Brookies Have Returned!

brook trout return

This weekend was a momentous occasion. The above image of a healthy fifteen inch brook trout caught by an angler of Canadaway Creek reflects what a DEC biologist feels could be a brookie that has returned from Lake Erie!

The biologist felt that the fish caught in the lower section of the stream, about two miles from Lake Erie, was too healthy and well fed to have been in the stream since October. October was when our SAREP/4H Youth Fly Fishing Program had put in brook trout in the upper sections of the stream around eight miles from where the fish was caught.

History of Brook Trout Reintroduction Efforts
When I first moved into the area in 1989, I had heard old timers mention how their fathers used to catch brookies in Canadaway Creek. Brook trout (actually a char) are the only true native trout to the Northeast and have been in its streams since the ice ages. (The brown trout came from Germany and the rainbow Trout came from the Northwest and both were distributed throughout the United States in the late 1800s.)  Brookies are the most fragile of these trout species and are the first to feel the effects of high water temperature, agriculture, riparian condition (erosion/sedimentation), competition from non-native fish species, and urbanization. These factors have greatly reduced or have eliminated the brook trout in nearly half of the watersheds in their native range. The vast majority of historically occupied large rivers no longer support self-reproducing populations of brook trout.


In 2006, The SAREP/4H Youth Fly Fishing Program started reintroducing brook trout into Canadaway Creek after not having brook trout in its waters for over a hundred years. The efforts were first funded by sales of flies tied by the youth from the program and by donations but a few years ago, the Brook Trout Reintroduction Program was funded by Doug Manly and Patagonia’s World Trout Fund. With the support of the DEC’s electroshocking efforts and the Whispering Pines Hatchery, we have been able to refine our stocking practices to match the hatchery’s cold water temperatures by distributing the fish near springs in the headwaters, by introducing the fish after fishing season and by purchasing older brook trout who were ready to spawn as soon as they entered the stream. These changes reflected a more effective use of our funds and energies  and dramatically improved the brookies chance to reproduce and prosper. Our hopes has always been to create an opportunity for the fish to survive and reproduce in Canadaway. We hoped that one day they could survive the trek into the lake and then return to spawn.

The image at the top of one of the two brook trout landed is a very small sample of evidence but when it is added to electroshocking fish surveys and other anecdotal evidence over the years from fisherman, the overall picture is encouraging that the SAREP/4H Youth Fly Fishing Program’s efforts have made a positive change in having brook trout survive, prosper and swim again in Canadaway Creek.

Check out these short videos and blog entries:

Biological Regionalism: Selected Streams from Northern Chautauqua County, New York

The following paintings were created for the exhibition at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield from March 2-30, 2012. The reception will occur from 7-9pm on Friday, March 2 and a lecture about the work in the exhibition will be presented on Thursday, March 15th at 7pm.

In past blog entries, I have include some process shots of the development some of these paintings. I will include links to these blog entries underneath each of the images of the artwork.

Biological Regionalism:
Chautauqua Falls, Westfield, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

Biological Regionalism: Selected Streams from Northern Chautauqua County, New York
When I first settled in this area in 1989, I remember hearing stories about the salmon runs in Canadaway Creek. It was all very intriguing but I had a new job that I needed to secure and it was six years later before I began researching the migrating fish species in the local tributaries of Lake Erie. When I did begin the research, I concentrated my efforts on the history of Canadaway Creek, the introduction of fish species into the Great Lakes, the history of towns located along the creek, regional geology, entomology, weather patterns affects on local fish’s physiology, fish biology and hydrology. Before long, I couldn’t get enough information and soon I began to befriended local biologists, Department of Environmental Conservation officers and local anglers as a way to build my resources. A couple of years later, my obsession led me to start a youth fly fishing program and, soon afterward, I became a fly fishing guide as a way to fund my obsession and to keep me out on the streams.

Biological Regionalism:
Laona Falls, Laona, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

In 2000, after finishing a series of paintings on Cuban and American culture, I was ready to move into a new direction and I began the Biological Regionalism Series. The series incorporated the research I had been acquiring over the previous years and motivated me to investigate and research many other streams in western New York and the Catskills as well as bodies of water in Massachusetts, Florida, Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and also Wales, England, Iceland and Cuba. As my travel and exhibitions opportunities drew me further and further away from my local waters, I found little time to document the specific regional locations where I had logged hundreds of hours studying the stream’s hydraulics, observing the different holding patterns of fish through the year, guiding clients and trying my own fly patterns on migrating fish.

Biological Regionalism:
Risley Falls, Fredonia, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

This exhibition provided me the opportunity to exhibit the work in Patterson Library’s wonderful architecture and collection of paintings and taxidermy specimens. It seemed like a perfect venue to exhibit these devotional paintings of some of my favorite stream locations in this area.

Biological Regionalism:
Arkwright Falls, Arkwright, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

More information about the Biological Regionalism Series:                                                              
Apart of the research mentioned above, my investigations also included the painters of the Hudson River School of the 19th century and their role in American society. This art movement documented the expanding American landscape and its wilderness for the general public who had little exposure or accessibility to their new environment. The study of biology, botany, geology and art was popular amongst the residents of the new country and piscatorial art and nature painting was considered a form of “high art” during this period. This art form no longer seems innovative in contemporary art although there is a dire need to rediscover the connection between nature and culture. This connection is deteriorating as most of our social and economic reliance has moved to an urban setting.

Biological Regionalism:
Mouth of Corell Creek, Portland, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

As our culture becomes more homogenized by mass media and consumerism, the one element that remains true to a region is its natural environment. Although we try to manipulate it to fit our needs, most landscapes and their biological inhabitants characterize a region’s nature. It is an omnipresent influence that affects a region’s people, culture and economy. The knowledge of a region’s distinguishing natural elements is being lost as generations continually become more disconnected from a lifestyle that relies on the landscape for survival and for spiritual renewal.

Biological Regionalism:
Glen Mills Falls (Old Portage Road Falls), Westfield, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

The regions investigated in this series are usually a short walk or drive from the exhibition venue. When a viewer experiences the installation, my hope is that they begin to create or recreate a connection to their immediate environment. In past installations of Biological Regionalism Series, I tried to reestablish this connection by reintroducing the fish and landscape that characterize a specific region. For this exhibition, I have concentrated entirely on landscapes or the depiction of the environment as a way to have the area’s resident reconnect with memories from these locations and/or to create new connections to nearby environments. I hope the exhibition can also create opportunities to discuss topics related to historical and contemporary theories of aesthetics, migration of fish species, history of these locations, environmentalism, and geological formations.

While the regions investigated are specific, the issues raised are universal.



New work from studio: Chautauqua County Streams, New York – Part IV

Here are a few process shots of the last painting that I will exhibiting on March 2-30, 2012 at the Octagon Gallery in the Patterson Library in Westfield, New York.

This is a painting of Risley Falls on Canadaway Creek which flows right below our home.

I have spent countless hours studying the water flow of every part of this rock formation and have very fond memories of standing in its water with close friends fishing for steelhead and with my son as he worked small dry flies for fingerlings in the summer. I rarely fish this section of the stream anymore. I not sure why. Perhaps I enjoy walking the stream more now… perhaps I enjoy swinging streamers more the last few years….perhaps I’m drawn to different sections of the stream every year…and perhaps it will always be reserved as a place to be fished with others who make it more special.

There remains something comforting about fishing a stream that you know very well. It’s like being with a dear friend who has been with you from the beginning. Nothing is ever said but the experience of being in their company is always rewarding.

The images for the painting were taken in the early fall of 2011.

New work from studio: Chautauqua County Streams, New York – Part III

Here is the fifth out of six paintings that I am planning to exhibit on March 2-30, 2012 at the Octagon Gallery in the Patterson Library in Westfield, New York.

This is the painting of Laona Falls located in the village of Laona, New York on Canadaway Creek. This is as far upstream as migrating steelhead from Lake Erie can reach although there are rumors that in very high waters they can move above these falls. Laona and its falls inspired Spiritualist  groups since the mid-19th century and the American composer Alan Hovhaness who composed two works inspired by the hamlet: Laona (for piano) and Dawn at Laona, Op. 153 (cantata for low voice and piano).

The images for the painting were taken in August 2011 during a family trip to the falls to retreat from the day’s heat. We munched on wild blackberries on the path back to the car.

Brook trout back in Canadaway Creek!

This past Saturday, the kids, community members and mentors that make up the S.A.R.E.P. Youth Fly Fishing Program met with our good friend, Mr. Steve Welk from Whispering Pines Hatchery, to introduce brook trout spawners into Canadaway Creek. We have heard reports passed down through the generations of family members catching brook trout in the stream but brook trout have not been found in the stream for close to a century due high water temperature, agriculture, riparian condition, one or more non-native fish species, urbanization and acidic deposition. Brook trout populations have been eliminated or greatly reduced throughout almost half of their historical habitat in the eastern United States according  released assessments by Trout Unlimited and a coalition of state and federal agencies. The report says brook trout populations remain strong in only 5 percent of their historical habitat in the eastern United States.

In 2006, S.A.R.E.P. Youth Fly Fishing program made a large investment to try to rectify the situation by purchasing 265 gallon tank, stand, chiller, pump and filter and place it in the Mr. Dan Lawrence’s science room. We got eggs donated from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hatchery in Randolph and we began to raise brook trout in the classroom. The following year Canadaway creek had brook trout in its waters for the first time in around 100 years. Over the years we learned a great deal about the fragility of this trout species and difficulty in raising them in a classroom. As the program continued, it became clear that we needed professional help and that we need to supplement the brook trout we were raising if we wanted to try to create a strain of brook trout that could survive in Canadaway Creek. Ever since then we have worked closely with Mr. Steve Welk.

Over the years we have tried to introduce around 400 six to nine inch brook trout in the spring and an additional 100-125 larger brookies in the fall that are ready to spawn. We have also worked closely with the DEC and have electro-shocked the stream during the warmest months in the summer to find where the brook have survived. Thanks to their efforts, we have been able to find the coolest spring waters with a thick canopy in fairly inaccessible locations that is best suited to support the introduction of the these trout. With the support of the Orvis, Patagonia World Trout Fund, Dreamcatcher Foundation and private donors, we have been able to continue our educational and conservation programming.

These are some of the images and short video (one minute) from our recent trip to introduce some new spawners into the stream.


Lampreys in Canadaway Creek

Here’s an image of lamprey in Canadaway Creek in June 2011 and here’s a movie of the same lamprey.

During the past two centuries, invasive species have significantly changed the Great Lakes ecosystem. In turn, the changes have had broad economic and social effects on people that rely on the system for food, water, and recreation.

An “invasive species” is a plant or animal that is non-native (or alien) to an ecosystem, and whose introduction is likely to cause economic, human health, or environmental damage in that ecosystem. Once established, it is extremely difficult to control their spread.

At least 25 non-native species of fish have entered the Great Lakes since the 1800s, including round goby, sea lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, alewife and others. These fish have had significant impacts on the Great Lakes food web by competing with native fish for food and habitat. Invasive animals have also been responsible for increased degradation of coastal wetlands; further degrading conditions are resulting in loss of plant cover and diversity.

Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) are predaceous, eel-like fish native to the coastal regions of both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. They entered the Great Lakes through the Welland Canal about 1921. They contributed greatly to the decline of whitefish and lake trout in the Great Lakes. Since 1956, the governments of the United States and Canada, working jointly through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, have implemented a successful sea lamprey control program.

Here’s two lampreys on a steelhead at the mouth of Canadaway back in 2006.

and here’s the results of their destruction on the fish that survive. Image from June 2011.

S.A.R.E.P. Youth Fly Fishing Field Trip – May 2011

This past May, we had a little outing with our youth group and a few community members. Along the way, we noticed some mayflies on the road.

The mentors worked with the kids on their casting before we hit the water.

We also discussed approaching the water, entomology and how to read the water before fishing.

Finn lands his first fish on a fly he tied!

On the lower pond, the brook trout were more selective but we were able to find some other beauties.

At the end of this beautiful day, we all realized that the trip wasn’t entirely about catching fish.