Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bucktailing Isn't Flyfishing - Pt. 2

Awhile back I posted this article on trolling with a fly rod (bucktailing).  It has been a couple years and quite a few saltwater fishing trips since I wrote that.  My feelings have not changed and have only grown stronger.

What I am confused about is the total grip this method of fishing has on the Pacific Northwest fly fishing industry.  I am not talking about individual blogs or posts of fly fishing forums but fly shop blogs and videos and well known Northwest saltwater "fly fishing" destinations.

What is interesting is that bucktailing is not the go-to technique inside Puget Sound for the fly fishing industry.  With six million pinks and another large return of coho expected this summer there is no mention of trolling flies along the shorelines.  It is all about casting flies from the beaches and boats.

Why the disconnect out on the coast and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca?  Is it the lack of beach fishing?  Or is it that the vast majority of shop employees who talk about these fisheries have virtually zero experience fishing them?

My guess is that the latter is correct although decades of describing trolling as "fly fishing" has had a major influence in this discussion.  We have chapters in fly fishing books discussing this technique on equal footing with actual fly fishing techniques.  The worst is the "fly fishing" guides in destination fisheries that promote trolling as fly fishing.  They are straight up lying to their customers.  The other difference between the offshore and inshore fisheries is the numbers of anglers.  There is a long history of true fly fishing inside Puget Sound which makes it easier for new anglers to learn how to fish.  Our industry does the exact opposite offshore.  The lack of knowledge pushes them to promote gear fishing with a fly rod, not because you cannot fly fish offshore but they don't have a fucking clue how to find fish in a large expanse of water.

It is a huge disservice to our sport for bucktailing to be included as a "fly fishing" technique.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying bucktailing for what it is.  It can be a fun way to fish when you are on a boat with non-fly fishermen who are trolling.  It can be fun and is totally legal.  The only thing bucktailing cannot be is fly fishing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Worst Hatchery Program

WDFW Closes Portion of Sol Duc River

First, I have to rant that there seems to be no middle ground with WDFW.  Fisheries are either wide open or closed.  Couldn't they have just closed this section to chinook retention?  Selective gear?  Just lazy management for a non-native hatchery stock of fish.

Why is the Sol Duc Springer hatchery program one of the worst in the state?  First, winter steelhead get no break in fishing pressure (both sport and commercial) during May.  Nets targeting springers kill downstream winter steelhead, and I personally think that a repeat spawning steelhead is more valuable than a non-native hatchery chinook.

But the worst part is the impact this program has on other watersheds.  You might have heard that Olympic National Park closed all fishing in the Hoh River this summer to protect wild chinook in the Hoh.  The Park closed water even as the state has an open springer fishery with bait and barbs in the lower river.  Why is there a fishery on chinook in the Hoh?  Simple, to harvest the Sol Duc hatchery springers that stray into the Hoh.  Not only does this program close water on the Sol Duc but it screws up the management on other rivers too.

All the springer program seems to be good for is tribal netting, killing wild steelhead, guide welfare, and closing waters on two rivers... but they're good to eat.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Kudos to Josh Mills, who writes the Chucking Line and Chasing Tail Blog, for working his tail off to raise $6500 for the Wild Steelhead Coalition.  Big props for being involved and making a major fucking difference.

Also, kudos to everyone who donated stuff to the auction and to everyone who showed up.  I don't spend much time in Eastern Washington, but we could use that amount of activism West of the Cascade Crest.

Great way to fight apathy in Spokane and making the rest of us want to do better.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Elwha without Chambers Creeks Steelhead

Seattle Times article on Elwha Hatchery lawsuit

While not a total win for wild fish advocates, the fact that the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe will be stopping the planting of non-native winter steelhead is a win for wild steelhead in the Elwha River after the dams come down.

Thanks to all of the groups involved in fighting for wild fish in the Elwha.  To those who think nothing changes, here is another reason to fight the siren song of apathy when it comes to fisheries issues.  Small groups have made great changes.  Imagine what an active sportfishing community could do.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cleaning up the Guide Industry in WA

Senate Bill 5786

For years people in the sport fishing community have been talking about the lack of basic requirements to become a fishing guide in Washington State.  The Legislature may finally be tackling this issue.

From the text of Bill 5786
"(2) An application submitted to the department under this chapter shall contain the name and address of the applicant and any other information required by the department or this title. An application for a food fish guide license under RCW 77.65.370 or game fish guide license under RCW 77.65.480 must include:
(a) The applicant's driver's license number or Washington identification card number issued under chapter 46.20 RCW;
(b) The applicant's unified business identifier number under a master license issued under RCW 19.02.070;
(c) Proof of current certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and
(d) A certificate of insurance demonstrating that the applicant has general liability coverage of at least three hundred thousand dollars."

Seems pretty prudent to require basic First Aid & CPR, insurance, and actually have a business license.  Good step by the State.

There is time to send in comments or even testify on February 19th.

Click Here (Click on the green Comment on this Bill button) to send in comments supporting this step in cleaning up the guide industry in Washington State.  The State makes it easy to comment so I would suggest supporting them when they make good law.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Lately it seems like we have entered a strange world where ideas to fix problems are not worthy of doing if they don't solve the problem entirely.  We live in an imperfect world and our solutions are going to be imperfect.

While listening to testimony at the WDFW Commission Meeting last Friday I was struck that this argument was being used against doing anything to stop the declining steelhead numbers.  Basically, we have reduced harvest from thirty a year to one a year, have created catch and release areas and numbers have still gone down or have not rebounded so this of course means that any other rule changes should wait because we cannot guarantee a magic bullet.

I refuse to believe that doing nothing is any kind of solution.  Experimenting with catch and release, no fishing from boats, bait bans, protecting resident rainbows, and wild steelhead management zones is the only way to go.  We have to keep trying new things as the science gets better and new problems crop up.  Twenty years ago there was no side-drifting, massive numbers of out of state guides, internet bulletin boards, or Puget Sound river closures.

Of course, we also need to look at ourselves when it comes to effective advocacy for wild fish.  This last rule change cycle in Washington State should be a wake-up call with the embarrassing amount of angler apathy here.  Here are some numbers.

22,000+ members on a popular Washington State fly fishing internet forum
10,200 members on a popular Olympic Peninsula internet fishing forum
102 comments on North Coast steelhead rule proposals
44 comments on making all rivers selective gear (no bait) from 2/1-4/30
9 comments on opening up the Quilcene River to sea-run cutthroat and resident trout harvest

These numbers and this amount of apathy are a wake-up call to me.  What about you?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Outlive the bastards

Essay by Edward Abbey "I Loved it...I Loved it All" from Ned Judge on Vimeo.

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Friday, January 18, 2013

Last Day

The sun finally broke for the last day of skiing before heading back to the Pacific Northwest.  Today did not suck.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

First Day

Couldn't have picked a better day for the first turns of the year.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Tomorrow is looking good.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Heading out of town on a non-fishing vacation.  Looking forward to the mountains and hopefully, lots of deep snow.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thanks for the Ideas

I believe that tying flies is an important part of fly fishing.  I do not tie as much as I know I should and usually spend too many nights before trips in a rush at the vise.

For some, the art of creating beautiful masterpieces is the primary goal.  The fact that these beautiful creations also catch fish only adds to the allure.  Some tie realistic insect or baitfish patterns while others tie ornate creations for Atlantic Salmon or Steelhead who's only constraint is the tier's imagination.  Others tie for more practical purposes, where function or speed of tying is important.

I fall into the latter category.  I am not a creative tier.  I look towards the creativity of others and use their lessons to tie flies that function how I want the fly to function.  Whether it is the illusion of bulk of intruders or the ease of tying of clouser minnows I am a tying mimic.

One pattern I used for fishing the surface while guiding offshore for coho salmon and bottomfish illustrates this perfectly.

First, I had to choose a color.  My favorite color of fly for saltwater is chartreuse and white, mainly from the success of fishing clousers with this color combination.  Flash is almost always an attractor for coho so almost all the flies I tie incorporate quite a bit of flash.

Second, I had to find the popper head I wanted.  This might seem easy with the amount of foam heads available, but few I knew were fishing poppers offshore.  There was the Miyawaki Popper that continues to be popular and successful for all saltwater species, but I wanted a popper that not only acted as a slider but could also make a huge commotion often needed for black rockfish.  The answer came from the opposite coast in Bob's Banger created by Bob Popovics for striped bass on the Atlantic coast.  The flat face combined with the hole dead center allowed the fly to track and slide perfectly with a steady two handed retrieve but could also make a ton of noise if stripped back in a traditional manner.

The topwater fly I fish most of the time for silvers at Neah Bay did not come to me while sitting at the vise.  It happened on the water.  A client had left a pattern on the boat after a day of fishing.  It was a clouser type fly but over the course of the day the eyes had come off his fly and it got left on the rear console on my boat.  He tied it with a trailing hook and used unraveled mylar tubing as the flash.  I had been fishing the original Bob's Bangers throughout the season and had a box of the foam heads on the boat.  I was out fishing a day or two later and there were some fish working near the surface and I saw the old fly and the Banger heads and I had that little "ah-hah" moment and pushed the foam head onto the old fly and started fishing it.  It worked and I started tying them for myself.  The only change in the original pattern was cutting the point off the front hook.

It turned out to be a Bob's Banger with a bit more flash and a trailing hook.  It is a truly all-purpose fly that works great for silvers and rockfish.

To the innovators, I thank you for creating the flies and techniques that we can then tinker with for our own particular fisheries.

Here's the fly

Here it is in action

Saturday, January 5, 2013

If Only We Had Taken Their Advice

I know I shouldn't but I cannot help but read the comment section below the stories in our local newspaper.  The comments on any story involving the Elwha Dams are full of insight (comedy gems.) 

Check out the comments to these articles:

Glines Canyon Dam removal on a one-month hold — and sediment amount in former Elwha lakes was underestimated 

Sediment, debris clog equipment at Elwha treatment plant

If only all the scientists and engineers had talked to these commentators there would be no problems.  From knowing about the poor survey in 1917 to building the water treatment plant the true experts are these fine citizens commentators. 

Of course there is a good drinking game to be had from these comments.  You have to take a drink for every misspelling and grammatical error.  You are already drunk at this point but it gets worse.  You have to finish your drink if Al Gore, Benghazi, or any major right-wing story that has nothing to do with fish or the Elwha gets mentioned.

I apologize in advance for the hangover.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Blackmouth Quest - Day 3

I talked about hooking rocks in an earlier blackmouth post and thought I would post a picture of one of my recent catches.

I did get out for a about an hour today.  Birds were working and I marked some bait on the sounder.  No fish to hand but only made about three drifts through the spot during a ripping ebb current.  It was nice to get out on a day with no wind.  The peace and quiet of drifting with the engines off is a nice change of pace from the past few trips where I needed to use the kicker to back into the drift.

I fished the Mushmouth pattern and it looked good in the water.  I'm going to attempt to incorporate some weight into the pattern without changing the look of it too much.

Every chance on the water is another opportunity to learn something new.  The lack of fish can be trying, but I still have faith.

10 Million More

There are 10 million more cubic yards of sediment behind the Elwha dams than previously thought due to a mapping error from 1917.

Seattle Times Article

Thursday, January 3, 2013


It seems a little early for Spring with the calendar just turning to 2013 but it seems the plants haven't heard that it is still January.  Cherry blossoms, Rhododendrons in full bloom, and spring bulbs emerging from the ground make it seem very springlike this winter.

I do not know if it was the long and dry fall or the lack of hard freezes so far this winter, but this is buy far the earliest I have seen the above two plants in bloom since 2009.

If only it actually felt like Spring outside.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Improved Over 2012

The start of a new year is full of hope that the upcoming year will be better than the one that just ended.  When it comes to the saltwater salmon fisheries for Summer 2013 I think we actually might be in luck.

We will have to wait until mid to late February for the official salmon forecasts as part of the season setting process known as North of Falcon, but there has been some very preliminary talk of what is to come.

As a fly fisherman I am mostly interested in one number when it comes to the coho fishery at Neah Bay and that is the Columbia River coho forecast.  A small forecast is not a guarantee of poor fishing but a large forecast almost certainly means great fishing.

The preliminary talk is that the Columbia River coho salmon run will be "Improved over 2012."  This is good news and I am looking forward to seeing the hard numbers.

With 2013 also being a pink salmon year it looks like the summer salmon season should be a full one.  I will be taking full advantage of it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First Trip Back

I left the Olympic Peninsula in September of 2005 after closing up my charter fishing business.  Leaving started a journey of jobs and cities I might never have discovered had I remained.  My journey back to the peninsula began in the winter of 2009.

My first trip back to the coast was in February 2009.  I had some vacation time so I decided to make the long drive out to the coast from Colorado.  What made this winter steelhead trip on the coast unique was the lack of rain for the entirety of the trip.  The upside was that the larger glacial rivers were low and fishable for my entire trip as well as the bright, sunny weather.  The bad thing was that there just were not a lot of fish around.

I fished hard for the first four days with nothing to show for it.  What I could have never anticipated was that the years away from steelheading messed up my mind a bit.  My memories gave more weight to the fish I had hooked in the past and had minimized the skunkings.  The tough fishing I had experienced vanished from my memories as the trip approached.  Of course the hyped-up fishing reports and blogs on the internet did not help.  I had this laughable notion that I could just come back and quickly start hooking fish again.  The first four days were a rude awakening.

The reality of steelhead fly fishing and my past memories couldn't have been further apart.  I was unsure of where I should fish and really started to question my fishing decisions and my skill swinging the fly.  I had entered a deep state of despair so I decided to take a break for a day and clear my head.  I decided that a walk through the rainforest would be just the ticket to calm the static in my brain.

The next morning I arrived at the trailhead and just started walking.  The hike was along a riverside trail but I was not wearing waders or carrying a fly rod.  Three hours later I was well upstream and feeling much better.  There is something calming about the simple act of walking and I sure needed it.  I arrived back at the car feeling refreshed and ready to fish the next day.

During the walk I realized that I was probably not going to hook a fish during my trip.  The low water and lack of fish were not working in my favor.  I had to find another way to make the trip great.  I came to the realization that the simple act of fishing the water well would have to do.  I had to let go of all of the expectations I had before the trip and just simply enjoy spending time on the river regardless of the fish.

This realization did not come easy for me.  It is hard to put aside expectations and push the ego aside and just fish for the simple act of fishing.  Even today it can sometimes be difficult to go against the grain and do things your own way regardless of how everyone else is doing it (often with more success).

After setting aside my expectations and just working on fishing well you can imagine what happened.  I ended up hooking a single fish about three hours of fishing "well."  The fish was only on for maybe fifteen seconds but that single fish made the entire trip worth it.

I eventually moved back to the Olympic Peninsula about a year later.  I try to remember the moment that fish grabbed the fly mid-swing whenever I am in the midst of a fish-less stretch or tempted to fish in ways I dislike just to catch a fish.  I try to remember that fishing well is its own reward.