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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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: