Sunday, January 18, 2009

Starry Night

I love this particular work by Vincent van Gogh. I've never been to France much less to the Rhone river region that this painting depicts. I've never even visited any important art galleries where such masterpieces hang but I do know enough about art to have a minuscule understanding of what the master was trying to capture with his brush strokes of oil.
You can Google search van Gogh's painting and the experts will try to tell you what you see.
Try looking at it yourself and find what it is that stirs you if it stirs you. Don McLean's "Vincent" is, I believe, his best song and that is saying a lot since his most famous work "American Pie" is something of an American anthem. "Vincent" is a song that captures the torturous life of van Gogh but in the same way it also captures the deep emotions and beauty of van Gogh.

What do you think he was trying to say with the way the stars seem so much more alive and vibrant than they really are. The rural french village below seems almost an after thought to fill the canvas.
I think too many people over the year have tried to psychoanalyze van Gogh instead of just appreciating the vibrancy that seems to spring from his canvas.
I hope you can appreciate the works of this master as I am learning too.

The Evolution of an Angler

To commemorate my very first steelhead on January 17, 1975 I am bringing back this "blast from the past" blog entry from three years ago.
Yes I still remember that Sandy river steelhead. She was a hen and was spitting single eggs but it did not matter to me because I was hooked for life.
I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane.

You've no doubt heard the old saying about the different stages of a fisherman. First stage is to catch A FISH. Second stage is to catch A LOT OF FISH. Third stage is TO CATCH A BIG FISH and so on. I feel that progression is pretty accurate if the end result of your angling life is to put a bunch of fish on your stringer, in your creel and in your freezer. If you feel you've arrived at the hallowed halls of the fishing luminaries of days gone and you're at the pinnacle of your sport! Well if that is all you you wanted to accomplish then you might as well read no farther and get back to inventing the next breakthrough in egg cures because the rest of this epic story on this historical piece of literature I call "The Quiet Pool" will not apply to you.
I would hope that my life as an angler has consisted of a lot more than a bunch of snap shots of me holding dead fish with their vacate fixed staring eyes of death. Oh sure I have plenty of those from those bygone days when I had a full head of hair and could actually see what shoes I was wearing that day. Those pictures do bring back a flood of memories of a time when it seemed that there were plenty of fish to kill and let get freezer burned in the process.
So don't think that I not sentimental that way because I am. I think about the days when there was never a need, or so we thought, to fin-clip steelhead because there were plenty to go around. The hatchery fish were plentiful and who the heck cared about wild fish...what were they anyway?
As I progressed through my angling life I began to see things that troubled me. I would see an utter disregard for not only the wild fish that were suffering more than I could begin to imagine, but also the rivers and the habitat that sustained these wild fish. Don't think for a minute though, that this was some sort of moment of clarity like an alcoholic might have. It was a long tough journey! I mistakenly followed a few of those that I would call "false prophets" of fishery management and conservation. I supported and advocated programs that were harmful to wild fish....I was in a word, naive.
In 1975 I met Bill McMillan and heard him speak at The Anglers Club of Portland. He talked about his beloved Washougal river and the troubling way the state of Washington was managing it. He talked about the importance of wild steelhead to the over all well being of the river.
When the Washougal did finally yield a beautiful thirteen pound summer steelhead on a brown stone fly pattern one July day so many years ago I marvelled at the beauty of this fish. The fins stood straight and full an I thought this must be what McMillan is talking about. This must be a wild steelhead! Remember though, I said this journey was a long tough one and so even though something deep inside of me told me to release this fish I did not. I killed it and still have all the glory pictures from that day.
I cherished the memories of that fish and do to this day but with just a bit of regret that I should have released that fish.
Back then the idea of catch and release was completely foreign to my thinking but the first inkling that there was something bigger than just killing a limit of fish was creeping into my subconscious.
I took a sabbatical from fly fishing for a few years as I pursued other things but the fly fishing "bug" never really left. I saw that the salmon and steelhead runs took a nose dive and the big numbers of my early years of northwest fishing were no longer there.
A few trips here and there with friends kept my interest up and I returned to fishing full force. I plunged head long into what I thought were worthwhile organizations that I also thought did the resource some good. Well they didn't! They amounted to what were pretty much just glorified fishing clubs. I learned that when it came right down to actually standing up for wild fish and their habitat they were conspicously absent. Yes they put on a good show but it all came down to supporting hatcheries and wrong headed programs that did more harm than good.
So fast forward to where I am at today. I believe I've made some good progress to finally being what I would call a good steward.
Am I there yet? No! There are a lot of things I need to learn but I think I am still evolving and instead of beating my self up for the opportunities I've missed or squandered I can look forward to making a difference and hopefully some of you will too!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Am I So Angry at ODFW?

Any of you that have read this blog know that I have no love for the way things are run at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. I've been very outspoken at the way they have mismanaged our few remaining wild salmonids and the mismanagement seemingly has no end.
For the sake of those who might think I am just some old bastard who has nothing better to do than complain about a state agency this post is for you.
Let me say right off of the top that I believe there are some talented folks that work at ODFW. I've met more than a few of them over the years and admire their commitment to the mission statement of ODFW. Director Roy Elicker is a conscientious, hard working man who I think wants to do right by the resource and the people of Oregon.
Ian Tattum is one that comes to mind. He is doing a lot of good work over on the tributaries of the John Day river concerning wild steelhead.
Kathryn Kostow is another ODFW biologist I like and admire however I am not sure if she is still with the agency. There are others at ODFW that are very good and intelligent people who have the resource's best interest in mind.
There is, however, some gross mismanagement going on over at ODFW and especially in the way our wild trout, steelhead and salmon are managed.
From allowing a harvest of wild cutthroat trout to the steelhead broodstock programs there is a decaying of principles in some regions of ODFW that flies against that ODFW mission statement that I have quoted on this blog more than once.
The agency is out of control and I would have to think that director Elicker must be having many sleepless nights trying to determine the best course of action to take this agency.
The financial Armageddon that is currently gripping America will no doubt have a huge impact on this agency but in many ways they have only themselves to blame.
Their efforts to increase angler participation and lagging license sales by allowing harvest of sensitive wild trout is as wronged headed approach as ever has been tried. The steelhead broodstock programs is destroying critical populations of wild winter steelhead. This agency is so concerned about raising money that they forward to the commission a plan to allow harvest of wild North Umpqua winter steelhead a mere seven months after they took that very same harvest away. Seven months is not even close to enough time to properly evaluate if these fish have made a strong enough comeback to allow said harvest.
One of their fish biologists from the McKenzie/Mid-Willamette river region dismissed the potential harm of allowing a larger bag limit wild cutthroat trout and the use of bait by arrogantly dismissing them and saying "They are only cutthroat trout after all"
Is this arrogance, ignorance or both?
I want you folks to know that I do not come by this distaste and anger a ODFW without reason.
Heck even long time ODFW cheerleader and outdoor writer for the Oregonian Bill Monroe is criticizing them. I thought hell would freeze over before Monroe made any disparaging remarks about his buddies at ODFW.
I take this stuff very serious and know the well is not far from drying up for our precious wild coldwater fisheries here in Oregon. It's time for all of us to get angry and ask questions because status-quo is not working.
2009 will be an important year for wild fish in Oregon and one has to wonder if ODFW is up to the task....I wonder?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story

This original artwork was done for me by Guy Jacobson. Guy is one of the "Friends of the Quiet Pool" listed on this blog and his website can be found HERE
I think only a person who really cares about wild trout could accomplish this sort of art.
This fish was hooked by me on the Kilchis river last October. He was "slurping" just down from me and I couldn't figure out what it was he was taking. I knew he had a little size to him but I was pretty sure my four weight bamboo could handle him. After trying a at least a dozen different patterns which this trout summarily ignored I moved up stream so my fly would drift down into the slot where he was laying. That was the ticket because this 17" native coastal cutthroat hit my fly so hard it actually took the reel off my bamboo rod. It must have been hilarious to watch me try to fight this hot fish and replace my reel back onto my rod at the same time.
I didn't have my camera on me and of course a wild fish needs to be put back in the water very quickly. Another angler did a quick measurement and before I safely released this wonderful trout.
While I may not have a picture of this fish I did have it forever etched into my memory and Guy did the rest. This fish and the others I caught and released last season are definitely worth fighting for. It breaks my heart that coastal cutthroat trout could be killed in 2009 thanks to the short sighted agency that is put in charge of protecting our wild trout anf failing miserably to do so!
Thanks to Guy I will forever have this wonderful memory to look upon in years to come.
Thanks Guy! You are a great artist and true friend.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Fly Fishing Absolutes.....mostly opinions

I'll probably add to this as I think of them but these are the things that I am convinced of when it comes to fly fishing.
I'm quite sure that a few of my "absolutes might raise and eyebrow or two but remember it's just my opinion and it is my blog.
1.Salmonids are, in my opinion, the only fresh water species worth fly fishing for (Sorry JM)
2.Strike Indicators....yadda, yadda, yadda! You know what I believe about these.Might as well use a spinning rod!
3.Using bait for coastal cutthroat trout should be outlawed!
4.Fly fishing for summer steelhead boils down to one where the fish are! it ain't rocket science
5.Spey casting is easier than traditional single handed fly casting
6.Putting any kind of scent on your fly is bait fishing and shows a complete lack of character and ethics.
7.The Deschutes scares the hell out of me but I love it more than any other river
8.There is no comparison when it comes to bamboo versus graphite
9.There are as many pompous and arrogant assholes that gear fish as there are that fly fish
10.Fly fishing for winter steelhead is tough!
11.Chinook salmon are boring on a fly rod
12.I think Alaska is over rated for fly fishing. I would much rather fish British Columbia
13.Jim Teeny might be a nice guy but his techniques are questionable
14.Spey Pages is the best fly fishing forum
15.Spend the money to get top rate gear and fly tying materials
16.Posing for a picture with a fish and you have your fly rod in your mouth looks stupid
17.The Metolius is a wonderful river and tough to catch fish in.
18.Steelhead broodstock programs will spell the end of wild winter steelhead. This is know opinion either! It's being played out before our very eyes on the north coast of Oregon.

Okay that's it for now. More later

What Did I Learn in 2008?

The older I get the more it seems like there is always something I need to learn. So what did this old broke down fly fisherman learn in 2008 that he will carry over to 2009?...plenty!
First of all I learned the scorched earth approach to conservation is not always the best way to rally folks to your cause. I am abrupt and abrasive and tend to beat up those who do not have the urgency for wild fish conservation I do.
Needless to say I've alienated a few folks with my doomed crusade to save coastal cutthroat trout and I definitely was too insensitive to people circumstances and will strive to do better in 2009.
My passion blinded me to the different life situations that people deal with which might make it hard for them to give time to the causes of wild trout and salmon.
Now bear in mind I still intend to hold those people who make a profit on the backs of wild salmon, steelhead and trout accountable for their actions or, in the case of the owner of the largest internet fishing forum in the Pacific Northwest, inaction. It's just inexcusable to make money but give little back in return!
The same goes for any person(s), whether he be a fishing guide or tackle manufacturer, that makes money on wild salmonids.
So if you think I am talking about you then I probably am.
Okay then, you might be wondering if I learned anything in 2009 about fly fishing. I can assure you I learned plenty.
Whether it was becoming a better spey caster thanks to good friends like Mike McCune and John Bracke or just a more observant fly fisherman in general I learned that this sport I love so much is an ever evolving learning experience.
I long ago abandoned the "numbers" aspect of angling. I had my years of putting up big numbers and catching a lot of fish. Yes it is fun to catch fish but the stress and pressure of being a fishing superstar is something I found to less than desirable.
You take a calm stretch of water on a late summer or early fall day and watch the surface come alive as the various insect hatches take's magic! I think I might just take the point off of my fly a few times this next year just to feel the take.
You cannot love something like that when your only intention is filling a freezer full of fillets or eggs for bait. An angler whose reward is to have as many pictures of himself posted on the internet holding a gasping fish up for a hero picture is, in my opinion, immature and does not get the point of it all.
I am not saying I've reached the "Zen" of fly fishing, whatever that is,but my angling life is becoming less and less complicated the older I get.
In 2008 I am learned to be more contented in my fly fishing experience. I hope to be even more so in 2009.
My hope for 2009 for each and every one of you that pay attention to my ponderings here on The Quiet Pool is simply this.
Learn to enjoy the simplicity which the river offers. We are here for such a preciously short time that any time spent in strife over how many fish you may or may not catch is just wasted time. I am learning this and hope to have many more years of learning this.
I would also hope that you will intensify your fight for wild fish in 2009 because they are worth it.
Happy New Year and tight lines in 2009.