Monday, March 29, 2010

The "Sport of Gravel Raping" by Erik Helm

This post from the Classical Angler by Erik Helm  compliments my annual post about leaving spawning steelhead in the upper rivers alone which follows Erik's piece.
Well, here we are. Spring is in the air, the robins are singing, “Cheer up… cheer up…cheerily!” cardinals are calling their mating song, and ‘fly-fishers’ are on the gravel chasing spawning steelhead. In the past week, the water level has fallen and cleared enough to allow the use of those nifty polarized glasses to spot fish on the gravel. Guys with expensive cigars wade the shallows looking for bedding fish, hook them on nymphs and glo-bugs, and drag them away from their mates during the act of procreation. The poor fish flop around on the gravel until trapped in a net effectively damaging their protective slime layer, and then get to star in grip and grin ego photos.

Is this sporting? I guess the answer depends on what one considers fair chase. Would it be sporting to wait for a deer buck to mount a doe and then shoot it? That is effectively what is happening here.
To me, and this is my opinion, chasing steelhead, or any fish while they are attempting to build redds and spawn is the lowest form of ‘fishing’ shy of intentional snagging. Even the snagger is probably being honest in his or her game, however illegal it is. Gravel rapers on the other hand actually think they are fly-fishing. Sad.
After many years of swinging flies for steelhead, I can spot a gravel-raper just by looks.
Usually the most expensive vehicle in the parking area, Lexi, Range Rovers, and other obnoxiously large and irresponsible SUVs, will belong to them. Often they sport fly-fishing stickers, or even TU logos. The anglers rarely fish alone. They most often show up in twos and threes. It must have something to do with the glory photos, and the sense of camaraderie in pounding the gravel with your buddies ready to offer congratulations on your ‘catch.’ They wear all the latest gear, especially if it has a logo. They dress up to look like some image in their mind of how a fly-fisherman should look. They ask every person they come across, “Have you seen any fish?” They wander around the river in unpredictable directions, most often again, in groups.
Most of these guys are trout fishermen. That is sad in itself. Instead of learning the skill of reading water in a large river, they just do what everyone else is doing, and rely on sighted fish on gravel before they can make a single cast. I am a trout fisherman as well, but it just kills me to see people that I know from the small streams rely on these tactics for steelhead. Would they fish that way on a trout stream? Is that why the streams are closed for part of the year to protect spawning fish? If the streams and creeks were not closed, would these ‘anglers’ hook as many spawning trout off their gravel beds as they could?
It is getting to the point that an ingrained belief, culture, or even tradition surrounds the use of single-hand rods: nymphing, or glo-bugging over gravel. Swinging streamers seems to be relegated to spey rods now. This is sad too. The single-hand rod is an excellent tool for streamer fishing, if only this method would catch on here. If only these legions of anglers in the Midwest ( and Pacific Northwest) would depart for a day or two and not rely on sight-fishing, the sport that would be discovered by them would be enough to put them off the bedded fish forever.
Alas, this takes a leap of faith, and the ability to appreciate a single fish caught fairly after a full day of wading and casting, versus tallying numbers and measuring the skill of the angler by the sheer number of fish to hand, however crude the method. That leap of faith, and sense of fair chase seems to be beyond most anglers. Indeed, they often defend the practice, and I have been told by one fisherman that “He feels sorry for me, if I don’t get enjoyment out of sight fishing for steelhead.” Sight fishing and gravel raping are not necessarily bonded together. If a fisherman walking the banks and looking down into a pool spots a pod of fish holding in the water, and then swings flies or nymphs for them, that is different than fishing bedded fish. In our rivers, 99% of steelhead spotted are on the gravel.
The thing that really bothers me is that these gravel rapers think that, because they are using a fly rod, they are somehow elevated above the gear fishermen or center-pinners that are legitimately hooking their fish. This very deservedly gives fly-fishing a bad name. Being snobby about an abominable method of fishing is just sad. This is sad, and a disservice to all the other anglers, whatever the method or gear, who are actually fishing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Hot Summer Ahead for Fish

As those of you in the Pacific NW know, this is supposed to be a hot summer, and combined with little snow pack, it looks to be very tough going for native fish on most streams in Oregon and Washington. Native Fish Society is encouraging ODFW to stop chinook harvest based on temperature rather than a harvest quota, which is an also outstanding idea. Ideally fishing would stop at over 70 degrees, which is probably an unrealistic goal, but a good place to start when negotiating. You might consider contacting your ODFW district bio and other contacts you have with ODFW suggesting they consider fishing stoppages based on water temperature. Another option is to allow fishing only in the morning or until noon. Last year, ODFW did put out a press release with some information regarding hot temperatures and recommendations to reduce mortality, so at least they have made a step in the right direction already.
Here are those suggestions for warm weather fishing.

•Fish early in the mornings when water temperatures are lower.
•Fish in lakes and reservoirs with deep waters that provide a cooler refuge for fish.
•Use barbless hooks, land fish quickly and keep them in the water as much as possible in order to minimize stress.
•Shift your fishing efforts to higher elevation mountain lakes and streams where water temperatures often remain cool.

Remember that hooking and playing a trout or any salmonid in warm water temperatures is toxic even if you are going to release that fish.  Please Think about curtailing your fishing this summer for the sake of the fish.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fly Fishing Myths - Pacific Northwest Edition

As I sit here impatiently awaiting the UPS driver to deliver my new trout reel I am thinking about some of the legends about fly fishing in this region that simply are not true so here goes.
Feel free to comment....

1.The Holy Water on the Rogue - With a massive dam looming over you and poison oak everywhere I just didn't feel like I was fishing in some sort of sacred water.

2.Using indicators is fly fishing  - Using these is not fly fishing in the truest sense of the word. They are a short cut to success and a gimmick...nothing more. So don't go feeling all smug and superior if you catch a lot  fish using this method.

3.Cutthroat trout are not selective feeders - The bigger ones in the fall are definitely selective.

4.Native north coast summer steelhead exist - No they don't. They say the Siletz has natives but further up the coast a summer steelhead with an intact adipose is a mis-clipped hatchery fish.

5.You can fish along any stream bank you wish to in Oregon - Nope! Not unless the river has been determined to be navigable by the Oregon Department of State Lands. You could be cited for trespassing!

6. Deschutes River Rattle Snakes - They do exist but are very shy and I've only seen a couple of them in 35 years of fishing that river.

7.You can use salmon roe as money in Tillamook County - It almost seems that way and since I do not use salmon eggs I cannot completely debunk this myth (that I kind of started)

8.PNW internet fishing forum owners care about more than just making money - Show me one!

9.Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the CCA are conservation organizations - Funny how these groups are never present when wild salmonids are the issue unless it's to advocate their harvest.

10. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife always does what is best for wild salmonids - Hey are you interested in buying the Fremont Bridge?

11.My profile picture flatters me - Truthfully I am much more handsome in really I am...I'm not lying!!!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Screw Everyone Else! I Gotta Get Mine

After reading what took place at a recent public meeting concerning the depressed runs of fall Chinook on the Nehalem river I felt the need to bring this blog entry back to the top.
For those of you unfamiliar with what has happened to the once huge runs of fall Chinook on this north coast river it's simply this. ODFW  has closed the river to angling for Chinook. Escapement of wild Chinook into the upper river was miserable last year and it's expected to be the same this year. It seems like a no brainer doesn't it? Close the damn harvest!
Oh hell no say many Tillamook county locals. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to act like they are as pure as driven snow in all of this but they are far from it. Remember their mantra under director Roy Elicker? Identify angling opportunities! Sell tags and licenses because we need to keep some empty suits and bureaucratic assholes in this well paying jobs!
Anyway this was posted originally back in January 2009.
Screw Everyone Else! I Gotta Get Mine!!!! This should be the new motto of our country don't you think? Well at least here in the Pacific Northwest when it comes to our natural resources. We fight other user groups for what might one day end up being the last salmon or steelhead. We divert water from rivers like the Deschutes and so it becomes unbearable for summer steelhead to leave the Columbia for what used to be the colder water of this river!
Our land use laws are no longer in place to protect the wild places in our world but to make sure that "I gotta get mine!"
What happened to responsibility and respect for what should be the heritage we leave future generation?
Screw everyone else! I gotta get mine
As the powers that be divvy up the upcoming spring Chinook harvest for next year you can just imagine the coming outrage of those so called sports fishing advocacy groups and their members when other user groups vie for their share of the pie.
Little gets mentioned about wild fish by-catch and the like because why? Screw everyone else! I gotta get mine!This fall when that gentile sportsman on the north coast pulls a revolver out from under his rain coat because some other gents challenges his territorial claim to that dark salmon in the river how do you think he would defend his actions and behavior? "Screw everyone else! I gotta get mine"Go ahead and call me cynical and negative if you want and maybe I am but I've seen a general decline in activism among people about the things we should cherish. "Why does it always have to be about fishing ethics?" is a quote that angers me to the point of giving up!
Maybe it's the internet or maybe it's just a general malaise about anything that may inconvenience us is getting what we believe we are entitled to!
I'm sorry if I may have disturbed someones comfort zone but with the general indifference towards things that should matter it's hard to be very positive about the future of our waters and the wild fish that call them home. Hey there is too much money to be made and I'm gonna get what is owed me. Go visit some fishing websites that have ads plastered all over them! You can see where their motivation comes from.
Would I ever give up? Well why shouldn't I?  I could spend my golden years reminiscing
about the clean rivers and wild fish that I once knew.
I could take out my favorite old fly rod and lovingly wipe it down and remember the fish I caught and released with it. I could write about the heroes of those day who gave a damn about what was happening and didn't care about their reputations or the making of a good photo op! Those good men and women who believed that there were bigger issues at stake than a photo of them holding up just another dead fish or making a few bucks.
I can barely hold my contempt for those who selfishly make a profit on wild fish and care about little else. I said it many times on this blog and I will not quit saying it!
Greedy bait guides on the north Oregon coast sing the praises of using wild fish for little more than hatchery egg machines. What the hell is wrong with these people? What will these bastards do when there are no more wild fish to exploit? What will all the fishing stars of the last ten years do without wild fish to hoist out of the water for a hero photo. I care little about my own reputation as a big mouth and I won't shut up about the way these greedy people come up to you with a sweet smile on their face but their hearts and souls are green! Green with the love of money.
Goddamn these people! Sound strong huh? Makes you a bit uneasy does it? I hope you greedy bastards read this and get pissed! I'm talking to you jerks that yank a wild steelhead off of it's spawning redd where the fish and wildlife department has placed survey flags. Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel isn't it?
Sorry but it needs to be said over and over again and maybe one day these people will understand what knee jerk zealots like myself have been raging about all these years.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Going Solo

I have a favorite fishing partner these days. He is actually the perfect fishing partner and there is no one else I would rather fish with.
He is never late and always knows when it's time to go home. He does not insist in having his own way and always is agreeable to fishing the water I want to fish.
Yeah I am talking about fishing by myself.
I am pretty locked into my own style these days and do not have the patience to deal with other peoples foibles. I can come and go as I please and if I want to drive 140 miles just to fish one favorite hole on the Deschutes then that is what I do!
I have fished with a bunch of different people over the years and some, I have vowed, I will never fish with again and I have kept that vow.
It's not like I do not like to fish with other people but I am getting more and more set in my ways and I want to maximize my fly fishing enjoyment. There are just some people, through trial and error, who put a damper on that.
One benefit of fishing alone is I can talk to myself. I can say "Shane that cast really sucked!" or I talk to the trout I am fighting or about to release.
My long wife spouse always asks me, when I am fishing solo, where I will be or what river will I be fishing. That translates into "Where should they start searching for the body?"  I might meet my demise that way and to tell you the truth I cannot think of a better way to go. The old cliche of "He was doing what he loved when he died" would really be true in my case.
I also like the silence of being alone on the river. The silence sometimes is really deafening because without some one yakking at you one can hear the little subtle sounds of the river. Have you ever heard the sound that a jumping steelhead makes? I'm not talking about the splash either. A airborne steelhead will make a sound like the wings of a bird. You wouldn't hear that with your partner yelling "You the man" at you.
The Deschutes is full of sound to the solitary fly fisherman, even one that is hard of hearing like myself. Maybe it the beaver that is upstream slapping his tail because you are in his way or the sound of an October caddis as it buzzes your head.
Sometimes, though, the words that come out of my mouth when I miss a take on a dry or drop my bi-focal sunglasses into the drink are not particularly pleasant.
All in all though I think that I am a pretty good fishing companion for myself. I know what to expect from my over fed old carcass and when to not take unnecessary chances on the river that an over zealous fishing partner might convince me to take.
I think I have fun chasing trout with this old guy I see in the mirror each morning as I have grown pretty fond of him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Barring Harvest of Wild Steelhead in Washington and Oregon a No-Brainer

 By Roger Phillips of the Idaho Statesman

California is now closed to the harvest of wild steelhead trout.
The state closed the Smith River in Northern California to harvest. That was its last remaining river where anglers could keep wild steelhead. It's about time. Hopefully Oregon and Washington will take notice that wild steelhead are too valuable to harvest. Idaho long ago came to that conclusion, and quit harvesting wild steelhead statewide in 1987. Since then, Idaho's wild steelhead returns have stabilized and in some years flourished, but we still have a way to go before they can be removed from threatened status.
While some people may quibble over how much progress has been made, things have improved. About 12,000 wild steelhead crossed Lower Granite Dam in 1993, the first year wild and hatchery fish were counted separately. Between 1993 and 1997, the year wild steelhead were listed as threatened, an average of 9,243 wild steelhead crossed Lower Granite, which is the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho.
From 1998 to 2009, wild steelhead returns over Lower Granite averaged 38,564 fish. The peak was 76,000 in 2009. That's not to say Idaho's steelhead management is a success story. There's more work to be done before wild fish can be removed from threatened status, but it shows releasing them can make a difference in the size of the returns. Idaho also has thriving steelhead fishing. There's occasional bellyaching by someone who can't take home a wild steelhead, but most people have accepted harvesting hatchery fish and releasing wild ones. It's really a no-brainer. Wild steelhead are among the most prized game fish in the world, and it's not because they make great table fare.They're much more valuable than a meal. Wild steelhead are genetic gold. Hatchery steelhead are raised under homogeneous conditions, so young fish adapt to survive in hatcheries. Wild fish evolve to inhabit specific rivers, and their genetics and life history can differ greatly between watersheds. Washington and Oregon have river systems with healthy wild steelhead runs and fish managers there have the backward notion that because runs are healthy, wild steelhead harvest should be allowed. Many of those rivers also have hatchery fish, and limiting harvest to those fish seems painfully obvious.Oregon and Washington have reduced their wild steelhead harvest in recent years, but more to cover their own tails than to protect healthy wild runs. I've traveled to Oregon and Washington to fish for steelhead, but have actually done better staying home and fishing Idaho rivers. I love both those states and would like to fish there more often, but I am not seeing the type of management that would make me want to spend my time and money there. The most expensive fishing trip I ever made was to northern British Columbia to catch wild steelhead. I gladly released every one I caught, which was the law. As far as I am concerned, the only place where harvesting wild steelhead can be justified is Alaska.
Alaskans take their salmon and steelhead management very seriously and have a long history of protecting fish.  The Situk is among the healthiest steelhead rivers remaining in the world, and it has all wild fish. The river is only 22 miles long, but in some years it accounts for nearly half the steelhead caught in Alaska.
Fisheries managers there allow anglers to keep only two steelhead per year on the Situk, and the ones kept must be at least 36 inches. To put that in perspective, many anglers go years or an entire lifetime without harvesting a 36-inch fish. Even with those tight restrictions - or maybe because of them - steelhead anglers travel from all over the world to fish the Situk.  Wild steelhead are prized by anglers who want to catch a native fish in its natural habitat. Wild steelhead populations are a fraction of their former abundance, but they're resilient fish. If we protect habitat, clear migration routes and stop harvest, they can rebound.
Granted, the first two are easier said than done, but all the third takes is a little political will and common sense. Some of the most famous steelhead waters in the Northwest are limited to catch and release, and those places have become destinations. Recent history has shown that where healthy runs of wild fish return, anglers will follow.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Winter 2009-2010 - The Great Malaise

I struggle during the northwest big secret there since I talk a lot about it here on the Quiet Pool. This winter is different though.
I'm pretty sure I have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. I have the light to help out but this winter has been more of a struggle than usual.
I have been disinterested in most things that I usually enjoy and have been apathetic on the things I am passionate about.
I have several friends that deal with the same thing and they agree that this winter has been a tough one.
Maybe it's the uncertainty of all that is going on in the world, who knows?
Of course the winter steelhead returns continue to tank but it's not like we haven't witnessed this steady decline for the past several years.
I don't know though.
I was born in the Pacific northwest and no doubt I'll die here. There really is no other region I would rather live. I spent 17 years living in Southern California and could not wait to move away from there in 1973. I have visited So. Cal twice since moving away and have not been back since 1986. I'll go back there some day soon if only to visit the grave of my grandfather and go to a Dodger game or two but the attraction of spending a lot of time there is gone.
I long for spring and summer. I want to wear short pants and fish until nearly 9pm. I always love the drive home from the Deschutes near Maupin. How many of you guys who fish the Deschutes know where Pine Grove is? There is the long stretch between Maupin and Government Camp where you really are in the wilderness of the Deschutes National Forest. I really like that part of the drive in the summer.
I can't wait to string up my bamboo rod for the first time. I hope it will be soon.
I want to sit in my back yard and enjoy a beer and feel the cooling breeze of a summer evening.
I really miss going to drive-in movies. Remember hanging that speaker in your window and watching the kids play on the playground in their pajamas? Wonder why we ever got away from that?
I guess these are the things an old guy like me ponders on a cold March night.
Winter will be over soon enough but not soon enough for me.
The first chance I get I am heading east if only to roll down the window to smell the sage...I can't wait.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What Fly Shops Will Never Tell You

Courtesy of

Mr. WILLY BUGGER. (Male, 45 to 65) This customer usually gets dropped off by his wife before she goes grocery shopping. He keeps his elbows firmly planted on the counter, likes to be involved in all conversations—been there, done that—plays with the drag on all the fly reels and buys nothing. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 4.

KID HACKLE. (Male or female, 7 to 17) The future of fly fishing. This keen youngster can probably cast their whole fly line. Extremely dangerous: they’ll ride over 20 miles on bicycle to fishing grounds and know about the latest fly-tying materials before the shops do. Mother will buy waders and boots two sizes too big. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 90.

GARY. (Male, 56) A steady flow customer that keeps the fly shop up to date on Wal-Mart’s pricing. Will buy a new rod and reel every year as long as the shop does not tell Mrs. Gary. Similar to Mr. Willy Bugger but has a true passion for the sport. Does not tie flies, wants pricing by the dozen. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 40.

HUGE TRUCK McFUCK. (Male, 20 to 30) Has a super hot girlfriend with him every time and leaves truck running outside blasting hip-hop. Wants black waders and wading boots. Will spend huge dollars on Sage, G. Loomis, and any reels made in gold colors. Cannot tie flies. Brings in pictures of trout on an i-phone and has a buddy who also wants to get into this “shit”. Buddy also has super hot girlfriend. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 25.

Mr. and Mrs. CADDIS PEOPLE. (Male and female, 40) A strange couple that had a “magical” day fishing dry flies during a Caddis hatch. Will not buy bead-heads, nymphs or attractors. Wife cannot find the right fit in Simms waders—extremely picky. Husband always wants polarized glasses that fit over prescriptions. Not dangerous. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 6.

Mr. OHYEAH. (Male, 35) Dude always says, “Oh yeah.” When asking about the new RIO fly line will say, “Oh yeah,” before the question is answered. Has been seen by other customers on the river yelling, “Oh yeah,” while landing most fish. Has three of everything. Good customer. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 110.

Mr. BUCK WINTERS. (Male, 40 to 45) Claims his private lake near his hunting grounds is loaded with 6-pounders. Only buys “egg sucking leeches” and trolls them behind split shots on his spinning rod. Has pictures to prove. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 12.

Mr. NOT WHAT I HEARD. (Male, 28 to 40) Very dangerous new breed of the E-fisherman: over informed and under practiced. Usually asks questions to challenge the answer. Has been “interested” in that Sage for a year but is weary of its price. Was introduced to fly fishing by Gary. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 15.

OLD MAN CAREY. (Old male, 70-something) Claims that the “Red Carey” was his original fly. Smells like most of the neck hackle. Always asks to use the bathroom and stays for exactly 20 minutes. Has a Hardy reel that the whole shop drools over, and he insists on “split cane and silk lines.” ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = None.

Mr. BEAMER not DREAMER. (Male, 50) Has succeeded in everything in life but fly fishing. Has purchased all top of the line gear and is looking for more. Fishes with two lawyer buddies but still cannot cast. Has signed up for lessons twice but has pulled two no-shows. Well groomed but frustrated. Not dangerous. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 15.

Mr. SHOP GUY. (Male, 20 to 40) Every shop’s dream. Has lots of current reports, has the shop sticker on vehicle and brings friends in to start fly fishing. Ties beautiful flies and brings in samples. Insists on fluorocarbon. Has a separate VISA card just for fly fishing that’s billed to a private P.O. Box. Has cute but “not so bright” wife. ANNUAL FISHING DAYS = 100.

THE FINS TWINS. (Males, 25-ish) Shop is still convinced that these brothers are stealing. One brother always stays by the flies while the other runs around asking questions about float-tube fins. THEY NEVER BUY FINS, THEY NEVER BUY FLIES.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Dreaming of Spring

Through these cold, dark days of winter hope "springs" eternal....enjoy!