Chris Scalley, The Bug Counter
Flyfishing Guide, Roswell, Ga.
In 1998, Scalley formed the Chattahoochee Coldwater Fishery Foundation to conduct long-term studies of aquatic life,hoping to also document the natural reproduction of trout.
As kids my brother and I would take an old window screen down to the Hooch and kick around to see what bugs the fish were eating. We saw changes around the river even then-fields were turning into moonscapes with all the development.
I began my guide service in '94 and started coming across some of the scientists working in the watershed. One day I asked a biologist what the latest data was on critter populations. She said there'd never been a macroinvertebrate study of the Chattahoochee.
The Hooch is an overlooked fishery because it's overshadowed by Atlanta. Even with all the urban growth, not a single agency was doing any biomonitoring on the river to assess impact on the fishery.
So these scientists and I formed a group to do it ourselves. We raised money for equipment and worked up a protocol for collecting the critters. Every year since, four times a year, we've gotten a bunch of volunteers on the river to gather bugs. We've had overwhelming support-mostly from trout fishermen. We get a lot of kids, too-you know how kids are in creeks. The National Park Service says that our macroinvertebrate collection is now more extensive than anything they have.
In 2000, in collaboration with other groups, we proved the trout were spawning. That means a whole new ball game for stream classification. Then the DNR stopped stocking browns to see if the river could sustain the fishery. The sampling is ongoing.
It was my dream to be a fishing guide and it's been inspiring to help people connect with their home water. Atlanta is a beautiful place to live, but without the Hooch it wouldn't be Atlanta anymore.
-- Kimberly Hiss