Steelhead Intruders and Fishing on My Brain


Jay Nicholas Cats observing Intruder fly tyingI was pretty sure that I had Boomer’s full attention the last few days when I was worked into a frenzy tying Intruders and Rabbit Tube Leeches and thinking about fishing.  I had all the studio lights turned on in the den and found Boomer lounging on top of my material drawers, on the “warming station.”  Plenty of light to photograph flies makes for a nice warm place for my kitty to nap.

Jay Nicholas Bandit Naps in Truck

This reminded me of Bandit who I found napping pretty much the entire day last time I went on the river with my friend Jim.  Seems like a good life to me.

Jay Nicholas Steelhead In Lake

And when I was looking at the weather report and see rain on the way and should I go fishing today or not I remembered how much fun it is to sight-fish withe small wet and dry flies for summer steelhead planted in a nearby lake.

Jay Nicholas Steelhead Intruders

So I put aside the Intruders and am making this post quickly, still undecided about what I’m going to do today.  Probably some paperwork to get caught up on, right?  Or maybe watch Skagit Master 4 another three times today.  Maybe.

Jay Nicholas Steelhead Intruder a

On the other hand . . . .

Best to you all today, and every day.

Jay Nicholas February 4th


A Salmon Fisher’s Journal, January 2015

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast a

This is a four day retrospective.  Four days living and fishing and minutia that clogs our brains.  Along the way I’ll be reviewing some Echo and Arflo products so kindly bear with me.

Sidebar: Ok, maybe I was a little manic writing last night up after midnight which for me is out of the ordinary and  here it is barely six AM and I go back to see what I wrote and oh-my-gosh there are a lot of syntax errors and word omissions and bad auto corrections but hey, I don’t have time to edit this thing and I’ll be willing to live with the scathing critique of the perfect writers in order to devote most of this new day to family and let this piece like most – live on in its imperfection. That said, I decided I just must go through and make a very few corrections in my once over so I’ll do this now.  Whatever awkward writing that remains is intentional and is what it is.  Thanks for your patience,  because anyone who makes it to the end of this is going to need patience among their virtues.

Day one, January 21, 2015. I fished the Town Lake with my dear friend Jack Harrell.

Now this is a place where an editor or an english teacher would tease me.  So, they would ask, is jack a friend or a dear friend?  And how would you or anyone make the distinction between the two.  How many categories do you place your friends in.  Two and only two?  Or do you have three, four or five categories of friends and how do you describe these? And very importantly, do you tell your friends which category they are placed, do you move them up or down in stature depending on your mood, and how should they feel when their friends status is revealed on the Internet or in a book? And do you always use descriptors to categorize your friends and if so are you consistent?  Take Jack for instance, is he a dear friend one day and a mere friend the next?  If so, is the distinction real or simply a matter of lazy writing on your part?

Fortunately, I’m free from the need to answer any of these annoying if relavant questions and just write and let the reader figure it out on their own. And the plain fact of it all is that I have very few real friends these days partly as a consequence of being so wrapped up in my own head while fishing or writing or organizing tackle before or after fishing or shooting fly tying videos and the like that my world of friends has indeed become very small populated by the few strong people who can tolerate my intense focus (or are they foci?) on whatever it happens to be in front of my nose from day to day, hour to hour.

Anyway, I got to the cabin at about 10:30 – late – because I pulled over to talk with Bob Hooton for quite a while while I was driving over to the coast.  Not the Oregon Bob Hooton, but the BC Bob Hooton.  It’s been too many years since I’ve seen BC Bob and fished with him and Oregon Bob.  Wow, what a combo to have in a boat at the same time.  But those are stories to be told another day, if I ever get to ‘em.  One that would be good to tell was the time I was falling ill with Hepatitis when the two Hootons and I were fishing Vancouver Island back in the 80s.   I felt so bad one day that I lay down on a gravel bar in sub freezing weather to sleep, pretty sure that I would freeze to death and not caring the slightest, while the two Hootons (sometimes referred to as the Hootons-squared)  headed upriver chasing winter steelhead, to hell with me.  Fortunately, the fishing was sub-par and they came back before I died and they took me home. The hepatitis I had was the salad kind, not the shared needle kind, not that anyone should care but for whatever reason I can not remember the Hepatitis A, B, C, D and so on nomenclature so I just call it the salad kind.

Bob is retired now, like me, and we chatted a little about writing and book publishing and then I promised to send him a copy of one of Book of Revelation and call him in a few weeks and then I was on my way to the coast again.

Five minutes after I got to Woods, Jack pulled in with his yellow glass drift boat in tow, loaded my two rods while i slipped my boots on, and we made the arduous three minute drive to the lake.

I was fishing two ECHO rods this day, about the fourth week I have been fishing both.  The first is a most amazing cheap rod, the BECHO BASE.  I fished the 8 ft 4 wt BASE with a double taper Elite super dry line and it is amazing.  Honestly, if someone had put the rod in my hands and told me it was a 700 buck Winston or Sage, I would not have doubted them a second.

I expected the rod to be clunky, whatever that might mean.  I expected to struggle with an inexpensive 8 ft rod.

I was wrong, I was astounded.  I made long casts, short casts, and with great accuracy.  The rod rocked in every respect.  I will say that I was fishing leaders of about 12 ft and having far better satisfaction with my lay-out by adding 4 ft of 5x RIO Fluorocarbon tippet to a 9 ft 4x RIO tapered leader.  This allowed me to lay out the full length of leader right where I wanted out in front of the steelhead, and there were plenty of fish for us to cast to this day. The little ECHO BASE rod has proved itself over some three dozen summer steelhead caught and released in the lake – the problem this rod presents me is that it delivers every bit of performance I could want.  I frankly don’t know if a caster of my skill could tell the difference in on the water performance between this entry level rod and a more expensive rod, realizing that the more expensive rods have nicer hardware, but cast for cast, I felt like a superstar. Anyone who want a starter rod or a backup can not possibly go wrong with the BASE.  Full warranty.

The second rod I fished was the 3 wt ECHO GLASS Switch rod.  At 10 ft 6 inches this is a wonderful rod I am going to put into action a lot in whatever future I have remaining. My inspiration to get this rod was actually a desire to fish the lower Rogue with another dear friend, Steve Jacobs, who I had coffee with a few weeks ago.  I had not seen Steve for close to a year and he had pretty much written me off as missing and unaccounted for.  I begged his forgiveness and I think he granted same.  Anyway, he told me how he had experienced most excellent half pounder steelhead fishing in 2014 (I think around Agness), fishing a Tim Rajeff two hand 7 wt spey rod.  Well, I was thinking that rod was about four times over the power one should be fishing for cute little silvery fish about the size as a first-run blueback and what he needed was a little 3 or 4 wt switch rod to make those long swings in the lower Rogue instead of a powerful full-on Spey rod perfectly capable of subduing chinook and hefty winter steelhead.

I also got an ECHO 7 wt GLASS Switch rod rigged to fish and took it out onto the lake to try my hand at spey casting, which was Ok but not so great and I figured out I would do better the next day when I was fishing in a river instead.  I can tell you that an Intruder is not the fly of first choice on these lake acclimated summer steelhead but I got a few photos and got back to serious lake fishing for spooky fish on light tippets.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast r

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast p

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast n

I’ll pretty much let the photos speak for the GLASS two hand and switch rods.  Exquisite.  Feels good.  Looks good.  I’m not one to pay much attention to finish and components on fly rods.  I demand performance and these rods deliver.

So I got my little 3 wt GLASS Switch rod and fished it in the lake with a 5 wt DT AIRFLO Elite line and again (sounding trite and repetitive I understand) this rod is a winner.  My first surprise was the ability to cast long and accurately with a rod that has such deep flex.  True, if I don’t pay attention, the rod will put the fly exactly where my hand guides it, and if I’m being sloppy, my fly is as likely to land ten feet behind the silly fish as the 4 ft in front where I would prefer to place my fly.  But when I do my part, this long rod allows me to reach far out over the lake and lay a fly (sometimes a #8 glass bead bugger and sometimes a size 18 Griffith’s Gnat) just where I want it.  And fun to play fish on?  Zounds!  I love the flex of the long slow glass rod.  Fact is, I’ve panicked and broken- off several steelhead on the 4 wt BASE  but I think the greater range of flex in the GLASS saved my tippets when my head was telling me to pull harder than my leader should have tolerated.  Close to three dozen summer steelhead have blessed this glass switch rod.  I am anxious to take it to Hood Canal in the next few months to fish sea-runs with Guy and Jim, if I get my courage up to travel that far from home.  I think this will be a great beach rod for sea runs and then if I make it to half pounders on the Rogue in August, well that will be icing on the cake.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast s

Better speed this up, three days to go and …

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast m

January 22nd. Finally, I got to fish with my dear friend RR (keep ‘em all on a level playing field, huh?).  Rob came over to the cabin the previous evening (I know the dates can get confusing and all but …) and I didn’t take my evening meds until after ten PM and we talked and talked like we needed to catch up and why the heck we hadn’t already but I was sort of in hermit mode for the bulk of 2014 and Rob understood and eventually we watched a sci-fi movie that I had already seen four or five times and Rob sort of got it but also missed the point partly and it was midnight by the time it was over and by six AM I was still on the sofa and all groggy but we made coffee and went to the “rich people” coffee shop near Kape Kiwanda and picked up a turkey sandwich to split for lunch and I followed Rob to the so-and-so river where he was sure that conditions would be perfect and they really looked good to me and we slid his boat into the river or actually he did all the work and uh-oh here I go forgetting to use punctuation and real sentences and all so I’ll stop for now and catch my breath OK?

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast l

So Rob was right and the so-and-so river was perfect but guess what?  Rob got pulled four times and caught two trout but I got only one little tug from a trout – no it was two tugs and yes I am sure it (they) was/were a trout and not steelhead unless it was a steelhead or two steelhead.  But probably not.

I was equipped with seven wt ECHO GLASS long rods, the spey at 12 ft 9 inches and the switch at 11 ft.  The switch was rigged with a 450 Skagit Switch line and AIRFLO T-10 FLOW Tip.  The Spey rod was rigged with a 510 gr Skagit Switch and Y-14 Flow tip.  For me, the both rods were dialed in just right.   I did a lot of casting and swinging from the boat because my right knee is due for replacement, the tendon tear on my left foot is still a mess, and my balance is horrible.  Excuses aside, standing in the front of a drift boat makes me shine as a caster, and I was happy to let Rob wade ahead of me through a run and follow him in the boat.

Towards mid afternoon, Rob anchored and assured me that we were in a great place for me to wade fish.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast c

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast j

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast i

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast b

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast g

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast o

So I got out of the dang boat and made my way down the river in water deeper than I was entirely comfortable with but my casting stayed strong and my flies swung well and at one point I really thought I was going to get pulled but no such luck but it was  really really good for me to be wading and Rob – thank you Rob for getting me out on the river and wading again.

Soon, we’ll fish again soon.

January 23rd.  Lisa and Jackson are going to join me at the coast today.  See, I’m mixing my tenses and being a horrible writer but sometimes I write like it is today in these journals even though today is really the 24th.  But I’m gonna do it anyway.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast f

Fresh from my wading victory of the previous day, I strap my GLASS rods on the 4-runner and head upriver from the Cabin to fish the such-and-such-run, a place that is only thirty minutes from the cabin. The practice of never mentioning the rivers that we are actually fishing is part of a steelhead tradition that I have been taught by my most serious steelhead fishing friends. It seems silly to me at times, but apparently if I were to mention wade fishing the upper Nestucca River, such mention would cause approximately seven hundred fly anglers to beat me to my favorite two pools before I could get there on any given day.

Driving upriver in a light rain, I learned that this superstition is more than silliness, because when I arrived at the turn-out near the big fir tree at the tail-out of the most perfect steelhead pool you can imagine, I found an unauthorized fly angler stringing up his rod.  I pulled in beside him, said something nice and considered hitting him over the head with my wading staff and taking first water.  Then I considered just getting out of the truck and running down the trail to the river and fishing it first, because after all, my rods were already strung and who the hell was he to be parked here anyway beating me to the place I wanted to fish a mere few minutes earlier than me.

But I smiled and drove upriver a little way to another perfect steelhead run, grabbed my rods, and headed down the easy trail to the river.  I fished through the run with the  GLASS Switch and T-10 Flow tip first, then went back through with the Spey rod and T-14 tip.  Perfect water, my presentation and flies were awesome, but no tugs followed.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast d

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast e

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast k

I headed back to the cabin and arrived there at about noon.  Lisa and Jackson called and told me they were still a few hours out, so I backed up to my Koffler 14 ft RMTB, exchanged the seven wts for my 3 wt GLASS and BASE, and headed up to the Lake. Oh yes, I left my steelhead flies at the cabin, got out of my cleated boots, shed my SIMMS  stocking foot waders, slipped on my chore boots, grabbed my SIMMS boat bag with my trout flies, and off I went.

Three minutes from the cabin, I slipped my boat into the lake.  Two and a half hours later I had been rebuffed by close to a dozen summer steelhead.  Some spooked as my line came close to the water, some came to look at my fly and then ran away.  A few followed my fly and then turned aside.  Rowing toward the ramp at 3 PM, I spotted a shiny bright steelhead laying on the other side of a log.  I eased the bow anchor down, picked up my rod and made the cast.

Oooops.  The size 12 glass-bead brown bugger landed ten or twelve feet to the right of where I intended to place it, across another submerged log.  I know there was  no chance the fish would take my fly.  Something caught my attention off to the right from the fish.  I looked away.  When I looked back, the steelhead had moved forward to were my fly landed and was gliding to a halt.  Somewhere in my pea-size brain, I knew the fish must have taken my fly.  So I pulled back and sure enough, there was the head shake and big silvery flash. Several jumps, a quick net and release, and I was back at the cabin a good two minutes before Lisa and Jackson arrived.

Jay Nicholas Echo Glass Two Hand on coast q

 January 24th. Family day.  In the last hour of daylight, Jackson and I headed out to the lake at 4 PM.  We had an hour to fish.  Most of the steelhead I spotted ignored or ran from my fly.  Jackson kept me company and texted with his friends back in the Valley while I talked to the steelhead.  One fish cooperated and came to my fly near the Dock, and that made for good entertainment.  I overheard one angler say that he had kept a steelhead earlier in the day.  I fished right up to dark and had one other fish follow but not take my fly.  The water was dead calm.

Jay Nicholas ECHO GLASS Two Hand and Switch Rod Review 1

GLASS Two Hand and Switch Rod Review 3

GLASS Two Hand and Switch Rod Review 2

I may fish the lake a few hours tomorrow morning before my family is up and ready to go for the day.  I need to deal with the insurance company and figure out how much it will cost to replace the gear lost when my boat sank last month.  Greg’s Marina will reopen real soon and I’ll get my back-up RMTB back in action to fish in the Tillamook basin in the next few weeks. We’ll all head back to the valley tomorrow. I have revisions to make to a new book and push it out the door.

Almost forgot – Gary Palmer interviewed me for a podcast on Fishing the Oregon Coast. Gary apparently found my book SEA FLIES on Amazon, ordered the book and is not looking forward to fly fishing in the ocean this season.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking here – Jay on Fishingtheoregoncoast.

jay nicholas sea flies cover

You can find the book SEA FLIES on AMAZON. The contents page is shown above.

About the product reviews:  Those of you who know me understand that I fish all brands of gear.  Well, not all brands, because that would be crazy.  But I fish rods reels lines and leaders produced by many manufacturers, because I like to know what is out there, experience a little of it, and be able to make mental comparisons and recommendations to people who ask.

Here is my nugget about the new ECHO GLASS two hand and switch rods. They are excellent casting tools.  Extremely intuitive.  Their action allows me to feel the rod load and execute my cast very well.  I have yet to “fight” a steelhead on the 7 wt two hand and switch rods, but judging from fishing them and from fishing the 3 wt switch rod over roughly ten days and three dozen steelhead, I am sure the seven wts will be a blast to have between my hand and a fresh steelhead at the end of my line. 

Jay Nicholas Sage Domain Fly Reel 1

Jay Nicholas Sage Domain Fly Reel 2

SAGE DOMAIN FLY REEL.  Listen up, I fish a lot of great SAGE rods and reels, so don’t dismiss me as a brand-blind guy who can’t recognize good equipment – regardless of who makes or sells it.  Anyway, about three years ago, I spoke to George Cook the most highly respected SAGE sales rep and dear friend, asking why on earth there are so few full frame fly reels on the market and venting my frustration about getting my shooting line caught and generally fouled up in the frame of so many high price fly reels.  George told me the consumer had demanded the exit of the full frame reel in order to make reels lighter and lighter and I should get over myself.  I said no, I wanted to see more full frame fly reel options because I was continually frustrated and asked him to consider my request and input. Less than a year later out comes the SAGE DOMAIN in a full frame configuration.  Now I’m not an expert, but I bet you five fly lines that George knew full well that SAGE was going to release the DOMAIN at the same time he was shoveling crap on my head about how full frame reels were dead in the water and had no future. He may be right, but I for one really love this fly reel.  The drag system is decent, and the full frame is incapable of letting my shooting line get jammed and fouled, and this is a wonderful feature.  The reel has a magnetic spool securement system that is not familiar to me but has performed well for a full year fishing chinook and now for several dozen lake bound steelhead.

Back to the rods.

I recommend ECHO GLASS two hand and switch rods to anyone who fishes long rods.  If you are already an expert, you’re going to want to see how well these rods perform.  If you are a beginner, I believe that you will be able to learn to spey cast very quickly with these GLASS rods, because you can feel them load and unload so well. Components are subtle and elegant.  The rods look great, cast well, and feel good too.  Price?  What a bargain.

Jay Nicholas, January 25th, 2015

Post script that people may or may not ever see: It is nearly 7:30 and I’ve been  picking though this post to clean up and add a little here and there. The sun isn’t up yet but I can see the Dairy farm across the gravel road and Duke, the giant friendly doberman puppy that weights about two hundred pounds has been on the deck to say good morning and NPR is droning on about some socially revenant issue and my family is safe and snoozing close by and I think it is time to heat water for decaf and I’m thinking about a few hours on the lake today and then all of us getting back to the valley and working on a new book and I need to get some photos ready for when I’m at Joel’s Royal Treatment Fly Shop to talk about ocean fly fishing and yes I guess I’m going to be productive as ever in the next few days.  Life is full of surprises.   Thanks for your patience.

Fishing and life in January, 2015

January has been a great month so far and I expect 2015 to keep rolling along.

Jay Nicholas Sunk Koffler Boat a


My boat sank in December but my dear friend Jimmie salvaged it and with a little work at Greg’s marina in Garabaldi it should be back and good as new for the 2015 seson that is beginning to unfold.

Jay Nicholas Boat recovery process

Jay Nicholas boat being towed after salvage

Fortunately I have a second Koffler Rocky Mountain Boat just like this one, because this boat is still sitting at Greg’s pending repairs and such, and I needed my twin boat to fish the Town Lake last week.

Jay Nicholas ECHO GLASS Switch and SAGE Domain

Jay Nicholas Summer Steelhead Selfie

I caught some very nice hatchery summer steelhead on small wet flies fishing with Jack Harrell, (Pacific City Fly Fishing) usually with Jack doing the rowing and coaching me casting to the fish we spot.

A new ECHO GLASS Switch and SAGE Domain reel were a pure joy to fish and I may write more on that later but may be too busy fishing so for now, just know the #3  ECHO Glass Switch rod with the #8 SAGE Domain are a great pair.

I’m excited to say that I now have 8 books on Amazon, and will soon have number 9 published in the next week or so.  The next book will be Intruder Essentials: Tying Tube and Shank Intruders for Steelhead, Salmon, and Trout.

Jay Nicholas fly tying with Boomer

Jay Nicholas Steelhead Intruder

Here is one of our fine cats, Boomer, helping during production, and one of the flies that will be featured in the new book.

I’ll be up at Royal Treatment Fly Shop with Joel La Follette in February. This will be fun and I’m still working out of the hermit mentality I was in during so much of 2014.


February 14th: Fly fishing the Pacific

I’ll have about an hour or so to present photos and maybe some Go Pro footage of offshore fishing, talk about tackle and tactics, make up stories and pretend that I caught some fish, and generally have fun.  Ill tie flies that afternoon, concentrating on saltwater flies and trying to sell a few books to buy gas and replace gear lost when my boat sank.  Ha ha.

February 21st: tying Intruders 

I’ll have copies of the Intruder book, co-authored with Thomas Rangner.  Tom is a young man who brings fresh perspective to my decades of blah blah blah and he’s the dude who will be creating a DVD of Intruder tying hilarity to add to the Nicholas fishing book portfolio.

Speaking of portfolio, I have posted a few of my sketches and photographs on Fine Art America, and you can see these by clicking here.

Oh still thy beating heart! Now you can order a throw pillow with a salmon or a dory or a bent fly rod on it for a most reasonable price, not to forget canvas, framed prints and such forth.  No sales yet,  Probably a scam for all I know.  Greeting cards anyone?

Enough blatant commercialism for now.  Forgive me.

I’ll be fishing in the next few days again, maybe for freshies as the water drops back into shape.  Got me at least a hundred Intruders created as part of shooting the next book.

Wishing you all the best and I’ll be back soon.

Jay (18 January, 2015)

Not Dead Yet

Jay Nicholas Dec 2014 selfie on river

That’s right folks, I’m still here; just been busy as all get-out and fishing my tail-off, and tying flies, and writing, and – get this –  publishing some books.  Not real fancy official books like you would get in the media commercialized press, but straight from the head to the heart, to the hand,  to the book, with little editing in between to sanitize the content and ensure that it is in tune with whatever convention in style in the fly fishing industry military industrial complex this moment.

Books?  Yes indeed books.  In fact I have just published five books related to fly fishing via Create Space and these are available on Amazon as both print and Kindle e-Books.

Five down, one to go in the next two weeks and two to follow shortly in January and more in 2015 should good fortune and the luck of the draw allow.

Here are the five book titles published so far:

Jay Nicholas Fly Fishing Book of Revelation

Fly Fishing Book of Revelation: the Ultimate, Irreverent, Illustrated Fly Fishing Glossary – this is a 340 + page spectacular coffee table book that takes on the definitions and legacy of over fourteen hundred give or take a few words, terms, phrases, and concepts related in some manner to fishing and fly fishing in specifically.  You will laugh, cry, burp, and roll your eyes as you read this book. Forewords by Misha Skopets and Randy Stetzer will hypnotize you into purchasing this book and that will be the beginning of the end. As with many of my books, there is an element of memoir to this one, and although this is featured as a fly fishing glossary, there are many elements of lure, bait and catfish noodling techniques referenced along with notations as to the ethics of fishing beads, jigs, center pin reels, and bobbers while pretending to fly fish ha ha. Are you an anger?  You’ll love this book.  Do you work with an angler, date an angler, are you married to an angler, is a parent or child an angler?  You’ll find insight to the inner workings of said angler’s mushy brains in this bold tome. Apologies in advance to any person, product, or angling practice that I may seemingly have offended ‘tween the pages of Book of Revelation.

Jay Nicholas Super Flies B:W edition

Super Flies: this is a 6×9″ black and white book featuring a genuine authentic Nicholas sketch of the 52 greatest trout flies, steelhead flies, salmon flies, sea-run cutthroat flies, and half pounder flies ever in the entire world especially in the waters that I fished here in Oregon starting back in 1962 or whenever that was.  This is the artist edition of Super Flies. Foreword by Rich Youngers, Oregon FFF Fly Tyer of the Year in 2006.

Jay Nicholas Super Flies - Cplor

Super Flies – Color: I started with the text for the previously noted book, deleted part of the text, added new text, switched around a few flies, edited some of my childish word usage, and replaced the artist renditions of each fly with genuine and original Nicholas Macro Photographic  representations of the 52 flies.  Most of these flies pictured are fresh from the vise in 2014 BUT tied in vintage style on vintage half century old hooks like Eagle Claw 1197-B, 1197-G, and Mustad lord save us in this new day of fancy materials and hooks and threads.  Close to 150 color photos of flies, fish, tackle and a few people grace this full color large format book.  And if you fished with me years ago I may have told a story about our trip that reported me catching more and larger fish than anyone else and also related how I personally invented most of the good fly patterns out there and you are naturally free to believe any of my drivel or simply be entertained or write a review contesting my account of the events as may please you upon such reading.

Jay Nicholas Sea Flies book

Sea Flies: this little beauty has a ton of color photos of 24 saltwater flies that I have tied and fished offshore Pacific City Oregon in the last three seasons.  Well, actually only 23 of the 24 are tested on live fish but the 24th fly is so promising and unique that I just had to include it in this book because I am convinced that it will be a monster fish catcher in 2015.  Jack Harrell wrote the Foreword for this book and Jack is the experienced fly angler, friend, and mentor who first got me to sea to fly fish the mighty Pacific ocean three years ago.  This book features flies that are assuredly superior in their ability to draw bites from salmon, black rockfish, lingcod, and albacore tuna.  Short and to the point, the photos and fishing stories laced with a little about these fine fish will entertain angler and tyer who aspire to fish the salt or who wish to see what other crazy salty anglers are up to these days.

Jay Nicholas Tarpon Sketch

Sketch: This is an over two hundred page thriller that has little text but contains the best of my sketch collection drawn from images I created between maybe 2008 and 2014.  Factual and fantastical flies, fish, and fishing gear are all here with titles and minimalist text.

I am working on making these available at your local fly shops but so far any anxious reader may 1) order print or e-Book directly through Amazon, or 2) contact the Caddis Fly Shop because I’ll be there on the front end of a statewide tour (ha ha ha  ha) on Dec 12/13 and 19/20 to accept pre-orders and personalize books with signature, a chatty note, and a Nicholas vintage-style fly in a little sealed plastic bag that you can save for posterity or fish – your choice.

After a year and a half of this website being inactive, I have no idea if anyone will even find this new post, but if you do, stay tuned please, I hope to continue producing fresh original books as long as I’m able and I have several more in me.

But this is plenty for now, I’ll follow up with more on the next books to be published shortly.

Thanks so very much to all of my readers for your patience and support. These books mark a very important stage of my life, and it feels great to get them out for others to enjoy.

Jay Nicholas, December 9, 2014

Bye-Bye Blogosphere

This blog has been fun, work, and all that goes with work and fun.  I’ve come to a place when there just isn’t sufficient time to take care of the essentials.  I have been neglecting my best friends, focusing on family, working a little, and fishing my brains out whenever possible.   I have several great projects in progress, but none of them involve producing respectable content for this blog.  So, time to call it quits, a little late, but it’s time.  In a week or so.  Pulling the plug so to speak.  You may see me on the water,  most likely alone, or enjoying coffee, Pizza, or Thai with my family.  I’ll be producing text-light content, mostly photos, for the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.  Hope you have found some curiosity in some of my past posts.  Meanwhile, I’m moving on.

Be well.

Jay Nicholas, June 2013Jay Nicholas Salmon Fishing 11:16:2011-4


Fishing, Fly tying, and life go on in March 2013

Jay Nicholas Cats prep for Video shoot 03262013 Jay Nicholas Video shoot - Really? Jay Nicholas Video Shoot 2 03262013 Jay Nicholas Cat and Clouser 03262013 Jay Nicholas Video Shoot 1 Jay Nicholas Cats in the Morning 1 Jay Nicholas Cats in the morning 2 Jay Nicholas Fly Rods Ready to go 03262013 Jay Nicholas Big Trout 2 03262013 Jay Nicholas Big Trout 03262013 Jay Nicholas Trout 03262013First, thank you to all of my friends and people I have never met who wished me well as I recovered from a really close call last November.

Second, life has  been good for our family and I have even got out and fished a little this winter.

Finally, geezzzz I have been PLENTY busy and where on earth does a fellow or gal get time to participate in blogs or social media?  Several people wished me a happy birthday yesterday (64th) and those folks I also thank.  I should post a photo on facebook but darn it that platform like so many (hummmm) has become another means of selling stuff and blatant commercialism that I am seriously considering a boycott, as if my absence for the last 5 months isn’t sufficient to post my disapproval.

Let’s just post some photos to note a few of the recent goings on, OK?

Be well, friends, our time here may be short….


Jay Nicholas Flies 03262013

Ten Revelations from the 2012 Oregon Salmon Season

At  0400 hours I was in bed 2312-1 at Good Samaritan Hospital on the morning of November 11, 2012.

I should have been in my SuperPram on the River, I suppose, or in the den working the comuter with a cup of coffee and two cats close at hand, or at the fly bench tying a few more Chinook tubes.  But no. I was strapped-in and tubed-up, layng flat on my back with orders to remain in the prone position, at risk of springing a leak at the catheter insertion poke-hole in my right thigh.

It hit me sometime between 6 and 7 PM on the 10th, Saturday evening, with the Nestucca dropping barely into fly fishing range. My young son Jackson called 911 and Lisa kept the ER crew posted as I hung on trying to outlive the proverbial elephant sitting on a knife in my chest.  Lisa and Jackson pushed 4 aspirin into my mouth, the ER techs 4 more, and then 3 nitro tabs.  No relief.  It hurt a lot:  15 on a scale of 1 to 10.  T-Shirt cut off, electrodes slapped on, wires hooked up.  How long ago did it start?  How fast did the pain progress? No more than  120 seconds from – I wonder if I’m having a heart attack – to – dang, this is the big one.

We are blessed with wonderful emergency responders.    Thankfully for everyone, I had just showered and put on clean clothes after a hard workout on the Concept 2 Rower.  I was probably on the dehydrated side and that proved challenging to EMTs and ER staff who struggled to jam needles in my collapsed veins.  It’s funny what you hear when you are immobilized, laid flat and barely responsive.  More than once came the question: can you tell me your name and birthdate.  More than once came the question:  what meds are you taking?  Pain aside, I faithfully tried to gasp out the answers.  “Why are we in this little room?”  (Overheard from one of the ER staff)  Because it’s Beaver football tonight, and this is the only room available.  (the overheard answer)  I felt compelled to tell everyone that was dehydrated but that was probably pretty obvious because everyone was having one heck of a time finding a wet vein to anchor an IV.  I felt the gurney rumble now and then, felt myself being sheet-lifted from one place to another, and all the while people asking if whatever they had just done had helped the pain.  Nope.

As I write this, a country western song is in the background [… if I could have a beer with Jesus…] and it reminds me how grateful I am to be here to be with my family and friends.

It’s a small world.  One of the fellows who worked on me in the Cath Lab is friends with the guy who owns the hut where they filmed Running Down the Man. He is saying something about a triple Rooster hookup.  Cool, I gasp.  I’m tying to will my blood vessels to relax, will my heart to keep blood flowing, trying to hang on.  I’m not afraid, not the slightest.  Just want my family to be OK if I’m not here.

I can hear that there is some technical difficulty getting access to the clot in my heart artery.  Turns out that there is a complete blockage in the artery between two stents that were placed two years ago.   Balloons are inflated and new stents inserted, plaque and clots are noted and there are words being uttered that are barely distant whispers muffled by the howling wind of the pain in my chest.

Somewhere between the operating room and #2312-1 I loose it.  Here and there in a haze, I know Lisa and Jackson are there with me.  My son David and his wife Heather are on their way and will be here in the morning.  The pain has eased.  There is still some difficulty with the IV in my right arm, but the left-arm IV seems to be working.

“Now don’t you move a muscle” an etherial  voice admonishes me.  No worries there.  I can only now and then crack open an eyelid.  The morphine and pain have done me in.  I am just fine laying flat on my back with people pumping and poking and prodding and still asking what meds I’ve been taking.  Voices fade in and out of focus, but the pain is gone, and I think I’m going to make it.  Going fishing doesn’t seem very important now.  Just seeing my family is all I can think about.  I’m already thinking about how to get rid of more tackle and fly tying junk so Lisa doesn’t have to deal with it when I’m done living here in this visible world.

Two days later, a med tech is giving me an echo cardiogram.  Or some such thing.  He isn’t allowed to interpret the picture on his screen, but I have a pretty strong hunch that the look on face is one he uses to conceal bad news.  The Cardiac Doc later says, “at least — moderate to extensive — damage — may be stunned temporarily – may be permanent muscle function loss — and I was remembering the serious look on the sonar-man’s face and the way he avoided eye-contact.

Meanwhile, Lisa’s dad is dying.  Family is gathered around for a several day goodbye and long sessons of “remember that time when ….”  this is all harder on her than me, but she rallies and cares for us all.  

November 16th, we all go up to Cardiac Rahab to do my intake interview.  I see my written surgical report for the first time.  I have extensive and widely distributed areas of arterial damage, noting three distinct areas with 70% reduction in flow.  I am stunned at how crappy the report sounds.  I wonder why those other constrictions didn’t get stented, figure there was a reason, and just feel a little mopey that my plumbing system is in such wormy condition.  My cardiac rehab counsellor listens to my cranky lecture about how I’m going to kick-ass and not settle for a gentle stroll around the grocery store.  Lisa and Jackson are keeping me company as my lecture continues.

After the umpteenth time reviewing my meds list, taking my blood pressure, I am offered the opportunity to ride a stationary bike.  Electrodes attached, I get on and get riding.  Ursula (not her real name) seems concerned at the KWs I’m cranking out.  My pulse goes up and she’s at my side.  Is that normal for you?  Yeah, I reply.  How do you feel, Jay?  Great, I say between hard breathing.  Does this feel normal for your workouts?  Yep, I blurt.  Let me take your blood pressure again.

And so it goes.  Exercise bike, recumbent something-or-other, and treadmill.  Ursula checks my blood oxygen saturation, pulse, blood pressure, perceived exertion level and  keeps close tabs on me. “I have never, ever, in my 8 years here in rehab, ever seen anyone go at it like you are, their first time back after a heart attack.”  I’m a little concerned, but all your vitals look good, and you feel fine, but would you please ease-off a little for me?”

OK.  I’ll ease back a little today.  For you, and for my family.  The easing-off is going to be dicey.  I’m a fierce competitor.  Mostly, I compete with myself.  Work,  fly tying, exercise, fishing, it don’t matter much; I have two speeds for my engine order telegraph : all stop or full ahead.  Moderation doesn’t resonate well with me.  That is, I know, a weakness.  This heart attack may require a re-thinking.  But right now, I’m feeling argumentative, feisty, smart-alecky, and ya ain’t gonna slow me down, take-a-hike, and the like.  Then I see the words on the Cardiologist’s report and pause, and wonder, and …  hell, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, friends are dying, Lisa’s dad is saying “so long” (not goodbye), our Barista at the coffee shop smiles and stifles a sneeze because not working means no money for school, my buddy calls from ______ to tell me he had two in the boat by 8 yesterday, the rain is sheeting in sideways, rivers are on the rise, one of my boats is on the dock with the plugs pulled, and the other boat is at Joe’s for a tune-up.  Best of all, my family is upstairs sleeping-in this morning.  My big boy is with his wife and doggies in Portland and they are all tucked in and preparing for a family Thanksgiving gathering.

I have work to do, Jackson’s Karate lessons to watch,  neglected friends to call, bills to pay, flies to tie, tackle and materials I can’t possibly use to get rid of, cats to brush, family time to cherish, and stories I want to write, before they are gone forever.  Maybe I’ll take time for a Starbucks  tall, quad shot (3/4 decaf), no room, Americano  with 2 pumps of Classic Sweetener today.  Maybe – maybe – maybe.

Thank you, my dear friends, for your good wishes, for the love you give my family, and the patience with which you tolerate my extremes and neglect.  I am what I am, not an excuse, just sayin’.  Enough of this heart attack nonsense.  No desire to go over it again and again, just want to heal up a little, reflect a little less, and go fishing more.  Ha ha ha.

Ten Revelations from Salmon Season 2012

Dark days and long nights.  Opportunity to reflect on the year winding down.  A wonderful, painful, exciting, mind numbing, exhilarating, depressing, learn-new-stuff, remember-old-stuff, meet wonderful people, observe inappropriate fishing behavior, know exactly why I do this, and wonder why the hell I do this:  fly fish for salmon, that is.

Here goes – the absolute truth, as I see it,  4:14 AM.

1:  Yes, there is a point when blogging about something you love will come back to haunt you, when you swear to never again write anything that is uplifting or enticing or instructive or may in the slightest way seem anything but repulsive about whatever the topic.

2:  There are some really nice fellow anglers out there.  Folks who may not fly fish themselves, but who are open to learning and who respect their fellow anglers, regardless of how they angle for salmon.

3:  There are some folks who genuinely believe that anyone who fly fishes for Chinook is, at the core, a snagger, both by technical intent and moral character.

4:  There are no secrets.  Perhaps there have been secret places, techniques, flies, lines and such.  However, these secrets have had a shelf-life of somewhere between a  hour to a week.

5:  Albacore on the fly are hotness squared.  Beautiful fish.  Beautiful ocean.  Want more.  Please.

6:  No matter how much you think you may know about how to catch Black Rockfish on flies, they are capable of teaching you how little you really know.

7:  Number 6 above is true for every fish that swims, including Pogies.

8:  We really are blessed to have strong runs of wild Chinook in virtually every river of moderate size here on the Oregon coast.

9:  I’m annoyed when asked the how big question.  Seven straight hours into a tide, having made hundreds of casts, maintaining focus and intensity while fighting wind and rain, slapping flies into the back of my head, falling down in the boat, and upping and downing the anchor a fifty or so times, I’m thrilled, absolutely thrilled to get grabbed by a 22-inch salmon.  This fish, in spite of its small size, brings vindication, reward for the hours and the obsessive dedication and pure stubbornness of this thing we call salmon fishing.

Then – how big?

If I say – a Jack – there is a moment of dismissal.  Not a thirty pounder, I can imagine the thought.  They never say it, but I can read it on their faces.  Now, after lecturing my friends, they tolerate my sensitivity and try to avoid the how big question.  They even try to avoid the how-many question.  They may measure their own day by numbers hooked, landed, size, and brightness; but they try to not box me into that corner.

Honestly, I have had long dark days saved, turned from perceived defeat to imagined victory, by small dark kings, because they graced me with a pull, the tug, the head-shake and the run.  Size and relation to spawning time aside, these fish provided a sense of vindication for all the dedication and hard work – all the time devoted to this ridiculous pursuit.

So if you see a smile on my face across the table at the coffee shop, don’t for a minute think that my glow is necessarily the result of an epic, multi-chromer day; forty pounders; or long-tailed sea lice.  A golden hued 8-pound male, might as easily generate my smile.

9.1:  The first question I ask my friends is:  how-many; then I ask how-big; then I ask what line; then I ask what fly; then I ask what retrieve speed; then I ask what tide stage.

Sorry, dear friends, I’m a mess on this topic.

10:  I’m feeling impatient, waiting for the 2013 salmon season to start.

Now if that isn’t crazy, I don’t know crazy, and believe me, I do.

JN – November 2012

Just another day in paradise, September 24 2012

Thought I’d make up some braided loops this morning.  Hah.  Seems like Boomer had other plans for the braided mono, the super glue, and the nice sharp razor blades.  Oh well, I probably have some stashed around the place somewhere anyway.

Have yourself good days, good fishing, and good times.  Think I’m ready to go fishing pretty soon.


Saving Salmon and People – In the Next Century


The following is the chapter I contributed to the Salmon 2100 Project, edited by Robert Lackey, Denise Lach, and Sally Duncan.  The book was published in 2006 by the American Fisheries Society.  I recently received a request for this chapter from an individual professionally involved in salmon and steelhead management.  I wonder if he will think me a nut-case when he reads this.  Hummmmmm.

I re-read the chapter just this morning and, overall, my views have not changed much in the last six years since this was published.  Sadly, I have not seen much progress with respect to the suggestions I made in this chapter.

Tempus fugit.  Wikipedia tells us that this phrase, written thousands of years ago by the Roman poet Virgil, conveys the idea that “time flees irtetrievably, while we wander around, prisoners of our love of detail.”

I invite you to browse the chapter that follows, and see if you agree, or disagree, and decide if there are ways you can help save people and salmon or whether you even care.

JN, June 29, 2012



Saving Salmon – and People – in the Next Century[1]

Jay W. Nicholas


The invitation to contribute a chapter to this book was deceptively simple and ever-so enticing:  describe what must be done to ensure that significant, sustainable runs of wild salmon will persist in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and southern British Columbia) and California in 2100.  Be brutally honest, be candid, be clear, and speak from the heart in describing what must be done if society really wants wild salmon to persist.

OK.  Here goes.

I believe that the effort to sustain wild salmon in the region is as dependent on swaying public opinion as on science, law, management, or restoration.

Excuse me?

I actually believe that saving salmon (as something more than a museum piece) depends on emotion more than objectivity, on the heart more than the mind.  I believe that human society can choose to sustain wild salmon in much of the Pacific Northwest and California – or could choose not to sustain them.  It’s that simple.  The cost of saving salmon is likely to be significant (see Lackey Chapter 3).  The benefit is also likely to be great.

Is sustaining wild salmon the highest priority for the region?  Not at all.  Social issues like education, health care, crime, infrastructure maintenance, clean water to drink, food to eat, and employment certainly rank higher for most people than sustaining wild salmon.  These and other issues of high social and environmental importance will receive a large and well-deserved amount of attention, money, and effort.  Still, our society will continue to possess considerable discretionary resources available for other, more personal causes.  Save the whales.  Save the seals.  Save the redwoods.  Save the tweetie birds.  Why not save the wild salmon?  Why not save the forests, the fields, the estuaries, and the rivers – the sort-of wild places – that define the Pacific Northwest and California today?  Why not save the opportunity to breathe fresh air and see salmon leaping up rivers?  Why not?

I do not believe wild salmon will be abundant and thriving in all watersheds across the region in 2100.  Humans are planet changers.  Period.  The future that lies ahead for both salmon and people will be shaped by the magnitude of the human population and the sum of choices people make as the number of people in the region grows. I believe that the futures of salmon and people are intimately connected.  Our futures will be shaped by the global economy, and by global climate.  But our futures will also be shaped by the choices people make as we live our lives as individuals and as families in our local communities.

A future with 50 to 100 million people in the Pacific Northwest seems rather ominous to me.  I imagine a future that is not very safe for people or for salmon, a world of making do with environmental leftovers.  I can still imagine joy, beauty, purpose, opportunity, and choice.  I just imagine that options for both people and salmon will be much more limited than they are today.  This future will bring great challenges dealing with the basic human business of survival:  earning a living, finding a home, taking out the trash, eating supper, going to the doctor, getting to work and home at the end of the day, raising a family, educating the kids, going to the park, having some fun on days off from work, keeping crime rates tolerable, paying the doctor bills, paying to get the roads repaired, and so on.  All of these concerns will certainly exist in our children’s future, with or without wild salmon.  The future will surely make it harder and harder to find rivers that behave like rivers once did, to find quiet alongside streams, to find salmon lying in the pools or digging their nests in gravel bars.

Wild salmon depend on watersheds and oceans where they can live their lives.  The actions required to maintain healthy watersheds and oceans are often typecast as an exorbitant luxury that would only serve the needs of a tiny segment of human society.  I disagree. I believe that functionally healthy watersheds and oceans are actually essential to sustaining the earth’s ability to produce food to eat, wood for shelter, water to drink and irrigate crops, and air to breathe.

Well now, look at that.  We need what the salmon need.

Before I get started, I need to get something off my chest.

Just what makes salmon experts the final authority on what the future will bring anyway?  Remember, after all, that salmon experts have been acting like they were in charge and everything was under control since the late 1800s.  They wrote scientific papers, officiated, and pontificated while the salmon declined.  They told us we could have all the salmon we wanted from hatcheries.  They told us how we could have maximum sustained yield.  They explained in great detail how fish ladders and other new gizmos would make dams in the Columbia fish-friendly.  Hah!  Some of the salmon experts may know a lot about fish.  But they don’t know beans about what the world of 2100 will look like.

Sure, there are population trajectories, there are energy-consumption trajectories, there are water use trajectories, and there are crime trajectories, and human disease trajectories and earthquake trajectories.  Should we ignore these?  Nope. But we should not be paralyzed by these trajectories either.  We make choices, each and every one of us, choices that determine which trajectories will actually come to life.  Get the facts and make the choices.  The future is up to you, not just the salmon experts, to determine.

Setting the Stage to Consider Sustaining Wild Salmon

I had a conversation with my five-year-old son last summer.  We were sitting in our car, in a parking lot, taking a break from grocery shopping.  It was a hot day for Western Oregon.  We sat in the car and sipped cold drinks.

Son – Dada, will there ever be no people on earth?

Me – (Surprised at the seriousness of the question) Well, I suppose so.  Yes, eventually.

Son – When?

Me – A long, long time from now.

Son – While we are still alive?

Me – No.  Long after you and I are gone.  And after your children are gone.  Millions of years from now.

Son – Why would there be no people on earth?

Me – (Not wanting to talk about nuclear winter, asteroids, or other unpleasant possibilities) – The sun will eventually burn out and the earth will be a cold ball of ice.

Son – How could people still live here?

Me – They couldn’t.  Nothing could live here when the sun burns out.

Son – What would all the people do?

Me – (Not wanting to admit that the entire human race could just perish) – Well, they could build rocket ships and travel to another planet like earth and live there.

Son – How could the new planet be just like earth?

Me – It probably wouldn’t be just like earth.  But it would have oxygen and not be too hot or cold, and have water, and plants, and critters, and have food to eat, and places for people to live and for children to play.

Son – You know, Dada, if you were playing or fishing, a million years wouldn’t seem like a very long time.  (He knows me.)

Me – Yes, time passes very fast when you’re having fun playing or fishing.

We sat there for a while in silence.  Then he started again.

Son – Dada, will there ever be no salmon on earth?

Me – I don’t know.

Son – Could there ever be no salmon on earth?

Me – I don’t know.  I suppose so.

Son – Why would there be no salmon?

Me – Well, people could catch too many, or we could change the rivers so much that the salmon could not lay their eggs and have safe places to live in the streams before they go to the ocean.

Son – And litter and make culverts that block fish too?

Me – Yes.  That would be bad for the fish too.

Son – Dada, will salmon be here as long as people live on the earth?

Me – I don’t know.

Son – Will salmon be here as long as our family is alive?

Me – Yes.  I think so.

Son – Dada, is your job to help salmon stay healthy?

Me – Yes.  Yes it is.

Son – What should people do to keep salmon alive?

Me – Well, it’s complicated.

Son – But what should people do, Dada, please tell me.

So I told him, in words I thought a five year old would understand.  I told him in words that anyone would understand.  I tried to be accurate and fair.

Me – Don’t catch too many fish.  Don’t straighten the rivers too much.  Don’t block the streams with culverts the fish can’t swim through.  Don’t build dams that the fish can’t swim over.  Don’t take too much water out of the streams.  Don’t cut down all the trees along the streams.  Be really careful with putting hatchery fish into streams.  Don’t put too much mud or bad chemicals into the streams.  Don’t  . . . . . . . . . .

Son – Dada, can we go to a park and play now?

Me – Yes.  Of course we can.

We went to a park where there were trees for shade, but the conversation and Lackey’s annoying forecasts of salmon scenarios in 2100 continued to haunt me. I began to think about what I would say to my son if I thought he could understand the complexity of the world that I see.  My son knows that I am supposed to help save salmon.  He simply expected me to do my job.  My plea – well, it’s just so complicated – was not sufficient reason to avoid answering the question.

How would I answer if God asked my opinion?  What would I tell people if I thought they would listen and consider doing what I asked?  How could I plead to save wild salmon in a world that is becoming increasingly more complex socially and economically, where development pressures are growing day by day, where it seems that everyone wants the same resources that salmon need to survive?  How could I say what I believed without being branded as too radical, too weak, misguided, compromising, unrealistic, or just plain – you know – crazy?

The answer came to me, as they say, in a dream.  A salmon spoke to me:  a wise old chinook salmon.  She spoke to me of her fears and hopes for the future. Here is what she said.

Dreaming of Salmon

You come to me and ask what must be done to save salmon across the Pacific Northwest and California.  To ensure that salmon are sustainable as wild runs across the region in 2100.  You tell me that there will be millions more people here.  You tell me that humans will continue to worship money and manufactured things above natural things, above spiritual and cultural values.  You tell me that humans will not wish to share the streams, the forests, and the waters that sustain our young.  You tell me that humans are obsessed with concerns for their own prosperity, that they will have little regard for our prosperity, for our future.

All this talk makes me very sad.  This talk fills me with fear for the future of salmon.  And it fills me with fear for the future of your children.  You describe a future world that is dark for salmon and, I think, dark for your children as well.  Humans are great and powerful, yet you are not so wise as you pretend.  You depend on the earth, the sky, and the waters to sustain you, just as salmon do.  Yet I fear humans believe they have outgrown any need for the natural world.

Very well.  You ask what must be done.  I will answer to you.

I will try to speak for all salmon, but I remind you that we are still many species, many populations, in many rivers.  I ask my brothers and sisters to forgive me if my words are clumsy or if I am simply wrong.  Do not believe that I speak for God.  I can only tell you what I have come to believe, not knowing if this is right or just.  But hear me, at least, and consider my words.

First – your actions must enlist support for our cause.

You must speak gently and firmly to win over people who have misguided ideas about the effort to sustain wild salmon.  From time to time, you will hear humans talk about efforts to sustain wild salmon.   In the course of their conversation, they will make statements that are just plain wrong, or that are not fair, or that only tell one side of the story.  Here are three examples of short sighted or unfair statements that you must confront in a constructive manner.

1.  Huge sums of money are being spent on salmon recovery. Humans have extracted uncountable riches from the land, the waters, and the creatures that populated this region.  Our homes have sustained humans and bought you great prosperity. It is unfair to complain about money that is being spent to secure a future for salmon.  Remember, neither salmon nor humans can breathe, eat, or drink money.  It is time to pay back a small fraction of what you have taken to build a future that will benefit both people and salmon.

2.  Sustaining wild salmon requires draconian restriction of private rights.  Everyday human life involves innumerable restrictions on behavior.  Obey traffic laws, pay taxes, meet school requirements, stand in line to get tickets, pay for water from the tap, pay to flush the toilet, wear clothes, don’t use offensive language, don’t pick flowers in the park, don’t litter, don’t walk on the grass, stand behind the security line, submit your luggage for screening, buy a fishing license, meet the minimum building codes, don’t locate that industrial factory in this neighborhood, don’t dump that trash in the river – and on, and on, and on.

Humans, most of them, accept a vast set of restrictions on individual behavior and enjoy the rewards of the restrictions – a safer, more orderly, more predictable society, city, neighborhood, classroom, and workplace.  Humans obey the rules and restrictions that society has established.  Is it draconian to make someone pay taxes for the military even though they personally are not threatened with invasion by a foreign country?  Is it unfair for someone to pay taxes to support elementary education even though they do not have children?  The answer to each of these questions may be yes or no depending on the individual’s perspective.  The same may be said of restrictions that may be needed to sustain wild salmon in the face of an escalating human population; some may find them inappropriate, but it is not fair to refer to these restrictions, alone, as draconian.

3.  People’s lives would be no poorer if our Pacific Northwest and California rivers could no longer sustain wild salmon.  Look at the inner cities in the densest population centers of the world.  Look at the inevitable disparities between the few, the rich, the privileged and the multitude of impoverished souls that eke out their existence in high-density populations.  Are the predicted increases in human population really coming to the Pacific Northwest?  I can’t say.  Has human society been bold enough to tackle the population bomb issue?  No.  Would there be social and economic consequences to limiting human population growth?  Surely.

Today, you have scenic vistas of rivers, lakes, forests, farms, beaches – and you have wild salmon.  You have jobs and space to live, jobs and recreation, jobs and salmon. Salmon still swim through Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.  Many people live here because there are still rivers, beaches, farms, forests, and salmon.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss the value people place on these intangibles.  Where are you going to go, where will your children go, if millions of people gobble up the clean air, rivers, forests, beaches, and salmon?  Alaska?  Northern Canada? Do you think they want you up there?  Not likely.

Tell people how their lives would be different, how their children’s lives might be different, if the region changes so much that wild salmon can’t survive here.  Paint them a picture.  Let it sink in.  Then encourage them to make choices that will be good for salmon and for people.

Celebrate salmon images in your everyday lives.  All creatures are beautiful.  Sadly, many humans have become so distant from the land and the waters that they only appreciate the beauty of artificial things – trinkets created by man.  Spread word of our beauty.  Spread word of how we salmon have lived here with humans for 10,000 years.  Spread word of how our bodies have sustained humans and otters, eagles and seals, raccoons, forests, and mayflies.  Spread word of our beauty in images – in writing, film, and stories.  Teach your children of our beauty.  Teach your leaders, voters, and business owners.  Salmon must have a strong constituency.  Without it we will perish.  With each year, human thoughts and lives are further removed from a world that can sustain salmon and people.

You must provide abundant new opportunities for humans to see wild salmon.  Today, the best place for people to see salmon is in a hatchery, at the viewing window of a dam that restricts our journey, or wrapped in plastic at one of your grocery stores.  This must change.  You must invest in constructing many viewing sites where humans can go to see us in the wild:  see us digging our nests in the gravel; see us leaping at rapids and falls; see our young in their home streams leaping at insects at twilight; see us surging upstream through the riffles on the first fall rains.  We must live in the hearts and minds of humans as they make their daily choices of how they work, how they spend their money, how they build their homes and families, and make compromises that affect the survival of wild salmon.

Why should humans choose to make any sacrifice to sustain wild salmon if they think we live only in hatcheries?  Help them understand that watersheds nourish us, and that we, in return, nourish the watersheds. Bring people to our homes.  Let them see how we live and die.  Tell them what we need to survive.  When humans know us throughout the year as part of their families, they may choose to save us.

Cease your bickering.  Many humans who are most dedicated to securing a future for wild salmon behave as isolated angry spirits, arguing over what must be done to save wild salmon.  Many of these humans are sincere but unrealistic. They engage in fights that cannot be won.  They waste energy, waste resources, and create bad feelings among humans who might be sympathetic to our cause, but who turn away from our need because of the anger and hatred they see being expressed.

Some humans say that a grave injustice has been done to the land and the waters that are the home to salmon.  Some people say that the injustice must be set right.  But salmon see that much of what has been done – is done forever.  Battling with ghosts of the past will never secure our future.  Do salmon think that it is wrong for humans to take our homes from us?  Yes.  Has it happened to other creatures, other peoples?  Yes.  Will the injustice ever be erased?  Not likely.  Cast these thoughts to the wind.  Live in the present and strive for what future can be secured for salmon and humans, together.

Speak with a single, clear voice.  Many humans already respect the needs of salmon.  All too often, these humans gather into little separate groups instead of banding together to speak with a single clear voice.  It seems that many of these groups have become more concerned with sustaining their own viewpoints, their own distinct identities, their own sense of power, than they are with securing a future for wild salmon.  These groups often do not agree with one another, so each speaks to their own agenda.  The humans who care little for our future are confused; they do not know whom – or what – to believe.

Human nature respects leadership.  Do you think that the little chattering voices of the groups trying to save salmon will be strong enough to change the present course of human development?  Do you think that many little voices will be respected when they tell different stories, make different demands, and argue among themselves?  Put your differences to rest and sing a clear, positive song of a future that is livable for salmon and people.

You must speak of salmon with your children.  Education is the greatest hope for your future, for our future.  Without each new generation of humans sympathetic to our needs, we are lost.  Teach your children how to value life, how to value the land and the waters and the creatures of the earth.  The existence of forests, marshes, beaches, and rivers can heal human souls.  These are the homes of the salmon.

Those of you who are not Native American tribal people must support the Tribes.  European humans have been in the Pacific Northwest for only a few centuries.  Native Americans have lived among the salmon for at least 10,000 years.  The Tribes have memories of living and dying with salmon that deserve great respect, memories that carry great value in planning for the future.  Both tribal and non-tribal people live here now, and each of you has powerful tools to serve the future of wild salmon.  Your united action is needed to secure our future.

Don’t trust in science or government to save salmon.  Your human science and technology, alone, will never be enough to sustain salmon in the next century.  Humans play games with science just as they play games with words.  You study us.  You study the rivers, the forests, the seals, the waters, and the dams.  What happens then?  Different humans tell different stories about these studies – stories that confuse and mislead.  But who is to say who is telling the truth and who is misleading?  These stories serve only to distract and delay effective action.

Those of you who wish to secure the future of wild salmon must put your own differences aside, decide what you believe, and temper your belief with great humility.  You already know enough to choose between actions that will secure the future of wild salmon and actions that will most jeopardize our future.  Be clear about what you think and what you say.

And never trust government to save us.  Need I explain?  Government is essential to human existence.  Government provides law and order to replace chaos and anarchy.  Government workers do their best to make decisions and take actions that are consistent with their assignments.  But government, like science, has no soul.  Government, like science, must constantly be watched, trained, counseled, re-organized, and, occasionally, challenged.

I present you, I know, with a great dilemma.  I tell you that science is important, but say don’t trust science blindly.  I tell you that government is needed, but urge you not to trust government blindly.  This is the challenge of being human, a free soul living in a democracy.  This is the great challenge of thinking and evaluating and choosing for yourself.  This is the challenge of maintaining balance between the group and the self.  Humans want simple answers to complex problems.  But what humans want is often not possible to achieve.  Sustaining wild salmon will require compromise and sacrifice in many ways, just like most aspects of your daily lives.

The solution is to swim in the sea of resources that can guide your journey to a future where wild salmon will survive with humans – science, government, common sense, emotion, love, art, money, business, passion, individual preferences, choice-making, commitment to the future of the earth and all of its creatures, commitment to our children, commitment to local communities – the list goes on and on.  Listen to scientists.  Listen to government.  Listen to community members and leaders.  Listen to your parents.  Listen to your children.  Listen to your conscience.  Listen to your heart.  Think.  Dream.  Then act.  Act positively to sustain a world that will nurture wild salmon and people.


Next, you must change some of your laws and practices.

You must prepare for the time when humans do not hunt salmon.  Hunting of salmon by humans is an ancient and honorable tradition, as ancient as our history together.  It is in our nature to bring nutrition and life from the sea to the land, to nourish all the creatures and the streams where we come home to spawn.  For the present you may continue to hunt us.  But the time may come when the land and the waters have changed so much, when we are abundant in so few places, that it will no longer be possible to celebrate the hunt.  You will need then to simply celebrate our existence and strive for our survival together.

You now have industries built around hunting salmon.  You hunt us in the ocean and in our home streams when we return to create a new generation of salmon.  The hunt has been part of the dance between humans and salmon for thousands of years.  It is in our blood.  But the world has changed.  The land and the waters are not as productive for salmon as they once were.  Much of our productive capacity is now taken from us by a changed landscape, instead of by the spear, the net, and the hook.

Many humans place great value on the hunt.  For some, the value is deeply spiritual, for some the value is economic in nature, and for some, the hunt is recreation.  All who participate find value in the hunt.  Just understand that there may come a time when your pursuit of us will be more than we can bear.  Understand that humans who depend on us for money to sustain their families may need to find new means of support.

Many humans will cry out in anguish at the thought of ending the tradition of the hunt.  Perhaps that time will never come.  Salmon also hope that the time never comes, for if it does, it will mean that our survival is at great risk, that our number has grown very small.  We shall see.  We cannot force you to abandon the hunt.  You must listen to the voices within your own heads, the voices of reason, of conscience, of needs and wants.

Reduce your reliance on hatcheries to support fishing a little, and never count on hatcheries to sustain wild salmon.  You delude yourselves about what hatcheries can and cannot do.  Hatcheries have been dangerous toys.  Some hatcheries have done little for salmon or humans.  Others have created a few fish for you to hunt – always at great cost.  Hatcheries have allowed you to pretend that the land and the waters were healthy.

Today in the Pacific Northwest and California, salmon can survive in hatcheries and in many of our home streams.  But if the day dawns when salmon can only survive in hatcheries, we – salmon and humans – are lost.  That dark day would prove that humans have not respected the earth that we both depend on.  That day would reveal the squandering of your children’s heritage.

Should you close all your salmon hatcheries?  No.  Many should be maintained, a few should be closed, and a few new hatcheries should be built to replace hopelessly out-dated or poorly placed ones.  But all hatcheries should be operated with a clear understanding of what they can and cannot do to sustain wild salmon in streams. Many should be operated at a smaller scale, and with different brood stocks.  Each hatchery should be managed in concert with a local council of citizens who are committed to sustaining wild salmon in their watersheds.  All hatchery fish should be marked so that all can know their true abundance.  Some hatcheries may be operated to keep salmon from disappearing from watersheds above dams.  Some hatcheries may be operated simply to provide salmon for hunting.  But the business of all hatcheries should be guided by concerns for sustaining wild salmon.

Your laws to protect endangered species (ESA, SARA) must evolve, as salmon have, to be more effective in the future.  This suggestion will chafe many humans who have already committed to sustaining wild salmon. Endangered species laws were intended to protect us, yet I believe that, as written, these laws may soon be our undoing.

The endangered species laws and the threat of listing have caused humans to devote new resources to monitoring, to restoration, and to education.  Many of these changes are good and have helped salmon – and we are grateful for the work that has been done so far. Still, to this day, humans squabble over whether the future of salmon is in doubt and whether endangered species laws should protect them, or not.

But I now fear that these laws serve more to divide and distract people than to protect salmon.  Too many humans are engaged in a fight over which salmon species should and should not be protected under law – rather than engaging in work that will benefit both humans and salmon in the next century.  The laws are admirable – presuming that all species are valuable and that accommodations will be made to preserve each and every one of them from extinction.  But the world is changing at a frightening pace.  The resources are not available to do what must be done for all.

How could laws meant to protect us cause us harm?  If people believe that a law will act for them by forcing the changes necessary to secure our survival – will they not go about their business thinking that their work is done?  Will they not go back to their jobs, their families, and their worries, thinking that salmon are safe because of the Endangered Species Act and the Species At Risk Act – safe without their needing to do anything more?

Many sincere humans believe that laws are powerful enough to save us. To these people I say – look to the sun, the wind, and the waters; look to the molten rock inside the earth; look to the passing of 10,000 years; look at how humans have changed the face of the region in the last two centuries.  These things are truly powerful; your endangered species laws are not.  It is presumptuous to believe that a law will prevent the salmon’s extinction in the Pacific Northwest and California.

The sad truth is that many species may indeed become extinct or shrink to a tiny number. How can this not be true, I ask you?   How can this not be true given the number of humans that are spreading across the land and their appetite for the same resources that sustain us?  You humans cannot educate all of your own children or protect them from harm.  How will you possibly protect all of the creatures and plants in the natural world?

So I tell you that your endangered species laws need now to grow so that they encourage rather than threaten, allow for compromise, and reward those humans who help us. Watch closely. Laws alone will not save wild salmon.  People who care about wild salmon are the only ones who may be able to sustain us.  People who build support for preserving healthy watersheds will sustain us.  People who dream of leaping salmon will sustain us.  People who are willing to give up something to nurture the earth for their own children will sustain us.  And in sustaining us, they will preserve much of what people love about western North America:  the forests, the productivity of the land, the rivers, the lakes, the estuaries, the soil, the water – our homes – for wild salmon and for people.

Be prepared to sacrifice some salmon populations to save others.   It is painful to say this, but I believe many salmon populations will perish in the next century. Changes already come to pass and changes on the horizon are so great that some salmon populations surely will be sacrificed to meet human needs.

Struggle to save the salmon as if you were trying to save your own children – in reality you are.  Grieve with us for the salmon tribes that will die.  Grieve with us for generations that will not survive.  But do not batter yourself against waterfalls that cannot be leapt by even the strongest.  Resolve to focus your efforts where they may be most effective.  You cannot save all of us. Save some of us.

If I could wish away the hordes of humans who are intent on paving the land and gobbling up our waters, I would.  The salmon were here for thousands of years sharing the land and the waters with Native Americans.  Everything has changed in the last two centuries.  Everything.  We are no longer free to live where we have for 10,000 years.  The world can never be changed back to the way it was. More change will come.

Humans behave as if they will always rule the land and the water, as if their needs will always be met with their science and their technology.  Perhaps they are right, perhaps not.  There may come a time when humans will be greatly humbled.  There may come a time when humans will find it necessary to live in a different sort of balance with the land and the waters and the creatures of the earth.

The coastal rivers of all your so-called states and provinces, from California to Alaska, are likely to be our last stronghold on this continent.  Many of the coastal rivers on this continent are smaller streams in more remote areas.  Many of these streams are not so close to large centers of human population.  Most of these do not have dams that block our migration.  These qualities are their saving grace.  These qualities give us the greatest hope that we will be able to survive in the next century. The true stronghold of salmon in the next century, though, may be in Kamchatka, Russia, far from here.

Be prepared to lose wild salmon in rivers above many dams.  Continued pressure by humans to change the face of the land and the waters that sustain salmon, and reluctance to restrain humans from hunting us, may make it impossible to survive above large dams that kill us as we try to migrate to and from the ocean.  If we could have our way, we would breach these dams.  They are an insult to salmon.  But we see that human society has become accustomed to many things that dams have brought and, indeed, accustomed to the idea that you cannot prosper without all the dams.

Salmon have lived more than 10,000 seasons here in the region.  We have seen great floods, great fires, great volcanic eruptions, and drought.  The dams will live out their lifetime, eventually.  Humans may rebuild them, or they may not.  We hope desperately that wild salmon and people will both outlive the dams.

I will speak to you of three great rivers that salmon sing of.  You know them – the Columbia, the Sacramento, and the Fraser.  Of these three, we have the most hope for our survival in the Fraser.  The largest rivers were once home to the greatest abundance and diversity of salmon.  But most of the great rivers are now a terrible sadness to salmon.  Great rivers are centers of commerce and wealth to humans, but most of the great rivers have become cruel places for salmon to live.  Many of the salmon populations that once thrived in these great rivers are already gone, forever.  We ask you to do what you can to let us persist in these great rivers, to do what you can to allow us to reclaim part of our homeland.

Be prepared to let some of our populations slip into the past so that you may save others in the future.  The loss of living creatures is not to be accepted without serious consideration.  But such sacrifice is what we salmon have come to know in our lives.  We bury millions of our eggs in the streambed knowing that most will perish before returning to begin our cycle again.  We ascend the rivers and leap at the falls by the thousands, knowing that many will not reach our homes.  This is our way.  As the human race becomes more abundant and takes more of our resources, we will need to retreat.  Salmon will need to get by with less land, less water, fewer home streams.  It is up to humans to determine how little we will be left with, how many or how few of our populations will survive.

You must steel yourselves to create a new balance between salmon and creatures that prey on us.  It is offensive to speak of this need among humans who cherish wild salmon and who strive to secure our future.  Many humans care deeply for all living creatures and wish to see a return to the natural balance among salmon, seals, bears, otters, cormorants, and others.  We have lived in harmony with predators for thousands of years when there were only Native Americans in the region.  But the world has changed at the hand of your industry.  The land and the waters are not as productive for salmon as they once were, yet humans still hunt us.  In favorable ocean years when our numbers are not so scarce, there are a sufficient number of us to feed the seals and all the other creatures.  I fear that there may come a time when salmon will need humans to hunt some of the wild creatures that hunt us.

Understand that I do not ask this lightly.  And do not think that we mean disrespect to any of the creatures that hunt us.  Each creature must strive to eat and survive, just as humans do.  The seal, the otter, the merganser – each is simply trying to survive as it has in the past.  It is the natural way of all wild creatures.

But the world today is a different place than the world where salmon lived for more than ten thousand years.  We are striving to adapt to this new world and simply ask that humans be prepared to hunt some of the creatures that also hunt us – if it seems necessary to sustain our populations.

You must consolidate public and private land ownerships and limit human development in certain watersheds.  The region is broken into patches of land owned and managed by citizens, state agencies, local governments, the federal government, and Tribes.  This pattern of land ownership makes no sense in our world, and cannot support a sustainable future for wild salmon. You must create a new model of land stewardship that will serve salmon and people better than the existing pattern has. Salmon need watersheds large enough to support our life cycle at critical times of the year.  Your disorganized pattern of land ownership must be replaced with one that will better serve the needs of salmon and people.

Imagine land stewardship where many people work together, respecting watersheds that sustain wild salmon and people.  Imagine a future where management of many public and private lands in whole watersheds is negotiated to support salmon, forestry, agriculture, and recreation.  The future I ask you to imagine will require large-scale land trades and stewardship agreements.  These changes will be complex and contentious, but must occur if wild salmon are to be sustained in the next century.  Decisions will need to be made about where wild salmon will be allowed to thrive.  You will need a plan, a map, and a schedule. You will need to make up your minds and convince politicians to approve the plan.  This process will cause uproar, but it must be done.

Finally, you must undo some of the changes you have made to the land and the waters over the last two centuries.  You humans have worked hard to change the shape of the land in ways you thought would accommodate your communities.  You dammed and straightened our rivers.  You cleared our rivers and estuaries of the trees that sheltered our young in winter.  You drained and filled wetlands for your farms and cities and roads.  You have changed the world to suit your needs, without thinking of us.

You must learn to understand how your actions in changing the earth, in the long run, are not healthy for people or for salmon.  Your disregard for the needs of the earth’s creatures will create a world that will not be able to sustain your children.  Humans will likely go on changing the land and the water.  But you could choose to make concessions and restore a little of the world that we both depend on.

Some of your dams should be removed.  Many of the culverts under roads should be improved to give salmon free access to our homes.  You should use water from our streams more wisely and protect us by screening more irrigation diversions.  You should replant trees along many streams.  You should breech many diked areas in estuaries and allow the ocean and the rivers to reclaim the marshes.  All these things may be done in moderation.  We do not ask humans to breach every dike and open every culvert to our migration.  We do not expect every stream to run clear and cold in summer.  We will be grateful for every part of the natural world you choose to protect, every piece that you restore.  Salmon will be grateful and so will your children.

I must go now.

I know you feel disappointed somehow. Perhaps you expected me to reveal secrets that you could have used, secrets to help you save us.  I cannot.  There are no secrets that can save us.  I doubt even that much of what I have said here has come as a surprise. 

If you could only understand one thing it would be this:  Your behavior towards people, the way you conduct your affairs of human relationships, is as important to saving salmon as any trick of your science, technology, or management.  This is the only truth that seems secret to humans:  that the spirits and the futures of salmon and people are more closely linked than you think.

So consider this one idea.  Consider that it might not be nearly as difficult to save wild salmon as some people make it out to be.  Consider the possibility that a true commitment to a healthy world for your children, and a respect for your parents and neighbors, might just create a future where both salmon and people can thrive together.

Please understand that salmon cannot choose.  We can only struggle to survive every minute of our lives.  We journey thousands of miles in danger, in darkness, in drought, and in storm, because we must.

Humans struggle to survive just as we do, but humans can do so much more than salmon.  Humans can love.  Humans can wonder about the future.  Humans can believe in things they cannot see, or taste, or touch – in possibilities.  Humans can choose actions that will make the earth a better place.  This is what you must do.  This is what you will do, because you are human.


So there you have it – one more view of what must be done to save wild salmon.  One more little chattering voice.  Emotional.  Straight from the heart, with a little cerebral tempering.  Not all that scientific.  People need what salmon need, so saving wild salmon really isn’t a luxury after all.  And you know what?  It is achievable.  We can do it if we choose to. We can save salmon and we can save ourselves – if we choose to.  Really.  So have faith and get out there.  Build a future that is bright for salmon and people.

My older son doesn’t ask about the future of salmon.  He is busy making his way in the world, building his life and his family, getting by from day to day, like most of us these days.  My young son continues to ask me, now and then, if the salmon are going to be OK.  Will salmon be in the rivers when he has children?  I say – yes, son.  Am I telling the truth?  I think so.  He hasn’t yet asked about salmon in the lives of his children’s children, or theirs.  He’s only six now.  The answer to his unspoken question depends on all of us.

[1] The opinions and views presented here are the author’s own and do not represent views of current or past employers.