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OC 04-24-2002 10:43 AM

Jet sleds & fly fishing?
Like to know how people feel about the esculation of jet boats used by fly fisherman on our NW rivers. Don't want to start a war over this issue just some thoughts on this subject.

I'm sure it was the guides who first started using them so they could get thier clients to the runs first but now I'm seeing more sleds with spey rods in the rod holders.

I will admit that I'm a bit bothered by this trend for many reasons. I see this as bit on the greedy side of steelhead fishing when the sleds are used to go back and forth on a river so as to fish the same run multiple times in a day. What happens to those that are coming down river and who would like the opportunity to fish that run also?

Will this esculate into a war of everyone having sleds. If so them we will be back to the same place we were when everyone had drift boats except the river will be a lot louder and a day on the river will be a lot more stressfull.

I'm interested what you all think about this trend and should I get rid of the drift boat and get a helicopter to fly fish the river?

Moonlight 04-24-2002 11:24 AM

OC, Good question I felt the same way about drift boats and rubber rafts over forty years ago,they just kept coming though! I guess about all you can do is breathe deeply and watch out for the wake so you wont get knoced off your feet.
One thing I have noticed is that as seasons get shorter and crowds get bigger fishing seems to escalate into something that is differnt than what most anglers remeber. The rub comes from the fact that all of the sudden most of the anglers are new people who don't even know what you are refering to when you mention the traditionl way of operating on the rivers.
One reason for more boat traffic is the lack of access across private lands. The Game Department decided a long time back that it was easier to purchase launch ramps and parking lots than it was to accquire easements along the many miles of rivers in the State. This has dryed up alot of access for the non boated angler.
Personally I find very little difference between the two different styles of boats. In my perfect world you get what you deserve by hiking into the water you fish and nobody gets to fish with aid of a boat. But alas the world is not perfect and I am not King so boats are where its at, and I am certain that you will see more in the future.
This subject could incite some folks to "Flame" I would hope not it really is a simple matter there are too many people chasing to few fish in very limited areas.
By the way do you need a partner for your heleicopter?

watersprite 04-24-2002 12:44 PM

Talking rivers and streams here...

IMHO, sleds are all that and more. Just doesn't seem to fit with my image of flyfishing. It's kind of like hunting from a moving truck and unsportsman like; to both the quarry and fellow fishers. I've seen way too many fishermen driven from their run when the fish are put down by sleds powering upriver. Driftboats, rafts, etc., are okay as long as there is no motorized propulsion.

Ban all boats - nah. You know, I've been thinking lately about all the redds that are being trampled by the wading fishers - not too cool either. When the State closes down all but a few streams the pressure on those remaining open becomes extreme. Thankfully my homewaters, the Skagit, is large and not easily waded in many areas. I recall hearing somewhere that the middle reaches of this river was having problems with poor spawning success. This same stretch is also where most of the pressure is focused early in the runs. Coincidence? I don't know. Yeah, considering the alternatives, I can live with driftboats, I guess.

...just a couple pennies worth.

KerryS 04-24-2002 01:20 PM

I don't see sleds as a problem on the rivers as much as I see the sled operators as the problem. I hitch rides with friends that have sleds and enjoy the experience of being able to move freely about the river. I also drift the river in a pontoon boat and I hike in some times. Tonight I will be on foot except for the pickup truck I use to get to the trail head. I will use a not so well known dirt road to get that far. Maybe we should ban pickups and start using horses again. I would be in favor of that also if it keeps a lot of the non-locals away from my home waters.

Having said all of the above I see a time when motorized boat traffic will be banned or limited in some way on the Skagit. It won't happen because we as fishermen are complaining but, because of folks like the eagle watchers and perhaps other river user like canoeists and rafters. The main reason will be disturbing the eagles and inconsiderate operators disturbing the canoeists and rafters. I would be in favor of some restrictions or even a ban on motorized boat traffic on the Skagit.

OC 04-24-2002 02:29 PM

The question was not about jet boats on the river in general. But why fly fishermen of all people want to use one. We love to tout our pastime in a high and noble way, one that creates quality time for the user. It seems that this sport is becoming one of quantity instead of a quality experience. I guess I'm just getting old and even our sport must evole for better or worse. Moonlight said it well on his feelings about the subject.
Just want to know what those folks who use jet boats to reach thier destinations to fly fish think and if they feel that by doing so is it good for the tradition and what the sport used to be about.

kush 04-24-2002 02:35 PM


Good question. As you know, I have a jet-raft and I do feel a little guilty at times as I run around in front and behind drift boats and shore anglers! This is not a simple thing to address. As has already been mentioned, access is a key question. I bought a boat specifically to be able to access the Skagit, not being the priviledged "local" that Kerry is I don't know all the secret trails (nor should I have to).

Why the jet boat? That is easy, logic says mobiliy is better and why would I handicap myself when Farrar and the boys are zipping around? As well, I use my boat on the Bulkley/Morice and the Thompson where drifting requires extra vehicles and sometimes extremely limited access for pull-outs - the jet makes sense.

This said, I do understand the frustration of trying to compete with power boats. I have only run the boat on the Skagit this season (I got it last year but the closure delayed its debut) until now I have been on foot. I got on fine, but the boat is vastly superior, interestingly I caught more fish on foot though that is I think a function of exploring and learning the boat spots.

As a saltwater salmon guide in the Queen Charlottes I also know that too much mobility can also hamper your success - you run all over and miss the bite! I think Dec Hogan does just fine drifting down behind some of us running around in jets.

What is the answer? I don't know, probably common sense and courtesy. OC, as I said to you and Duggan at Larsons - I did feel a little awkward zipping in there after you guys decided not to stop on the Bar. I wasn't happy about the situation, so your raising this question here is a good thing.

kush 04-24-2002 02:52 PM


You posted your second question while I was pecking away at my response to the first, this is a different kettle of fish. I would not have a problem with "traditional roots" if all did it that way. What does it mean, silk lines and cat-gut leaders? Single handers only, maybe NO single handers - only double handers (greenheart ones at that)! Would you have caught that beautiful fish Sunday if you had been walking - and not in a high tech drift boat? I know I wouldn't have got to drink that much appreciated Corona (with a slice of lime no less) without the innovations of our boats. I know I love my new high tech Loop Evotec 8-12 ...

You can see where this kind of thing can lead. Once again, I DO see where you are coming from, traditions are important to what we fly fishermen do. However, so are innovations both in technique and in tackle - this includes transportation. It is difficult to have our cake and eat it too.

Again, a good question, we need to voice these concerns from time to time, so at least we are forced to think about what we do and how we do it.

OC 04-24-2002 03:01 PM

It was great to meet you last Sunday on the Skagit and have a beer with you and your friend who by the way looks more like Don Cherry than Don does except for the plaid suits. I had no trouble what so ever with you fishing larsons first but I understand your disconfort with using the jet boat for the same reasons I would have. I think you answered why you use one very well and that's exactly what the question was about. Would like more on your thoughts about by having the jet boat is it a quality or a quanity experience for you. By using the sled to you miss all the other things that go with a day on the river like having the time to watch the wild life, rowing a boat through tough water or walking in to your favorite spot enjoying the early morning walk. And by the way how long and how time did you put in to cast a spey line as well as you do.

Moonlight 04-24-2002 03:39 PM

OC, My response to your question regarding how I view my use of boats on the river whether its quality or quantity. This is pretty subjective and given that I fish just about everywhere its hard to give a short answer. I will suffice to say that on the occasion that I do use powered boats when in pursuit of steelheads I always try and temper my usage with some type of restraint. Wether its not fishing anywhere near where someone might walk in to or fishing only with floating flys, do these types of restraint make up for some bad karma on my part? I guess they must in my mind.
Some places I fish have only minimal access as in completely roadless and only air or water access, some times between the rattle snakes and the Brown bears I would perfer to take the fast route over water. Of course crowds are seldom an issue in these few spots so one is not stepping on anybodys toes by using powered boats in these situations.
I guess to answer your question, I can cover up the guilt enough under most cases to still enjoy the fishing expierence while using a jet boat.
Like I said the world is not perfect but if we all treat each other as we would like to be treated it would be close enough for me.
By the way that was a lovely hen you caught the other day, hope you get another before the closeure.

KerryS 04-24-2002 04:08 PM


I hear what you are saying and I agree with you even though I like to use a sled for transportation. In reality you can't beat them for getting from one spot to another but, they are annoying as hell when they are flying by you while fishing. I see this only getting worse as time goes on. Certainly going to stay this way as long as there is only one river to fish.

Please excuse my rants about being local. I have never seen the Skagit this crowded before. Used to be you could head up to the river after work and not have to worry about finding a run to your self. Now, even during the week the river is crowded.


Doublespey 04-24-2002 04:28 PM

Plays well with Others?
I agree, good question!

Do jet-powered craft compromise the "esthetics" of flyfishing?? :confused:

Yes, in my opinion they do!! I much prefer to walk or float in. :)

That being said, I should list a few other things that mess with my flyfishing Fung Shui . . . :rolleyes:

1. Walking or floating a distance to get to a good run only to
have a jetboater beat me to it.

2. Lots of other anglers infesting all the holes I want to fish

3. Getting lowholed in a good run by another fisherperson

I personally fell that, if you're planning to fish the Pugetropolis rivers, you need to be ready to deal with the reality of fishing them (see above). A jetboat helps even the odds when fishing on crowded waters.

Many of the finer "esthetics" of flyfishing are already lost - you're going to deal with (other) jetboats, lowholers, and crowds anyway so it's reduced to determining what I want to get out of my fishing time. For me, it's the opportunity to fish as much quality water as possible. The jetboat's speed and mobility provide this.

If you want a wilderness experience, there are plenty of places to hike in. Head up into the upper Hoh in the park or other remote stretches and you won't have to deal with jetboats, driftboats, or (hardly) any other anglers. I like these excursions best, but they take time and I can't always invest a weekend to really get ~AWAY~. And, as Kush mentioned, there are also those wilderness rivers with minimal launches where the options are a multi-day float, a helicopter, or a jetboat. And Ol' Steelhead Bob explored some pretty wild BC headwaters for steelhead in his jetraft!

Fishing from jetboats are part of a compromise I make to achieve as "quality" a fishing experience as I can find on certain of our more crowded and accessible rivers. Not a perfect solution by any means.

My .02


OC 04-24-2002 04:44 PM

Kerry S,

It's alright to be frustrated about being a local and having your river over crowded. We all understand your feelings and I think you should voice them. I'm not against fly fisherman using sleds but the concern is that we are getting into place where we bypass a lot of what fly fishing or fishing in general is about. By using the sled we skip a lot of the total package of going fly fishing and in the end we get plenty of casting in and hopefully plenty of fish landed and released. Are we moving toward just getting results? Moonlight has good reason up in Alaska to use one I would too but how would the fishing trip be personaly if we took a week vacation walked in used our skill to be safe from bears and fished for the total experience. Are we going too fast and missing a lot in this difficult time where our enviro is stressed to the max where we at work and home are stressed to the max?

kush 04-24-2002 05:20 PM


Quality or quantity, hmmm? Again, this too is a tough question for me. Sometimes quality is tied very directly to quantity, othertimes it has nothing to do with it. Even though I have only hooked a few fish, I have enjoyed this spring on the Skagit far more than any I can remember, save the very first one when it was all so brand new. My jet-raft is the reason why. I'm seeing parts of the river I've only heard about, I'm getting into new water and discovering it for myself - this is truely a quality experience for me.

Am I missing the smell of the roses? Maybe, but right now that is not interfering with the quality of my experience. It does concern me that I may be interfering with the quality of someone else's experience though. Possibly after I've "made the aquaintence" of all this new stuff now available to me I will look to smell the roses again.

Back to the quantity as part of quality issue. I am a member of RCPA ("Recovering Competitive Persons Anonymous"). As such I still fall into the need to catch fish! Sometimes lots of fish! I'm usually pretty cool about it, but if for some reason I get into a bit of a drought I can get a little intense (just ask Doublespey or Dana). At times like these maybe I should restrict the use of my jet-raft - as I might not be safe to be around - but that is hard to do!

Anyway, this is obviously complicated stuff - I love it!

OC, thanks for the compliment on the casting. I am largely self-taught, in fact right where we met last Sunday is where I figured out the Spiral roll cast. I'd seen it on Derek Brown's video and thought I'd try it. Now I cannot fish the Lower end of the Mixer without fondly recalling the struggles - talk about where quality in a day comes from! I fish alot , therefore I cast alot. I did get some pointers from Derek Brown at a spey school on the Fraser a few years ago it was very helpful. As well, my primary fishing partner is Dana Sturn - "Mr Spey Instructor", though he is very circumspect about offering advice it is great to have him there if I want to ask for some help in trying to solve a hitch. As Dana would probably say, basically what I do is just chuck it out there!

Doublespey 04-24-2002 06:19 PM

Kush, you're killin me!! :chuckle:

I'm here trying to get some work done and all I can visualize is you with your Psycho-Biker shades on and your raft adorned in chainmail and spikes!!

I see a post-apocalyptic river video in the making - maybe with a Road Warrior theme.

Steelhead Warrior?? :devil:



roballen 04-24-2002 06:25 PM

I have no problems with sleds. I just think that some locations are not approtirat for sleds because the atmosphere of certain locations is destroyed by the sound and presence of sleds.

The Skagit and Skykomish are perfect rivers for sleds. The fish are activly moving and a sled going over or near your water doesn't matter because a new fish could move in at any time. However the Deschutes is just the opposite. The fish are holding and sleds spook them yet there are no new fish moving into the run.

The Skagit and the sky are big open rivers and there is already no sence of being in the wilderness. The Deschutes is very much a wildernes atmosphere and I feel that sleds detract form that atmosphere.

Some places sleds are appropriat some others they are not.

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