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Dollysquatch 2.0

E-bikes and eDNA

Supported by Trout Unlimited

In the summer of 2021, we embarked on a search into Washington state’s North Cascades to shadow North Sound Trout Unlimited chapter president Bridget Moran as she continued the chapters Environmental DNA (eDNA) project. Through genetic testing of water samples it is possible to determine what species of fish are present in a watershed without catching or seeing them. We also looked deep and wide for traces of Sasquatch.

ABOVE Expansive mountain peaks and deep valleys litter the North Cascades with memorable views and the promise of wild encounters. Photo: Colby Mesick

North Sound Trout Unlimited chapter president Bridget Moran samples a North Cascades blueline for traces of environmental DNA. Photo: Copi Vojta

The tools of the trade—the eDNA sampling trade. Photo: Copi Vojta

In summer 2022, we went back for more, this time swapping four wheels for two. We arrived on dirt roads through low clouds, light rain and just enough fog to wonder about the weather ahead, which added a misty mood to an otherwise typical Pacific Northwest summer. 

Electric bikes poured out of vehicles, along with snack-filled backpacks for the calorie burn, then eDNA sampling gear and plenty of fly fishing equipment. The bikes would power us through washed-out forest service roads deep into North Cascade Sasquatch territory. 

ABOVE Dirt road switchbacks led into a low morning fog, where we parked the four-wheeled vehicles, made camp and readied two-wheeled modes of transportation. Photo: Copi Vojta 

From above, this small creek looks like a gem. It provided a much-needed eDNA sample site, but thick brush-lined banks limited the fishing. Photo: Colby Mesick

The end of the road, with sweet runs, riffles and pools awaiting us after several more miles of biking. Photo: Copi Vojta

Last fall’s rains did a number to this forest service road. Bridget Moran navigates one of the many washed-out sections on this traverse to the water. Photo: Copi Vojta

We explored a beautiful watershed, looking for lively trout with both fly rods and science. Though we hit 20 mph on the downhills, the many long inclines slowed us to a saddle-sore crawl. Slow spells of fishing improved with a slight rise in water temperatures and finally, to our surprise, after watching dry flies drift through runs untouched, a few beautiful rainbow trout came to hand. 

Sasquatch and Dolly Varden proved elusive, but that doesn’t matter in this wild place. The belief that one (or both) exist—and exploring their safe harbors—is more important than finding them ourselves.

ABOVE TOP TO BOTTOM The reward after hours of slow fishing—a gem of a rainbow. We lucked into a few moments up close with this wild trout, a surprisingly large specimen for this watershed. Photo: Copi Vojta

Late in the afternoon of our last day, the fishing turned on. Perhaps it was technique, a slight rise in water temperature, a different section of stream—or the combination of all three. Bridget Moran steers in a wild, high-country trout. Photo: Copi Vojta


Watch the first film in the series, Finding DollySquatch at the following link…

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