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So, whatever happened to William M. Cenis (*), the former owner of Streamlines, a newsletter for Western fly fishers? The Angling Report bought Streamlines this past June and has been sending subscribers copies of this publication ever since.

Well, Cenis now has the title of publisher at Horn County News, a weekly newspaper in Hardin, Montana. As for fishing, Cenis says his new job kept him far too busy last summer to do as much fishing as usual, but he did keep an eye on the Montana fishing scene. Here is how he describes what turned out to be a very unusual season:

"Everything from floods, ice jams, dam releases and whirling disease affected the fishing on Montana’s waters in 1996. Most rivers and streams survived the heavy spring runoff to provide decent fishing by August, although there were exceptions on the Yellowstone, Clark Fork and Madison rivers.

"The Yellowstone River suffered from the worst flooding in 100 years. The extreme force changed some channels… some favorite fishing holes no longer exist… and some new fishing spots were created. But the major damage done was not to the riverbed itself, but to DePuy’s (*) and Armstrong (*) spring creeks.

"The Angling Report covered this event earlier, so I’ll just bring you up to date on what’s happened since. Seems the owners of these creeks have decided to construct barriers to keep the Yellowstone at bay. This work has been completed on Armstrong, and the spring water is flowing. DePuy’s is scheduled for completion by next season. Work is also needed on both creek environments. Even so, the owners of both Armstrong and DePuy’s creeks expect they will be fishable by this coming summer. Just how productive fishing will be remains to be seen.

"The Clark Fork River in western Montana was also the victim of flooding, but in a somewhat different way. Back in February, ice jams broke loose on one if its tributaries, the Blackfoot River. A massive ice floe began heading downstream toward the Blackfoot’s confluence with the Clark Fork, which is just above the Milltown Dam east of Missoula. Officials feared flooding and too much pressure on the dam, and therefore conducted a massive emergency drawdown of the reservoir behind the dam. The drawdown carried tons of sediment down the Clark Fork. The sediment contained high concentrations of arsenic, copper and zinc.

"As if this wasn’t enough to damage the Clark Fork fishery, ice floes on the river itself near the towns of Alberton and St. Regis scoured the river banks, bottom and side-channel islands. Runoff continued well into the summer, and anglers report that fishing this past season was not as productive as it had been in the past.

"Over on the Madison River, the news is mixed. On the down side, whirling disease has devastated rainbow populations on what was once Montana’s best-known blue ribbon water. Since whirling disease was discovered in December 1994, the rainbow count per mile has dropped from 3,500 to 300. Fortunately, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials just announced that beginning this year, the Department will implement a 10-year plan to release westslope cutthroat trout into streams feeding the Madison, which was a cutthroat fishery as recently as the early 1900’s. Rainbows from California were planted in the river prior to 1915, and brown trout were introduced later. Those species eventually pushed the cutthroat out of the river. Officials say the cutthroat’s spawning cycle and habits give it a good chance of surviving whirling disease.

"The outlook for Madison, Clark Fork and Yellowstone rivers is guardedly optimistic. The Yellowstone produced some good fishing late in 1996; the Clark Fork is a big river that has taken a lot of abuse in the past and survived; and the state of Idaho has had great success managing cutthroat fisheries, which could be a good omen for the Madison. Anglers planning to fish in Montana this year should keep an eye on the winter and spring weather. In general, the safest time to plan a fishing trip is from mid-July through September."

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