So if you've read the blog more than half of one time you've probably noticed I use the word Jims fairly routinely, typically to describe, backwards, rednecky or otherwise moronic people. I say it so often in day to day talk that friends of mine start saying it without even knowing it. The word comes from a dear friend and honorary Northwest steelhead fisherman Jon JimSalad Goin.
Now anyone who regularly fishes for steelhead on this continent will have come across their fair share of characters on the river. So from time to time we'll be having a special feature called "Best Jim Moments" in which we describe the some of the finest "Jim"like behavior observed during our otherwise serene river visit. This weeks Jim moment is simple on the origin of Jims.
(Based on a True story) As I said before, the word was invented by our dear, californian friend Jon and his cousin John. The two of them were visiting Yosemite for their first time and decided to take a hike. Being outdoorsy types, ambitious hikers and generally badass dudes they decided to take a steep trail to what the guidebook described as an epic view of halfdome. The hike was roughy 3-7 miles depending on who you ask, but whats certain is the large number of switchbacks and lung burning climbing. Upon arriving at their final destination, tired, and prepared to have their minds blown they discovered that since their guidebook had been published (1972ish) a road had been built to the vista which now allowed to tourbuses, rental cars, concessionaires and huge masses of obese, visor wearing, Americana.
Pissed but resigned to their mistake the John(Jon)s set to trying to enjoy the view anyway. Unfortunately one family provided continual disruption as the mom, overweight in a brightly colored mumu with a shrill new jersey accent nagged her husband, Jim to get their out of control 9 year old Jimmy under control.
"Jim, tell Jimmy not to Run?" "Jim, look at Jimmy throwing rocks, look how far they're falling!"
"Thats a good boy now Jimmy, throw them farther."
The John(on)s watched in horror as the projectiles disappeared from sight into the village below. Their blood boiling with frustration at the crowds and the obnoxious family, the two reached a tipping point when in the midst of the grandeur of Yosemite's Peaks they heard the mother proclaim,
"Look Jim! There's there's the hotel, you can see the swimming pool!"
The John(on)s looked at eachother and simultaneously prclaimed,
and marched to the bottom of the mountain without stopping. From that day on, Jim has grown in its uses and popularity. Thanks Jon for your contribution to our group of degenerate river rats.
We call Jon the honorary Pacific Northwesterner because he made an honest to god attempt to move to Seattle. For two years he and his lovely wife (then fiance) Amy lived in a sweet little house in lower Queen Anne. Frustrated by the lack of job prospects in the area, poor weather and worse fishing, they decided to move south for better jobs. Sadly, Jon decided to move to the Seattle area during the worst two year stretch of steelhead fishing in recent memory, and probably ever. After moving from Arcata where winter and summer runs had been excellent, it was a rude shock to find himself in the seemingly fishless Puget Sound area. They now live in the heinously overcrowded, inferno known as Southern California, luckily the mans a surfer as well. I also hear there's a little Jimmy or Jimette on the way, congratulations guys.
Nice quiet Sunday on the River today. Crowds were minimal, water low. The jims seem to love congregating in one spot. Had a bit of a run in with two gents who thought it was a good idea to first put a native fish in the bottom of their boat to unhook it, and then decided to cast over my line, twice...needless to say they heard the full extent of my vocabulary.
Otherwise a lovely day on the water. Weather was fishy as hell, and even with the crystal clear water, the lowlight had me feeling my mojo most of the day. Landed one nice resident rainbow and had a mystery yank in the dangle.
PS-if you lost a line on the Big River in the last few weeks I might've found it. Post a comment with the description of the line, sinktip, location, etc and a way to contact you.
"We have reached the time in the life of the planet, and humanity's demand upon it, when every fisherman will have to be a riverkeeper, a steward of marine shallows, a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out." The Longest Silence - Tom Mcguane
T's weekend gem. Each fish is a blessing from the river
Ran across this quote on the Native Fish Society Blog. It succinctly and beautifully summarizes my feelings about angling, conservation and the development of our ethics in sport. Anglers cannot and should not be measured merely by the numbers of fish they catch but rather their holistic understanding of the rivers and fish they worship, their devotion to the protection of their beloved quarry and the impact of that advocacy. We should not and cannot accept anything less of ourselves.
And life is pretty good. Took a while to get back into the normal, office, computer, bullshit life after three days of riverine medatation. Overall though the soul is feeling good. Always nice to pull the cork on the season and land some fish.
Fishing wasn't on fire, and pressure was obscene Saturday. apparently the checker said 67 boats floated this particular river on Saturday, it was down right depressing to see. Still there were some fish around and Sunday we managed to dodge the boats for most of the day. It was good to fish with T, as good a friends as we are we dont get out enough. My nonweekend (normally) fishing schedule and the fact that we tend to fish different rivers means we often just catch up over the phone. We always have a good time though when we make it out together, and this was no exception.
We also saw a couple of old friends, enjoyed greasy Mexican food and did some very worthwhile exploring. all in all an excellent three day weekend. I even managed to pull a fish out of a little greasy bucket I'd been eying at low water last winter. At the time it was just a little too shallow but the rocks were too sweet to ignore and with the water up just a little it was holding at least one fish. Another hard yank makes me think there might have been a couple home.
In the internet age, the volume and force of information, opinion and nearly every aspect of our communications seems to be constantly increasing. While the the angling community has long been divided with regards to how people choose to pursue fish, what passes as ethical and what we as sportsmen must aspire to, the tenor of the conversation seems to have changed a good deal.
At times it can be a little much to bear and with the exception of the Spey Pages I shy away from message boards about fishing because of the caustic interactions that are commonplace. It is human to judge others, because we are always judging ourselves, our decisions and our place in the world. The question I would ask is; why are we as human beings/anglers so eager to divide ourselves into groups, judge others, and now openly over the internet spout vitriolic garbage about people we dont know? I couldn't be more tired of the us v. them or the "punk kids" stereotype spouted by certain "sports men" from a set of anachronistic guardians of our sporting heritage. Lets take it back to the old days, if someone does something you dont like, tell them, privately, and in a civil manner.
We are all entitled to promoting the sporting values we believe in, however at a point all we can do is lead by example. While it is our responsibility as anglers to understand and protect the wild ecosystems and fish they support, fly fishing is an individual pursuit. Beyond that basic tennant ethics, techniques, strategies are left to the individual to decide. I for one find solace that fact.
Been tying lately. Lacking fishing time doesnt mean I can't dream, besides this water's got to have a few fish pushed into the locals. Sometimes there's just too much steelhead mojo for it not to pay off. River dropped a foot over the last couple days and things should be looking pretty good. Gonna try to get down to the Big River and the Big Trib before they shut her down. Its all about being on my favorite Rivers. There's stirrings of a journey to the hinterlands this weekend as well although the delirious little Greek dude that tail ended me had other ideas. Gonna borrow the automobile of a friend tomorrow and make a few swings before the 2PM class. The Little 6/7/8 Solstice rips with a 510 compact and its just the right size for this little river and its fish. Wish me luck fellers. ' In the meantime, thought you might like to see a few of the latest nasties. Nothing too purty but they wiggle, sink decent and aren't heinous to cast, all desirable qualities in a swimming fly.
Two Favorite Color Combos and one I've been meaning to tie for a while. which one has the most Mojo?
Black, Purple, Kingfisher. Good on dark days or during periods of turbid water, or anytime really. This one has accounted for more fish than any other set of colors for sure.
Orange and Pink. Bright Fish Crush this color, its been most successful for me on the coast and on June Summers. Super Dirty when the waters got a little color and there is a bit of sun on the water.
Pink and Peach. Haven't fished it much although pink has definitely yielded a few fish. Also had my pocket picked pretty tough with this color last spring by T-Bone. Lucky that fish was a kelt. Still a nice fish, would've been gorgeous on the way in
Check out the hound sneaking in for the sniff. Of course T would argue they need egg heads
Not terribly surprising since the rumors have been swirling for weeks but its official the Skagit and Sauk are closing February 16th. Would've seemed unimaginable just a decade ago but a failure by WDFW to take proactive management action has led us to tragically depleted Puget Sound Runs. I pray we've hit rock bottom and we've got no where to go but up. The last few years of learning and loving those two rivers have been some of the most rewarding fishing experiences of my life. I'll fish till they close and then hope to god that we can work together to find a solution to recover these amazing wild steelhead.
I'm pissed as hell and I hope the rest of you are as well. Time to take our rivers back and straighten things out. The fish will rebuild from the scraps. That's what they do best. A few shots from the last few years:
Helped a friend move to Quadra Island outside of Campbell River this weekend. Being the steelhead crazed, river lover that I am I couldnt be on Vancouver Island and not take the opportunity to check out a few Rivers I'd read about and dreamed of. We drove up Friday afternoon, unpacked and got her settled in to her new place and then early Saturday hit the road and headed to a famous brawler of a river on the rugged side of Island.
The River was somewhat like I'd imagined although looking at maps and a few pictures can't ever really do them justice. The River was half Sol Duc, half Sauk, all badass. Big, confined, and in a serious hurry to get to the Pacific. Its rivers like these that breed huge, chrome, rage filled fish which drive us all crazy and this particular stream has its share of lore and more than a few who call it home. It has big winter fish, as well as a smaller race of summer runs which return to one or two of the tributaries. Tucked into a steep walled valley surrounded by huge, snow covered, coastal peaks the river really has alot of power.
Exploring a river is always a tough way to get into fish. Find runs that haven't already been pounded by Jim and his 10 best friends can be tricky but going on advice from a friendly guy on the Ferry, a Vancouver Island map and a little bit of Mojo we managed to find some pretty decent water. The first day we checked out a likely looking area of the river and found a pair of nice pools unfortunately heavy rains a few days earlier meant the river was a day or two away from prime. Running a sort of tannic copper color with about 4 feet of visibility we might've found but the river is pretty confined and in high water getting the fly down was a tricky proposition. After those first two pools we opted to drive over a small coastal pass to another nearby river that'd we'd heard had a few steelhead.
Vancouver Island is littered with rivers. There are probably 250 pieces of water which go by the name "River" all of which support steelhead (at least historically). The East Coast of the Island inside the Georgia Basin has taken the hose pretty tough over the last few decades. Historic overharvest, intensive logging, environmental change in the Salish Sea and heinous fish farming have all contributed and today legendary rivers like the Oyster, Salmon and Nimpkish get only a handful of fish. Things are a little better on the storm battered westcoast. Logging has taken its share of watersheds and fish farms have decimated runs on the pristine rivers of Clayquot Sound, but alot of these little rivers are quietly supporting some pretty healthy populations of steelhead and salmon. The challenge is really finding a river large enough to warrant swinging flies where it doesnt feel like you're shooting fish in a barrel.
The little river we chose to explore fit the bill nicely. Probably about 500 cfs the day we fished it, it tumbles out of its steep drainage through a deathtrap of a canyon and into a low gradient floodplain with some excellent habitat. Just below the mouth of the canyon we found a series of pools where the river broke softly over some seriously sweet boulders. The water was cold and on the clearside of good. Still with rain the previous week I figured there might be some early fish pushing into the system. We didn't find any fish but we found plenty of fishy water. Next time we're in that neck of the woods and the bigger rivers are out we'll know where to look.
Getting out to the Island is a bit of a production and the 100$ round trip cost of the ferry means we wont be taking weekend jaunt out there. Still anytime I've got a bit of time to get out fishing its now high on the list of the most beautiful and inspiring places I've been .
My camera shat the bed this weekend so I'm waiting on photos from my friend's camera. I'll keep you posted. Check back for some shots from the weekend.
Hasn't been much fishing to talk about lately. Had planned to fish the Big River on the way up to Van Monday but a 7,000 foot snowlevel had other plans. I figured fishing with logs drifting by probably wasn't the best use of my time so I slept in and did work. I can feel the few remaining days on that river this season slipping away.
Weds morning I took a friend and new spey caster/future addict out on that little local river I've been exploring. River was falling from a couple days of heavy rain and the color was tolerable brown with about 1.5 feet of vis. Unfortunately by midmorning the water had turned a sort of baby poo brown so we decided some casting lessons/exploring were probably the best use of our time. Pretty disheartening to see the damage gravel mining operations have caused in the upper watershed. Were it not for all that fine sediment, the river would probably come into shape pretty quickly. As it is now, a few hours of hard rain is enough to turn the river into cafe con leche. I wonder what if anything we could do about that shit? It looks like a fucking moonscape and anyone who knows the first thing about how rivers look/work knows lots of fine sediment=bad for salmon. Apparently its not backbreakingly bad because there are still wild steelhead, coho, cutthroat, chum and maybe chinook? but its certainly not helping.
Work has been e'ffing busy this week with the start of a new term and TAing a class so I'm looking forward to things quieting down and getting out. This weekend should be a step in the right direction. I'm helping a friend move to Quadra Island at the North end of Vancouver Island so I'll be taking the opportunity to explore a river I've been itching to see for a long time.
Heavy D and I go way back. Like 3rd grade back. Like the first time I went fly fishing was with this dude. Over the years we've both changed more than a little, but through it all we've stayed true to our fish chasing roots. A few years ago the D got me into my first steelhead, little did he know he'd created an animal.
The Heavy swims his fly through a coastal bucket
See back before the old satchel had properly dropped I was content to spend the summer fishing for 7'' pinners on a 3wt, and hang up the fly rod in winter. About that time I dropped out of school in the midwest and moved back to Pugetropolis for good and The Heavy was getting into chasing anadromous fish properly. A chance encounter with a winter fish had left him determined to find more and he figured an early season warm up on some aggressive Bull Trout might get me stoked on the prospect. I was tough to convince. At that age I was more interested in drinking tall cans until 3 AM and acting half retarded than I was in wild steelhead, little did I know that was all about to change.
the fish that started it all
In retrospect I feel almost guilty at the amount of pampering I required to get me on the stream. Being my roommate at the time, The Heavy woke me up, made breakfast and packed an extra rod/reel which was a good thing since being a knob I forgot my reel. Anyway, he had been up on the big river scouting her out a little that season and had had some success catching char. Around mid day we were at a spot that was pretty reliable for char harassing when I got a massive yank which resulted in my first steelhead (on purpose). That 6 lb hatchery buck was enough to send me into the total death sprial, my family and friends thank you Heavy D. For the rest of the winter I fished like a man possessed while The Heavy went abroad to non-steelhead places to pursue academic interests. By the time he got back I was fully addicted and hadn't landed another fish.
Hard to believe it, but that was four years and about 70,000 miles of hwy ago now. We've learned alot, and fished a lot in those intervening years. Picked up the spey around the same time and got our first spey caught fish on the same trip. We've also explored some seriously sweet water. I still feel guilty for the blown landing that resulted in a close quarters release of that hot, chrome, coastal hen. Has to be one of the sexiest fish I've ever seen. And I still laugh thinking about that big fiery buck that he hooked with the water going out one day on a remote, rainsoaked tributary of a tributary of the pacific. Being his first bruiser, wild winter fish Heavy had his drag set about 6 times too tight and as hard as the fish was pulling it wasnt taking out any line. Instead he reeled it straight to the bank while it cartwheeled viciously and eventually threw the hook. Enough time has passed that we can both laugh now thinking about that one.
A product of The Heavy's crafty ways from this fall. He's also a member of the Pflueger advisory staff
Its nice to know that will all the noise, bullshit and chaos of modern times I've got a homeboy who's always down to go fishing. We live in different cities now, and he's preparing for more world travels but there's always the prospect of his triumphant return to steelhead country. Plus the guys always had something especially fishy up his sleeve. I've got a good feeling about this year buddy so get back soon, we've got a tent trailer to buy and 'dem steelies need chasin.
Over the last 30 years steelhead country has seen unprecedented population growth. Starting in the 1980s and reaching its feverish peak in the last decade or so people have been flocking to the west coast like never before. Pugetropolis is now one of the largest urban areas in the US, The Fraser Valley/Van aren't much better off. As a consequence of all these new McMansions, lawn fertilizer, strip mall parking lots and the other good things that come with people, a lot of once productive rivers have really taken the hose pretty hard. There was a time when the Green and Puyallup were two of the most productive rivers on the west coast, the Skagit wasn't far behind. Depressing to think about how far we've fallen really. Bill McMillan says the Skagit was probaby getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 steelhead in the 1950s. Last year, 2500. Still, up until recently these rivers produced good fishing for the many anglers living in the Puget Sound area and even now, they have their moments, albeit fleeting.
tailing a memorable fish
Its a paradox. Up and down the westcoast, urban rivers are some of the most beloved, oft fished and completely hosed out there. Other than two or three rivers in the Portland area, every river within an hour of a major metro area is majorly degraded. The rivers in Oregon only qualify as partly hosed. Somehow the wild fish hold on in these hardluck rivers and the anglers come, if only because generations of fishermen before them have. Growing up in Pugetropolis I cut my steelhead teeth on a couple of these streams and despite dwindling returns, disgusting amounts of rip rap and knot weed, and the occasional tweaker, I love those systems.
If I was going to move somewhere for quality wild steelhead fishing it might be in BC, but it sure as hell wouldnt be Van. Other than the Cheddar no river in the Lower Mainland gets more than 1000 wild fish annually, urban sprawl has consumed large swaths of most rivers and shite marine survival in the Salish Sea has been the icing on the cake. Somehow the fish keep coming, trickling anymore, but they're there. I've been scouting one little river with a handful of wild fish. Its not stocked with hatchery fish and I couldnt find a single reference to fishing it on google so I figured it might be a good place to check out (it is open to fishing). Plus, the scenery isn't bad and I can get a few hours of fishing in and still make it to work at a reasonable time. Went and scoped things out on Weds before my 2PM class. The river was about the size I'd imagined, steep and fairly confined, it literally tumbles straight out of the mountains into the tidewater. Water was at the low end of being perfect and despite the fact that it was January on a river with only a few hundred fish it actually felt pretty fishy.
Talked to an old timer who said he's been fishing the river since 1972. Of course there were alot more fish then but from the sounds of it he stills gets them every once in a while, at least enough to keep him coming back. And thats just it I guess. The rivers keep us coming back despite all the adversity, shitty news, declining runs and blatant mismanagement. We come back for the river itself, the river which gives life not only to the salmon and trout but to us. The rivers we come to know and love flow through us, the fleeting mist of the february morning, the tumbling rush of the rapid, familiar smells that linger long after we've gone back to the mundane day to day lives. The river's life flows through me, leaves me energized and curious wondering whether that little bucket I found yesterday will fish at higher water, or if we are living at the end of the line for steelhead angling. This is life for many of us. With rivers in Puget Sound closing on the 16th of February this year this passion of ours is feeling pretty fragile. And of course it is. These fish are in trouble and have been for a while, sure things will get better, they always do. Steelhead and Salmon have come back from glaciers, they can come back from this shit. Its just a matter of time and whether we'll be there to soak it all in.
waiting for dawn
Standing in a river not 5 blocks from a highrise condo unit I could have sworn I was in the wilderness. The rapids, moss covered cedars and the dippers were my only company most of the day and despite the long odds I've got a good feeling about that sweet little stream.