Tuesday, May 17, 2011

End of the Road

Well it's been a while now since I've update the blog. The dearth of updates is the product of a variety of factors, but mostly lots of other things going on and lack of inspiration to write interesting pieces. Seeing as I can't honestly say that the situation will be any different in the near future I think its best to bring this chapter to an end rather than letting the blog die a slow death from indifference and neglect. Suffice it to say its been really fun writing this, hopefully some of you have enjoyed reading, and maybe gained something deeper, a connection to the fish, the sport and the people that love them both. I will leave you with this thought, themes which have appeared often over the last year plus...

I honestly believe there is a future for wild salmon and steelhead in the Northwest, and a future for our sport. That future however is one which we actively shape every day, wild fish need our voice but perhaps more importantly we need them. Without wild salmon and steelhead our sport will wither and die, unable to be sustained in any recognizable form by the hatchery counterfits and the types of fisheries they support. As anglers it is incumbent upon us to never lose sight of that fact, to demand more of our resource managers, our fellow anglers and most importantly ourselves. The river is our temple, let us not desecrate it with disrespect. Let us cherish it, protect it and always seek to understand it. Through that understanding we gain a view into something greater than ourselves, something that has always been and, god willing always will be. The river is the pulse of the land, the vitality which is drawn from the age old rocks and mountains, the ancient trees and the water which has forever run to the sea. The salmon and especially the steelhead give us and a momentary glimpse into that world. A bastion of natures wild perfection in our chaotic and mechanized world. Their beauty, power and stamina are a reminder of why we love them and of their fragility. The future is in our hands, long live the wild fish.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Curse of the Banana

Steelheaders are understandably a superstitious bunch. Trying to provoke a grab one of the most ghostlike mysterious freshwater fish on the planet with a fly, when they aren't even actively feeding will do that. and when most of us catch only a handful of fish in a given season, we're looking for any little bit of luck we can get. Matt Klara's column for sexy loops this week on fishing superstitions got me thinking about my own superstitions surrounding fishing. I have a few but perhaps the most important is, never bring bananas fishing. I wont even touch them for 24 hours before a trip, wouldn't want to carry any bad mojo with me on the road. So a couple weeks back when my friend Jon Moore showed up for a day of fishing with a banana I was concerned. Apparently he was unaware of the fact that bringing a bananas is a surefire way to ensure that you have a fishless day on the river. The damage was done though and after a good natured ribbing we strung up the rods and started fishing. It wasn't 10 minutes before Jon had hooked and lost a fish on his first day EVER speycating. Needless to say I was feeling a little sheepish.

Flash forward two weeks. Yesterday back on the same river, his 4th day of fishing the two-hander. After a quiet morning I went back tot he truck while he went down river to fish another run. Grabbing sandwiches from his bag I reached in and, gasp another banana. For a superstitious steelhead bum like myself this is when the horror movie sound track starts. Oh god, this day might as well be over. He brought a banana again AND now I'd touched it. Anyways, trying to get over the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I tossed the sandwiches in my backpack and headed back to the river to meet Jon. In the next run, a sweet, long piece of water with two foot chunks of grantie interspersed throuhout I set Jon in the bottom half and started at the top. Ten minutes later it was deja vu all over again, him with a hot fish jumping on the end of the line, me feeling incredulous that my banana superstition didn't seem to apply to him.

The thing is, the fish ended up coming unpinned and I didn't touch anything either of the two days. So perhaps the curse of the banana is real after all. The only way to truly establish the credibility of the ancient and feared banana curse is to put it to the test by swinging a fish while dangling a banana in the water from your wading belt. Of course to do such a thing is to risk death or worse, bad steelhead karma...Klara are you game?

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is it

Last week of April and we're nearing the end of steelhead season. Depending on the weather we may occasionally get a week or two of May before runoff starts full force but that of course remains to be seen. What is true though is that we've had one of the coldest springs that anyone can remember, keeping the snow largely locked in the mountains up to now. Normally by this time run off has started, slowly at first but enough to keep the river flush with water and that beautiful green color of spring steelhead water. There's been some fish around, we'll have to see what we can find tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back From the Hinterlands

With a few photos from last weeks trip north. should be a great summer, more soon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Luck

I had the pleasure of fishing yesterday with Jon Moore, new faculty in our biology department. Jon is a salmon enthusiast who like myself, spent several years at UW fisheries. He also happens to be an avid steelheader. Having just moved to BC, he's been in the market for a two handed rod for sometime, so yesterday, finally having his new T&T 1307 in hand, lined up and ready for the river we decided to get out for a day of fishing, casting and bullshitting. Starting the day at a nice long run that fishes from river left we spent the first 15 minutes practicing the snap-t and before long Jon was making casts in the 50 foot range and fishing well. Seeing that he'd gotten comfortable enough casting to be left to his own devices I started to wander off upriver but before I could go more than 30 yards he let out a whoop. I turned around just in time to see his rod doubled over, pulsing with the weight of a fish. Then as quickly as it had happened, the fish was gone, unseen but memorable none the less. Hooking a winter fish on your first day of spey casting is certainly not the norm, but there's nothing like a little taste of luck to plant the seed of addiction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BC Government DFO Gone Awry

As the Cohen commission has progressed its been a bit like watching a sad train wreck. The BC government and DFO have long been boosters for the aquaculture industry, most of which is foreign owned, but their behavior of late has crossed a line in attempts to shield the industry from scrutiny from the public. No longer are they simply ignoring the effects that salmon farming is having on wild fish throughout the Georgia Basin, now they're covering it up.

A major publication by a DFO researcher and a group of collaborators recently revealed that a viral pathogen, likely salmon leukemia, is having devastating effects on Fraser Sockeye with as much as 95% of some components of the run dying before they reach the spawning grounds. Since the publication she has not been allowed to speak to the media and so far DFO refuses to test salmon farms( a likely vector and breeding ground for any disease) for salmon leukemia.

Recently, when asked to furnish disease records for the Cohen commissions inquiry into the Fraser Sockeye collapse the government declined, saying the records, do not include information about the location of the sampling and are there for irrelevant. First of all, I don't buy it. No one has seen the records save for a few attorneys and the BC government, but who honestly collects data without noting their location? If someone who is trained as a scientist did collect information in such a fashion they certainly did it for a reason. And guess who the province trotted out to announce they wouldn't be releasing court ordered disease records? Gary Marty, the esteemed veterinary scientist who recently found it within his area of expertise to publish a paper using proprietary industry sea lice data which dubiously claimed that population collapses of Broughton Archipelago pink salmon were not caused by lice. Not only that, but rather than face the very obvious conflict of interest head on he chose to publish the paper through a faculty posting he has at UC Davis, oh but by the way he's a fish pathologist with the BC ministry of agrniculture when it comes to shielding fish farming companies from public scrutiny. I suppose that's out of UC Davis' mandate.

All of this stinks it is becoming increasingly apparent that the BC government and DFO and really just bullshit machines intent on allowing open net pen salmon farming to continue unchecked in the provinces waters. We've already seen collapses of multiple species throughout the Georgia Basin concurrent with the expansion of the fishfarming industry, doesn't that alone warrant good hard scientific look at the impact of fish farms? And the sad fact is the industry could very easily be making money in closed containment, on land, they just dont want to. So instead foreign owned fish farming companies (mostly Norwegian) are happy to place BC's public resources at risk, biding their time until one day, hopefully in the near future, they cut and run. Lets just hope the devastation isn't as bad as what they've left in Chile, Norway, Ireland and basically everywhere else they're gone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Big Week for Public Fishing Rights

Great news from Montana where state lawmakers finally came to their senses and opted to table a controversial law that would have dramatically reduced public access to rivers in the state. HB 309 appears to be dead thanks in large part to the voices of the angling community who saw the bill for what it was, a move by wealthy land owners to privatize fishing rights in the state. Also, in BC the provincial government has opted to delay implementation of laws that would further reduce the ability of non-residents to angle without a guide. Glad to see lawmakers finally seeing the light and understanding how fundamentally important public access to rivers is.

t-bone contemplating rule changes in the North Country

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alive Again

Venturing almost as far from civilization as is possible in these parts, Ralf and I spent yesterday exploring some new water and visiting a few of his favorites. It was a perfect day for steelheading, mild with temperatures reaching into the 50s by afternoon and a light drizzle falling for most of the morning. In the steep glacial valley the clouds hung close the precipitous mountain sides, draped in moss and studded with the hardscrabble firs and spruce which predominate the region. The river looked good too, after falling for almost a week it still had a touch of color and enough flow to give us confidence in our presentations. A month of fishless swings had my confidence at a low ebb, but this time of year anytime the line is in the water good things can happen.

About 11:30 we crossed the river and walked up to a nice run where two braids came together, pushing hard against the left bank and creating a soft bucket in the head. Ralf chose to fish the tail, a long ambling piece of water and I shuffled up to the top. The run was fishy and swimming my white, pink and orange offering through I felt I was covering the water well. maybe 15 casts into the run the line tightened with an almost imperceptibly light tug. Waiting but focused I let the fish take the fly, turn and then set in a sweep towards the bank. Instantly it was rushing down and across river leaping downstream, then upstream again, far into my backing. After one of the strongest fights I have seen in some time the fish finally came to hand, a thick shouldered buck, bright and probably 12 pounds. Minutes later Ralf would hook and loose another fish on the leap.

We fished the rest of the day only landing a few bull trout, but the afternoon sun was glorious and the memory of the leaping fish is forever etched in my memory. We also had an encounter with a bobcat. Apparently unperturbed by our presence he sat watching us fish for almost an hour, at one point allowing me within 30 feet to snap a photo. A day like that revitalizes the will to fish, sharpens the focus and highlights just how preciously short the season is. In a land dominated by its glacial past and present fish arrive to the spawning grounds late. From now until freshet we will see some of the best fishing of the year and I for one am really looking forward to it.

afternoon visitor

Monday, March 21, 2011

Missing the Stomping Grounds

This time of year is when the heartsick longing for the beleaguered but still epically mighty river comes on strong. Undoubtedly this weeks rain has brought some nice fresh fish into the system and chances are, were it legal, we'd probably be able to eek out some of the sweetest days of the year right about now. instead I'm sitting at home riding a month long dryspell thats damn near broken my will. Anyways, I'll keep the line in the water and hope something good happens, starting tomorrow. In the meantime here's a photo of the river I've always enjoyed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Atlantic Salmon Journal

I consider myself a steelhead fisherman and in general I have a hard time getting excited about other quarry. That said, what steelhead angler doesn't fantasize about fishing for atlantic salmon? Atlantic salmon are the aristocratic cousins of steelhead and our sport owes many of its ritualized traditions to the long held practices of fishing for atlantics. Equally chrome, and slightly larger on average, atlantic salmon share the steelhead's aggressiveness towards and swung fly and under the right conditions are known to take skated flies.

A few weeks back I was busy wasting time on the internet perusing photos of chrome atlantics from eastern canada, and russia. Wiping the drool away from the corner of my mouth I stumbled across a link to the Atlantic Salmon Federation, a group based in Eastern Canada dedicated to the preservation of Atlantic Salmon Fisheries. Intrigued I read more, turns out for the price of an annual membership (25 bucks I think) they will send you their beautiful quarterly publication the Atlantic Salmon Journal, needless to say I signed up. I'm not really one to subscribe to fishing magazines, mostly because I find the stories are typically repetitive and poorly written but I like to support the conservation of beautiful anadromous fish even if I may never be blue blooded enough to actually fish for them. Sort of a principle thing I guess.

The magazine didn't disappoint, full of beautiful photography and art it strikes the right tone in balancing angling with conservation and avoids the normal, how to, where to drivel we're all so accustomed to. Anyways, check out their website and if you want to get a sweet quarterly magazine and support a fantastic cause.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Avid Angler Under New Ownership

Established in 1975 the Avid Angler has long been a fixture for Puget Sound area fly fishers. With a great selection of materials and equipment, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff its one of my favorite shops. Since Nate Keen, the shops long time manager and part owner left the shop a few years ago for a different job some of us worried. No need to worry now, good friend, world class guide and former Avid employee Ryan Smith recently bought the shop, ensuring that the Seattle area institution will remain in business and thrive. The shop will still be in Lake Forest Park but is moving a few storefronts down to a slightly smaller space. That's not to say they're cutting the good stuff out, they'll still carry the best selection of feathers, hooks, rods, reels and bullshit in the area. Ryan is a good friend and I'm glad to see the shop is in good hands, congrats buddy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

BC Seeing the Light

For the time being at least BC is opting not to change angling regulations in the Skeena pending the outcome of a tourism and economic impacts study. The province had been planning on adopting a controversial set of rules that would limit non-resident angler access to many watersheds in the Skeena system. The rule changes had been heavily supported by the guiding industry. Good news for fish bums world wide who would rather drink cheap whiskey in a wet sleeping bag than pay 5000 bucks a week to fish in the pampered setting of an overpriced fishing lodge.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Get Derelict Gear out of Washington Waters

A bill in Washington State which would vastly improve reporting and recovery capacity for lost and derelict fishing gear is currently stalled in committee. If it doesn't make it out by the end of the day today (5:00PM) it will be dead. Every year ghost nets, lost traps, etc kill thousands of fish, birds and other marine life in Washington. This is a no brainer. Check out the osprey for more info and contact your state senator immediately.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Something Stinks in Montana

Something I’ve been watching the last several weeks is the current controversy in Montana over protecting public access to streams. Apparently some wealthy landowners feel that owning land adjacent to a river gives them exclusive rights to fishing the river, despite the fact that the laws of Montana, and many other states protect the rights of citizens to accessing public waterways. HB 309 which has already passed the state house and is headed to the senate next week is a bad idea for a lot of reasons both economic and ethical, but what it really comes down to is, cutting off public access to rivers flies in the face of a long held tradition of land and river use in the US. Bowing to wealthy landowners who hope to secure private rights to angling on many of the West’s greatest fishing rivers would set a terrible precedent and reeks of the type of aristocratic entitlement that Americans loathe.

In the UK river front lands have been controlled by the wealthy elite for centuries, making angling for trout and salmon the exclusive realm those who can afford expensive daily rod fees, and memberships to private clubs. Part of what makes anling in North America unique and special is the relative equality in access for all members of society. Fishing transcends economic categorization and anglers range from deeply working class to extremely wealthy. The fact that so many Americans partake in fishing and other outdoor activities stems from the fact that we have followed a very different model of land ownership. The western United states was practically given away to settlers, railroad companies and investors to stimulate settlement and economic growth. In the same way we have long given private individuals and companies access to our public lands and resources for grazing, logging, irrigation, mining and other economically important activities. The west is built on the ability of individuals to share common space, while simultaneously protecting the rights of individuals and their property. Access to the outdoors is deeply ingrained in the culture of Western North America and it is critical that we protect the right of all members of society to enjoy these opportunities. Stream access laws are an essential part of the fabric of the culture and economy of the West. The rights of landowners should absolutely be protected, however public access to rivers has long come with the stipulation that river users respect private property and remain below the highwater mark while fishing adjacent to private land.

Montana is trout country. Every year thousands of anglers from all over the world make pilgrimage there to fish the legendary rivers of the state. The fly fishing industry and associated travel makes up a significant portion of Montana’s GDP, however angler visits to the state are largely contingent on individuals having access to rivers. Why Montana is even considering abolishing public access to rivers is practically unfathomable given their long reign as a North American mecca for fly fishing. The only conceivable explanation is that wealthy, influential land owners have effectively lobbied Montana’s state government to consider a law that does not benefit the vast majority of the state’s citizens. That stinks so lets call it what it is, bullshit. If you’re from Montana, let your state senators know you oppose the passage of HB 309. If you’re a non-resident of the state, email the governor and tell him that while you have enjoyed traveling to Montana in the past your interest in visiting the state is contingent upon open access to rivers.

The bill goes before the Senate Agricultural Committee this Tuesday March 8th and a rally at the state capitol building is planned for 2:00 that day.

Contact the governor at:

Here is a list of the Senators:
SD 01: Chas Vincent (R)
34 Paul Bunyan Lane
Libby, MT 59923

293-3839 / Cvvincent@hotmail.com

SD 02: Ryan Zinke (R)
409 West 2nd Street
Whitefish, MT 59937

862-0823 / Ryanzinke@yahoo.com

SD 03: Bruce Tutvedt (R)
2335 West Valley Drive
Kalispell, MT 59901

257-9732 / Tutvedt@montanasky.us

SD 04: Jon Sonju (R)
PO Box 2954
Kalispell, MT 59903

270-7113 / Sonjumt@yahoo.com

SD 05: Verdell Jackson (R)
555 Wagner Ln
Kalispell, MT 59901

756-8344 / vjack@centurytel.net

SD 06: Carmine Mowbray (R)
PO Box 1202
Polson, MT 59860

883-4677 / clarity@cyberport.net

SD 07: Greg Hinkle (R)
5 Gable Road
Thompson Falls, MT 59873

827-4645 / ccwhi@blackfoot.net

SD 08: Shannon Augare (D)
PO Box 2031
Browning, MT 59417

450-0020 / Shannonjaugare@aol.com

SD 09: Rick Ripley (R)
8920 Highway 200
Wolf Creek, MT 59648


SD 10: Bradley Hamlett (D)
PO Box 49 
Cascade, MT 59421

264-5885 / Wranglergallery@hotmail.com

SD 11: Anders Blewett (D)
PO Box 2807
Great Falls, MT 59403

231-8618 / Anders.blewett@gmail.com

SD 12: Mitch Tropila (D)
PO Box 929
Great Falls, MT 59403

899-3474 / tropila@mt.net

SD 13: Edward Buttrey (R)
27 Granite Hill Lane
Great Falls, MT 59405

250-5103 / ebuttrey@cteq.com

SD 14: Llew Jones (R)
1102 4th Avenue South West
Conrad, MT 59425

271-3104 / Lcjones@3rivers.net

SD 15: Jim Peterson (R)
1250 Buffalo Canyon Road
Buffalo, MT 59418

374-2277 / jpranch@ttc-cmc.net

SD 16: Jonathan Windy Boy (D)
Box 269
Box Elder, MT 59521

395-4718 / Windyboy_j@yahoo.com

SD 17: Rowlie Hutton (R)
2 Lila Drive
Havre, MT 59501


SD 18: John Brenden (R)
PO Box 970
Scobey, MT 59263

783-5394 / senatorbrenden@gmail.com

SD 19: Donald Steinbeisser (R)
11918 County Road 348
Sidney, MT 59270

433-2187 / Donstein@midrivers.com

SD 20: Frederick Moore (R)
487 Signal Butte Road
Miles City, MT 59301

234-3562 / elmoore@midrivers.com

SD 21: Sharon Peregoy (D)
PO Box 211
Crow Agency, MT 59022

639-2198 / apsaalookewoman@yahoo.com

SD 22: Taylor Brown (R)
775 Squaw Creek Road
Huntley, MT 59037

348-2070 / Taylor@northernbroadcasting.com

SD 23: Alan Olson (R)
18 Halfbreed Creek Rd
Roundup, MT 59072

323-3341 / Ajolson@midrivers.com

SD 24: Kim Gillan (D)
750 Judicial Avenue
Billings, MT 59105

248-6063 / Glonky@aol.com

SD 25: Kendall Van Dyk (D)
PO Box 441
Billings, MT 59103

690-1728 / Kendallvandyk@gmail.com

SD 26: Lynda Moss (D)
552 Highland Park Drive
Billings, MT
252-7318 / Lyndamoss@imt.net

SD 27: Gary Branae (D)
415 Yellowstone Avenue
Billings, MT 59101

245-2127 / Garybranae@gmail.com

SD 28: Jeff Essmann (R)
2101 Grand Ave #5
Billings, MT 59108

259-8404 / Jeff@jeffessmann.com

SD 29: Edward Walker (R)
4221 Rimrock Road
Billings, MT 59106

697-6967 / ewalker@edwalker2010.com

SD 30: Jason Priest (R)
PO Box 743
Red Lodge, MT 59068

425-0674 / jason@priest2010.com

SD 31: Ron Arthun (R)
285 Shields River Road
Wilsall, MT 59086

578-2340 / ronarthun@gmail.com

SD 32: Larry Jent (D)
506 East Babcock
Bozeman, MT 59715

587-1210 / larry@imt.net

SD 33: Bob Hawks (D)
703 West Koch Street
Bozeman, MT 59715

587-1403 / R_hawks@imt.net

SD 34: Joe Balyeat (R)
6909 Rising Eagle Road
Bozeman, MT 59715

539-5547 / Joebalyeat@yahoo.com

SD 35: Art Wittich (R)
3116 Sourdough Road
Bozeman, MT 59715

585-7418 / art@wittich4senate.com

SD 36: Debby Barrett (R)
18580 Highway 324
Dillon, MT 59725

681-3177 / Grt3177@smtel.com

SD 37: Steven Gallus (D)
2319 Harvard Avenue
Butte, MT 59701

494-3914 / Steve.gallus@gmail.com

SD 38: Jim Keane (D)
2131 Wall Street
Butte, MT 59701


SD 39: Terry Murphy (R)
893 Boulder Cut Off Road
Cardwell, MT 59721

285-6937 / murphter5@yahoo.com

SD 40: Mary Caferro (D)
PO Box 1036
Helena, MT 59624

443-4066 / Marycaferro@gmail.com

SD 41: Christine Kaufmann (D)
PO Box 1566
Helena, MT 59624

439-0256 / Kaufmann@mt.net

SD 42: Dave Lewis (R)
5871 Collins Rd
Helena, MT 59602

458-5511 / Davelewisd@aol.com

SD 43: Gene Vuckovich (D)
1205 West Third Street
Anaconda, MT 59711

563-2313 / genev@q.com

SD 44: Bob Lake (R)
PO Box 2096
Hamilton, MT 59840

363-4091 / Lakemill@montana.com

SD 45: Jim Shockley (R)
PO Box 608
Victor, MT 59875


SD 46: Carol Williams (D)
3533 Lincoln Hills Point
Missoula, MT 59802

728-8735 / Cwilliams@montanadsl.net

SD 47: Ron Erickson (D)
3250 Pattee Canyon Road
Missoula, MT 59803

549-4671 / Nancron@aol.com

SD 48: Tom Facey (D)
418 Plymouth
Missoula, MT 59801

728-6814 / facey_tom@hotmail.com

SD 49: Dave Wanzenried (D)
903 Sky Dr
Missoula, MT 59804

543-2775 / daveew@gmail.com

SD 50: Cliff Larsen (D)
8925 LaValle Creek Road
Missoula, MT 59808

728-1601 / Cliff@larsenusa.com

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's March

Has been for a couple of days actually. If you're a steelheader that means the itch to abandon work, family, and society altogether to live under a bridge on a steelhead river is becoming more substantial with every passing day. Although few actually spin all the way out of control into a full blown life of fishing induced hermitage, March is a great time to be a steelheader. With snow falling from the sky right now in Vancouver you wouldn't know it was getting towards spring, but I guess thats why they say it comes in like a lion. Waiting for a little bump in the hydrographs before I head to the river but after a week of cold weather and low water its getting to be unbearable....

hope to find a few more of these before its all done

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Doug Rose Word Up

I ran across this article a while ago on Doug Rose's website and more or less forgot it. Its a worthwhile read though so I thought I would pass it along. In recent years the Peninsula has seen a huge influx of "flyfishing" guides fishing almost exclusively with indicators out of the boat. In this post Doug takes a good, nonpartisan look at what he personally defines as flyfishing for steelhead. Rather than bashing bobber fishers Doug focuses on the reasons why people historically chose to fly fish and how growing interest in flyfishing has led to some changes in the culture of the sport and the expectations that anglers have for a day of steelhead fly fishing. check it out here:


Monday, February 28, 2011

Low and Cold

We've got a good batch of our annual low and cold conditions going on in the Pacific Northwest right now. With 6 inches of snow Saturday night, the lower mainland is still pretty messy and the rivers are hovering in the mid to upper 30s. Fish can still be found but an angler must adjust their water selection and tactics slightly, under these conditions T-bone usually fishes a dryline and a lightly weighted fly and has had good success. I prefer a light tip, long leader and a sparse fly. Might spend this week catching up on work and wait for some better conditions.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The folks at Deneki outdoors operate lodges in BC, Alaska, Chile and South Andros. While these fine establishments may be well beyond the humble means of a 25 year old dirtbag steelhead bum, Deneki has a reputation as one of the finest outfits in the business. They also have a blog updated daily with high quality content on tackle, technique, destinations and the occasional guest article. Linked in the sidebar and here:


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Politics As Usual

Last week House Republicans continued their assult on the environment using massive cuts in federal discretionary spending to attack ESA protections in the Central Valley, remove funding for dam removal on the Klamath, and cripple the EPA and their capacity to regulate polluters. They're also proposing to slash all funding for NPR (I know the last one isn't environment, but in the long hours alone on the road NPR has always been a favorite). All this under the guise of of spending cuts, but the bottom line is these cuts are politically motivated, particularly when you consider discretionary spending they're cutting is only 1/6th of the federal budget.

Of course the alternative isn't too pretty either. A telling editorial last week in the Oregonian shed light on the fact that Washington's two Democratic Senators in collaboration with Gary Locke the former Governor turned head of the Commerce Department have been working actively to stifle debate on Snake River dam removal and ensure that the Obama administration adopt the illegal Bush BiOp as its own. As you can see the political choices we have in this country aren't particularly enticing. That's why it's critical that we are remain politically engaged to ensure that our representatives are accountable to their constituents. That is doubly true for my conservative friends, make sure your congressman knows you're a conservative voice for wild fish and the environment, there's lots of you out there, make your voice heard. In the coming weeks the senate will vote to pass their own budget for the current fiscal year and it is critical that the environmentally destructive provisions included in the House bill not make it through.

More info in the Osprey:

Send a letter to your senator:

Monday, February 14, 2011

One for the road

Headed out tomorrow morning with the steelhead dog. We'll be in the distant lands yet untouched by the internet so it might be a while before I get around to posting again. Hoping to come back with some photos, stories and old growth fish bum crust. In the meantime enjoy this photo from last week. Ralf taking it easy tossing a nice wedge.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sweet Anticipation Plus a Few New Flies

Newly Minted

Its raining in Vancouver today, hard. Its been a week since we had much measurable rainfall and the rivers have gotten pretty low. Over the next two or three days some areas of the Pacific Northwest are forecasted to see a few inches worth of rain, how much actually falls remains to be seen. Generally though its pretty likely that depending on where you're fishing conditions will range from absolutely perfectly cherry to somewhere just shy of flood stage. With a week of fishing ahead of me I'm taking a wait and see approach, watch the hydrographs and the weather forecast closely and make a call when things get a little bit more clear. For a normal member of society unaccustomed to the whims of winter river conditions it might seem maddening, particularly when most people plan vacations months ahead of time. For the steelheader it offers the tantalizing possibility that one or more of the favored stomping grounds could be fishing perfectly. A little high and green always beats the hell out of low and clear.

I've also been doing a good deal of tying lately. Then again, when am I not? Fishing with Ralf last weekend got me thinking about pattern design, size and what makes a steelhead bug "fishy". He's a proponent of smaller flies, tied sparse with just a little bit of flash so they sink well, but have lots of lifelike movement and shimmer. I've always loved the classic lines and sensibility of spey style flies but the appeal of more modern fly design with its emphasis on tubes and stingers, articulated, flash covered sea creature like monstrosities tends to also play a prominent role in my pattern design. So I've come up with a compromise. A classic prawn style spey fly, tied with all the traditional materials, but embellished with just enough flash and nastiness to make the fly really swim. This batch is tied on 1.5 AJs and should fish well under most winter conditions, but I think the pattern holds promise for summer runs as well if its tied on a smaller hook, particularly early in the season when the fish are bright and aggressive.

did someone say Jungle Cock?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Water

Last Sunday with the river falling from a little overnight bump of water I spent the day swinging flies through the lower end of the Sea to Sky River. While the steelhead are few and far between this time of year the conditions had us hopeful and there are undoubtedly a few fish in the system already. This particular river is unique to the lower mainland because it offers one of the few truly big water fishing experiences in the region. The Puget Sound region is blessed with an abundance of medium to large rivers which tumble from their glacial headwaters out into the Puget Sound Lowlands creating some of the finest large river steelhead water on the planet. It is these rivers that have made the Puget Sound on of the epicenters of our steelhead flyfishing traditions. Heading north though the mountains push against the Pacific and the ocean reaches far inland through the steep glacial fjords of the BC Coastline.

No knock against smaller more confined water but large rivers offer a sort of majesty that is unique and breathtaking. Dwarfed along the banks of a massive run an angler is always tempted by the water just beyond reach, always wondering if just a few more feet could make the difference. There are runs that can be fished for hours. Step after step swimming the fly over the large alluvial boulders into the hangdown, where despite the river's massive size there always seems to be a willing fish. Even in the largest of rivers steelhead will and often do sit in unimaginably soft and shallow water. And when low light or slighlty murky water affords them cover the fish seem to prefer to slide into the shallows, along the gradually sloping bottom to lie in the softest part of the run.

Reading break is upon us now and the next week will be nothing but steelhead revelry. Really looking forward to getting back to some of the old haunts, maybe if the stars line up right we'll find a few fish.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Been A While

Northcountry Flashback

Its been a while since I updated the blog. Apologies for the one dude somewhere out in the netherregions of the internet who actually cares. TW has probably been pressing refresh on the browser every 39 seconds for the last few days. Don't worry guys. I have been fishing, taking photographs and I'll take some time and try to write something very soon.

In the meantime...misguided state lawmakers in Washington are trying to merge WDFW with the parks and here's the killer, take the teeth out of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. I'm the first to acknowledge that WDFW has its shortcomings but the reality is, without a state fish and wildlife agency our chances of getting any sort of sound fisheries management in this state go to zero. At present the commission wields considerable power. They have the ability to hire and fire the director and as such play a prominent role in guiding WDFW's strategic vision. While hatchery and harvest reform still has a long way to go in Washington, the commission has played a major role in getting the ball rolling. If SB 5669 & HB 1850 are passed the governor will appoint the director of WDFW. Not a good idea when you consider how close Dino Rossi and his cronies at the Building Industry of Washington have been to getting the Governorship. Those are the same knobs that sued to delist upper Columbia steelhead.

The Osprey has more information and a link where you can take action.


Friday, February 4, 2011

La Niña We Hardly Knew Thee

For fish lovers in the pacific northwest the prospect of a La Niña winter is enough to make us lick our chops. Strong La Niña conditions are associated with productive marine conditions during the spring when millions of salmon and steelhead smolts are hitting the Pacific for the first time. These first few months in the salt are far and away the most important factor determining survival within that cohort and the run sizes that the river see's in subsequent years when fish return to spawn. Legendary years like 2001 and 2009 when more than 600 thousand steelhead passed Bonneville Dam came on the heels of strong La Niña winters the year before, when outmigrating steelhead and salmon entered the productive waters of the pacific. This winter is supposedly one of the strongest La Niñas on record but so far hasn't delivered the cold weather and hefty snow pack we're accustomed to. Chances are the ocean will still be more productive than usual, but the strange weather has rattled the confidence a little in the predictability of the climatological pattern. Cross your fingers, if it holds up like its supposed to fall 2012 could be amazing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fish Photos

When it comes to fish photos I'm pretty particular. I like a photo where the fish is the subject and since I usually fish alone its all about making the call, can I get a photo of this fish without risking its survival? Last weekend in the last run of the day I hooked and landed a nice wild buck, around 7 or 8 pounds. Chrome but for a faint blush of pearl and purple on its cheek the fish would've made a great photo subject but I opted not to take it. In the small river where I'd caught it the fish never really had a chance to run a long ways meaning that when it came to hand it wasn't really all that tired. Instead of laying the fish in shallow water for it to flop around while I fumbled for my camera I opted to slip the hook out and release the fish quickly. Winter steelhead are hard to come by, and while I would've loved to have a photo of the fish it just wasn't the right situation. That happens, and besides, the fish is forever etched in my memory.

I see alot of fish photos where the fish is just a tiny splash of white and chrome and the angler is really the subject. It seems like a wasted opportunity since you cant really see the fish very well and save for the blurry lump in the anglers hands the photo ends up looking like any other picture of a dude on a river. Another type of photo that I can't stand are those where the angler is pointing the fish at the camera. They look like shit and you cant see the fish at all. Instead it looks like any other hero shot but significantly more idiotic because the angler has decided to use the fish as a gun/weapon. Maybe someone can explain to me why these photos have grown in popularity over the last few years?

I would post a picture demonstrating what I mean, but I don't have any. I'm not trying to start a shitstorm by calling any specific individual out, but if you take a quick look around the internet you'll find the type of photo I'm talking about. Generally its a fish with its mouth agape, gasping for air being held absurdly close to the camera while the angler either scowls or smiles like a cheese dick. Guess its just not the angling aesthetic I'm going for. The thing is, holding fish out of the water does affect their survival and studies of C&R mortality have shown that anything beyond 30 seconds out of water and mortality increases exponentially. So keep them in the water, and take a picture of the fish. They're beautiful animals. And besides we've all got more photos of our ugly mugs than we know what to do with anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old Man River

Wandering around in the forgotten corners of the rainsoaked hinterlands over the weekend I ran into my good friend Old Man River. It was a pleasant surprise seeing him although I should have known I'd see him there. He spends most of his time fishing and the river was in shape. With one day to fish I woke up at 4AM Sunday and drove in the dark to the river. Pressure was a little more than I like but a little bit of walking was all it took to get away from the crowds. Also encountered a couple of fish.

first of the day

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thanks Ray's

Wild winter steelhead where it belongs, in the water

Glad this situation ended up so well. As Spencer Miles says, we can only keep playing "whack-a-mole" for so long. Time to go after some bigger prizes. Steelhead should be on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List and more needs to be done to discourage distributors from buying steelhead.

From Ray's:

Thank you for your additional 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. Best, Peter Birk, Executive Chef | Ray’s Boathouse, Café & Catering 6049 Seaview Avenue NW | Seattle, WA 98107

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jims Weigh in on Science

A few days ago the peanut gallery at a popular online fishing forum got wind of the Native Fish Society's work to reduce the impact of hatchery programs on the Sandy. While there are some seriously misinformed people out there it is also good to see the issue of hatcheries and their impacts on wild fish coming before the mainstream. It is also encouraging to see the number of people in the angling public who understand the role hatcheries have played in depressing wild runs. One common problem people seem to have is understanding that scientists never talk in absolute terms. As scientists we're trained to acknowledge our uncertainties and limit our inferences to what the data can address. For individuals accustomed to politicians and cable news broadcasters that type of equivocation is all the ammunition they need to dismiss it as nothing more than theory, or even attempt to discredit the researchers as biased. Natural systems however are inherently complex and the decline of wild fish will never be attributable to a single cause. Some love to blame commercial fishermen despite the fact that very few Sandy River steelhead are caught in commercial fisheries, others blame habitat destruction and while they lament the past they dismiss the possibility of improving conditions for the future. Blaming something other than your own consumptive use is always the easiest way forward, but as anlgers we can and must do better. The bottom line is people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the strength of the evidence, but for me the dozens of scientific papers which point to hatcheries as a major driver of wild population declines are more than enough evidence.

From the way alot of those dudes talk you'd think they had read a great deal of the literature on hatchery wild interactions.


Get the facts, hatchery/wild literature on the NFS website:


Monday, January 17, 2011

Wild Steelhead on Ray's Menu

Rays boathouse in Seattle is serving wild steelhead caught on the Olympic Peninsula. What a load of crap. Write them an email and tell them how you feel about their fine dining establishment.


My Letter:


I am writing you regarding your decision to serve wild steelhead in your Seattle restaurants. Perhaps you are unaware but wild steelhead are now listed under the endangered species act in 5 of 7 Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) in Washington State. While the fish you are serving come from the Olympic Peninsula, these stocks have been in decline for more than two decades and at present populations are hovering around 10% of their historic abundance. More concerning is the fact that over the last 5 years many of these rivers have failed to meet even the modest escapement goals set our by WDFW and the tribes. In each instance run sizes were large enough to meet escapement goals however irresponsible overharvest of wild steelhead in tribal commercial fisheries resulted in runs failing to meet conservation levels. Wild steelhead are an integral part of our state's cultural, economic and ecological heritage and to serve them on your menu despite the fact that populations are extremely depressed statewide represents gross negligence on the part of your business. The future of the seafood and restaurant industry depends on sustainable practices and well managed fisheries and your decision to serve wild steelhead demonstrates your lack of awareness. Instead it appears you are out of touch with the biological realities of fisheries in our state and are willing to harvest until the last fish has been sold on your menu. Until wild steelhead is removed from Rays menu I will absolutely not patronize your restaurant and will do everything in my power to divert restaurant goers in the Seattle area to establishments with a higher environmental standard.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ten Seconds to Save the Sandy

I posted last week about ongoing hatchery practices on the Sandy which are undoubtedly depressing the productivity of wild stocks. Despite the relatively good habitat of the Sandy and the millions of restoration dollars spent in the last decade the department continues to treat the river like a put and take hatchery raceway. Well folks at the Native Fish Society have set up a quick and easy webform for fish lovers to submit email comments to ODFW and Governor Kitzhaber. It only takes 10 seconds to fill it out and let the department and governor know how you feel about the Sandy.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reading Bruce Brown

For Christmas this year my mom bought me a copy of Moutain in the Clouds by Bruce Brown. She'd read an interview with the author in the Seattle Times and thought I would be interested. While I'd long known the book existed I'd never managed to get a hold of a copy but I'm glad I did. The book, first published in 1982 walks readers through the history of salmon declines in the Pacific Northwest. Full of historical fact and natural history the book tells the story of wild salmon in Washington State through vivid accounts of historic and contemporary attitudes towards the natural world and in specific wild salmon. Brown writes with a unique style that seamlessly weaves a keen understanding of natural history and Native American culture with political and economic realities that have long motivated the destruction of wild salmon and their habitats. What he delivers is a truly tragic account of the shortsightedness of our forebearers in the region as well as some important context and history for those who would quickly blame the Boldt decision and its reinstitution of Native American fishing rights for declining salmon in our waters. The book is damning of fish management in Washington and it is sad to see that many of the paradigms which lead to the decline of wild fish persist today hampering their recovery. Despite the sometimes bleak facts surrounding salmon the book manages to strike a chord of hope, identifying progress which had been made to halt the destruction of wild salmon habitats and areas in Washington where wild salmon still remained relatively robust. At the time of its writing the book offered a revolutionary view about salmon , criticizing the idea that hatcheries could sustain salmon populations and the people and ecosystems that depend on them. Today many of the facts remain as true as ever and Moutain in the Clouds and the ideas it embodies provide a foundation for the conservation and recovery of wild fish throughout our region. Fish lovers shouldn't be without a copy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January Warm Rain and Rising Rivers

Thursday night the river was on the rise but flirting with cresting right around perfect. I woke up around 6:30 to find that rain overnight had the river spiking again, but a forecast of a falling snowlevel had me hopeful that the river might just be perfect. Warm rain after a week of hard cold always gets cold blooded creatures like myself moving.This time of year conditions are so tempermental and a few degrees, a quarter of an inch of rain or a thousand feet of difference in the snow level can be the difference between the best day of the season and a blown out river. Rising water means fresh, bright fish and on the relatively unconfined rivers of puget sound the range of flows at which fish can be taken on the swing is tremendous. There are certainly a few fish in the river now, although you wouldn't know it from my fishing yesterday. That said, with about a foot of visibility and the occasional log floating by my expectations were pretty low but it was definitely good to get out. Over the holidays I was experimenting with some real crittery flies, trying out some new flash material and straight eyed shanks I bought. Char seem to like them so I'm guessing odds are, a fresh steelhead will also find them appealing.

Sandy River Broodstock Part of the Problem Not the Solution

For about a decade ODFW and a few guides on the Sandy River have been harvesting between 10 and 15% of the wild run annually to provide brood for an integrated hatchery program. While the department and guides will try and sell these types of programs based on their conservation benefits the bottom line is, there aren't any. ODFWs own science has show that the reproductive fitness of hatchery fish declines significantly after one generation in the hatchery AND that large numbers of hatchery fish spawning in the wild is extremely detrimental to the productivity of wild runs.

The myth that we can somehow build runs through hatchery supplementation has been in place for nearly 100 years, and throughout its history its been a failure. The hatchery system we live with today is a vestige of the long held American delusion that we can control natural resources and engineer our way around proper stewardship. Public perception about harvest and habitat has come a long ways to the point where hatchery programs like these are limiting the ability of wild fish to recover and in many cases may be threatening the future of the wild stock. There isn't a single example of wild broodstock programs actually helping wild fish.

The damn shame of it all is that this shit is going on in the Sandy, one the greatest steelhead rivers on the face of the earth. Given the opportunity wild steelhead on the Sandy would very likely recover to levels unimaginable to most in the angling public. NMFS identified hatcheries as the most important factor in limiting the productivity of wild fish in the Sandy. It's time for a paradigm shift, the public is ready but we need progressive management from out state agencies not more waste of tax dollars to ensure that native runs stay permanently in the tank. Imagine for a second if MOE decided to build a massive hatchery on the Dean? Are you kidding me. These rivers need to be valued for the natural wealth they already provide, wild steelhead. The department's own mandate dictates they must first and foremost protect native fish. With a quarter million hatchery smolts released into the Sandy annually, they probably outnumber wild smolts 10:1. That's unacceptable and until that changes we're going to see the abundance of wild fish on the Sandy hover at 2-5% of historic abundance.

Spencer Miles has put together a bunch of really great information on the Sandy on his blog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Sea-Run Angle

Checking out Jeff Bright's website last night I found a link to his regular column in a new online magazine called the Contemporary Sportsman. The magazine is an attractive publication covering a wide range of outdoor pursuits from bill fishing to wing shooting, sort of in the Grey's sporting journal tradition. Jeff's column though stands out as the highlight. For those who haven't met him, he's a gifted photographer, writer and generally amiable fellow. He's devout worshiper of wild salmon, capturing the primal essence of the fish and their native ecosystem in his words and photography. Not only that but his writing reflects a deep understanding of the need to protect and restore our magnificent wild salmon. Jeff's column can be found on page 36 of the latest issue of the contemporary sportsman: