Plumbum: A little lead couldn’t hurt, right?

Terrace Standard Skeena Angler columnist Rob Brown doesn't use lead wire to weigh down his flies anymore

Doug Webb and I have fished together many times over the 35 years. Sometimes Doug will catch more fish. On others I will catch more. One autumn day, the balance tipped heavily in my favour.

We were standing at the river surrounded by salmon. We were after Cutthroat Trout. An egg pattern is the lure to use in those situations, and we were – Hugh Storey’s sparse, small, and deadly single egg. Our flies were identical.

What made things even more uncanny was that we were fishing the same spots and we were both nymphing. In books on fishing technique, authors use the term nymphing to mean every which way to fish a representation of the underwater stages of an aquatic insect, which are appropriately called nymphs after the mythical female nature deities.

In Skeena, we use the term more specifically to describe that particular form of nymphing that requires the angler to cast his fly up and across at an obtuse angle then fish it back past him or herself on a dead drift. It’s a similar approach as the classic upstream dry fly cast first used hundreds of years ago on the fabled chalk streams there. The technique works because it enables the fisher to imitate the passage of a salmon egg that hasn’t made it into the gravel during the spawning. Trout lurking nearby vacuum up these errant eggs.

In the midst of this head scratching, Doug had an aha moment.

Did you weight your flies? he asked.

I always do.

That’s it. I didn’t.

And there it was. The fact that I had wrapped 10 turns of the finest lead wire money can buy around the shank of my egg before adding the chenille body put it a few inches closer to the bottom than Doug’s and possibly slowed the speed of it’s passage almost imperceptibly. That was the difference between fooling a few fish and fooling a lot.

Not long after that instructive day, I was wrapping up some eggs and noticed the newly purchased spool of lead had a warning sticker attached. I hadn’t seen such a warning on similar products before. I knew lead, like all heavy metals, wasn’t good, but surely handling a little bit wouldn’t kill a guy, I Googled it. Now I’m not so sure.

Each year, the American non-profit Blacksmith Institute publishes a ranking of the world’s worst toxins. Lead tops the list, followed by mercury, chromium, arsenic, pesticides and radionuclides. Buried deep in the ground, naturally occurring lead doesn’t pose much of a threat, but high levels of the heavy metal are released through burning fuels, metal ore mining and other industrial processes.

Metal mining and manufacturing and chemical manufacturing industries in North America pump out nearly three quarters of the 5.7 billion kilograms of toxic pollution released into the environment every year. The equivalent in weight to 8.4 million 150-pound people. Canadian companies are the source of about 37 per cent of that total.

Lead builds up in your body over time in your kidneys, liver, and bones. Lead is mutagen. It screws with your genes. Lead is teratogenic. It gets into placentas and deforms fetuses. Lead buggers the immune system, it screws with the human brain causing a host of learning disabilities and hyperactivity, and causes a host of nasty cancers.

All of this has been suspected since the time of the Romans and has been well known for a long time. It was well known when the oil companies began putting lead in gasoline to improve performance and eliminate engine knock. They down played the risks, and we believed them.

You just have to look at the blankets of smog enveloping major cities to realize that you couldn’t develop a better vehicle to transmit toxins than a car or truck driven by a combustion engine and equipped with an exhaust system. For decades, motor vehicles spewed lead into the environment where it found its way into water supplies and school playgrounds, and just about everywhere else, including your body.

Crude oil contains a suite of toxic chemicals and it contains lead. There was plenty of lead in the crude that spilled from Enbridge Energy’s ruptured pipe into Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River. But that was old pipe. The twin pipe that Enbridge wants to drive through our backyard will be the best pipe there is, writes Enbridge BC team leader, Janet Holder on the backside of last week’s paper.

Any pipe that can withstand avalanches, rockslides, and floods that have made mince meat of the existing pipeline must be some pipe indeed.

Janet Holder is part of the oil industry, the same people that brought you the Exxon Valdez, the disaster in the Gulf, other marine disasters to numerous to mention, and leaded gasoline. These are the people funding disinformation campaigns denying climate change to stall the shift to green energy so they might to continue to profit from the sale of filthy fossil fuels. Janet Holder is a snake oil salesperson spewing spin provided her by PR companies who mangle the truth for profits.

Why would anyone listen to her?


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