Monday, August 27, 2007

What Fly Fishing Is and Is Not

So to begin with let's dispose of all the definitions of what fly fishing is and is not. We all know the what it is as far as tackle and the like so with that taken care of there is, at least in my uneducated opinion, more to it.
I will try to expand on the idiosyncrasies of the deeper meaning of the "affliction" I call fly fishing.
Fly fishing is not about catching a freezer full of fish! You want to do that then there are much more effective and cheaper ways than chucking a fly to accomplish your carnivorous desires. If you are fly fishing to feed yourself then you very well may turn into a vegetarian.
Fly fishing is about deception. You are trying to fool a fish into thinking your abstract creation is something edible. Your creation or maybe someone else's is presented in a way to hopefully deceive a trout into feeding.
Fly fishing is about solitude and oneness. Yes I know that sounds like a cliché but you cannot stand next to someone and cast a fly.
Fly fishing is about physics. A perfectly executed cast is truly a marvel that an expert in trigonometry or geometry could appreciate.
Fly fishing is not about ego or at least it shouldn't be.
Fly fishing is about a one on one connection to your quarry. A dry fly is about as simple as it gets when you think about it. It is just your line and leader connected to a tiny bit of fur or feather on a hook....basic stuff really.
Fly fishing is not about selfishness but then we can be terribly possessive of those waters we have grown fond of.
Fly fishing is not about blowing your own horn but celebrating a communion with the water, the fish and everything surrounding.
Fly fishing is about discovery and inner thoughts. The quietness of the stream at dusk only broken by the splash of a leaping fish or a screaming reel is music to some.
There is a darker side of "fly fishing" though. It happens when the summer steelhead ascend the Columbia and enter some of the smaller tributary creeks for a respite from the warmer water of the big river. Herman creek just east of Bonneville dam seemingly gets a huge number of hatchery steelhead. This strain of fish amazingly takes a fly better than any place in Oregon! Imagine that!!! All you need is an intermediate sinking fly line,a short leader and a weighted fly. You strip like crazy and these fly eating steelhead, in seventy degree water mind you, hit your fly with reckless abandon!!!! Bull feces!!!!!
Some of these fish are no doubt accidentally hooked but this practice, most commonly referred to as flossing, is also practiced and even advocated for coho salmon. So as you can see fly fishing is not just about tweeds,briar pipes and single malt scotch whiskey. There are those that would use a fly rod as a tool to break the law and that is troubling to say the least.
I'll comment more on this later in the fall when the remnant Oregon coast chum salmon start up the Miami and Kilchis rivers on their spawning run.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fishing, Conservation,the Internet and Money

I've thought a lot about the effect the world wide web has had on our rivers and lakes and frankly I do not like what I am seeing.Apparantly there is a lot of money to be made by putting maximum numbers of people on the streambanks around the Pacific northwest and the resource is the loser.
When I first started fishing in Oregon way back in 1973 of course there was no internet. I learned to drift fish and then fly fish with the help of some friends who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.There was a hell of a lot of trial and error along the way. I fished two years before catching my first steelhead on the Sandy river and that was pretty much a normal learning period for a new steelheader.
Today's anglers want instant gratification. I doubt many have the patience to wait two years to get a steelhead or salmon and when you really think about it why should they? There is a wealth of information and instruction available just a keystroke away. Fishing tackle, of course, has improved by leaps and bounds since I acquired my first Ambassadeur 5000A casting reel in 1974 so it is not unrealistic to hook your first fish on one of your first trips out to the river and in fact I have seen it happen.

One fishing website at the forefront of this "revolution" of information has been With thousands of hits per day this site has cashed in on the very popular and lucative Pacific northwest salmon and steelhead runs and is making money doing it! Problem is that ifish has brought other less desirable consequences to the region's fishing scene and that being a general lack of compassion for wild fish issues. The owner of the site has downplayed the role fishing ethics on our northwest rivers and is a staunch supporter of the hatchery/harvest dogma. Now don't get me wrong here,there has been no endorsements by the ifish management of anything illegal but there has also been little if anything done on that website to encourage anything more than to perpetuate the harvest mentality that is undermining wild salmonid recovery in the northwest.Also in fairness, Ifish is not been the only website to use the internet to "cash in" on salmon and steelhead runs in our rivers.Despite being the largest regional fishing website sadly they give only a passing nod to conservation issues and conservation groups.
Does is sound like I'm doing a little ax grinding here? Yes I am, but everything I've written here has been born out on our rivers throughout the region so I'm not just making this stuff up and I am not the only one who holds this opinion. With the "live on the river and up to the minute" fishing reports by cell phones and hundreds of pictures of grinning fishermen holding up their latest catch with easily recognizable landmarks in the back ground. This site is indeed influential but, in my opinion, for many of the wrong reasons.I've linked the ifish website because it would be only fair to let anyone who reads this to check out the website for themselves and form their own opinion.
So do those websites, fishing guides and tackle manufacturers have a heavier burden to bear as far as helping the very resource that is their cash cow? Absolutely they do and I'm not talking about supporting groups who think that helping the resource consists of sponsoring fishing derbies, posting news of fin-clippings and supporting groups who represent the interests of tackle manufacturing businesses or fighting other user groups for the right to kill the last fish. To my way of thinking there is too much at stake here and unfortunately wild fish and their habitat are the losers and in the long run so are we.
So I would challenge every website owner, fishing guide and any business that makes money on the backs of salmon and steelhead to be strong advocates of wild fish issues and I'm not talking about supporting broodstock programs either. There are some groups and businesses that are "wild fish friendly" but they are in the minority! The majority of them will give all kinds of lip service to the causes I've mentioned but in reality their participation and support is pretty pathetic.
The challenge also goes out to any individual who has benefited from information provided by websites like to get on board and think beyond your filled tags, cured eggs and freezers full of fish. Again there is too much to lose here and those that do care cannot do it by themselves.
I can swear to all of you there are bigger issues at stake here than crowded fishing ramps, sea lions and the latest and greatest egg cures. So if you make money on the resource then you owe that resource something in is just that simple.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Matole

Do you remember the time when you were in high school that beautiful girl you had a huge crush on? She sat in front of you in math class, you would let her copy your homework and you would day dream about her. She was always very nice to you but alas you knew it was never go beyond that "We're just friends" relationship however you dreamed anyway.
I think of the Metolius river kind of in the same way. Beautiful in every way but you know it will never go any further than enjoying her beauty as a friend. You know she will never give out her secrets and her charms to you. You know that there is a magic there that is beyond words and you'll never get "intimate" with her. She will let you wade and fish her fast riffles and clear pools but as far as hooking any of her precious fish? Sorry but you are just not her type.
Knowing this you still cannot keep away from her.
The Metolius is a mystery beyond the way it stingily gives up it's bounty. The Metolius virtually springs out of the earth from some hidden subterranean cavern in central Oregon. It widens and meanders through meadows of such breathtaking beauty that one can become emotional just gazing at it. It's deceptively swift flowing current passes through the ponderosa pine laden forest of central Oregon before meeting up with the Deschutes and Crooked River at Lake Billy Chinook.
I and my lovely, long suffering bride were fortunate enough to spend some time on this river recently and while I did not have much success with the trout I did love the few precious days that I was able to spend there.
It seems that those who are most familiar with this river speak of it in an almost reverential tone. While I am not nearly as familiar with it as I wish I find myself doing the same thing.
I found it most disgusting watching some adult tourist throwing Cheetos off of the Camp Sherman bridge to the lunker bull trout that hang out there. I made the remark that these sorts are not deserving of the Metolius and therefore should not be allowed to be near it! Extreme thinking to be sure and my wife let me know that but anyone that has been there and marveled at it's beauty knows what I mean.
I've talked often about having a growing affection for a river and while it may sound a bit maudlin to some I cannot help but think it makes perfect sense to others.
As I left the Metolius on Friday I just had to have one last look at this river so mysterious and alluring. I hoped that my next visit finds this lovely place, called "Matole" by native Americans of the area, as beautiful and unspoiled as ever.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Beautiful Poem by Gottfried Keller

Something in this poem by Gottfried Keller says what I feel. Gottfried Keller is an atheist and while I do not totally embrace atheism I am finding it makes a lot more sense that the Wal-Mart Christianity we see in America today.We see no condemnation,judgement and intolerance in atheism while I see all of this and more in the so called body of Christ. Why would anyone be attracted to that? Are George Bush and Jerry Falwell examples of American Christianity? No thanks!

During the cold days of winter time

Feeling life’s gloom and finality

I’ve banned you completely from my mind,

Mirage of immorality.

Now that summer is aglow and gay

Now I can see I have done well.

I have crowned my head with a wreath today,

Delusion, though, lies in its shell.

I’m travelling on the stream so clear

Feeling its coolness on my hand.

And I look up to the bluest sphere

And search – no better fatherland.

Blooming lily, only now I know

The meaning of your soft-hued hail.

How ever much my heart aglow,

I know, like you, I’ll pass away.

You lovely roses, I’m greeting thee,

In fleeting bliss of your life here.

Back from the boundless I turn with glee

Towards your gracefulness so dear!

Live life to the utmost, bloom and glow

Is what your scent and light teach me,

And then willing and gracefully bestow

Your life never again to be.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Great News for Wild Steelhead

Picture from Mott Bridge of North Umpqua River wild steelhead

This from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website

Effective Jan. 1, 2008, anglers will no longer be able to keep wild winter steelhead on the Umpqua River. The Commission considered several proposals to eliminate the harvest of wild steelhead and voted to make the fishery catch-and-release only for wild winter steelhead in the mainstem and North Fork Umpqua River. Previously, regulations allowed the harvest of one wild steelhead per day and five per year.

Isn't that great news? Now on to the next step and that is the reduction of hatchery plants on rivers with native steelhead populations. The most harmful of these is the disastrous wild steelhead broodstock programs.
Keep the faith all you wild fish lovers! With numbers and unselfish conservation minded anglers we can make a difference!