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Grant to help restore Mill River

The Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited has received a grant for restoration of the Mill River and been entered in the Embrace A Stream Challenge, a new online contest sponsored by Orvis and Trout Unlimited. From Nov. 6-12, the chapter has a chance to win its share of $50,000 in cash prizes to help fund the Mill River Conifer Revetment Project, an initiative to restore the Mill River in Fairfield County.

In early October, the Nutmeg Chapter received an $670 grant from the Embrace A Stream program to support removal of invasive species and shoring up of the banks of the Mill River near the Easton-Fairfield border, along Congress Street in Fairfield.

From Nov. 6-12, anyone who visits embraceastream.org and makes a donation of as little as $10 to support Nutmeg TU’s work will help it unlock prizes ranging from $250 to $5,000. Nutmeg TU is competing in this contest with more than 40 other Trout Unlimited chapters from across the country.

“We’re excited to have the chance to raise even more money to restore and improve the Mill River in the Embrace A Stream Challenge,” said Rich Rosen, Nutmeg TU president. “But we need the help of all of our community members to win. If you care about clean water, and share our love for the Mill River, please help our more than 300 local members and volunteers by donating to this important project.”

The Mill River Conifer Revetment Project will focus on a section of stream that runs along Congress Street in Fairfield, where the river is more than 40 feet wide in some places, when it should average 15 feet. TU volunteers and their partners will narrow the stream channel and stabilize the banks using conifer revetments to prevent future erosion and ensure that the stream at the site and downstream can support excellent trout habitat.

The Mill River is currently home to some of the highest densities of wild and native trout in the state, but TU and other experts believe that the fishery can support even more trout with habitat improvement. Pending before state officials is a regulation change that would make the stretch a catch-and-release only area dedicated to wild trout.

The site is near the Merritt Parkway and a heavily used service area, and frequently needs litter removal in addition to replacing invasive species with native fauna, which Nutmeg TU has been doing, in cooperation with the Town of Fairfield, for four years.

Embrace A Stream is a matching grant program administered by Trout Unlimited that provides funds to local chapters and councils for coldwater fisheries conservation. Since its inception in 1975, the grant program has funded more than 1,000 individual projects for a total of $4.4 million in direct cash grants. Local chapters and councils contributed an additional $13 million in cash and in-kind services to EAS funded projects, for a total investment of more than $17 million. The Embrace A Stream Challenge is a new national online contest sponsored by Orvis and Trout Unlimited to connect people who care with a chance to support improvements to the rivers and streams in their communities.

“This year, more than 40 local Trout Unlimited chapters from across the country have brought forward plans to take care of the rivers that they love to fish,” said Russ Meyer, chairman of the Embrace A Stream grants committee, a group of Trout Unlimited volunteers who review and approve all grant applications. “The Embrace A Stream Challenge gives everyone in your community the chance to join us in supporting this important local project.”

The Nutmeg Chapter of Trout Unlimited serves more than 300 members in Southwestern Connecticut. Nutmeg TU works with partners to restore local rivers, engage area youth in outdoor education and protect trout streams that are a mere stone’s throw from Manhattan, specifically the towns of Fairfield, Westport, Weston, Easton,  Redding, Trumbull, Monroe, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford and Shelton.

Nutmeg TU meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month, September through May, at Port 5, 69 Brewster St., in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. They are open to the public free of charge. The Nov. 21 meeting features Greg Myerson, who holds the world record for the largest striped bass.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with more than 300,000 members and supporters dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. Visit TU online at tu.org.

Calendar of Events for September and October 2016

Fishing outing for Saturday, September 24, 2016, upstate on the Housatonic River is postponed.  At a later date, our trip leader will be Chuck Petruccelli at chuckp@optonline.net .

Fly Tying at Chuck’s, Tues evening, September 27, 2016, 7 PM Trumbull.  Contact Chuck MacMath at cmacmath59@yahoo.com .  The fly tying group will meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 7-9 pm.  The cost is $2.00 per session to cover the cost of materials.  Email Chuck with questions or additional information.  Everyone is welcome, beginners are encouraged to attend.  Vises, tools and materials are available if needed.

Fly Tying at Chuck’s, Tues evening, October 11, 2016, 7 PM Trumbull.  Contact Chuck MacMath at cmacmath59@yahoo.com .  The fly tying group will meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 7-9 pm.  The cost is $2.00 per session to cover the cost of materials.  Email Chuck with questions or additional information.  Everyone is welcome, beginners are encouraged to attend.  Vises, tools and materials are available if needed.

The general meeting will be Tuesday, October 18, 2016, 7 PM at Vazzy’s Restaurant on 513 Broadbridge Ave, in Bridgeport, CT.  Our speaker is scheduled to be Paul Dinice.

Fishing outing for Saturday, October 22, 2016 on the Pennfield Reef. Trip leader will be Ed Grzeda, eegrzeda@gmail.com.  More information will be available next month.

Fly Tying at Chuck’s, Tues evening, October 25, 2016, 7 PM Trumbull.  Contact Chuck MacMath at cmacmath59@yahoo.com .  The fly tying group will meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 7-9 pm.  The cost is $2.00 per session to cover the cost of materials.  Email Chuck with questions or additional information.  Everyone is welcome, beginners are encouraged to attend.  Vises, tools and materials are available if needed.

 

Mill River planting postponed

Pat Fowler presents a grant from Orvis to Nutmeg TU President Charles Petruccelli and Treasurer Phil Jacques.

Pat Fowler presents a grant from Orvis to Nutmeg TU President Charles Petruccelli and Treasurer Phil Jacques.

The Mill River planting project scheduled for May 22 has been postponed to Saturday, June 4, at 8 a.m.

Thanks to retail grants from Orvis and Patagonia, Nutmeg TU has the funds to proceed with the planting of indigenous plant species along the Congress Street section of the Mill River in Fairfield.

If enough volunteers step up, Nutmeg TU will be able to clean the area as well. Those who can help are asked to email Ed Grzeda at eegrzeda@gmail.com.

Those who attend should dress appropriately — long sleeves, long pants, boots, work gloves, hats, etc. There is poison ivy on the site and biting insects and ticks are possible.

Please be careful while parking and walking on Congress Street. It is an autobahn, lots of German cars traveling at unlimited speeds.

Refreshments will be served.

What makes the Mill River so special and a history of Nutmeg TU’s work and its current status.

Trout fisherman in Eastern Fairfield County are very fortunate to have the Mill River in Easton, and Fairfield, Connecticut. The river is a tail water of the Easton Reservoir. For approximately one and a half miles it runs cool and free to Lake Mohegan in Fairfield. More than half of it is bordered by town property or parks, state forest, or open space. Only a quarter mile is bordered by private property on both sides.  The cold water releases from the dam keep this section below sixty degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.  Thus the stream supports wild populations of brown and brook trout. It is one of eight Class 1 wild trout streams in Connecticut and one of its most urban.

It is unique amongst the Class 1 streams for it flows into an approximately thirty-acre pond ‘Lake’ Mohegan, an old gravel pit which has a maximum depth of thirty-five feet. Brown trout in the stream over the years have dropped down into the lake and put on weight and size. Lake Mohegan is located completely within a wooded open space owned by the Town of Fairfield, which does not allow boats on the Lake, making for some quite remarkable fishing in the fall, when these large browns make their spawning run.

The Nutmeg Chapter (217) of Trout unlimited members understand how fortunate we are. We have wild trout fishing all year long minutes from our homes, thirty minutes at most for our chapter members. The Mill is the crown jewel of our local streams, however, we know we need to protect, restore, and improve it for it to support the ever increasing fishing pressure. Furthermore, we continual advocate for the river whenever it is threatened. We understand this is our responsibility as a conservation organization.

To help meet this responsibility Spring 2013, our chapter developed, and started acting on a prioritized Mill River Improvement Opportunity list. First on the list was improvement of the ‘Congress Street’ section of the river. Paralleling, then running under, the Merritt Parkway you can see GE World Headquarters from this section. (I did mention it was an urban stream.) The Fairfield Town property was unmanaged open space, frequently used as an illegal dump site. It represented approximately three acres of riverside which has about three eighths of a mile of underutilized fishing access. Two acres of which is a sandbar. The plan is to clean up the site, remove the invasive species, Japanese Knotweed, Flying Euonymus, Japanese Bar Berry (one of the deer tick’s favorite habitat), primrose, and honeysuckle. Then replant the site with native species of bulrush, mountain laurel, rhododendron, dog wood, grasses, and under story trees to hold the sand bar and banks. Thus providing a more diverse environment and more welcoming environment for native fauna.

This project grew from a request in 2013 for permission and support from the Town of Fairfield for a massive cleanup of this section. Besides the illegally dumped rubbish and the usual fisherman trash, there was the litter from the nearby gas station and rest area on the Merritt Parkway. The Conservation Departments Manager of Open Space gladly agreed to haul away the collected rubbish. He also asked if we would be interested in undertaking the removal of invasive plants and replanting the site with native species.  Given the site provided some of the most level access to the river, the less agile or young children could easily access the river here, right from one of the areas main side roads.  We realized it was a great place to start our first major project of the last few years. So in the Spring 2013 we started our improvement project with the major cleanup.

Following the cleanup we formed a Mill River task force which put together a plan to get the invasive species under control.  After researching removal of Japanese Knotweed and reviewing the site the task force realized to be effective we would have to clear all the Knotweed from both sides of the river. The work area grew from three acres to five and a half acres, with the additional acreage on private residential land. This increased the amount of administrative preparatory work to get all the permissions lined up. But we did it.  We started June 2013 with Japanese Knotweed cutting and bagging work sessions every weekend of the month. We successfully cut out all the knotweed.

From our research we also realized we would have to spray the knotweed to get it under control. In discussions with the State DEEP Invasive species experts and the Nature Conservancy in Weston, CT.   we found a licensed environmental engineering firm to do the spraying. We contracted for three sprayings performed Fall 2013, Spring 2014 and Fall 2014. In the Fall of 2014 the Open Space Manager sent me an email telling me the site was ready for planting. Since then we have continued to cut the remnants to keep the knotweed under control. And of course we have continued our annual spring cleanups of the area.

Now that we have the site preparation complete, we have scheduled a planting for Sunday, May 22, 2016.  For those of us involved from the start this planting has been a long time coming.  If you have time available that Sunday, please come, help with this conservation project.  If you are unable to help with the planting but want to support our improvement efforts on the Mill River you may donate to the Nutmeg Chapter (217) of Trout Unlimited by check or through our website. For those interested in donating go to http://www.nutmegtrout.org/get-involved/donate/ and click the Donate Button on the Right side of the page.

French Flyfisherman visits Jan. 20

Antoine Bissieux, “The French Flyfisherman”

Nutmeg TU’s speaker Tuesday, Jan 20, is Antoine Bissieux, “The French Flyfisherman.” Antoine is going to talk to us about the “Farmington River as He Sees It.”

The meeting will be held at Port 5 Naval Vetertans, 69 Brewster St., Bridgeport, from 7 to 9 p.m. Pizza will be sold and there will be a raffle.

A 2012 Orvis-endorsed guide, Bissieux leads fly fishing trips on the Farmington River in Connecticut, the Battenkill River in Vermont, and other places where you can cast at a fish.

After teaching thousands of beginner anglers and guiding at the Orvis fly fishing flagship school in Manchester, Vt., he now focuses on the Farmington, offering guided trips, classes, instruction, all catered to each fisherman’s expectations. All levels and abilities are welcome.

The French Fisherman can also be heard on National Public Radio.

More information can be found a bissieux.com.