Bolgosphere Questions & Answers from the Netherworld May 2010 Part 1

Bolgosphere Questions & Answers from the Netherworld May 2010 Part 1

It is interesting, funny sometimes, to see the Google searches that bring people to my website.  Thought I’d try to answer the questions some of these folks seem to be asking.  This is part one of five. Have fun, and keep the questions coming.

Q: Bad hatchery fish

A:  I ain’t ever heard of a bad fish, only people who miss-use fish.  It’s sorta like guns – guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Hatchery fish don’t hurt rivers, people hurt rivers.  Hatchery fish don’t force people to over-harvest wild salmon runs; people use hatchery fish as an excuse to over-harvest wild runs.  Hatchery fish can hurt wild fish, but it isn’t the fault of the hatchery fish, it is the fault of poorly conceived hatchery fish programs implemented by people.  Point is, fish are not bad or good, they are simply fish.  Even an exotic, invasive fish species is not to blame for its presence in a place where it may do some harm.  Fish are just trying to survive, be they wild or hatchery fish.  If there is room for improvement, to make a step on the path from relatively “bad” to relatively “less bad” it is in the hearts of people to take these steps.  Let’s try not to blame fish for human frailty.

Q:  Bad fish

A:  This is a fish or many such fish that has or have been left unattended in the back of a pickup, in a gunny sack under the boat seat, in the refrigerator, or even in the freezer about one nanosecond longer that good sense would have indicated.  This is indeed “bad” fish, because it will taste really FISHY, like plywood, like the barf-pile your cat hucked-up this morning, or worse.  Please, people, do not become one of those responsible for the creation and waste of “bad” fish.

Q: Bad fish

A:  Farmed salmon or steelhead are indeed bad fish.  Can you spell boycott?

Q:  Best places to catch shiner perch in san Francisco

A:  Dunno about the best places these days.  Just know that I caught shiner perch by the bucket-full near the Presidio in the late 1950s.  Visited the same places recently.  No one was fishing.  No one.  No kids.  No old guys.  Maybe it was a bad tide.  Hope so.

Q:  Big steelhead flies

A:  See also big-ass-steelhead flies. Sometimes bigger is better.  Size matters.  Sometimes, the big fly will trigger the savage take where a small fly would not.  Sometimes, though, the big fly will trigger only interest, a move, a look, or even a swipe, but will not be eaten by the salmon or steelhead.  In these cases, the smallish fly might be neatly inhaled by the very same fish that would not eat the biggie.  Go figure.  Names given to steelhead flies do not necessarily denote size of said fly.  for example, the Polar Shrimp is usually tied in sizes larger than 7/o.

Q:  Burkheimer steelhead rod

A:  Buy these right now.  Sell everything you have to do the deal.  Mortgage your home.  You can live out of the back of your truck. your family, who will surely disown you, will go live with relatives and friends who love them more than fly rods.  Kerry Burkheimer’s fly rods are marvelous works of art that do, in fact, fish like they sprang up from the river.  There are many, many good rods on the market these days.  Burkeimer fly rods are the best.  Note that I make this assertion knowing in my heart that I am an opinionated, non-techno-weenie-rod-spec-wizzard.  I do know that these fly rods are steeped in one man’s personal creativity and attention to detail.  Kerry Burkheimer’s fly rods are born to be loved, not simply fished.  Kerry has fiddled and labored over his designs.  He might have come into the shop and wrapped a different 3rd section to adjust the grain window of a rod for a customer in Norway, or Gold Beach, for that matter. He builds fly rods that are little tiny sweet 3 wts. for small stream trout – up to at least an 18’3″ spey rod destined for Norwegian monster Atlantic Salmon.  BTW, I saw Whitney’s rod at Kerry’s shop recently.  Very nice pink accents on the Handle.   I fish Burkheimer fly rods, including the 7134-4 in the photo above.  Burkheimer fly rods inspire me to be a better caster and a better fly fisher.  A better man?  No.  Silly head. Nothing we can buy can ever make us  better men or women.  For all the pleasure I feel when I fish one of Kerry’s creations, I know, at the end of the day, it is entirely up to me to have lived well, and that I could live as well with a 99.99 complete fishing outfit and a can of worms as with my Burkie.  That said, I will still fish my Burkheimer fly rods with great joy as long as I am fortunate enough not to have to burn them in the fireplace to roast mice for dinner to feed my family.

Q:  Can fish hatcheries be bad?

A:  Bad for wild fish? Yes they can.  So much depends on the interconnections of the hatcheries, the hatchery fish, the river ecology, and the fish management policies related to thinking that humans are smarter than Mother Nature.  Let’s turn this around; can fish hatcheries be good for wild fish?  Difficult.  Probably,  but only in specific situations.  Like in rivers where salmon and steelhead were virtually extinguished by human activities like dams, water withdrawals, habitat destruction, over fishing, or whatever.  When there is no salmon run left in the river, a hatchery program may be the only way, in our lifetime, to get these fish back into the water.  Can fish hatcheries be good for fishing?  Absolutely yes. In some cases, hatchery fish are the only salmon, steelhead or trout available to fish for.  This is especially the case where fish runs have been destroyed by dams, pollution, water withdrawals, and so on.  Rather than depend only on this short answer to a Google enquiry, kindly understand that the issue of fish hatcheries is complicated.  Except for fish farms. I am quite opinionated on this subject.  I have read a lot.  I am very much, completely, totally opposed to fish farms in the estuaries and oceans.  I am talking about salmon here.  Don’t know about tuna or whatever.  Salmon farms are a terrible insult to the environment and to the wild fish in nearby rivers, and to the consumer.  These things represent, I think, the worst of confined feeding food production.  I have friends who get sick when they accidentally eat farmed salmon.  Wild salmon have survived more or less, with all sorts of fish hatcheries around the Pacific Northwest for over a century.  These hatchery programs have been irrelevant, detrimental, or rarely, beneficial to wild salmon.  Fish farms, in contrast, embody the most foul and dangerous threat to wild salmon and steelhead in this part of the world.  Boycott farmed salmon, please.


Are Salmon Fishers Obsessed with Fly Lines?

Are Salmon Fishers Obsessed over Fly Lines?



We are obsessed with all things related to fly fishing and especially all things having any relation to salmon fly fishing.  Fly lines are a perfect object of our obsession.

Here, for example, are a few of my various fly lines, freshly dyed.  Not that they weren’t perfectly functional straight from the package.  No – they were  just fine.  Caught fish on all of ‘em, too.

But what if – what if a different color might be less noticeable to cruising  salmon?  What if?

So here we go. Not my first dye job.  Many times over – done this – and will again.

Secret formulas and dye times.

Know what? It makes it nearly impossible to know which line I am fishing, so it adds to the fun too.

Don’t care if I’m a loon.

Just am.

A salmon loon.


PS:  no, we will not be discussing sink rates.  Not today anyway.  Ha ha.

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary: Anchor . . .

Fly Fishing Glossary, continued . . . .

Anchor (noun)

Device, usually composed of toxic lead, purportedly intended to hold a boat in place selected by the boatman.  Anchors commonly used with drift boats may be a variety of shapes including round cannonballs, triangular pyramids, complex astronomical representations, and likenesses of primitive deities.

Practical experience has proved that anchors do not, generally, hold a drift boat in place in areas where being held in place is desirable.  On the contrary, these drift boat anchors only hold said boat in place in areas where being held in place is most highly undesirable, for example, in the middle of a Class IV rapids.  See also anchor release.

Drift boat anchors come in two sizes:  too-light and too-heavy.  These weight classifications refer only to the likelihood of causing spinal injury when attempting to retrieve anchor via an anchor release.  If given the opportunity, a smart angler chooses the too-light anchor. This is because all anchors, whether too-light or too-heavy, perform in a functionally identical manner in the river;  so save yourself a smushed disc or a blob of your guts popping out through your belly button hole – go with the little anchor every time.

Alternate. (noun)

The anchor is a term that refers to a section of Spey line, a Spey line tip, a Spey leader, or even a little tiny fly that is stuck in the water and provides what is referred to as an anchor that is purportedly essential as a platform from which to launch a Spey cast.  Lifting said anchor up from the water’s surface before the Spey cast has been launched (see also chuck) is referred to as a case of premature anchor releasification.  One may recognize that said anchor has been lifted, broken, or prematurely released by detection of a sound much like the crack Zorro’s whip.  While we all loved to hear ol’ Zorro crack the whip, we cringe when our broken anchor makes this sound.  Such premature release of one’s anchor is not a good thing.


Fly Fishing Glossary, the Saga Continues . . .

Jay Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary.

This is a peek into the dark and dusty corners of fly fisher’s heads.  This has nothing, repeat, nothing to do with the inner workings of my own considerably tidy and conventional thinking.  No.  These are crazy ramblings, pure incontrovertible evidence that my friends, the people I hang with, are – well – over the top.  Like Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys.

He had it right (Brad). Everything, and I do mean everything, is designed by powerful economic interests to entice us into buying stuff.  Stuff on top of stuff.  New stuff to replace our perfectly old stuff.  Like our Pflueger Medalist fly reels of the good ‘ol days.

Then too, our lives are ruled by a committee of powerful heartless trolls.  These individuals, I am sure, manipulate our every move.  They send us on missions to purportedly accomplish something important.  Like collect spiders and cockroaches.  They put us in harm’s way.  All for their own purposes.  They hear all, see all, call all the shots.  The committee’s mission is to ensure our obedience, to make sure that each of us follows orders.  We spend our life struggling against their imperative.

Pardon for just two minutes. There, just tore out my front teeth so they will not be able to monitor my next few statements.  Ha ha.

God.  I just had a scary thought.

Rivers without salmon.

Shudder.  More on that topic when I remember.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Am I a paranoid delusional schizophrenic?  No, my diagnosis is different, I think.  Meds, must take meds now.  Ahhhh.  Feeling much better.

The fly Fisher’s Glossary. I started to ramble on the Oregonflyfishingblog and you can catch up on previous glossary entries at:

Here, continuing after Elmer Fudd, is the continuation of Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary, for the hours when you are bored out of your skull reading about hatchery fish and wild fish and conservation and global climate change, and how we need more research to figure out how to save salmon (duh), and how BP will pay for all legitimate claims, as if such a thing was possible – – – –

BTW: I will start with a few entries that were not included on the Caddis Fly blog at on the first go-‘round.


Air Cell Supreme (noun)

Fly line manufactured by Scientific Anglers.

Back in about 1962 or 63, I tied parachute flies for Norm Thompson’s at their Southwest Portland retail store.  I charged them 35-cents per fly and they were tut-tutting at me because that was more than they paid for any other fly they sold at the time.  I don’t remember how many dozen flies I tied, but I used every penny to purchase a Pflueger 1494 reel, a Phillipson six-foot, five weight glass rod, fifty yards of backing, a full box of a dozen (dark green) Gladding tapered 6X leaders, and a SA Ivory Air Cell Supreme fly line.  I was in heaven.

I went fishing on the Metolius and caught a mess of trout.  Norm Thompson’s sold all the Parachutes in about fourteen seconds.  Peter asked me to tie them up four-hundred dozen Parachutes so they could sell them through a catalog.  I laughed and went back up to the Metolius to catch another mess of trout.  In retrospect, sadly, I am pretty sure that many of these were hatchery trout, but who knows.

I remember those trout gliding up out of the deep blue, opening their mouths, and wondering what the heck was going on when I jerked my high-floating Parachute out of their open mouths before they could chomp it.

Positively, all fly lines sold today are re-dyed Air Cell Supreme lines.  I learned from diligent Internet research that SA manufactured approximately seventeen thousand trillion of these lines back in the 60s, and had them secreted around the globe in secure warehouses for future use.  These fly lines cost about .000003 cents per each to manufacture, so even with instlflaltionary computations intact, these would represent about .05 cents per each in today’s pretend stock market imaginary currency or about .0000056 Euros per each fly line.

My Internet research also revealed that Cortland, Rio, AirFlo, Teeny, Wulff, Loop, and all the other arcane fly line marketers do not have any manufacturing capability whatsoever.  These shadow companies have simply bought up the original supply of SA Air Cell Supreme fly lines, are dying these different colors, and selling them as new and improved technology.

Bah. Nonsense.  They did figure out, however, to melt four DT5F lines together to make a Skagit compact head.  In fact, they cut these four lines in half before fusing them and therefore obtain two Skagit Compact heads from the 4 SA DT5F fly lines.

Then too, these slick hide-the-pea artists soak old SA lines in mercury to make them sink.  Toxic they are.  But we flock to buy them.  Ahhh, we never learn do we.  Hot orange, lime green, aqua blue, pale pink, and bright yellow fly lines are all simply dye jobs over the original SA Air Cell Supremes.

Clever. Pure genius.  What a money-maker.

All of the fly lines pictured above are re-dyed or re-molded SA Air Cell Supreme fly lines manufactured in about the mid-1960s.

Us unsuspecting and dull witted fly fisher consumers drool at each year’s fly line catalog, setting aside our food and house payment money so we can increase our chances of catching an actual salmon, steelhead, or heaven forbid, trout.  Then we buy the new lines, not understanding that they are really the old lines we tossed in the dumpster.


Regarding The True Value of Hatchery Salmon – – –

What is a hatchery spring Chinook worth?

Hatchery salmon are expensive to produce. That’s just the way it is.  But they are worth a lot of money too.  Money flowing into the economy of local and international communities.

How so?

I got lucky recently and, after much effort, caught an actual spring Chinook,.  Dozing off to sleep that evening, I got to thinking about what that fish was worth, and it was an interesting train of thought.

One hatchery spring Chinook. A good strong grab.  Twice into the backing.  Heavy head shakes.  Much adrenaline.  Much muttering of phrases like:

I am so happy.

This is sooooo much fun.

This one fish has made my season.

It’s ok if this fish gets away.

I am so lucky to be alive and to just be here today and have this salmon tugging on my line.

Oh-my-gosh, this fish is sooooo chrome.

I see the fly in the corner if his mouth, so all I have to do is not pull too hard.

And so on.

Just how much was this one fish worth? How much, really?

I tallied up the stuff that I pretty much have to have anytime I go salmon fishing.  Just salmon fishing.  Not to the movies or to the golf course.  Salmon fishing.

Here is what it looks like:  1 Toyota  4-runner – 1 Koffler Pram – 6 dedicated salmon fishing poles – 8 dedicated salmon reels – 6 dedicated spare spools for fly reels – 48 specialty fly lines dedicated to salmon fishing – 36 spools of leader tippet – 1,246 dedicated salmon flies – 27 dedicated fly boxes for salmon flies – 347 hot orange and chartreuse dyed saddles patches from Hareline Dubbin in Monroe, Oregon – 39 fly tying vises, 46 pr,. Scissors, 144 bobbins, and assorted fly tying tools – 2 castable fish finders – 2 electric outboard motors – 3 deep cycle batteries – 2 pr. trifocal Polaroid prescription sunglasses – 4 Simms gear bags dedicated to salmon – 2 pr. Simms waders – 2 pr. Simms boots – 2 neoprene wader belts – 2 wading staffs – 2 Fishpond Pliers – 2 Simms Gore Tex raincoats – Simms stirrup pants (hot) – Simms layering gear and Canvass Camp hat – 5 cameras – 5 spare camera batteries – 3 lead boat anchors – 4 anchor ropes – 2 fly line winders – 2 fly line scales – 1 pr. Muck boots – 3 Simms and Fishpond bags to carry clothes in – 3 Simms bags to carry tackle in boat – 1 Sotar air mattress – 1 sleeping bag – 12 boxes of zip-lok freezer baggies – 1 lip balm – 1 sunscreen (never used, left at home) – 17 hook hones – 14 nippers – 9 nipper retractors – 1 hand lotion – 2 boxes band-aids – 26 nail clippers – Fishing license& Salmon/steelhead tag – 1 fillet knife – 1 Leatherman Multi tool – 1 pocket knife –

And there are the daily expenses too. Motels in Tillamook.  Meals.  Guide fees.  Gas.  New windshield wiper blades.  Shuttles.  Boat ramp fees.  Buckets of money at the car wash.  Extra leader spools.  Anchors and anchor lines replaced at Tillamook Sporting Goods.  347 bottles of assorted bait scent to soak my flies on overnight.  12 boxes of blue latex gloves to wear while handling flies soaked in garlic-shrimp-worm-anchovy-anise-dead cow smelly jelly.  Burgers.  Fries.  Muffins.  Chinese take-out.  Biscuits and gravy (just kidding honey).  Burritos from the trailer.  Coffee at kiosks from one end of town to the other.  Tires fixed and replaced at Les Schwab.  Towing fees (out of gas or stuck in the mud at the boat ramp).  Postcards to the family.

Point is – this one fish, the result of dozens of days on the water, was worth a lot of cash to stimulate the local, state, USA, and international economies.  If it were not for me, and nut-cases like me, the global economic crisis would have  — well – the world as we know it could well have ended in a critical melt down.

Thanks to dedicated and passionate anglers like me, though, the cash continued to flow, the credit card companies are thriving, payday loan sharks are shoveling dough into their off-shore accounts, and all is well.

I did a few calculations too. Two hundred-forty-seven thousand dollars invested to catch one hatchery spring Chinook of about 50 pounds.

I exaggerate, if only a little. Deal with it.

Thus, one can calculate that my one hatchery spring Chinook is worth $247,000 in direct investments to the global economy, generating a multiplier of 12.4x; in other words, my efforts to catch this one fish was worth $3,062,800 to the world economy.

Another way to look at it is that this fish (my fifty pounder) was worth about sixty thousand bucks per pound, in the round.

So, keep this in mind, please, when people tell you that hatchery fish are expensive.

They’re worth a lot too.


PS:  Wild fish are valuable beyond price.  Dude, I’m just trying to have a little fun.

Sandy Spey Clave, 2010

Sandy Spey Clave, 2010.

Mark Bachmann knows how to put on a “classy” event.  Big names.  Tackle galore.  Rods and lines to match and cast.  Reels to heft.  Stickers to collect.  Waders, boots, and coats and bags to fiddle with.  Great instructors.  Good food.  New friends to meet, old friends to catch up with again.  Nuthin’ but fun.

Mark mused that people just might look back on this era as one of the best-of-times for fly fishing.  We have a huge variety of high quality tackle available to us at a price that makes it all accessible to the everyday angler.  Our rivers are healing.  We have fish in our rivers, most of them anyway, and we still have considerable access to quality public waters.  Mark spoke with optimism, respect for our craft, appreciation for the clan of anglers, and hope for the future.  He noted that every day on the river brings new challenges and opportunity to learn.  Indeed.

Mark concluded the Tenth Sandy Spey Clave, thanking us for coming – “love all of ‘ya.”  Thanks Mark, Patty, Josh, Marcy, and probably fifty people who pulled this event together.


PS:  Jackson, thanks for hanging out with me for three days.  Lego Store.  Iron Man 2 with your big brother David.  Robin Hood late Sunday evening.  Pizza.  Cookies.  Chips.  Pop.  Up late.  Up early for coffee.  Stone art.  Lots of fishing blah blah blah.  I love you.


Got Ross?


Jackson explains the fine points of rock art to a friend.

How’d that?

Taught him everything he knows.

Plotting to overthrow the gumment, most likely.

Jackson:  no more stickers, please.

Can it be wrong to love a fly rod?

Just a tad over my skill level.  Just a tad.

Gun-slingers.  Quick draw artists.  Critical mass.  Nuclear zowiness.

Trusted assistant and booth-organizer-young-son.


Show me again, mama.

Then there were only two on the beach.

Salmon Fisher’s Journal, May 8, 2010

Jay’s Salmon Fisher’s Journal.

May 8, 2010 –

Too much time at the computer. Conference calls.  Meetings.  Endless repetition of the obvious.  Time to go fishing, yes?

I head for the coast. It is early in the season, but time to get on the water.  One guide caught 6 spring Chinook on the South Santiam two days ago – but he won’t go back – Not worth the drive for six lousy fish.  He’s going to the Willamette (shush) where one can catch 10 – 14 fish  by 10 AM.

So where am I going? Not the Santiam.  Not for 6 lousy fish.  Not to the Willamette.  Nope,  I’m going to the coast.  Smart, that’s what I am.  Cagey.  Sneaky Pete, one friend calls me.  I head for the place where no one else fishes springers, because they don’t live there.

At the boat ramp early.

Fish and fish.

Dear Simms Product Development Engineers:  I love my Headwaters Sling Pack.  Really do.  That said, I respectfully suggest that you consider offering an entry-level tackle container, pictured above.  This is simple yet functional.  Put gear in the top, and remove when needed.   This tackle container stands ready on the boat seat for instant access.  All you would need to do is slap a Simms sticker on the side and this gem is ready to stock at every fly shop in the world.  You wouldn’t even need to manufacture these.  Just go to any recycling center in Oregon and retrieve all shapes and sizes of these handy containers.  You could offer said containers with lids for winter use and without lids for summer use.  Bet there would be a tidy profit margin in this product.  You’re welcome.

Also, while we are talking about your fine sling pack, I have another suggestion.  It has come to my attention that this pack is just a little less than satisfactory as a platform for Safeway take-out Chinese entrée specials.  True, the pack worked just fine to provide access to my lunch tray when placed on a level surface.  However, I found that the tray kept slipping off when I tried to actually wear the sling pack and keep my lunch handy atop the pack, thusly facilitating eating while casting and swinging my fly through the fishless waters.

Perhaps the addition of geometrically dispersed suction cups atop the sling pack might solve this problem and enhance the functionality of the product greatly.  I was able to easily access leaders, ear-hair trimmer, and rotenone from the two front pockets while eating and casting, but the tray was constantly threatening to slip off the top of the pack, and this slowed me down just a tad.

An elastic drink holder on the side of the pack would also be nice.  I suggest design to accommodate the medium drink, not the 64 oz cup.

Happy to offer constructive suggestions. In the meantime, I remain a loyal customer, hoping to help in some small way, as you steadfastly work to develop even cuttinger edgier products as each day dawns.

I fished and fished, in the location pictured above, as I aforely mentioned.  This is the location where a spring Chinook was reportedly caught seventeen years ago. Local anglers troll by and smile.  We get checked for life jackets and fishing licenses.  I can hear them over the hum of outboards.  Poor fellow, they lament.  Can’t even afford a real boat, or some decent bait.

My friend and I tell stories. Fish tales.  Springers will be on the grab any minute now.  Great swinging water.  Lots of baby salmon in the water this year. Cormorants chasing smolts.  hope for three good run years, like the late 80s and early 2000s, just one more time in our lifetime.

And our women. They surely must love us, although we wonder why.  They tolerate us, most of the time.  Not all the time, though.  We lower our heads; conversation screeches to  halt.  We gaze at the water in silence.  Not all the time, we say, again.

We shake our heads and cast again.

Me?  No grabs. While delirious gazing into sun with a 35 knot wind howling in from the ocean, I thought I saw a springer roll.  Probably not.


Oh yeah, almost forgot – – – – –

A full century of practical experience, supported by a growing body of carefully phrased “new” or “emerging” science is speaking to us.

Steadfastly, we fail to listen.

Hatcheries – alone – cannot sustain humankind’s relationship with salmon, and hatchery salmon are poor substitutes for wild rivers and wild salmon.

Hatcheries – contrary to social expectations, legislative mandates, stakeholder demands, agency goals, scientific research, and adaptive management – have not made the world “right.”

And hatcheries, bless them all, can only accomplish a little of what humans and salmon deserve.

We – every nation that shares a salmon heritage, and every human soul who loves salmon – need to change the game.  We need to move wild salmon – and the interests of wild salmon – to the head of the line.  First in our heart, first in our intellect, and first in our management decisions.

Before I draw the tough roadmap, I want to share a thought.

We should agree that our commitment to honor mitigation promises with hatchery salmon is legitimate and will continue – coupled with efforts to restore natural salmon runs in places where such hope is viable.

One example. A dam was constructed on the Middle fork of the Willamette.  This dam exterminated a run of wild spring Chinook that spawned above the dam for thousands of years.  Society owes salmon to the Middle Fork, even if they will always be hatchery salmon, even if they are very expensive to produce.

A second example: Spring Chinook and Coho salmon, at least, were exterminated in the Umatilla River by water withdrawals.  Efforts are underway to reestablish natural runs of salmon in the Umatilla. The tribes, the river, and our children deserve our best efforts to restore runs of salmon here – and in many other places.

Now, the roadmap.

I ask you to thoughtfully consider the following actions.

I ask you to consider each of these actions and then answer:  “Why not?”

  • First:  stop building new hatcheries.
  • Second:  reduce the impacts of existing hatcheries on wild salmon runs.
  • Third:  establish wild fish protection zones.
  • Finally: identify and protect a network of salmon strongholds – distributed around the Pacific Rim – from the adverse effects of habitat degradation, over-fishing, and hatchery fish.

Our collective failure to act decisively – to do more than timidly re-frame what we are already doing – will drive salmon deeper into decline – to a level at which salmon will likely become ecologically and culturally irrelevant.


Ten Hippie Nonsense Commandments of Wild Fish Advocacy

Ten Hippie Nonsense Commandments of Wild Fish Advocacy

An anonymous person who goes by “Big Mike”” did not like what I wrote recently in my Respect our Hatchery Steelhead post.  Big Mike seemed to take offense to what I wrote and expressed the opinion that I was talking “hippie nonsense.”

Right on, dude.

Sustaining healthy wild fish populations requires a trifecta of actions: protecting habitat (from the headwaters to the ocean); allowing enough fish to spawn; and keeping he effects of hatchery fish within levels where the wild fish can still flourish.

Feeling rather free this morning, I decided to share.  How nice.  You’re welcome.

Ten Hippie Nonsense Commandments of Wild Fish Advocacy

1.     No name-calling.  Period.  Harsh thoughts about other people should be kept to oneself.   The land developers, dam builders, oil drillers, industrial foresters, and golf course developers are taking notes.

2.     Keep science separate from personal preferences and be clear about both.

3.     Recognize that habitat destruction – the disembodiment of watershed ecological processes – is a far more pervasive and relentless threat to wild fish than most of the hatchery fish programs currently in Oregon.

4.     Understand that fish harvest, potentially, could inflict rapid and devastating impact on the productivity of wild fish populations.

5.     Partner with a diverse set of anglers and conservation advocacy groups; find areas of common ground.

6.     Don’t make a crisis out of every fish management issue.

7.     Set long-term goals.

8.     Chart timetables for achieving these goals. Propose bridge management alternatives. Don’t try to eat the elephant at one sitting.

9.     Accept more risk to wild fish in some areas in order to achieve less risk to wild fish in other areas.

10.  Help educate the general angling public and the non-angling public.  If the community of anglers is unable to find areas of agreement regarding wild fish management, why should the general pubic care about salmon and steelhead?

We need to work together, not battle among ourselves.  We are bait fishers and fly fishers; we want to kill fish and we don’t; we are pro- and anti-hatchery fish advocates; we are tribal and non-tribal fishers.

If we anglers behave the way we have in the past, I fear we will all lose.  Wild fish will lose.  Hatchery fish will lose.  The future of fishing will lose.  Rivers and public access to rivers will lose.  If we, members of various fishing preference groups are too strident, exclusive, and personally combative, others who value the salmon’s precious rivers for water, timber harvest, luxury homes, golf courses, or power may have more to say about the future of these rivers, wild fish, and fishing than anglers will.


Ecological Interactions between Wild and Hatchery Salmon

Ecological Interactions between Wild and Hatchery Salmon.

This international conference, organized by the State of the Salmon just concluded. Distinguished scientists and fishery managers from around the Pacific Rim, including persons from Japan, Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California attended, shared their scientific information, and …….

I offer the following translation of thoughts expressed in China, some 2,500 years ago.  I take solace in these thoughts.  The world I know today, the world the salmon know, is not “whole and alive” as I would wish it to be.

Perhaps, though, the world is just as it should be.  On this topic, I  think, I will not say more.

I will simply say that I am full of hope.  I am looking forward to tomorrow as a day of limitless opportunity ………

Thank you, all, for bearing with me.


Words from the Tao

The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.

They achieve harmony by combining these forces.

For one gains by losing, and looses by winning.

Teaching without words.  Work without doing.

The further you go, the less you know.

The softest thing in the universe overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.

Yielding to force is strength.

The bright path seems dim.

The easy way seems hard.

The greatest form has no shape.

The sky is whole and clear.

The earth is whole and firm.

The spirit is whole and full.

The ten thousand things are whole and alive.

Respect our Hatchery Steelhead

Show hatchery fish a little respect, please.

Yeah.  You heard it right.  Heard it from a wild fish nut.

I watched a short video recently, one of those delightful You-tube things, this one showing a fellow catching a summer steelhead on a fly.  Nice guy.  Nice river.  Nice fish.

Here is the part that troubled me.

I watched him make the cast, intently following his fly.  He wanted to catch a summer steelhead.  He worked at it diligently.  He cast and cast.  My guess is that this fellow really knows his water, is a skilled fly fisher, probably is a fly tyer too, and catches a whole lot more fish than I do.

Pretty soon, sure enough, he hooked a steelhead.  He was excited, genuinely thrilled.  The battle ensued, the fish went gadzooks, and jumped and ran and the reel screeched, and water sprayed up from his line, and there were droplets hanging in the air, and all that stuff that sends adrenaline flushing through our veins and keeps us addicted and spending our entire life savings on fishing tackle.

Eventually, this gentleman brought the steelhead close, slid it ashore, and grabbed it.  He waded ashore, all full of big smiles, and began a series of remarks about the steelhead being a hatchery fish and that is why he is killing it, and how harvesting the fish is good for the wild fish, and all the stuff we have been taught by the fish management agencies and the latest science, and the people we fish with, and the people we read about, and all that jazz.

I do not mean to single this gentleman out, because I absolutely know that the views he expresses are mainstream.  I have heard people I respect greatly, my good friends, make similar remarks about “ridding the gene pool of inferior hatchery fish,  weeding out the hatchery drones, bonking the cookie cutters, knocking the pellet heads, the snakes, the ….”


People, please cease and desist indulging in this sort of talk. The language we use and the way we describe the world around us defines who we are.  The language we use provides a template for others to copy and repeat.  The language we use sets the tone in our brain and affects the way we perceive everything, from the rivers to our fellow anglers.

I know plenty of people who love to fly fish for steelhead, and a few who are obsessed with fly fishing for Chinook salmon.  I have fished with these folks.  I have seen the excitement on their faces, their body vibes, when they hook a fish.  They are just plain addicted to the hook-up, the tug, the head-shake, and the fight.  They want to feel the connection with a big fish, and when it comes, it is unconditional.  They do not know, at this point, if the fish is wild or hatchery, they just feel the hormonal release of joy juice in their whole being, the climactic euphoria of making contact with an elusive living creature far off at the end of their line.

Why is it, then, if it becomes apparent that they are connected to a hatchery fish, their attitude, their demeanor shifts from one of respect to one of – almost – disdain?

This shift in attitude is, in my opinion, bad juju.

My young son is taking Ki Aikido training. The sensei was training young students and demonstrating the effects of negative or disrespectful thinking.  Without going into details, let me simply say that even thinking bad thoughts about someone or something else drains our strength, it weakens us, and it magnifies negative energy around us.

This might sound silly. It is not – and the concept is not trivial.

If we love fish, if we love rivers and fishing and wild creatures, then our passion for wild and healthy ecosystems will be best served by sending positive, respectful Ki to our surroundings – including hatchery fish and fellow anglers who might fish differently than we do and who might not even recognize or care a hoot about the origin of a fish, be it wild or hatchery.

I am disappointed when I see a hatchery fish that has stubbed off fins.  It makes me sad when I see a hatchery fish that is skinny, has a rounded off nose or that madly disorganized pattern of regenerated scales associated with handling in hatchery ponds.  I do not let my disappointment for the condition or origin of that hatchery fish cross the boundary into disrespect for a living creature.

When I catch a hatchery steelhead, no matter how it looks, I say, “thank you, for the opportunity to catch this fish.”  If I kill it to take home for my family or a friend’s family to eat, I say, “thank you for sharing your life energy to sustain our bodies and spirit.”

I have heard biologists tell us that we need to kill as many of these hatchery fish as we can, in order to “weed them out of the gene pool.”

That just doesn’t sit right with me.

The consequence of falling into this trap changes the entire frame of reference to one where I am now fishing, not for the fun of it, but to  protect wild fish from the nasty effects of hatchery fish.  Do you see the subtle difference?  If these hatchery fish are so damaging then why are so many being put out into the rivers anyway?

I know the science. I know that hatchery fish are not good for wild fish.  So what?  Don’t expect me to clean up after someone else’s mess.  If I choose to not kill a hatchery fish, I have the right to release it, I have the right to respect it, and enjoy the tug, and the battle, and the hunt, and the release.  I can go home feeling good that I caught a fish that day.  I can do all this and focus on positive energy, positive thinking, and feelings of goodwill and joy, because I know, in my heart, that such uplifting thoughts create more good energy.

The dark-side path that is being modeled by a dismaying number of good people, sends us all into the vortex of mean-spiritedness.  Speaking of hatchery fish in disrespectful terms or handling them in a disrespectful manner simply hastens the demise of everything we care deeply about.  Every fish we catch, wild or hatchery, should be spoken of, conversed with, and handled with the same respect we would a wild fish.  This honors us.  This honors the living universe.

Personally, I wish for more wild fish, healthier rivers, and a societal shift that will respect nature more.  Listen to BP’s before and after promises that an ecologically damaging oil spill was unlikely, even impossible to occur.  Now think about the real possibility that we could lose wild salmon and steelhead.  Think these two situations are not connected?

Wrong.  Meantime, speak of all rivers and all fish with respect, if with pragmatic respect.

Challenge me on this one if you wish.  I simply believe that if we love wild salmon we must speak and act with sincere respect and kindness towards hatchery fish.

No bull.

We can accurately recognize that a hatchery salmon is not the same creature as a wild salmon.  We can strive to protect our rivers from development that will strangle their ability to nurture wild salmon.  We can challenge harvest managers to reduce exploitation rates and increase escapements of wild fish.  We can financially support upgrades to hatcheries so they can be managed in ways that are less damaging to wild fish.

We should consider the number hatchery fish may appropriately  be released into our rivers.  We should be talking about reserving some of our best rivers for wild fish, an insurance policy to protect these most productive wild runs from the downsides of hatchery programs and hatchery fish.  We shold be talking about ensuring that spawning escapements for wild fish are being met.

There is much work that must be accomplished in order to ensure that our remaining rivers and wild salmon are not squandered by a continuing sequence of societal choices consistent with human-kind’s environmentally destructive history.

I intend to do what I can to support attitudes that are respectful towards wild rivers, wild and hatchery fish, because I believe that the future of wild fish will be more secure in a world where all creatures, wild and hatchery, are respected.