished by presenting more advanced material and refining existing knowledge. Similar to ESCI 315, topics to be covered are grouped into 1) flyfishing techniques; 2) literature (fiction and non-fiction) that explores the relation of individuals to flyfishing  3) stream ecology with a focus on fish and arthropods; and 4) personal reflection on individual relationships to nature, primarily through journaling and discussion, with an emphasis on conservation ethics.

To meet these objectives we will immerse students in a wilderness setting for one intensive week of hands-on study, following three 2.5 hours periods of classroom preparation. The class periods prior to departure will be used for lectures, organism identification, flyfishing techniques, and fly tying to provide background to the topics we will be covering in the field. Selections from literature will be provided to discuss the reflective nature and ethics of fly fishing and conservation. We will engage students in a focused study of the westslope cutthroat trout, one of the four major subspecies and one that is native to the west slope of the Rocky Mountains and the principal sportfish of the wilderness area we will be visiting. An introduction to the art of journaling as a tool for recording observations and reflections about nature will be presented to students by the instructors and artist Mary Maxam (http://marymaxam.net/). Students will be collecting and identifying aquatic insects at three long-term monitoring sites that will be surveyed by subsequent classes to assess environmental change.

Audience:  The intended target is students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, current secondary teachers interested in incorporating these themes in their classroom curricula, other environmental educators, and exceptional individuals with knowledge of ecology.  Efforts will be focused on enrolling students that have had little exposure to recreational fishing.

Rationale:  Angling often represents one of the most significant early childhood experiences in which we interact with nature.  For many it becomes a lifelong pursuit, which involves not only catching fish, but instills a desire to become more environmentally responsible. In Washington State in 2001 nearly 1 million anglers spent 12.8 million days and 854 million dollars pursuing fish.  The dedicated federal excise tax on fishing equipment provides more than 200 million dollars annually to the states for management, conservation, and restoration of fishery resources.  Perhaps most importantly, on an individual level angling has stimulated a concern for the natural environment and provided the impetus for environmental activism, ranging from spending weekends planting trees and clearing brush in streamside restoration efforts to political lobbying to address larger scale environmental issues.  Certainly, this concern is evident in local efforts and activities by organizations such as the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, to which Huxley has close ties.

In Bellingham, we also have a heightened awareness of the threats to our streams and to our community as a result of the environmental catastrophe and the human tragedy caused by the gasoline spill and subsequent fire in the Whatcom Creek basin on June 10, 1999.  Three lives were lost and an entire ecosystem was altered.  To honor the memory of the young man who was fishing at the time of the fire and to create an opportunity to promulgate this environmental awareness, the Liam Wood Flyfishing and River Guardian School fund established at the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association Foundation is spearheading the development of an educational program designed to foster a greater understanding of rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest and the creatures that inhabit them.

Class size: 8 students (minimum of 5)

Class meetings: Two evening 2.5-hour class periods followed by a Mon-Sat field trip to remote waters of Idaho

Office Hours: 12-1 MWF

Web site: Flyfishing Course Website

Prerequisites: Students must have completed ESCI 315 OR demonstrate a sufficient competence in flyfishing and knowledge of stream ecology to one of the instructors.

Course Grade:

Grading for this class will be based on:

1)     Participation (15%),

2)     Fish ID exam (10%)

3)     Journal (25%)

4)     Essay (25%)

5) Final exam (25%)

Attendance and Participation The quality of your experience in this course depends largely on the enthusiastic participation by you and your classmates. Read the readings, contribute to the discussions, and share your discoveries with others and this class will be memorable. Students will perform a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer time with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association or other stream restoration organization.

Fish Identification Exam A fish identification exam will be given during the second pre-trip session that will emphasize the kinds of fish likely to be encountered during this course.

Journal Completion - You will be required to keep a journal throughout the course. The journal will be used to keep notes from lectures and discussions, to illustrate fish and arthropods, to diagram fly-tying methods, to record observations of natural history, and to reflect on one’s experience. Journals will be graded for effort and creativity at the end of the courseo further immerse yourself in the world of flyfishing, you will select a book that is ostensibly about flyfishing to read.  In week 4 you will give an oral report on the metaphorical and ecological implications of flyfishing to the story you have chosen.  Check out the Paul and Mary Ann Ford Collection in Wilson Library for some ideas.

Essay Individual topics will be assigned after the first meeting.

Final Exam – A final exam will be given at the completion of the course that will cover the scientific and technical topics presented and discussed during the course, e.g. fish biology, fly casting, entomology, and restoration.

Grading -  A:92+; A-:90-91; B+:88-90; B:83-88; B-:80-82; C+:78-80; C:73-78; C-:70-72; D:60-70

Course materials:

Students will be expected to have a valid Idaho Fishing License ($36.75 for a five-day non-resident license). Rods, reels, lines, waders and boots, and other materials can be checked out prior to departing on the trip.


Materials needed for assignments will be provided. Excerpts and essays from the following authors will be used: David James Duncan, Ernest Hemingway, Roderick Haig-Brown, Ted Leeson, Thomas McGuane, Robert Behnke and others.