Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Deschutes! You Can Never Have Enough To Say

I've written a lot about this river in the three years that "The Quiet Pool" has been in existence but I can never seem to adequately express my feelings after I visit there.
There is just something about the Deschutes that I find over whelming and intimidating. Part of it must be the imposing canyon walls that stand over me like some sort of brooding giant. In the morning, when the sun first starts peaking over the canyon rim to splash the opposite canyon hillside with light, it's a most awe inspiring feeling. To me it's like I am the only person on this wild river and the dawn is the first time my senses get to gather in what I am seeing. At any given time there might be a couple of thousand river user along the central Oregon river but it never seems crowded and it is one place you can experience real solitude. I've never been on another river where I feel that way.
I've always had a fear of the Deschutes. Not an irrational phobia or a sense of foreboding mind you, just a fearful respect of a place that cannot be grasped. I've been going to the Deschutes since 1974 and there is really no ordinary visit there.Whether it is the wind, which has it's own personality, or the canyon which is unfathomable in it's size. The many formidable rapids on the Deschutes taunt the unwise and punish the inexperienced. I've only float this river a few times and it was always in someone else's boat but those few times made an indelible impression.
Of course there are the legendary "serpents" of the Deschutes but I've never been fearful of them once I learned what to expect. As it is I have had only three encounters with rattle snakes and never was in danger of getting bitten.
My visits to a coastal river are mostly a blur except for the memorable trips that always revolve around steelhead or trout. The feeling when I am on the Metolius river is completely different. The Metolius is like a fantasy river. You want to immerse yourself in all that is around you and while it's is lovely in a different way I do not find it intimidating.
I am not a religious person by any means but is it reasonable to think that the river is a holy place?
As far as the fishing goes it's just another trout river mostly. I've fished more productive streams a lot closer to home. The cutthroat trout rivers near me have certainly yielded bigger fish that come to my fly. Fishing the Deschutes and trying to describe it leads to all kinds of sugary cliches and I won't even go there.
While the Deschutes is visited by countless people who use the river for recreation I would bet that those who care about this river experience something different every time they go.
I am not talking about the casual rafter who see the Deschutes as little more than a set of rapids to float blissfully through.
For those who fish this river of rivers what is the emotional you feel while visiting?
It's futile to try to explain the river. I know that there have been many writers with a lot more talent than me that have been left speechless when trying to convey their feelings on something that moves or inspires them. I cannot claim to be a writer and have probably abused good grammar and good punctuation over the span of this blogs existence so pardon my amateurish prose. All I can say to you that have never been on the Deschutes or the Metolius for that matter. Just go and see what best describes your visit there...you will never be the same I promise.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Dumbing Down of the Northwest Salmon Problem

As I browse this so called world wide web I am constantly amazed at some of the things I read. The internet is a vast source of information but it's also a vast network of dumb ass people.
I'm no Einstein mind you but my God! Are people really that dumb?
Take the Pacific Northwest for instance. As I read various fishing forums and communities I am hardly ever surprised at the ignorance I encounter especially when it comes to common sense fishing issues.
As I've discussed here more than a few times we have a major catastrophe facing our salmon returns. The fish are just not there and so the great unwashed masses are trying to affix blame for why that is happening. The more learned people realize that ocean conditions coupled with a myriad of contributing reasons are what have us in the situation we have now.
These dumb shits that have somehow figured out how to not only log onto the internet but have actually learned to communicate their ignorance to the masses...thank God for Spell-Check right?
We have those that believe that sea lions are the big culprit in disappearing salmon and the state should allow open season on them by actually allowing the use of high powered rifle to "assassinate" the offending pinnipeds at Bonneville dam. Sheer brilliance huh?
There are those who want to blame every shore bird from Caspian terns to cormorants to mergansers for the missing salmon. Of course with far too many of these idiots the use of firearms is the most simple solution.
Then there is that nuclear physicist from Tillamook Anglers that blames marauding schools of cutthroat trout for devouring all the little salmon and has applauded the killing of these wild trout.
Oh it gets better folks!
From the down playing of the role of dams, habitat loss and other human intervention this mass of seemingly lobotomized "harvesters" has all the solutions to bringing back our salmon and it almost always involves the eradication of some other species.
It's all pretty sad actually. These not only don't get it but I think they are just dangerous. Like I said we should never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. All one need do is look at the effect that conservative talk radio has had on the weak minded hoards.
So instead of solutions all that is happening is a bunch of finger pointing and the wild salmonids of this region lose and so do those of us that are capable of abstract thinking.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Metolius Now and Forever!

For those of us that love this magical river this is a day to celebrate. For those of you that have never visited the Metolius you owe it to yourself to come here.
The fishing is tough but who cares? To just be there is enough.
Thanks go to all who spent a lot of hours working to protect this rare gem the people of Oregon cannot properly express the appreciation we feel. To those who sent letters and contacted the legislators from their district.....simply thank you.
The Metolius River at Camp Sherman

House Votes to Protect Metolius
HB 3298 designates Metolius Basin as Area of Critical State Concern

SALEM – House Democrats today provided the crucial votes to pass House Bill 3298, which will protect the future of the Metolius Basin. The bill solidifies in law the unanimous recommendation of the Department of Land Conservation and Development to declare the Metolius Basin as an Area of Critical State Concern.

“Many people, over many years, have been waiting for this. Today my colleagues took historic action to ensure that Oregonians will get to enjoy the Metolius River for generations to come,” said Clem, the bill’s author.

The legislation that created Oregon’s land use planning program, Senate Bill 100 (1973), authorizes designation of areas of critical state concern. On April 2, 2009, the Land Conservation and Development Commission recommended to the Legislative Assembly that the Metolius River Basin be designated an area of critical statewide concern.

“The Metolius is truly a state treasure,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Mary Nolan (D-Portland). “Tom McCall is doing cartwheels. Today, we finally realize his dream.”

HB 3298 is supported by Central Oregon LandWatch, Oregon Hunters Association, Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Native Fish Society, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Oregon League of Conservation Voters and Trout Unlimited.

House Bill 3298 cleared its last legislative hurdle today after passing out of the Senate over a week ago. The bill now goes to the Governor for his expected signature.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy 50th Trout Unlimited

There is not another conservation organization in this country that has done more for cold water fisheries than Trout Unlimited.
Formed along the Au Sable river 50 years ago TU has made it it's mission to protect all wild trout and salmon and their influence has been felt throughout the country as they work hard for our precious resources and fisheries.
I am a proud life member of TU and when I was contemplating where to best spend my conservation dollar there was no question that it would be with Trout Unlimited.
TU is not a fly fishing club! That fact must be established in order for TU to accomplish it's conservation work. If you are looking for an organization where you stand around smoking you meerschaum pipe while sipping a fine brandy or single malt and discuss the merits of using a Light Cahills on shy browns then TU is certainly not for you. If you desire to see our coldwater fisheries survive many more generations then I urge to give us a look.
Oh sure the various chapters do have social outings where fishing is involved but the impetuous is conservation.
I think we fly anglers cannot owe enough to Trout Unlimited for the work they have done over the last 50 years. I am honored to be a member and I were my TU patch with the pride of knowing my dollars and my efforts are going to something bigger than hooking a bunch of nice trout.
Thanks TU for all you have done!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hatchery Smolt City...With Apologies to Jan and Dean

Wild Steelhead Smolt

HATCHERY SMOLT CITY (Sung to the tune of Surf City)

I got a 9 foot graphite 4 weight and I call my Burkie

Hatchery Smolt City here I come

I cast my fly into the riffle and the line starts gettinn' jerky

Hatchery Smolt City here I come

Well it's not a cutthroat trout or a wild rainbow so it's off to another coastal river I gooooo!

Well I'm going to hatchery smolt city where it's one to one
I'm going to hatchery smolt city but it's sure not fun
Yeah I'm stuck in hatchery smolt city where it's one to one
I'm here in pellet head city where wild cutthroat trout used to run


The rivers are full of salmon and steelhead smolt. Please handle all wild smolt carefully and pinch your barbs. Please crush the heads of all hatchery smolt, adipose fin clipped, like the vermin they are as you release them back into the river. You'll be doing all wild salmon, steelhead and trout a favor.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bored Out of My Skull

Here it is the first day of summer and I'm bored to tears! Cutthroat trout fishing sucks! It's too early for Deschutes steelhead and a drive over there for trout is becoming cost prohibitive.
I'm running out of things to bitch and rant about here on this blog so what's a retired old guy to do?
Well there are some excellent clamming tides this coming week and so I could join the rest the Pacific Northwest and dig my 15 razor clam limit but that would require me to actually get off of my lazy ass and make a little effort. Because of a bad back I would take my daughter with me to do the physical stuff with the gun and shovel.
I could also go to the Clackamas and swing some flies for summer steelhead but the chance of actually hooking one are as unlikely as me looking good in a spandex body suit although I could use the practice.
I could fulfill my wife's ultimate fantasy and clean the house or do yard work! Yeah right! Refer back to the spandex remark for the likelihood of that happening.
What a vexing situation I find myself in.
So if any of you are willing to come by and pick me up at about noon, I like to sleep in you know then take me to your favorite, can't miss, trout or steelhead honey hole. Then make sure all I have to do is step out of your vehicle and start fishing then maybe I can get out of this boredom.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It Is Fish We Desire After All!

This entry is a continuation of what I posted yesterday. I thought of all these clever concepts while on the river today not catching any fish.I fished four different rivers in search of cutthroat trout I did manage one small fish.
We fly fishers have a tendency to romanticize our sport a bit and I am as guilty as anyone.
There have been many books written about fly fishing that talk about the beauty and the magic of this type of fishing and I agree with all of it!
Let's face it though, we want to catch fish! We wouldn't travel to rivers like the Madison or the Kispiox if we didn't want to catch fish. We wouldn't travel to exotic locations like Belize o Christmas island if we we didn't want to catch fish.
So I am asking simply this. Is it reasonable for us to expect or even demand our wild fisheries be managed in a way as to insure that there are fish to catch and of course release? Hey I would completely leave certain rivers alone altogether if it mean the recovery of wild salmon, trout and steelhead.
I'm not talking about hatchery fish here either. I wouldn't lose a bit of sleep if every hatchery in the state of Oregon were to not be funded and therefore closed. The state does not owe us fish to kill....remember that!
I have no qualms about calling out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on their gross mismanagement of our wild salmonids and I will continue to do so in a not so pleasant way.
Remember from my last rant where I am asking ODFW where the hell the fish are? Well I know at least a few people at ODFW look at this blog and I would offer them to comment on anything I say here and would even let them do a post if they so desire.
So while we write and talk about the beauty and "zen" of fly fishing it would be nice to have a few wild fish to pursue wouldn't it?

Where's The Fish?

Here I sit early in the AM in anticipation of another fishing trip to the north coast in pursuit of coastal cutthroat trout.
You may remember my lamentations about my previous two unsuccessful fishing trips. My expectations for tomorrow are low.
When we fought the battle to prevent the harvest of cutthroat trout ODFW fish biologist Robert Bradley made claims about how numerous these trout were and how their populations could sustain a limited harvest of two fish a day with an eight inch minimum.
One Oregon Clam Diggers Association, who lobbied heavily for the proposal, member invited me to come with him and see this huge bio-mass of trout that were in the coastal rivers. We heard all about the trout killing heritage these folks wanted to pass down to their grandchildren. We heard from Tillamook Anglers about the ravenous cutthroat trout that devoured huge numbers of salmon and steelhead smolt.
So in 2009 we have this new regulation that allows this harvest. All the pieces were supposedly in place to bring back angler interest on the backs of these wild trout. ODFW's claim of increased angling opportunities and the chance to let juvenile anglers kill their catch because after all that is what will get them excited about fishing in Oregon and buy fishing licenses.
Well guess what friends? The cutthroat trout are safe! Why? Because they aren't there! As Clara Pell, of the old Burger King commercial, would ask "Where's the beef?" I'm asking where's the fish?

I know where to go to find these fish and I have not found them and neither have others. I've found large numbers of hatchery smolt who seem to inhabit the various pools and riffles that in years past held cutthroat trout but I've found no cutthroat trout in these places.
The early season is usually not prime time to fly fish for cutts but if you know where they are you can hook a few before the water gets too warm. That has no happened this year.
I saw the numbers decline and so did a lot of other people but ODFW, desperate to sell tags and licenses, basically cooked the books to convince the commission that this kill fishery was a good idea.
Did they lie? I won't go that far but I will say the population estimates were misleading and exaggerated at best and misrepresented deliberately in order to get this harvest approved. I also think a bit of it was payback against the conservation organizations and various individuals that have made ODFW look foolish over the years.
My last trip out I got the chance to vent to a young ODFW fish checker who made the mistake of asking me how fishing was. I told her that the harvest of these trout was a horrible idea from a state agency who has had it's share of bad ideas over the last 20 years.
I assured her that I did not blame her but she still got an earful.
So this pot of gold at the end of the angling rainbow that was dangled like a carrot in front of the nose of the imaginary angling hordes has not happened. Where are the cutthroat trout? Where are the happy kids with their stringer laden with their prized catch of two dinky fish?
Maybe the public wasn't clamoring to kill a few trout after all and that is why the coastal rivers are deserted and maybe, hopefully someone is paying attention to what ODFW is doing with our cold water fisheries!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There Is Beauty in Fly Fishing

I know you are probably tired of looking at my ugly mug so meet April Vokey of Flygal

April is the real deal in fly fishing and, in case you haven't noticed, she is easy on the eyes. She can actually catch fish without having to smear shrimp scent all over her fly in order to do it!
Besides her great website here is a link to her blog April's Blog

Monday, June 15, 2009


I won! After a long and protracted battle I can finally claim victory! After many months of misery and the outpouring of a lot of money I can now savor the fruits of victory.
What is it I am victorious over you ask? I finally found and repaired the annoying leak in my favorite pair of breathable waders. Hey it might not mean anything to you but after countless wet pant legs and many tubes of expensive Aquaseal I pinpointed the leak and declared a jihad on it with more Aquaseal. I water tested these old Dan Baileys and the result was as dry as some of my dumb jokes.
I know some of you can identify with a favorite pair waders that you just can't let go and that was what these waders are to me.
These waders walked up the Deschutes canyon many time and fell into the Nestucca,Wilson,Kilchis and Trask rivers with me many more times, much to the amusement of various fishing buddies I might add, and those prat falls we what probably gave me the leaks in the first place.
So my other pair of waders can breathe a sigh of relief as they will get a break from keeping my fat ass dry.
The old Baileys will live to fight another day!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Using the Good China by Erik Helm

The following was written by my friend and fellow blogger/fly fisherman Erik Helm from Wisconsin . You can find Erik's blog at The Classical Angler....enjoy!

Years ago I remember an inspirational speaker on NPR talking with great humor about her mother and her habit of saving the "good stuff" for later or guests. She kept a beautiful set of china well polished and cherished in a separate cupboard which was rarely if ever used, and reserved for very special occasions and important guests. After her mother died, the speaker was dissolving her mothers possessions and came upon the "Good China" in perfect condition and began to pack it away. "Wait a minute" she thought, life is too short...USE the good China.


What a motto to live by. Yes, life is too short. Eat the melon when it is ripe, pick the daisy, suck the marrow out of life. Use the good China.

I am an orphan, and have lost both parents in recent years, and in dissolving first the family home, then Mom's possessions, and then finally Dad's possessions I came across that saving mentality again and again. Both parents were of the depression generation, so they saved everything. I mean EVERYTHING. This is a generational trait but got out of hand. Some of the most treasured objects were rarely if ever used. They were too good to be used. So they never got the joy of actually using the good China.

Recently when going through my reels I came across a 31/2 " Hardy Bougle' MK IV. I had put it away years ago because I did not want to get it nicked or scratched. There it sat with no line on it, much like Dad's rifles that were never shot and hand built rods that were never fished. I pulled out a little backing and listened to the pleasant click as the reel happily sang a tune. Then I had an epiphany. I have boxes full of precious spey and dee flies that I dare not fish. Why? Why not? What am I saving them for? Why not use the good China? Why save all the treasured possessions so that when I am old and gray and full of sleep I can look back on memories that were missed, but treasure an unscratched reel or a fly that never was tested or swam?


Use the good China. Tempus Fugit. Ars Longa Vitae Brevis!

Spool up that Bougle' laddie... the river is a callin!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's My Fault...and Yours Too!

I am walking alone along the deep green canyons of a lush coastal rain forest and while I should have felt joy at being here and enjoying the beauty of this river all I felt was discouragement and sadness.
I should have felt lucky to be able to fly fish in this pristine place but I just couldn't feel that way.
As I watched the multiple aquatic insect hatches of the evening I should have seen the surface of this small coastal river come alive with trout rises but there were none.

The coastal cutthroat trout that I sought were not there! In the early season I should have had several hook ups but all I could manage was a few hatchery smolt.
So who is to blame for dismal early coastal trout season? I am of course and so are you!
It would be easy to blame ODFW for their mismanagement of this wild trout population but who was it that sat by silently while this state agency appointed incompetent people to be stewards of these wild trout? We did!
It would also be easy to blame profiteering internet fishing forum owners who made money off of these wild trout but gave nothing back but who is it that populates these personality cult forums and send money to them? In the past I certainly did and I'll bet a few of you did too!
I've gotten a few "atta boys" for my work last year in trying to stave off a wild coastal trout. It did wonders for my ego but in reality someone should have said "Hey Shane, where the hell were you 15 years ago when we started to see the demise of these trout?" That would have no doubt offended me at the time but in reality I would have had nothing to say.
When I first came to the Pacific Northwest some 36 years ago I was rabid to catch as many fish as I could. I was obsessed with it and thought the notion of conservation and especially catch and release were for nut jobs like Bill Bakke.
Little did I realize that all these years later I would admire Bill as a pioneer in wild salmonid conservation.
I would bet that even a man like Bill Bakke would say he wishes he could do more.
I was perfectly satisfied with killing my limit of salmon or steelhead and thought little of the warning signs that the enlightened folks of the time were telling us about.
So here we are in 2009 and our cold water fisheries are in serious and quite possibly irreversible trouble!
We didn't do enough when all this damage could have at least been slowed and because of our apathy we are where we are today. Face it folks we blew it! I think I can safely speak for all of us in saying that. We can take a bit of satisfaction in knowing we did realize what was happening to our fisheries but was it too late?
I can't say except there is damage that cannot undone all I know is I waited too long to get involved. Are you involved? Did you wait too long?
Folks I would like to be optimistic about the future of our wild salmonids but reality is a harsh mistress and it cannot let me be hopeful.
Can we, at least, sustain what we have and avert further damage? Absolutely we can but it should not take an old fool like me to motivate.
Look around and see what needs to be done! Attend meetings and make your voice heard!
Bitching about the lack of fish to catch on an internet forum will do nothing.
If you have the means to support groups like Trout Unlimited or Native Fish Society then please do so.
The bottom line is, and I've said it before, apathy will kill more fish than any incompetent fish and wild life biologist, gill netter or hydroelectric dam will.
By doing nothing we become nothing more than enablers.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

What Are You Smoking?

I gleaned this wealth of wisdom from a popular Pacific Northwest Fishing Forum and just could not resist a retort.

The following quote is from one David Johnson, a popular bait guide on the north coast. So to make sure that David's reply is in proper context let me post here the post that got his goat. The whole thread deals with the closure of the Nehalem river to fall chinook angling but I want to focus in on some specific statements David Johnson makes.

I didn't mean to imply that the guides were the sole problem to the Nehalem. If you read my earlier post I said that the guides can have a negative effect on all of the river systems that we are having declining runs on.

It almost seems like ODFW is managing the fishery for the guides.

If you attend any of the meetings it is clear that ODFW has a very special relationship with the guide lobby.

Here was Mr.Johnson's reply

I wish I did drugs because I'd ask for what you're smoking.


The ODFW Commission is about as unsupportive of the guide industry as they could be. Have you seen how many times they have bent us over in the last several years?

Some people just don't get it. If there are few fish in a run then there are going to be few fish caught. It's not like guides are going out and still catching 20 fish a day.

And when the runs are low and less fish are caught because of it then the pressure is down and less fish are harvested. In effect it's self regulating.

The bios know that there are less fish caught when these runs are down but they have to close it for political reasons more than anything.

BTW, the bios in Tillamook have their act together. They do know what they are doing. They do have the fishes best interest in mind and they do know when and if a there can be a fish harvest on different systems.

Why do I feel the need to reply you might ask? I've spent a few years trying to combat the adverse effect the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, specifically the Tillamook regional headquarters of ODFW, have had on wild salmonids.
Case in point is the steelhead broodstock programs on the Nestucca, Siletz and Wilson rivers. These rivers are all coastal tributaries in the Tillamook watershed and the broodstock programs have had an adverse effect on the wild steelhead populations. This is a fact and is undisputed except for ODFW and the bait guides, like Mr.Johnson, who are absolutely orgasmic over this program. Why do they love it so? It gives them a late winter season to run their guided trips that in the past they never had.
Yes these bait guides lobbied hard for this program and yes ODFW fell all over themselves to provide these GUIDES this late season bonanza of hatchery steelhead and why is that? Simply put it benefits these bait guides the most! No ifs ands or buts. They get to give their clients a chance at the returning broodstock hatchery steelhead at a time of year when in the past only wild steelhead were present. This is all at the expense, of course, of those wild winter steelhead. You know how I've railed on this blog about the steelhead broodstock and if you haven't then simply go my entry on 02/25/09 called "The Great Broodstock Boondoggle AKA Bait Guide Welfare" for the details of this program.
These bait guides also could book trips for the collection of those wild steelhead to harvest eggs and milt to make wild fish into hatchery fish and all in the name of helping wild fish they would claim. In fact one of these bait guides thought it was just wonderful that these returning broodstock HATCHERY steelhead could spawn with wild steelhead and therefore there would be an increase in the wild steelhead population. Wonder where this bait guide got his info? Could it have been one of those great biologists from the Tillamook office?
Everyone was supposed to be happy right? Well they didn't expect that this program to be detrimental to the wild steelhead on the above listed streams.
So Mr. Johnson can say that he and his fellow bait guides friends care about wild fish when in fact it appears that they are harming them. Intentionally? That is not for me to say but I will say this much. Angling for wild winter steelhead has been terrible the last couple of years and why is it?
David Johnson is one of the best bait guides at getting his clients into fish. That is an undisputed fact! He is second to none in putting hatchery steelhead in the box. However I think he misses the point in what the poster said that Mr. Johnson reacted so strongly to.
ODFW has accommodated bait guides like David Johnson to the point that they have hurt wild fish.
I am not making this stuff up folks! ODFW gave the bait guides of the north coast what they thought would be a wind fall. It was indeed just that the first couple of years but numbers of harvestable hatchery broodstock returnees have spiraled downward. Not only are the broodstock fish missing but so are the wild fish that pay the price of this folly.
The bottom line is this. ODFW biologists do not have the best interest of fish in mind but absolutely, especially wild winter steelhead. They have accommodated guides like David Johnson and others! So David I would have to ask what are you smoking because it is evident that your have a different take than what is really happening So don't "Bogart That Joint" dude! I would invite David Johnson or any north coast bait guide to rebut everything I've written here.

On another note your favorite blog "The Quiet Pool" turned three years old today. Thanks for reading.