Monday, September 29, 2008

The Way of a Trout

To most people a woodland stream is a pleasant scene of sun and shadow and rippling water.
But to an angler it is a community of many forms of life all centering, in his mind at least, on the most beautiful and aggressive of freshwater fish....
the trout.

-Frederick O. Hutchinson

While browsing through an antique store, recently, I picked up a first edition copy of the old Trout Unlimited book "The Way of a Trout".
This book was first published in 1972 and while that might not necessarily qualify it for antique status it is in very nice condition.
The book doesn't necessarily tell me anything that I didn't already know it did bring me back to my early days of conservation awareness.
This book had an accompanying film as well and it can be located here
The Way of a Trout
So what is the way of a trout? Well I can only relate it to the trout here in Oregon and Washington.
These Pacific Northwest trout face pretty much the same challenges as they did back in 1972 when the book was published but on a much more intense scale.
Along with a myriad of predators that the wild trout faces we know that the biggest and most destructive predator is, of course, ourselves. Trout also face all the other barriers and obstacles that made conservation as important back in 1972 as it is today.
I am struck by how intuitive,insightful the author, R.P. Van Gytenbeck and Trout Unlimited itself were thirty six years ago. This was at the very beginning of the ecology movement and Trout Unlimited was at the forefront in coldwater fishery conservation. This is why I made a lifetime commitment to them recently.
In my own pursuit of trout and primarily coastal cutthroat trout these past several years I have often pondered just how much these fish have to go through to achieve their sole purpose in life. I think about that as I patrol the banks of my favorite streams and I think it is what spurs me on both in my angling life and my conservation life as well.
These fish are worth the effort! So are the salmon and steelhead trout which inhabit the same rivers! Whether or not you are a religious person one cannot help but be in wonder at these little miracles of nature. If there is a supreme being then certainly trout are his/her perfect creation.
Some see trout as a food source and use hook and line as a means to acquire that food....that's fair enough I guess.Yes, I suppose, a nice frying pan full of wild trout might make ones mouth water. If you are reading this and are that hungry then look me up and I'll buy you a Big Mac if that is what it take to sate your appetite and not kill a wild trout
Some, myself included, see trout as a simplistic means to feel good about being where we are at this moment in time. Does that makes sense? To me it does! I think killing a wild trout for sustenance is a weak excuse at best . I feel fortunate enough to have been able to experience trout in a wonderful way and that does not include bashing it over the head for a measly dinner.
The way of a trout is perhaps the way of ourselves when you get right down to it. Life is a perilous journey to be sure and is wrought with obstacles and indeed our own predators. Maybe if more saw it that way we would not continuously have to struggle to save them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2008 National League West Champs

In the midst of economical doom and gloom there are a few bright spots to be found and this is one of least for me!
Thanks Manny! Hope you are back in blue next year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Angler in Autumn

I used to love the fall. Fall is a time of movement change and preparation. The waterfowl heading for warmer climates and of course the return of the fall salmon.
I loved that crispness in the air and the fall colors that make the trees look like they are ablaze.
There was the hint of the winter ahead and also the winter steelhead that would soon be in my favorite rivers. I braved the cold and ice in my younger days when these great ocean going rainbow trout were plentiful and worth the chill of a winter morning.
So what changed you might ask? Why does autumn no longer hold the affection it once did?
I think it has a lot to do with getting older and getting slower. The cool mornings seem to chill me more than they once did and the spectre of winter is looming larger than it once did for me.
There is still the waning days of coastal cutthroat fly fishing but I fish with a sadness in knowing that it will never be the same after the decision the was made to allow the killing of these precious fish.
Oh I will still pursue them but the thought that somewhere along the coast someone will be fishing for the trout with killing on their minds.
I no longer hunt for waterfowl or deer and elk hunt. I do not pursue fall salmon any longer either but still enjoy observing their annual spawning ritual. Maybe that is part of my melancholy towards fall. The salmon runs are a mere ghost of their former selves and the constant bickering between greedy user groups has turned me off.
I still come back to the reality of knowing my best years are behind me and the springs and summers of my life are limited. The fall might be a time of change but as I get older I think that I wish it would remain spring and summer forever.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Requiem For Cutthroat Trout

Well it's done! Cutthroat trout are the latest victim of an agency that reminds one of this weeks Wall Street fiasco!
As unprepared as the ODFW staff was in 2004 they certainly made up for this time.
I want to thank fellow members of Native Fish Society and Trout Unlimited for doing all they could to make sure these trout are protected.I also appreciate all who participated in the process whether it was signing the petition or emailing your opposition to the commissioner at ODFW. We did the best we could but I think the deck was stacked against us with the agenda that ODFW staff was pushing.
The people who were in favor of this harvest outnumbered us who opposed it as did the correspondence sent ODFW.
I've always said that apathy and indifference will kill more wild fish than any hook or net and this year long process proved it.
So it's a sad day for me and more importantly for Oregon's wild population of coastal cutthroat trout.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Do the Right Thing

Did you ever get that advice from a parent? Make sure you do the right thing and you will be okay. It's good advice and I have given it to my own children. We as fly fishermen and quasi-conservationists need do the right thing when it comes to our precious resource maybe above all other sports anglers.
What do I mean by doing the right thing out on the river or lake or woods or wherever we find ourselves in our outdoor pursuits?
The following is my unofficial responsibilities list or "doing the right thing"

Fish barbless hooks! It's proven that a barbless hook is less harmful to released fish.
Avoid the use of non-biodegradable fluorocarbon lines. Pretty simple really. This type of fishing line, while desirable because of the stealth factor, does not break down like monofilament line does.
Do not ever wade through spawning redds. This is self explanatory but we hear tales of careless anglers stomping through active redds way too much.
Practice safe catch and release! We fly anglers get a lot of flak by conventional anglers about catch and release. We need to make sure we do it right in order to insure the survival of the fish.
Get involved in the conservation of wild salmonids! I've said it before and I will continue to say it! If we don't set aside our desire to catch a "Nice mess of fish" and get active in saving wild fish then what will our children and grandchildren think of us. Apathy has killed more fish than any commercial net ever did.
I know that I may be preaching to the choir and this is all elementary stuff to many of you but the hour is late folks!
This Friday, September 19Th is the day the the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife commission decides on the fate of the last remaining populations of wild coastal cutthroat trout. If our efforts fail to convince the commission of the need to protect these wonderful fish then we very well may see the doom of these trout and very soon. A two fish a day with an eight inch minimum will decimate these fish and they may not survive not to mention the effect this kill fishery will have on pre-migrant wild juvenile salmon and steelhead.
Sound like doom and gloom? Well I can just say that I am not optimistic as to the decision that will be made this Friday.
ODFW has an agenda and protection of wild salmonids is not a part of that agenda.
I will keep you posted of the outcome.

A Hair Raising Tale

Remember that old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song from back in the 70's?

Almost cut my hair
Happened just the other day
It's getting kind of long
I could have said it was in my way.

I didn't "almost" cut my hair unfortunately. Quite the opposite in fact!
I probably haven't actually paid for a hair cut for the last 10 years and considering my balding pate it just would be a waste of money to do so.
I have an old pair of electric clippers that I got from my dad. They are perhaps 50 or so years old and really need to be cleaned and sharpened. They have cut my hair maybe a thousand times over that 50 year span and I have a sentimental attachment to them.
I remember the marathon haircuts I had to submit to and these haircuts always ended with the same result! A "butch". Why it took my father so damn long to basically give me a Marine Corps style haircut is beyond me but to a kid my age it took, what seemed like, forever. He always left just enough in the front to grease up with this grease/wax gel appropriately called butch wax! I wonder if they still sell that stuff? I can still smell that pasty pink crap to this day.
Dad had a regular barber kit with trimmers, brushes and scissors that he seldom used and I always wondered why he didn't cut his own hair. He had a kind of crew cut looking thing that he wore for almost his entire adult life until my mother nagged (something she was an expert at) him into letting his hair grow out.
When I took my last butch haircut when preparing for freshman football I was more than happy to never have to sit in that damn yellow high chair in the garage again while the neighborhood kids could laugh at me.....oh the indignity of it all.
As I grew older I embraced the whole counter culture thing with very long hair. My dad would say he didn't care if my hair got so long that I had to part it to use the restroom.
So fast forward to the other night. I figured it was time for my quarterly shearing and proceeded to use my antique and unsharpened clippers for a trim of what little hair I have left. I couldn't seem to get them to cut my hair and thought they were clogged or maybe my old clippers were about to give up the ghost. I took a practice swipe across my head and after it was too late I realized that I had not replaced the plastic guard back on the head that would keep me from trimming too close.
Here is the end result!