Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Am the Older Generation

Hey all you baby boomers.Do you remember that old song by The Who titled "My Generation" ? For those of us from that era it was kind of our defiant anthem that proclaimed our independence from and differences with our parents.
We told the older generation "Don't try to dig what we all say"
This week we journeyed north to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with our children and to see our son's band perform for the first time.
Remember I am a child of the 60's and cloaked myself with all the trappings that came with that period of time. I immersed myself in the music and lifestyle of the times and the music? The louder the better.
Hendrix, The Who, The Doors and Black Sabbath were just a few of the bands I enjoyed.
I attended more than a few ear splitting live concerts in venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Anaheim Convention Center and the old Paramount theatre in Portland.
Well my friends, those high decibel days are just an ear ringing memory now because the second I entered the place where my son's band "Skeletons With Flesh on Them" was playing I swear the fillings in my teeth were about to vibrated out.
Of course we were the oldest folks present and it was then and there, between my sons pounding drum beat, that I realized that I had become a member of the older generation.
Where did the years go? Even worse! Where did those long brown locks of flowing hair go?
Much of the music of today does not appeal to me much but I can appreciate the musical talent of those preforming it. That was definitely something my parents and most parents of those old days could not do.
Basically all it took is one look at someone like Jim Morrison and that did it. If my parents would have known what Morrison was singing about in a song like "The End" I would have had my LP's confiscated.
Though I am now the "Older Generation" I think the disdain that my parents held for my acid rock helped me appreciate my kids music.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Time to Act is Right Now!!!!

The following was sent to me by Matt Stansberry and The Oregon Fly Fishing board.
Let's get on board with this!

Wading into northwest forest policy is kind of like skinny dipping with piranha only more dangerous and probably dumber. Nonetheless, as anglers who care deeply about the health of our salmon and steelhead runs and the rivers that nurture them we can’t sit quietly by as the BLM puts great local rivers and the fish that inhabit them at risk.
The Western Oregon Plan Revision is the BLM’s attempt to ramp up logging and dramatically reduce riparian protections on 2.6 million acres of land in the western part of the state managed by that agency. The timber industry asserted in a lawsuit that the Northwest Forest Plan cannot apply to Oregon BLM lands, most of which were acquired through the Oregon and California Railroad Act. Instead of defending itself, the agency rolled over and scrapped the Northwest Forest Plan in favor of the WOPR.
Now, the Northwest Forest Plan is far from perfect and federal timber managers have at times had difficulty getting the cut out–but no parties are blameless in that regard. There is middle ground but industry, federal agencies, conservation interests and environmental groups have not always sought it.
Despite its perceived shortcomings, the Northwest Forest Plan has had remarkable success in at least one regard: improving riparian conditions. It is no secret that salmon, trout and steelhead need cold clean water with complex habitat in order to thrive. The Aquatic Conservation Strategy implemented by the Northwest Forest Plan is a cornerstone of Oregon’s salmon recovery efforts and has been successful. Scientists have documented improvement in riparian conditions in over 64% of the streams sampled since implementation of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy. The new plan would eliminate this proven management tool on BLM land.
It gets worse. The BLM also plans to reduce existing Northwest Forest Plan riparian buffer widths by 50% on fish bearing waters as well as on intermittent streams. This will result in over 130,000 acres of previously protected riparian forest being opened to logging. This is not just an academic issue. It puts the waters we love to fish at risk:

The Siuslaw, the Umpqua, the Alsea, the Rogue, all will suffer. Look at the Smith for god’s sake! (You can see a larger version of the map by clicking on it.) It isn’t just conservation and environmental groups sounding the alarm. The Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (state, federal and tribal biologists) had significant concerns about the WOPR and these concerns were largely echoed by NOAA Fisheries and the EPA.
There are over 700 miles of streams under the BLM’s control listed as water quality impaired under section 303d of the Clean Water Act. The largest culprit is water temperature affecting 569 river miles. Reducing buffers could lead to further damage to our rivers and streams due to raised water temperatures as well as increased salmon smothering sediment. Kicking them while they are down: is this how we want to manage our treasured runs of salmon and steelhead?
In addition to further harming already degraded habitat, the Plan will degrade existing high quality habitat. Anchor habitats are pockets of high value habitat that serve as strongholds for endangered salmon and steelhead. This map of the Siuslaw basin shows anchor habitat and BLM land:

The bottom line is that the BLM’s Plan will harm the waters that you fish. This aggression will not stand.–KM
Currently, the WOPR is sitting on the Governor’s desk as he evaluates the plan for consistency with Oregon law. Please write him a personal email as an angler expressing you concern about this plan. If you don’t have time for a personal email just copy the following text and paste it into this link:

Dear Governor Kulongoski:

I am writing you as an angler to express my concern about the Western Oregon Plan Revision. The BLM’s plan to reduce riparian reserves on fish bearing streams and eliminate the Aquatic Conservation Strategy is unacceptable. The WOPR is certain to harm our already struggling populations of salmon and steelhead.

Resource production is an important use of public land; however, the BLM is also an important partner in restoring our salmon and steelhead populations. As such it is critical that they follow the sound, scientifically based standards of the Northwest Forest Plan. They have not. The BLM’s proposal does not do enough to protect or restore beleaguered salmon and steelhead populations.

Angling for salmon and steelhead occupies a special place in northwest culture and the fish must be protected. Thank you for your consideration of my comments.


(Your name here)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ODFW... It's All About Saving Their Own Ass!

The 2009 Oregon fishing regulations are out and the cold, hard slap to the face of all of us who worked hard to save wild coastal cutthroat trout is in print for all to see! Northwest Zone Trout: 2 per day, 2 daily limits in possession 8-inch minimum length The harsh reality of it all will not fully sink in until I see some Powerbait using idiot carrying a stringer full of wild steelhead smolt with his wife and kids in tow along the river next season.

What this all boils down to is the fact that the dysfunctional state agency AKA Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is full of people that only care about saving their jobs! The governor of this state says all state agencies must cut back as much as ten percent and so the bureaucrats at ODFW are scrambling like cockroaches when you turn the kitchen light on at night to save their asses! It's not really about increasing angling opportunity anymore. The management of ODFW knows that they better generate revenue because the governor's budget ax is going to cut deep on any programs falling under the general fund.
This is an agency who will send up to ten empty suits to a budget meeting where only four members of the general public show up. This is an agency who was, until recently, using gas guzzling pick up trucks to drive up and down the Nestucca river to check a single fish trap! This is an agency that planned an important public meeting about the welfare of cutthroat trout on the Friday before Memorial Day when they know they will get minimal public participation.Finally this is an agency who will spend money on cleaning out mud at a worthless boat ramp that filled right back up with mud at the first high water!
These geniuses at the Salem headquarters and Tillamook regional headquarters were just waiting for the opportunity to screw over wild cutthroat trout in the name of creating angling opportunities. They waited four years to stick it to the wild fish conservation groups and they did with the help of a seemingly detached and disinterested commission.
Their laughable angler review board ramrodded all these harvest proposals through and only one conservation proposal made it through the commission at the final vote.
These are the people charged with the stewardship of our wild fish and after they have summarily mismanaged nearly all wild salmonids into near extinction they set their eyes on the last wild coastal trout population on the west coast...the coastal cutthroat trout.
The old Billy Preston song "Nothing From Nothing Leaves Nothing" should be the anthem at ODFW headquarters in Salem because that is exactly what is going to be left when these save asses are done!
My good friend John Bracke coined the phrase "Oregon Department of Failure and Waste" and is certainly is an apt description for an agency so top heavy and out of control that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
I'll tell you folks I am disgusted beyond anger at what has transpired this regulation cycle. Wild fish will get killed and grilled and the heritage of this state is dying!
The fabled Tillamook fall Chinook run has been a no show the last two years. The north coast chum salmon are on the verge of disappearing and the wild winter steelhead redds are few and far between! So now it's the cutthroat trout! Who as an indicator species as to the health of wild salmonids in an anadromous coastal river, have not fully recovered from the last interference and folly by ODFW!
ODFW will have to do the mandated cuts that the governor demands but what programs will be cut? None of the sacred cows that should be cut mind you. By sacred cows I am referring to hatcheries and hatchery programs that are obsolete,outdated and polluting!
So any of you that are thinking of visiting Oregon to partake of some "blue ribbon" trout fishing you'd better come soon if you want a chance maybe hook a nice trout! They are quickly disappearing while ODFW and especially those at the Tillamook regional office do their best Emperor Nero impersonation and fiddle while our wild fish burn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Here I sit on this cold November night pondering a trip to the Deschutes tomorrow for one last shot at summer steelhead. Any other time it would be a no brainer but we have had some pretty serious rain this week. Who would have thought there would be torrential downpours in mid-November in the Pacific Northwest but as hard to believe as that is we got buckets full.
The coastal streams are out of their banks and it will be at least 3 or 4 days before they are fishable and besides chinook salmon on a fly are about as exciting as pulling in a log! Some might disagree but they are not an exciting game fish on a fly.
Seriously though, the Deschutes is up a bit and I hear the water clarity is not the best. We will be having a cold clear night and so that might mean a dropping and clearing river but since there is a dam on the Deschutes that pretty much negates that whole theory.
So do I take the chance and go?
I could certainly use the Skagit casting practice but it will burn a tank of gas to get there. I might get lucky and hook into a late summer steelhead but it's bound to be cold. There probably won't be many guys fishing but it gets dark so early I would be leaving the river at 5pm.
Oh the conundrums I am dealing with!
It is the Deschutes though. A magical and beautiful place to be at any time of year!
So what if I don't catch anything it would be nice to get out for one last time before the winter comes.
I might see a bald eagle or perhaps a coyote or deer. I do love this river after all and hey gas is just a "scant" $2.09 a gallon soooo yeah I think I'll go.....maybe

UPDATE: 11/14 10:00 AM
I know some of you must be hanging on the edge of your computer chair while this fishing "drama" plays out.
After seeing that the river spiked up after a water release from Pelton dam my common sense kicked in and sadly I opted not to go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The State of Fish Address

When I first started this blog it was my intention to fill its pages with flowery prose and humorous anecdotes about the "affliction" we call fly fishing.
I have managed to post a few funny stories about my stumbling along the rivers of the Pacific Northwest and I hope you've enjoyed them along the way.
These days my heart is just not into funny, John Gierach type tales of fly fishing. The tragic decline of our anadromous north American species of trout and salmon is nothing to joke about.
When the once too numerous to count Columbia river Chinook salmon have dwindled down to nearly nothing then where is the humour in that? The north coast Chum salmon runs which were so plentiful that they over crowded the river and would actually move upstream via roadside drainage ditches are just a memory. I witnessed these fish in huge numbers so that the old cliche of being able to walk across the river on the backs of spawning fish was no exaggeration.
Wild steelhead have been in trouble for a long time and no Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife dog and pony shows like the steelhead broodstock programs can bring about a semblance of what once was and in fact have proven to be a set back to wild steelhead recovery.I've made my affection for coastal cutthroat trout well known here and to imagine the killing of these wonderful fish breaks my heart.
The state of wild trout, steelhead and salmon in the west is dreadful. I searched a thesaurus to adequately describe the adjective "bad" and dreadful is what I thought best described what I wanted to say. We cannot soft soap the state of our wild coldwater fisheries and there is nothing to warrant being upbeat about their state at this point in time. So not to sound totally all doom and gloom I think that if there is a glimmer of hope it is that more and more people are aware of the sorry state of things. I have been fortunate enough to live through some real boom periods for salmon, steelhead and trout. I saw the wild summer steelhead of the Columbia tributaries in large numbers and I've seen the abundant coastal fall chinook and coho.One lingering image of those heady days of the not too distant past was the sixty six pound Trask river fall chinook that was laid out on a picnic table by the angler that had just landed him.The days of huge fall salmon are gone and perhaps forever. I've seen a glimpse of the glory days of an early SW Washington summer run of wild steelhead that defied description in their beauty and the phenomenal fighting ability. I even caught a few of them! These "springers" were the fish that made Bill McMillan the fly fishing and conservation legend status he holds today. Their decline broke his heart and he moved away from his rustic cabin on the banks of the Washougal.
There are stories from all over this region about how great it all was.Rivers like the North Umpqua,the Rogue and the Washougal were rivers of legendary fish and fishermen.
I am uncertain that we can once again bring wild salmonids back from the brink as it seems there are many more obstacles than there were just twenty years ago but if people become angry and will not allow this "heritage" to just disappear then maybe there is some hope.
I had to learn to care for wild fish and if an old guy like me can get clued in then so can others.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Northwest Steelheaders....What Happened?

I have been involved with the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS) since 1973 and I am a life member. I also served on the ANWS executive committee for two years as secretary so I know more than a little bit about this group.
This organization has been, in the past, at the front line of wild fish conservation issues. They spearheaded the drive to make steelhead trout a game fish in Oregon and I can remember collecting initiative petition signatures at Portland's Rose Parade to get this measure on the 1974 ballot.
The ANWS was a very vocal grass roots wild fish advocacy group in Oregon, Washington and Idaho with thousands of members all with a common goal!
Through their association with Trout Unlimited they became a force to be reckoned with.
Look at ANWS today!The ANWS is no longer active in Washington and Idaho and their association with Trout Unlimited is just a distant memory. When taking on important conservation issues of the day the Steelheaders are no shows! When trying to save wild coastal cutthroat trout from harvest the Steelheaders were actually in favor of it with one of their most "legendary" members actually testifying in favor of killing these wild fish. They "canonize" people for enshrinement in their Hall of Fame who are not deserving while ignoring those warriors from the past who made them what they once were.
Their focus now is river access and they have indeed made some progress in that fight. At the same time though, they have succeeded in alienating landowners who could have been worked with. Some of their members are confrontational and belligerent when dealing with river front landowners and have generally set back the cause for access.
In 2002 they initially backed a ballot initiative that would have provided riparian protection in the upper reaches of north coast rivers that would have protected wild salmonids. When members of a couple of mid-Willamette valley chapters threatened to pull out of ANWS because of their support the executive committee backed down and rescinded their support and it was then I left.
There are many fine and dedicated members of ANWS but by in large they have become little more than a big fishing club. They no longer have any clout in fishery politics and seemingly care little about wild salmonids except to increase the sports harvest of these same wild fish.
Too bad! I miss this group and their fight for our fishing resource and am no longer an active member. Maybe someday they will return to their mission statement of "Anglers Dedicated to Enhancing and Protecting Fisheries and their Habitats for Today and the Future"

Monday, November 03, 2008

Putting the Wraps On My Trout Season

October 31st was the final day of my 2008 trout season and it was a memorable one. I was fortunate to hook many nice cutthroat trout and this season will provide me with many great memories to sustain me through the winter.
I could never seem to quite get it all together for the Deschutes this year and while I did manage to catch and release a few rainbows east of the mountains high gas prices definitely kept me close to home.
I took some large coastal cutthroat trout with many different patterns and in many different rivers this year. One very large trout literally removed my reel from the sliding band reel seat of my rod! Picture me fighting a large trout while trying to reattach my reel to my rod. I managed to do it and land the trout!
Why do I have such an affection for these trout? Cutthroat trout are a simple fish in that they strike with abandon and fight ferociously belying their smaller size. While they are a simple trout they are most affected by the interference of man. As I've posted before there are many species of cutthroat trout that simply do not exist anymore.
The coastal variety that I fish for are affected by habitat degradation and that is the number one culprit in their dwindling numbers.
So next year these trout face yet another obstacle and that is a harvest. It saddens me to no end that this is happening but it is and we will just have to rededicate our efforts to save these fish.
So now I face the winter season with the rain and cold. The steelhead of winter will provide a great challenge but I will still long for those days of spring and will anxiously await them.
I hope all of you had a great trout season. Whether you fish in the large freestone rivers of the west or the small chalk streams of the UK or even the wind swept shores of Patagonia we all love our trout don't we?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Dance of the Chum Salmon

This year could be a make or break year for chum salmon! Their numbers are severely down on the north coast with two years of heavy fall floods the returns from this year are critical for their survival. Please rethink your angling on these fish as they need a break and by avoiding any unnecessary angling pressure and being ever mindful of their redds you and I can make a difference with chum salmon.
When I am out on the river I always feel blessed when I can witness nature in action. Whether it's seeing a family of river otter or a bald eagle or a bobcat or something as simple as a common shore bird trying to scratch out a living along the banks of a river. Mother nature never fails to come through.
A few years back I was floating the tidewater portion of the Kilchis river on the northern Oregon coast and witnessed a natural phenomena that I will never forget. I like to call it the dance of the chum salmon because it could not have been more precisely choreographed if a professional dancer had actually been involved. Picture a school of at least five hundred of these salmon rolling on the water surface in unison! That is what I saw and I saw it more than was, to use a tired cliché, awe inspiring. It's something I would never had witnessed had I not been in the lowest portion of the river on an incoming tide.
The return of the chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) to two small Oregon rivers has taken place every year around election day. You will see their mottled shapes in large numbers in the Miami and Kilchis river near Tillamook as they ascend the shallow riffles of the lower river. They come into fresh water ready to spawn and will usually spawn in the lower reaches of these rivers. As salmon go the chums are on the lowest rung of the salmon hierarchy. Despite being extremely plentiful in Alaska, commercial fishers often choose not to fish for them because of their low market value in comparison to the more sought after species like Chinook or Coho.
Their harvest value to the angler is also low because they turn very quickly upon entering the river.
The one thing that these salmon take a back seat to no other Pacific salmon is their fight. I know of no other species in the Pacific north west that battles when hooked better than the chum. These fish come readily to a fly and would break an eight weight fly rod quite easily. Yes they will snap your $700 Winston Boron fly rod as easily as they would your $50 Eagle Claw.

This is me from a few years ago fighting a chum salmon on the Miami River in Oregon.

The over developed canine like teeth give them their other popular nickname "Dog" salmon. One could just imagine the ferociousness that the toothy males exhibit when spawning and doing battle with other amorous males.
They are as unique in their behavior and coloration as any other of their more popular brethren.
As I said these salmon deteriorate quickly and are not good table fare. In Oregon they are protected under the Endangered Species Act because of their declining numbers while in Washington they remain abundant at least for the time being.
I like to think of these chum as the "working class" among the various salmon species. You have the regal Chinook or King salmon and you have the acrobatic and enigmatic Coho but the unattractive scrappy chum seem to have to work harder and get less recognition that it's more photo-genetic brethren. Their determination is admirable and while they won't win any beauty prize they will fight like no other west coast salmon.
They all come up the rivers seemingly at once and when you look into a pool only to see hundreds of them it's at times breathtaking. They get little respect from most anglers also and that is too bad. Because of the sheer numbers that are present in the river during the chums spawning and also their catch and release status they are not treated with care upon their release. Unceremoniously booted back in the river after being snagged is a treatment these fish do not deserve. One has to care about wild fish to know the importance of every one of them but sadly many do not.
So with their life's task complete and they are near death they are at the mercy of the river just like they were a few years earlier and just out of the gravel. A noble warrior, who like the working class hero I compared them to earlier, did his job and did it well.
Any of you that fish for chums please be aware that their numerous redds in the lower portion of the river should be avoided and special care needs to be taken when wading in chum salmon rivers.