Fishing Etiquette: Fires and water

Thanks for tuning in to the first installment of the Fishing Tag Series brought to you by Fat Tire… Water and Fires, Fishermen and Brewers. We have more in common than one might think… Whether you’re a brewer, a fly fishing guide, or someone in between, the health of our watersheds matters because we all depend on water.

In this article, we had the opportunity to interview young Belgian brewer Cody Reif and fly fishing guide St. and to get some valuable tips on best practices to limit our negative impact when it comes to these resources.

water, fire, wildfire, poudre, label, ethics, cprw, thick rubber
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – Why does water matter to you?

Brewery – Water is one of the essential ingredients of beer. When you buy a pint, the vast majority (+90%) of it is water. Water is also used in the farming of barely and hops, two other essential ingredients. We also use water for cleaning in the brewery, which keeps the quality of the beer high. Simply put, without water there is no beer.

guide – Water is definitely everything when it comes to fly fishing. My profession revolves around the quantity and quality of water because it dictates the productivity of the fishery. But the issue of water is much bigger than that. I think that water is an integral part of life in general.

CPRW – 80% of people in Colorado get their water from a forest watershed.

water, fire, wildfire, poudre, label, thick rubber, cprw
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – How did the 2020 Cameron Peak fire affect you as a brewer/guide in the Poudre River watershed.

Brewery – We were fortunate that the 2020 Cameron Peak fire did not interrupt our production. We use municipal water in New Belgium and the city of Fort Collins was able to supply us with clean water throughout the fire season, but that won’t always be the case. Although we were not affected this time, it is only a matter of time until a future fire event contaminates our water. It is possible to clean the polluted water, but it is a difficult task and we are not prepared for it. We will likely have to close until the water quality improves.

guide – As a guide, I go into each day assessing the conditions: water levels, temperature, potholes, weather, etc. Fires, like the Cameron Peak Fire, add additional complexity to the situation because they change the hydrology of the watershed. Now, two years later, my day-to-day decisions about where to take my clients are still being affected.

Label, fat tire, st.  pates, cprw, fire, water, Cameron's peak
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – The Cameron Peak fire is an example of a growing trend of larger and more frequent fires. What message would you convey to others who have yet to experience a large-scale wildfire in their watershed?

Brewery – It’s terrible! JOINaside from the concern about losing production capacity as a brewery, it’s terrifying to watch our river go up in ash and know what the fire has done to the canyon and surrounding natural areas.

guide – I have fished in northern Colorado all my life and experienced a number of wildfires during that time. The Colorado Front Range is the “land of fire and flood,” and these events are part of the nature of this area. However, we need to understand the difference between accidental man-made fires and natural fires.

CPRW – The biggest threat to water quality in the west is accidental human-caused fires. It’s what keeps hydrologists up at night. It has a resounding impact is up to 10 years of impact.

fishing tag, wildfire, water, CPRW, fat tire
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – Considering predictions that extreme fires will increase by 14% by 2030 and 30% by 2050 (UNEP, 2020), what do you think we should do to help mitigate future fires?

Brewery – In the short term, you need to be responsible when spending time outside (knowing the regulations and following fire bans, etc.) In the long term, slowing or preventing climate change should come first. Supporting sustainable businesses and voting for environmentally conscious public servants are just two ways to fight back. At New Belgium, we’re trying hard to do our part. Fat Tire recently became the first certified carbon neutral beer in the United States, and we’re committing to making all of our beers carbon neutral by 2030. You can learn more at

guide – We have to think long term. We need to think about how we can sustain our ecosystems and how people can live in balance with wild places. Northern Colorado is a perfect example of this. We have developed cities built right next to wild forest areas like the Poudre River watershed. We must consider how to strike a balance between nature and human development.

water, fire, wildfire, poudre, label, ethics, cprw, thick rubber
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – We understand that not all fires are bad. In what cases is fire really useful?

Brewery – Oh man! I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer this. I know that the fires we see now are more intense because of climate change and mismanaged lands. Forests do not burn on a regular cycle in part because of the people who live in them. This causes the forests to grow, which makes them susceptible to pests like the pine beetle, which turns them into giant boxes of dead, dry wood. Add in drought and rising temperatures and it’s a recipe for major catastrophic burns.

guide – Fire is a part of nature and I am always a proponent of supporting nature and the wildness of fish, rivers and all aspects of our ecosystems. We must learn to accept the beauty and necessity of natural fires by limiting unnecessary fires caused by human error (lighting a cigarette, not extinguishing the fire, etc.).

CPRW – Nearly 85 percent* of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, so focusing on limiting accidental human-caused fires is critically important.

water, fire, wildfire, poudre, label, ethics, cprw, thick rubber
Courtesy of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW)

Flylords – What is your vision for the future? How can we enjoy healthy watersheds for years to come?

Brewery – Events like the Cameron Peak fire have pushed climate change off the front page and into our lives. A silver lining here is that people are more engaged and open to finding solutions than ever before. I would like to see a world where we are committed as a community to protecting our watersheds not only from wildfires, but from other threats like dams and overdevelopment. At least now more people have their eyes open and are ready to start making changes.

guide – In the future I hope we can find a way where people can live in cooperation with nature. I think education will help us work with nature and not against it.

Flylords – We want to put together a list of wildfire best practices to help people improve their impact. What are some practices that you think belong on this list?

Tips for responsible recreation

1) Choose a good place for your campfire.

  • not build a campfire if the area prohibits them. Sometimes excavation of pits may be stopped due to archaeological or other concerns.
  • not build a campfire in dangerous and dry conditions.
  • Find out if the camp has an existing fire ring or fire pit.
  • If there is no existing fire pit and pits are permitted, choose a site at least 15 feet away from tent walls, bushes, trees, or other flammable objects. Beware of slightly overhanging branches.
  • Choose an open, level site away from heavy fuels such as logs, brush or rotting leaves.
  • Consider the wind and its direction when choosing a site. Choose a place that is protected from the winds.

2) Stay attentive while a campfire burns.

  • Keep your fire small.
  • Always keep water and a shovel nearby and know how to use them to put out a campfire.
  • Make sure an adult is always watching the fire.
  • Keep an eye on the weather! Sudden gusts of wind can blow sparks into vegetation outside your cleared area, causing sudden fires.

3) Do not leave active campfires unattended.

  • Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible
  • Pour a lot of water on the fire. Smother ALL the embers, not just the red ones. Throw it until the hissing sound stops
  • Stir dirt or sand into the embers with a shovel to bury the fire
  • With your shovel, scrape away any remaining sticks and logs to remove any embers. Make sure no embers are exposed and still burning
  • Continue to add water, dirt or sand and stir with a shovel until all the material has cooled.
  • Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.

For more information on responsible campfire use, check out Smokey Bear’s Campfire Safety Guide.

4) Be careful where you park

Do not park in long grass because the heat from the vehicle’s exhaust can cause a fire.

5) Dispose of cigarettes properly

  • Whether you smoke in the car, inside or outside, it’s always best to use an ashtray.
  • Shred cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco in the dirt, never on a log or stump
  • not dispose of tobacco materials in brush or leaves.

6) Educate yourself about where your water comes from

Water conservation can be quite a complicated subject, but it all starts with learning more about your local waters. We challenge you to research your local waters and find ways you can help locally.

7) Volunteer and donate to your local watershed group (like CPRW!)

Take the time to find out if your local watershed has a relevant nonprofit group. In most cases, these groups do not have enough people or funds to carry out the large projects needed to conserve watersheds. Volunteering and/or donating to these groups will go a long way and directly benefit you because you live in the watershed.

8) Supporting climate action.

Ultimately, the larger trend is that no matter how much we limit human-caused fires, we are only solving part of the problem. As wildfires are on track to increase 14% by 2030 and 30% by 2050 (UNEP, 2020), we must do our best to mitigate the long-term impacts caused by climate change. A great place to start would be to crack open a fat tire (America’s first carbon neutral beer) and check out their sources at Drinking Sustainably.

We want to thank Fat Tire, St. Pete’s Fly Shop and the Coalition for the Poudre Watershed (CPRW) for collaborating on this article.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Fishing Tag Series brought to you by Fat Tire. Next time we’ll hit the river for some tips on fly fishing etiquette.

Article written by Flylords Content Team Member Andrew Braker.

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