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The US West's treasured trout streams are prone to drought and heat

The North Platte River, in southern Wyoming, has been so low lately that a toddler could easily swim across it. In the lazy current thick mats made of olive-green alga have grown in its wake.

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The US West's treasured trout streams are prone to drought and heat

Workers stacked sandbags in order to protect their homes and fishing boats from the raging floodwaters two years ago. This was the highest recorded record.

The scene is not representative of a famous trout fishing spot, where anglers fish downstream in drift boats and fling fly lures to try to land big brown or rainbow trout under the Medicine Bow Mountains.

But both torrent and trickle have afflicted storied trout streams in the American West in recent years amid the havoc of climate change, which has made the region hotter and drier and fueled severe weather events. Blistering heat waves and extended drought have raised water temperatures and imperiled fish species in several states.

In the Rocky Mountains, the attention is on trout fishing, a big part of both the United States' $1-billion-a-year fly fishing industry and the region's over $100-billion-a-year outdoor recreation industry.

"It seems that the extremes seem to be more extreme," stated Tom Wiersema who has fished the North Platte as a guide for trout enthusiasts for nearly half a century.

Wiersema was able to float a section about 10 miles (16 km) north of the Colorado border for many years. Wiersema didn't bother to float the stretch this year since June, fearing that he would have to drag his boat across wet, algal-covered rocks.

"That's where the river is at that moment." He said that the bowling balls were round and slippery.

Near Saratoga, a 1,600-person community, trout leap from light posts to decorate the Town Hall sign. The North Platte flows past the Hobo pool, where trout fishing and the fall elk hunt are big business.

Hack's Tackle & Outfitters owner Phil McGrath said that low flows haven't affected his guided fishing trips on driftboats, which launch from deeper waters in town. He said that the fishing has been great.

He advised customers to be gentle with the small guys in the afternoon.

It is basic trout fishing ethics to fish when the temperatures rise as high as possible.

US West
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