Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Fishing Report: Endless Summer

Dad with a nice hopper eating brown.
Although it showed up just a little late, summer is not going away easy.  Temps have stayed in the 80's and the fish are still looking up for hoppers, although not quite with the same vigor they once were.  A well placed cast on 4x with a small hopper is the name of the game now, but if you can put those pieces together followed up by a drag free drift, you can still keep your bobbers stored away for a few more days.  This is looking to be the second year in a row of catching fish on hoppers in October, which is a nice change of pace from the year before when it snowed 6" September 28th.  A home tie is still outfishing the shop bugs, so cross you fingers that your guide has been at the vice more than the bar lately, because it definitely makes a difference this time of year.

Mom with a back eddy hopper crusher.
I also got to spend two days fishing with my parents last week, which was a lot of fun as always.  They lucked out and spent a day fishing with Brazda, drove to SD, perfectly missing a storm, then arriving back in Twin for more warm weather.
Look, some moose.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seeds of the Past

Check out this essay below that my good friend Jim Kerr wrote about the current happenings on the Elwah.  If you haven't been following, the dam on the Elwah is getting torn down, and Washington State and the tribes want to put hatcheries on the river.  Salmon and Steelhead conservation groups have already began the process of suing the state over it.  Oh yeah, if you want a great steelhead guide in Forks (when I'm not out there), give Jim a call, Raincoast Guides.

Jim Kerr

You have all ready heard, and read, that the Elwah dam is coming down for real now, bit by bit, and that although everyone is happy the dam is going, most folks who give a shit about native fish are some where between seriously pissed, and very disappointed that the Elwah tribe plans to start a major hatchery program to (and I am using quotations to indicate sarcasm) "restore" salmon and steelhead runs.
Here is my take.

This is the guy. Upper river (above both dams) Elwah river rainhead, or steelbow, or what have you.  If you walk way up the Elwah there are about a jillion of these guys and they are, according to the geeks, genetically identical to the Elwah summer steelhead.  That is to say, in a world where native summer steelhead are pretty much extinct, a healthy, hell, robust population has escaped exploitation and has been hiding away in a sanctuary high in the Olympics. Now the Dams are coming out, and these fish will once again have access to the ocean.  It's like a chance to go back in time.

If these fish go to sea, and are able to return in strong numbers it will be the greatest triumph in northwest fisheries ever, for real, no shit.  If they go to sea and don't return it could be a huge step in understanding why the native Puget sound steelhead populations have collapsed.  If we dump a bazillion hatchery smolt in on top of them the hatchery fish will damage and mutate the genetics, interfere with native rearing and basically destroy all chances of discovering anything of use or merit.

Why would the Elwah tribe do this?  Their biologists know better, they are not idiots.  Well here are some thoughts.  Fisheries are big business for the tribes, bigger than you think and becoming more lucrative as they gain control over an ever increasing portion of the west coast sea food market. The northwest tribes as a whole, have in the past expressed a fear that damn removal could become a precedent for hatchery closure. Federally subsidized hatcheries create, in effect, federally subsidized fisheries. Tax payers pay to produce the fish at enormous cost, and commercial fishermen harvest them and sell them back to the tax payers for a profit.

And the Elwah tribe want a fishery, why not?  They used to have one.  The thing is the subsistence fisheries of the past just didn't operate like the tribal commercial fisheries of today.  I mean if you are just catching fish to eat it doesn't matter if they are salmon, steelhead, jacks, smolt, or even bull heads.  It's all protein.  But it matters to the commercial market.  That market needs big bright salmon and steelhead and it needs a large and constant supply to thrive.

In this day an age tribal commercial fisheries in Washington often try to harvest 25% or more of a rivers entire salmon or steelhead run.  This type of harvest might work for a few years, but it will inevitably lead to fisheries collapses.  It is not sustainable without hatcheries, and fisheries biologists from Alaska to California are in agreement that large scale hatchery programs will always harm native runs.

So this is in effect a line in the sand.  Do we let the river recover on its own?  It's my guess that it will, and much faster than we think, but it will probably never support a large scale commercial fishery.  It will teach us lessons about recovery, about how salmon and steelhead and cutthroat and bull heads and sturgeon and smelt and whitefish and bull trout all recolonize habitat, who comes first, who dominates where, who impacts whom and how.
And it may in time provide a sport fishery and enough salmon to allow the tribe to sell some.
Or do we turn it into a fish factory, like we have so many other rivers, pour money into hatcheries that squash the native runs so we can take out as many fish as possible?

Summer steelhead water on the upper Elwah?

The Wild Steelhead Coalition, The Native Fish Society and others are now suing the national Park for letting the tribes run this hatchery. It is their hope that the Park can stop the tribes.  You can find out more at the Wild Steelhead coalition web site

I would like to see this river recover, or try to, on its own.  At least for 8 or 10 years.  If the tribes want to run a very small brood stock operation as insurance that they can keep their genetics alive well, that would be a bummer, but much better than the "jump start" idea they are going with now.  If they need a big check every year to make up for lost fisheries or hatchery revenue, I say we give them that too.
The thing about the hatchery is, it will not be too late to start one ten years from now, but we will NEVER get this chance to go back in time again. 

Jim Kerr
Rain Coast guides

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I finally ponied up for a real web address, so those of you who are kind enough to link to me, please change link to  And if you're lazy, like I am, don't worry, the blogspot site will still get you here.  And, if you don't link to me, but run a blog, throw me in your blog roll and post in the comment box on this thread or email me at, and I'll send you some Evolution Anglers stickers, as well as some stickers from The Greenfish Movement, which include a 20% coupon.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Fishing Report

Ke'lah enjoying the foam hatch.

Been a while since I pumped one of these bad boys out, largely because I have been too busy watching inch long pieces of foam get chewed on by relentless hopper eating trout until the legs fall off.  As expected, the huge snowpack of last winter has led to an amazing September.  Always my favorite month of the year (dry flies, steelhead pouring in, warm weather), this September has certainly been a memorable one.  I haven't tied on a bobber in well over a month, unless I'm on the Beaverhead, and if you're willing to get creative with your fly selection, there are plenty of fish eating hoppers still.
Jim Snyder proving that the big ones do eat in the
 morning as well as trusting in the guides selected fly pattern.

September is also great because we have a solid return of guests for their same weeks every year.  This year the Himmelman Group and Ralph and Kim were back right on schedule, and the Jim Snyder made their long awaited Stonefly Inn Reunion Tour.  Fishing with guests that are more like friends than clients is certainly one of the perks of the job.  Based on the weather forecast this is going to be the last week of summer, so get out there while you can. Because if you live out here year round, you know that the 9 months of cold is just around the corner.
Tobie getting it done Ishii style, big fish and no lost flies!
The start of spawning colors

Thursday, September 15, 2011

friday fishing report-a day early edition

One of the best things about living in Pullman is the close proximity to Lewiston and the Clearwater. This means that after taking a test and sitting through 4 hours of lectures I can sneak out of town, make my way through the palouse and get to the river in time to spend the evening fishing.

This was the story of Tuesday evening. Andrew and I made it to the CW while the sun was still a couple hours from dipping behind horizon. We started working a run and about half way through I hooked up, only to lose the fish, as the hook had broke off on a poorly executed cast that ended in the fly crashing into the rocks behind me. Evidently I didn't remember my first time spey casting.

We finished out the run, the sun had disappeared already and we were running out of light. We made the quick decision to head up river to try one last spot for the last remaining time we had until the sun disappeared.

This was a great decision. within a dozen casts I was into my first steelhead on the swing. Redemption! finally!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Fishing Report- Steelhead edition

Quick report for you guys.

Tuesday, my new classmate Andrew and I, along with his fiancé Lisa made a quick evening trip to the Clearwater. This was my first time on the Clearwater, and fortunately it was not Andrews first time so he was showing me the ropes. We got to the river around 5:30 and met up with a friend of Andrew's who gave us some beta, and we quickly got ready and headed to the river.

The three of us spread out along the long run and started working down. We were fishing traditional style flies with intermediate tips. Within 30 minutes Andrew caught and landed the first/ only landed fish of the outing. An hour or so later I got a promising bump but was unable to connect. And a time after that Lisa had one on but was unable to land it.

All in all it was a good trip, that reminded of the importance of taking a break from a busy and stressed schedule to get a line wet.

Next time your fishing as the sun is setting point your lens at the sun and snap away. You might like how things turn out.

Andrew attributes his catch to his new Evolution Anglers cap.

A much needed break from the anxiety and stress of medical school

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to celebrate a year

Good way to start the weekend.

One year and a couple of days ago my wife and I got married in a beautiful church overlooking the Big Hole river.  This year we had a weekend to celebrate our 1 year anniversary and decided to head up to Craig, MT and hit the Mo.  We took a leisurely pace getting to Craig, including a stop at the farmers market in Helena, which is awesome.  We got checked in to our cabin, Ben at Headhunters hooked us up with the right bugs and we headed up to the dam.  Once we found the right water, fishing was automatic.  When she wasn't wrestling with our over-caffeinated rat terrier, Ke'lah was able to hook a pile of fish.  A fine dinner at Izaak's capped off the evening and set us up for fishing on Sunday.
Madi surveying the situation.

Sunday we floated from Craig down to Deerborn with success relative to the amount of effort put forth.  B the end of the float we just floated down the middle with the rest of the crowds and enjoyed the warm weather and great scenery.  Craig might become the annual anniversary trip for a while, what a great place to celebrate a first year of marriage.
What's in there? What's in there? What's in there?
Oh a brown trout, yum!
Perfect end to a great day.