|Found this mud snail a mile upriver from the declared infected zone. Took about a minute to find it.|
A few months ago the “authorities” discovered the dastardly and ignorant hitchhiker villain known as the New Zealand mud snail in my home river, the Truckee. To be honest I really wasn’t surprised when I heard the news – I was surprised it didn’t happen sooner. I’d been expecting the official arrival for some time as the Truckee has some serious factors going against it in the invasive species department.
Here’s a short, incomplete and unfair summary of the cards stacked against my home watershed: It’s easily accessible and heavily used for most of its length. The majority of the river runs along an interstate highway and a heavily used state highway. The headwaters at and above Lake Tahoe and the water-baby infested terminus of Pyramid Lake see a lot of use by those both local and distant in origin. It’s also close to the Biggest Little City and is a favorite escape from the Gaper Mothership aka the Bay Area. Tahoe alone has more tourists at any given time than Catholics at the Vatican. It has become a well known destination in fly fishing circles and pilgrimages are made from far and wide. An international kayak competition is held in Reno every May. In downtown Reno it becomes the city bathtub in the summer months – cleansing the sores of meth heads and rinsing the face paint from the juggalos. Basically, this watershed gets used a lot, by a lot of different people, from a lot of different places. It was bound to happen, and I’m sure there are more invaders yet to be discovered – and more on the way.
But I have a theory, so don your tin-foil hats and grab your favorite anger beer. This is better than a Columbo mystery reveal.
The Truckee is strategically located only a couple hours north of Mammoth, which features local attractions like the North LA River* and its major tributary Upper North Malibu Creek**. Both streams have been infected with mud snails since around 2000 and even longer by the most clueless and classless invasive species to ever pick up a rod – The native gaper strain of the Los Angeleno.***
|Brody Malibu after the best office prank ever, bro.|
Let’s break down the scenario: Brody Malibu drives his H2 Hummer up for a “vacay” with his bros. Planning on meeting them in Tahoe for an epic wakeboard sesh and some golfing after hitting the Truckee, Brody stops on the way near Mammoth and wades into mud snail infested Hot Creek with his brand new $700 waders and full Over-Armor kit, his femininely manicured goatee hidden under a Buff. He jumps in just a rods length away from another LA dude who he asks “What are they biting on, bro?” He proceeds to flail around like a drunk wizard with his $800 Whorvis Helibros rod till one of the escaped and deformed hatchery rainbows eats his Royal Wulff #6. He declares victory by screaming and shouting while holding up this malformed piece of meat to the sky (with missing fins and parasites) before asking his LA neighbor to use his GoBro to capture the soon-to-be sickest hero shot on the office fridge. He returns to the H2, removing his infected waders next to the “No Wading” sign, wiping the dust off of his pleather seats with his Buff (“man they’re so uesful!” he exclaims) and blasts Creed from his 10 speaker system as he peels out from the state laid gravel onto the plaque filled carotid artery known as 395 towards Tahoe.
|Hero Shot – LA Style|
After chugging the last of his Beast Energy drinks and filling up the H2 for the third time he arrives in the Biggest Little City. Filled with B12 and a wallet full of ones he hits the gentleman’s club and fills his tightly trimmed goatee with silicone softness and downs a few vodka Rad Cows before plying his wares on the infamous Truckee River. He parks at the run that the stripper said her boyfriend fished and suits up in his still wet and freshly infected gear. After getting accosted by the urban river meth colony then flailing and failing miserably he spits in the cold bitch mother and wades back to the safety of his plastic rolling fortress. He calls his bros and gets directions to the 4 story 10 bedroom “cabin” at Tahoe and makes haste to the awaiting Jager Bombs. Aside from leaving behind his false pride and a few flies he unwittingly deposited a tiny hitchhiker no bigger than a grain of sand and capable of bringing an ecosystem to the brink of destruction.
*North LA River = The Owens
** Upper North Malibu Creek = Hot Creek
*** I know some great people and fisherman who call LA home, but anybody who’s fished at Mammoth knows what it’s like to have a guy in a Dodgers hat walk to within a rods length and start fishing “with you” on an otherwise empty river. That’s why I only go down to Mammoth for scenery and hot springs, fishing is just a sidebar.
While this scenario is most likely what plays out in the heads of us locals who relish a good laugh from the usually naive and tactless sports who drive our economy and keep a lot of people comfortable and well fed in the Reno-Tahoe region, the truth is that the answer to this pointless mystery most likely lies closer to home.
The reality is that it was most likely one or many of us that gave these shitheads a ride to the Truckee.
After all this is, and I loathe this term more than any other in fly fishing, a “trout bum” mecca.
I’ve been fully engulfed in the fever, and still am to an extent at times. Forsaking everything else in life including a job, fishing 300+ days a year and drinking malt liquor paid for in couch change, eating moldy bread PB&Js so you can have gas to the next destination that’s supposedly fishing well.
Chasing hatches, runs and promising reports at the drop of the hat to keep the high of good fishing fried into the brain for as long as you can. Checking out places you’ve only seen in magazines or heard about in fire pit circles on other fishing pilgrimages. Wading in and out of countless waters with nary a thought of cleansing your gear or yourself for that matter.
I’m not here to point fingers because that’s useless at this point.
We have a problem on our hands that is only starting and we need to educate ourselves and those around us. With the Truckee’s accessibility and heavy usage it’s only a matter of time before it spreads from here to other local waters and waters far beyond.
Let’s nip it in the bud.
Scrubbing your waders with a low bleach-water solution sounds great, but honestly whose gonna do that every single time?
Freezing your gear is easy in the winter months, just leave it in the truck and you’re cleansed. But the summer time? You’re gonna stuff your waders, boots, and reel into the freezer with your Hot Pockets and wild game? Yeah right.
This is the most expensive solution but to me the most reasonable: Buy an extra set of gear and use only one set in the snail water and the other everywhere else. Expensive? Yes. But who doesn’t want an excuse to buy some fresh gear? Try something new? To me this is the most fool proof and common sense approach to containing mud snails.
As I said above, and this applies to anybody who fishes an invasive invaded water, education is the best weapon we have to slow this threats eventual spread.
Learn about it, talk about it, and wear a condom… or a separate set of gear. We can’t stop them, but we can fight back.
But what do I know? Jack shit, that’s what.
Don’t be a barney –
Get educated, educate your fellow river rats, teach the children, do your part!
Check these links for more info, and check out the damn google machine.