There was a time in past Aprils when the Iron fraudator hatched in the Cornwallis River on sunny days. When the hatch came a Quill Gordon dry fly fished carefully brought good rises. The river had to be watched carefully then, since the Iron fraudator could come anywhere from mid to late April. Everything depended on the water temperature; when the temperature was right the fraudator had to come off – in wind, rain and on occasion, in snowsqualls. The hatch usually started in the late morning and petered out in the late afternoon.
You could count on the Iron fraudator hatch lasting three to five weeks. By mid-May another Mayfly would appear, hatching along with the Iron fraudator. I never identified this Mayfly, but a Hendrickson fly was best when it was on. By late May the Iron fraudator usually disappeared. Another Mayfly would start to hatch at this time and a small Light Cahill effectively matched it.
While there were other Mayflies on the water, the Quill Gordon, Hendrickson and Light Cahill did the job and it wasn’t necessary to experiment with different fly patterns. The hatches came off day after day and at times the fishing was excellent.
Then the river began to change. While they were tainted at times when the Berwick sewer lagoon overflowed or there was an algae bloom, the upper waters of the Cornwallis were usually crystal clear. Over the past two decades the upper river has lost its clarity and the water today can be described as sort of sooty, slightly tinged and tinted with gray. These are vague descriptions at best but it’s difficult to describe the water of a river that is succumbing to pollution and is losing its colour.
It’s ironic that the sources of pollution on the lower Cornwallis have mostly been (but not completely) eliminated, while relatively little has been done to reduce pollution on the upper waters. The sources of pollution on the upper Cornwallis are well-known but only a few firm steps have been taken to eliminate them.
Over the years as well the Mayflies hatches have become erratic. Spring still brings the Iron fraudator hatch and other Mayflies, but its old clockwork regularity is gone. There are days at a time when no fraudators hover over the water and the great crowds of this Mayfly are now pitifully few in number.
Mayflies and other insects succumb to pollution, but what about trout? The Cornwallis is mainly a brown trout stream and this fish is notorious for withstanding polluted waters. The river can become a lot more polluted and brown trout anglers will still have fish to catch.
However, fishing is more than throwing out a line and catching a trout. The angling experience includes enjoying a clear, clean stream and knowing that the trout you take may be eaten with impunity.
Such is not the case on the Cornwallis River today. Eating its trout may be hazardous and its clear, clean waters are disappearing. Perhaps one day when the waters of the Cornwallis are the same shade as water in the sewer lagoons, someone will take action. By then it may be too late.