Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unconquering the Last Frontier

I've only watched half of this, but it is a fascinating portrait of the Elwha during the 1990's.  Hard to believe we're finally going to see the dams removed.

Salmon with Live Bait

This morning I decided to head out for some local saltwater fishing.  I didn't wake up early or rush to the water and missed my favorite tide change but sometimes getting out is enough.

It was a beautiful sunny day with not a breath of wind.  The rainshadow was in full force with low clouds to the west, thicker clouds to the east, and big puffy clouds building over the Olympics.

The fishing was slow for everyone but I did have a quick pulse of action.  I hooked a tiny chinook (eight inches) and as it got close to the kayak I could see six or seven coho swirling around it trying to eat it.  The coho were keyed up and after I slipped the hook from the shaker chinook I quickly flipped the fly ten feet from the boat.  One strip and I could see the coho take the fly.  I set the hook and felt weight but the fly did not stick.  I could still see the fish swimming under the kayak as I quickly flipped the fly back into the water.  Just as quickly as before I had a coho on the end of the line and just as quickly it came unhooked.  I so wanted to inspect the fly and make sure the hair wasn't fouled but I knew these fish would be gone as quickly as they appeared so I roll cast the fly back into the water.  One strip and another of the coho inhaled the fly and turned.  This time the hook held and I was able to quickly land the fish.  I wish I could say that the action remained hot, but that was the last I saw of any adult salmon.

I'll try to remember this beautiful warm sunny day on the water in a couple months when it is cold, wet, and gloomy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rise

Sitting in the sun on that gravel bar seems like a lifetime ago.  It was blazing hot and buggy.  Almost hard to believe I was on a coastal river.  The sun was directly overhead which meant the tall mountains rising from each side of the river offered no escape.

The only refuge from the heat was standing in the river.  If you are forced to stand in the river to cool off you might as well be fishing.  The common wisdom is that bright sunny days with clear water are not ideal for steelhead on a floating line so I figured I would practice my spey casting.

I waded right into the main part of camp water.  There was no quiet approach to the water or starting at the top of the run.  There was no methodically working line out a few feet at a time until a comfortable length of line is out and starting to step down.  I stripped out the amount I wanted to fish and sent the riffle hitched muddler across the river.

The fly came tight and started waking across the current moving towards shore.  The bright light made tracking the fly easy and I casually watched it as it moved out of the fastest water and into a bit slower water mid way through the swing.  Then I saw it.

A chrome fish coming straight up towards the fly.  I could see the entire fish as it quickly moved up and engulfed the fly.  No hesitation in snatching the fly as it appeared to rise in a straight vertical line from the cobbles to the surface before turning back to the depths with the fly.

Years later I cannot remember how this fish fought.  All I can remember was the rise.

The photo of the fish brings back the memory of the rise as if it happened yesterday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Appalling Tribal Fishing

"With $20 million invested in the restoration of Tarboo Creek, it is time to allow more salmon to survive the fishing nets, swim up the stream and lay their eggs to produce even more coho and chum salmon.

That's the bottom line for Peter Bahls of Northwest Watershed Institute, along with others who have worked hard for 10 years to make Tarboo Creek more hospitable for salmon. But Bahls worries that all the efforts to restore the Hood Canal stream in Jefferson County will be for naught if current harvesting practices continue."

The rest of the story is below:

Concerns Raised Over Tarboo Creek Salmon
A Salmon Stream Worth Protecting
Salmon Must Survive To Swim Up Little Streams Too

Truly a shameful chapter in harvest management that almost all of the user groups, including the majority of the tribal co-managers, agree with a simple rule change that would protect this small population but one tribe can override it all.

How is this stewardship?

Elwha Unplugged

The Opus of Dick Goin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Urban Fly Fishing

Always nice to run into gifted fishermen and boaters on the water


The Osprey Steelhead News Blog recently had a great post about an article on the Elwha dam removal and hatcheries.

"Instead managers and the tribe appear willing to abandon the notion that wild fish, in a pristine watershed can support sustainable well managed fisheries." This quote seems to sum up my feelings about the over reliance on hatcheries not only on the Elwha but throughout the Pacific Northwest.

We seem to forget that wild fish can create abundant fisheries with little help from us. What seems funny to me is that it is an odd year which means it is the biannual pink salmon run in Washington State. While pinks have far different habitat requirements than coho, chinook, and steelhead they show us what abundance looks like. Not only do they show us abundance but they are showing us that wild fish can colonize and fill habitat very quickly. If you look at WDFW's SaSI reports you see that in 2002 there wasn't a pink salmon stock listed for the Green River. Now the Green has the largest pink salmon run in Puget Sound. A river with dams, major development, and superfund sites in the estuary gets a return of over two million pink salmon this summer.

Whether it is pinks, Oregon Coastal coho, Siletz summer steelhead, or Wind River summer steelhead the evidence of the ability of wild fish to recover in the absence of hatcheries is staring us in the face. It is too bad so many of those who make decisions ignore it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What We Have Lost

As a followup to the post about the Elwha hatchery hurting wild fish recovery after the dams come down you should watch this video about the wealth of natural abundance we once had along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Especially interesting are the comments about how many salmon used the lower five miles of the Elwha River before the spawning gravel eventually vanished with no upriver recruitment.

A healthy, intact Elwha can produce far more salmon than a hatchery.

Elwha River Hatchery To Hurt Recovery

It is sad that it doesn't matter that every scientist and agency is against the planting on non-native fish.  We seem to still be clinging to the old idea that our rivers can no longer produce abundant wild stocks if left alone.  We could never imagine how abundant the fish runs were prior to hatcheries that we can not imagine that wild fish can give us not only more fish but more harvestable fish if left to their own devices in intact habitat (like the Elwha).

Seattle Times Article

Some quotes from the article:

"Some, such as Jim Lichatowich, author of "Salmon Without Rivers," also see a bigger, fundamental wrongheadedness: Even using the language of "jump-start," he said, betrays a mechanistic view of what is actually a complex, resilient natural system, capable of recovery all on its own.

"The Elwha is not a dead battery," Lichatowich said."

"Scientists at every agency the tribe asked to comment on the program — from the National Park Service to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to the National Marine Fisheries Service — advised against it. They argued that nonnative fish have no role to play in restoring native stocks in the Elwha; they could hurt native steelhead and interbreed with resident fish above the dams."


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August Can Officially End

Now that there's important business on September 1st.

Looking forward to the show at Jazz Alley.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I no longer have the large saltwater boat that allowed me to enjoy the spoils of Neah Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The days of exceptional fly fishing that most people would not believe are mostly memories.

These days my saltwater fly fishing is limited. I am limited to wading saltwater beaches and fishing from a kayak. Being kept within the boundaries of where one can wade or paddle shrinks the amount of water one can fish in a day. I can no longer start up the engine and run ten miles to check out a spot. In the kayak I attempt to stay within a few miles of the launch and might even stay closer depending on the currents and weather.

While the memories of the past are always there, I think I really am enjoying these new found limitations.

Two days ago I launched the kayak from a local spot and paddled out to look for some pink salmon. I headed out into 150 feet of water and started looking around. I saw some fish rolling and occasionally a couple boils on the surface. I could also see numerous fish around thirty to fourty feet deep on the fish finder. I had on a heavy shooting head so I cast updrift and allowed the line to sink. I started stripping line back in and could feel light bites and taps, but no solid hookups. As the flies got closer to the surface I could see salmon following the fly. Finally after about thirty minutes and a couple fly changes I felt a strike and lifted the rod to solid weight. Of course, the pink salmon came loose after about ten seconds but I figured now I would start hooking more.

Well, I was wrong about hooking more. They continued to lightly peck and follow the fly but I could not get any more solid hookups. I left the water that evening itching to get to the vise and tie up some new patterns to increase the hookup rate.

Fast forward to this morning. I arrived at the launch armed with a box stuffed with new patterns to try out. The sun was just starting to rise over the distant Cascade Mountains barely visible through the summer haze. The water was as smooth as a backyard pool. My anticipation was sky high. I paddled out to where I started fishing two days before and started fishing. I saw occasional signs of salmon on the surface but nothing sustained enough to get close enough to cast to. The fish finder also marked fish at depths I could reach. The new flies were tied on and sent into the depths. While there were numerous signs of fish none of that translated to salmon at the end of my line. The only fish hooked was the smallest king salmon I have ever seen. Of course, I needed a fall guy for the lack of fish so I decided that it must be the bright sunshine. I’ll get to test that hypothesis over the next week as the forecast call for clouds to start moving in.

We all have limitations we impose on ourselves when fishing. Sometimes those limitations can make you feel like you don’t stand a chance. For me, the limitations have brought even more excitement into fishing. The fishing is more difficult and the successes are that much sweeter.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Growth

Amazing to see the differences between April and August in the garden (click on pictures to see larger image). April

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Progress

"'After considering the best available information, we concluded that all listed salmon and steelhead species in Oregon, Washington and Idaho will retain their listing classifications,' the agency announced Monday. NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Region evaluated 17 species in all, including 13 Columbia-Snake River basin and four Puget Sound stocks. The review addresses the status of the following “evolutionarily significant units” or “designated population segments” of, respectively, salmon or steelhead: upper Columbia River spring-run chinook; Snake River spring/summer-run chinook; Puget Sound chinook; lower Columbia River chinook; upper Willamette chinook; Snake River fall-run chinook; Hood Canal summer-run chum; Columbia River chum; lower Columbia River chinook; Snake River sockeye; Ozette Lake sockeye salmon; and upper Columbia River, middle Columbia River, Snake River basin, lower Columbia River, upper Willamette and Puget Sound steelhead."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to the Bay

Decided to take the kayak out to Neah Bay yesterday.  i was hoping to catch some pinks in close to shore but decided not to take any chances on heading out too far with the strong outgoing current.  As I was heading back to the start of the drift I noticed some rockfish busting bait on the surface.  I should have rigged up the popper, but I was lazy and stuck with the sinking line.

Can't beat the saltwater when there is no wind or swell.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Days

Some days are really special.  Started this morning with some excellent fishing.  Thanks Doug.

And the theme of the day continued when I picked this up at the Post Office.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fish Porn

My saltwater fly fishing experiences in the Pacific Northwest are almost exclusively on a boat.  This morning I headed out to a well known point to see if I could tangle with a couple salmon with my feet planted firmly in the cobbles.  The fishing was slow for anything besides bullheads.  I hooked a couple tiny salmon and one eleven inch cutthroat.  Only two larger salmon were caught by the guys casting buzz bombs throughout the entire morning.

I learned a few things this morning though.  Fishing from a boat has given me an excuse to get a little sloppy with backcasts.  Years of muscle memory from water loading heavy shooting heads take some time to unlearn.  Within the first ten minutes I broke off two flies from letting the backcast get a little low.

The second thing I learned is that freighters have big wakes and it's a good idea to take a quick break from casting when they start rolling into the shoreline.

The last and most important thing I learned is that fishermen can be a weird bunch.  I reeled up and was getting ready to put everything away in the car when I started chatting up a guy parked in an older SUV that had been out fishing.  I like to talk about fishing and he looked like an old timer so I thought I might be able to pick up some useful information by talking to him.  He was a bit short on the conversation and started his rig and started to back away.  Right before he put it in gear and drove off I saw him quickly flipping through a magazine.  He was close enough and I have really good eyesight so I checked out what he was reading.  It was a porn mag.

Don't interrupt the dirty old men on their fishing break.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Can we get some good news?

About the Elwha Dam removal...

Labor Gearing up to Boycott Elwha Celebration

Wild fish advocates upset about planting non native Chambers Creek steelhead... and now we are learning the money being spent isn't benefiting the community as much as had been hoped and expected.