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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.