Is it Time??? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Is it Time???

08-08-2003, 12:30 PM
"When is water too warm" post by Jeff is a great post. Thanks Jeff.
It's kind of funny but here on this board, NW Steelhead we all or almost all know each other through fishing, conservation meetings and the sorts. I'll even bet we all know when everyone is fishing, catching and where they are fishing. We all know the grape vine thing goes on. Sparky, Sinktip, Jeff, Juro, Fred Kerry, Leiland. Russ, Smalama, Mjc, Moonlight, MMM, Doublespey our friends from the north and certainly more from the NW. All good fly fishing, conservation minded steelheaders and I think we have a lot of respect for each and every regular here.

This is a group of thinkers who practice what they preach and not a group of ya ya fly fishing geeks we see so often in this day and age of fly fishing is cool. This is a group that goes about their love of steelhead fishing in a fairly quiet and controlled manor and for the right reasons.

My question to all of you out there. Have we gone flat in the way we approach fly fishing for steelhead. What I mean by that, are we flat at looking at our philosophies on steelhead conservation and how it relates to us the fly fisherman.. It seems there has been no real changes in many years when it comes to philosophy of fly fishing for a wonderful but disapearing spiecies of fish.

If there was ever a group of steelheaders who could develope a new thought train, a newer dirrection than the current path we are on it is this group. I ask all of you to look inside your self and ask the important questions whatever they maybe for you and share them here and elsewhere if it's not too personal for you.

Does anyone else think we are in a bit of a serious rut on how we go about thinking about steelhead and our fishing?


08-08-2003, 03:43 PM
Thanks OC - I've really enjoyed your last series of posts ('specially about the nubile deckhands on your sailboat:devil: )

I think we are evolving in our thinking, whether we like it or not. It used to be viewed as a "Right" to harvest fish, now it's seen (at least in the case of Wild Steelhead) by most flyfishers as abuse of a dwindling resource.

Hell, just the chance to fish for steelhead is something I'm very grateful for.

Many of us voluntarily impose more limitations on our fishing practices than the law requires. Not handling fish unnecessarily, using barbless hooks, not fishing over spawners, using small barbless hooks (or hooks to large to be swallowed) when smolt are present in large #s are just some examples. Many of these weren't even issues 20-30years ago.

At least for me, I don't feel i'm in a rut because I feel very close to the rivers and the Steelhead that return to them. Because it has been threatened in so many ways, the health of the rivers and their steelhead has become more important to me than my own fishing.

It's not just me. I see this in all my Steelheading friends as well - a heightened concern for our rivers and their anadromous tenants that overshadows their own need to put the next steelhead on the bank.

The WSC (and other organizations like it) is a manifestation of this concern. Most of us weren't politically involved and just accepted what the WDFW did at face value. Then, with the continued closures, I think many of us realized that we had to take responsibility for the protection of our our rivers and fish lest they be managed into extinction.

This is not to say that there isn't more that can be done, and I'm sure there will be some great suggestions. I just wanted to lead off by suggesting that this process was already happening.

My .02,


08-09-2003, 02:04 AM
OC- great post. I'm not a card carrying member of this small fraternity of friends here, but I think the next step is pretty obvious: stop fishing for native steelhead. It's a shame the resource has been left in such shambles by past generations. The good times are gone (at least in the PNW). If we all sacrifice fishing wild steelhead today, we may have hope for my kids and grandkids to enjoy again. I'm not sure this "tradition of steelheaders" in the PNW has had a positive effect on the future of the fish, though it has certainly created some fine stories and unique individual perspectives. I'm ready to hang it up for the spring native run, I've already quit the N Puget Sound summer runs (are there any wild summer runs left?). Abstinence is the next logical step.

08-09-2003, 02:21 AM
Great thread OC...and finally a thread were I dont have to be jealous of you and your sailboat and your small little group of girls that you need to introduce me to.

I will provide my thoughts first chance I get to really sit down and put them together...

Rick J
08-09-2003, 08:04 PM
while it might not totally pertain I am currently reading "one River More" by W. D. Wetherell and I post an interesting quote:

"What we need - what we need constantly - is to remember why fly fishing is worth doing in the first place. The difficulties and pleasures of mastering a demanding craft; the reinforcement, the enhancement, provided by a long and proud tradition; the solace of its locales, the inspiration these offer; the healing power of water; the miraculous living beauty of the trout we seek. All these things, and with them a quality that is harder to define - an anti-establishment kind of pleasure; the different drummer aspect that makes its practitioners favor the lonely places, doing their thing away from the crowd, independently... the quality about fly fishing that has always appealed to the dissident part of us, that stubborn nonconformist raffish heretical freelance something that even our materialistic culture can never quite snuff out.

Perhaps this is why so many fly fishers feel uncomfortable with the current boom: fly fishing simply cannot afford to become too fashionable and still possess this alternative kind of allure. Let's remember that ours is a quiet and simple pursuit in an age that is noisy and complex; one that rewards patience and prudence in a jittery, impatient world; a sport that reuqires thinking and creativity in a culture that often punishes both; a pastime that seeks to conserve the places our money grubbing joyless economy seeks to destroy; a smoothing antidote to everything in the world that so bitterly goes dowwn."

08-09-2003, 10:14 PM

I have not used a weighted fly for steelhead in 11 years, nor do I ever place any weight on my leader. I also find myself using waking dries far more often during the summer and fall than a few years ago. In fact, I have taken to using a skated dry as my first fly of the day. This may be replaced with a low-water featherwing fished greased line as the sun gets up higher in the sky from about 10 in the morning until about 5 or 6 in the evening. And I do not use sink tips after the water drops to summer levels in June or July. And I have nor will I use a strike indicator for steelhead, no matter how effective it is.

These things all make it more difficult to hook a fish; however, they all increase my enjoyment astream and also I find it far more satisfying to fish like this.

I will not fish when river temps are elevated because it stresses the fish too much to be hooked and played in water that is 63 degrees or higher.

I take time to help someone I see who is fishing in water types that do not normally hold steelhead, who is having trouble casting, is using the wrong fly type for the time of year, or using the wrong type of line for the water conditions. I have found I derive great pleasure from helping someone I meet on the stream and his/her name is not important to me to enjoy doing this. I simply enjoy giving to someone else sto they can enjoy their experience more.

I love to catch steelhead and trout; however, that is not what motivates me to go to the river and fish. I simply like being on the stream, feeling the rythm of the cast, observing widlife around the stream, etc. Getting astream leaves the modern day pressures of time, work, and getting things done behind. Fishing provides a reprieve and welcome relief from everything except spending time in God's creation and the beauty found therein.

08-11-2003, 12:06 PM
A good start fellow steelhead lovers.

I'll be honest, I'm in sometype of transition period as far as my obsession with the pursuit of steelhead and not sure where I'm going. Being into steelhead fishing all fly fishing only for 21 years now, 39 years fly fishing I'm just a newbie when I look at the years of a lot of you.

Like most of you that have been doing this a long enough period of your life you come to realize that you have become a far deadlier steelhead fisherman than you were when steelhead were more abundent and yet you hook far less fish than the 1970's, 80's even the 90's. Not that we are not learning every time out some little thing, some observation but on the whole we got it down pretty good. For me over the last 5 years on our Puget Sound rivers the act of knowing that I'm casting over good water that maybe for days at a time have not held a fish did not bother me at all. I still looked at the total day on the river be it fishing alone or with good friends as a reward in its self. But the last year or so I see in my mind or heart a beautifully tied fly swinging over tired water, lonely water, even when there is fish to take such a fly everything seems tired. My last big fish C&Red brought little exuberence in my heart I felt for the fish and it's journey up river. What was once a celebration of the on going creation of life as fish moved up rivers with excitment side by side now must be a lonely journey. This fish was released still strong and healthy yet I had an unconfortable feeling the drive to make it up river to do the thing without the excitment of a healthy and full river would be an added challengeto a fish just hooked.

Nailknot has made his choice from what he posted and his change in how he looks upon the river and it's fish must have been a hard one to make. It must have taken a period of time with much thought to make such a choice as to give up fishing for wild fish. For me my philosphy has come to the point where I must leave the river alone more often than not. It no longer means I can Justify C&R as I once did though I will continue to C&R when I do fish. And I must fish for Steelhead, I must still pay my respects to the fish and it's river. Ffrom now on though there will no longer be those 2 and 3 days a week on the river before work and weekends all day. For me our rivers are tired the fish lonely, they have asked me to still care for them but to give them some room, some space and I will.

08-11-2003, 03:27 PM
Well I am not on the list but I guess I am not supposed to know anything about steelhead anyway...

I for one am not ready to give up steelhead fishing if it is known there are natives in the water. Still not convinced it is best for the fish is everyone abandons the water. We need people like us on the rivers to remind others of the great resource we have here in the PNW. If everyone leaves the water I think we will lose our say in helping decide the steelhead's fate.

That is not to say I have not changed my practices. I have been practicing limited C'n'R though for the past year. Basically it is one native and I am done for the day. It does not matter if it is on the first cast of the day. One and done. It really bothers me when I hear reports of 5 natives C'n'Rd today on such and such a river. Just seems a little excessive to me.

I think it is important to keep in mind that a certain percentage of the fish we c'n'r each year do die. I say lets keep the numbers of fish we do catch low as to help minimize the impact and still enjoy time on the water. I mean do we really need to catch 5 fish in a day???? I know just one makes me feel pretty damn good.


08-11-2003, 04:58 PM
Sorry Sean for leaving you out. The list was just to get people to respond. They are folks I know from meetings or fishing with over time, everyone at this site has my respect for the way they care about our fish and encourage all to participate with any new thoughts on the subject.

Your idea about one fish and done is outstanding. I also have given that much thought and practice it from time to time. Enjoyed watching friends continue to fish, enjoyed walking around exploring and just siting in the drift boat drinking a beer.

My objective in this post was to see if anyone is thinking beyond the norm. To me and those I know through fly fishing the norm is C&R, selective gear and the rest of the regulations we live by. It is not about those who C&K or use bait and the likes. For many C&R has been the norm for 25 years or more. And for me I have not thought about it much I just do it. Same with the conservation & political process the battles seem to be fought just the same as they were 25 years ago anyway in the therory of things. I feel those processes have become flat in many ways. We still do good deeds conservation wise and on the river the same, anyway we think we do. Folks we know work so hard at saving steelhead, the hours they put in are just incredible. But do you feel or anybody feel there needs to be a revival on how we think about the norms in the fly fishing community. If not a revival a reavaluation on our standard way of thinking. Just seems we have become complacent at looking at ideas and ourselves in how we look at what we love to do. I'm hoping some have and are willing to share those thoughts and why they think the way they do. Remember for most of us C&R is old school not saying it's wrong just saying can there be something better. Some of this group has to have new ideas, new philosopy, a new way of thinking about how and why they fish. I bet there are ideas out there that would blow most of us away and give us something to think about besides the norm.

08-11-2003, 09:33 PM
In as much as we have had several "chats" about this subject you know a little of my slant on the process of angling evoloution. "If you don't evolve you die the anglers death". Sounds like its time for you to "Evolve", quitting the good life is not an option to be taken lightly. May I suggest a close quarter counciling session soon on a new river!
I'm off to Sitka again in the morning, spent today trying to polish up the old Airstream in the rain squalls here in Port Angeles (the Fir trees were singing old Irish Pub songs the whole time it was raining). I should be back in a week or less get in touch there is something to do that will intrest you!

08-12-2003, 02:47 PM
OC, Good thread. I know the WSC is always looking for help and volunteers from it's membership for input and new ideas. And your efforts for stepping up with new ideas and help are very much appreciated. From my experience around the campfire is there seems to be alot of talk and philosophy, but what lacks is taking words into action and volunteering to work or lead an effort or new idea. Implementation and perseverance is where the rubber truly meets the road. Just my $.02

08-12-2003, 04:22 PM
Living ones philosophy quietly is enough.

08-12-2003, 10:00 PM

Sounds like a good old case of burnout. Getting tired of the crowds, getting tired of the Puget Sound (home?) rivers continuing to slide towards the end.

(As for there being fewer fish around, look to the summer runs (and several winter fisheries too) of the Columbia, and southward, the situation has done nothing but get better since the mid to late 90's. There are more than enough fish to go around.)

Sounds like it is time to go and explore new waters, waters with healthier runs of fish. Fishing a ruined resource will put a big damper on your karma. Time to leave the old haunts and go find out how much is still out there, variety is the spice of life!

Sounds like time to change the rules up for oneself and go find the 'thrill of the hunt'. I will not fish tips again- for summer or winter fish. (Why you ask??? Catching fish on tips just plain sucks. Steelhead on a tip, and swung fly, gives me the same feeling as dead drift indi-nymphing for trout. Bland and lifeless. I guess it makes it seem too easy and can quickly lead one to burnout.) Read up on McMillan and go dive into a new world of winter fishing. Guaranteed to kick the doldrums through a whole new world of fly design and line control. Even the flyfisherman laugh at you for this one!!!


08-14-2003, 09:53 AM
Thanks guys for your concern but I'm not dead, dying or depressed. Just hoping we can share some original thoughts on what most likely will be the end of what we once knew. Let's face it things are changing fast as they have for awhile now and the reality is there just aint much more rope to play with on our Puget Sound Rivers.

08-14-2003, 04:36 PM

I'm not depressed either. However, I agree with you that the Puget Sound Steelhead are not doing well right now. I used to fish 4 or 5 days/week during the summer and 2 or 3 during March/April.

There are not a lot of fish around the last few years, which means that as much as I like getting out on the rivers, I haven't been fishing more than 1 day/week or 1 day every 2 or even 3 weeks. And then when you add the hot weather with the low water levels, the river temps get too high for me to justify fishing for steelhead.

There are several very good steelhead flyfishermen that I know who fish very infrequently the last few years because of how few fish there are and the different ethic they see with many of the newcomers to steelhead from what they grew up with. It seems to me that we need to value each day we go astream for the total experience that it is and that we also need to at least try to tell, teach, and instill in newcomers the sportman's ethic we were taught. This would make days astream far more enjoyable and lead to comeraderie that many of the old-time steelhead fly fishers had with each other.

08-14-2003, 11:23 PM
OC -
Interesting topic!

Over the last decade I have found my thinking alot about steelhead fishing and more importantly steelhead conservation as a result my philosophies have evolved dramatically and for me in a surprising direction. I'm sure for many my current ideas are way out there in left field.

I have come to recognize that the long term health of our anadromous fish is dependent on having dynamic river systems. Over 10,000s of years our fish have learned to successfully survive in these dynamic systems. It has been man's efforts over the last couple centuries of making our rivers static (they way they are today is the way they should always be) is what has placed the resource at risk.

Not only should the rivers themselves be dynamic the fish populations within those system need to be dynamic. That means as a part of this ongoing process for the relative abundance of the populations to ebb and flow. As climates, flow conditions and ocean conditions change over time various species are favored. It also has become clear that these changes tend to be cyclic. That means for a given river pink salmon maybe favored for a period and then coho. Or one river may be a good coho stream and another a good steelhead stream. Our expectations that the relative abundance of the various species to remain the same over time or that all streams support the same kinds of populations are victims of the same fallacy of creating static enironments and place the resource at risk.

It has also become clear to me that a human life time is barely long enough to view these dynamic processes in action. Even then it is unlikely that an individual will experience the full range of these dynamic processes.

For my home area (north Puget Sound) and river (Skagit/Sauk) it is clear to me that the 1980s were a high water mark for steelhead production (at least for the 40+ year period that I have fished them). That means the current ebb in production we are currently experiencing is natural and should not be view with undue alarm. It is what the populations should do naturally.

What that means to me for conservation is to approach it much more holistically. That is, apply the same standards across the speices complex. Under this approach pink salmon are as important as steelhead or within a given species the resident form (rainbow) is as important as the anadromous form (steelhead). Management should recognize the biolgical needs of a species (or species complex), provide safegaurds (escapement objectives, fishing impacts, etc) to maintain the diversity of both the species and the complex in which it exists.

What does this all means to my own fishing? I don't fish as much as I did when younger (though still fish the local waters 40 to 70 days a year) but fly fish more. I find that I target steelhead much less frequently than in the past but rather find that I target what the river and season have to offer. Find that I spend my time learning how to successfully approach the various species (I have been blessed in that my home water offers good opportunities at not steelhead and its resident cousin the rainbow but coho, pink, chum, sea-run cutthroat and our native char; all wild). In the process of learning how to best fish the various species with the fly rod I am learning much about their behaviors, likes, and dislikes. My fishing has become more complex with many new challenges and my enjoyment has actually increased. A red letter day is no longer the number of steelhead I catch but rather targetting and catching multiple species.

I feel I now have an appreciation and understanding of "my river" and its resources that never had when I presued steelhead with a single minded purpose. I have developed an even larger appreciation of wild fish (more than just steelhead). While I don't really object to hatchery fish being in "my river" I find I have little interest in angling for them. However the hatchery do help divert angler interest from those fish that interest me.

Don't know if this is what you had in mind OC. However I have spend time pondering this issues and ideas and have tried to put some it to "paper" here. For those that had the stuck with me through all my rambling - thank you.

Tight lines

08-15-2003, 01:14 AM
Howdy Smalma,

I don't know why anyone would think your ideas were in left field. They seem to make pretty good sense to me.

OC, I also like this thread and I've been thinking about it for several days. While I'm involved "in fishing" every day I also fish less than I used to, a lot less. Part of it is because I'm not to healthy but I have also found there is more to steelheading than catching fish. I've never considered myself to be that great of a steelhead fly fisher and I sure need help in the casting department but I pretty much live steelheading 24/7. I'm pretty lucky that I live close enough to a great river that I can visit it several times a day, every day if I want. I'm also really lucky that through my little shop I can interact with lots of great fly fisher persons almost on a daily basis. Even talking with you guys on this forum about the fish and the rivers we love more than just about anything has become part of my steelheading experience. For my own self if I bring to hand one fish in the fall season I feel I have been successful. If I catch one more in the spring than that is frosting on the cake. If one of those is a hatchery fish then my family is happy as they like nothing better then to come over to "the old man's" house and eat filleted steelhead. Since they enjoy this so well it adds something else to my big steelheading picture. Some other things I enjoy are getting out my production cane rods, my "old" 1496 1/2 reel, my silk lines, old books on steelheading and fly tying, learning something I didn't know about the river, seeing big game, trying to help new fly fishers, talking with the "old timers" about how things used to be and why they still aren't that way, and last but certainly not least taking my grandchildren along while I try to teach them my version of what steelhead fly fishing is about. Take care, MJC

08-15-2003, 09:30 AM
Seems like many of us are adapting our habits and have put a lot of thought into the reasons why we have made changes. Would like to hear more thoughts and ideas that may be new to many steelheaders.

Smalma, Every team needs a good left fielder so I'm glad you are playing over there. Seems like right field is the position of choice and where all the thinking/philosophy is coming from these days. Hope that it is just a cycle.

Sparky said he would give us some of his thoughts and ideas. Where is he? He must be writting a book. :confused:

Mean Mr Mustard
08-15-2003, 02:02 PM
"Move Over"...Steppenwolf

Say what?


08-15-2003, 03:15 PM
MMM- I had to look, so what the heck- here's the lyrics for everyone.

Things look bad from over here
Too much confusion and no solution
Everyone here knows your fear
You're out of touch and you try too much

Yesterday's glory won't help us today
You wanna retire?
Get out of the way

The country needs a father
Not an uncle or big brother
Someone to keep the peace at home
If we can't get together
Look out for stormy weather
Don't make me pay for your mistakes
I have to pay my own

Yesterday's glory won't help us today
You wanna retire?
Get out of the way

I ain't got much time
The young ones close behind
I can't wait in line

If we can not wake you
Then we'll have to shake you
Though some say you'll only understand a gun
Got to prove them wrong
Or you will lose the battle
Don't you know we'll start a war
Which will be won by none

Yesterday's glory won't help us today
You wanna retire?
Get out of the way

I ain't got much time
The young ones close behind
I can't wait in line

Move over
Come on, Move Over

08-15-2003, 03:26 PM
I like what Smalma says. For me its always been about the river, the time, the pace. Steelhead are a blast on the end of the line, but not the "end of the line" at least for me. I enjoy the subtle mysteries and rhythms of the river. I hope my fishing stays as dynamic as the rivers. Maybe OC is looking for the dynamics inside/outside a static practice/perception of steelhead flyfishing? Maybe the current definition of "steelhead fly fisher" was only meant to be temporary?

08-15-2003, 04:38 PM
Very nicely put Smalma. There is much wisdom in what you have to say and inparticular on the ebb and flow and your words on hatchery fish.

I personally am not where you or Nailknot are though when it comes to experienceing the full bounty of the river. Maybe I am snobbish or mayne I don't know any better but I am a Steelhead Flyfisher. I grew up in Idaho fishing for cutts and rainbows. In the late 80s I moved here and soon was bit by the salmon bug. I have also targeted the native char and SRC but I keep coming back to steelhead. All the others are simply fishing, the quest for steelhead is a lifestyle.

Oh sure, I will occasionally spend a day chasing coho with OC and I do enjoy my week on the Deschutes every spring for red-sides. I even look forward to a day or two in the fall chasing chums in the salt so I can satiate my need to catch. All these are simply excuses to sample the other side though so that my beloved steelhead is put in its proper perspective.

Steelheading is not what it was even three years ago but as MJC put it, as long as you can hook up once or twice a season, what more do you really need? After all, being a steelhead flyfisherman is not about the catching, it is about the river. It is about the seasons. It is about battling those inner demons that say change flies, this one hasn't turned a fish in a month. And yes it is about counting.

Steelhead have been called the fish of a thousand casts. Let's see, I figure I am due again in about 996 casts. :cool:

08-15-2003, 11:32 PM

Like you, I fish almost exclusively for steelhead. It is not because of some elitist ideology either. It is rather based upon my having grown up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where I fished most of the "storied" limestone streams, nearly all of the very fine freestone streams and rivers in the northeast portion of the state, the Upper Delaware (both branches and the mainstem, where I chased), many very fine largemouth bass lakes, the Susquahanna's great smallmouth fishery, and the very good pickerel (a smaller cousin of a Northern Pike) in the Pocono Mountain lakes.

Then at age 25, I moved to trout heaven, Montana, for 12 years. I had such incredible fishing for trout on both the well-known famous rivers and the relatively unknown rivers and streams that most people would think I was either lying or exaggerating how many and the size of the trout I could catch in a couple of hours (2 dozen+ in 2 hours from 9 inches to over 4 pounds all on dry flies). I also got to sample some incredible Northern Pike fishing that is found in Montana's Flathead Valley (I landed pike of over 30 pounds on the fly there).

My point is that I have had great trout fishing, and have fished for several other vert desireable cold-water non-trout species. Therefore, I know what I have given up in order to pursue steelhead on the nearly exclusive basis that I do. The funny thing is, I don't miss the other fishing that much.

Yes, I do fish for chum in the Skagit during mid-November when they are fresh, and I fish a few days for silvers and I take my boys for pinks in the odd-numbered years. But I still find myself somewhat unsatisfied when I catch these other species. They just aren't like catching steelhead.