Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks to Give

Giving thanks today for another great year of loving wild anadromous fish, their habitats and the hodgepodge of lunatics that chase them. Thanks for the most epic year imaginable in the northcountry and for the fact that our beloved Puget Sound steelhead are still hanging on. Thanks for a good little run of one salts this summer to the locals and the hope that gives for this year. Thanks for all the people that fight for the fish, as hard as it can be to believe some times, we're making progress. Thanks for the glaciers that carved the valley and the water than runs through it all.

Winters here and a month from now we'll be in the midst of the local, nonexistent hatchery run. By christmas there should be native fish in every river in the region. Every year the crowding gets worse and worse but I've realized a few things over the last few years, one of which is I'd rather walk, and have a chance at a fish in solutide, at the end of the day its all about the peace you find, the greasy new bucket, the cedars dripping with moss and the faintest hope that maybe, after a long day walking, that beautiful wild fish lights you up and leaves you shaken. Looking forward to this winter like never before.

A Batch o' Nasties

With temperatures this week hovering around -4 in Vancouver fishing seems inadvisable. We all get a finite amount of time on the water in a given year so freezing my guides is lower on the list of priorities than a few other things at the moment. Still, the Jones' are definitely setting in, stuck in the house this weekend with crappy weather I took a little time to tie. I swear to god this year I'm fishing more traditionals, they work and its nothing like hooking a fish on a sweet tie.

A few from this week:


Clear Water 1/0 Spey

Peacock and Silver.

Shrimp Style

Nates Magic

Speaking of flies, I stumbled across the Idylwilde blog, some good stuff over there

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two Dudes, One Tiny Raft

Sometimes crossing a large river to fishy water justifies a close encounter with the teenwolf. Definitely not coast guard approved.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wisdom of T Bone

Talking today to Tbone about an article I saw in the Oregonian about 4 counties in WA and OR that are opposing the Columbia DEIS on the grounds that they believe the Columbia needs more hatchery fish he dropped some seriously enlightening knowledge about the state of political affairs in some of the counties in Coastal Washington and Oregon:

"jims love hatcheries...jims live in the counties at the columbia mouth....jims vote in jims as county reps at the columbia mouth....those reps dont know their ass from their mouth but lower taxes while demanding federal subsidization of perceived entitlements at the cost of the country's natural capital"

"yay for america"

The funny thing is, he's right. These county commissioners, with their opposition to the DEIS are actually doing themselves a disservice. Upper River stocks are depressed in part because of huge numbers of unfit hatchery fish spawning in the wild, and until ESA listed stocks make some semblance of a recovery, down river fishing opportunities are going to continue to be very limited. It doesnt matter how many hatchery fish you dump into the Columbia as long as they're swimming along side endangered Redfish Lake Sockeye, Upper Columbia Steelhead, etc. Figure it out Jim' doesn't take einstein

More info from the Osprey:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

WDFW Budget Woes, Time to Reset the Priorities

Puget Sound Egg Wagon

In a recent press release WDFW identified ways it will seek to alleviate its massive budget shortfall. Among the options listed was closing a number of hatcheries, reducing enforcement,'s the killer, closing Puget Sound tributaries for steelhead fishing. Already opportunities to fish for steelhead in Puget Sound rivers have been cut sharply. Last year all rivers closed mid-February to protect low numbers of wild steelhead, and this year the same is expected. I'm not sure how they could possibly limit steelhead fishing any further short of closing the rivers for the entire winter. It is clear that steelhead in Puget Sound are in trouble, but does anyone actually believe sport fishing is to blame? Certainly incidental CnR mortality on wild puget sound steelhead is undesirable, but any biologist at WDFW or NMFS will tell you, poor marine survival is really whats limiting Puget Sound steelhead.

The legacy of historic habitat degradation and overharvest remains, but the habitat has been slowly recovering from the rapacious logging practices of the 60s, 70s and 80s and harvest of wild steelhead hasn't been allowed any where in the sound in almost a decade. C n R opportunities continue to disappear at an alarming rate and WDFW doesn't seem inclined to do anything but close sport fishing. Hatcheries continue to dump millions of fish into the sound annually, with almost no return. Last year a state auditor's report revealed that the average puget sound blackmouth costs taxpayers 780 dollars and more hatchery fish are released in the Elwha every year than on the ENTIRE Oregon Coast. All that fisheries wellfare is what's bankrupting our state fisheries management agency and it isn't working, period. Monitoring efforts are a joke, with index reach methodology that hasnt been calibrated since the 1970s and almost no effort to enumerate parr or smolt production. WDFW doesn't put confidence intervals around their abundance estimates, but if they did it would quickly reveal the fact that they have almost no idea whats going on. The entire Skykomish system wasn't even surveyed in 2007, 2008 and 2009 because of poor visibility. Meanwhile, wild fish continue to decline and there has been no comprehensive effort to understand survival in the marine environment or to what extent hatcheries are contributing to the problems in the sound. If we hope to help steelhead recover in the sound, the first step is actually monitoring populations, if that comes at the expense of wasteful hatchery programs, so be it.

Even more disappointing is the fact that the state promised to establish Wild Salmonid Management Areas in the Statewide Steelhead Management plan, to date they have yet to take any action. Guess what, wild fish cost nothing to produce. They are a part of the natural wealth of our region, a gift from 7000 years of evolution. WDFW seems to believe that fisheries cannot exist without harvest opportunity and it is time for that paradigm to change. The future of wild fish depends on change, and given the current budget woes, now is the time to redefine the mission of our outdated fish management in Washington.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Somewhere in the North Pacific

A bright fish is headed towards home. It might say fall on the calendar but it sure felt a lot like winter today. With the clear cold weather, the North Van mountains tower over the city with their tops covered in a fresh coat of snow. We're still 3 months from the heart of steelhead season but that time will fly by. Of course that hasn't always been the case, historically good numbers of wild winter steelhead entered our rivers beginning in December. Catching a bright wild fish in November wasn't unheard of. Those fish still exist but 50 years of "segregated" hatchery programs, tributary logging and non-selective harvest have whittled their numbers down to nearly nothing. Still, somewhere in the Salish Sea is a bright, wild, winter steelhead headed home. Only one thing to do, swing your fly and wait....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thoughts on Politics

This is not a political blog, its a fish blog, but unfortunately sometimes the two overlap. Midterm elections this week were a vivid reminder of that fact, where Washington voters had the dismal choice between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi. Murray a three term Democrat has been woefully absent from the discussion over what to do about the four lower snake river dams and appears much more interested in pandering to lobbyists and ensuring her own reelection than addressing the needs of her constituents. Rossi on the other hand is a realestate barron with enough money to fund his continually failing political aspirations who happily takes handouts from the Building Industry Association of Washington, the same organization that is constantly on the wrong side when it comes to habitat protection for endangered species, the same organization that petitioned for the delisting of endangered upper columbia steelhead. You can see it wasn't a pretty choice. In the end Murray won, barely.

Hopefully the close call serves as a wakeup call that a politician is defined by their responsiveness to the people they were elected to serve, not by the photo-ops and political star power that lines up on their side. Our political system, indeed most of our institutions seems woefully removed from the citizens which fund and support their very existence. The two party system which we live in almost ensures ineffective government where the two parties are guaranteed a hegemony over political discourse and are therefore preoccupied by their election prospects and the petty disputes with their political adversaries.

Please stop the bullshit and do something.

In Oregon the situation looks a lot better. John Kitzhaber eeked out a win over his republican opponent, ensuring that Oregon will continue to lead the region with progressive efforts to restore and protect wild salmon. Kitzhaber is a well known advocate for wild salmon and serves on the board of Oregon Trout.

Only time will tell what this election will mean for our region but we can only hope it wont be more of the same from Washington's senate delegation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Right On

The other day at the salmon rally the chief of the Squamish first nations band addressed the crowd. Well dressed and eloquent he greeted us saying,

"hello and welcome to our territory"

I chuckled at the time, but the idea resonated with me. A nod to our predecessors on this land, whose way of life has been so easily pushed aside by the onslaught of European colonialism and western capitalist ambition.

He spoke of animals as "people" and of the sacred pact between his tribe and the salmon. Those salmon who for so many centuries gave life to the NW coastal indians. He spoke of the balance of nature and respect for that balance saying,

"for us this is not science, it is ancient wisdom, it is a way of life"

and I thought, right on.