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Fly fishing: Boyle joins defense of West Canada Creek

Fly fishing: Boyle joins defense of West Canada Creek

Robert H. Boyle is fired up about the threat to West Canada Creek.

He was one of the driving forces behind the lawsuits that are forcing General Electric Co. to clean up the Hudson River and New York City to stop belching silt into Esopus Creek. He wrote about the threat of acid in rain way back in 1983 and global warming 18 years ago.

And now, Robert H. Boyle is fired up about the threat to West Canada Creek.

“What they want to do is unbelievable,” he fumed the other day, referring to the Mohawk Valley Water Authority’s proposal to withdraw the equivalent of 75 cubic feet of water per second away from the West Canada to encourage development in western Oneida County.

Boyle has been lending his voice — and his connections — to the fight against the water grab. That’s a very encouraging development to those of us who love the big creek, its big flies and its big brown trout.

The West Canada — some 30 miles of excellent trout fishing between Hinckley Lake and the creek’s confluence with the Mohawk River — is under considerable stress these days.

There’s a utility company that operates hydro power dams at Hinckley in a way that causes the creek’s volume to fluctuate wildly every day. There’s the state Canal Corp., which owns a diversion channel that pulls water away from the creek and feeds it to the Erie Canal for recreational boating. And now the water authority wants to increase its share.

Creek-side landowners, anglers and concerned citizens formed the West Canada Riverkeepers in late 2007 in response to the various threats to the West Canada. Boyle hooked them up with attorney Tom Whyatt, an old ally in the fight against despoilation of the Hudson.

Boyle, a longtime staff writer at “Sports Illustrated” and a lion of the environmental movement, relocated to the Leatherstocking region seven years ago and loves the local fishing — both the trout streams and the bass ponds. But his interest in West Canada Creek seems rooted not so much in fish, but in stoneflies.

Boyle is big into stoneflies. He is co-author along with Eric Leiser of “Stoneflies for the Angler,” the most thorough book about the rugged-looking order Plecoptera that I know of.

He’s a member of the International Society of Plecopterists. And he can explain to you, enthusiastically, how some of the most important species of stoneflies were first discovered at Trenton Falls on the West Canada back in the 1830s by the visiting British entomologist Edward Doubleday.

“We’re going to nail them on the stoneflies,” Boyle said. “Stoneflies are one of the most vulnerable aquatic insects in North America.”

If protection of stoneflies ends up being the cause that defeats the latest scheme to exploit the West Canada, terrific. Meanwhile, there’s a fishing lesson hidden in the stream-watch news: West Canada trout have access to lots of stoneflies. Maybe that’s why size 8 Woolly Buggers are especially effective there.

The water authority and the Canal Corp. are fighting in court over which one has the right to the West Canada’s water, and the case is scheduled for trial March 30.

Meanwhile, Union College plans a Mohawk Watershed Symposium March 27, and discussion of the West canada issues is expected (the creek is perhaps the Mohawk’s biggest trib­utary).

Boyle will be the keynote speaker at the symposium banquet that night. I assure you he will be worth listening to. For information on attending, contact John Garver, chairman of the Geology Department at Union, at [email protected] or 388-6770.

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