Casting for trash
Local fly fishermen to help with Truckee River cleanup effort
For most of the past decade, Jim Litchfield, owner of the Reno Fly Shop, has spent the day of the annual Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful “Truckee River Cleanup” in an inflatable raft, paddling down the Truckee River channel and picking up litter that volunteers on the riverbanks couldn’t reach.
“We would get a dozen or so rafts and tubes, and load them up with all the stuff people couldn’t access from along the banks,” Litchfield said. “It was kind of a cool way to clean up the channel, when there was water in it. Last year was the first year in about 10 years that I didn’t do it, because there wasn’t enough water.”
This year, again, Litchfield will participate in the cleanup on foot—because this year, again, the water level in the river is too low for boating.
All summer, the Truckee has been flowing at a fraction of its normal rate. Because of the low flows and high summer temperatures, Litchfield and other local fishermen opted to participate in the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s campaign to “Rest Your River,” in which they did not fish after 11 a.m., or when the water temperature climbed above 68 degrees.
“That was to allow [the fish] to experience as little stress as possible, given the low water conditions they were experiencing,” Litchfield said. “We were hoping people would give them a break.”
The low flows haven’t been ideal for fishing, but Litchfield thinks the low water level may make for a good cleanup. “So we have a great opportunity to get in and clean up stuff that we rarely have access to,” he said “I think as a result we’re going to have less litter and debris, because people didn’t use the river recreationally like they did during other summers.”
On the other hand, there could be more litter than usual, says Jaime Souza, program manager for Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. There hasn’t been as much water in the river channel to carry trash out of town, and wind may have blown in plastic bags and other items from the streets.
The annual Truckee River Cleanup, which will occur on Sept. 26, is the biggest cleanup event of the year for KTMB. Last year, 800 people participated, and this year, KTMB is expecting similar numbers. Volunteers will be cleaning up 20 sites located along a 15- to 20-mile stretch of river between Verdi and McCarran Ranch.
“We’re supposed to be ’resting the river,’ so we have a lot of interest from fly fishers to come out to the cleanup and participate in a different way,” said Souza. “Instead of doing the thing they love and want to be doing the most, fishing, they’re coming out and helping us to clean up the river, so I think that’s really special.”
This year, Litchfield will be volunteering with a group of local fly fishermen called the Renegades at Mustang Ranch, on the lower Truckee River. Another group of local fly fishermen, the Truckee River Fly Fishers, will clean up near Museum Drive in Reno.
“This year is obviously different from previous because we’re in the middle of a significant, historic drought,” Litchfield said. “It’ll be a little different this year. I’m interested to find out how it is.”
Full disclosure: The author has volunteered with the Truckee River Cleanup in the past and plans to help out again.