Tag Archives: trout

A History of Wild Fisheries

“With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

Mr.  E. M. Robinson 11/13/1889

 

Wild, naturally reproducing fish; feisty rainbows, solitary browns and colorful brook trout are a treat to catch, but they are not native Salmonid fish to the Rocky Mountains. The regional sub species of cutthroat trout and the mountain whitefish are the natives and were isolated by the repeated glacial periods in the late Plicone or early Pleistone epochs. The rest were stocked or their ancestors were stocked, they then reproduced and created wild fisheries. Why and how did this occur?

P1110618Neosho, the oldest operating Federal Fish Hatchery resides in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri. Established in 1888, it still raises rainbow trout and endangered species such as, Ozark Cavefish, Pallid Sturgeon and freshwater Drumfish to disperse native Fat Bucket Mussel eggs. This is an unfair description of this hatchery’s superior mitigation and restoration work, but since I grew up in Colorado…

The same year, the US Fish Commissioner Colonel MacDonald was looking for a Rocky Mountain location to replenish the dwindling cold water fisheries used as a food source for the people evolved in the Colorado mining boom.  A year later, in 1889, by the executive order of US President Benjamin Harrison and $15,000 appropriated by Congress, 30 stone masons built the Leadville, Colorado, Federal Fish Hatchery with native red sandstone. Newspaper articles of the early days reported it as “the most magnificent building in western Colorado.”

October 12, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. What Spangler Saw. The Editor of the Philadelphia Star Pays a Visit to Leadville and Evergreen Lakes “A very general impression prevails that the streams of Colorado literally teem with game fish. Some of them do, and all of them once did; but the immense extent of mining operations in nearly every part of the state, the consequent pollution of many of the streams, the erection of saw mills, and the fact that there are not only great numbers of keen and expert native anglers out there, but that thousands of anglers from other states…. have all served to very materially lessen the number of fish. Colonel MacDonald, fully appreciating the situation, wisely concluded to establish a hatchery at this point, steps for the immediate erection of which have been taken.” The eastern editor continued later in his article, “It will perhaps be news to some readers to learn that Colorado has but one kind of valuable edible game fish-the trout. The mountain streams of the state, and practically there are no other, are admirably adapted to that fish, but no other American variety. The native trout can grow to a very large size, not unfrequently (sic) reaching six or seven pounds, but it has been found advisable to introduce our eastern mountain variety (Brook Trout). This has been done with great success. The newcomers thrive splendidly, seemingly better than in their native waters. A visit to Dr. Law’s fine fish ponds, which adjoin Evergreen lakes, completed our visit. The doctor is not only an enthusiastic and successful fish culturist, but enjoys the distinction of being the pioneer in the business in Colorado. His ponds were in perfect order and swarming with trout, evidence of which was given me, when a primitive rod and line was put in my hand, and in twenty minutes I had succeeded in landing sixteen very nice ones…”

L1150335_RainbowDr. John Law of Leadville was instrumental in convincing the Federal Government to establish a hatchery and donated eggs.  He established his hatchery three years earlier. The raising of brook trout at the new hatchery began even before the completion of the main building. Eggs collected from trout from several of Dr Law’s high Colorado ponds were incubated in a temporary building.

November 13, 1889, Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 1. The Spawning Season. “We have already secured 64,000 eggs,” remarked Mr. E. M. Robinson, of the government fish hatchery, yesterday afternoon, to this reporter.

“What species of trout are you securing the spawn from?”

“The pure eastern brook trout. When Commissioner McDonald made the agreement with Dr. Law, we selected a great many trout from the doctor’s different lakes and put them in a pond near his hatching house. It is those fish we are working upon now.”

“How many spawn do you expect to get this season?”

“Fully a million.”

“How many can you accommodate at the hatchery at present?”

“One million six hundred thousand, and if we were to use Dr. Law’s place, we could accommodate two million.”

“How will this station compare with others?”

“Our prospects are brighter for doing better work than any station on this continent, and at present we are doing more than any other. We have got a lovely place at Evergreen and everyone of us are in love with it. It may seem strange, but the temperature of the water has not varied since I have been there half a degree.”

“How long have you been in the fish culture business?”


“Since 1870 and I have been with the government since 1885, and visited a large number of stations. We all expected to suffer from cold here, but none of us so far have experienced any disadvantages from the weather. The New England coast is the place to suffer from cold.”

P1020627_Colo River CuttHe also added, “With reference to the qualities of trout, tastes differ greatly. In my judgment, the finest for the table are the black-spotted trout (Native Cutthroat), and they are undoubtedly the true angler’s favorite, being active and gamey. Brook trout rank next, they being of excellent flavor.”

In July 1889, Professor David Starr Jordan and G. R. Fisher visited Twin Lakes, (Leadville) and published their discoveries in the 1891 Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission. They found both the greenback cutthroat and what they proclaimed to be a new species the “yellowfin cutthroat”. In his report Jordan took credit for the name and described the fish as follows: Color, silvery olive; a broad lemon yellow shade along the sides, lower fins bright golden yellow in life, no red anywhere except the deep red dash on each side of the throat.

P1020657_Snake River CuttThe subspecies was scientifically named macdonaldi after the US Fish Commissioner, Marshall MacDonald. In 1903, rainbow trout were stocked in Twin Lakes.  They interbred with the greenbacks creating “cutbows” and the yellow fin cutthroat became extinct.

Colonel R. E. Goodell of the U.S. Fish Commission was quoted saying on May 2, 1894, in the Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, Page 4, “It might be possible and has occurred, that an early male mountain trout (native cutthroat) fertilized the eggs of a late California (rainbow) trout, but the fish are apt to be barren. It is to this fact that the perpetuation of the various species of fish is undoubtedly due…”

In 1891 the Leadville hatchery began the first distribution of fingerling fish to lakes and streams in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  The journey was at times perilous. Trout were delivered in milk cans on wagons drawn by horse or mule teams. During the early 20th century, many fish traveled 1st class. Railroad cars especially designed for the health and well-being of the fish and their human handlers were travelling all over the United States. Today tanker trucks and even helicopters stock the fish.

P1130729_BrownThe first von Behr brown trout were imported from Germany to the U.S. in 1883. The earliest documented brown trout in Colorado came via England in 1885, shipped as eggs to a Denver hatchery. In 1890, U.S. Senator Henry M. Teller received a gift of brown trout eggs from Loch Leven, Scotland and donated them to the state. During this same time, von Behr brown trout were being raised at the Leadville hatcheries. More than a century later, the reclusive brown trout trying to take an angler deep are a mixture of those strains from Germany, Scotland, and England. Fortunately, the brown trout carried the European immunity to whirling disease through generations and were the mainstay for Rocky Mountain wild fisheries at the turn of the 21st Century when the rainbow fishery populations crashed.

Early visitors to the Leadville hatchery were encouraged to learn about “fish farming,” have a picnic and hike the many trails at the new Federal facility. The same is true today. Sitting on over 3000 acres of sub alpine forest at 10,000 foot elevation, it juts into the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, with impressive views of the highest peaks in Colorado. The beautiful red, native sandstone building is still in operation.  Ed Stege of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Leadville said, “Our current program consists of maintaining the captive greenback cutthroat broodstock, maintaining a Colorado River cutthroat broodstock (lineage green), and production rainbow trout (for stocking).” His co-worker Chris Kennedy reports during the past 126 years the hatchery has raised Snake River cutthroat, greenback cutthroat trout, yellowfin cutthroat trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, steelhead, golden trout, chinook salmon, grayling and lake trout.

P1020548_cutbowInitially trout were raised for food and recreation because mining, agriculture, roads and human activity degraded the habitat to the point native trout were unable to reproduce. Introduced brook trout did too well and now overpopulate every nook and cranny of the Rocky Mountains and are stopped only by water fall natural barriers. Rainbows interbred with the cutthroats, diluted the genetics of some and caused the extinction of others. Brown trout saved fly fishing for more than a decade.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife, volunteers from local Trout Unlimited Chapters and concerned citizens are attempting to improve habitat and introduce pure sub species of native cutthroats to their historic ranges. Currently they inhabit a fraction of their original territory. In 2007 researchers discovered 750 pure strain native greenback cutthroats, the Colorado State Fish, in Bear Creek near Colorado Springs and are believed to be only ones left in the world. The captive broodstock reside in Leadville. Please volunteer locally to help this mitigation of all cutthroats succeed and be a gift to future generations of anglers.

P1080176_BrookRemember the overpopulated brook trout was introduced as a food source and directly competes with native cutthroats for habitat. So I suggest, catch and release the cutthroats and catch and eat the delicious brookies. And of course, enjoy our wild fisheries. Fishing is fun.

 

Blue Wings

It was about a quarter to 10 on Friday evening, and just ahead in the darkness I could see the large Welcome to Oregon sign looming.

“Let’s stop and grab a quick picture,” I said to my friend Mike Kingsbury, who was driving.

Mike nodded, we pulled over to the side of the road, and straddled the state line between Idaho and Oregon, posing for a few quick pictures.

We were on our way to a lonely tailwater in Oregon, where we were going to meet our good friend Ryan McCullough and his son Josh for a quick day of fishing on Saturday. There was a rumor that the stonefly hatch was hot and that was at least part of why we were making the 1,000 mile round trip drive on a weekend.

But the real reason for the trip went deeper than fishing. Ryan McCullough is a dear friend of mine, whom I first fished with on the Fryingpan River in February of this year. He’s got an obsession with Winston rods that’s rubbed off on me, and he’s the best dry fly fisherman I know.

buddiesRyan (Angler in Blue Jacket) also happens to be a missionary for the Assemblies of God church, and is set to leave for Germany sometime this summer. This trip to Oregon was the last time we’d be able to fish together until he returns three years from now. The trip was more of a farewell to arms, if you will.

Mike and I had left Mike’s place in Roy, Utah around 4:30 that afternoon, and we pulled up to the river in Oregon right around 11 that night. Ryan had told me he’d be driving a blue Buick, and as we drove along the river to the spot where we said we’d meet, I kept looking for the Buick with Washington plates.

Finally, I saw something that looked blue and Buick-like, so I told Mike to pull over and I got out of the car. As I walked towards the blue Buick, I could see it had Washington plates, and there was a small tent pitched next to it.

“Hey Mike, I think it’s them!” I shouted. “It’s a blue Buick with Washington plates.”

From inside the tent came Ryan’s voice in reply, “Ya think?”

Ryan and Josh got out of the tent, greeted us, helped Mike and I get situated, and then we all fell fast asleep, ready for what we assumed would be a glorious Saturday of stonefly fishing.

I woke up before anyone else on Saturday, so I took a stroll to the river for a moment. Ryan and Josh had driven 11 hours from their place in Olympia, while Mike and I had driven 7 hours from Utah just to come together to fish for about 10 hours on an overcast Saturday in Oregon.

But it was worth it.

As I walked along the river, I could see fish holding in the shallow runs, long brown trout hunkered down in the very slight morning chill. A few of them saw me, and slowly swam off to deeper water.


I waltzed back to camp, only to find Ryan, Mike, and Josh awake, cooking bacon and eggs on a small stove. We all took our time eating, waiting for the morning to warm up to what we thought was appropriate stonefly hatching levels. Eventually, after we broke down camp and rigged up our rods, we went back down to the river and started fishing.

The stoneflies weren’t out, and neither was much else. We saw a few risers, but nothing to get excited about. I switched from dries to a couple of my custom midge emerger patterns, and found a few willing mouths quickly. After that, the action kind of died.

Then the rain started.

It was a drizzle at first, but then it turned into a steady onslaught. It wasn’t debilitating, but annoying enough that my flies seemed to be getting wet more quickly than normal. The fishing was slow, I was wet, and I needed to step away for a moment and rethink the fishing situation.

Ryan chose that moment to stop and think as well.

“You think we wanna head upstream and fish by the oak tree?” I asked him.

snakeHe nodded. “Give it a half hour, then yeah.”

I went back to tell Mike and Josh the plans, and settled back into roll casting some midges. For the next few minutes, the river was dead. Then suddenly, I heard a holler from upstream. I turned to see Ryan with a fish on, and he yelled, “Took a blue wing emerger!”

mikeMike, Josh, and I all hurriedly switched flies, and within minutes we’d all hooked into some nice fish.

For the next three hours, the blue winged olives came off, hatching like crazy, turning the fish that are normally pickier than those on the Green into voraciously careless feeding machines. It was without a doubt the greatest blue wing hatch of my life.

The hatch winded down, as all great hatches do, and eventually we realized it was over and the fish were full. So we left the river, not wanting to overextend a good thing, and proceeded to pack up the wet waders and fly rods for the journey home.

brownThe cars got packed up, and we all stood around shooting the bull, not really ready for the trip to end but knowing we all better hit the road soon. Ryan and Josh had to head back into Idaho to pick up Ryan’s wife, and Mike and I had to head back home that way anyways, so we all decided we’d say “goodbye” then.

The drive to Idaho passed without incident, except for Mike running a stop sign. We ended up meeting Ryan’s wife in a Starbucks parking lot in Nampa, the evening going from calm in Oregon to blustery in Idaho.

Finally, the time came for real goodbyes. I gave Ryan and Josh both a hug, they climbed in their car, and just like that, they were gone.

As Mike and I drove east on I84, I shook my head and laughed as I recalled the blue wing hatch that morning.

IMG_4804I can’t think of a better way to send off a group of friends than by fishing an incredible hatch together.

After Tax Day and the Green River

Previously in this spot, I’ve written about where I have fished. This time, it’s where I’m going. Every year, the weekend after the deadline for filing with the IRS, April 15th, I go to Little Hole on the Green River with the usual suspects, whom are mostly members of the Yampa Valley Fishers, our local Trout Unlimited Club. Good or bad (tax return or weather) we make the annual pilgrimage and camp at Dripping Springs. I’ll report that after 10 years in a row, if the weather is miserable, the fishing is typically terrific. If it is sunny and beautiful the highlight of the day may be your lunch, but the scenery is consistently awesome.

In eastern Utah, the Green River tail water below Flaming Gorge Reservoir flows gin clear and the Blue Winged Olive baetis hatch has been and will be again of Biblical proportions.P1050014_cropped
In the slower water, just below riffles, armadas of duns emerge and float as their wings dry in the cool air. Trout noses gently break the surface and sip the unfortunate. The hatch occurs during “gentlemen’s hours” generally between 10 to 2 o’clock. Depending on the weather, if on the first morning of angling the emergence starts at 10:30, you can plan on it starting at exactly the same time the rest of your stay. It can be frustrating with so many naturals on the surface and consequently so much competition with your fly in the drift.

P1040984_8xWith size 20 or smaller BWO imitations, it is also difficult tell if the trout sips your fly or the real one right next to it. Patience is a virtue and is rewarded. I like to increase my odds having a larger visible dry fly, like a parachute Adams or even a Royal Wulff and an emerger tied as 2 or 3 inch dropper. Trout feel safer in the sub surface and there appears to be a great deal of action there. The first time I saw a dandelion midge, I thought it was just a fly tiers gimmick. It’s really two flies on one hook; an emerger with a long post and a light blue dun colored parachute hackle on the very top. It creates visibility on the surface and a tempting morsel in the subsurface.

With nicer weather and fewer risers, try a size 20 or smaller parachute black gnat. The river’s clarity makes sight fishing with polarized sunglasses effortless. Pick a fish, cast directly up river several feet above it and then gently dead drift your dry fly over the trout’s head. It will work or it won’t. In either case, after a perfect drift pick another fish.

P1060646My buddy and fellow TU club member, Larry Freet fishes primarily with the Czech or European nymphing style. With a 10’ rod, two tiny midge emergers, usually one dark, the other light colored and the weight to get them down deep quickly, he typically lands the most and largest trout.

P1010429Using little line with short flips upstream, a long reach and a Zen like lift of the rod at the end of the drift, he is quite successful, especially near large rocks and cliffs. Many fly fishers angle deep with size 10 to 14 light colored stonefly nymphs and an indicator. The countless possibilities are yours to discover. I suggest joining a club. Then go fishing and camping with them. The tales around the campfire, the camaraderie and the brilliant stars in the sky will bring you back year after year.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays From Fishwest

Well it’s here, the time of the year when you dust off the ugliest sweater you own, spend more than you would like to admit on gifts, and to take long trips to see the family. Although it is the time of year for family, that shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and hooking into some fish.

This is a great opportunity to share your passion with others in your family, take a short trip to your local community pond or stream and toss around some flies. Show the youngsters how to catch fish with a rod and not a PlayStation controller. Show that in-law why you spend hours upon hours on the river every year, the tranquil state it puts much of us in while out exploring the water. Show them secret, or special spots, to allow them a little glimpse into “Your World”. They might then understand why you dedicate so much of your time to this sport.

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This isn’t just a great time to share your passion for fly fishing but can also be a good time to explore old or new fishing spots. If you are heading back to your hometown, take time to see how the river has changed and where the fish have moved to. For me this is a trip back down memory lane. I spend time reflecting on the reasons I picked up a fly rod in the first place, those feelings or experiences I had while learning the sport, and an opportunity to hook into those large ones that got away from me last time.

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This can also be a great opportunity to head out to water that you have never explored before, whether its in your hometown or in a relatives community, this time a year offers a great chance to have the water mostly to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a technical trip with tons of gear, just the rod, reel, few flies, and a cheap pair of waders (if necessary) from your local sporting goods retailer.

Whether you do make it out this week or not, we here at Fishwest wish you and yours a safe and joyful holiday season. Fill your bellies and get your yearly fix of The Christmas Story, we will be here getting ready for 2015 while you work your way out of that holiday fog.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

The Twelve Days of Fly Fishing!

On the first day of fishing, the riffle sent to me; A Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the second day of fishing, good fortune sent to me; Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

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On the third day of fishing, the map revealed to me; Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the fourth day of fishing the river gave to me; Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the fifth day of fishing, the Fishing Gods sent to me; FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.16302_10152715995327845_553873061178782886_n

On the sixth day of fishing, my ears revealed to me; Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the seventh day of fishing, the flats showed to me; Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.1958013_10152327045182845_509034368_n

On the eighth day of fishing, the river awarded me; Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the ninth day of fishing, the water gifted me; Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the tenth day of fishing, the Keys displayed to me; Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

On the eleventh day of fishing, the tail-water showed to me; Eleven Boats-a-Drifting, Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

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On the twelfth day of fishing, the Kenai presented to me; Twelve Casters Casting, Eleven Boats-a-Drifting, Ten Leaping Tarpon, Nine Fish-in-Hand, Eight Steelhead Runs, Seven Bones-a-Cruising, Six Reels-a-Zinging, FIVE WILD STEELHEAD!, Four Brown Trout, Three Spring Creeks, Two Fishing Buds, and a Brook Trout on a Dry Fly.

 

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

Tell Us About Your Favorite Trout Rod

Do you guys ever get sick of hearing about all the gear that we like to use? Well now is your chance to let us know your thoughts! The question I am about to pose is very simple yet up for a ton of debate.

What is your favorite rod to use when fishing for trout?

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Now I know this is question encompasses a HUGE range of rods that are good for a variety of situations. Are you a fan of rods in the lightweight class (0-3wt) to rods on the heavier side of things (6-7wt)? Do you like to throw tiny dries to wary fish or chuck big meaty streamers for predators looking for a big bite? There is no wrong answer here. We would love to hear what you think. Comment below or via our Facebook page.

 

“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…

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.