- Mar 17, 2013
The opportunity arose for taking a few days, mid week to excuse myself from society and all of its attachments by venturing off the grid on the Oregon coast in search of wild steelhead on a small, very difficult stream to access. I had been introduced to this little gem via a now good friend Conrad Gowell who had been courting me for a visit for a number of years, well the time had come. “This is not your average walk and wade trip or even hike in access steelhead trip. Quarters are tight and the only real trails are made by the likes of elk and bear and at best are broken into barely discernible fragments, can you handle that?” asked Conrad and of course the answer was “Yes!”, you can always bail if it gets too tough right?
I asked good friend Rob Masonis to join me on this little adventure as some of the history of this stream might be of interest to him as V.P. of Western Conservation for Trout Unlimited and Conrad knows the history of this place better than just about anyone. So we left Seattle at 5am watching with a critical eye as the weather pattern for the region was calling for some heavy rainfall. As it turned out, the rain landed squarely on the O.P. but left less than a trace where we were headed so water was low and clear…not ideal but better than the alternative. 6+ hours later we arrive at our meeting point with Conrad, unpack, gear up and head out for the river.
Within a few minutes we are on the water and this place is stunning…giant old growth forest carpeted with thick super green moss and little or no evidence of any human presence at all…and it is all ours.
As a life long steelhead angler who only enjoys swinging, small water like this presents new challenges and often times a fork in the road for many. This would easily be nymphable water but with some thought on what, how and where swinging is completely possible…certainly more of a challenge but worth the effort in my book, it is always worth that effort. Small water like this forces one to become a better fly angler by micro analyzing how to manage all facets of your presentation and approach and naturally engages your mind to a level of escapism from everything but the task at hand. My issue here is that I am also toting around about 60lbs of camera gear for the sake of documentation…fly rod or camera, fly rod or camera…
About a mile downstream we enter a tight gorge which requires a “hike” up and around to access some of the middle water. Well this ends up being more of a crawl, uphill breaking trail through Salmonberry, fern and the soft decay of the forest and as I periodically stop to watch and laugh at Rob (or myself more likely). I realize I am not the super human I once was and Conrad I am pretty sure is part elk or some other 4 legged animal that has evolved to ascend such terrain with ease making it evident that getting old sucks. Fingers full of thorns we reach the top and walk and spine to our point descent…keep in mind, what goes up must come down and this presents a whole new challenge.
This goes on for most of the day, one steelhead seen(spooked) and with daylight barely lingering we begin to escape up and out. We get to an old forest service road right about dark, exhausted and out of water with a 3 mile hike back to the starting point and as we walk and talk, we come to a sign that says 1 mile to…Rob and I both about fall over as it seems we have been walking for miles already. Once back at camp, Conrad confirms out assertion that we likely rose nearly 1000 vertical in about a quarter mile…on no trail! Legs burning we eat, enjoy some malted spirits and hit the sack exhausted, hoping to be up for the challenge again tomorrow!
Waking up, I have a much clearer picture of how to pack and what to bring for the day, more water, steri-pen, 3 flies instead of a huge box and have Conrad carry the underwater camera gear for me! That makes things much easier which turns out to be a big help on day 2 with some precarious situations ahead. No fresh rain over-night, Legs feel good, hearty breakfast and a drive to the lower river where we fish a mere 3 miles from the Pacific. Today begins with a serious hike down and in, no easy entry today and after the bushwhack of yesterday, hoping my Patty waders held up and be better than mesh today…amazingly, zero leaks, wahoo!!!
Again…incredible! Giant boulders make even stream-side transit a challenge and as I watch Conrad and Rob fish I take in all the other goodies that come from being deep in the wilderness. Fairly fresh cat prints and scat, signs of elk everywhere, a lizard Conrad has never seen and tis the “season” for the salamanders, hundreds mating in every little bit of still water they can find and as I watch, I think of how my daughter would be happy to waste an entire day in a 20 square yard section of where we are…that thought stays close for the rest of the day and will for life.
We move out of the 5th gorge and into a more open stretch and voila…3 chrome, almost opaque steelhead hanging behind a rock. Conrad turns one on his 3 cast which seems to put them off as they proceed to ignore our presence and our flies for the next hour as we trade off turns fishing and watching!
We end the day with an elk sighting, amazingly the one and only considering all the tracks around, a few sea run cutthroat to hand and just to remind us, a long and arduous hike out. All told, we likely hiked, crawled, scrambled, scaled, waded and slid a good 15 miles or more in 2 days over some rigorous terrain…all for a few cutthroat and the sight of 5 steelhead. Was it worth it, would we do it again, fish or no fish? No question…absolutely! Henry Van Dyke puts it perfectly:
- Dec 18, 2012
Historic protection for BC’s Sacred Headwaters Announced
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 18 DECEMBER 2012
Contact – Melyssa Rubino, email@example.com, 604-331-6201, ext 227
Historic protection for BC’s Sacred Headwaters Announced: Major victory in campaign that puts local communities over corporate profit
Coalbed methane development to be permanently banned from headwaters of major salmon rivers VANCOUVER – The B.C. government announced today that Shell would be withdrawing its plans to develop coalbed methane in the Klappan-Groundhog tenure area in northwest British Columbia. The government will also not issue oil and gas tenures in the area in the future.
“Eight years ago, northern B.C. communities joined together to say ‘no’ to coalbed methane and ‘yes’ to wild salmon,” said Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition executive director Shannon McPhail. “Today is an incredible day for residents of the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine watersheds. We are grateful and proud that First Nations and communities from the watersheds came and stood together. The B.C. government and Shell deserve recognition for listening to these communities and making a decision that will protect salmon cultures and livelihoods.”
This region, better known as the Sacred Headwaters, became the source of controversy in 2004, when Shell drilled three test wells in the area. Blockades and public rallies across the northwest ensued in 2005 and 2006, resulting in the arrest of Tahltan elders. International protests were also held at Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague. Due to opposition, the Province imposed a moratorium on coalbed methane development in the area in 2008, which was set to expire on December 18.
“Shell has backed away from a project only a handful of times. The powerful, relentless movement led by the courageous Tahltan and supported by nearly 100,000 people from around the world has not only stopped Shell, but persuaded the BC government to permanently protect the region from any further gas development,” said ForestEthics Advocacy senior conservation campaigner Karen Tam Wu. “It’s an inspiring day when communities in northern B.C. can stand up to one of the largest oil companies in the world and win. Congratulations to the Tahltan, and to the citizens and government of British Columbia.”
Highlights of the campaign to protect the Sacred Headwaters include: – International attention on the conflict by generating nearly 100,000 signatures from around the world – Several international actions in the Netherlands – Meeting directly with Shell Canada President – High level government relations – The first ever swim of the entire length of Skeena River.
The Sacred Headwaters is located in northwest British Columbia, about 600 kilometres north of Terrace, B.C. The region is home to a diversity of wildlife, such as grizzly bears, caribou and moose. Shell’s plans would have seen thousands of gas wells and thousands of kilometres of roads built at the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine rivers—three of B.C.’s top salmon-producing rivers. The headwaters were listed on the Outdoor Recreation Council’s Most Endangered Rivers list for the past three years.
ForestEthics Advocacy and Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition would like to thank Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada for its work to create this solution for the Sacred Headwaters, and for their work building support for a vision of a low-carbon Canadian energy economy.
ForestEthics Advocacy is a non-profit society devoted to public engagement, outreach and environmental advocacy – including political advocacy. We secure large-scale protection of endangered forests and wild places and transform environmentally destructive resource- extraction industries.
Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition is a non-profit society focused on cultivating a sustainable economy rooted in culture and a thriving wild salmon ecosystem. As residents of the region, we advocate for community-based decision-making regarding large industrial projects.
- Dec 09, 2012
View the numbers of the report here.
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Fish and Wildlife Commission today approved a new management framework for Columbia River fisheries that includes more salmon for the sport fishery, a gradual shift of commercial gillnets to enhanced off-channel areas and development of new commercial selective gears for the mainstem. The Commission also set new barbless hook requirements for sport anglers beginning in 2013.
The adoption of the new management framework is the culmination of several months work by a two-state workgroup comprised of members of the Oregon and Washington Commissions, advisors and staff.
“We are very grateful for the time and effort of our Commissioners, our sport and commercial advisors, our colleagues in Washington and our staff in developing a new framework for Columbia River fisheries in a very challenging environment,” said Roy Elicker, ODFW director.
“The challenge going forward will be to implement this plan to the benefit of both the sport and commercial fishing industries,” he added.
Sport share of mainstem salmon harvest to increase
Both sport and commercial fisheries are constrained by the allocation of wild fish they can catch. The plan approved by the Commission generally shifts more allocation to the sport fishery.
Increased production in off-channel areas
Commercial gillnets will gradually be moved from the mainstem of the lower Columbia River to off-channel select areas. To balance the loss of mainstem fish to the commercial fleet, the number of hatchery fish in the off-channel areas will be increased. An additional 1,000,000 spring chinook, 920,000 coho, and 500,000 select area bright fall chinook smolts will be released each year during the transition period, with additional increases in future years.
The plan also would allow for some continued commercial fishing in the mainstem, particularly to harvest excess hatchery fish. In addition, the plan would allow commercial fishing in the mainstem using more selective gear such as seine nets. The commercial efficacy of alternative gear will be tested during pilot fall salmon fisheries in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Barbless hooks, new Columbia River endorsement required for sport anglers
The Commission declined to delay the barbless hook requirement on the Columbia River and selected tributaries. Therefore, beginning in 2013, barbless hooks will be required in the mainstem Columbia River up to the OR/WA border and some lower tributaries.
For 2013 the following tributaries will be restricted to barbless hooks:
Youngs River from Hwy 101 bridge upstream to markers at confluence with Klaskanine River.
Lewis and Clark River from Hwy 101 bridge upstream to Alternate Hwy 101 bridge.
Walluski River from confluence with Youngs River upstream to Hwy 201 bridge.
Gnat Creek from railroad bridge upstream to Aldrich Point Road.
Knappa/Blind Slough select areas.
Willamette River mainstem below Willamette Falls, includes the Multnomah Channel and Gilbert River.
Lower Clackamas River upstream to Hwy 99E bridge.
- Oct 30, 2012
Burke Museum, Wild Steelhead Coalition partner to raise awareness of “The Magnificent Steelhead”
Museum exhibit, reception and art sale support wild steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.
SEATTLE – Anglers know it as the “fish of a thousand casts.” Washingtonians know it as their state fish, symbolizing the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. And through November 15th, the steelhead will be celebrated in an exhibit at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum to raise awareness and support for this iconic, and threatened, fish.
Titled “The Magnificent Steelhead,” the display will culminate with a reception and art sale on November 8, with all proceeds benefiting the Wild Steelhead Coalition, an organization dedicated to increasing the return of wild steelhead to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest.
Works in the Burke exhibit include photographs printed on canvas, as well as mixed media pieces from individuals in the angling community, including Andy Anderson, Jeff Bright, Keith Douglas, Brian Huskey, Brian O’Keefe, Jonathan Marquardt, Dave McCoy, Ken Moorish, Tim Pask, Steve Perih, Mike Savlen, and Bob White.
Visitors can also learn more about steelhead, as well as conservation efforts being taken by the Wild Steelhead Coalition to support the species through hatchery reform, scientific research and policy changes on behalf of wild fish.
The event runs from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. and includes hors d’oeuvres from the Steelhead Diner and beverages from Precept Wine.
Burke Museum Exhibit Reception & Sale: A Benefit for the Wild Steelhead Coalition
November 8, 2012 | 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. | Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture
On the UW Campus – 17th Ave NE & NE 45th St
- Oct 05, 2012
The legendary Skagit River in northwest Washington is a large, glacier-fed river that winds its way through the Cascade Mountains before emptying into Puget Sound. World-renowned for its steelhead fishing, the Skagit was once home to wild steelhead runs in the tens of thousands, and is the birthplace of many fly-fishing techniques anglers use today. While its runs have diminished over time, the Skagit still boasts wild steelhead that often eclipse the magical 20-pound mark. In an effort to preserve this pristine river and protect its remaining steelhead, Orvis has partnered with the Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) and driftboat builder Ross Duncan to bring to you a unique conservation opportunity.
Orvis and the WSC will be auctioning off a one-of-a-kind McKenzie-style driftboat, hand-built by master craftsman Ross Duncan. The 17-foot custom wood driftboat is constructed with BS1088 marine plywood and white oak, and is a hybrid of traditional McKenzie framed boat and stitch-and-glue construction. Secured with System 3 epoxies, 3M 5200 adhesive, and over 300 stainless steel screws, the boat is set up with two fixed-position swivel pedestal seats—fore and aft for fly fishing or side drifting—with an adjustable-position rower’s bench rope seat. The rower’s seat is adjustable plus-or-minus 10 inches, with four different oar lock positions, and the Sawyer Cobra oar locks are set in machined derlin bushings. The bottom of the boat is coated with a high-density poly-urea coating, and the interior and hull are painted with water-based epoxy and polyurethane. The bow and chine batten are protected with 1/8-inch thick stainless steel rub stripes. The boat comes complete with 9-foot MXG Sawyer counterbalanced oars, Lee-Lock side-mount anchor system, and a painted trailer with LED lights.
The retail value of a boat of this quality would be well over $12,000. Bidding will start at $5,000 and all proceeds will go toward WSC habitat restoration and steelhead research projects on the Skagit River. The WSC will deliver the boat free-of-charge anywhere within the states of Washington and Oregon; however, should the winning bid be from elsewhere, the winner will be responsible for shipping costs. Bids can be placed online at http://auctions.orvis.com, and the bidding will close at 11:59 PM ET on October 30, 2012.
- Sep 14, 2012
This might be one of the best laid out and soft spoken looks at our future water issues affecting the fish we cherish so much in our state.
- Apr 13, 2012
Over the past couple of years, all the work and effort to educate those in our state including anglers, legislators and general public as to the state of our fisheries here in Washington and the need to regain wild fish in those rivers where it might be possible we go and just get taken out at the knees, or maybe it is the head. Read below:
Yesterday morning I got a call as our representative stepped out to call me to tell me this great news.
At 7:20 the 2011 Washington Legislature adjourned for the year but not before passing an unprecedented jobs package that provided over $65,000,000 dollars for hatchery infrastructure, fish passage and access in Puget Sound. On the first day of the 2011 legislative session Our FishNW, NSIA, CCA, and PSA representatives testified in front of the Capitol Budget Committees in both houses and stressed the importance of investing in our state hatcheries as a vehicle for jobs creation in local communities. They pointed out that unlike social programs the state would create jobs in the local construction industries and at a staffing level that would result in increased angler participation for all user groups and grow the states’ tax base. These efforts were rewarded because we had bipartisan support for our efforts. Unlike most issues where a single majority vote is required for passage expenditures require a two thirds majority for passage.
This is an incredible success. In a budget climate where agencies and programs were being eliminated because of revenue shortfalls they were able convince legislators that jobs creation and not additional taxes was the correct approach to increase state revenues. Daily discussions with House Capitol Budgets Chairman, Han Dunshee, Derek Kilmer, Chair of Senate Capitol Budgets and ranking minority member Linda Evans Parlette convinced them to champion our specific recommendations through the legislative process.
We cannot overstate the importance of the political implications of this victory. First, it communicates to WDFW senior staff and the commission that we (recreational industry and fishing organizations) can accomplish what the agency is unable to do on their own. This did not go unnoticed with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission. Our representative will be giving them a full testimony on this monumental bill.
The WDFW director, Phil Anderson, expressed his gratitude and thanks on behalf of the department for what we had been able to accomplish. This achievement validates the importance of our financial commitment to ongoing participation in the political process. By continuing to grow our political influence we will increasingly play major roles in creation of the states’ natural resources policies. The director understands the political implications of this achievement.
In our talks with legislators we continually emphasized the importance in investing in specific locations that would result in the biggest bang for the buck. Improving hatcheries in metropolitan Puget Sound would provide would encourage more participation because of location and easy access. We can hardly wait to see the new boat ramp at Point No Point (this ramp was included in this bill). This is a major victory!!!
Our hatcheries and our hatchery systems/fish passages have not been kept up and are in dire need of repair. Washington state used to be the Salmon Capital of the world. We need to return it to that and this is the first step.
This is what your local fishing organizations do for you. When we work together we can move mountains-we just did. By having a collective voice and working together, we are being heard. We were looking at some very drastic cuts and there still will be in other areas of our fisheries, such as funding cuts by NOAA for WDFW. But by us working together we can work on finding funding to keep our fisheries alive for our kids and grandkids, while helping to not only maintain our economy but to grow it.
I am still amazed we pulled this off! Our key legislators Hans Dunshee, Derek Kilmer, and Linda Evans Parlette were the true champions for us. We owe them a huge thank you.
Puget Sound Anglers
FishNW Board of Directors
Of all the places where money needs to go in this poor state, somehow, someone made people believe that putting money into the hatchery programs here in WA would create jobs. Yes to some degree I guess it will but how many and for how long? I don’t get it, I do because I know how stupid so many people are but at the same time I don’t.
If employment was REALLY on their minds, they would have made sure our fisheries never needed the hatcheries in the first place. They would have seen the intrinsic value to healthy rivers long ago and take the measures to protect, nurture and care for them but they didn’t and we haven’t.
If employment was really on their minds, fishing licenses would be $200 for out of state anglers, maybe more with a lottery system for a half dozen rivers in the state regulating how many can be on a river at any given time.
If they cared about employment guides would be managed not only by WDFW but also Forest Service, National Park, BLM and any other agency that has a play in Washington fisheries. Guide licenses would also require special permitting on particular rivers which would give legitimate value to our businesses. For instance, a level A permit on the Gunnison River in Colorado is worth about a $750,000 at this time. With all the quality water we could have right here in WA, right now there could be several of our guide services here that would employ a large number of people, from OUR state, legally. At this point, I have seen guides on various rivers in Washington whom are not on the list of having purchased a guide license for this state from the following states: Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, California, Michigan, Ohio, New York and how about this one, Washington!
If they really cared about employment in Washington, they would put that money into hiring enough enforcement officers to kick all the illegal guiding assholes out of here and make those who are going to hire a guide, hire a legitimate and legal guide from Washington. One who has the proper business licenses from city, county and state, has insurance (although not required by our lovely state) and an actual Washington guide license.
By not respecting our watersheds over the past 50-100 years and valuing what they could being into Washington as far as revenue for local businesses, Washington has show they don’t care about employment. If they really did, then we wouldn’t lose most of our fishing revenue to Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia where categorically the fishing is exponentially better the second you cross the border. If Washington had done so, Washington today would be the epicenter of where those who pursue anadromous fish would migrate to, sadly it is not the case with one very small exception, and the pressure on that region will eventually up the tally of yet another mismanaged fishery where had we really cared, we would have done better for it.
I guess there might be a chance that this money will do some good but I won’t be surprised when it ends up put against the work that has been done to protect wild fish, steelhead in particular, doesn’t improve our enforcement on the rivers and any science created by it is skewed to work in the favor of those who just need to kill a fish.
Not a celebration in my book, just time to put the gloves back on and get back in the ring.
- Mar 30, 2012
This shouldn’t take those of you who will find this more than a mere second to decide to sign, so please do so:
Despite widespread opposition, a Washington State power company SnoPUD has proposed building a new dam and power plant on the protected Skykomish River. This environmental catastrophe would dewater over a mile of river, including two pristine waterfalls, Canyon Falls and Sunset Falls.
- Mar 27, 2012
The season wanes. Each spring as I look forward to the sunny days of an Idaho summer, the realization of waiting another 9 months to fish on the coast sets in. Washington is my home, and the coastal rivers of the Olympic Peninsula are my refuge.
Growing up fly fishing was a summer activity, reserved for vacations in Idaho. I learned to cast a fly on Silver Creek, a place many either love or hate. At 8 years old I loved it, and still do today, maybe more than then. I catch more trout now, but that didn’t matter then. As a guide I am incredibly lucky to share this river. Each day I witness old men become young, wives catch more fish than “veteran” husbands, and children who find something better than Disneyland. It changes everyone for the best, even when it turns you away empty netted. There is no place like “the creek”.
Trout fishing is a grand hobby, a passion for many, fly fishing IS trout fishing. Steelhead fishing changes lives, and swinging for coastal steelhead is either part of you, or it isn’t. The vote is out on whether this can be considered a good thing or a very, very bad thing. I had no choice, my family tells me I was born this way, a trait passed down by the grandfather I never met. He was a passionate fisherman, and steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula his pursuit. My grandparents first owned, then built a cabin on the peninsula in the years before I was born. If only we could have fished together. Out there I like to think we are.
I have caught steelhead of the north, they are more fabled, prized and often larger. British Columbia is plenty big, cold and potentially cruel, but the sun shines more. There are more fish to catch, days less sorrowful. A great vacation, not a time to suffer. During the winter and spring on Washington’s coast it is dark, gray and wet. Fish leave the salt for roaring rivers that eat the rainforest alive. Under a stormy curtain fish feel comfortable, as if they are still in the Pacific. Nothing feels right when it isn’t raining. It becomes harder to find fish, even when you know where to look.
This is where the wild fish are, where the great fish are, and they don’t come easy.
I put together “Where the Wild Fish Are” with the limited clips I was able to shoot this winter. A good project to keep learning how to edit ended up turning into a good way to hold over until next season.
- Feb 16, 2012
Now matter how you spin it, this is good news, my hope is that we will learn enough from this to force change on other fisheries in our state that need it so badly. Read the full article here: