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Trout Unlimited Launches The Wild Steelhead Initiative

**Editors Note: I have yet to personally delve into the world of the anadromous fish. However after hearing coutless stories and accounts it is something I am very excited to get into.  Everyone I speak with talks about steelhead with such reverence. I hope to meet one of these beautiful creatures soon so I can speak about them with reverence as well. Please enjoy this awesome video put out by Trout Unlimited

Thanks,

JC

(Video and Article Originally From Angling Trade 11.24.2014)

On Nov. 20, Trout Unlimited launched the Wild Steelhead Initiative, an ambitious and hopeful project to protect and restore the wild steelhead and the fishing opportunities they provide throughout their native range in Alaska, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  This is a major deal, as the nation’s leading coldwater conservation organization (with the largest budget, grassroots network, and national staff) is focusing efforts on the wild steelhead cause in a big way.

The heart of the Initiative will be a new community, Wild Steelheaders United, which is being established toinform, organize and activate anglers (regardless of preferred gear type)—and anyone who cares about these incredible fish—to protect and recover wild steelhead.  In short,Wild Steelheaders United is a home to anyone who believes in the common quest to protect these fish and the incredible fishing opportunities they provide.

The Initiative will focus on river systems that have high potential to support robust, fishable wild steelhead populations, while accepting that properly managed steelhead hatcheries may be appropriate to provide fishing and harvest opportunity in rivers that no longer have the capacity to support wild steelhead.TU

The Initiative will address both habitat protection/restoration and steelhead policy and management so that all of the “Hs” (habitat (including hydro), hatcheries, and harvest) are aligned so that wild steelhead can thrive.

TU kicked off kick-off this initiative with five simultaneous events in Seattle, Portland, Juneau, Santa Cruz, and Boise.  AT attended the Seattle event, and it was a full house, with plenty of positive mojo…

What Can You Do?  Get on board, and encourage your customers to do the same.  It costs nothing more than a simple online pledge.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a Michigan steelheader (like I am) or an aficionado of the Pacific Northwest.  We need to make a statement that wild fish matter.  This is the next big movement in the industry…

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For more information please check out the Wild Steeheaders United webpage HERE.

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“Amping” your way to fish

Car camping is when you throw your gear into the car and hit the road.  Canoe camping is when you throw your gear into a canoe and hit the water.  How about when you throw your gear into a modern jetliner and hit the sky?  I’d call that air camping, or amping, for short.

IMG_1064I have to admit that I like to indulge in a comfy lodge every now and again.  Motels are also awfully convenient.  But camping has advantages.  It gets you right into the middle of some beautiful country, or maybe even right on the bank of a trout-filled river.  It practically eliminates lodging expenses and you can fish as early or as late as you want.

However, if you only have a week for a vacation, you probably don’t want to spend multiple days transporting your tent by car.  This is where amping shines.  Watch your supplies roll down the luggage conveyor belt and you won’t be looking at Internet images of fly fishing paradise that evening…  You’ll be actually be there instead.

Packing all your camping and fishing gear into airline-friendly packages is much less daunting that it seems.  Assuming you travel with a partner, it can be done if each person has a couple of large duffle bags.  Two checked bags per person is a fairly universal maximum for modern air travel.   Make sure they don’t exceed the airline’s size limits!  Backpacks also work but duffles accommodate bulky items with greater ease. Load two of the duffles with personal clothing and fishing stuff; let the others swallow the actual camping gear.

IMG_0656Besides clothing and personal items, here’s a list of what my girlfriend and I took the last time we did this:

  • Sleeping bags, full size pillows, and an inflatable air mattress with a foot pump.
  • An 8 X 8 nylon tent with a full fly and a ground sheet.
  • A single burner Coleman propane stove –minus the propane canister – and an electric lantern.
  • A large frying pan, a medium pot, a minimum of cooking utensils, and a small pail for carrying water.
  • A minimum of eating utensils and glasses or mugs.
  • Waders, wading boots, 2 fly rods and reels each, and one small chest pack with flies and terminal tackle.

I wouldn’t say that this is travelling light.  Notice the two full size pillows!  Although very compressible, a lot of people might do away with them. Some might also swap out the large tent for a lightweight backpacker’s model. Opting for a tiny backpacker’s stove is another way to save space.  (And maybe make room for a fully stocked vest instead of a little chest pack?) Some unlisted miscellaneous items – like a favorite travel mug – are nicely transported in a carry-on bag.   There are probably dozens of ways to compact this list.  Be sure to weigh each bag in advance to avoid surpassing weight restrictions.

Obviously, there are essential items – like food – not on the list.  To remedy this, pick up a rental car and go shopping as soon the plane lands.  Besides groceries, a cheap styrofoam cooler is a smart purchase.  Don’t forget to buy a propane canister for the stove.  Bear spray might also be a good idea, depending on your destination.  Whether bear spray or propane, airlines don’t like the idea of pressurized containers on board their planes…  And rightly so!  Empty boxes from the grocery store will make storing and organizing all the supplies inside the rental car much easier for the duration of the trip. The cooler, propane, and bear spray can often be given away before returning home.

IMG_0937We have managed to see – and fish! – some interesting parts of the continent on “amping” trips.  New Mexico, for example, has some amazing small stream fishing.  We camped on the banks of the Cimarron River, a tailwater that drains Eaglenest lake.  Most tailwaters are broad, flat rivers but the Cimarron is small, intimate, and delightfully varied.  It runs through both forest and meadow.  There are riffles, rocky runs, deep bends, and logjams.  And did I mention trout?  Both wild browns and stocked rainbows.

IMG_0950I’ve always believed that fishing quality is directly proportional to distance from an access point.  The Cimarron really challenged that idea…  One morning a chap fished the riffle right beside our campsite – something I had never even considered – and landed three wild browns on a hopper imitation.

On the same trip, we also visited the lower reaches of the Rio Hondo close to where this rocky little stream joins the Rio Grande at the bottom of the Rio Grande gorge.  Needless to say, it was an interesting descent in the car.  The stream chattered over rocks and ledges; most of its water was far too thin for trout. Nevertheless, some determined hiking led to a few good pools and very willing fish.

IMG_0935Another amping trip led us to Olympic National Park in Washington.  We pitched our tent amongst huge cedar’s and hanging moss, a stone’s throw from a gorgeous (but foggy!) beach.  It was like being on location for The Lord of the Rings.

To be honest, we didn’t have the patience to try for any Pacific Northwest summer steelhead.  Instead, we dropped in on the Queets River for sea run cutthroats.  Reading about sea run cuts told us they liked deep, snaggy, slow water.  Nevertheless, we couldn’t resist fishing the riffles and bouldered runs of the Queets.  The action was fantastic but the fish topped out at a disappointing 6 inches.  They were all rainbows without a cutthroat in the bunch.  I guess that bodes well for steelheaders in the next few years.

IMG_0888Eventually, we did find some deep water near fallen tree.  Voila!  We also found a few willing sea run cutthroat.  They were heavily spotted and covered with a silver sheen, almost devoid of color except the telltale throat slashes.

Throwing all your camping gear on a plane is an economically excellent way to explore some of those far-off waters you may be dreaming about…

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Films For Change: DamNation Review

One of my favorite fisheries in this world sits at the bottom of canyon in northeastern Utah in the Ashley National Forest. The unique thing about this fishery is that it would not be anything like it was today if it wasn’t for the United States Bureau of Reclamation.  Construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam was authorized on April 11, 1956 and the 502 foot dam would change the landscape and the future for Dagget County Utah and surrounding areas forever.

Flaming Gorge Dam

At this point you may be asking yourself “Why is this important?” It is important to know that the Flaming Gorge Dam makes sense for the area in which it is located. However there are countless dams in this country that do not. Dam removal and management is a hot button issue for many people and is the subject of a great documentary film titled DamNation.

DamNation is an in-depth investigation into the financial viability and environmental impacts that dams have as well as how this engineering feat has pontentially been overused in a majority of cases in this country.  The filmmakers examine some of the largest waterways this nation has to offer including the Snake, Glen Canyon and Columbia just to name a few.  A vast majority of these cases that are examined within the film are truly heartbreaking.

oldceliloOne example examined in the film  is the case of Celilo Falls of the Columbia river.This natural wonder served as the fishing grounds for a number of local native tribes. Yearly these people would harvest salmon from the river as a source of food and economic trade. Sadly this natural wonder was doomed to a preverbial death sentence in 1952 when the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the Dulles Dam.  The dam was completed in 1957 and the Celilo falls were quickly consumed by the rising waters of the Columbia, a natural wonder and a cultural identity was quickly submerged in the name of “progress”, The situation is best summed up by Ted Strong of the Yakama Nation “Celilo still reverberates in the heart of every Native American who ever fished or lived by it. They can still see all the characteristics of the waterfall. If they listen, they can still hear its roar. If they inhale, the fragrances of mist and fish and water come back again. ”

The United States Bureau of Reclamation in accordance with the 1902 reclamation act constructed 30 thousand dams from 1950-1970. Some of these dams were and still are highly controversial.  The sad part is that a common theme with lot of these dams is that they are “just a sign of progress”. However that “progress” is extremely detrimental to salmon and steelhead populations throughout the country. In some cases entire populations have been eradicated.free_the_rivers

A growing movement within the United States is encompassed within this film. Dam removal is a HUGE issue within some parts of the country and for good reason.  I for one do not believe that every dam in this country should be removed. David Mongomery a geology professor from the University of Washington put it best. “We don’t need to remove all dams now, but we should rethink all dams. If some no longer make sense, we should get rid of them”. In the words of the influential environmental activist John Muir “Free The Rivers”.  

DamNation Serves as a catalyst to present a case for environmental and social change to the masses in a very informative and breathtaking documentary film. The filmmakers at Stoeckler Ecological & Felt Sole Media deserve all the recognition they have received and continue to receive with this film because it is truly breathtaking. It can be seen on Netflix or it is available on Itunes.  I would urge any angler, boater, kayaker, or outdoor enthusiast to check this film out.

 

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Patagonia Presents a Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media Production: DamNation

Some folks see dams as a source of energy, a creator of recreation, or even the protector from seasonal floods. This can be true but during the early twentieth century there was an obsession to put a dam on any river or stream they felt could be beneficial to human progress and not considering the environmental damages that could be caused during and after the build. Thanks to the partnership of Patagonia and Felt Soul Media, they have produced this amazing video depicting the negative effects caused by dams and the impact they have on native fish populations. This video was an eye opener for everyone here at Fishwest, each and everyone of us learned something new from it and we encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to view it.

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Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.

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Canadian High Mountain Lakes (Gorgeous views guaranteed! Epic fishing a possibility…)

I am not a dedicated fisher of alpine stillwaters.  I have never planned a fishing trip where these destinations were the main focus.  On the other hand, I am an enthusiastic hiker who is always on the lookout for spectacular scenery. Not surprisingly, some of the most scenic trails wind up on the shore of a high mountain lake. And I am dedicated enough to tote along my fly rod

I have to admit that the fishing on these expeditions has been largely hit and miss, with much more emphasis on the “miss” portion.  Many mountain lakes –  because of short growing seasons, limited forage, winterkill, and a lack of spawning habitat – do not support large trout populations.  Other mountain lakes have a decent trout population, but while I’m fishing, which is usually close to noon in the middle of summer, the trout are hunkered down and uninterested.

Nevertheless, if there is a lake at the end of the trail, I am going to toss a few casts.  Occasionally, it pays off, like this past summer…

My girlfriend Deb and I were in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.  We decided to hike the Alderson-Carthew Lakes trail; the word from the Visitor Info Center was that the views were stunning and the fishing was off the charts.  We set off at 9 AM, carrying day packs loaded with rain jackets, lunch, and fishing gear.

1For the first six miles of trail, the only scenery was the forest pushing in on either side of us. It was an uphill trudge through swarms of horse flies.  When the sign for Alderson Lake came into view, we were ready to stop.  About the same time, a hiker from the opposite direction told us that the trout in Carthew Lake –3 more miles up the trail – were going crazy.  So we decided to keep going.

At this point the trail started to climb into a truly amazing alpine environment. We were soon looking down at Alderson Lake and up toward the peaks that hid Carthew Lake:

2In another hour, we were at Carthew Lake.  It was how you would hope all mountain lakes would look, especially after hiking 9 miles to get there.  Better yet, there were trout rising sporadically.  The sun was high in the sky but the lake was cold enough that the trout – and whatever they were eating – welcomed the warmth.  I threw a small Adams beyond the sun-drenched shallows to the darker, deeper water.  It was engulfed immediately.

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And so it went.  Every cast to the edge of the deep water brought an instant fish.  They were native, colorful cutthroats.  Most of them were eight  to ten inches long and a couple stretched out to twelve.  I was pleasantly surprised by the size; to be honest I was expecting hordes of stunted six inchers.

Casts that fell on the shallow, clear water were even more entertaining. Although a fly that landed on the shoreline shoal was never gobbled instantly, a cruising trout would notice it within a minute.  Then I would have the pleasure of watching the entire take.

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The trout were just as active subsurface. Deb was using a spinning rod and a tiny spoon.  At any given time, she had a fish on and two or three others chasing it.

The fishing certainly wasn’t challenging, but it sure was fun.  After about an hour, we started to make our way back down the trail.   The scenery was just as gorgeous on the way back.

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Post-Script….

A couple weeks later, we were further north in Alberta, on the road between Banff and Jasper National Parks.  We hiked into Helen Lake, a tiny tarn sitting amongst the usual array of peaks and meadows.  We left the fishing gear in the car, figuring that the lake was so tiny and so high that its fish population would be zero.  Wrong!

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From the shoreline we could see dozens of cutthroat finning through the shallows and rising with semi-regularity.  It would have been a sight-fishing dream.  The moral of the story:  Always hike with fishing gear!

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Ross Reels: Made On The Water

I cannot say enough good things about Ross Reels. You have probably heard me talk about my early fly fishing memories with my dad using his Ross Reels. I landed my first trout on the fly using his old Sage 590 DS and a Ross Gunnison G2.

Not to mention I landed my first Tiger Musky and Bonefish using Ross Reel. These reels will always be held in reverence in my eyes and for good reason too.

This video gives us all a brief look on the inside of the Ross Reels. You can tell that everyone on the staff has a tremendous amount of passion and respect for what they do because that is passed on in their reels.  Look for the hidden Fishwest logo somewhere in the video as well!

You can check out all the offerings from Ross Reels by clicking HERE

Enjoy!

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Inside Look: New Boron III Two-Handed Fly Rod

R.L. Winston have outdone themselves again with the new Boron III TH fly rod. They have improved the Boron Technology in the rods and is working to set a new standard when it comes to two-handed fly rods. Making them lighter and more accurate than your average two-handed rods. Check out this video highlighting the new and improved two-handed rods by R.L. Winston.

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Great Days 13: Fly Fishing the Lost River

” A bad day of fishing beats a good day at work anytime” is what you commonly hear from others on the water. Although this statement is usually true it doesn’t really speak justice about the scenery and adventures we come across. Here’s a short film from our friends at Smith Optics, highlighting the fishing opportunities in the Sun Valley Region of Idaho and a little insight on what makes fly fishing so enjoyable.

 

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Product Spotlight: Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket

With fall in full swing this is the time of year when the temps get cooler and the forecast calls for more precipitation. A good jacket is a must! The G4 Pro from Simms Fishing Products is the answer to your prayers when the weather takes a turn for the worst.  The G4 features a  Gore-Tex Pro Shell material and enough space to fit all your necessities while fishing. What more can you really ask for.

Cold Feet, Forsaken Fish and the Morning After…