Friday, August 12, 2016

Revival

What is left of the Big Hole.
This spring as I cranked out a blog post about once a month I kept thinking to myself that i'd sure have a lot to blog about this summer when the guide season picked up.  It's always easier to write about fishing when you're actually going fishing.  Unfortunately for some reason this summer that was not the case.   As I enter into a couple-week break from fishing, the desire to write is finally coming back.

However the desire to fish is currently being squelched by historically low water.  Sure there are options around as there always is (this is trout mecca after all), but it's incredibly depressing to drive to work and look at the shell of my favorite river, trout crammed into puddles and gasping for cold water, while sprinklers light up the river banks from one end of the valley to the other.  I get it for the local guys, the ranchers who great grandparents settled the land. They make a living off of the land, and are typically the first ones to contribute water back into the river in times of need.  It is their way of life just like it is the way of life of a fishing guide to fish.  What I don't understand is the hobby ranchers that are drying up the rivers that are typically the reason that they moved here for.  We need to come to an agreement to get their waters in the river rather than into a cow that gets shipped to iowa to get fattened up along with the economic value.  It always takes a major event for any real change to take place, and if this summer isn't it I'm scared to see what is.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Comfort Zone


Entering my fourth year as a hobby guide, i got to return to (what I think I'll be dubbing "the fun desk" for the summer) the center of my boat and run a few guide trips this past weekend.  I realize my fishing and guiding is becoming more cliche by the minute, and to say "I just enjoy being out there" and "wow, where has the time gone" couldn't be more accurate.  Even though it's only sometimes these days, the familiar acts of cleaning the boat and rigging rods and connecting with friends at fly shops is all very comforting, especially after a winter that wouldn't stop.

Of all the things I miss about guiding every day of course sitting in my boat instead of an office is high on the list, but much more than that is getting to spend time with my friends I guided.  Throughout the season there were so many groups that I looked forward to seeing, catching up on life back home, and catching some fish.  Watching anglers improve every year, and reminiscing about how things started made up a good portion of my summer.  When i was still guiding full time I started every season with my friends Larry and Betsy, on the Big Hole.  Some starts were better than others (reference:  leaving my gear bag at home) but it was always a ton of fun and always the start of trout season.  As luck would have it I was able to float with them to start of season 14, and although fishing was very average, it felt great to be on familiar water continuing our relationship that was built in a drift boat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Understanding

My friends I respect the most see a picture of a big fish and immediately ask "what did it eat?"
Fishing the salt is something that is very new to me, especially when compared to my experience in freshwater.  Growing up fishing mountain streams and lakes, I learned the history of much of what I was doing.  The patterns were classics and the fishing was simple.  As I moved on to steelhead, I searched out the history of the patterns I was fishing, the style of lines I was fishing, and knowledge about what I was doing from any available source.

The ability to restart and experience change is one of the most exciting aspects of fishing to me.  No matter how much fishing you do, there is always something new somewhere you can be doing.  That is one of the most alluring aspects of saltwater fishing to me.  As I began to tie for my most recent trip, I started to look up patterns.  Past years I've just tied what looked good to me from pictures from friends, and came up with replications that worked fine, and looked good enough.  This year my flies had a purpose.  The tying techniques I used were deliberate, and the end result were flies that not only looked better (although still for fishing not a fly shop bin) but were tied in a way that gave me a connection, and a confidence that patterns in years past did not possess.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Welcome to Winston



I promised myself a year ago that I would only share content on my blog that was valuable, and would not simply write a blog post to drive up views.  As you can tell my number of posts has gone down dramatically but I feel the content has increased (Check my FB or Instagram if you want the random fish pic).

This video was something I couldn't simply share on Facebook without a little more detail.  Winston and Twin Bridges are inextricably linked, and both for good reason.  This video gives insight into what a world class rod maker is all about, and the story that it tells is brief but important. Obviously Twin benefits tremendously from having Winston, but the opposite is true too.  As I transition from boat paddler to desk jockey and economic developer, I spend as much time talking about business location as I do trout patterns, and to see a business like this strategically located in such an amazing spot is incredible.  Twin Bridges has been home for my wife and kids for nearly 8 years now, and it's very cool to show off a little bit of it in video format.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap-Up

It's very difficult to not write a year end post in 100% cliche's but 2015 disappeared in a hurry.  I looked back at my 2014 wrap-up post and I vowed to write less bullshit, and accomplished it.  With all of the other avenues out there to get your opinion online I'll be interested to see how much longer blogs have any impact.  I know the ones I get jacked to read dwindle every year.  So, that being said, thank you so much for those of you that do come here and read what I periodically throw up.  It means a lot to me.

Like last year's 4 for 2014 here's 5 of my favorite pics from 2015.  



Lat but certainly not least, the highlight of 2015, Michael William.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why the WDFW Ruling on OP Steelhead Sucks

My buddy Art, before he was my buddy Art, with a beautiful swung fish in the newly "no float fishing" zone of the upper Hoh.

Last week the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission made what has been announced as a historic ruling on the rivers of Washington's coast known lovingly as the "OP".  These rules, which include a ban of bait, barbs and killing fish on all rivers, as well as designating a portion of the upper Hoh off limits to fishing from a boat, do come as a strong indication that science is being taken into account in WDFW, something that has not always been the case.  However while many seem to be celebrating this as a huge victory, I don't completely share the overjoyed view of these regulations.

As a long time steelheader, former OP guide, and Washington resident for most of my life you would think that I would be singing from the mountain tops with the rest of the internet.  While I do agree that it is great to see these changes, and I do think it will have a positive impact on the fishery, it leaves me with a lingering question:  What the fuck took so long?

Wild steelhead are as incredible a fish as you can possibly catch on a fly rod, and to me, a fresh native winter steelhead is the pinnacle.  No colors but black and silver, see-through fins and a deep rooted anger that they're summer brethren don't share, there is not a fish that I hold in higher regard.  As a guide I had the choice of most anywhere I wanted to spend my winters guiding, and I chose to return home to the coasts rain soaked rivers.  That is why I find the amount of time that it has taken to make these changes to be so frustrating.  Every river that has been listed in the bait/barb/kill ban falls well under escapement every year (meaning there are not enough fish coming back, according to the state, which has a very low bar as far as "enough" is concerned) and it has gotten to the point that the fishery has nearly collapsed for the absolute most no-brained incremental changes to be made.

At what point do things have to get to on the coast for some real decisions to be made and some action to be taken that truly protects fish?  Is the state of Washington going to let things go like they did on the Puget Sound rivers to the point that the only option is closing the rivers?  This would be the greatest disappointment of my angling lifetime because many of the answers are so clear.  Obviously removing nets and dealing with the tribe is the easiest answer.  Get rid of the mechanism that remove half of the fish as they enter the river and all anglers are happy.   I have witnessed the many different netting techniques employed, including drift netting, and it makes you sick to your stomach.  The political nightmare that is this option is more depressing than i can fathom, and I just hope that in my lifetime this is accomplished.  There are many other parts to the puzzle that can be picked off in the mean time, from enforcement and poaching to habitat degradation and logging, that offer easier solutions and don't involve federal/state pacts and treaties.

The other part of this ruling that I have noticed online is the continued segregation of steelhead anglers.  The comments I have seen from gear and fly anglers about the impact of the boat ban have at times been moronic.  The general argument that the spey anglers now have a sanctuary, and this is going to lead to trampled redds and an increased impact on fish is bullshit.  Even as a guide who spent a ton of time rowing bobbers around, I have absolutely no prolem with the fish having a boat free zone.  It is the only place in the entire state of Washington where fishing is banned from a moving boat.  In a state full of fishing regulations that a neanderthal would scoff at for being archaic, it is refreshing to atleast see an attempt at something progressive.  If any conservation impact is to ever be had, anglers need to put aside what type of rod they are using, where they are from, and get their shit together to make some reel change.  

I am fortunate that i have been able to work with some very good conservation organizations, and have gotten to see a lot of good work done.  In no way am I questioning the work of  of WSC and the other groups that pushed for this, and I understand the political powers and incrementalism that is conservation.  This is a victory, and certainly a step in the right direction, I just wonder how far things are going to have to go before changes are made that actually have teeth.  The only solace I have is that I know the fish will always be there, even if it's only a few and we can no longer fish for them.  When you hear of fish spawning above the Elwah dam site just down the road, within months of the dams being removed, it eases the pain, and provides some eternal hope that no matter how bad we fuck things up, the fish will come back one way or another.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Economic Impact of Fishing: Montana

Not that much different than a gold bar.

So for those of you who don't know almost three years ago I cut my guiding back to part time and started working as an economic development planner for a company out of Butte.  Since then, I have definitely developed a passion for economic development (certainly not a passion that would rival fishing) and am fascinated by the dollars that fishing brings to my region of Montana, and particularly the juxtaposition between fishing/guiding and agriculture in a valley that is constantly yearning for more water.

I was fortunate enough to sit on the Upper Missouri Basin planning update process a couple of years ago, and helped to form a water plan for the Upper Missouri which included everything from my part of the world (Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Madison) to just past Great Falls and Fort Benton.  One of the big takeaways I got from the economic development side was talking to fellow ED Planners from the lower river, who had no concept of use of water for recreation.  To them, and obviously the bulk of the irrigators, water was something to be consumed.  This consumptive use was something that those of us in the upper part of the valley, and as a minority the anglers, had to work to combat in the plan.  While there is certainly a need for consumptive use, the value of non-conusumptive uses are tremendous and renewable.

Today I opened up The Chum, and saw this interesting article on the economic impacts of fishing throughout the country.  I quickly scrolled though the states I was interested in and came to Montana. $350 million spent statewide directly on fishing, spread amongst 350,000 anglers, so about $1000 an angler (I know I did more than my part).  One of the most interesting facts I learned at the Upper Missouri meetings was that approximately 50% of angling in the state occurs in the the Upper Missouri (including Big Hole, Beaverhead, Madison, Jefferson, Gallatin).  Combine those two pieces of data and you have $175 million dollars spent in our area directly on fishing.  Even with more conservative number (lets do 25%) thats still $87.5 million! Obviously this is a very simple overview, but certainly enough to get my brain working.

So, why is that important?  In case you haven't noticed we aren't quite packing away the snow every year like we used to 100 years ago.  And with temps increasing and water decreasing, the demand for such a precious resource increases dramatically every year.  When it comes down to thinner and thinner years, and more difficult decisions are to be made, being able to show where the dollars go, and more importantly where they come from, is what decision makers are going to be focused on.  It's great to see that the conservation efforts that take place don't go to waste, and that there is some real economic value to leaving water in our rivers.

Part 2 of my very simplistic economic study is going to be Washington's coast.  We all know the best financial use of steelhead is not dragging them out of the river in a gill net and shipping them to Pikes Place.