Friday, July 31, 2009

Let's Be Honest For a Moment

I was thinking about this latest entry all day and taking inventory on my own fishing life as I did.
I think there is an evolution many anglers go through in their angling pursuit. I know I went through it and am still evolving into the fly fisherman/conservationists I want to be. The emphasis is on conservation for me mostly and while I still dearly love casting a dry fly to some waiting trout or waking a "Bomber" across a pool in hopes of raising a steelhead my first love is wild fish, clean water and everything that entails.
So where are you in your angling journey? Permit me to ask a few questions. This is not a quiz or anything and will not be scored but hopefully it will cause some of you to rethink your outdoor experience especially those tied to fishing. So here goes!
Are you unhappy when you are forced to release a wild trout, salmon or steelhead? Do you insist on having a hero picture taken with every fish you land no matter what condition it is in? Do you exaggerate the size of your fish by holding it way out in front of you?
Do you get uneasy when your bait supply is getting low? This next one is for Pacific Northwest residents you fish for chum salmon on river where their numbers are very low? Do you put shrimp juice on your fly in order to catch more cutthroat trout while you desperately try to convince yourself and others that you are a fly fisher? Do you post about the 40 or 50 "trout" you hook but never bother to learn how to identify salmonid smolt?
Is your freezer full of salmon, tuna or sturgeon that is freezer burned? Do you kill fish and then say "I really don't like salmon that much" and give most of it away?
Have you ever said "Well it's good enough to smoke!"
Do you fish for trout, salmon and steelhead when water temperatures are high? Can you be found fishing in the upper river when wild salmon and steelhead are spawning? Does your blood boil when sea lions, Caspian Terns and gill nets are mentioned?
Do you feel the Columbia river Native American tribes are greedy? Well that's it, How did you do? Did you answer honestly?

I know said this quiz won't be graded but I will tell you this much. If you answered "Yes" to even one single question and still make it a habit to practice this thing then you are, in terms of angler evolution or maturity, still a neanderthal. Yes friend you are a knuckle dragging, self centered, half wit that hasn't learned a damn thing! I have nothing but scorn for those of you that never get past the "Me First" ideology that so many are guilty of.
I will also say this. At one time I would have answered "Yes" to most of these questions myself.
I decided to be curious and grow. beyond "Catchin' a nass mess of feesh".Today I can unequivocally say that I will emphatically say "No" to all of those questions.
While this may sound like I am patting myself on the back I'm really not. It proves that an old, broke down fly fisherman like me can still learn and so can you!
Think about it

Sunday, July 26, 2009

...and the Beat Goes On

You children of the 60's must certainly remember the old Sonny and Cher song "The Beat Goes On" don't you? Well I thought I would liken it to what the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing to wild salmonids in Oregon.
The beating, trampling and mismanaging our wild coldwater fisheries just keeps going on.
Looking back into recent history we can see the blitzkrieg that ODFW has launched on wild salmon,steelhead and trout. I will briefly review what has transpired in just the last 10 or so years as ODFW "beats" on wild fish.
The steelhead broodstock programs is perhaps the biggest blunder these "stewards" have foisted upon the state of Oregon. Ask anyone, who isn't a bait guide, on rivers like those in the Tillamook basin how few steelhead redds they are seeing since this program has gone on.
Then the total mismanagement of chinook salmon statewide. Whether it's the Columbia river or the coastal regions the state of Oregon's salmon populations, specifically chinook salmon, are in serious trouble. Ask anyone who fishes either area and they will tell you just how bad it is. ODFW went so far as to close specific rivers and areas to the retention of chinook salmon BUT they are allowing business as usual on coho salmon. They will even allow the harvest of wild coho in the same rivers where the chinook closure is taking place.
Then there is the "Angling Opportunities" excuse to pillage wild trout and steelhead populations. Sure enough ODFW is once again casting an eye towards the wild winter steelhead on the North Umpqua. In less than two years after first protecting these fish ODFW is going to try to push across a harvest of wild winter steelhead. Doesn't matter that it was only last October that the commission decided against a harvest.
Seems to me that there should be some kind of asterisk after each regulation that protects wild steelhead.
* We at ODFW reserve the right to pull the conservation rug out from any wild steelhead population if it can increase license sales So really nothing is safe these days. Whether it be coastal cutthroat trout, chinook and coho salmon or wild winter steelhead when it comes to being responsible stewards there truly aren't any sacred cows.
The thing is with a looking fee increase on just about every tag or license the state of Oregon is about to price themselves out of the game.
There are few if any "blue ribbon" coldwater fisheries in this region anymore but still the fight for what scraps are left goes on.
Folks it really does suck being such a cynic but reality, being what it is, forces me into this position.
I would much rather talk about the great strides our fish and wildlife departments are making in the preservation of our coldwater fisheries but for every small step forward that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife makes they take two huge steps backwards.
Groups like Trout Unlimited and Native Fish Society are the proverbial John the Baptists, crying out in the wilderness of failed hatchery programs and disappearing salmon runs.
For those of you that buy an angling license in Oregon and Washington. Don't you think it's time to hold these people accountable for their mismanagement?
Next year the biennium budget process for ODFW will begin anew and it will be your chance to see these bureaucrats in action. Go to a regional budget meeting and ask pointed questions about what this state agency is doing with our money.
The experience is eye opening!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Know Your Coastal Cutthroat Trout - UPDATE

Update - 7/20/09
The biggest fear that we had when ODFW proposed the harvest of coastal cutthroat trout on the north coast is being realized.
Anglers on the various PNW fishing forums are posting that they are hooking 40-50 "trout" in the upper reaches of coastal rivers. They claim these fish are no bigger than 10"
So obviously these are salmon and steelhead smolt and if they are in the upper river they are no doubt wild.
I would venture a guess that the over all harvest of actual cutthroat trout this season is minuscule. The damage to wild salmon and steelhead smolt could be severe and everyone know that these little fish are very aggressive and will take just about anything put in front of them.
The alarming thing is that ODFW staff cannot identify smolt themselves so how are they going to help uneducated anglers.
I am bringing this post back to the front because this is something that ODFW should be doing but are not doing.

ODFW is allowing a harvest of 8" minimum coastal cutthroat trout this season. While that is bad enough the potential of the public mistaking juvenile salmon and steelhead for harvestable trout is even worse.
For those of you wishing harvest a cutthroat trout this season and hopefully there are none that read this blog, here are pictures of what to look for.
Instead of killing any wild cutthroat trout how about turning them loose! Not much of a meal to be had with a couple of 8" trout don't you think?
Also remember any cutthroat over 16" with an intact adipose fin cannot be harvested.
Want to kill something? There will be plenty of large hatchery broodstock steelhead youngsters available....just sayin'

This is a typical coastal cutthroat. Note the highlighted areas

This is a steelhead smolt that will be encountered along the coastal streams of northwest Oregon.

This is a coho or silver salmon smolt

This is a Chinook or King salmon smolt

Friday, July 10, 2009

Home Brew and the Metolius

Before we talk about beer, which I'm sure is a subject very near and dear to the hearts of many of you I wanted to share with all of you the good news about the Metolius river. The fight to keep destination resorts and more golf course the hell out of the Metolius basin and it's surrounding areas has been won and the governor of Oregon will sign the bill to protect it into law.

Here is a press release from Central Oregon LandWatch

July 10th, 2009
This coming Wednesday, July 15th, Governor Kulongoski plans to sign House Bill 3298, the Metolius Protection Act of 2009, into law. This historic bill signing is scheduled to take place at the Wizard Falls Hatchery, located at 7500 Forest Service Road 14, just a few miles downstream from Camp Sherman, at 10:30 am.

The event is open to the public, so if you want to see history in the making, we'd encourage your attendance.

Thank you again for your support on this historic campaign, and congratulations to everyone on a momentous victory. We hope to see you at the signing ceremony.

Erik Kancler
Executive Director, Central Oregon LandWatch

This is fantastic news! I cannot say enough about how special this river and it's watershed are. A magical place is the best way to describe it. There is no need for rich, fat cats to tee up beneath the Cascade mountains of Central Oregon. I believe that anyplace such as the Metolius should forever be protected and there are many such places in Central Oregon.
This is a huge victory for, not just Oregonians, but all who love the few wild and wonderful areas of our planet.

Now on to the home brew portion of this epic entry.
I received, as a gift, a home brewing set-up last Christmas. I've long wanted to brew my own beer but never got around to it.
The first two brews were very popular, as any good beer is bound to be, and I actually got very little of it and do mean very little. I also didn't get back the empty bottles that people swore an oath to return.
So brew number 3 is mine and mine alone. Oh I might begrudgingly share a bit with some of my free loading friends and family but this stuff is mine. It's quite a labor of love to do home brew and I'm sure I could get multiple cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon for the money I spend on putting this all together... but hey it's also cheaper to go to Safeway and buy fish right?
I just wish I could make my own single malt scotch but them "dern revenuers" would come and bust up my still.
Now the bottled brew will sit for a couple of weeks before I try one out. I hope I didn't add too much corn sugar which would cause the bottles to explode.
Have a virtual home brew with me this summer and I wish you could partake with me after a pleasant day on the river pursuing trout on dry flies.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

‘Expertising’ and critical thinking skills by Erik Helm

Once again my Wisconsin comrade Erik Helm of The Classical Angler has hit the nail on the head and I want to share his wisdom with you not familiar with Erik's blog.
While it might come off as me being lazy for linking some one else's post here on my blog that is not entirely the case.
Erik is a much better writer than me and with this latest entry he, once again, expressed precisely what I have thought for many years since the internet phenomena has gripped every aspect of our lives and created many fishing "Superstars"
Thanks Erik

‘Expertising’ and critical thinking skills

Everyone who has caught a fish on a flyrod is an expert. That is what one would think when visiting online fly-fishing forums. A topic often begins when somebody new to the sport or someone pushing into a new angle of the sport asks a question such as “What line should I use with this new rod?”, or ”Which running line would work best for me?”

The forum then fills with all kind of answers, both good, bad, and ugly. Some ‘experts’ often fail to place themselves in the shoes of the questioner or ask probing questions before bestowing their ‘sage’ advice.
The forums become a sort of ‘catch 22.” On one hand, somewhere in all the answers is probably some sound advice, but on the other hand, how is one to tell the difference?

Critical thinking skills can help here.

First, if you place a question on a forum, in order not to receive inaccurate or superfluous information one must frame the question properly. Give the question structure and do not leave it open-ended. Instead of asking “What X thing should go with my Y thing?”, tell a little about yourself, where you are coming from, and why the question is being asked in the first place. Give some history as to what spurred the question. Detail the tackle you are using and where the applied solution is to take place: which river, lake, etc.

Then comes the fun part, picking your way through the answers. Ask yourself these questions:

One: Who is answering the question and why? Do they have a hidden agenda? Do they represent a tackle company? Are they a guide or on a ‘key employee’ program and get the gear they recommend for free?

Two: How much precedent does the person have? If you ask for opinions on running lines and someone tells you “I use ‘X’ and it works for me.”, has the person used any other line? In other words, gage the depth of knowledge and the width of knowledge of the person answering the question.

Three: Does the person ask follow-up questions in order to clarify the question? Most solid answers and sound advice comes with follow-up questions.

This will help to sort through all the answers from the ‘experts.’ It surprising how much both good and bad information is out there. When I ran a fly shop, it was common for somebody to come to me with some sort of prejudice due to asking a ‘buddy’ or consulting a forum. Sometimes it was too late to dissuade the customer from an inappropriate decision.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing…