We are preparing for another active spring and summer season featuring our Youth Education and Conservation Programs. These include our “Trout in the Classroom,” Youth Fly Fishing Classes, Michigan’s Coldwater River macroinvertebrate study and stream restoration work in Wisconsin. This newsletter features a detailed overview of our 2018 conservation plans.
I ask all members and friends of the chapter to access our website for ongoing activities and review our newsletters and emails to stay informed about opportunities to volunteer and get involved. You can also call me if you have questions or need clarification on something.
Please don’t be concerned about not having any specific experience or knowledge about any volunteer activity or program taking place. Individuals will be there to explain and guide you along. We ALL had a first experience and we view these as not only as an opportunity to provide interesting programs and activities to the participants, but to use them as an opportunity to train our volunteers.
Additionally, watch for information about our Spring Conservation Fundraising campaign and the specific, intended use of your donations in the next few weeks.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the passing of one our members, Ron Kurasz. Ron was a friend and a mentor who was always willing to share his fishing knowledge and experiences. He additionally, was a very active and supportive member of our chapter who participated frequently in our programs. His knowledge and helping hands will be missed.
President, Oak Brook Trout Unlimited
OBTU’s 2018 conservation activities include financial and volunteer support for projects in both Wisconsin and Michigan in support of Trout Unlimited’s mission of conserving, protecting and restoring coldwater fisheries and their watersheds in the Midwest.
Our conservation financial commitments this year include Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE); Weister Creek restoration in Vernon County, WI; continued stream restoration work in Sparta, WI; and biological monitoring and survey work on the Coldwater and Dowagiac River watersheds in Michigan.
Volunteer support is needed for our May 19 and October macroinvertebrate studies on the Coldwater River Watershed in Alto, MI outside of Grand Rapids and a June 23 stream restoration work day in Sparta, WI.
“We plan to continue the important conservation work on our Chapter’s priority projects in support of the Wisconsin’s Driftless Area and Michigan’s Coldwater River watershed,” said Dave Carlson, Conservation Committee Chair. “The Conservation Committee is also pursuing new opportunities ‘closer to home’, such as involvement with the Dowagiac River in Southwest Michigan which is only 90 miles from Chicago.” Interested volunteers should contact Dave Carlson via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Several work days are planned, which provide an opportunity for fun and friendship along with making a valuable contribution to stream conservation. As our projects are several hours from Chicago, we try to coordinate carpooling, lodging and fishing opportunities for interested members,” said Dave Carlson.
2018 Conservation Project Highlights
Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort(TUDARE) is a long-term initiative to protect, restore and enhance cold water rivers in the Driftless Area of southeast Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. TUDARE relies greatly on the work and passion of TU volunteers. OBTU’s support is in the form of money donated to directly support TUDARE general operations.
Weister Creek is a great example of a stream restoration in the Driftless Area supported by OBTU. For the past several years OBTU along with a wide range of other organizations, have provided financial support for this project within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. It is a big project with a total length of 2.6 miles that in addition to stream improvement provides habitat for hunting and is a demonstration site for many nongame wildlife habitat practices. Work on the Phase 4 section is well under way; with in-stream work to be completed this summer. Fund raising has begun for the Phase 5 final section, which is expected to be completed next year. Read the interview with project manager Paul Hayes for more information on the Weister Creek restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter.
Other stream restoration projects in the Driftless Area encompass work to reduce soil erosion and phosphorus discharge near the city of Sparta, WI. Since 2014, OBTU has provided both volunteer manpower and financial support that has been leveraged with local government funds. This year, we will continue stream restoration heading north on Beaver Creek just outside of Sparta. A work day to build LUNKER structures will be scheduled for Saturday, June 23. This project will provide an opportunity to get together for some fishing in the heart of the Driftless Area before and after our work.
Conservation activities in Michigan will be focused on the Coldwater River watershed near Grand Rapids and the Dowagiac River near Niles. Two macroinvertebrate survey work days will be part of our ongoing cooperative effort with the Coldwater River Watershed Council (CRWC) that began 13 years ago. Members collect stream samples from designated sites, then count and classify the aquatic insects and various macroinvertebrates found. By classifying and trending the population data, the CRWC gets an idea of how stream health is evolving. Volunteers are encouraged to plan some fishing on the Coldwater River watershed or other rivers in the area such as the Rouge, Muskegon or Pere Marquette. OBTU is represented on the Coldwater River Watershed Council by Marvin Strauch.
For more background information on the Coldwater River Watershed macroinvertebrate surveys, read the interview with Aaron Snell, Restoration Biologist of Streamside Ecological Services, who developed the study’s structure on the OBTU website.
The Dowagiac River represents a relatively new stream restoration focus for OBTU. The Dowagiac is one of the closest rivers to our chapter with potential for a high-quality coldwater fishery. The planned removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, Michigan this summer will open up the entire river system to upstream migrations of steelhead, salmon, and other fish species. Conservation efforts on the Dowagiac River are driven by MEANDRS (Meeting Ecological and Agricultural Needs within the Dowagiac River System), of which OBTU is a Board member. Volunteers will be needed to help with numerous monitoring and habitat activities this year. More information will be provided once the date for a training session is set. (Read the interview with project leader Marcy Hamilton—Senior Planner with the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission—for more information on the Niles dam removal and Dowagiac River restoration plan which was originally published in the OBTU Flyer newsletter).
An exciting new initiative this year is to begin developing coldwater habitat and fishing access in the Illinois Driftless Area. TUDARE and its partners were recently awarded a large grant from the USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that covers areas that have not been served in the past, including part of northwest Illinois. The grant will provide funding for restoration projects for the period from 2019-2023. This funding will cover a significant share of individual project costs, with matching dollars—usually around 20-35% of the costs—provided by state or county agencies, foundations, businesses, individuals, TU and other conservation nonprofits. Activities in 2018 will be focused on planning, bringing together local organization and agency partners and identifying landowners who are interested in accommodating a restoration project.
2018 Volunteers Needed Volunteers are needed to make these 2018 commitments happen. The Conservation Committee is looking for members who are interested in leading or supporting an event. If you’d like to be on the Conservation Committee, email Dave Carlson at email@example.com. The Committee meets by phone conference calls each month, so location should not be an issue for ongoing participation. Identify landowners who would be interested.
The financial support of conservation efforts is made possible by the fundraising efforts of the chapter. Watch for additional information on fundraising activities in forthcoming newsletters.
Spearheaded by Trout Unlimited, the Driftless Area Restoration Effort is a locally driven effort to protect, restore, and enhance rivers and streams for fish and other aquatic life throughout the four-state Driftless Area.
TU’s Driftless Area Restoration Effort, (TUDARE) is an initiative Duke Welter helped found back in 2003. As TUDARE’s Outreach Coordinator, Duke travels the four-state region regularly, getting the word out about the great trout waters in the unglaciated area. He fishes with reporters, with policy makers, with students, with teachers, with project volunteers, and on his days off he fishes where projects might help, and where they already have helped produce healthy fisheries.
Before Duke went to work for TU in 2010, he served as vice-chair of its National Board of Trustees and as chair of its National Leadership Council, the grassroots leadership body of TU. He has been active in conservation efforts and advocacy for over 30 years, working on groundwater protection, protecting rivers from mining impacts, removing small dams, wetland and river restoration, regional watershed issues, public lands access and funding for natural resource management. For his conservation work he was recognized by the River Alliance of Wisconsin as a “River Champion of the Decade” in 2003, by Trout Unlimited as its “National Conservation Volunteer of the Year” in 2002, and with TU’s highest award for volunteer leadership in 2011.
Guide Mike Allen of Midwest Waters Angling will speak on “Fly Fishing for Smallmouth Bass in the greater Chicago and northern Illinois area” which will include the Kankakee, Fox, Des Plaines, DuPage Illinois and Rock Rivers at 7 p.m. at the Oak Brook Recreation Center Central Park West Building.
Growing up in Illinois, Mike’s early years were filled with many days spent along the local banks of the DuPage River, or pond hopping with fly rod in hand. He was lucky enough to have a father who put a fly rod in his hands at a young age, and in doing so Mike fly fished into his teens. After high school, Mike entered military service to serve his country. After his time in the service, Mike longed for something close to nature again. Fly fishing would soon fill this void.
In 1992, the DuPage River Fly Tying Club became a mainstay in Mike’s fishing and fly tying, and he has remained closely involved for the past 20 years. Mike now makes his home in the Fox River Valley. His home waters of the Fox and DuPage Rivers are two of the many watersheds in northern Illinois that he has come to learn and love.
Mike has fished these rivers extensively over the years, and looks forward to sharing all of these truly special waters with you. Mike enjoys all kinds of fishing, but specializes in warm water fly fishing for native smallmouth bass, carp, and pike.
The Wisconsin Trout Unlimited State Council presented the Oak Brook TU chapter with its “Reel Award” at its annual banquet on February 3. The Reel Award was given to the OBTU chapter in recognition of its long-term commitment to the TU mission of conserving and restoring coldwater fisheries in the state of Wisconsin and the many volunteer hours and financial support provided to projects.
It is awarded to those who’ve played a significant partnership role in one or more TU projects, or in other areas such as education or advocacy.
The banquet’s program stated “Like other chapters that may not have a tremendous amount of coldwater resources close to home, this chapter long ago figured out how to coordinate carpooling, lodging and fishing opportunities to get their members to travel north into Wisconsin. When they get here, they work hard, then enjoy the wonderful trout fishing resources that they have helped restore.”
Joel Brammeier, President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, oversees a staff of more than 25 professionals and 15,000 volunteers dedicated to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. Joel has a strong track record of advancing critical conservation efforts and is the author of a first-of-its-kind report describing options for separating the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins to stop the spread of invasive species.
Joel spoke to the Oak Brook (Chicago) Trout Unlimited chapter on the state of the Great Lakes and federal policy news that could impact them in May 2017. He reported on what the Alliance had heard from members of Congress and key stakeholders and gave an overview of what the Alliance and its partners were doing to protect the lakes. Joel also commented on the status of invasive species prevention efforts, including Asian carp control measures and then provided a further update on the status of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brandon Road Study which was completed in February 2017 and released in August 2017 to the public for comments. The Brandon Road Study included recommendations supporting additional measures to block the migration of Asian Carp to Lake Michigan via the Chicago Area Waterway System.
This article provides an update on recent financial support by Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Ontario for Asian carp control measures while Illinois funding stalls.
“Conservation organizations and interested individuals will be important in ensuring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves beyond just study and into actual construction of control measures at the Brandon Road facility,” said Joel Brammeier. “You can sign up for our email list to receive action alerts on this and other Great Lakes issues.” https://greatlakes.org/subscribe/”
Orvis Yorktown and Bass Pro Shops Offer Free Fly Fishing Classes If you’re looking for a great way to introduce fly fishing to a spouse, friend or other family member, the Orvis Fly Fishing 101 class is the perfect event to get started. All ages are welcome to attend the free class for novices, but those under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Participants will learn the fly casting basics and outfit rigging during the 9-11 am Saturday and Sunday sessions held at the Orvis Yorktown store location.
Upon completion of the course, participants will receive special instore offers valid toward the purchase of Orvis products and a Free Trout Unlimited membership—a $35 value—for first-time members.
Fly Fishing 101 Dates April: 22, 29
May: 6, 13, 20, 27
Check the Orvis Yorktown website for June and July dates.
Fly Fishing 201 Dates This class is ideal for graduates of Fly Fishing 101 or intermediate fly casters and will include a short outing on local water and a chance to catch your first fish!
Check the Orvis Yorktown website for June and July dates.
Reserve your spot by visiting the Orvis Yorktown website or calling the store: (630) 932-6573
Bass Pros Shops Bolingbrook Store Classes Commencing April 10, Bass Pro Shops will be offering free introductory fly fishing classes at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday each month in their second floor Conservation class room.
The Tuesday class—titled “Fly Fishing Isn’t Just for Trout Anymore”—will focus on the ability to fly fish for local warm water species like bass and other panfish as a means to introduce the sport to novices, with trout and other coldwater species part of the program.
This introductory class would focus on the basics–choosing the right equipment based on the desired species, rigging a rod, basic knot tying, etc.
The April 10 session will feature Captain Will Winans, owner and guide for Big River Fly Fishing, who will be presenting “Fly Fishing on the Kankakee River for smallmouth bass.
On Saturdays starting April 14, flyrod casting instruction will be provided from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
No advance sign-ups are required. Check the Bass Pro Shops website to confirm class dates and times.
Ronald James Kurasz was born on March 9,1943 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He grew up in the Brighton Park neighborhood in Chicago. A high school knee injury kept him from being drafted into the armed services but could not stop him from charging through streams and rivers or float tubing in pursuit of his favorite pastime—fishing. Ron’s career as a claims adjuster was the perfect fit as it allowed him many opportunities to fish in between calling on insureds and investigating claims.
His fishing beginnings started in earnest at Saganashkee Slough. From there it was on to stream fishing in the Midwest and later on with trips out west and out of the country. According to his brother Alan, “Ron oftentimes said he should take up a second hobby, mentioning golf on occasion, but I think when he came across his first water hazard on the course, he would have dropped his clubs and pulled out his fly rod.”
Ron was active in the Oak Brook Trout Unlimited chapter and Illinois Smallmouth Alliance. He enjoyed teaching young and old the techniques of fly fishing.
“Ron was quite willing to give his time to Oak Brook TU, said Marvin Strauch, OBTU Youth Education Chair. “He helped out for quite a number of years with our Youth Fly Fishing program and was an Orvis FF101/201 program volunteer. He was good with kids, and an extremely good caster, so he helped a lot of kids in our youth program. I know that Ron also took part in many of our chapter conservation projects.”
Ron passed away on February 18, just short of his 75th birthday. He is survived by his brother, Alan, who believes Ron is scouting out new waters somewhere in heaven above.
Lefty Kreh, one of the pre-eminent sport fishermen of his time, died on March 14 at his home in Cockeysville, Md., north of Baltimore. He was 93. His granddaughter Sammantha Aus said the cause was congestive heart failure.
For a half century, Mr. Kreh, a globe-trotting fisherman, journalist and author, was a colorful and highly influential figure in both freshwater and saltwater fly-fishing. In countless articles and more than 30 books, in videos, on television and at innumerable public appearances, he converted his vast experience into lucid observations and practical advice for anglers at all levels.
Two more excellent DVD’s from the Skagit Master series. Now all four are in the OBTU Chapter library.
Skagit Master 2: Steelheading Outside the Box (New Water Media / 2010) 1hr 50m / DVD
Just as it says on the back jacket of this DVD, “There are no indicators or dead drift nymphs in this film …”. Using the two-handed rod, Scott Howell shows you how to catch steelhead on the surface with a variety of casts using his steelhead popper (the “ska-opper”). Then he will show you how to fish intruders and the “prom dress”, demonstrating a number of casts and upstream/downstream mends to let the fly fall quickly to the depth you need before swinging it across the current to the fish.
Skagit Master 3: Steelhead Flies Beyond the Books (New Water Media / 2012) 1hr 12m / DVD
Hannah Belford, Tom Larimer, Eric Neufeld, Jeff Hickman, Ed Hepp, Scott Howard, Ed Ward and Larry French tie the Grizzly Bear, Reverse Marabou, Orange Blossom, Fish Taco, Underachiever, Ska-opper and the Intruder. Underwater photography shows the profile and action of these flies under various water and light conditions. When you see the movement of these flies and their materials in a flow tank, you will understand why Muskegon River guide Kevin Feenstra uses so much flashabou.
These DVDs, as well as others in the chapter’s library, are available for check out at chapter meetings. If you are holding any of the chapter’s other videos, please return them when you are finished so that others may view them.
Trout Unlimited is America’s leading coldwater conservation organization. Our hope is that clean, cold, fishable water exists for generations to come, but we can’t do it without the support of committed anglers and conservationists like you.