Just about a decade ago, I started noticing more green muck on the Delaware riverbed than ever before. It was sudden, and dangerously slippery; a slimy algae had spread throughout the watersheds of the northeast, covering rocks and making wading frighteningly perilous, and it was as if it had come out of nowhere.
We called it rock snot.
You couldn’t drift a nymph without getting your fly covered in rock snot. The shit was everywhere, and nobody knew where it came from.
It was so sudden, and perhaps for that reason most of us never questioned the narrative that it was an invasive species. Nothing like the bloom of rock snot, or didymo, had been witnessed before in the Delaware system. So naturally the narrative that rock snot was an invasive species was embraced nearly universally by anglers; and also by fishing industry insiders, who told us to give up our felt soled wading boots, and to buy a new pair of boots with vibram soles, which were marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to felt, and technological fix for the problem of rock snot.
State legislatures across the nation banned felt soled wading boots to solve the problem of the rock snot.
So, anglers were expected to buy a new pair of vibram soled wading boots, and to throw out their disease spreading felt.
This seemed so ridiculous that I remember wondering why, at the time, the rock snot wasn’t gonna be spread by birds, no matter whether we wore felt boots or not. The millions of heron, mergansers, ducks and geese, that travel from river to river, all presumably spread didymo faster and more efficiently than the few thousands of anglers that were targeted with legislation banning felt soled boots in the aftermath of the discovery of didymo in our waterways.
But state legislatures everywhere decided to ban felt soled wading boots. Nearly every angler, including me, bought a pair of vibram soled wading boots to help solve the problem of the rock snot.
How is it that such ridiculous narratives are spread, leading to legislation banning gear with decades of history and use, but ignoring the obvious cause of the problem that every angler should have recognized and inferred when we first noticed the river bottom was covered in green slime, aka rock snot?
Why weren’t we talking about climate change?
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a rule a few years back suppressing scientific testimony at EPA hearings and elevating the testimony of financially motivated industry lobbyists. Suppression of science is the law of the land in the United States, if the truth interferes with capitalism.
The narratives that emerge, and the actions we take to solve problems, evolve in a context of suppression of science. They are delusional, or perhaps even psychotic, in their insistence upon “truths” that are disseminated deliberately to the public, consistent with the agenda of industry lobbyists and corporate insiders.
So let’s recap the rock snot story: just a few years back, we were told to throw away our felt soled wading boots.
Because anglers were said to be spreading an invasive species of algae called didymo.
The story was elaborate, and local anglers all knew it:
Didymo got on to the felt soles of our wading boots, and, if we didn’t treat our boots with an herbicidal bleach solution, then we would be the cause of the spreading of rock snot.
It was best to just buy a new pair of wading boots, without felt soles, and better still to buy a new pair of wading boots for every river system you fished, just to be sure you weren’t cross pollinating your favorite streams with the rock snot. Buying lots of boots was the angler’s way of protecting the environment, or so we were told or otherwise required to do by law.
Well, it turns out didymo isn’t an invasive species after all. It’s a “sentinel” species of algae that blooms in warm water conditions. It warns us of changes occurring within the environment. Scientists are discouraged from talking about it, at least before government agencies, both in the United States and Canada.
What’s changing? Well, water temperatures are getting warmer.
Climate change, of course.
Now before we start considering conspiracy theories, just keep in mind that, the average fisherperson sees changes in the aquatic environment before anyone else does. We were the first to see the rock snot blooming all over the Delaware River. Our flies were covered in it.
And instead of telling the world that we were observing changes to the ecosystem that might be related to climate change, we embraced a narrative that the rock snot was somehow our fault, and that we needed to buy new wading boots, from the big corporations that manufacture them.
At about the time this shit was all going down, Simms (America’s number one manufacturer of wading boots), announced it was no longer making felt soled boots.
That was about 2012, and let me guess that since then, profits from the sale of boots are up considerably…
Please read the comments below for helpful fact checking…