Thursday, April 30, 2009

Miscellaneous Rants and Thoughts

For something different that I would comment briefly on a few things that are going on in my angling life.
It is very early in the morning and so all of these "pearls of wisdom" might sound profound to my sleep deprived mind right now but after a restful sleep I may delete some of them but maybe not.

River access is a hot button topic here in the Pacific Northwest but very few really take the time to understand where landowners are coming from.
One of my steelhead runs is being closed because some knucklehead slipped and fell along the river bank and then tried to sue the landowner! Is it any wonder why river access is lost?

I had an embarrassing senior moment yesterday at Costco. Without boring you folks with the details I found myself apologizing to the checkout lady for my "brain fart"
What makes this troubling is it's just another sign of getting old and I do not enjoy getting old.However with age comes wisdom and experience and that is a plus. Too bad that I could not have been this smart when I was younger. Of course when I was younger I thought I knew it all....such a conundrum!

I wonder why the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife even bothers with the charade that they care about wild salmon,trout and steelhead. They continue to defy common sense with their mismanagement of Oregon's coldwater fisheries. The newest victim of ODFW is the fall chinook runs of the north coast. Once a trophy salmon fishery these north coast leviathans are disappearing at an alarming rate and there is talk of some fall closures.....more later on this.

With so much strife in the country these days I am leaning on fly fishing more and more as solace and escape from all of the troubles in the world.
It's like I get into a time lock where everything stands still except my fly and the river. The worries and anxiety melt away, at least temporarily. Over the years I have enjoyed many styles of fishing but fly fishing is the only one that is truly a sedative for the soul.

When faced with the possibility of some coastal salmon closures one would think that the logical thing to do is rally behind the concept of saving fish so they can spawn. Not so with north coast bait guides! They are thinking only of their own self preservation. Sure they will give lip service to protecting these fish but when push comes to shove it's always about them and their pocketbook. If these mercenaries and carpetbaggers really cared they would maybe support things like reduced bag limits and bait bans.

It's cool to write about the beauty of a river and marvel at the wild steelhead spawning in it. To me at least I feel compelled to do as much as I can to make sure that these wonders are here for future generations. What I find puzzling is how some can write flowery prose about the joy of the outdoors as they walk along their own private piece of paradise but when action to preserve this beauty is required they are absent and nonchalant....go figure.

So tomorrow I will once again journey to the Deschutes. Hopefully the wind will have mercy on me but I am not counting on it. It doesn't matter though and I will be grateful just to be there. I am finding that contentment in our life does not always have to have tangible results. Happiness and success can be found in the simplest of things and with the Deschutes the contentment is all around you. Fish? yeah they are a nice bonus but so is finding a nice piece of quartz along the river bank or seeing a bird that you have not seen before. I like red wing black birds that perch among the sage and juniper of the Deschutes and am happy to see one every trip. I would love to spot a rattler tomorrow but at a safe distance of course.
Contentment is where you find it. You set the bar too high and expect some kind of holy experience every time you walk the river then you are more often than not going to be disappointed.
Look to the small things to make your trip a success.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Raising the Bar on Conservation

Last Steelhead of the Winter

Are those of you that are wild fish friendly doing all you can to help save them?
I know I'm not and there are some things I can do in my small way to do more for the wild salmon, trout and steelhead in my region of the world.
I am concerned about what effect the upcoming cutthroat harvest will have on pre-smolt wild salmon and steelhead. The 8" minimum that ODFW will allow this season will have an impact on these juveniles and ODFW has done virtually nothing to educate Joe Powerbait on how to tell the difference between trout and smolt. I am pretty sure a lot of smolt will be killed because they will be mistaken for trout.
I am going to spend some days in the Tillamook watershed helping the fishing public identify the difference between cutthroat trout and wild smolt.
Secondly I am also concerned what the ravenously hungry hatchery steelhead smolt, that are released in sizes up to 12",are eating. I and others more learned than myself are pretty sure that they are feasting on out of gravel wild salmon and steelhead fry.
I intend to sample what these large hatchery smolt have in their stomachs. I will report what I find.
There is one other small thing I intend to do this spring and summer with coastal cutthroat trout. I am removing the points on some of my flies! You might think this drastic or silly or whatever but think about it for a second.
I have caught and released thousands of cutthroat trout through the years. I've caught on dry flies, streamers and soft hackles and in all sizes! I enjoy the take more than anything and the actual landing of these trout is not that big of a deal. If I get a long line releases and never have to handle the fish then so much the better. I'm not saying that I will do this with all of my cutthroat trout fly fishing this year but I will certainly do it at times when perhaps the water is a bit too warm or, like my friend Moon, when trying out a new pattern.
I love the take by a trout on a dry fly so what better to enjoy it even more without having to handle the fish?
I've heard of of anglers doing this and I think I will give it a try.
I will also be doing some wild steelhead redd counts for Native Fish Society hopefully on the Mollala river and other rivers in hopes of finding out how many wild steelhead are spawning.
So what are some of your plans to help wild fish?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Moon the Elitist

I want to share with you a great fishing story written by my friend Moon.
Moon is one of those larger than life characters we meet along the way but he is an excellent fly fisherman and can spin a great fishing yarn. His lovely and long suffering wife Monica is actually the brains of the family and refers to herself as "Keeper of the Moon" Monica is also a first rate fly tyer and world class caster.

There are so many stories involved into what happened today…. I don’t know where to start. So I’ll just start with the ending and work from there.
It was a good day, a big hatch and a lot of risers…. But, that’s not the ending I want to tell you about. The ending went like this….
I’m casting a dry on a long fine leader to rising trout when I hear Boomer the wonder dog start barking…. I look back towards the bank and see a guy coming down the path. He waves in a friendly manner so I wave back and start for the river bank to see what’s up.
He say’s – “are you Moon???” and I think, oh crap! – but I’m bigger than he is so I say, yeah – that’s me…. and he says – “I’m so and so. I lurk on Westfly and I have been watching you from the road, I just wanted to tell you I love your stories”… and I thought, well all right – here’s a guy who obviously comes from good breeding and has a fine intellect… unlike the guys I fish with most of the time. He says, “That’s a great hatch – but your sure missing a lot of takes”. And I say yeah, but I cut the hook off my fly and am just fishing for risers right now… and he said “WHAT????” so I showed him my fly and where I had cut the hook off and before I could say anything else he just sort of stared at me and blurted out – “DAMN, you are hard core” and walked away shaking his head as he went…
So as most of you know, the fishing has been hit or miss with the cold water this year… and for those of us who prefer to fish proper, the cold water has played hell with our averages. And when I do get it right, it’s just not quite right either… oh sure I’ll take a fish or three, but – I should be doing a bit better I think…. something has seemed amiss all year this year. So Monica and I have had some rip roaring discussions over her fly’s and my abilities… the neighbors think we hate one another, and the cops think were killing one another, but – it’s just shop talk. So after our last fight, er – I mean discussion over the proper fly and its size, color and shape. She tied me up a half dozen different prototypes to take and fish. (I guess our biggest problem is our two different opinions on just what a doo-hickey, or thingamajigger is and what color and or size it should be…) She says, oh you want more thoraxes and I say – yeah, fry me up a mess of that just as soon as you change the do-hickey on that fly….. Anyway – it turns out, we were both right. My design and her colors was the ticket today…
So I ran up the road to a popular turn out where the fish will rise, but have seen enough pressure by the un-holy heathens to be a bit on the discriminative side when it comes to flys and so it is a good proving ground for new patterns or colors. I also find a longer, finer leader helps too.
I ran into the first lurker while gearing up on the road…. DAMN DIRTY LURKERS…. Anyway I geared up and went on down the trail. I put the first fly on and waited. It wasn’t long and the bugs started to spit and sputter and the fish were soon rising. I made seven casts with that new fly, took five trout and missed another. WELLLLLLLLLlllllllllllllllllllll okie dokie then, that’s a winner as I cut it off and put it away for her to tie off of with out us having to get into another fight, er – I mean discussion about do-hickeys and whatchamacallits…. Then I tied on another almost identical fly, but with a darker thingamajib and a bigger do-hickey. Nada, not even a refusal…. So I cut that one off and proceeded through the other four prototypes. Out of the six, one was a smashing hit, one was okay and another took a couple more - but three where dismal failures…. I’m giving those three to Erock. He’s a heathen anyway, plus – I think he’s got French Canadian bloodlines…. I suspect those N.E. yankees all have a Mounty in the woodpile somewhere….
So the fish are going off…. Man I want to fish that first fly. So I convince myself I should try it just one more time and tie it back on. Yup, first cast and I’m into a good fish. After landing and releasing said fish, I’m thinking – damn it moon. You’re going to *%&# around and lose this fly…. and that’s when it hit me. So I said to myself – self, why don’t you just cut the hook off at the bend and fish for a rise only till momma can get more of these tied up with out another fight, er – I mean discussion… and so that’s what I did. I was having a hell of a time, but – in the end. It was just more mopeds and Keystone Lights than I prefer. Now I am a elitist, I do fish proper and all – but, my hypocrisy only goes so far and the other half of the equation is still redneck after all.
And that my friends is another true story of the kind of crap that happens to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear....I Don't Care!

Lately I've gotten a few comments from "Mr.Anonymous" about the old spring chinook allocation battle between the sports anglers and the gill netters. Since someone apparently wants my input I thought I would dredge this up from the archives and update it a bit.
Mr.Anonymous or whomever you are I just want you to know that I will not publish your comments on allocation and why is that? Read on friend.
I just don't care! Not getting what you think is your share of fish? Your favorite lake didn't get stocked full of pellet head trout? Your favorite flavor of PowerBait is out of stock? Hey, I just don't care!
I mean why should I? You don't care that wild fish populations are in the toilet. You don't care enough to show up to a regional ODFW public meeting that is less than 10 minutes from your home. You don't care if habitat and spawning redds are destroyed. You see it's that selfishness thing again isn't it?

It never ceases to amaze how apathetic and complacent we have become. Just you watch though, how amazingly motivated people become when they think something is going to be taken away from them...self righteous indignation runs rampant.
We see it in state and federal government too! Take a ride to some of the upper coastal rivers and see the garbage and illegal camping going on! The US Forest Service that owns that land pretty much ignores it. An employee that is off duty will not bother. In other words they don't care.
My efforts are towards conservation of our wild resources. I will not make an effort to see that sports anglers get more hatchery fish and why should I? With few exceptions I see this group as a lazy and apathetic group of whiners. Fighting amongst themselves while their perceived "enemies" kick their selfish asses time after time when it comes to allocation. I care about wild fish and their habitat and I care deeply but I could not care less about who get the largest share of the hatchery fish pie.
Folks we are in crisis mode as far as conservation is concerned! Think it's unimportant? Take the time to find out that there has been a sixty percent drop-off in wild winter steelhead redds. Still don't care huh? Then you are beyond help.
So if this latest rant offends you? Hey guess what? I don't care.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I Was Wrong!

Yep! Wrong as wrong can be as a matter of fact. What was I wrong about you are probably thinking? Is he admitting he was wrong about indicators some of you might be thinking? Nope! Okay then it might be his support of President Obama? Hell no!
What I am admitting is that I was wrong about was stupidly proclaiming that mastering spey casting was easier than mastering single hand casting. Boy was I ever wrong.

This 3-disc instructional DVD by Rio is perhaps the best one out there. It features the big three (McCune. O'Donnell, Ed Ward) of Skagit style casting and the big kahuna of the spey world Simon Gawesworth.

I am a pretty good single hand caster and that is because I've been doing it for over 25 years...lots of practice.
Two handed spey casting is a whole different animal. There are a lot of variables and anchor points and so on that don't come into play with the single hand casting. I mastered the double haul and roll cast fairly quickly. The double spey and circle spey are still driving me nuts to the point of frustration sometimes.
Yesterday I encountered my two handed guru and one of the fathers of Skagit style spey casting Mike McCune. Mike is a master of the two handed rod and is without question one of the top steelhead fly fishermen in the world.
He along with Scott O'Donnell and Ed Ward are without peers when it comes to this stuff.
As he he floated by me he said just four words "Slow the f**k down" and I knew exactly what he was talking about.
I was feeling kind of cocky awhile back but it seems like I've plateaued and have digressed in fact.
Of course frustration has set in and I'm glad winter steelheading is over. I am going to do what I should have done in the first place and that is pay for a couple of lessons. Developing bad habits is an easy thing to do when casting a two handed rod especially if you try to teach yourself. I have done that so it's time to get straightened out and get rid of those bad habits and not cause "river pollution" as McCune so aptly describes poor two handed casting.
As I look forward to trout season and the spey rods get put away for a few months I will continue to work at my casting. Any secrets some of you experts can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why Fly Fishing?

What is it about fly fishing that attracts you? For me there is a mystery about fly fishing that I just can't explain. The solitude I find where I am able to "escape" for the moment and my only worries are whether I'll have any wind knots to deal with.The satisfaction of laying your line out perfectly and the anticipation of a fish rising to a dry fly. The screaming of your fly reel when a steelhead takes line off of it and the graceful beauty of a well executed roll cast.The famous fly fishermen from the past couldn't explain it either. Why is one drawn to this method when there are so many other more productive methods out there for taking fish? We fly fishers often maligned by others as being "elitists" that's is unfortunate because in my years of angling I've found just as many elitists among the various other styles of fishing. Maybe it's the satisfied look on our faces after a day on the river that some cannot understand.In a world of conspicuous consumption I am happy to be able to just hike up the Deschutes canyon for a few hours and maybe see three or four others along the way.The rewards are many for me in fly fishing but they do not revolve around catching a bunch of fish. Maybe that's the mystery Those of you that know what I am talking about can've been there.
I like to reach out to the traditions and lore of fly fishing. Read any book by Haig-Brown or Arnold Gingrich and see if it does not move you.
Someone once said the if fishing is a religion then fly fishing must be high church. The sermon is the sounds of the river and the choir is the line as it it leaves your reel at high speed when you've hooked a hot trout.I've often marvelled at the quiet of the river when I am pursuing cutthroat trout on some coastal reach. I almost always return from a day of fly fishing empty handed but that certainly is not the measure of a successful trip.A successful day of fishing to me is the absolute satisfaction of achieving what I set out to do on the river.
It's futile to explain this to those who do not fly fish and even to some that do.
Being a successful fly fisherman is a personal thing to me. I feel I am in that I get the reward that I seek.So many of us became fly fishermen after many years of conventional angling. Why did we quit fishing that way? For me, at least, it was a desire to go beyond catching a bunch of fish. I did that! All sizes and all shapes as a matter of fact so to me fly fishing was just a natural progression to expand my enjoyment of the outdoors.
Putting it all in retrospect I can answer why I fly fish as simply this! At my age there is not much that gives me as much pleasure than a trout rising to a dry fly and to my way of thinking that is just part of the whole joy of fly fishing.
We all have our reasons...what is yours?