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My Book Report

Remember in elementary school when you had to do book reports? Man those were awful. "My book report is on Superfudge by Judy Blume." Looking back though we realize the value of learning to critically read, write and analyze. At least some of us do.

Hence my post today about a book I just finished but should've read seven or eight years ago, David Mongomery's King of Fish: The Thousand Year Run of Salmon. For all fly fisermen, gear fishermen and anyone interested in conservation this is required reading. But really this book is almost more important for those not familiar with salmon and rivers and the fact we are both directly and indirectly trying to extinguish them from the planet. Plainly written, you do not need to be a salmon scholar or scientist to understand this work. Montgomery beautifully and logically lays out the history of salmon, human interaction and the disastrous consequences that resulted.

From Atlantic salmon in Europe in medieval times to the East Coast in colonial and modern time up to the present on the West Coast and the salmon crisis we are currently in he deftly shows the entirely human caused destruction of salmon everywhere. It shows the big picture. Montgomery identifies the key factors in the decline of salmon and even lays out a simple (yet in our pathetic political system a plan that seems almost an impossibility) for salmon recovery. It's a startling book even for those, like myself, that have been involved in and understand the environmental and political salmon wars in the Northwest. One of the most amazing this to me was as far back as medieval England people realized the importance of healthy salmon runs, laws were passed for their protection and laws continued to be passed in the New World as well yet they were simply ignored in large part and salmon runs continued to dwindle. The vast scale of wonton overfishing (or netting as it's really called) described in this book served only to reinforce my own view of the shame of buying commercially caught (or grown) salmon and supporting the maximum sustainable harvest mentality that has utterly failed.

Read this book and you will understand the fall of salmon. But you will also understand the actions needed to begin the return and rise of the salmon and maybe with enough people and grassroots action we can reverse the current status quo and bring salmon back to sustainable levels. People and salmon can coexist, Montgomery shows us how, but we have to be willing to make sacrifices now for our benefit in the future.

Brett

New Drake Mag

Yo yo, check out the latest issue of The Drake, Spring '12. It just hit your local fly shop this week. Editor Tom Bie and friends put out the best fly fishing magazine in the business. Hands down.

I even have a short piece in this one involving vampires and steelhead.

Keep it real. Go angle.

Brett

One In Winter - fly fishing film by Ryan Peterson

Here is a great short film about targeting California Coastal Steelhead made by Ryan Petersen from The Fly Shop. Make sure to read his thought provoking words below as well.

One in Winter from ryan peterson on Vimeo.

We understand mere fragments –

of most things really, but especially of a fish called steelhead. Its nominal definition goes that it’s a rainbow trout that migrates from river to ocean and back again to spawn, like a salmon. But like most living things, after you dedicate time to deep observation, their essential superpowers transcend human understanding. Just ask a grooved-out steelhead fly fisher.

In doing so you might hear how, for instance, steelhead have been tagged in Oregonian rivers and recaptured years later off the coast of Japan. You will then be entreated to confirm that that’s crazy, right?!

You might also be regaled by the legend that high-seas commercial fishermen rarely intercept steelhead as bycatch in their nets, suggesting a steelhead’s epic peregrinations are committed to solo, without friends in schools. They’re lone wolves out there, mysterious and supremely noble in the icy gray – the ultimate, fitting match for someone unimpressed by the listlessness of day-to-day society.

At that, you’ll be encouraged to exclaim something to the effect of, “What?!” or “Whoa!”

Then ask the steelhead angler about the special ones that run into rivers in the dead of winter and watch as their frantic code-red tone trails off. They fall silent, look you in the eye, and quietly, carefully size up whether you really care, or whether you’re just humoring them. Because now you’re talking about very serious stuff.

In general, the drama and excitement of fly fishing takes place almost entirely in your head. No matter what kind of fish you’re trying to trick, there’s always more time spent standing stone-still in a river, thinking about it, than there is with a fish actually on the line. The sub-discipline of winter steelheading stretches this to its threadbare extreme: The gap is immense. Sometimes it goes on for a whole winter. It’s all mind, for virtually no matter.

Sounds boring, I know, but there are no other “sports” in which the crucial defining moments revolve around a literal connection to another form of life. This is interesting to me. We often forget, ignore, or underestimate that humans are for better or (more often) for worse, the planet’s top predator. And even when we confront this fact, it’s usually only in the abstract. We are so far up the food chain these days we can get our food with money.

But fly fishing is not abstract. To catch a fish you must to step into an ecosystem, consider where you are, where your quarry came from, where it is going, why it might be hanging out in an eddy rather than in traffic, and why you are catching more or fewer of them this year compared to last. To catch a fish, the old saying goes, you must think like one. It’s so true.

If you watch a fly fisher trying for winter steelhead, you will not see any great feats of athleticism, and you certainly will not see any death-defying shockers. Ninety nine point nine percent of the time what you will see is exquisite patience and contemplation.

But if you watch a seriously steezy river-man like Rich Zellman long enough, you might, with luck, after days and days, catch a fragment.

Clapton on fly fishing.

Eric Clapton discusses his personal reasons for fly fishing and catches a nice Grayling on this video. Clapton on fly fishing

Gettin' the Boot

So I caught a boot on Thursday. Seriously, a boot. A giant hip boot. It felt like I was in a Loony Toons cartoon. I drug it out of Putah Creek on 5x with a #20 Zebra Midge. It had obviously been there a while judging from the cased caddis that had made their homes on it. It tricked me for a second too. When I set the hook it moved just a bit, like a super jumbo trout that didn't really know it was hooked. Yeah. But I quickly realized it was a poor fighter. Here's my catch.

Anyway, I did actually hook a few trout. Nothing terribly large today, from what I could tell but a couple encounters were very brief. The water was up and a really kind of clearish-green that made me wish steelhead still ran up there. The graph said it was running about 175cfs but I'd guess more like 250-ish? Still wadable but pushy. So yeah, go capture your own. Maybe we'll host a boot catching contest soon. Like send in your best boot (or rock) photos and we'll pick a winner. Yeah, so...

Brett

Got blown off the Yuba yesterday!!!

I met my two clients yesterday to fish the Yuba and what a soggy rainy morning it was. The cdec.water.ca.gov site said flows were 720cfs for Yuba at Smartsville and Deer Creek was flowing at 17cfs. Got there and it had to be flowing at at least 2000cfs and chocolate! We wouldn't have hooked a single Trout were we to have fished. (Update: they fixed their meters and it turns out Deer Creek was up to 3470cfs at 3pm!) So we loaded up the rig and headed to Oroville. The low flow of the Feather looked great. We hooked some decent fish, including this Steelhead. Thanks, Brian and Chris for being so flexible!

This rain may have things blown out for a while. There looks to be some decent rain in the forecast for the next few days. Stay tuned for updates.

Thanks,

Dave

The Steelhead season is winding down...just not quite over yet.

The last storm got the coastal rivers back up. They started to drop into shape by early Monday of last week. Fishing started off pretty slow. We went two days and got two hook- ups. I think it was a combination of heavy pressure and basically there were just not a lot of fish around.. By mid week the options for good looking water increased. The fishing improved.. My last day we hooked 9. Mainly Kelts but we managed to find some Chrome......

God Bless America(n)

You know, when I moved down to the Bay Area from Seattle people told me there wasn't much fishing around here, especially steelheading.

Now, being from Seattle, I have steelheading flowing through my veins. The history, the fish, the rivers and uh,well, see, umm... The reality is, I grew up fishing steelhead but most of the rivers within a day's striking distance from Seattle are bogus. Yeah, there's certainly some good fishing to be had but over all, due to human influences, the Puget Sound fisheries are mere shadows of their former romantic histories. Not to mention the fact all Puget Sound streams are closed during the best part of the season. The Olympic Peninsula and Columbia/Snake tribs. in Eastern WA have some stellar fishing but (unless you enjoy falling asleep at the wheel) require all overnight trips.

This all brings me to today, the 7th of March, when I drove and hour and fifteen minutes from my front door to feet in the American River, swinging a two-handed rod for steelhead. And, I landed my first California steelhead. It wasn't huge, it didn't make a bunch of blistering runs but it was wild and it was steelhead. That's something you cannot do this time of year while living in Seattle. The point of all this is, YES, there's plenty of fishing near The Bay. Anybody who believes otherwise hasn't done their homework, the plethora of fishing available is astounding. And YES, there are legitimate steelhead opportunities close to The Bay Area too. Get some!

As for a report, the American is LOW, running at 1100cfs, very clear and low fifties water temps. A few people around but not crowded and yes, a few steelhead around too.

The following photos are for all the haters. I love fishing in California!

Brett

Excellent fly fishing for Steelhead continues on California's North Coast

The past week on California's north coast was another good one for Steelhead. The water was lower and clearer than I would have liked it. Just like any steelhead river.. The lower it gets the more difficult the fishing tends to be. Word must have been out because there were lots of boats as well. Despite the traffic we were averaging 8 hook-ups a day.

There was an even mix of fresh fish and kelts. The fish were a little smaller than last week .. Good thing is that meant more in the net :) Rain showed up on Tuesday and continued through Thursday afternoon. Most rivers blew out and are already dropping back in.

Wild Steel!!!Wild Steel!!!

This could be the last hurrah ....!!!!!

Let's fish,

Joshua

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