Saturday, February 27, 2010

The North Umpqua by Joel La Follette

The North Umpqua is one of those special river that a fly fisherman will fall in love with the first time he visits. Many a famous angler has wet his line in this legendary river and one legendary angler, Frank Moore, lives along it's banks to this day. I would call the North Umpqua one of the "Mother Rivers" that I talked about recently on this blog. We, here in Oregon, are blessed to have this river along with the Deschutes and Metolius, within the borders of our state.
Unfortunately the powers that be have cast a greedy eye towards this treasured river and it's wild steelhead.There are many who love this river, this jewel of Oregon too much, to stand idly by while the river and it's fish are turned into just another commodity for exploitation..
The short story below is written by my friend Joel La Follette. Joel is one of those that think the North Umpqua and all wild rivers are too important to sell off  for "angling opportunities" and I hope to have more contributions to the Quiet Pool by Joel in the future....enjoy

The North Umpqua has always been one of the truly great rivers to cast a fly for steelhead. Some of the earliest pioneers of the sport found their way to this hallowed ground and left their legends etched in the very bedrock the river flows through. The names they placed on the pools and riffles have been passed down over the years and still inspire hope and faith in modern anglers.
Fishing the Camp Water at Steamboat is like fishing in church. One can stand in the cool waters and gaze up at a towering pallet of lichen, moss, stone and trees more inspirational than the grandest stained glass window. Fog, clouds, rain and snow add to the artist’s brush strokes. Occasionally a deer grazes across the rocky face. This is a living work of art that changes with the movement of the sun and the changing of the seasons. No two moments are ever alike, each is special, and each is different.
Miracles abound here and they too change with the seasons. Life blossoms and is born from the gravel washed for centuries by cool waters. Born travelers return hundreds of miles from far away seas to pass on their history, their purpose. Some live on and again make the journey. Others die and become part of the river. Some life travels only a few feet to break the surface tension and spread their wings. Their dance a testament to the purity of this place. Their birth a sign of the season. Anglers, poets and dreamers also travel great distances to visit this place. Seeking inspiration and things that simple words can not express. It is not just for the challenge of the quarry that brings the angler, although that does call to us. It’s for the refreshing if our hearts and rebirth of our souls. This simple stream can rinse away the burdens we carry to its shores and leave us free to dream of the deeds we will do, the words we will write and the love we will share. It is a place of peace, hope, faith and inspiration.

As I wade the same water as great anglers have; I feel connected to them and the history they made. I feel part of that history and part of the river. One day perhaps anglers will look at this place in time and see a future that was made possible by the work of those who cherished the past and remembered it. For if we had never known of its greatness would we have held it so high as to make it a cause? Would it have just
passed into memory? I know the river will always remain, but what of those things that make it special?
My hope is they too will remain. My faith in my fellow anglers’ efforts to protect and preserve this extraordinary place is an inspiration. Hopefully the river and the ghosts of her past will find continued peace. Peace in the cool green forest.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

101 Green Butt Skunks Collection is Complete

Joel La Follette of Royal Treatment Fly Fishing has completed his labor of love, the Dan Callaghan Memorial fly plate.

This item is now up for auction with the proceeds benefiting the North Umpqua Foundation

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Practicality of Bamboo Fly Rods

Fly rod crafted by Mike Hoffman of Tualatin, Oregon

In the utilitarian sense there really isn't anything practical about a bamboo fly rod. They are fragile, though not as fragile as one might think and they require some care and maintenance that graphite does not require. The action of a bamboo rod is too slow for many that are used to the faster graphite rods and that might make them impractical.
I do not not catch more fish with my bamboo rods nor do I cast better with them. They are two piece which makes transporting them from one hole to another a bit unwieldy.
I have a special affection for bamboo because I caught my very first steelhead on a fly using a 8 foot for an 8 weight Orvis Battenkill rod so many years ago...what a memory.
A good friend recently stated that they just does not get the whole bamboo thing citing the very reasons posted above.
I simply put it this way. Anything that is good for the soul is not impractical. I just feel good fishing a bamboo fly rod and isn't that what we desire in this impractical style of angling?
The great Mike Kennedy did not think bamboo was impractical either. He fished bamboo his entire angling life and even had his favorite rod cremated with him and his ashes sprinkled into the North Umpqua from Mott bridge. I think that is amazing and even thinking about it makes me shiver with a nostalgic emotion that I am sure other bamboo aficionados must surely feel.
Casting a dry fly with the "lovely reed" makes me think of the pristine beginnings of fly angling and how things were pretty simple back then. Fish were not used as political pawns like they are today and there were enough trout available to maybe even eat one once in awhile. Roderick Haig Brown
killed some of the trout he caught and so, no doubt, did Mike Kennedy.
I do not kill any wild trout but wouldn't it be nice to have trout populations so abundant that if an angler wanted to have one for his stream side dinner he could and not feel guilty about it.
So as I lovingly take my "cane" rods out and tweak them for straightness while I wax them for the upcoming trout season I think from now on when someone asks me why I fish bamboo fly rods for trout I will just say "Because I can"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How On Earth Did We Ever Catch Fish Before The Internet?

Today's post is probably going to sound like one of those old guy, "In my day we..." type of rants well maybe it is. You have to remember one thing though and that is the internet is relatively new I mean we are talking about, what?, the late 80's and early 90's?
I am wondering how did we manage to catch any fish prior to the internet?
Anglers are posting fishing reports, hero shots and begging to be given all the prime locations these days. Everyone want a short learning curve to angling success. No one wants to learn the ropes and put in their time anymore. I don't suppose I can blame them but, at least for me, those early years of steelhead and salmon pursuits were my favorite times on the river. We called up the Corp of Engineers hydrologists phone recording to get the latest river forecast because there was no NOAA website to click on for the latest river forecast info.
There were no mega fishing websites to try to glean information from. All we had was the week old bullshit information supplied by Hunting and Fishing News. Oh yeah those were the days before cell phones also so there were no on the spot live updates from your network of fishing friends either.

I started out drift fishing for steelhead and it was necessary to be able to discern what was a steelhead bite and a rock. Some guys took a few years to learn this and I did not catch my first steelhead until my second year. A couple of years was the norm to learn the ropes so to speak.
I had some great times though and didn't even have a digital camera to share my victory with all in the cyber world.
When I started my steelhead pursuits in 1973 the graphite fishing rod was still in it's infancy for cryin' out loud.
So to say it's easier to catch fish these days is almost completely accurate. One thing that we had back in the 70's that is not available today is large numbers of fish! The state was dumping millions upon millions of hatchery smolt into the rivers. December and January might see as many as 7000 hatchery steelhead punched on anglers punch cards on some of the bigger and more popular rivers like the Cowlitz. The wild fish were later in the winter and most guys had moved on to spring chinook by then.
Those were heady days all right. Lots of fish and lots of was a fun and over indulgent time.
So us old dinosaurs of the 20th century did have some advantages in the pre-world wide web years.
I kind of miss those days before cybermania but in my fishing life I really don't need the electronic advantages to plan a trip to the Deschutes in pursuit of trout or maybe a trip to a coastal stream for cutthroat trout.
Heck it's a wonder I catch anything at all isn't it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Study Finds High Rate Of Juvenile Steelhead Mortality In Rivers' Estuaries

With declining fish runs making everyone either scratch their heads or point fingers the findings found in the link below might shed some light on what is happening.
It's kind of a long read but it is an important one.

Study Finds High Rate Of Juvenile Steelhead Mortality In Rivers' Estuaries

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Mother River

I was talking to a friend today and he was lamenting the early closure of the Skagit river in Washington. He called it the "Mother River" and I found that interesting.
What would the designation encompass and what other rivers would fit that description?
To me it would probably take on the obvious designation of a river of beginning. A clear cold and pure place to be sure. Maybe it would entail origins or legendary populations of wild fish. I think that is what my friend had in mind.
So to me the Deschutes would my mother river. I'm pretty sure others would feel the same about such streams as the North Umpqua for instance.
Folks with abundantly more creative writing skills than me have written volumes about the Deschutes. Nearly everything that can be said has been said about this legendary river and I have said plenty about the Deschutes. It's the home of the redside rainbow trout, massive hatches of salmon flies and an ecosystem that is home to both the rattlesnake and steelhead trout. The headwaters of Deschutes is high in the Cascade mountains and where it begins is vastly different to where it ends, draining into the Columbia river near The Dalles. I've never seen another river that can equal the rugged beauty and the wildness of this river.
It is the river where many an angler comes home to. I cannot tell you how many stories I've heard about fishing trips to this river with fathers or grandfathers that many a longtime resident of Oregon will tell.
"I remember when my dad and me used to camp out on the Deschutes" is how many of these stories begin.
I have no such tales and in fact did not fish this river for the first time until I was 20 years old and it scared the hell out of me the first time I fished there. I put my fears aside and decided to trek up the railroad tracks with expectations of yard long rattlers crawling out from every rock.
It was not until I was well into middle age when I actually saw a Deschutes rattlesnake up close and he was not a yard long but maybe a foot long.
Although I got a late start, the Deschutes has always been a river that I want to return to. I have had good days fishing it and I've been thoroughly skunked and humbled by it but I always want to come back and I will until I am no longer able to do so.
We old guys get sentimental about such things as our Mother River. We are fiercely loyal and protective of it in much the same way as one would be towards his own mother and do not take kindly to anyone one abusing her. A river like the Deschutes never falls out of favor even with the onslaught of uncaring river users like has been scene the last decade.
As I was wait winter, the first river where I cast a fly to rainbow trout will be the Deschutes. I mean where else would I go?
There are other rivers I like but they come and go depending one crowds and how favorable the "swinging" water is.
The Deschutes is always favorable in my mind and even though I might get blown off of it during one of it's fickle wind events I don't count that as a lost trip at all. Hell it was worth $60 of gas to get there and back.
I know I've gotten more sentimental over the years, The things that stir a fond emotion in me these days would have scoffed at just a few years ago. Well that is fine by me because in these days of what I call the "Costco" mentality where everybody is out to get all they can with the least expense and effort, an old boy like me always needs to go home to his mother.

Fisheries Experts Call On WDFW To Investigate Unsuccessful, Disease-Ridden Steelhead Programs

By Ted Williams
A number of organizations and concerned fishery scientists called for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its supervising authority, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, to close or investigate hatchery steelhead programs on the Olympic Peninsula that have experienced an outbreak of Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHNV). This virus, for which there is no cure, can be deadly to hatchery and wild salmon alike and is spread from fish to fish. The virus does not affect humans. Adult winter steelhead returning to the WDFW’s Bogachiel Hatchery were found to be infected with IHNV, necessitating the destruction of the fish and 250,000 eggs that the fish produced.
“We cannot have these coastal hatcheries continuing to serve as incubators for fish pathogens,” said Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy, one of the signing groups. In a February 12 letter addressed to WDFW Executive Director Phil Anderson and the Commission, the signatories call for establishment of a scientific panel that would include at least some of the signatory groups as members. “WDFW needs to investigate this outbreak in an open and transparent manner,” Beardslee added.
The letter also calls for the termination of the Snider Creek wild broodstock program run by the Olympic Peninsula Guide Association. “Enough evidence exists to show that the OPGA program has not helped the wild steelhead population it intended to augment,” said Richard Burge, vice-president for conservation of the Wild Steelhead Coalition, another signatory. “By almost any measure, it’s been a failure.” IHNV has also been detected in the wild fish collected for this program.
“There’s no need for any augmentation on the Sol Duc. Instead, WDFW should designate it as a ‘wild gene stock bank’ as described in their Steelhead Management Plan,” said Pete Soverel, executive director of Wild Salmon Rivers. “It’s been two years since the Commission approved the plan, yet no rivers have been designated to protect the genetic material of wild steelhead,” he added.
Other signers include Bill Abrahamse, President of the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited, Bill Bakke, Executive Director of the Native Fish Society, Nathan Mantua, Co-Director of the JISAO/CSES Climate Impacts Group and School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Dave Steinbaugh, Waters West, Port Angeles, Washington, and numerous fishery scientists.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Feel Like Bitching About Winter

I can't remember if I made some sort of half-assed promise not to bitch about winter this year so if I did make some kind of pledge to not whine about winter then too damn bad!
You see here in the Pacific northwest winter plays little mind games with us anglers. Yeah we'll get a few days of balmy 60 degree days and really start to feel somewhat normal again. Hell,I will even break out one of my 15-18 fishing shirts and wear it. You know the type of shirts I'm talking about don't you? They have multiple pockets within pockets and a simpleton like me can actually lose stuff in them. You can feel the object you are looking for but have no clue how to get to it! If I had to put the antidote to some poison I need in one of those pockets and get to it quickly then I'm screwed!
Anyway I'll be feeling pretty good on those false spring days and even start thinking about the Deschutes when old man winter decides it's time to kick me in the groin and rain that crappy cold rain we have up here for the next two weeks.
It's like winter is saying "Back into your hole fat boy I'm not done with you yet!"
I guess I shouldn't complain too much though as it seems like this part of the country is about the only place not blanketed with 3 feet of snow. Yeah I should feel bad for those folks in New York but I don't! That's the price they pay for thinking the west is just the poor step-child in this country and barely worth acknowledging.
Then there are those smart asses who live in the desert southwest and are enjoying their swimming pools and golf course right now. Yeah laugh it up you bunch of martians because when it's 150 degrees in the shade in July and I'm enjoying a beer and the light wind of a summer evening I will not shed a tear for you and your sunburned asses.
All kidding aside though friends I cannot think of a better place to live than here in Oregon. I don't own a snow shovel or even tire chains for that matter.
I don't need to drive anywhere when we get that occasional 1" of snow that freaks all the transplanted Californians out and causes more gridlock than there is in Congress. So since I can't jet off to Maui at the first sign of winter I'll take Oregon any day and hey the first sign of spring is only a few weeks away! What am I talking about?
Pitchers and catchers report February 21st and we can at last be done with the plague that is called the NFL

Friday, February 05, 2010

101 Green Butt Skunks

To View the entire Green Butt Skunk Collection please visit
Joel La Follette's Royal Treatment Fly Fishing

This is just a great project my friend Joel La Follette has put together. Those that contributed to this project range from the legendary to the everyday fly fisher.Some of the contributions are from fly fishing greats like Mike Kennedy, who are no longer with us.
There are flies contributed by Bill McMillan, Frank Moore,Bill Bakke and Mike McCune to name a few.

These 101 Green Butt Skunks will be up for auction and
proceeds from this auction will go to the North Umpqua Foundation
I hope to see you at the unveiling.

The Dan Callaghan Memorial Fly Plate is a project I started just after Dan passed away almost four years ago now. It’s been a labor of love and has offered me a chance to meet some of the Northwest’s best fly tyers and steelhead anglers. In putting this collection together my intent was not to showcase the Green Butt Skunk as a revolutionary fly pattern, as it is not, but to show the influence a single, simple act had on tyers and anglers from all over the world.
By building this collection and offering it up for bid I hope to raise not only money for the North Umpqua Foundation in Dan’s memory, but awareness of things that are too important to lose. Each tyer that offered up a fly has some connection to Dan, the North Umpqua or simply a love for wild fish and the places they swim.
Looking at the collection you see the common thread that runs through each fly, but you also see the individuality of the tyer. Personalities come out into the open as the tyers weave their own magic into these little works of art. Age, background, experience and personal philosophy are included with the feather, fur and steel. It is truly a collection that comes from the heart and soul of each tyer.
As this collection makes it’s way around the state I hope that people get the chance to see all of these things and find their own inspiration. Perhaps it will awaken a desire to protect and preserve things that are important to all of us.
Joel La Follette

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rivers Of A Lost Coast

This movie will be shown for free  courstesy of the Sierra Club and Sportsmen's Alliance of Alaska this coming Tuesday in Portland Oregon....Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hatchery Program Threatens Native McKenzie Redsides

ODFW's Inland Sport Fishing Advisory Committee is meeting in Springfield, Oregon on Feb. 8 and reducing or removing hatchery trout from the McKenzie River is on the agenda for discussion.
The ISFAC was formed last year to help ODFW implement its 25-year Angling Enhancement Plan. The Native Fish Society and Trout Unlimited helped author this plan, and even though the final version is much better than the original drafts, some ODFW staff members are trying to use this plan as an excuse to increase hatchery stockings and harvest on wild fish.
The McKenzie River is a prime example. Roughly 98 percent of Oregon's flowing water is managed for wild trout; however, the McKenzie still has a significant trout stocking program, and native McKenzie redside rainbow trout are threatened by these hatchery fish.
For nearly 100 years, the McKenzie's native redside populations have been depressed, often by the very agencies we've appointed to protect them.
Oregon started planting hatchery rainbows in the McKenzie River in 1921, and hasn't let up since. By 1947, the wild fish population in the McKenzie was already reduced. According to creel surveys, 45% of the fish caught in those years were hatchery fish.
ODFW stocks the McKenzie River from Blue River to around Hendricks Bridge with 113,000 fish. Hatchery trout are introduced to the system almost every week in the prime growing season for wild fish. This competition for food and constant angler pressure for hatchery trout has depressed the wild population of redside trout in 38 miles of river.
There is a consensus in the scientific community that in general, hatchery fish harm native fish populations. Jeff Ziller, South Willamette Watershed District Fish Biologist has called this section of river a sacrifice zone. ODFW and Army Corps of Engineers biologists suspect from observational evidence that the depression of wild rainbow trout populations in the planted zone is substantial, or even severe.
There are several examples of rivers with wild trout populations that have rebounded quickly after stocking hatchery trout was ceased, including Oregon's Metolius and Deschutes Rivers -- and studies on the Lower McKenzie River when ODFW ended stocking in that section of river.