The Fly Fishing Hertiage and Stream Ecology in The
Eugene P. Macri Jr.
Many citizens have questioned the links between stream ecology and fly fishing. Well there
are many reason for this "holy or unholy alliance" depending upon your view point. The first one seldom
mentioned is that many early biologists and scientists that studied streams were fly fishermen. These include
James Needham and his son Paul Needham. They were instrumental in their studies of aquatic insects, rivers
and fisheries. They published hundreds of papers on the subjects. Even today aquatic scientists often become
interested in theses subjects when they are young and begin fishing.
As a kid turning over rocks in a stream I wanted to know what those critters were in the
stream. As one graduates into the realms of fly fishing it becomes a natural order. The famed aquatic
science book, Ecology of Running Water by Hynes is said to be in the hands of more fly fishermen
It's natural for fly fishermen to want to know about the insects, the streams, and
the environment because it affects their fishing. Many of the modern aquatic entomology manuals and aquatic
science books are purchased by fly anglers and this greatly expands a rather small market. Many years
ago I was working on the famed
White Fly Hatch, Ephron leukon on the
Yellow Breeches near Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. It was in mid August and I was collecting nymphs.
Three young boys approached me all around the age of 12. They wanted to know what I was doing. I
explained what type of scientist I was and what I was doing. One of their mothers came down to the stream and asked
if they were bothering me. "No, I said..their getting a lesson in stream biology." She said, "That's
good because they go back to school next week." Over the next few hours the boys helped me collect nymphs. I
gave each of them a number of vials with insects in alcohol and identifications. I told them when they get back to
school and teacher wants to know what they did that summer....hit her with the insects and give the class a
little lesson. Maybe one of those boys became scientist! I hope so.
The macroinvertebrates in a stream tell a story for both the biologist and fly fisherman.
They are the best indicators of the stream's health. The fly fisherman and the biologist can both benefit from this
alliance since many fly anglers are on the stream and can observe and collect things when scientists cannot.