Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Maybe It's Time To Re-Think 6X Tippets

I guess the old cliche "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" should be on my headstone someday.
During this trout season I have had more than a few fish that have broken me off with a powerful head shake but being an untrainable old dog I "doggedly" insist on using a 6X tippet which is about three pound test.
Today I hooked another surprise summer steelhead and of course he broke me off. Not surprising, I suppose, but when larger than average cutthroat trout are doing the same thing then maybe a heavier tippet might be in think?
When fishing this time of year it's not all that uncommon to hook an occasional steelhead and it makes for a great day although they are seldom landed. I have also hooked some larger than usual trout during October and have left my fly in their lip.
The coastal trout season ends on Friday and I might get out one more time before I pack up my trout gear for the winter. I especially hate to see it end this year because next year there will be a harvest allowed on these wild trout. Maybe by prolonging the season, if only in my mind, these fish will remain protected but alas it's not to be.
I find myself wondering how I will react when I see dead eight inch cutthroat trout on someones stringer. I know it will be hard not to say something but I will try to bite my tongue and move on.
It makes me sad and filled with self doubt about what more I could have done to protect these wild fish. I know I could have done more and wish I would have.
I'll have a long and cold winter to ponder that and prepare myself for this kill fishery next year so maybe I'll just stick to the upper reaches of the coastal rivers and thus sequester myself from the harvest crowd and any potential confrontations.
Pessimistically speaking though, I know the best days of coastal cutthroat trout fishing with a fly are behind me now and I wish I could say that their future does not look bleak but reality being what it is I would be just kidding myself.
So I would encourage each of you to not let wild trout vanish and the only thing left is memories...please be involved

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Quiet Pool - The Book

Awhile back I received an email from outdoors writer Dan Homel of Bellingham, Washington and he told me he had written a fly fishing book titled "The Quiet Pool" He was gracious enough to send me an autographed copy. Since "The Quiet Pool" is the name of this epic blog he thought I might be interested in reading his book.
Well it took me awhile to get around to reading it but if you get a chance to get a copy I do recommend it.You might have to do a little searching for a copy of this book but if you find it and are interested in why we rain soaked folk of the Pacific northwest are so affectionate about our region then give this book a try.

For those of us that are lucky enough to live here in the Pacific Northwest many of the rivers and lakes mentioned in this book are familiar. The Olympic peninsula in Washington is one of those storied places gave birth to many spey casting techniques that spey casters throughout the world know well.
What I like about the book is the hominess that one feels as Dan relates his experiences while pursuing steelhead, salmon, trout and even bass.Maybe this book appeals to me because it is written in a region of the world where I live and those of us that we are truly fortunate to live here know how special those rivers and lakes of the Pacific Northwest are.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

People You Meet Along the Way

In my angling life I've been able to travel and fish many places through out the Pacific northwest. I have not been a world traveler like many of you have but here in my little corner of the world I've wet many a line over thirty five years of fishing and fished many rivers and small creeks.
Through those thirty five years I've met a lot of people, mostly anglers, who have made for an interesting journey through those years. Some nice and some not so nice but it's always been entertaining none the less.
I would like to share a few with you.
There was the old gentleman searching for native American artifacts along the upper Kilchis river that comes to mind.
He said he had found many relics of the indigenous tribes that once inhabited the area and he wanted to open a museum to display his relics.
He said the best time to find arrowheads and other stone tools was right after a period of high water.
He said he never, in all his many decades along the Kilchis river, paid much attention to the once numerous salmon.
Then there was "Joe" who owned property along that same Kilchis river. My fishing partner and I had floated the river that day and we pulled up onto this likely looking salmon hole.
Joe shows up, a little irate, and tells us that this was private property. We immediately apologized and assure him that we will leave right then and there.
Maybe Joe was testing us but his whole demeanor changed and he complimented us on our politeness. Joe said we could fish there anytime as he chatted with us for a while and wistfully recalled the salmon runs from the past.
Not all of the people I've met along the river have been...well "people"
There was a pair of Labrador Retrievers that I would swear were the biggest con-artists I've met.
They would bark and generally raise hell with you as you floated by but it was all a ploy to get part of your lunch! We gave them cookies and chips and suddenly they were our best friends and would follow us down the river for at least a half mile wanting to get petted or get some more treats.
Then there was the ancient Siberian Husky that would search the bank for anything edible. Since this was a salmon hole there would be a lot of bait scraps to be had and this old boy ate it all whether it be old sand shrimp or discarded salmon cured roe. He was a regular visitor every time I fished this spot for quite a few years. I was later to find out he had died of old age and I still think of him any time I'm passing through that salmon hole or fly fishing it for trout.
I've gotten many a history lesson from the elderly gents that I chat with as they recall the "old" days and the great salmon and steelhead runs of the 40's or 50's. I wonder what how many of them still fish or are still around. One old fellow told me the smell of my pipe reminded him of his father.
Each of those rivers and each fishing spot along those rivers have a story for me and when I am there I cannot help but remember them and the people I have met there. Most are pleasant and friendly but some are not.
I've had a few unpleasant encounters but they always stayed verbal and taught me that fishing is something more to some people than a relaxing day on the stream. I've learned that if I encounter someone that does not want to chat or share fishing theories then it is best to just move on with a pleasant "Have a good one" as we part.
Over the year the paths of a river change somewhat due to floods and the like and so to do the folks you meet. I would hope that sometime, somewhere, someone will think of me as that friendly old guy that smoked a pipe and maybe made their day on the river a more pleasant one.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why Cutthroat Trout are Important

"These trout are from 16 to 23 inches in length, precisely resemble our mountain or speckled trout in form and the position of their fins, but the specks on these are of a deep black instead of the red or gold of those common in the U' States. These are furnished with long teeth on the pallet and tongue and have generally a small dash of red on each behind the front ventral fins; the flesh is of a pale yellowish red, or when in good order, of rose red"
- Meriwether Lewis
Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
June 13, 1805

I recently purchased Patrick Trotter's expansive work titled "Cutthroat - Native Trout of the West" which along with Les Johnson's "Fly Fishing for Coastal Cutthroat Trout" are the best and most definitive narratives on these wonderful trout.

Why are these trout so important beyond their appeal as game fish? These trout and especially the coastal sub species oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii are an indicator of the over all health of the watersheds they are native to. Of course I am not degreed as a fish biologist but this scenario has proven to be true on the north Oregon coastal streams for all the years I have been pursuing them with a fly. When the cutthroat populations in these streams are down so too will be the other salmonid species in that watershed and this is true currently along the coast.
The cutthroat trout are the one species of trout that are prevalent through the western US and is not likely to be found in a wild state east of the Rockie Mountains. Several sub species are, unfortunately, now extinct but at one time cutthroat trout ranged as far south as the Pecos River and Rio Grande rivers in southwest Texas.

The cutthroat trout, which were so plentiful at one time, are most prone to man's intrusion into their habitat.Their spawning gravel is silted over by bad logging practices and the woody structure that provides them sanctuary has been carelessly removed by state fish and wildlife agencies. They do not adapt to being removed and relocated in other waters and perhaps that is why we do not see them in the eastern US.
While some elitist anglers might show them a certain amount of disdain because of their aggressiveness while casting flies at the more "desirable" species of rainbow or brown trout I have a special affection for cutthroat trout. We cannot, in good conscience, allow this to happen! We cannot just give lip service any longer! These fish are too important to see them slowly disappear as some species of cutthroat trout have done.
Cutthroat trout are important because we seem to have over looked them for so many years that now, as their numbers decline, we cannot ignore or over look them any more.
When ODFW regional biologist Jeff Ziller recently scoffed at them by saying "They are only cutthroat trout after all" in a meeting one has to become alarmed at this attitude. They are important because they are the only wild trout that occurs exclusively in the West.
We cannot easily dismiss them as unimportant and non-vital. We do that with enough coldwater fisheries we will one day be wondering what happened.
ODFW feels that a child will get more interested in angling by being allowed to kill a wild trout! They have said this and it is undeniable! It is a matter of public record in fact.
I would propose that instead of teaching children that these trout are so inconsequential that the child's self worth will surely be boosted by killing them that maybe we should teach them just how special any wild salmonid is.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fish Pimp

"Pimp - to make use of often dishonorably for one's own gain or benefit"

I know what you are thinking dear readers and yes I am going to rant, once again, about those internet "pimps" who continue to use their site to prostitute our wild salmonids.
You know who they are if you have been paying attention to this blog the last couple of years.
These folks think nothing of making money on our dwindling fish runs. They actively advertise on their mega-sites and draw more and more people to pursue less and less salmon, steelhead and trout.
Some of this might be tolerable if these "pimps" would give back to the resource they plunder! Most do not though!
Oh they will actively promote more hatchery programs and feel good about themselves in doing so but sorry pal that isn't giving back anything.
Our year long fight to save wild cutthroat trout from a reckless harvest is a prime example of why I am so vigilant in my criticism. Not once did these "pimps" show up at ODFW hearings or even write a letter in opposition! Not once!!!
Oh they will surely take advantage of every opportunity to sell stickers and hats at various events and in fact spend an entire week at the annual Sportsmen's show here in Portland, Oregon to sell their crap. However to actually become involved in the process of saving wild fish? Couldn't be bothered!
One large website does an annual Christmas toy drive for sick children who have to spend the holidays in the hospital.This is a very worthy cause to which I commend all involved and have been involved myself in the past.
Why then, does this fish entrepreneur use this event to sell the cheap hats, stickers and over priced clothing for profit?
Then there are the guides who sell time, and expensive time at that,on the river to clients who want to catch fish.They make a living by using the resource but these guides will not show up at any public meeting that does not directly benefit them monetarily! Even when the meeting venue is close by! You won't see these drift boat rowing, jet sled driving "pimps" at any ODFW meeting that involves wild fish unless it involves killing them. They show up in numbers when the fish killing pie is divided up though.
I find this type of behavior to be without honor and unethical and very much "pimp like"
Is it too much to ask these pimps to "Pay it Forward" a little bit? Get involved in something for the greater good that does not involve financial gain?
With our salmon, steelhead and trout populations coming perilously
close to disappearing it would make sense to do all one could do help out wouldn't it? In conclusion it makes me wonder how can these people sleep at night? Maybe they are up late counting their money or scheming for new ways to make money on what few fish there are left.