Sunday, September 07, 2008
Coffee Addicted Mayflies?
A recent study reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press indicates that water in the Tennessee River contains enough caffeine for mayflies to ingest the equivalent of 26.6 cups of coffee each day.
Meanwhile, Dr. Richards said, that mayfly also is ingesting a cocktail of at least 12 other common drugs, including several antibiotics, antidepressants and substances designed to lower human cholesterol levels. While the amount of drugs in the water is tiny by human standards, they one day may have a serious impact on the environment — and on humans, as well, he said.
“Everyone’s worried about pesticides in the water, but the amount of pharmaceuticals that get dumped in the water via just taking them is going to equal or exceed that of pesticides,” Dr. Richards said. “You have to wonder what it’s doing to the ecosystem. If we’re upsetting the balance in any way, it can’t be perceived as a good thing.”
In addition to the obvious environmental concerns this report raises, it also gets me to thinking about the effects this might be having on on Tennessee trout. Initially trout might suffer due to the juiced up mayflies being faster and more difficult to catch. I can picture nymphs zooming to the surface, splitting their shucks and then flying space ward with hungry trout in hot pursuit.
Sooner or later the trout would catch on and figure out how to eat the leaping Leptohyphidae. The accompanying caffeine addiction would bring the trout stream its own set of problems. If the morning hatch was somehow delayed anglers might well take care wading a river full of grumpy trout who have not yet had their "morning cup of Metretopodidae."
During abundant hatches, these same jittery trout might be easy prey for anglers who camp out on the river's fabled "Starbuck's hole." Fish would be mindlessly stacked up at the river's equivalent of the barista counter, snapping at anything that comes between them and their next fix.
No doubt some trout would become "mayfly snobs" and would only consume mocha colored bugs with half the caffeine and topped off by a generous helping of skimmed cream midges. They would travel across the river to get their favorite flavors at the Starbucks hole when everyone really knows that the Service Station pool had mayflies that were just as good for a third the energy cost.
The fly tiers bench would also be impacted. Skilled tiers would develop patterns to "match the hatch. Flies with names like "the caffeinated caddis" and "Juan Valdez's deceiver" would be top sellers. Debates would erupt over weather a coffee bean glued to a hook constituted bait or a viable fly tied with "natural" materials. Unscrupulous anglers "spilling" their coffee into rivers in order to evoke a feeding frenzy could spawn an entirely new set of regulations which may even go so far as to include drug testing for hyped up anglers caught attempting to relieve themselves on area creek banks.