Monday, December 19, 2011

"Rasslin" with Salmon

In this corner, weighing in at 25 to 30 lbs. fresh from the Pacific ocean...the champion of anadromous salmonids...Oncorhynchus tshawytscha AKA King Salmon!!!!!
and in this corner, weighing in at TOO DAMN MUCH,the stumbling angler....AKA Dumb Ass!!!!!
As Michael Buffer would say "LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE"
Yes that is what it seemed like as I struggled to help my friend land his very first fall Chinook salmon on an Oregon coastal river a few weeks ago.
The river was running pretty high when John hooked this brute on what amounted to steelhead tackle. John fought the strong flow as much as the fish and with the river being so high there was little if any room on the bank for him beach this big fish.
I coached him along as he played give and take with the fish ever fearful that his light tackle would fail him.
After what seemed like an hour (more like 10 minutes) the fish was ready to come in. With no bank to slide the salmon up on, it was up to me to land John's fish so he could stay on his girlfriend's good side and play hunter/gatherer bringing home some fresh meat. All of John's future fishing trips rested on my shoulders as I positioned myself to "pin" this fish. Well what happened next would have been an excellent submission to the funniest home videos show but thank God no one was filming. I pounced on this salmon and he was not quite ready to surrender! With his broad tail he scooped up a big finful of sand and mud and threw it right into my face.Pissed off now, I grabbed this slimy bastard with both hands as he and I "rassled" in the shallow water with me taking on water in my waders from the thrashing about. Since John did not have a salmon club to beat the fish senseless I directed him to take a thick piece of shoreline drift wood and bonk the big fighter. Fortunately that worked and his prize was harvested.
I was very happy for John as I brushed sand and grit off of my face and out of my mouth. He had gotten his first fall Chinook and peace would reign in his home.
But wait!!! A few minutes later I hooked a very acrobatic winter steelhead that actually did kick my ass! As I was thinking about how I would be cooking this 10 lb. or so hatchery fish he jumped one more time, spitting the gear which smacked me right in the was a knock out and all I went home with was a fat lip and a gritty taste in my mouth.

Many thanks go to "Al Baker" for encouraging me to capture this epic moment of angling technique for all of posterity....Merry Christmas to all

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


They can bring you to your knees after an encounter, leaving you a slobbering, jelly-legged, quivering mess! These sea going rainbow trout will bring a seemingly sane person out into near blizzard conditions in pursuit of them.
To the non-angler this behavior surely must seem like masochism or insanity at the very least. In my years of pursuing these fish I've hiked 5 miles up the Deschutes canyon in blazing heat August after summer steelhead. I have fished in weather so cold that the water not only froze in the guides of my rod but also froze my reel thus rendering it useless. It's hard to explain to someone who has never caught a steelhead why those of us who have will do almost anything to hook one.

Steelhead trout (oncorhynchus mykiss) are the fish of legend from the coastal rivers of British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and California to the mighty Columbia and it's tributaries like the Deschutes, Sandy, Snake and it's tributary the Clearwater. Steelhead have also been introduced into the Great Lakes of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to name a few. They are the premier coldwater game fish in North America and are second only to Atlantic Salmon (Salmo Salar) as the greatest freshwater game fish worldwide but some would argue that steelhead fight better.
Steelhead trout have captured the imagination of generations of anglers. Celebrities like Jack Hemingway and Zane Grey sought them on the banks of the famous North Umpqua and Rogue rivers in Oregon. The rivers of British Columbia like the Kispiox, Skeena, Bulkley, Thompson and Dean are truly the rivers of dreams because of their large strain of wild steelhead.
So why do I love them so much? They are the truly fish of MY dreams! Their wild abandon when hooked is unforgettable and gut wrenching in it's fierceness. I can remember many of the steelhead I have hooked in the 38 years of fishing for them and I think it would be safe to assume that other steelhead anglers can do the same. They connect us to those fabled steelhead anglers of long ago like Roderick Haig-Brown and Mike Kennedy and the modern contemporaries like Bill McMillan and Lani Waller.Many celebrity steelheaders were made famous by the fish and not vice versa!
Wild steelhead numbers are in an alarming decline throughout the northwest and it is truly enough to bring hardened steelhead anglers to tears. We will never again see them in large numbers and to those that really care about this fish it breaks our hearts.
I remember my first steelhead from Oregon's Sandy river from back in 1974 just like it was yesterday. Each steelhead I have caught over the years was a unique encounter that will be with me through the rest of my days and honestly what other outdoor pursuit can do that?
There is no such thing as a casual encounter with a steelhead and even in their inferior hatchery version they still battle better than anything swimming in fresh water in this part of the world.

I have an affection for cutthroat trout not unlike a doting father would have for his fragile newborn. With steelhead it's more like a torrid love affair! You obsess over these fish like nothing else. Dec Hogan calls it "A Passion for Steelhead" and that explains it best.
People might wonder why some of us take our passion to a visceral level when our beloved steelhead are threatened by those that have no soul. We mourn the death of any wild steelhead because of the love we have for them.
So if you have not had the chance to fish for one of these magnificent trout in their wild form then do so and at all haste because we are nearing a day when they might be just a fond memory of a loved one lost.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Most Sacred Place

On our 2009 vacation to Hawaii I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oahu.
As I looked down into the rusting gun turret of this battleship I could not help thinking of the more than 1000 Sailors and Marines entombed in the ship.

What would have these brave men accomplished in their life if they had not died on that December morning 70 years ago? Could one of them found a cure for cancer or maybe one of them might have been elected president. Perhaps their offsprings would have done great things and made the world a better place.

I'm sure this has all been pondered before over the years.
To go to the Arizona memorial has been something that I have wanted to do all of my life and to actually go there was a surreal experience.
The diesel oil from the wrecked battleship still seeps to the surface.

I knew it would be an emotional time for me and it indeed was.
To all who read this and have a sense of history you owe it to yourself to visit this most sacred place.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A River in Winter

Highway 6 ribbons through the dark Pacific Northwest rain forest on this late fall day but in reality it is winter despite what the calendar says. It is something that all of us that call this part of the country home know all too well. The alders and maples have long since forfeited their summer garb, and in the low light of a winter sun, look stark against the gray sky.
Recent rains have swollen the river to a busy flow that is mostly the constant in wintertime. No longer do the leaves swirl in the dark tannin colored pools as now the river turns an almost slate color as if to define the coldness of it's water and winter itself.
The summer and fall river of just a few short weeks ago is now foreboding as if to warn of the dangers in it's water. The wildlife that make their living along shoreline go about their business as gulls wheel over head worrying about dead and decaying salmon that are just out of their hungry reach.
Man might be able to channel, dam and divert the river but if given the chance the river will always reclaim what it lost due to man's interference. The river in winter will reluctantly submit seemingly waiting for the right opportunity to rebel.
I have to take this winter river seriously on these cold days. The river that I waded on a carefree summer or fall day is now intimidating in it's winter power.
The river in winter is a cold and dangerous beauty that demands respect and reluctantly gives up it bounty. I spent almost all of last winter dealing with someone who needed help but refused to take it and my fishing along with my over all well being suffered. In the darkest days of that time I could have used the river for solace and renewal and this year I will do just that.
While winter is not my favorite time of year this year I will embrace it as the journey we need to get through to reach the promise of spring. It is much like our own lives.
I liken the river in winter as more of a time of cleansing and a refreshing of the stagnation of summer. It's a necessary thing that occurs but it is not always pleasant much like my own experiences.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I had the opportunity to be among the homeless,poor and as Simon and Garfunkel called them, "ragged people" today. Doing that makes me appreciate all that much more what Llemonte does on a daily basis. Some call this segment of our society freeloaders. I just saw them as people who wanted a hot meal and a dry place to eat it on Thanksgiving. I learned a few of their stories as I chatted with them today and who knows maybe that could have been me. A bad break here or there in the past and it might have been me getting a free Thanksgiving dinner. What I took away from today is something that some already knows and that is these people are of value and should never be cast aside because it is inconvenient to deal with them. I know that there is no other place I had rather have been today.
Realistically my serving the homeless one day a year is not a big deal. The folks that do this every day are heroes in my book and I think they are wonderful are are true servants.
Happy Holidays Everyone

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't Hurt Your Arms Boys

So here I go on another rant about the fishing superstars that currently plague our northwest rivers. If you don't want to read it then log in over on Facebook and count all the "friends" you have, most of whom you never met.
A truly great fisherman never has to trumpet his own success or posts a bunch of pictures on the internet fishing forums to show what a fishing stud he is. Sorry boys but I am not impressed in the least! Yeah you can catch a bunch of salmon by back bouncing eggs or pulling plugs from a boat but so can thousands of other guys. You have no original ideas and have pretty much ripped off your fishing techniques from someone else.
The truly great anglers does not seek attention or notoriety and in most cases shy away from that egotistical childishness. I have a close friend who is that way and I will not even mention his name because he would not want me to. He is the best at what he does and that is steelhead fly fishing with a spey rod. He is almost without peer when it comes to casting a two-handed rod. He revolutionized spey casting with his innovative ideas but do hear him pound his chest and talk about how great he is? Never, even though he easily could.
In conventional gear steelhead and salmon angling there was none better than the late Rich Pierzynski was the best there was. Did you see him with his face plastered all over Salmon, Trout and Steelheader magazine? Not at all! He didn't need to. He was the best and did not feel the need to constantly pat himself on the back like these "adolescents" today.
Not even all the younger guys are arrogant jerks. I know one young fly fishing guide that is paying his dues and has become very successful at what he does. He doesn't shit in his own back yard by taking pictures of his success on recognizable rivers. My hat is off to him and he is not the only young fishing guide that is that way.
So I guess what it is I am trying to say is simply this. Most anglers are put off by braggarts like we see on the world wide web. They usually do nothing as far as conservation goes and are arrogant assholes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Egg Whores...The Final Chapter

Who Gets the Eggs?

There is really not much I can add to the thread linked above from It offers an insight into the greed, pettiness and over all stupidity that often comes with the use of salmon eggs. Read it and come to your own conclusion.

I used roe for bait at one time and I know how the lure of an easy catch made me feel. I would love to see the use of salmon eggs for bait restricted especially in streams with wild salmon and steelhead populations.
You have to admit it though. These bait guys are an entertaining lot aren't they? When I catch a hatchery winter steelhead and gut it on the stream bank to (legally?) toss the offal back into the water for stream nutrients the eggs go back in the river too!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Desperately Seeking.....Water?

So here we sit with only two weeks and two days before Thanksgiving. At this time of year we should be seeing storm after storm rolling in from the Pacific like a bowling ball rolling down the lane but not this year. I am wading the coastal rivers with impunity these days because there has been little rain.
You see we Pacific North westerners are a jaded bunch. We know that the rains are coming but still we complain, for some strange reason, when they don't come when expected. Then we bitch like the whiners we are when it rains too much.
Lack of water has put a serious crimp in salmon fishing this season. Low, summer-like flows have caused the Chinook salmon to be trapped in a series of deeper holes on their way upstream to their home spawning gravel and all the while their flesh literally deteriorates from their skeletons.
I don't fish for salmon much anymore because the un-washed  bait chucking masses who call themselves fishermen cramp my style. I've gone on about this crowd many times on this blog so I will spare you the explanation of why I detest this group.
I do like to get out and stretch my "spey" legs so to speak and get some casting in for preparation of the upcoming winter steelhead season. Yeah yeah I'm a fly fishing snob so just deal with it.
Anyway it would be nice to have some moving water with which to swing my fly and there isn't much moving water to be had down in Tillamook county.
This is supposed to be a "La Nina" winter meaning it is supposed to be very wet. Well last year was that type of year and we had rain until May. Wonderful!!!
La Nina huh? What damn meteorologist came up with naming colder than normal ocean current after some poor little Hispanic baby girl? I think "It's going to be another shitty winter" current would be more appropriate name don't you? 
Ah well such is life in the Pacific Northwest. We complain about the weather but no one does any thing about it right?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The End of the Season

I wasn't even going to fish the last day of the coastal trout season when I got up this morning. I concluded that it had been a good late season for me and my fly rod and the last day wouldn't matter.
I ended up going anyway, leaving two hours later than I usually leave. As I made my way down Highway 6 all the signs of fall were there. The garishly colored fall maple leaves pirouetted down on the road as they fell from the trees like a sad ballet dancer. The fir and hemlock trees stood tall, like giant sentinels standing vigilant above the lush Pacific Northwest rain forest.Yes indeed fall has fell!
I visited my usual haunts with little success now that the bait anglers had descended upon nearly every one of my favorite trout runs. With an array of salmon eggs, sand shrimp and God know what other bait concoctions polluting the water of my trout hangouts there was little chnace that a willing trout could be dissuaded into anything artificial.
The earliest arriving Chinook and coho salmon rolled in the slower water of the Wilson river as they neared their destiny of procreation and then death. Their once chrome bright vestiges had given way mottled browns, greys and even the white of a leprous like fungus.
This was Halloween and the sidewalks of Tillamook was filled with pint-sized ninjas, princesses, goblins and ghouls plying for the sugary handouts the local merchants were supplying. It slowed my progress to one last trout hole on the upper Trask but I didn't mind watching the children do what I had done some fifty years prior and that was to score some candy.
Dusk was quickly drawing closed the curtain of the 2011 season as I made it to the upper Trask to fish one final hole. I made my way through the ever damp ferns and moss to the river and was rewarded with one last bright coastal cutthroat trout on the very first cast.Further attempts to catch one last bit of magic of the dying season proved fruitless and so I decided it was time to go home.
As I travelled eastward along the lumbering evergreens along Highway 6 toward my home I was kind of sad that the season was done. Seven months seems like a very long way off and who knows what will take happens in my life during those seven months. A long,wet and cold winter lay ahead of me and winters are getting to be more of a struggle the older I get. Yes I will take out my Spey rods and pursue the ever fleeting winter steelhead on a swung fly but the lazy days of summer and fall are gone like the baseball season that had just ended. I will revel in my triumphs of the season just past and second guess myself at the failure of poor knots and too many lost fish.  Oh there will be a time in the dark of winter when I take my bamboo fly rod out and give it another coat of wax as I dream of the warm days of spring yet to come.
Have a good winter everyone

Friday, October 21, 2011

Egg Whores Part II

Just about the time I think the whole salmon roe frenzy in Tillamook county cannot possibly get more ridiculous I read stuff like this post below that appeared on a popular internet website.

"I was able to get into a few hens on a coastal river to up my egg supply. They ended up being more on the dusky side and are not table fair. Anybody need them for crab bait or fertilizer?"

Is this guy for real? Sadly yes he is and unfortunately typical of the mind set of many salmon anglers. This practice is called "hen hunting" and is a contributing factor to the dwindling populations of wild Chinook salmon in the Tillamook watershed and has long been practiced by salmon fishermen and also professional bait guides throughout the region.
I find it more than disgusting and not only for the practice itself but the fact that others think what this asshole is doing is okay.
Fishing the upper stretches of these coastal rivers for salmon, especially in low water conditions like we have now, you are guaranteed dark fish that should be left to spawn.Like I've said this "hen hunters" are no better than gill netters.
I hope that an effort can be mounted to prevent crap like this from happening,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Just Doesn't Get Any Better

My affection for coastal cutthroat trout is well documented on this blog and they are my favorite fish to pursue on a fly rod.I unabashedly declare my love for these mysterious coastal trout. To say the last three weeks of this season have been nothing short of phenomenal would be a lie. Big trout and lots of them! I fish almost entirely alone on my coastal rivers because the low water has keep the fall salmon in tidewater. Not many fly fishers actually pursue them thinking that they are not worth the effort for some reason. Hey keep thinking that and stay over on the other side of the Cascades if you cannot appreciate a fish so unique and enjoyable as the cutthroat trout. Yes they are an aggressive salmonid who will take a fly with gusto. The coastal rivers do not have the abundance of food for trout that rivers like the Deschutes does. Cutthroat trout are predators in a way the is unlike rainbows and anything that looks like food they will strike and strike hard. I have had strikes so savage from cutthroat trout at times that my rod is almost jerked from my hand.
The last couple of years I have been discouraged at the lack of trout on the north coast. Could some of it be over harvest? I think in certain areas like the lower Kilchis that is absolutely the reason for their dwindling numbers. Easy access and bait has spelled the doom of those fish. Any area that has easy access is going to be over fished and the important age class of those trout are killed off. Simple really. Kill the bigger spawning adults in a certain area and viola! No more fish. Areas where the bait slinging public cannot easily access the trout there fare much better. I,fortunately, have access to one of those areas.
With the end of the season looming I will be spending some quality time with oncorhynchus guys that have not experienced the joy of these trout are poorer for it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around?

I am not a religious person. I am cautiously skeptical about all religion buth ave to admit that Jesus had some pretty cool things to say.
I might believe in Karma but only in it's simplest form. I do or do not have success while fly fishing because of a good deed I did in the past or get skunked because I stole a pack of baseball cards from WT Grants in 1962? I don't know about all of that but I do think there is something to the old saying "What goes around comes around"
I did a couple of good deeds this week and the very next day was rewarded with an epic day of cutthroat trout fishing. Coincidence? Maybe or maybe not.
So if any of you wants to buy me a new Bob Clay bamboo Spey rod with a Bogdan reel then consider the rewards you will reap while fly fishing! If you don't then I hope all the eyes on your fly hooks are filled with glue.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dangers of Hatchery Salmon and Steelhead

Click on the link below for an eye opening article by John Larison about the damage that hatchery salmonids do from Fly Fisherman Magazine.

Why hatchery salmon and steelhead are so dangerous

Not all wild steelhead used in broodstock programs are killed after they are live spawned

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Quiet Pool Reflection

In reflecting back on five years of doing this blog I am wondering if I have stayed true to what I wanted to accomplish with the Quiet Pool. I've made a few friends here over the years and a few more enemies too unfortunately. As I've grown older I guess I've become something of a cynic when it comes to human nature and have come to the determination that we humans are a failed and selfish species by in large. I have railed against ODFW, apathetic sports anglers, bait chuckers and even other fly fishermen and I firmly believe in the importance of wild fish and clean rivers. Those that have been the target of such wrath by me deserved it in my opinion and I remain unapologetic. Protecting wild salmon and steelhead along with banning bait cures and reforming hatchery practices are two things I believe in and always will.
I do feel, however, that I've gotten away from some of the beauty I've written about. When I wrote "The Soul of Fly Fishing" it was an examination of my own soul as it relates to this endeavour I've chosen to pursue.
I know there are many who know what it was I was trying to say but I fear most of it was lost on many people who read it.
I'm not about catching a mess of fish. If I was I would have stuck with conventional gear and bait! There are many people out there who catch  a lot more fish than me....big deal. Maybe it's silly to romanticize fly fishing the way some of us do but really it comes down to doing what makes you feel good and what you enjoy.Stress should never be a part of fly fishing. Enjoying what you are doing is! That is what it is all about for me and with the joy comes a deep and abiding reverence for the rivers and the wild trout and salmon that inhabit them.
Really that is the only agenda that I have ever had on this blog. The Quiet Pool is about fly fishing, conservation and life and to me that is what I am about in my angling experience. Too many times we tend to trivialize the importance of those things in our angling life that should be taken more serious. To marginalize wild fish is unpardonable if you call yourself a sportsman. We fly fishermen certainly do not have a monopoly on angling ethics but it seems like those groups that do the most good for the resource are mainly fly fishermen? Why is that?
So I am unsure how far I will take this blog but as long as I have something to say then I will say it.
Oh and one more thing.Using pegged trout beads and indicator causes blindness....cheers

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In Praise of Lost Fish

Why would I be praising lost fish? Think about it for a minute. If it were not for those legendary and mythical "Ones that got away" where would our sport be? We can take an obscure lost trout of undetermined size (most likely pretty small) and that trout, through the years of retelling the story, can grow to trophy proportion.
Now of course I would never stoop to such fibbing about my fly fishing conquests but I know a few people who would.
Whenever an angler starts a fish story with "This is no shit!" You know you are in store for a a tapestry of lies.

We have to have these lost fish as a way to BS around the fly tying table or fill in the times when the river are our of shape or we are enjoying a cold adult beverage with a few "truth challenged" buddies. I think that over the years these angling tall tales become fact in our own minds and we end up not really knowing if we, ourselves , are telling the truth. There was never anyone to call us on our tales and until that advent of the digital camera there was never photographic proof.
Again you must understand that I would never do that.
It's a pretty harmless vice actually and in truth can turn a thorough skunking into a semi-successful day of fishing with a few well placed exaggerations.
When my wife asks me how my fishing trip had gone I usually reply "hooked a few". Those few may have been smolt or rocks or quite possibly an over hanging branch but she never queries beyond that so I do not have to explain just what it was the  I hooked.
We all have had fish that were hooked and lost that stay with us forever. It might have been that trout that spooled me or a hard fighting steelhead but our fleeting and dramatic encounters with these memorable fish just makes all future embellishments more special and it keeps us coming back.
How many of you think about those lost fish? How much larger has that fish grown over the years?
Stretching the truth is part and parcel with angling and maybe that is just another part of what makes fly fishing so charming.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Just About Says It All Doesn't It?

“We cannot have “wild-only” too many places around the state as they would not be able to support recreational fishing as the existing habitat does not produce enough fish.”

Steve Williams, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fish Division. July 2011

Pretty much sums up the thinking at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn't it?
It that short statement by the deputy director, fish division of ODFW shows that agencies true color. Not that this is much of a secret mind you.
ODFW has marginalized wild salmonids since way back in the 30's so this statement is not a new revelation at all.
Just look at what is happening even in the past few years! Dwindling wild steelhead, trout and salmon populations in favor of a better hatchery product and all for "angling opportunity.
Believe me as we get ready to fight the battle of regulation change in 2012 we will shove what Mr. Williams has said right up their asses at commission meeting and hearings.
You cannot play ball with these bureaucrats because in the end all they want to do is save their own sorry asses. They cannot compromise because it's their livelihood at stake and screw wild fish!
Can we let wild salmonids be only a memory, a pleasant experience from the past? Not me.
More later!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Sportsmen? Yeah Right!

I'll admit it! I'm discouraged. No it isn't because I'm not catching a bunch of fish and it's not because my Spey casting sucks either. Actually I've never cast better since I first took up the two-handed rod.What I'm discouraged about the state of our cold water fisheries and the apparent indifference that people have towards it.
Our angling heritage is in trouble and it's because people see wild fish as nuisances that they have to put up with since they cannot kill them. It does not matter what kind of shape a population of wild salmon or trout is in there is always someone wanting to kill them even to the risk of extinction.
Apparently our mega-expensive hatchery programs are not enough to sate the greed of some while other hide behind phony so called conservation groups like the CCA, Tillamook Anglers and Association of Northwest Steelheaders and pound their chests like they are actually doing something. These groups are wolves in sheep's clothing whose ultimate goal is more harvest for their greedy membership.
I've seen this attitude in the public meetings that ODFW has to determine how to manage endangered salmon runs. There are people that would gladly kill the last fish!
How did we arrive at this attitude? It's nothing new and all you have to do is look back of old fishing photos. We over harvested to the point that the once teeming runs of Columbia river salmon are just a memory. They are gone and cannot b brought back to anything close to their former numbers.
I'm not just talking about commercial fishing either. Our sports fishing forefathers killed trout and steelhead in huge numbers. Catch and release was decades from it's inception and we killed these fish like there would be an unending supply. That harvest attitude carries into today's anglers. The thought of actually putting a fish back into the water is repulsive to many so called "sportsmen"
Thank goodness for the conservation efforts of today and I would hate to think of the state our cold water fisheries would be if groups like Trout Unlimited and Native Fish Society did not exist.
Admittedly I came to this conservation thinking later in life. I wasn't an outdoor outlaw who killed salmon for little more than their eggs for bait but I paid little heed to the warning signs. I supported the steelhead broodstock programs that I now loathe and I was maybe the most dangerous type of fisherman...I was indifferent. They say the opposite of love is not hate but indifference and that indifference is dangerous.
I decided to get involved and try to make a difference without the lip service and trying to make myself famous by being involved. No trying to make money off of these fish but giving something back.
The way we treat our natural resources is a sign of a people with no soul. A people with little concern about anything beyond themselves. I am not optimistic about the future because it seems like those with the power to actually implement change do not have the courage to do so....what a damn shame!
Are you reading this and getting angry because you feel I insulted you or your fake conservation organization or maybe your personality cult mega fishing website? Well tough shit!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Basic Beliefs - Fundamental Conservation of Our Cold Water Fisheries

I don't know if over the five years of this blog's existence I've actually stated my core beliefs on the conservation of wild salmonids. If I have then you can skip this. If I have not then here is what I believe. I am not a scientist or fish biologist but these fundamentals are sound and common sense.
I came by these fundamentals through research on my part and being taught by people who know a hell of a lot more than me. To me conservation is not a passing fad or a word thrown out there at a whim as is the case with groups like the CCA and Northwest Steelheaders. Conservation is action and these groups fall short on the most basic issues of wild salmonid conservation.They say they are all about wild fish but in reality they are all about more fish to kill and will support wrong headed hatchery programs. 
I believe the key to wild salmonid recovery has to start with competent management of the resource. If the stewards of our wild fish are not totally committed to their preservation and enhancement then the whole thing fails.
I believe that if a population of wild trout or salmon is endangered or not fully recovered then there should absolutely be no harvest or use of bait allowed. If a particular population is at a critical stage and in danger of extinction then no angling whatsoever should be allowed....none! No catch and release at all.
Habitat restoration is another key ingredient to the overall well being of wild salmonids and major efforts should be made to preserve critical spawning and rearing habitat. Removal of woody structure from these spawning areas should not be allowed and in fact placement of new structure should be enhanced.
In no way should hatchery salmon and trout be allowed to commingle with wild populations. The effect of careless hatchery programs such as Oregon's steelhead broodstock program have adversely affect wild fish.
Wild fish and hatchery fish can co-exist in the same watershed if the hatchery plants are keep out of wild salmonids spawning and rearing areas and these hatchery plants are planted at a time of year when they would interfere with wild salmonids.
This is no conjecture or theory on my part but proven fact.

Wild salmon, steelhead and trout should be allowed to have recovered for a period of years before any harvest regulation is even considered.
Angler education should be mandatory for anyone buying a resident fishing license. Too many times the fish and wildlife agencies of any given state fail to properly teach anglers about wild fish. I think even minimal effort and commitment from the state can go a long ways in helping our wild fish resource.
There are so many obstacles in the way of wild salmonid recovery that we cannot begin to scratch the surface of what to do but to do nothing will be fatal.
I think that most people will do the right thing if they are properly informed and armed with the tools to do their part in wild fish recovery.
The ignorant, slob fisherman is the exception rather than the rule. These are the people who are not satisfied unless their freezers are full of dead salmon and salmon eggs.
So there you have it! The wild salmonid gospel according to Shane. I think these steps are doable and with a minimal cost but a maximum commitment from our state fish and wildlife agencies is necessary to bring this about. I do strongly believe, however, recovery begins with each of us that call ourselves anglers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


HOME WATERS AND WILD FISH: HATCHERY STEELHEAD IMPACT WILD STEELHEAD: "In a recent conversation with an executive of the ODFW fish division about releasing hatchery steelhead in the Sandy River, Oregon, the ass..."

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Quiet Pool Turns Five

I never thought I would stick with this for 5 years but I have! Thanks to all who read and offer encouragement and also to those polite detractors. To those that I've pissed off over the last 5 years I can only say put on your big boy undies and get over it!
I've learned a lot about about myself in these 5 years and some has been good and others have been uncomfortable but through it all I never compromised my convictions or straddled the fence. The recurring theme of The Quiet Pool has been and always will be the conservation of wild salmon, steelhead and trout. There is no pursuit ,as an angler,  more important. I may have burned some bridges along the way but too damn bad. Half-assed conservationism is worthles...Yes ,by God, it is that important and that is why I write what I write.
I've been inspired by many friend to keep this small corner of the flyfishing/conservation internet going. Thanks got to Erik Helm, Bill Bakke, Joel, La Follette and the others who have offered kind words along the way. Special thanks my Spey brother the Wookie (he knows who he is) and My Spey Guru Mike McCune who showed how to cast a Spey rod.
I'm not sure how much longer I will torture you all with bad punctuation and anti-ODFW rants but as long as it remains interesting I will continue.
To those of you who thought this was going to be a "How To" blog I apologize, I'm still a pupil of all things fly fishing and wild fish conservation myself.
Through it all if this blog has saved even one wild salmon,steelhead and trout then the whole thing will be worth.
So my dear readers and even those of you that wish I would hook myself in the mouth a 6/0 heavy wire hook I humbly thank you

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Are We Getting Our Moneys Worth?

Recently I was looking through some old Oregon fishing regulation booklets and was shocked at what I read. In 1953 a resident angling license was $4 for the year and there was no harvest card required at that time. Fast forward 23 years later to 1976 and the price had doubled to a whopping $9 a year plus $2 for a harvest card. Now we fast forward again to 2011 and we are now paying $33 for a resident license plus $16.50 for a harvest card so with the agent fee us residents are paying $50. From 1976 to 2011 the price for an Oregon resident rose about $40 or almost 5 times what we were paying 30 years ago.Whew! Enough math already before my head explodes.
Picture this scenario before...
You want to purchase a new car. You've read all kinds of praises for this new model and so you go into the dealership to make your purchase.
When you've paid the price you excitedly go outside to take delivery of your new "ride" only to discover you've purchased a used Yugo and you paid a premium price for it. Think you might be a little angry? I would think so.
So basically Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sold me a Yugo for the price of a Lexus!
Let me be blunt here. Fishing in Oregon just plain sucks! There are no "Blue Ribbon" fisheries anymore, the salmon runs are in shambles,the wild winter steelhead populations are dwindling and I could go on. You might think I am being a pessimist or a "glass half empty" person but for cryin' out loud the damn glass is broken. The uber-expensive hatchery programs seem like they are being run by a group of first graders and the only thing they are accomplishing is harming wild salmonids. I mean come on guys! You can put a gold ring in a pigs snout but that pig is still going to root around in it's own feces right? Well the "feces" ODFW wants us to wallow in is their claim that Oregon is a sportsman's paradise.
Why has this out of control state agency, who have been charged with the wise stewardship of our fish and wildlife, failed so miserably? Could it be that these bureaucrats are too concerned about saving their own jobs at the expense of everything else?
ODFW director Roy Elicker has made increased angler opportunity his mantra. The fish biologists have been ordered to find new "angling opportunities" to exploit and exploit them they have. The harvest of wild coastal cutthroat trout, the steelhead broodstock program and the greedy eye cast towards wild North Umpqua winter steelhead are a few of the most obvious failures but all at a higher price mind you.
Why would anyone buy into this bullshit? Well they aren't! License and tag sales are in the toilet and with the biennium budget process coming up ODFW will no doubt be embarrassed, or at least they should be, at the product they are serving up to the angling public.
Yes I held my nose and bought my license and so I shouldn't complain. However, is it really too much for me and other license buyers in this state to ask for more than a used Yugo? I think so.
So does the quality of our fishing in Oregon merit such a steep price? I don't think so.
This state has little if any blue ribbon" fishing left. One can argue that maybe the McKenzie would qualify or perhaps the Deschutes and Metolius but I do not see it.
Today the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has degraded the quality of angling, especially for cold water species, to the point that Oregon is no longer the fishing mecca that it once was. Over management, over use of hatcheries and over harvest along with habitat degradation, non-selective commercial harvest has turned Oregon into just another state where there used to be good fishing.
We all know about my personal war against steelhead and salmon broodstock programs but it goes beyond that. Today ODFW does not manage for conservation, they manage for angling opportunities and wild fish be damned!

Thursday, June 02, 2011


This post was just begging to be brought back in lieu of a posting on that bastion of fly fishing tradition called "Westfly"
Using an indicator is a legal means of fishing...okay? However it should in no way be considered fly fishing and it's use in fly only water should not be allowed.
The use of an indicator on a spey rod seems to be about as ridiculous enterprise as I can imagine.
It's like using an expensive Porsche to take trash to the dump. So rave on at me if you will but why do these guys who use indicators on spey rods always have to mention that they "swing" flies for steelhead most of the time? If you feel so great about what you are doing then why mention that you "swing" most of the time?

There has been an interesting internet discussion concerning the use of spey rods with an indicator for nymphing. I have certainly let my feelings on this travesty be known on this blog.
Am I being an elitist to think that there are certain traditions in our serene sport that should not be messed with? Does the ends, catching a lot of steelhead, justify the means?, the bastardization of the tradition?

Here are some notable quotes from the anti-speydicator crowd

Nymphing and spey rods would be like a vegetarian and eating some kind of veggy jerky or veggy sausage. It defeats the point!
Swing with a spey rod, and if you want to be a nympher, then bag the two handed rod! Nymph with a 10' or a switch even, but please keep the true two handers for swinging.
It is simply anti-flyfishing and super anti-pure too!

It is hard to believe that someone would spend 750 bucks on a 6126 or even a 7110 z-axis and put on an indicator.
Why wouldn't they just go out and buy a decent bobber rod set up for 4 to 8lb. test and call it for what it is, bobber fishing and nothing more. The use of the indicator or bobber is very effective and the rods used for this style of fishing have a lot to do with the effectiveness. If you feel that this is the only way to achieve that fish then stick with a spinning rod and reel combo. The Canadians use rods in the 10 to 13 ft. in length.

The real kicker in all of this is the fact that they are having a hard time casting an indicator. I could only imagine how well they can cast and wade a true swinging the fly situation. The use of the indicator has made it easy for anyone to say they can cast a 2 handed rod and that's about it. Handing a 2 handed rod to the new angler and getting him to cast it are 2 different things. If your with a guide then it is up to the guide to help in the understanding. If you are using a 2 handed rods in a drift boat and floating downstream with an indicator well you are not spey fishing all you are doing is drift fishing or side-drifting with a 2 handed rod. When you can wade and are able to cast and swing the fly effectively only then will you understand the reason for the lack of respect that is received.

Most of the people I see "trying" to nymph with the two-hander are simply trying to find a crutch for their bad single handed casting. Even on bigger river, you can cover plenty of ground with heavy flies with a good single hand cast!! Don't wear yourself out trying to use the "Spey", just practice with the short rod. Besides you look ridiculous casting that big stick with a bubble on your line!

It may be fishing with the fly but so was fishing with the water bobber on a spinning reel set-up as a little kid. Some have graduated others are still learning.e

You certainly can use a wrench to hammer nails, but is that really what it is used for?? Two handed nymphing is not practical and those that say it is have a long way to go!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Part of the Problem

We all know what is at stake as far as our wild cold water fisheries go. The future of their existence is in the balance. I must ask why there is not the same urgency among the rank and file anglers and why are these anglers so resistant to tackling the tough issues of wild salmonids.
There is bound to be a certain percentage that really do not care what the origin is of their catch...they just want fish to kill and take home. The sports fishermen that are unsure and on the fence is where we need to concentrate our efforts with education and our own example. I think that some in conservation groups have alienated those curious and undecided anglers with our over pretentious attitudes. I have done this myself and while I feel my anger over the ignorant is justified I am wondering if I am just filling the ranks of the anti-science, anti-wild fish numbers.
I am not alone!
Even amongst ourselves there seem to be an unspoken pecking order that comes off as aloof and arrogant. I've seen it and experienced it.
I won't mention names but if this arrogant and elitist behavior exists even among ourselves how do those who are not actively involved in wild salmon, trout and steelhead issues view us?
Most of us are fly fishermen. We are viewed as thinking our "shit don't stink" We get accused of wanting to make rivers our own little fly fishing and catch and release Shangri-La. These people just cannot get past that and our message of why wild salmonids are so important is lost because they perceive us as acting superior. How much worse is it when we even act like that among ourselves?
It cannot be said enough about the daunting issues we face as we try to preserve what remnant of wild and endangered salmonid populations there are left but maybe our rhetoric goes unheard because we tend to come off as a bunch of wild fish hugging assholes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wild Steelhead Pictorial

Here are some pictures of beautiful wild steelhead that I've collected through the years.
The steelhead trout is, at least to me, the fish that dreams are made out of. It must be much the same feeling that Atlantic salmon afly fishermen feel about the legendary salmo salar
The importance of protecting these ocean going rainbow trout is paramount to the future of our angling heritage here in the Pacific northwest.Please do all you can to help these and other wild salmonids.
Anyway here is some eye candy for you steelhead junkies.

Photo Courtesy of Jad Donaldson

This fish was taken by me on the Wilson River in 2005

Joel La Follette and his legendary British Columbia steelhead

Photo courtesy of Bob Meiser of Meiser rods

                        Mike Hoffman's very first steelhead

         Winter Steelead caught by John Newbury                            

My 18.6 Wilson River native caught while drift fishing 2013


Friday, April 29, 2011

The Bamboo Rides in the Cab and other Musings

So it was off to the Deschutes for my first visit of the year on Wednesday last. So what if the river was running at 6500 cfs. So what if I had to go through The Dalles to get to Maupin since there was still snow on the Government Camp summit and so what if gas is nearly $4 a gallon....I was going.The Columbia Gorge continues to be awe inspiring along I-84 and I have often looked at the palisades along the river and think of how it has remained virtually unchanged. I imagine Lewis and Clark's Corp of Discovery must have marvelled at the Columbia Gorge as they passed on their way to the Pacific ocean over 200 years ago.
The hillsides along the highway from The Dalles to Maupin were green and lush from the almost constant rain and even though I much prefer the usual route I take to get to the Deschutes this route had it's own charm. When I arrived at the Deschutes there was just a hint of the summer to come in the air. The smell of sage and the occasional blue winged olive greeted me as I inspected the olive green water of the river. I was somewhat disappointed in the height and color of the river but I was still very pleased to be there.
I fished in all of my usual spots with only a few takes for my efforts but it didn't really care that much. I had just finished a very wet and truncated winter steelhead season so the change of pace was much looked forward to.
I think that maybe an angler has gained some degree of maturity when he can visit a river and not be discouraged but the lack of angling success. I guess that in my 38 years of fishing for trout,salmon and steelhead here in the northwest I would hope to have matured enough in my outlook of this passion called fly fishing to appreciate the river and it's surroundings.
I took along my most prized fly rod on this trip. It's a bamboo rod that I actually participated in the construction and I never let it ride in the bed of my truck, it always rides in the cab. It gets lovingly wiped down with a micro-fleece towel and if the weather if damp, hung on a special rack to dry for a few days.
Like clockwork the afternoon wind came blowing up the canyon but this is the Deschutes after all and the wind is just a part of this river and it's canyon.
To me the Deschutes is like a dangerous mistress that you are so attracted to that you just keep coming back. It's an addiction to this river that there is no cure for and to be away from it for a few months of winter is much like a tortuous withdrawal.
I will always come back to the Deschutes as long as I am physically able to because I love it and like that mistress that I mentioned earlier I just cannot stay away.
If gas goes up to $5 a gallon I will still come back because the bond is just that strong and my bamboo rod will ride along beside me in the front seat where it should be.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Harvest Mentality Revisited

This was originally posted a few years ago and while it may seem like I am just being lazy or cannot think of anything to complain about I just felt this needs to be said again.
I have never claimed to have the answers and I know many of you reading this are a lot smarter than me but I do know this much.
We have got to get serious about conservation and if it means sacrificing to do it then it's pretty it! You might have to give up a days fishing once in awhile to be involved but you can never do anything so important as far as conservation goes than getting involved even in a small way. Know this though friends and if ever there was anything of use that I have written here then hopefully this is one of those rare items.
Posting on an internet forum has never, ever saved one wild salmon,steelhead or trout...not once. I've would be hypocritical to rant on here if I didn't put some efforts with my time and meager financial resources.
I have zero desire to make any money on this blog and besides who would pay me?
There are some public proposals that will be discussed in the coming months that put wild salmon, steelhead and trout in jeopardy. Please take a look at these proposals when they are posted on ODFW's website.
Please go to meeting and be a voice for wild fish. Please write and make the ODFW commissioners aware of how you feel. Call you legislator and make his life miserable with your complaints if you feel strongly about something.
I would never ask anything of anyone without being willing to do the same myself because that would be the height of hypocrisy but I feel it's just that important....thanks for reading

When I first started "The Quiet Pool" almost 5  years ago what I had in mind was sharing my thoughts on fly fishing, politics and conservation. I've linked some interesting articles along the way and hopefully those who have come here have enjoyed what I've shared here. I've ditched the politics for the most part but the fervor for wild salmonids remains.

I feel compelled to focus on the plight of wild fish and their habitat as I see a general malaise towards them. The prevailing sentiment throughout the north west fishing scene seems to be "I gotta get mine" and that is truly sad.Many people think that we have this bottomless population of fish to harvest and that they will always be there. They think that it's their right and the states obligation to provide fish, specifically salmonid species, for them to kill. In some coastal regions the harvest mentality is such that endangered wild fish are of little importance because they cannot be killed. Take the plight of the coastal cutthroat trout for instance. These last remaining coastal wild trout are endangered but those of the harvest mentality want to kill two a day with the minimum of eight inches.You have to wonder what people are thinking don't you? Listen folks by all means kill as many hatchery fish as possible! These are the fish you want to harvest because you are indeed doing wild fish a favor by killing them. Releasing hatchery fish back into the river is irresponsible and just plain dumb but some get the warm fuzzies by doing this....go figure!
I wish I could write lofty and poetic prose on the wonders of fly fishing but as I've written before I feel our remaining wild populations of steelhead, salmon and trout are faced with a very real danger. You've heard the old saying "I've seen the enemy and he is us" haven't you? With the general indifference that is more and more becoming the norm I feel it's my obligation to speak out in whatever way I can.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Are People Really This Selfish Or Are They Just Stupid?

The news that Native Fish Society has sent notice of it's intent to sue Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA and others because of the situation concerning the Sandy river has brought out all kinds of opinions on the internet.
I shake my head in disbelief at the  utter stupidity of some and the selfishness of others. The old cliche of fly fishing elitists has surface yet again and while some of us fly fishers can indeed come off that way in other circumstances but this situation is different.
This is not a fly fishing versus gear fishing fight it's all about saving a population of wild winter steelhead and forcing a state agency to live by the law.
For your amusement I have selected a few of the more jaw dropping statements by "sports" fishermen

*I have not corrected any spelling in these quotes

- NFS solicits fisherman to promote preservation by spreading fear and absolute distortion of the facts. This lawsuit is all about differences in ethics, not science....
- I love to catch fish, if we put the screws to the hatchery program and they have to stop what does that leave... oh thats right an ESA species and can I catch those... umm no
-  I dont know about the group but if they are fly guys maybe they are mad do to not catching any fish while I am slaying them on spinners all day long
- NFS preys upon ethical values such as catch & release and spreads its disallusions that wild fish can simply be restored by shutting down hatcheries....
- The track record of groups like the NFS speaks for itself - you can claim it's not a fly vs gear/bait move - but it's smoke & mirrors, as their next most likely step is to push for fly only regs to go along with C&R only.
- Native Fish Society is enemy #1 for sport fisherman!
- I suggest for all of you that are not familiar with the composition of NFS membership, google the blogs; "The Quiet Pool" (Thanks for the public plug Ty) OR "Whitefishcantjump"   These guys only wish is to have these rivers to themselves so the can swing flies by themselves.

That is just a few of the better ones and while it is funny it is also disturbing that supposed sportsmen think this way. Are they stupid? When it comes to facts and an understanding of what is going on then I would have to say yes they are absolutely stupid when it comes to wild vs hatchery matters.
Are they selfish? Without a doubt! They are are only concerned about how many fish they can catch and kill.
This is the exact reason why I have never gotten involved in any issues others than wild salmonids conservation. I could not care less if these so called sports fishermen get more salmon and why I think they are little better than the gill netters they claim to despise.
I am not saying that all gear fishermen are this ignorant or selfish...far from it because I know many that care about our wild salmon, trout and steelhead populations as much or more than many fly fishermen.
This is all a symptom of a much bigger illness. Our rivers and our wild fish have been mismanaged to near extinction by ODFW and other state and federal agencies.
I know many of these arm chair biologists but I never see any of them at any meeting where allocation is not the topic. They hide behind their computer keyboards and mouth off while never getting involved.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Native Fish Society Serves Notice

Native Fish Society along with Pacific Rivers Council served 60 day notice of their intent to sue ODFW and others for violation of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
The litigation intent and other pertinent information can be found by clicking on this link.  Sandy River Litigation

Monday, April 11, 2011

Frankenfish is Coming To A Supermarket Near You?

Remember that old TV series "The 6 Million Dollar Man"?   Oscar Goldman says "We have the capability to make the worlds first Bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better. Stronger. Faster."
Well apparently someone thinks they can build a better and BIGGER salmon and the consequences of these fish could be disastrous
Check out this article from the New York Times   Frankenfish Phobia

Friday, March 25, 2011

Salmon People

I read an article on the famous Boldt decision of 1970 which gave seven western native American tribes the right to harvest 50% of the Columbia river salmon.
After years of being basically kicked to the curb by the white man this ruling, which was subsequently upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court, the tribes were getting some portion of what was theirs for centuries before the white man came west.
Some may argue that this is not right and that what was done by our trespassing forefathers of a hundred years ago is not our fault. I would simply say how can a huge injustice ever be adequately repaid. The native Americans of centuries ago relied on the returning salmon for every aspect of life. The salmon were their ancient heritage and in every way as important to them as the bison was to the plains tribes.
Their whole social structure revolved around the salmon along with their spiritual beliefs. To say that they were not entitled to what Federal Judge George Boldt ruled is either selfish, greedy or just ignorant. In my opinion the injustices that were inflicted upon the native American tribes throughout North America can never really be fully repaid or understood by the white man as to the magnitude of the wrong done.
Of course the Boldt decision is not without it's flaws. A very large one is the allocation process, as far as who gets what, has to rely on fishery biologists estimating what the future runs will be. This process has proved to be a failure in these recent lean years as the estimations of run sizes has fallen flat on it's face once again in 2011. However it is what it is and until something better comes along it's the best way.... I guess.
That being said we sports anglers are not owed fish to catch. The non-tribal commercial netters, whose greed in the past is one of the main reason we are where we are in the first place, are not just automatically entitled the salmon.
With hydro-electric dams, spawning habitat degradation and poor hatchery processes we all own some of the blame. Whether it be our generation or the generations of our fathers we basically ripped off the tribes and got greedy. The notion that the fish will always return in the huge numbers they once did is just plain stupid and to fight like dogs for the scraps of what is left is a very disturbing commentary on where we are as a civilized people.
Yes the tribes deserve what they got with the Boldt decision and a whole lot more as far as I am concerned.
I like going to Sherars Falls on the Deschutes to watch the people of the Warm Springs tribe net returning salmon and steelhead. With impossibly long handled nets these graceful fishermen try to intercept the salmon that are held up in the violent water beneath the falls.
They put up with the white tourists that stop along the road and snap their pictures and who cannot begin to understand the symbolism of what is taking place.
I deeply admire these people in that they have stubbornly held onto the ancient traditions of their ancestors despite losing nearly everything due to the encroachment of our ancestors.
I understand their mistrust of the society who took their land and their salmon. They did not invite us here and that makes us invaders.
Along with the theft of their land we also introduced disease and alcohol to them.
So if you ever get the chance to observe this fishing ritual at Sherars Falls take a moment to realize all these proud and noble people lost and how, even in this day and age, tenaciously they cling to what is left of their ancient heritage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Put Your Faith in ODFW

Well I'm kidding of course because once again the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has dropped the ball on estimating returns on Columbia River Spring Chinook.
Even Bill Monroe of the Oregonian and ODFW's de-facto cheerleaders has touted the big returns years after year.
Well guess what folks. Someone forgot to tell the fish! Once again ODFW has fumbled and once again gullible spring salmon have been gypped as the Columbia is set to close on April 4th.
ODFW bases it's run predictions on previous year jack returns so I am wondering if what they are counting?
Shad maybe?
Once again commercial fishing has duped ODFW because they are smarter and more united but even this year they are cut short.
Do I feel sorry for the cheated sports guys? Not a bit! Too many times these anglers in organizations like CCA and Northwest Steelheaders have put their own selfishness above what for is best the fish. They deserve the "screwing" that ODFW hands to them every year.
What really irks me is they try to make the native American tribes that harvest salmonids above Bonneville dam the scapegoats. Sorry fellas but that just doesn't fly with me. The tribes deserve every fish they get and more. Look at the long and sad history of the treaties that have been broken over the decades and you will see why I feel this way.
It's not only the Columbia river where ODFW has dropped the ball either. ODFW predicted that the Tillamook bay rivers were going to have a return of 114% of normal this last fall and so accordingly did not do anything to change bag limits etc. Well you can probably guess what happened there. As one who spends a lot of time on the north coast I can verify that the 114% did not show.
Wonder what kind of excuse we will hear when the whole emergency closure meetings this fall are held.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do the Math - Why Steelhead Broodstock Programs Hurt Wild Fish

I've thought a lot about the steelhead broodstock programs over the years since it's inception and it, along with the harvest of wild cutthroat trout, are the main focus of my wrath against the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Being that I am not a fishery biologist I rely on the wisdom of others that are educated in fish biology, specifically anadromous salmonids like steelhead and I've asked both Bill Bakke and Spencer Miles to help me with this post.
Let's go with some simple mathematics. I'll use females as my examples since one wild male steelhead can "service" several females.
A typical wild steelhead female will produce about 3-5 thousand eggs so for this example I'll go with the bottom end number of 3,000. Out of these eggs let's conservatively estimate that out of these eggs 2 adults will mature to return as adults 2-3 years later. ODFW takes about 30-35 pair, each year, of wild steelhead. So if out of those 30-35 pairs of wild steelhead, that are used to make hatchery steelhead, were to produce, let's say 60 returning adults and then multiply that by the number of years these broodstock programs have been running and then multiply, if you can the lost progeny all the generations of wild eggs that were turned into hatchery steelhead I think you may be surprise at the cost to wild steelhead populations. The offspring of these wild steelhead are taken out of the equation and will not spawn naturally. Instead they are made into a hatchery product. The potential of each and every one of those wild into hatchery eggs is lost. How many wild steelhead would those "borrowed" eggs produced.
On the Nestucca and Wilson rivers this broodstock program has been going one for about 10 years. Do the math! I used conservative numbers and percentages to make my point but even at that the numbers really add up.
These two rivers have declining populations of wild winter steelhead. Redd counts from the last two years were alarmingly low yet ODFW still does their take of wild steelhead to populate their hatchery needs.
Who benefits most from this program?
Very simple! Professional bait guides do. They lobbied hard for this program and they all march lock step in advocating it. They claim the wild populations are healthy enough to sustain the removal of the wild spawning fish every year. I have my doubts about the numbers they come up with on their creel and spawning surveys.
Do I think they are deliberately inflating their creel counts of wild steelhead they've encountered? Well let me put it this way. They are the user group who benefits most by having this steelhead broodstock fishery.
They have guided trips with paying customers at a time of year that in the past they did not. Their customers are able to harvest the hatchery broodstock steelhead at a time of year when there should be only wild steelhead present and less angling pressure
There are other pitfalls of these programs besides just the numbers. I think all other arguments about the negative effect of steelhead broodstock programs aside the sheer numbers of wild fish removed, over a period of years, should be the most alarming.
One bait guide says these wild eggs are just being borrowed! Borrowed? How so? The potential or recruits of all those offsprings are multiplied and lost forever.
It's a dangerous game that ODFW is playing with the future of wild steelhead and the gamble is not worth it in the least.
This example I've used describes a stable situation where the steelhead parents are replacing themselves. It illustrates a conversion of a wild salmonid population into a production program to provide harvest benefits to a business. This conversion has a biological impact on the wild population through genetic and competition impacts that affect the reproductive success of the wild population at a cost to the public that supports the program through tax dollars, fees and investments in watershed protection. The cost to produce a fish that is harvested is hidden from the public by the state management agency. There have been some economic studies that have determined what those costs are. For example, a recent independent economic evaluation was completed under contract for NOAA Fisheries that pointed out that the Mitchell Act Hatchery program on the Columbia River (18 hatcheries) is a deficit spending program for all hatcheries. These hatcheries are supported with public tax dollars. In response NOAA Fisheries fired this economics team and looked for one that would give them the answer they wanted. For hatchery programs, regardless the type, there is no cost or biological impact accountability. These programs are sold by the management agencies (state, tribal and federal) as conservation actions, when in fact they are not only a drain on public funds, they are increasing the risk to wild fish populations. The recent study done by Chilcote (NOAA Fisheries), Goodson (ODFW) and Falcy (ODFW) point out that conventional hatchery production and native broodstock hatcheries for coho, chinook and steelhead all contribute to the decline of the wild populations that they affect, for the wild populations decline in proportion to the naturally spawning hatchery fish in those wild populations. The agencies have constructed a good business plan, for they get most of the benefit from the invested public funds, but it has eclipsed the conservation mission of the agencies and is placing the native fish that are their primary responsibility at greater risk of extinction. For example, the Sandy River wild steelhead have declined from an estimated 20,000 fish to 800 fish over time. Mitigation hatcheries funded by the public have not been successful in replacing the loss or stemming the decline. Even though the public has made a $100 million commitment to restore this river for wild salmon and steelhead, they are disturbed by the fact that wild run continues to decline, it is threatened with extinction, and the habitat is filled with hatchery fish. One biologist concluded that hatchery fish waste the productivity of the habitat and the investments to restore it.
ODFW is being very myopic, of course, as it's not so much the removal of 1-2% of the run that's screwing things up, as steelhead are remarkably resilient and will replenish themselves (we harvested probably 50% of the run, or more, for decades before things got noticeably bad). I think the broodstock program is horrible for a whole different set of reasons:
1) ODFW sold the public on a program that they claimed would have more conservation benefits and be less harmful to wild fish. As Chilcote has shown, this is 100% false.
2) We now have hatchery fish spawning on top of our Feb-May wild fish. No studies have even been conducted on this, which really pisses me off (though Chilcote told me that this is going to be his next area of focus, should start a study on this later in the year).
3) On the Nestucca and Wilson, wild fish at least had the river to themselves from February to May up until 2004. Now it's a constant onslaught of hatchery pukes. Summers from May - January, Alsea stock from November - February, and "wild" broodstock from January - May.
4) Increased pressure.There used to be minimal pressure from Feb-April, and now it's a parade of drift boats. The gravel from Beaver to Blaine is no longer even utilized as the fish aren't going to spawn when 25 boats are going over them.
I would like to thank Bill Bakke and Spencer Miles from Native Fish Society for their contribution to this subject

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The ODFW Version of 3 Card Monte

What is the old saying? If you can't wow them with facts then baffle them with bullshit!
Here is what those fine folks at ODFW are doing on the Sandy river
Lowering the baseline and avoiding the ESA by Spencer Miles

Monday, February 28, 2011

Come To Oregon This Summer For Poached Steelhead

No I'm not talking about illegally caught either.
In a press release from NSIA (Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association) it states the following.

NSIA representatives included major retailers such as Fred Meyer and Fishermen’s Marine and Outdoor, tackle manufacturers, outdoor advertising and media, and guides. Facilitated by ODFW, the participants brainstormed ways to leverage their collective communication platforms and resources for better outreach to attract new customers to this thriving but under appreciated fishery.

“Steelhead are one of Oregon’s most prized game fish, known for their fight,” said Todd Davidson, Director of Travel Oregon. “Great conditions and stable fishing seasons make summer steelhead a solid draw to Oregon for visiting anglers and their families.” Davidson continued, “The statewide potential of this pilot project is tremendous.”
Last year, nearly half a million of these summer steelhead, often nicknamed “freight trains” entered the Columbia River and were pursued by anglers from the bank and from boats. For 2011 the steelhead returns will be down, but only slightly. “This is the perfect fishery for the families that shop Fred Meyer,” said Cheryl Kindwall, sporting goods buyer. “A Columbia River steelhead is easily caught from the river’s many public beaches, turning a fishing trip into a picnic and fun family outing.”

So what is wrong with this you might ask? The Columbia river runs very warm, fish wise, in the summer months. It runs on an average year in the lethal range of 68-71Fin August the height of tourist season. Plainly speaking that is too hot to stress out a wild steelhead.
When a steelhead is hooked and played in those warm temperatures is is almost always lethal.
It is somewhat surprising that a group like NSIA would promote this fishery knowing that the warm water is harmful.
Tourism in Oregon is fine and we all know that it helps Oregon's struggling economy but to promote actually harming ESA is troubling. I would have thought NSIA would know better.Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who are also involved in this promotion of CR summer steelhead, has once again shown a total disregard for the health of wild salmonids...does that surprise you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Important Read

If you have ever had doubts about just how hatchery programs affect wild salmon and steelhead you will want to read the study linked below. It's a pretty long read but it is worth it.
Chilcote Study on hatchery anadromous fish and their effect on wild salmonids

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Things to Think About for 2012

In 2012 Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will consider new angling proposals. This is a process that happens every 4 years and the public is invited to submit their ideas for consideration.
We have to be vigilant and stick up for our wild salmonids and their habitat and your help is needed.

Here are some proposals that I am kicking around.

- A 10" to 13" statewide slot limit for all wild cutthroat trout
- Barbless hooks for use in all rivers where wild salmon, trout and steelhead are present
- Bait restrictions in upper portions of coastal rivers
- Increased protection of salmon and steelhead spawning areas
- Increasing daily and weekly bag limits for hatchery steelhead
These are just some of the things that will be addressed and considered for future regulations.
AS we get closer to the time for this process to begin I will keep you all posted about what you need to do.
Please be involved! Wild fish need your help

Monday, February 07, 2011

Reagan at 100

Yes I know I made a pledge to "depoliticize" the Quiet Pool but I couldn't resist sharing this with all of you.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Barbless Hooks and Their Importance to Wild Salmonid Recovery

There is an incredible resistance among sports anglers against the use of barbless hooks and I do not understand it.
Studies show that the use of barbless hooks does decrease mortality among released fish. Think about for a minute.
You've hooked a wild trout and know that you are going to release it. Doesn't it make sense that a barbless hook allows your fly or lure to be quickly removed and therefore would be desirable among ALL sports anglers? This is just common sense...right?
The vitriol against the use of barbless hooks, especially among conventional gear anglers, is shocking.
Click on the link below for an eye opening article by Bill Bakke, executive director of Native Fish Society
Barbless Hooks Study by Bill Bakke

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wild Steelhead - It's What's for Dinner

It recently came to my attention that Key City Fish Company of Port Townsend, Washington is a distributor of wild steelhead to area restaurants.
I emailed them and here is the exchange I had with them

I wrote -

It has come to my attention that you distribute and sell ESA listed wild steelhead to various Seattle restaurants.I would please implore you to stop and do not purchase these endangered fish any longer.
Wild steelhead are a very precious resource in this region and we cannot afford to let their numbers slip any further.
Once they are gone they are gone forever...there is no replacement for them in our rivers and in our rivers is where they belong not on someone dinner plate.
Please consider not selling them anymore.

Key City's Response -

Thank you for your concern regarding the Olympic Peninsula Steelhead. We agree with your position that distributing unsustainable, endangered and threatened fish is not a good idea.
The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead that we purchase is always from the sustainably managed Quileute tribal fishery on the Quileute River or the Makah tribal fishery on the Tsooees River. The Steelhead is a combination of both hatchery and wild stock that has spawned naturally. The Quileute and Makah Tribes are closely partnered with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to effectively, and aggressively manage these fisheries so that they remain healthy and robust for generations to come. The state and tribes actively work with citizens to catalogue details about habitat and map fish stock distributions. I can assure you that everyone involved, from tribe to state to distributor and restaurant has a vested interest in the preservation of this fish.
It is true that many Wild Steelhead populations are indeed endangered or threatened and should absolutely be completely avoided, such as those on the California Coast, Oregon Coast, Snake River, and Puget Sound. However, the Olympic Peninsula Steelhead population is healthy, robust and absolutely not threatened. For confirmation of this please visit NOAA’s website at:
We are aware that there is considerable conflict between sport and commercial fishermen regarding the regulation of steelhead fishing and we understand the frustrations of both sides. We want to stress, though, that our interest in this fish is primarily as a fantastic food. The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead we deliver is sustainably and legally caught according to the regulations set forth by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and is not endangered or threatened according to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. If these official assessments were to change we would indeed adjust our use of this product.
Best Regards,
Johnpaul Davies
Key City Fish Company

So okay they don't care but we do! I urge anyone who thinks the conservation of wild steelhead is pretty important and that Key City Fish Company is wrong to write this company and express your unhappiness about their business practices and their commitment to wild steelhead.
You can also write to companies that get fish from Key City and make them aware of what is going on.
Here is the response from a restaurant that got fish from Key City  Ray's Boathouse Restaurant in Seattle

Thank you for your feedback. We are no longer serving Steelhead. We will continue to work hard to find truly sustainable sources for our products and appreciate your comments at any time. Thank you for your time and passion on this very important issue.

Peter Birk, Executive Chef
Ray’s Boathouse, CafĂ© & Catering
6049 Seaview Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107

Obviously Ray's think wild steelhead are pretty important and that putting them on the menu is wrong.....Thank You Ray!

Reaching out to businesses like Key City and Ray's does make a difference. Maybe Key City will change their minds about serving wild steelhead if they get enough emails and calls to quit serving them.