Monday, November 22, 2010

River Triggers

The fly landed and the current pulled the loop of slack tight as the fly started swinging from the fast water against the far bank into the slower choppy water. As I was fishing this small piece of water, a memory came flooding back.

The river was much smaller than the water I was fishing today. The run also pushed into a snag on the far bank and the cast, mend, and drift were identical. I remember swinging a fly into the fast water just above the snag and coming tight to a fish. A couple head shakes and the fish came loose. Another fly fisherman had been watching and asked if he could follow me through. "Of course," I replied as we talked briefly about the run and spey casting. He started casting and then I heard a splash. I reeled up and watched him fight and helped him land the largest and prettiest fish I saw that entire winter. He was beyond excited at the experience.

The run I fished today did not reward me with a fish, but the trip down memory lane was worth the cold toes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Snider Creek Hatchery Meeting

To hopefully get the word out and have wild fish advocates make comments (either via mail, e-mail, or at the meeting in Forks). Let's give them the hard facts regarding brood stock hatcheries and their negative impacts on wild fish.

WDFW seeks comments, schedules public
meeting on Snider Creek steelhead program

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will accept public comments through Dec. 15 on the future of a steelhead supplementation program at Snider Creek, a tributary of the Sol Duc River in Clallam County.

As part of that effort, WDFW has scheduled a meeting Nov. 30 in Forks to discuss the program with the public.

A joint project with the Olympic Peninsula Guides’ Association, the Snider Creek program was created in 1986 to increase fishing opportunities for steelhead on the Sol Duc River. The 25-year contract for the program, which produces 50,000 smolts each year, expires in June 2011.

The program is unlike most other supplementation efforts because it produces offspring from wild steelhead – caught by anglers involved in the program – instead of returning hatchery-produced steelhead, said Ron Warren, regional fish program manager for WDFW.

With the contract expiring next year, WDFW’s fishery managers are evaluating the supplementation program, including its contribution to state and tribal fisheries and its effect on wild steelhead populations, said Warren.

“We are looking into the benefits of this program and whether it is consistent with current efforts to protect and restore wild populations,” Warren said. “We’d like to hear from the public before we make a decision on whether to continue, modify or end the program.”

Comments on the program can be submitted by email to or by U.S. Mail to: Snider Creek, 48 Devonshire Road, Montesano, WA, 98563.

In addition, people can submit comments and discuss the program with WDFW staff at the Nov. 30 public meeting at the Forks Sportsmans Club, 243 Sportsmans Club Road. The meeting is scheduled for 6-8 p.m.

Information on the program, including steelhead catch numbers for state and tribal fisheries and annual returns of steelhead to the Quillayute River system, is available on WDFW’s website at Those who would like a copy of the information on a compact disc can call (360) 249-4628.

Since entering into the agreement more than two decades ago, the department has made changes to hatchery operations to support naturally spawning salmon and steelhead populations, said Warren. In addition, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved new policies in the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan developed by WDFW to protect and rebuild wild steelhead stocks.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s hatchery and fishery reform policy is available on WDFW’s website at The Statewide Steelhead Management Plan is available on the department’s website at

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I had a chance to go to the WDFW Director's roundtable in Aberdeen last night. It was a great opportunity to learn about the budget issues effecting the department and talk directly to Phil Anderson, the Director of WDFW. Along with the director, there were numerous staff members there to respond to questions. The director discussed the budget and seemed eager to hear from the public about any ideas to save money and fishing and hunting problems. It was a full house with a great question and answer period with Phil Anderson.

While it was a full house there is a certain segment of the fishing community completely absent from these meetings. There were very few young people present. I am 38 years old and felt like a young kid at this forum. During the numerous questions, there were only two other questions besides mine that specifically dealt with protecting wild fish. Where are the wild fish advocates? Where are all the passionate anglers that post enthusiastically on internet fishing boards about catch and release and protecting wild steelhead?

Yes, the meeting wasn't in a large Puget Sound city, but Aberdeen is one hour from Olympia. It's not that far to speak to the head of the agency and meet and learn from area biologists and fish program managers.

When you wonder why WDFW continues to use old ideas in their management, look to who goes to these meetings and speaks to the decision makers.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It Begins

It's that time of year, where chrome bright winter steelhead start moving up the rivers. The first part of the run is now mostly hatchery fish, but there are still a few resilient early natives mixed in. Yesterday I met one.

It was a classic NW Winter day. Low cloud cover, mid-40's temperature, and drizzle where the green of the forests is almost washed away by the oppressive gray pushing down from the sky. The river was dirty with about one to two feet of visibility, adding another surface of gray to the pallet. I worked my way downstream floating and fishing. I arrive at the run I wanted to focus on and start fishing. The fly is swinging well and about twenty casts into the run I feel a grab, and then nothing. The grab always feels like lightning going through your veins, but the lack of connection is always disappointing. This time of year, the question with a large grab is "what was that?" Was it a king, coho, or steelhead? A question I will never know.

I continued to work down the run as the current mellowed the fly started ticking the bottom and hanging up occasionally. The answer was a lighter tip, so I looped on five feet of T-14 and continued to fish. Then a swing was interrupted once a again by a pull. My mind quickly shifts back to fishing from gazing at the bald eagle squawking on the tall river side tree. I feel a second pull, then feel line start coming off my reel, and then come tight to a fish. Instantly the fish is running. I look towards the line streaming downstream and see white, the color of backing. Then a jump, and all I can see is a distant flash of silver in the air. I start moving down the gravel bar gaining back some of the line. This fish is strong and feels heavier than the fish I saw jump. I wonder if I have foul hooked a salmon because of the heavy feel. But I can gain line easily when the fish stops so that thought passes. Another couple fast runs and one of my favorite types of jumps happens. The fish jumps ten feet to the side of where your line enters the river. I work the fish quickly towards the beach. As I get it in the shallows I see that it is a steelhead with a big fat adipose fin and any thoughts of being foul hooked are gone when I see the fly lodged in the fish's mouth. I quickly grab the leader and tail this magnificent twelve pound hen as the hook falls out. I take a quick look at the perfectly clean fins and release my grip. She quickly charges off back into the gray water. After the release I am struck by this fish. The power and speed combined to make this one of the hottest fish I have ever hooked, including fish on rivers notorious for their hot steelhead.

I fished for a few more hours with the only other grab was a small bull trout, but I am struck by what a rare experience I had today. Early run native winter steelhead were historically much more abundant than they currently are. Decades of hatchery plants along with non-selective harvest have made this segment of the steelhead population a rarity. The fact that native fish continue to hold on in the face of everything we can throw at them amazes me. Sometime we fishermen get to see and hold a trace of the past, but far too often we are only left with the stories from old timers of what it used to be like. At least for today those are not just stories.