Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Praise the Divine Creator

Hot damn I love spring! Bright steelhead, perfect river levels, with that sweet green color that can only come from a little bit of snowmelt runoff and a touch of rain over night. There are still plenty of fresh fish out there and fish or not life is good right about now. Take a bike ride, have a picknick and thank whatever spirit entity you worship for putting you in the most beautiful place on earth. I'm really looking forward to getting out over the long weekend, its been a while. T-bone's been fishing the dryline all winter and really made some breakthroughs, wish I had the same confidence...I guess its always good to live vicariously.

In the meantime a couple of friends and I are about to buy a sailboat. Should make for some sweet salmon/remote steelhead trips around the north end of the island.

Wish I was there right now...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In A Good Place

Spent the day on a local Sea to Sky river. It had been over a week since I'd been on the river, something which I normally wouldn't have tolerated during March. Unfortunately life has its demands and those often keep even the most irresponsible of us at work and off the river. Still riding a fishless streak in March and the odds of me getting a fish before the end of the month are getting skinnier and skinnier. Normally I'd be pretty worked up watching the best month of the season slip through my fingers but frankly I'm in a pretty good place these days. Yesterday was case in point.

It was my first time really spending a full day fishing this particular system and I really enjoyed seeing it. The river was pretty similar to the beloved and tragically closed, Big Mighty River south of the border. I've been missing the Big River and its Big Trib so yesterday gave me some good soul nourishment, even without a fish. Anymore it seems like the fish are just a bonus to the opportunity to take a few hours away from the chaos and noise of the city. I've been finding lately that I'm alot more interested in the plants, birds and other fellow inhabitants of the river environment. Rivers are my favorite place to be and steelhead are the fleeting ghosts which haunt all my trips, still it feels like my love affair with these fish has settled into a comfortable and familiar place.

The past few years I've fished with the type of intensity that cannot be sustained. The wake up at 4AM, fish all day with only a few corn chips and thurmos of coffee, wearing out three pairs of wading boots a year type fishing. I've literally made myself sick from fishing too hard. Then there is the competitive nature of the sport. Its inevitable that in a male dominated sport where alot of us are after a very limited number of fish, folks will get competitive. I've been as guilty as the next guy of hubris, but honestly it never has sat quite right with me. While I still may be strategic in my water selection, favoring rested water over fishing behind boats, or privacy over fishing in a crowd I feel I'm past the competitive intensity which once dwelt deep in my psyche. Yesterday I met exactly 4 other anglers and 2 biologists on the river and had 6 very friendly, and rewarding interactions. Lifes to short to be pissed off while I'm fishing.

So anyway, thats where I'm at. Napping in the sand by a sweet run, drinking home brew and soaking up the smells. Probably better give the run its due and fish through though, its only March for so long.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ok, that makes sense

Regarding a post earlier this week on the Seattle Times article and the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

Just got word from a buddy in the loop that it was the intention of WSC to have an article which focused on the plight of wild steelhead and the conservation issues on the Peninsula. Unfortunately despite strong nudges in that direction the author of the article failed to convey their message in the article, "Lure of the Steelhead". Its too bad for such an opportunity to go wasted particularly when the situation on the Peninsula continues to deteriorate with every passing year.

Good try guys, sorry it didn't turn out as you'd hoped.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The View

I work on top of a mountain. More of a big hill really, but its far and away the largest hill in Vancouver. Most of the winter the hill is covered in mist, and low hanging clouds which obscure the view. This morning on the way up though, the clouds parted giving way to a spectacular sunrise over all of the Georgia strait, Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, Cascades and Vancouver Island. There was Baker in all its glory, rose colored dawn light slowly sliding up its eastern flank. To the southwest, across the Strait of Juan De Fuca I could see the snow covered mountains of the Washington coast, beyond those are places where my mind often wanders. From sea level it all seems so vast, its easy to loose sight of the fact that for all its grandeur, the Pacific Northwest, and in particular the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin isn't the entire world. It is finite, fragile and painfully beautiful. God I love home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seattle Times Article, What Gives?

Anyone see the Seattle Times article on fishing the Queets today? Featuring Rich Simms, and Jim Schmitz of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. Hmmm. Hard not to be a knee jerky a-hole when a favorite river gets a write up in a major local news rag. Still, regardless of the localismo protectionist reaction I was disappointed that there was ZERO mention of the conservation issues facing the peninsula, the fact that the Quinault Tribe annually harvests thousands of steelhead from what would otherwise be a nearly pristine watershed. The fact that the tribe contends the escapement goal for the Queets should be just over 2000 fish when as recently at the 1980s the Queets saw runsizes well in excess of 10000 fish. Instead it was the same tired, fishing is beautiful, steelhead are majestic shite we've all seen a million times. Why wouldnt Rich or Jim raise these issues? Instead they probably contributed to even more pressure on what was recently a pretty quiet place to fish and got a brief mention of the WSC. Hardly seems worth it to me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shops I Like: Waters West

Tucked somewhat secretly in the Northwest tip of the state of Washington is what is easily one of the best flyshops on the West Coast. Owned by Dave Steinbaugh, Waters West is a fixture on the Peninsula and has the best selection of fly tying materials I've ever seen in one place. They also run a great mail order business and are always happy to spend time on the phone with customers lining up an order. A combination of excellent service, extremely knowledgeable staff and a great shop atmosphere really set the shop apart. I dont get in there enough but when I do, I invariably spend at least an hour chatting, browsing their materials and looking at the selection of locally tied flies for inspiration. If you're headed out to the Peninsula this spring, make sure to check out Waters West, you wont regret it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Home Stretch

It snowed in Vancouver last night. Woke up this morning to about a centimeter of wet slush which will undoubtedly melt by noon. After one of the more mild winters on record here in the great Northwest, it came as a bit of a surprise. Guess it just goes to show you that winter is over when IT decides. Season so far has been about normal I suppose and we're really getting into the home stretch now. It happens every year, the anticipation of November, grinding cold, short days of December when low numbers of dour hatchery fish make for some of the toughest fishing of the year. January and February were more or less normal, although a lack of rain during some of that stretch made fishing pretty tough. Like most years there was a sweet little push of wild fish around mid-January that always inspires alot of excitement and hope for the season.

Now its March and even after sleeping in my truck for a week in late February I'm jonesing for more time on the water. March and April are so bittersweet. The best fishing of the year but so fleeting. In my first few years of steelheading I would invariably fish my butt off early in the season with limited success and by the end of March I was burned out. Last year was definitely the first "complete" season in my life as a steelheader, and it was a hard ride. Record low returns on the Big River meant alot of luck, and black magic went into every grab. This year, with the Big River closed for the season I've had to reformulate my plans for March and April. Despite grinding hard in late February camping in the truck in the hinterlands, I'm feeling refreshed, motivated and excited about the prospects here in the Lower Mainland. Might also sneak up to the Northcountry for a week or so at the end of April, that could be a life altering experience to be sure.

Well here it comes, ready or not we're already a third of the way through March. Salmonberries are blossomed and the steelhead are there, sitting in the soft current where the boulders and broken water provide refuge in the clear, cool water. March is the month of the steelhead here in the Northwest, its what we wait all year for. Better get out and soak it all in, it'll be gone before you know it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On the Edge of the Continent

Sun going down over Money's River

Back from the weekend on the Island. The real purpose of the trip was work/social related but a good proper grad student gong show isn't mutually exclusive with some fishing time, particularly when travel expenses are covered by the University. Moneys river didn't disappoint, beautiful water, and a real sense of posterity fishing the waters once frequented by titans of our sporting heritage. The fishing was slow on account of a lack of rain, and the water was quite and low and clear. The river is fairly sizable, but this time of year it seems to me it doesnt much matter. If that water has been low and falling without substantial rain for nearing two weeks, odds are pretty slim on finding fresh fish.

I did however find some really great water which I plan on fishing again, possibly for summer fish as well. May not happen this year but I will return. I also explored a couple of smaller rivers, one of which was a complete bust and another which was quite the discovery. Water was low and gin clear, but I can easily imagine after a couple of days of hard rain, fresh fish pushing into the boulder filled pools just above tide. Could be very interesting. Felt like I'd stepped back in time fishing that one. Walking in through a grove of old growth Cedar, Doug Fir and Hemlock I was all of a sudden at tide water, no humans in site. Only the geese, swans and mergansers. Could be a very interesting little spot indeed. Unfortunately these little rivers are about as unamenable to the traveling angler as physically possible. Difficult access, coupled with very short windows of fishability mean that the odds of me ever being in that area when conditions are conducive are quite low. Always nice to have an ace in the hole though for when Moneys River is too high and the rain wont quit.

I did catch one fish, a hatchery kelt. I must have some bad Karma going because three of the last four fish I've landed have been kelts, two of which were hatchery kelts. Considering I didn't catch a single kelt last season thats really something. Most seasons I catch a couple but rarely this early in the season, early kelts this year are likely the result of warmer water leading to early spawning. Hatchery kelts are troubling for obvious reasons. The last thing wild steelhead need is hatchery fish spawning in the wild. I normally harvest every hatchery fish I catch but couldnt bring myself to kill them if I'm not going to eat them. After holding the fish for sometime I decided to let it go and hope a sealion took advantage of my momentary benevolence towards a tired hatchery fish.

Bamfield is a sweet spot. Good people and good scenery. Its like taking a step back in time. Half the town is only accessible by boat. There are two stores that serve staples, beer, snacks, a few groceries. Throw in the fact that there is a major university research center there and you have a recipe for a pretty cool little town. A friend of a friend hosted us for a fantastic dinner of fresh caught Halibut at his place overlooking Barkley Sound. He and his girlfriend pay 600$ a month to rent a two bedroom house on a bluff overlooking the water. Sounds like a decent life to me....

The view from Mark's deck

Friday, March 5, 2010

General Moneys River

Headed to the mythical Island for a weekend of science talks and beer drinking. Might be able to finagle some time on General Money's beloved home river. Looking forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fly Guide Harvesting Steelhead on the Peninsula

In case you were in a coma and missed the shit storm that erupted last week, a fly guide illegally harvested a wild steelhead in the Upper Hoh (closed to harvest) and got busted by the state. I ran into the gamey who wrote the ticket and personally thanked him for his efforts on behalf of wild fish. I cannot imagine for a moment what the guy who bonked the fish was thinking, harvesting a wild fish in an area where it IS legal is an abomination, much less doing so when the fish has made it past the harvest gauntlet of tribal gill nets and lower river Jims. Not knowing the guide in question I decided to check out his website, all I can say is I guess its not terribly surprising he feels entitled. The guy seems to like exclamation points, cap locks and talking about how awesome he is. Also, apparently he's the best fisherman in the world.

Here's a couple of jems straight from the horses ass (I mean mouth).

"This dude gets all the ACTION!!! He's that Awesome!! REALLY!!! It's all about technique!!! SWING!!!"

So much STYLE ... So much GRACE....."

"Number ONE!!! ANY challengers??? I would like to gamble on who can catch the most chrome!!!
Bring cash check or credit card. Let's start at ten grand and go from there!!

Apparently there are a-holes in every community, even fly fishing. Too bad a native fish had to die for this guy to satisfy his raging ego.