Reflections on being a Fish Biologist

Memo to Jim LIchatowich, dated May 5, 1980.
Memo to Jim LIchatowich, dated May 5, 1980.

Good Morning to my friends, followers,  and those seeking solace or wisdom browsing the Internet this fine day.

I wanted to share a Memo from the very small file of work related items I have saved over a lifetime career as a fisheries scientist.  I’m not the nostalgic type, not entirely so anyway, but I have saved a very few items and may share a few more in the future.  Most of what passes across our desks is junk not worth saving anyway, but this is one I’m really glad I still have.

My friend Jim Lichatowich sent this memo to me in 1980, shortly after he had received it from an anonymous person, thinking Iwas the original writer (creator?) of said memo.  This would indeed have been consistent with my behavior, but honestly, I don’t remember now If I crafted the memo or not.  I wish I had, because I love it.  But I’m not certain.  It could have been any of several people who worked in the Research Section of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife like Reg Reisenbichler, Dan Bottom, Pete Lawson, and there were others of similar intellect and spirit capable of this genius.  If anyone knows, I’d sure like to know, because I’m not comfortable claiming the idea for this memo for my own, as much as I admire the thought.

For those who are faint of eye, I’ll re-write the memo here.

I share this memo, and reflect on it regularly, because it has a ring of truth that resonates for me still.  I believe that we know quite enough to make choices and take management actions that will be good for the future of wild and hatchery Pacific Salmon.  I think we still stand a good opportunity to secure a future where salmon and people thrive.  This is probably getting to be a too-much used phrase on my part, but it’s the best I can do. I’m tired of hearing fishery biologists implying that if only we had more data, better monitoring, and the like, well then of course we would have the clear answers that are needed to make good decisions.

Sigh.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Date:  May 5, 1980

To:  Jim Lichatowich (Pretty sure Jim was Research section Chief back then)

From: Genesis

Subject: Creation

In the beginning God created black boxes and fishery biologists.  And tho’ there was light, fishery biologists were kept in the dark. And it was good.

And God created salmon so they could swim into and out of black boxes and confuse fishery biologists.  So the biologists fin clipped and tagged and released many slam into black boxes, and when they emerged on the other side revered them and cut off their snouts and took off their scales.  And the fishery biologists remained in the dark.  And it was good.

And God created interest groups to inspire the fishery biologists.  So the biologists clipped more fins and cut more snouts and took more scales and released many times more salmon and worked up a furious sweat in the darkness.  And it was good.

And God also created oceanographers, limnologists, ecologists, and other deviants and outfitted them with penlights to look int the darkness.  the batteries were very weak.  Ad they crept through the darkness and occasionally saw a flicker from their tiny lights.  And what they saw was very conflicted and humbling. And the lights were very weak.  And sometimes they only thought they saw.

And the fishery biologists’ eyes were very sensitive to the light so they put on their sunglasses.  And they clipped fins and cut snouts, and took scales and released many more salmon.  And it was dark.

________________________________________________________________________

May your day be bright and sunny.

Jay Nicholas, June 25, 2015

Challenges during a fly photo shoot

Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.
Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.

Yep, I’m working on another book, this one with a working title of Authentic Chinook Flies, due for publication by August, I dearly hope.  Fact is, there are unexpected challenges one faces when shooting such photographs, as the photo series below will reveal.

First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. Note that leader fragment is still attached to fly, just as I found it.  Background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
Uh, oh.  Some creature is lurking in the background!
Uh, oh. Some creature is lurking in the background!
Boomer loves to mrs with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell's flies just a tad better than mine.
Boomer loves to mess with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell’s flies just a tad better than mine.

Oh well, such is the nature of the silliness we deal with in the Nicholas family, and we do love our cats so I took a break to serve morning cat snacks to Boomer and Rollo, his brother, then closed the den door to resume shooting photos for the new book.

I hope this image gives you a smile for the day, and offers a hint of anticipation for the next book too.  Meanwhile, I have a party to go to this weekend with my family and then I just may fish a little.

May your day be bright and this season bring many great grabs.

Jay Nicholas,  June 11, 2015

Fly Fishing Glossary review by Marty Sheppard

Fly Fishing Glossary: AKA Book of Revelation
Fly Fishing Glossary: AKA Book of Revelation

Here is a sample of the stuff that caused my unbiased friend, Marty Sheppard, to laugh out loud and blog about the Fly Fishing Glossary, also known as the Fly Fishing Book of Revelation.

If you click on the link in this sentence you will see what Marty posted on Metalheads about the book.  Thanks for your support Marty.

I quote from Book of Revelation.  Remember, you can order direct from Amazon or by contacting me here in the internet ha ha for a personalized copy – or contact your local independent fly shop and ask them to carry the dang book!

Improved Clinch Knot
Hoax
The clinch knot is a great knot, period, end of story. Naturally, however, some attention-seeking angler decided to make waves and fancy-up on the original knot so they devised this so called improvement. I say nonsense. If you fish 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen leader with a size 12 Adams, you will never have a problem with the basic clinch knot breaking off on a twelve inch trout; therefore you have no need for the improved clinch.

See Frenzy knot.

Independent Fly Shop

Paradox
In the good old days, independent, locally owned fly shops were sprinkled all across the country. Sadly, many have dried up, strangled by big box stores and the imaginary lure of lower prices. Some fly anglers practice the despicable behavior of spending hours, days, and weeks chatting with the employees in their local fly shop, soliciting advice regarding what sort of rods, reels, lines, and so on would be best for their intended fishing parameters. These slugs then make an Internet order from some monstrous soulless anonymous entity because they can save twenty-seven cents on a spool of thread. Then when they receive the wrong size fly line or their rod breaks in seven places and the reel is set up for upside down retrieve, they take the stuff into the local fly shop and ask for exchanges, free shipping for warranty repair, and a cup of coffee to boot. Truly despicable.

These are the same guys who spend half their day on the Internet chatting over how to save three cents on a 25-pack of hooks. Most of these fellows spend little time actually tying flies or fly fishing. For these types, the hunt for a few pennies savings is more thrilling than actually tying a fly or trying to catch a fish. Go figure. They have to resort to making up imaginary stories about tying flies or catching fish. Then these same guys bitch and moan when their local fly shop goes out of business because the owner’s profit margin dropped from thirteen cents per hour to less than seven cents an hour and his wife forced him to close the doors because the fly shop was clearly nothing but an excuse to throw cash down the toilet.

Then what? Ha, ha on these guys. No more local fishing reports from real people, no more in-town experienced advice on tackle selection, no one to steer you towards the best fly poo for your particular color of fly line. All they have is some distant voice on the phone or an imaginary chat persona on the Internet.

By the way, there’s nothing, repeat, nothing wrong with Internet sales, if they originate from an honest-to-goodness locally owned fly shop. There are indeed a few of these fly shops still alive, though their number is shrinking quickly. The long term benefits of supporting locally owned store-front fly shop is the relationships and community provided by a place where friends can hang out, drink coffee, and share stories. These are the equivalent of the old-time wood-floor hardware stores where you could buy nails by the pound and get three size-sixteen wing-nuts for five-cents a nut – most of those places are gone too.

So get yer ass down to your local fly shop and support their business, OK?

Incidentally, experience has conclusively proved that female fly fishers NEVER engage in this sort of behavior. Never. The moral standards of women are far too high to behave in such an unscrupulous manner. Thank you ladies.

Now for another term . . . ..

Juicy
Adjective
This term is typically employed in a complementary context to indicate positive, desirable, and tasty qualities. It can be confusing however, because a steak may be juicy and actually exude juice, a nine-hundred buck fly rod may also be referred to as a very juicy rod, whilst exuding no juice whatsoever. Flies may similarly be referred to as juicy (see Juicy Bug), Beef Jerky may be juicy, and a Saracione 4.25” fly reel is certainly juicy, even when sitting all polished up in a Man Room display case.

Rest assured that the term juicy is usually a good thing and explore the context to decide if any actual liquid matter is involved.

Rare exceptions to the overall positive connotation of this adjective exist, and one shall serve to make the point: juicy fart. This is indeed not good, especially when delivered within waders. Perhaps this is sufficient and the topic is now fully covered.

_________________________________________________________

This is probably sufficient quotage for the time being.  Sales of Fly Fishing Book of Revelation have lagged behind my marketing hopes of selling one book a month, and I need to earn enough to buy another bag of cat food soon, so I’m pumping this in hopes someone out there will take pity or find the book’s crazy approach sufficiently attractive as have the 8 other readers who have given it a 5 star rating on Amazon.  I assure you that these are all upstanding citizens who are entirely unbiased in their acclaim for the glossary.

Have fun with this folks. This book contains of over 340 pages of serious, crazy, funny, true, fictional, and amazing information that you will never find in any other book about fly fishing, guaranteed.  Please do not let my therapist see this book…….

Best to you all,

Jay Nicholas, May 28, 2015.

 

Steelhead Gurgler/Skater with EP Critter Brush

This is another chapter in my latest infatuation with Gurgles, this here steelhead skater. Hold on.  I typed in Gurglers and auto correct gave me Gurgles! I used black foam and super glued the doubled front end because this allows me to stand that front surface almost straight up and wow that makes it push water like so very nicely. Pictures are worth the thousand words but here is the recipe followed by photos. Hook Gamakatsu B10 S size 2 Tail: Elk Mane from Hareline Dubbin + Mirage Lateral Scale Body: EP Wooly Critter Brush, Black/Red Foam: Black thin .002 foam from Hareline Dubbin Thread: Danvillie’s 210 D black or grey

Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - all size twos.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – all size twos.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - oooops, I forgot the flash in the tail!
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – oooops, I forgot the flash in the tail!
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush - bird's perspective  view.
Steelhead Gurgler with EP Wooly Critter Brush – bird’s perspective view.

These flies wake across the river quite nicely, I fished them several evenings last week on the Nestucca and rose one late winter steelhead in a tailout at dusk.  Casting an ECHO DEC HOGAN II 6.5 spey rod rigged with Airflo Scandi Compact 450 gr line + Airflo Floating Polyleader and 6 ft straight #12 Hatch Professional Fluorocarbon tippet. Brush on Zap a Gap applied to the doubled over front “bill” of this fly seems to help it stand upright and improve the water pushing power of the fly. I’m looking forward to fishing this fly as the summer steelhead begin trickling into the river, and I bet a downscaled version will get the sea runs going too. Hope you find something fun here and the inspiration to tie your own. Jay Nicholas, May 2015.

Nicholas’ Anchovy Gurgler

Underside view of Anchovy Gurgler.
Underside view of Anchovy Gurgler.

Nicholas’ Anchovy Gurggler

First, I know it is silly to claim this fly as “mine.”  So many thousands of fly tyers have tied Gurglers before I even knew about the pattern that surely someone must have tied a fly pretty much like this, but wait! Maybe they did not have the advantage of the Mirage Lateral Scale and the EP Senyo’s Chromatic Brush and the EP Minnow Head Brush to tie their fly so maybe this is actually an original creation.

Whatever.

This fly rocks the Pacific black rockfish when they are on the prowl for big baitfish scattered among crab spawn.  I thank John Garrett’s coaching via Facebook because when he was tying Gurglers I noticed the V shape he cut in the fly’s back (I had always just cut the foam straight across but this looks so very much nicer).  This is glued to the back with brush on Zap-a-Gap, but sometimes I do not glue it down to create a little higher profile, not that It is noticeable to the fish, but I like both the glued and non glued versions for their different looks.

Side view Anchovy Gurgler.
Side view Anchovy Gurgler.
Bass perspective view of Anchovy Gurgler.
Bass perspective view of Anchovy Gurgler.
Seagull perspective view of Anchovy Gurgler!
Seagull perspective view of Anchovy Gurgler!

Hook Gamakatsu SP11-3LH Saltwater size 1 or 1/0

Tail: White bucktail under Fl. blue buck tail + Mirage Lateral Scale
Body: Senyo’s EP Chromatic Brush, Blueberry 1.5”
Gills: EP Minnow Head Brush bloody Red
Foam: Blue thin .002 foam from Hareline Dubbin
Thread: Danvillie’s 210 D white or fl blue

Are the bass super discriminating regarding the profile of a surface fly they will take? Probably not.  Still, I love this fly and it catches fish.  I hope beyond hope to catch a king salmon on one of these someday.  Who knows.  Maybe.

New Camera Captures Image of Anchovy Gurgler at 28.3 MP.
New Camera Captures Image of Anchovy Gurgler at 28.3 MP.

This here is an image of the Anchovy Gurgler shot with my new camera, whoo-hoo!

Hope you enjoy this post and tie up some gurglers for whatever fish you are chasing.

Jay Nicholas

April 2015

Guest Steelhead Intruder Art

Good morning people.  You never know what manner of joy the inbox will deliver each day, but sometimes it is really wonderful.  Meet new people, share stories, know there probably won’t be time to forge new friendships – judging by the old friendships that have cobwebs on them due to the shortage of time and the things I have chosen to undertake.

But on the bright side, I learned that I’m not the only person who is infatuated with fly art, and many if not most of the people I’ve met are far more advanced in their artistic endeavors than I am.

This morning, I wanted to share a painting by Nathaniel Price, a fellow fly tier – angler – artist.

Nathaniel Price Intruder Painting, April 2015.
Nathaniel Price Intruder Painting, April 2015.

Thank you Nathaniel, for sharing this image to inspire my tying.

If several people were willing to share their art with me I would include their work in one or more of my new books that are presently in production, destined to join the nine titles already available on Amazon.

May you all have a good day ahead of you.

Jay Nicholas April 28, 2015

Three Flies to Fish Out of Pacific City – in a single day!

Three flies - one day - in Pacific City
Three flies – one day – in Pacific City

I had to chuckle the other day when I glanced at my SIMMS Boat Bag and noticed the wild assortment of flies tangled in a little scruffy patch on the top of the Bag.  Among the dozen or so flies were three that I had recently fished in a single day, and caught fish on too. Pacific City is a paradise for me, my analog to Rodrick Haig Brown’s Campbell River home that I read and dreamed about my entire life.  The fishing opportunities within an hour of our cabin are so rich and enjoyable, and while there are certainly more glamorous and exotic destinations around the state and the world, I find myself quite amused and engaged with the fishing here close to PC. The day in question began with a quick trip into the Ocean with Ed and Kevin in their dory, fishing for pacific black rockfish, blue rockfish,  and lingcod.

The morning fly for the ocean - a fine clouser.
The morning fly for the ocean – a fine clouser.

This modest size clouser caught 4 species of bottom fish, including blacks, kings (nope, that is the auto correct changing “lings” to “kings“, blues, and yellowtail rockfish. On the beach by ten AM, I had to rest, so I took a short nap, re-read a few entries in the Fly Fishing Book of Revelation and then headed up to the Town lake, a mere three minutes from the cabin.  The little Chironomid nymph in a size 16 was about right to entice a nice summer steelhead kelt that was all shiny and full of jumps and runs, plus a few hatchery trout. Note: the hatchery trout prefer a bead head gold ribbed hares ear nymph to the buzzer.

Size 16 Chironomid Nymph - perfect for the Town Lake Steelhead.
Size 16 Chironomid Nymph – perfect for the Town Lake Steelhead.

Back from the lake by 3 PM, I unloaded trout rods, donned waders and cleated boots, and drove up the Nestucca, where I swung flies throughout the evening.  I did not hook any steelhead on this particular day, but on many occasions I have, and (fish or no) any evening swinging flies in a river that is only 20 minutes from my door is a great joy.

One of my favorite winter/spring clear water steelhead wet flies.
One of my favorite winter/spring clear water steelhead wet flies.

Of course there is always work to be done, like mowing the lawn, tidying tackle, tying flies, writing about these adventures, working on book creation and sales. and helping Chris with customer recommendations, not to mention an occasional fly tying video. But all in all, life is good and the sight of these 3 flies helped me remember just how diverse the fishing opportunities here on the Oregon Coast. I bet there are many places around this state and others where you could fish three wildly different flies in a single day too, and I’d love to hear from anyone who is willing to share their home water stories.

Jay Nicholas May 2015

Late Winter Chrome on the Nestucca River

My Dec Hogan II sees mid afternoon action on the Nestucca.
My Dec Hogan II sees mid afternoon action on the Nestucca.

You never know the joys and challenges life will bring.  I have been blessed with all good news lately, but realize that many of my friends face all manner of heartache on a daily basis.  This may seem like an odd way to introduce a short post on a wonderful day I spent with an old friend – but while our day was very good, the same was not for everyone, and I just needed to say that.

So my day began with breakfast at the Grateful Bread with Jack and john Harrell; we talked fishing and great plans for the season just unfolding, and I headed back to the cabin to mess with tackle, flies, book promotion and the like.  Steve showed up about 9 Am, we visited a little, and then we loaded the boat and headed up to Town Lake.  Five minutes after leaving the cabin we were on the lake, and in short order we were catching hatchery trout.  Several trout.  Ok, maybe more than several.  It took Steve about five minutes to get accustomed to the subtle aspects of the bite and spit tactics, but he got it figured out and was soon showing those trout who the boss was.

The best flies we fished were barbless Jigged nymphs like the Bead Head gold Ribbed hares Ear.    There were other good nymphs too, and our flies were out fishing the power bait anglers in the vicinity, who noted that we were getting bit on about every cast.  The fish were so fast on the take that we only hooked some 20% of our takes, so it was a real challenge and a lot of fun.

I rowed Steve around the lake looking for summer steelhead, found several, and one bit a size 14 chironomid nymph  that he expertly placed about 6 ft in front of the 8 lb fish.  Sure enough, as the fly sank, the steelhead moved towards it and then coasted to a halt.  He’s got it, i whispered, pull back now!  He did and the fight was on.

in mid afternoon, we went to lunch, and then wafered up to head up the Nestucca for a little Spey Casting instruction session.  Well, apparently, I am a poor teacher, but Steve managed to chuck his fly out into the drift, and pretty soon he was fast to wild hen with sea lice at the base of her anal fin.  The fish had been hooked as a smelt because its maxillary bone was injured by an old scar, but the fish was a pleasant surprise on a sunny afternoon when we should only have been casting, not catching.  I got a small bright wild male that came to  a Micro Intruder and our afternoon was perfect in more ways than we would have asked.

Steve was fishing an ECHO Tim Rajeff Two Hand seven wt rod, I fished an ECHO  Dec Hogan II seven wt rod.  I fished an Airflo Skagit Intermediate Head and felt it was perfect.  Steve fished a long piece of plasticized string he found in his backyard in Corvallis, and I’m pretty sure that his casting would be better if he just had a line tuned to the rod.  But being a manly man, he top-handed his casts, whipping the rod furiously about his head, and caught as many fish as I did, so we were both happy and he is now convinced that “found” string is the next phenom in the Spey Fishing World.  He’s probably right.

I was camera-less that day, selling old cameras and waiting for new ones to arrive, but we had our phones so we got a few shots of our fish before releasing them carefully.  I hope these photos do not offend anyone, because the fish were momentarily head above water, but I’m quite confident that the fish were fine, being in cold water and only briefly up-periscope so to speak.

Steve's fine wild April winter steelhead, on one of my signature steelhead flies.
Steve’s fine wild April winter steelhead, on one of my signature steelhead flies.
My fine  male winter steelhead caught on a signature Micro Intruder.
My fine male winter steelhead caught on a signature Micro Intruder.

Photos taken with cameras can be confusing.  The untrained observer might think that Steve’s chromer is larger than mine, but I assure you that his fish weighed perhaps seven or eight pounds, while mine was easily twelve pounds.  Steve’s camera was set on “make your buddy’s fish look smaller” feature, and wow it really worked.

We were both thrilled to have had our flies grabbed that sunny afternoon, and lucky too, because I fished alone the same place next day with no grabs to show for my effort.  Now I’m wandering around Pacific City looking for rubberized string to put on my Spey rod.

At least I know I have good flies.

And good reading too, because I have my very own set of nine books wherever I go, so if I can’t sleep and tying flies is too taxing, I can pick up  one of my own masterpieces and ponder the next stage in shameless self promotion.

Shameless self promotion via product placement.
Shameless self promotion via product placement.

And if shameless self promotion wasn’t rampant enough already, this photo featuring SIMMS sweater, shirt, waders, boots lanyard, nippers, boots, and wading staff could just about put anyone over the edge, ya think? Too bad the ECHO DH II rod and Hardy Marquis fly reel are submerged and not easily visible, loaded with AIRFLO Skagit Intermediate head, RIO iMOW tip (no brand loyalty here) and OPST LAZER line!

So, Ben, and Eric, and Red, and George let me rest for a while, will ya?

Really folks, I’m just poking fun at all us gearheadsl.

I am grateful for this day, and hopeful for the days that will follow, whatever they may bring.

Jay Nicholas, April, 2015

Life in the Nestucca River, April 2015

Wild Juvenile Chinook in Nestucca River during April, 2015.
Wild Juvenile Chinook in Nestucca River during April, 2015.

Much of the time when we are fishing our focus is very narrow.  Sometimes, it is startling to see what is going on in our coastal rivers.  The photo above, not so very good an image, taken with cell phone last week, shows (I think) a dozen juvenile chinook salmon suspended in a little pool at the river’s edge.

The Nestucca and all of our coastal rivers are alive right now with these tiny little salmon, and soon the coho and steelhead fry will join them as they continue to emerge from the gravels.  To be sure, there could be a few steelhead fry out already but I’m pretty sure that most of these little fish were chinook, but of course I can’t be sure.

Just wanted to share this image and the thought, in hopes that our rivers may  always support vigorous runs of wild salmon, trout, and steelhead. Let’s hope that those who follow us in fifty and a hundred years see as many (or more) little fish in the rivers as I did just recently.

I noticed a steelhead carcass in the water near the Three Rivers boat ramp. I expected that crawfish would be picking on the meat at night, but I was surprised to see a cloud of Chinook salmon fry hovering above the carcass with little fish picking at the meat. This is not something I expected from juvenile chinook here in Oregon, and I was really pleased to be able to see it first hand.

If you are a salmon conservation advocate, student of the historical record of salmon conservation, or simply a person passionate about the future of wild Pacific Salmon, you might find Conversation With A Salmon of interest.

JWN

The Joy of Poppers and Gurglers

The Big POPPER Box, ready for action - anything from steelhead, sea bass, and silvers.
The Big POPPER Box, ready for action – anything from steelhead, sea bass, and silvers.

Given the recent bonanza in surface action fishing for Pacific Black Sea Bass in the ocean near Cape Kiwanda, I have been focused on tying a variety of Poppers and Gurglers.  I have fished these crazy surface flies in a variety of forms, including the ones i make using the Gary Krebs Popper Jig cutter Jig set. These were the poppers I had the most experience with, but this season I have expanded to tying and fishing large and small Gurglers.  These are wonderful flies to fish, they are very effective, and they only require foam sheeting to tie.  My 3rd popper style is the hard foam popper body that I buy in a bag with hooks.  These just need to be glued onto the hook, and then I add a tail usually of bucktail plus one of several varieties of Enrico Puglesi’s 1.5 inch or 3 inch brushes. I especially like the Senyo Chromatic Brush, Minnow Head Brush,  and the Anadromous brush for creating a collar on these Poppers. Expect some fly tying videos on the Caddis Fly Blog eventually, but for now, here are some images to whet the apetite.

Small Poppers created with Gary Krebs Popper Jig set.
Small Poppers created with Gary Krebs Popper Jig set.
Hard Foam Popper Bodies.
Hard Foam Popper Bodies.
Blue Foam Anchovy Gurgler inspired by John Garrett's Facebook posts.  Thanks John!
Blue Foam Anchovy Gurgler inspired by John Garrett’s Facebook posts. Thanks John!
Steelhead Gurglers ready for the 2015 season.
Steelhead Gurglers ready for the 2015 season.

Hope you find a little inspiration here to tie your own poppers in whatever form – and do so soon.

Best wishes to everyone.

Jay Nicholas, April 18, 2015.