Water has held a special place in the world, right from the start: "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Soon the fishes filled the waters, and the scene was set for the fishermen who followed, including some famous ones. Simon, Andrew, James and John were casting or mending their nets, and He said to them, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of people."
Traditionally fly fishers have prided themselves as guardians of the waters; if society encroaches too much, or if the water temperature or turbidity increases, even by just a little, precious trout will not survive. Now there is a problem: "For fly fishers who pride themselves on a conservationist ethic, it hurts to discover that they may be trampling on that ethic every time they wade into a trout stream." Felicity Barringer in the New York Times continues:
Blame their boots--or, more precisely, their felt soles. Growing scientific evidence suggests that felt, which helps anglers stay upright on slick rocks, is also a vehicle for noxious microorganisms that hitchhike to new places and disrupt freshwater ecosystems.
That is why Alaska and Vermont recently approved bans on felt-soled boots and Maryland plans to do so soon.
The hitchhiker in question is an invasive form of algae which is also called rock snot because...well, because. Some have even said it looks like toilet paper floating in the stream. It becomes deadly to the fish when it rapidly multiplies and forms a mat on the streambed, which makes it impossible for the insects that trout feed on (and fly fishers tie imitations of) to multiply. Didymo has ruined some great angling spots in New Zealand, and some suggest it travelled there on some angler's boots from North America.
Several years ago, fly fishing groups and state conservation associations offered tips on how to prevent Didymo from spreading. One could spray 409 or something similar on the boots before entering new waters, immerse them in scalding hot water with bleach added, or simply let them dry in the sun for two or three days. There is a growing consensus that these measures are not enough, and now wildlife biologists and others are suggesting that rubber-soled boots may be the best approach to take.
Nevertheless, there is agnosticism and even active dissent. Won't the Dydymo live in the boot laces? Don't the birds, bears, badgers, and beavers act as vehicles on the Didymo transportation highway? The blogshere crackles, but all hope for a return of good fishing, remniscent of this fine morning: "'Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch'...And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear."
William Van Ornum