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What makes a river “gold medal”? A proliferation of beefy trout, for sure. But little more than that it seems. Colorado’s Blue River near Silverthorne has been a designated gold medal river for years. It’s been re-channelized and “stream enhanced” by professionals. It houses large rainbows and browns—sustained thanks to stocking efforts. But it’s what the Blue doesn’t have that might be the most telling. The river below Dillon Reservoir, according to state wildlife officials and biologists, is severely lacking in the aquatic insect department. So much so the Colorado Water Quality Control Division recently proposed listing the gold medal Blue as impaired.

From Summit County VoiceThe findings didn’t surprise Jon Ewert, an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife who has been sampling and studying the Blue (along with other streams in the region) for several years.

“We’ve known for years that there’s a lack of productivity in the Blue,” Ewert said, describing how repeated sampling of trout shows very slow growth rates and fish in poor body condition —  consistent with similar sampling results going back to the 1980s.

The gold medal fishery is essentially sustained by restocking the river with big hatchery fish near the end of their natural life cycle, he explained. Fish sampling showed problems far downstream, not just in the reach directly below the dam, he added.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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