Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Big Thank You to ODFW

Now hang on there cowboy I haven't suddenly turned into friend of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife...quite the contrary! So  here goes my end of the coastal trout season rant.
Yes I just wanted to thank ODFW for opening up a harvest season for cutthroat trout after 17 years of catch and release.
I am soooo grateful for the bait plunker in nearly every run that I have cast a fly in previous years. You might think I'm whining because I want my own little fly fishing haven. Well yeah I guess that's part of it but the most important part of it, as proven by this season that ends today, these trout are not present in the numbers that Robert Bradley and Bob Buckman of ODFW claimed. The phony "Oregon Clam Diggers Association",those of your that attended the meeting last October in Forest Grove remember them don't you? , claimed there were huge numbers of these fish available. Well they're not, it was a lie and this season was proof of it. This is the first time in many years that I saw dead cutthroat trout so yeah excuse me for wanting to preserve a little catch and release fishing on a species whose numbers were lied about in order to sell licenses. I know this blog gets read by a few from ODFW and if I've offended them by calling some of their employees liars then tough shit! You so called "stewards" have really screwed things up. I'm pissed off at the way our wild fisheries are being managed or should I say mismanaged. ODFW seems to be hell bent to compromise every remaining run of wild trout, salmon and steelhead left in this state.
Take a look at the salmon fiasco on both the Columbia and it's tributaries and the coastal watersheds and you will understand.
So yes thank you ODFW for being incompetent bureaucrats. I'll see you lying pricks at the  budget hearings next year where you will try to justify your mismanagement....assholes

Friday, October 30, 2009

I Am A Fly Fisherman

You might wonder what the significance of the title of this entry is. Maybe you're are thinking that I am just stating the obvious because this blog is fly fishing themed.
What I am trying to say is just this. I fly fish and only fly fish.Winter or summer it's fly fishing only for me. I don't use bait or spinners or jigs any longer. I am not an elitist in the sense that I look down my nose who do not follow the same angling path as I do because you must remember that it's that fraternity of anglers that I evolved from.
When I fish I don't take a spinning rod along just in case I can't hook anything with a fly. I used to do that until someone somewhere said "Shane, you'll never grow as a fly fisherman until you give yourself wholly to fly fishing" and he was right of course. I spent a lot of years chasing salmon and steelhead with bait, drift gear and the like and I caught a lot of fish in all sizes and had my share of days where I caught my daily limit. It was a grand time too and I look back on those days with a great deal of affection.
I pretty much did all I could do with gear amd bait here in Oregon and Washington and really had nothing to prove any longer. I had dabbled with fly fishing and in fact it was my summer time angling method and the only way I would fish for trout.
Winter steelhead and fall chinook however were strictly pursued with bait or other hardware.
Long story short I found myself not enjoying that rat race any longer. DDriving to the Wilson anxious about whether my favorite run would be occupied.
So one day I laid aside the drift bobbers, jigs and pencil lead forever. My catch rate, of course, went from filled hatchery tags to near nothing and my family, who had gotten used to fresh salmon and steelhead for dinner were left wanting.
In my angling life it was the best decision I ever made.
There is nothing more inspiring to me as a trout rising to a dry fly or a steelhead's first frantic run downstream as my Hardy reel screams in protest.
Do we fly fishermen have a monopoly on angling contentment? Not hardly! Some still approach it as some kind of ego inflating blood sport. For me it's a way to feel young again in this old body. I find myself looking at everything around me in a much different way like walking along a coastal river bank hoping to find a nice piece of quartz or a nice agate.I hope one day to maybe find a native American arrowhead. You notice the life along the shore more than you did when all you were interested in was getting your lead just right in order to get a good drift.
When I fish my favorite trout hang outs I almost instantly notice any subtle difference with it or the area around it.
I never did before! I had fun back then but it was the kind of fun born out of success and that success was measured by the number of fish I hooked.
Some of my most memorable trips in the years since I became "fly only" have been fish less.
There was one trip to the Wilson river while fishing another favorite run that I was serenaded by a bull elk bugling just across the river. The encounters with otter, eagles and bobcats will forever live in my memory.
When I fish with gear I never had to to look around and take notice of a beautiful flower or a water ouzel tying to make a living along the waterline.
So I can say when asked "Are you a fisherman?" I say "Yes, a fly fisherman"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Fly Fishing With an Indicator Is Not Fly Fishing...A Rant Revisited

If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to catch a fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.
Norman Maclean
"A River Runs Through It"

Probably going to get some flack from some of you on this so I will don my bullet proof undies. Let's get right down to it friends!
Attaching a floating device to your fly line leader in order to see a fish strike your nymph is what I call "Bobber and jig" fishing. Now you must understand that I am somewhat a traditionalist and I feel this type of angling has shortened the learning curve to the point that anybody can go out and slam a bunch of trout or even steelhead.
Before you bring up the argument that if I am such a traditionalist why don't I use bamboo rods, silk fly lines and cat gut leaders I did preface the traditionalist statement with "somewhat" and wonder where in the hell would you get a cat gut leader anyway? Were they really made of cat gut? So I am not a fly fishing fascist in the truest sense of the word and I doubt the Fario Club would invite me to join them in Paris this year! I do however think our style of angling is pretty special and really hate to see it bastardized into what it seems to be morphing into these days.
To put an indicator on your fly leader destroys the cast! Isn't the cast integral in our sport? Isn't also the drag free drift? How can you possibly get any pleasure out fly fishing like that? Oh yes, I forgot! You can catch more fish using your bobber and jig set-up can't you? Well if that is what you seek then you really should just get a spinning rod! It's a hell of a lot easier.
To use an indicator on a two-handed spey rod is even worse! Why would you pack that unwieldy 13 foot rod around if you are going to ruin everything by putting a damn bobber on it? Am I missing something here? I've seen more and more spey rods with indicator on them this year than ever before.
Hey if you want to fish that way then fine! Fish that way but I would be willing to bet that Lee Wulff would never fish with a bobber neither would Roderick Haig-Brown! Yes I know Haig-Brown was an innovator and actually killed trout but do you reality think he would go the "Thingamabobber" route? I kind of doubt it.
I have a good friend who manufactures his own steelhead jigs and I'm sure he can set you up on whatever you need.
Yes this is a rant but when I see a fly angler on the Deschutes go straight to his bobber and jig setup I just shrug.
In the final analysis I have to say to each his own and I am sure there are many conscientious fly anglers who feel the need to attach a bobber to their line. They are no doubt ethical anglers, who care about wild trout and steelhead, that use bobbers on their fly rod and I appreciate their efforts.
Arrogantly and Pompously Yours,
Shane the elitist wannabe and douchebag exposer

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The End of the Season

As I drove back from the Deschutes on Monday it hit me about the time the snow started hitting my windshield as we drove over Blue Box Pass.
This was probably my last trip over here this year. I cannot say for sure that I won't make another trip but it's doubtful.
In years past I loved the fall and in many ways I still do but why do the things I love all end at the same time?
The season for cutthroat trout ends on Saturday...trick or treat. This was the first year I saw people killing these wild fish. This was the first season that I actually had to compete with people plunking bait.One favorite riffle, where I spent many a care free summer evening, I saw a huge wild cutthroat trout in a bait plunkers ice chest and it ruined my day.I seriously pondered giving up the pursuit of these fish but that was just a fleeting notion.
Do we get emotionally attached to such things as trout? I know I do and seeing that big dead fish just confirmed my affection for them.
The trip to the Deschutes was different as it usually is in the fall. Very little insect action going on and the ever present wind had the slightest hint of winter. As I waded through the familiar rocks and ledges I just felt a little colder and a little sadder. The Deschutes is such a different place in the colder weather of fall and winter.
Those inviting riffles and pools look so grey and indifferent now.It was just a few weeks ago that they were warm and inviting. Such a stark contrast to the warm spring and early summer evenings of salmon flies and slurping trout. Now it just looks cold and lonely.
Then finally the days of late October brings the end of the baseball season. No more casual glances at last nights box score. No pennant races and for my beloved Dodgers, no World Series.
Since I have no stomach or patience to pursue salmon with some of the dregs of society I will wait for the arrival of winter steelhead and watch with concerned fascination as the rain swelled coastal streams ravage themselves as they do on an annual basis.
As I get older it gets tougher to cope with the fall. There is so much I promised myself I would do this summer but I never seemed to get around to doing it. Now I face another season of dreaming and planning for the fantasy fishing trips of next year. Kind of like that old cry of the die hard baseball fan "Wait 'til next year"

ODFW Feeds the Hungry of Oregon...... Catfood

This is the news release the the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife posted on their web page.

October 23, 2009

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Oregon’s hungry will fare a little better this year, thanks to an extraordinary run of coho salmon.
ODFW staff and volunteers process surplus coho at the Sandy fish hatchery before turning the fish over to the Oregon Food Bank to help feed Oregon’s hungry.
Thousands of surplus coho are being processed at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish hatcheries along the North Coast and Columbia River in preparation for distribution to the hungry through food banks around the state.
“These huge runs of coho could not have come at a better time, with a down economy and Oregon facing historically high unemployment rates,” said Bill Otto, manager of ODFW’s North Fish Hatchery Group.
For the past two weeks, ODFW staff, American Canadian Fisheries employees and volunteers at six hatcheries have been putting up to 2,000 fish a day on ice in plastic containers known as totes and turning them over to the Oregon Food Bank.
“This is a lot of fish, and there are a lot more on the way,” said Ken Bourne, manager of ODFW’s Sandy fish hatchery. “What would we do with these surplus fish if we didn’t have the Oregon Food Bank?”
The totes are taken from the hatcheries by semi-truck to American Canadian Fisheries’ processing plant in Bellingham, Wash., where the fish are filleted and flash frozen for free in preparation for distribution to 20 regional food banks around the state next March
“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to get this kind of premium protein for the families we serve,” said Dan Crunican, food resource developer for the Oregon Food Bank.
No one knows for sure how much salmon will be processed this year – that depends on the coho, but everyone agrees it will be considerably more than the 22,000 pounds of fillets that were donated and distributed last year.
This year’s coho run is on track to be one of the largest salmon returns in the Columbia basin over the past decade, with 703,000 coho forecast to enter the Columbia at Astoria. That compares to an actual run size of 472,000 coho last year. This year’s run was large enough that fishery managers increased the bag limit to three fish a day and extended the season in many areas. Despite these measures, several ODFW hatcheries have been inundated with fish.
“We’ve expanded opportunities for sport fishermen, achieved our hatchery production goals and met our tribal obligations,” said Otto, who oversees 11 hatcheries in ODFW’s Northwest Region. “We are fortunate that we are able to help feed a lot of people who are hurting right now.”
The Oregon Food Bank Network is seeing a substantial increase in the number of people needing help, according to Jean Kempe-Ware, Oregon Food Bank public relations manager.
“The number of people seeking emergency food through the OFB Network is unprecedented,” she said.
The food bank and its affiliates across the state are currently feeding about 240,000 people a month, up from approximately 200,000 last year. More than a third of the recipients are children, according to Kempe-Ware.

What the story fails to mention is these coho are pet food and fertilizer grade.
The picture on the front page of the Oregonian showed coho with fungus on them.
In other word these fish would have been sold for cat food but for some reason some genius at ODFW thought that using these surplus salmon to feed the poor of Oregon and other regions would be a great idea.
What it shows me is ODFW. once again, over did their hatchery production of coho and had tens of thousand unharvested salmon show up at their Columbia river hatcheries. They took the eggs needed to fill their hatchery needs for future hatchery runs and now are left with a huge amount of fish.
I am getting to the point that I am never surprised by the dumb ass things this agency does.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

GREAT NEWS! North Umpqua Wild Steelhead Safe...For now

This posting is courtesy of Matt Stansberry of The Caddis Fly Angling Shop

October 23rd, 2009 ·

Communique from Bruce McIntosh, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Division Deputy Administrator, Inland Fisheries
As the management of North Umpqua winter steelhead is of great interest to Oregonians, last week ODFW made the following decisions regarding the future management of these fish:

•In response to interested publics in the Umpqua basin and Commission direction, ODFW has been looking at a range of options to implement consumptive fisheries for winter steelhead in the North Umpqua River over the last year.

•While no formal proposals were completed, ODFW did have internal discussions that considered the full range of options, from status quo, to a limited fishery on wild winter steelhead, to the implementation of a small winter steelhead hatchery program in the North Umpqua River.

•At this time, ODFW has concluded that the best way to address the management of North Umpqua winter steelhead is through the development of a coastal winter steelhead conservation plan, which would include the North Umpqua.

•ODFW will begin development of a coastal winter steelhead conservation plan in the latter part of 2010. Development of the plan will address all aspects of steelhead management for all the populations from the Necanicum at the north end of the Species Management Unit to the Sixes at the southern end.

•The coastal winter steelhead plan will be developed based on the direction provided by ODFW’s Native Fish Conservation Policy and will seek input and involvement from appropriate public, tribal, state, local, and federal management partners.

Breathe easy, stay vigilant. And thanks for everybody’s support on this.

Matt Stansberry

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Late, Great Fall Chinook Salmon

I don't think a word like abysmal can adequately describes the status of the west coast fall Chinook salmon runs the last couple of years. I suppose there are other adjectives that may be better but I was thinking of something so downward and fathomless and filled with gloom to really project how much in trouble these fish are in.
Whether it be the legendary runs of the Smith River in Northern California or the "pigs" of the Tillamook watershed there are none that deny that these fish are disappearing at an alarming rate.
It's downright scary and no one seems to be able to put a finger on the exact culprit in the fall Chinook's demise. There are probably many reasons and the cumulative effect of all of those reasons are probably why we are where we are today.
So let's look at a few...
Loss of habitat in critical spawning areas might be the largest reason. Siltation, loss of riparian buffer zones, poor logging practices have all play a role. The powers that be have finally recognized this and are trying to do something about it but it may be too late. Good positive strides in proper logging practices have been implemented and we are seeing some progress. Obviously there is more work to be done though.
Of course the numerous hydro-electric dams along the Columbia river and it's tributaries were and are a huge part of the problem. These man made barriers have destroyed countless millions of down river juveniles and have impeded the returning adults. The dams have also provided a smorgasbord of easy pickings for predators of all kinds.
Over harvest by everyone from sportsmen to commercial interests have added to the Chinook's woes over the years and while state agencies have reduced bag limits and catch allocations they ignored the warning signs for way too long.
The greedy sports anglers, armed with the latest internet fishing report, have long sought the coveted Chinook salmon roe to use as bait and while some may call this insignificant it is just wishful thinking to say this has not had some impact. The Tillamook region is still famous for it's "hen hunters" who stripped ripe females solely for their eggs and I would be willing to bet you could use fresh Chinook salmon roe as some form of currency for barter in that area of Oregon. Many salmon "celebrities" have made their living selling the latest and greatest salmon egg cure in order to facilitate those egg hunters.
Foreign troll fleets and Columbia river gill netters decimated these salmon for decades to feed the ever increasing demand from the non-fishing public for salmon to eat. In the past entire coastal economies were built around the Chinook and coho salmon returns of the fall.
Then of course is mismanagement by state fishery agencies. The tales of these bungling managers of these important resource could fill a massive volume. I have posted my criticism of these agencies many times on this blog and will not rehash old rants but I will say this much and I mean this with all of my heart. I firmly believe our state fish and wild life agencies must be reorganized and reformed from top to bottom. It's time for the bureaucrats, save asses and politicians to be prevented from pulling the strings and mismanaging our wild salmonids. Along with all of this is the archaic hatchery policies and practices that have changed little in decades and the effect of hatchery fish on wild fish is well documented. The old saying of "Throw the Scoundrels Out" certainly would apply here.
Finally there is that great unknown called ocean conditions. We are not real sure what goes on out in the salt but we do know that pollution and, yes, global warming have an effect and will continue to do so until some enlightened people who can make a difference will step up and do it.
I would really like my grand children to be able to watch in wonder the ritual of spawning salmon or witness a massive Chinook plow it's way through a shallow riffle on it's way to it's ultimate destiny and fate.
We will be a poorer world without the Chinook salmon and indeed any wild salmon or trout to enjoy and cherish for future generations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Confessions of a Cynic

Am I a cynic? Do I take a negative view of what is happening to our wild salmon and trout? Do I see the proverbial glass as half empty?
Yes to all of the above!
I don't enjoy being a cynic. I wish that we didn't have a state agency that cares little about our wild salmonids and I wish I could become a fan of ODFW... I really do!
Thing is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is an agency out of control with an agenda that does not bode well for wild fish.Here is an example of what I'm talking about.
Do you realize that ODFW has it's greedy eyes on perhaps the last remaining decent population of wild winter steelhead? The North Umpqua runs of wild winter steelhead have long been a target of just about everyone who just cannot stand to not be able to kill a wild fish in order to sate their ego.
Then there is the steelhead broodstock programs that put the coastal wild winter steelhead into a tailspin. The recovering populations had the rug pulled out from under them with this program. All one has to do is talk to a river guide and they will tell you how few spawning redds there were the last few seasons. By river guides I'm talking about those that have nothing to lose by telling the truth! There are plenty of bait guides on the north coast who will exaggerate their catch reports to the local ODFW office in order in order to keep these wild fish raping programs going. These are the same guides that run trips that fish over spawning fish in order to get their clients a hook up or two.
I could right volumes about the coastal cutthroat trout mess that was foisted on the rivers of the northern coast.
So yes I am a cynic and will continue to be as long as this states self proclaimed stewards of the resource change course and actually live up to their mission.
When will that happen? Cynically I do not see it happening until there is some visionary leadership in place that will clean house. As long as the addiction to hatchery programs and bait guide welfare still influence policy then I guess I will remain the grumpy old complainer that I am.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mist on the River

The autumnal equinox was most assuredly upon me as I journeyed to the northern coast yesterday for a day of pursuing coastal cutthroat trout on a fly.
The leaves of the coastal corridor were well into their autumn regalia of reds and oranges as I drove along in the constant rain.
As I arrived at my first destination I saw that there was a fine mist rising from the river. The river isn't at it's full autumn flow but with the turning leaves and the mist the scene was surreal and beautiful and the eager cutthroat trout just added to the beauty of the scene.
I fished at several different likely cutthroat hangouts on 4 rivers and they all had this mist rising from them. I absent mindedly left my camera at home so the photograph in this posting was borrowed from the internet so you can get an idea of how this looked.
In the last several years of my angling life I have avoided as much interaction with fall salmon bank fishermen as possible. While there are many who fish with respect and ethics there are some that do not and I make sure to give them a wide berth on the river.These are the ones that make the most noise and throw away the most garbage along the river bank so while these "sportsmen" may be in the minority their presence is profoundly felt by all that are in the area. The salmon runs this year have not materialized on the upper portions of these coastal rivers yet and so I had my choice of places to cast my fly without the company of these unwashed masses.
There was a small hatch of stone flies and blue winged olives going on that the trout were mildly interested in and instead they were likely snacking on emerging October caddis which would provide a more filling meal.
There were a few lonely coho salmon rolling in the slower water and one near death chinook that put on an aerial display that would have been the envy of any steelhead as he neared his unavoidable demise after completely his mission of procreation.
I used to love the fall as it, at least to me, was a season filled with so much and such little time to do it all. The sounds of migrating waterfowl and changing leaves always got me excited. The return of the fall chinook was near and that meant fresh meat and fresh bait for the freezer.
These days though I am almost melancholy when autumn arrives. It means that the cold of winter is near and it means that the winter of my years grow nearer also. I think about what the next year will be bring and how this old broke down fly fisherman will fare. I prefer to fish alone more and more in this autumn of my own life because I am not as patient anymore with the quirks of other anglers and do not want to force my own quirks and foibles on anyone else. I like it this way and am seldom lonely on a river as I have the shore birds and swaying firs to keep me company. I will make at least one or two more coastal trips for my beloved cutthroat trout and one or two more trips east of the mountains for the steelhead of the Deschutes.
While the change of season makes me somewhat sad it also is still an enjoyable time to be alive here in the beautiful and awe inspiring Pacific northwest.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Harvest Mentality Lives!

Yes the need to kill wild fish is still flourishing in Tillamook County folks.
While fly fishing for cutthroat trout last Friday on the Trask and Wilson rivers I witnessed it and can, unfortunately, report that it is quite well and still very much in force.
I had just pulled into a favorite tidewater stretch on the Trask river and encountered a couple of women "plunking" for trout. Lo and behold they hooked one and were desperately trying to remove the hook in order to put it on the stringer one of the kids that was with them was eagerly holding at the ready. Well as fish do, this lucky trout managed to wiggle off of the hook and land back in the water. Of course these two gals were mortified especially with me chuckling out loud. They soon left and took their bait with them.
How do I know that they were not intending to release the trout you might ask? Listen friends you don't use bait for catch and release! Well some do I guess.
I moved over to the nearby Wilson river to try my luck. I was fishing a run that had produced trout in the past and hooked up immediately.A young man who was there with his wife and baby commented "Well there's dinner tonight huh?" The fish was all of 10" mind you. I politely replied that I would never kill one of these wild trout.
Now one might think that these are isolated incidents but after fishing the coastal region for many years I have found that catch and release is the exception rather than the rule! Only when folks are forced to release wild fish will they actually do it.
It's not just a Tillamook county phenomena so don't think I am singling just this region out. It's a coast wide thing where locals have not come to grips with the fact that their salmon and trout are disappearing. Gone are those days of bringing home huge chinook salmon and stringers full of "harvest trout"
The bait guides claim that the wild winter steelhead populations are in fine shape but I think they are exaggerating and even down right lying so they can continue to get their broodstock programs funded. They claim that the wild steelhead are plentiful enough to warrant the mining of wild eggs for use in these hatchery programs.That along with district fish biologist "cooking the books" in order to provide these bait guides with a chance to make money on the backs of wild steelhead.
I've done redd surveys the past few years and what others who have done surveys and we are all seeing the same thing! There is an alarmingly low number of redds in the coastal rivers.
So choose for yourself who you think is right!
The harvest mentality will probably never go away though as long as there are remnant runs of wild salmon and steelhead to plunder by the ignorant and greedy.