It was an Un-Black Friday. After a relaxing Thanksgiving Day with family I was eager to get outside and fish.
On Thanksgiving Day the river was flowing free. On Friday morning it was iced over. Time to hit the road.
There were three people fishing near the parking area when I arrived at Rocky Ford Creek. I would see three more the rest of the day, all from a distance.
It was cold, but the sun was bright and the wind was mostly calm. I didn't feel the cold until the sun went down.
It was more of a Blue Friday: blue sky, blue water. The creek was up a little, limiting the shoreline access. I found a narrow spot to stand on. It felt a little like fishing from a diving board.
The fish were there, lined up and looking for something to strike their fancy.
I stripped a bead-head nymph, and drifted a few nymphs under an indicator. I got some bumps, but I also had a couple of fish come up and nose the indicator.
So I went dry, starting with a small muddler. The fish nosed it, and swirled under it, but they didn't grab it.
I went to an old, sparse Adams, maybe a #14. More swirls, and a brief hookup before the fly was soaked through.
I found a beautiful little #12 Callibaetis that I had tied up for the Henry's Fork. I tied it on. I gave it a drift, and after five feet a fish came up and ate it, no mistake. I missed it, feeling the grate of the hook against its jaw. I cast again, and after another five foot drift got another lunging take. This time I hooked up.
It felt good to have a fish on again. It fought hard, churning the shallows. I finally worked it in to the shoreline. I got down on my knees with the net, but I couldn't reach the fish. The tip top guide was frozen and I couldn't bring any more line in. So I grabbed the leader to slide the fish into the net--and it gave one more thrash and broke off. It was gone in the blink of an eye--and it took the fly with it.
The sun was down now and it was getting cold, dropping toward a forecast low of 15.
I tied on a #18 BWO, thinking I should probably have used it first. But the fish didn't like it as much as they had liked that Callibaetis. But after some patient casting to rises and wakes I managed another hookup. This time I got it in the net. Not the biggest that Rocky Ford Creek has to offer, but just what I was looking for, nonetheless.
I was feeling the bite of the cold, but I stayed longer than I thought I would, tempting the fish with a muddler again. They seemed to enjoy playing with the fly as much as I did, bumping it, chasing it, swirling under and around it, but never taking it.
I finally reeled in and walked back to the truck through the early dusk. Two cars pulled out before I got to the parking area. Another fisherman was putting things in his pickup when I got there. He wished me safe travels, I wished him the same, and he pulled out and was gone. I was the only one there.
I packed up and began the liesurely drive home under the un-black moon.
More from Norway, this time with Atlantic Salmon. Wow.
Vestlandets Pärla from Salmoniserad on Vimeo.
Flyfishing for big atlantic salmons at a beautiful, crystal clear river in Norway known as The Pearl of Vestlandet. English Subtitles available by clicking the CC button inside the movie. Any feedback of the movie appreciated.
Credits to Joe Pug and Northern Indians who let me use their great music in this movie.
Most of you out there-by the very virtue of receiving this newsletter-support wild steelhead conservation. And not just a little. You understand the fishing gospel, so to speak; the part that says, "Take care of the fish and the fishing will take care of itself." You're the converted. The chosen ones who will lead steelheaders forward into better waters.
But what about all the other steelhead anglers out there?
As it turns out they support conservation too.
How do we know? Well, simple. We asked.
This summer, Trout Unlimited, with the help of Southwick and Associates, a well regarded, non-partisan public opinion research firm that specializes in natural resources issues, conducted a poll that, to our knowledge, has never been conducted before. The poll surveyed more than 600 active steelhead anglers in Washington, Oregon and California regarding fishing preferences and opinions on steelhead management.
A solid majority of anglers (62 percent) favor a balanced approach to managing steelhead with some rivers for wild steelhead and other rivers for hatchery fish.
When wild populations are low, a strong majority (68 percent) of anglers support releasing any wild fish caught versus just 24 percent of anglers who would prefer to keep wild fish they caught.
In order to protect wild steelhead, more anglers (55 percent) chose longer seasons with more restrictions on fishing gear and methods than shorter seasons with fewer gear/method restrictions (32 percent).
58 percent of anglers support closing a hatchery that provides harvest opportunity if that hatchery harms wild steelhead and jeopardizes a catch-and-release fishery for wild fish. Given these conditions, only 27 percent of anglers supported keeping the hatchery in operation.
The numbers tell the story. We as steelhead anglers have great value for wild steelhead, their conservation and the opportunity to fish for them. Now it's time to get down to the hard work of restoring them.
Two things you can do for steelhead right now:
Help us celebrate our birthday! Wild Steelheaders United launched one year ago this week, and it's been a crazy and rewarding ride. Help us double our ranks of dedicated steelheaders by getting one friend to sign the credo. Just one. And if you have more than one friend, get them to sign the credo too. Let's make 2016 the Year of the Steelhead.
Help a steelhead. Buy a hat. If you haven't ordered your very own Wild Steelheaders United hat, now is the time (Christmas presents anyone?). A portion of all sales go directly back to WSU.
WSU Welcomes Nick Chambers
I would like to introduce myself to all of you as the newest staff member of Trout Unlimited's Wild Steelhead Initiative. I hail from a small town in Southwest Oregon and am a third generation Pacific Northwest angler and hunter. My first steelhead encounter came on my childhood home waters of the Rogue River. The experience changed my life forever and I have since dedicated myself to pursuing
steelhead and learning their habits and biology.
I have been fortunate enough to fish for steelhead throughout their native range from California to Alaska and I continue to be a student of these fish. I hold a fisheries degree from Oregon State University and have worked for a variety of agencies and organizations in fisheries research and management and guided in Oregon and Alaska. I have also been an active member of TU and helped to organize and participate in a number of angler science events. As the Washington based organizer I will be working with staff and our awesome volunteers to continue the work that has begun over the past year and help to expand the reach of the Wild Steelheaders United. I look forward to meeting and working with many of you.
changes. More than 3,000 comments were submitted on the proposal that, among other things, would eliminate wild steelhead harvest and ban bait fishing during the period when most wild steelhead return to the OP. Rob Masonis and John McMillan testified on behalf of TU and Wild Steelheaders United. Many of you played a vital role in generating comments and being present to testify. An overwhelming majority of written and oral comments supported the changes. The Commission will meet again in December to come to a decision.
On the other side of the state, Washington's Western Water and Habitat staff has been working to keep water in important steelhead tributaries. After dangerous drought conditions in the Yakima River Basin, key tributaries and their steelhead entered the fall season in a precarious position. Many tributaries dried completely
as temperatures soared, base flows dropped, and irrigators used what little creek water existed to keep crops alive. To help save steelhead and the creeks, Trout Unlimited leased 2.5 cfs of irrigation water for instream flows while the Kittitas Reclamation District wheeled downstream water rights through its canal system
and spilled the water at canal-tributary intersections. KRD supplemented creeks to mimic natural summer flows by as much as 15 cfs depending on stream size. This work by KRD, TU and Washington Department of Ecology was enough to keep seven streams alive and give steelhead a fighting chance during a critical drought year.
Juvenile and adult steelhead will soon get access to more spawning and rearing habitatin Idaho's upper Salmon River basin. TU, in coordination with the Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Program, has begun to move irrigation diversions on important steelhead tributaries of the Lemhi River to points downstream. Water will be pumped to irrigators' fields from those downstream points where there is more water, which will keep enough water in the upper tributaries so that steelhead can use them.
This month Oregon's Board of Forestry announced it would increase no-logging buffers from 20 feet to 80 feet on medium streams and 60 feet on small streams - a huge victory for steelhead.
While TU and WSU were not the only players in the fight to increase buffers, the work many of you did to reach out to the board and voice your support for healthier riparian areas made the difference. Thanks to you, more than 14,000 miles of Oregon streams will enjoy cooler water conditions when they need it the most, giving fish the necessary shade and shelter they need in the height of summer.
Also in Oregon, steelhead will face one less barrier as they migrate up the 120 miles ofbig water on the Nehalem River. This year the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, with the help of the TU and the Orvis 1,000 Miles Campaign, replaced a barrier culvert with a full span arch culvert on Oak Ranch Creek in the upper Nehalem. This is just Phase 1 of a two-phased project to restore more the 6 miles of spawning habitat. Learn More.
Also in California, Wild Steelheaders United hosted two Steelhead Science for Anglers events at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and at the Veterans Center in Davis. These educational workshops brought together steelhead researchers, advocates, and anglers to discuss the latest science on O. mykiss.
A new blog series has been launched highlighting the people and fish of select watersheds in Southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest, where TU has proposed permanently protecting 77 key watersheds. In addition to possessing excellent steelhead fishing these watersheds are home to all five species of salmon, cutthroat and char. The most recent post features' TU's Mark Hieronymus and his experiences in Sitka, home to 14 of these key watersheds. Send your comments to the Forest Service and let them know that conserving these 77 key watersheds is important to steelhead anglers.
Floodplains is a new literary blog featuring original art and writing with a fly fishing theme.
Jim Lampros, one of the founders, writes:
"Therein lies the inspiration for Floodplains – a window into the wonder that awaits wherever water moves. By capturing moments and memories born of the river, we hope to remind our readers of the significance of these places and inspire others to find their own floodplains to explore. As the river constantly reinvents and redefines itself day by day, season by season, it’s an open invitation for us to rethink what we thought we knew. We hope to do the same with Floodplains, providing story angles and illustrations outside the new norm. Step into the woods and take the long way to the river. You’ll be surprised at what you find."
"Auoutou, means autumn in the local language of Massif Central the mountains in the middle of France. Pierre Monatte was editing his latest film when he learned what happened in Paris this Friday. So he decided to send us this film all about nature, fall colours and easy living. To heal our pain. Pierre, the same name as our friend Pierro who was shot while having fun at a rock concert. And sweetness as was young Suzon, who loved the band she went to see. May this kindness be for all of you. We know that nature and time will heal our wounds."
I was ending my last short film on this tragic Friday of November. I wished to headlight the colours, the smoothness and the majesty of Autumn. The day after, I found a resonance between these motion pictures and abomination of men become crazy. This modest film was like a solace, a distancing, a peg to hang up our little hope in our human condition : "This Friday night, humankind became crazy. Maybe God exists, if yes, he’s here in the transparency of a grayling’s fin, in the simple pleasure of pan-fried mushroom, in a sunrise on autumn mists, isn’t he? Auoutou is autumn in my local dialect, it’s the light of a benefactor fire, more powerful than the destructive fire of human misery."
I haven't fished since Trout Lake closed. I needed some quiet time to process and adjust. What usually happens when you put something on hold for awhile is that other things step forward and demand attention. That happened.
That means I've been busy. Good stuff, enjoyable stuff. Just not fishing.
So I need to fish. The river is up, and it's gray and rainy. That could mean steelhead are moving, and more could be here now waiting for me.
At the same time weather reports call for temps dropping into the teens at night next week. I know that story. One day the river is there, the next day you get up and it's hiding under a foot of ice.
So this is called a "window" --that fleeting opening between now and when the ice comes.
Kudos to Chi Wulff again. They hit the nail on the head with a story on access rights, James Cox Kennedy, the Ruby River, Ducks Unlimited, and what is all too often business as usual: big money throwing its weight around, and vested interests failing to have the uh, "eggs" to stand up to it. The losers when that happens are all of us who put a higher value on wild lands and waters than a dollar amount.
Good piece from The Drake, and an opportunity to take action on critical rule changes being proposed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Luke Kelly Photo
WHY THE STAUS QUO IN WASHINGTON STATE IS FAILING STEELHEADERS WASHINGTON, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK—Most anglers will change anything and everything to feel the tug of a wild steelhead. After swinging through a few juicy runs without a grab, we'll vary our presentations. A few more unproductive runs will result in changed tips, new flies, or yes... even a bobber and bead. By the end of an unfruitful day, we might even wade waist-deep and bare-assed if we thought it would guarantee a hookup.
Yet when it comes to altering angling practices to conserve and rebuild wild steelhead populations, our community of anglers can be more reticent to discuss change.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing a Steelhead license plate to raise $200K a year to support conservation efforts to benefit these fish. State law requires 3,500 signatures on an "intent to purchase" petition before such plates can be issued.
Here is something to celebrate in the long battle to restore salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. It's just one thing--the battle is far from over.
There are some saying that this shows that the "hippies" worrying about "so-called climate change" have been wrong all along. I wish some people would climb out of their little ideological boxes and actually think. Or at least read the whole article.
What this shows is that in the face of unprecedented challenges to the salmon runs--including the effects of climate change--concentrated efforts to, according to the Bonneville Power Administration statement, "balance the needs of salmon with power production, flood control and other river uses" can be successful.
A small victory to build on for people committed to the collaborative spirit that made it possible.
Salmon return to Hanford Reach in record numbers
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated PressPublished: Nov 11, 2015 at 12:30 PM PST
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - The number of fall chinook salmon returning to the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River this year is the most since dams were constructed in the 1930s, the Bonneville Power Administration said this week.
Scientists estimate 200,000 chinook are spawning in the Hanford Reach, which is the last free-flowing section of the Columbia in the United States. The Hanford Reach flows past the giant Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the government for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons.
Approximately 50,000 of the fall chinook are spawning in a one-mile section of the Hanford Reach called Vernita Bar, the BPA said. Historically only a small number of salmon spawned at Vernita Bar because that stretch of the river was too shallow, the BPA said. But special efforts have been made to keep salmon spawning grounds submerged there, the BPA said.