Les Johnson, we salute you

There are not many people I know of who have done more to protect coastal cutthroat than Les Johnson. I know that I’m not alone in being inspired by Fly Fishing Coastal Cutthroat, many of us were inspired in some way by that man and his book through its many editions. Our fly fishing world is poorer for his passing, and coastal cutthroat have lost a champion. My condolences to his family and friends.

Read what he wrote, go find these fish, make a difference.

RIP Les Johnson

Please just vote

British Columbia has a provincial election coming up on May 9th, 2017. The current Liberal government has proven time and time again that marine and freshwater fish in particular, and the environment in general, are not even in consideration for real and meaningful protection under their governance.

In the recent past anadromous fish values were swept under the rug with the Kokish River run of the river hydroelectric project, today it is the “Site C” dam proposal, tomorrow it could be anywhere, the Thompson, Dean, Skeena, Nimpkish rivers or any of your favourite streams.

The flora and fauna of this great coast have no representative in this government, so if you care, go and vote one in, from whichever party, because the only steelhead management plan that this government is currently seeing through is the extirpation of the species through much of its range on the south coast.

Hypocrisy

There has been a lot of uproar about invasive species in BC in recent years, and indeed it is a topic that seems to get a lot of people frothing at the mouth, not unlike go pro cameras, Instagram etc. There are many places where invasive species don’t belong and their spread should be halted (bullfrogs come to mind), but I refuse to let such foolish and self destructive obstinacy rule my mind when it comes to the clear path of the destruction of our truly amazing salmonids.

While I agree that invasive species like pike in the Kootenays have the potential to do serious damage to ecosystems, just like silver carp in the Great Lakes, perch on the island and many others, let’s be clear that smallmouth bass have been on Vancouver island for a very long time. Bass have been in the Okanagan again for a long time and I do mean a long time. Many of these places have valid and strong fisheries where invasive species impacts have long ago balanced out. There is better rainbow trout fishing in Vaseaux lake in the Okanagan than any lake on Vancouver island and it has largemouth, smallmouth, perch, and other invasive spiny ray species. The decline of sockeye salmon to these same waters has a lot more to do with the several dozen dams that stand between the ocean and the upper tributaries of the Columbia river, coupled with water that now warms to deadly temperatures in the Columbia prior to the sockeye even reaching the Okanagan, again which has little to do with invasive species.

This fishery is an example of an adapted fishery in the reality of today’s changing climate that requires little input, and are set to adapt to what sure seems to be a changing climate. So before you howl with self righteous fury let’s deal with the facts on where these species interact with salmonids.

There are very little salmon or steelhead left comparable to the recent past in places like the Gold, Stamp, Cowichan or Salmon river(VI), nor in the Dean, Thompson, Chilcotin, the Samish, Skykomish, Skagit, Deer creek, and indeed a great many other places famous for their salmon or steelhead. Where is the impact from invasive species to any of these places? Minimal to nonexistent, humans have been continuously and self righteously used the “manage to zero” philosophy to manage the salmonids all up and down the coast, and between selfish sport fisherman, commercial fisherman, cynical native management and the whole phalanx of government institutions that basically enforce systematic ocean rape, have left the populations of salmonids in tatters. Even as I was growing up the canneries and much of the commercial fisheries like the huge salmon biomass in the ocean that sustained them, were already gone. Resident Georgia straight coho, once a fishery unto themselves were already in steep decline. The Invasive species that everyone was worried about when I was a kid were mackerel and humboldt squid, but I think the real problem lies a little closer to home.

Let me make it clear, I will support bass culls when you support brown trout kill fisheries on the Cowichan, little Qualicum, Eve and the many other lakes and streams that have them here. Chinook, pink and other salmon have also been planted repeatedly in places they had never existed before by humans to create fisheries. Same goes for brook trout and the elephant in the room rainbow trout. There are so many places where rainbow trout have severely impacted native coastal cutthroat and other native trout, but nobody is willing to even consider that impact. All I am saying is that the only rationale used for these stockings is for the purpose of creating fisheries. If you truly believe with such ardour that bass should be removed from warm lakes stocked with hatchery rainbows, then you should equally look with disdain at those sought after big cowichan Browns who have undoubtedly severely impacted coastal cutthroat and rainbow and other salmonid populations in the river. If you disagree with that you are a hypocrite.

The Salmon river on Vancouver island will probably have 100 winter steelhead tops this season and yet is (a) open for some inexplicable reason (where is your outrage?) and (b) getting pounded on daily as if Instagram is in desperate need of horrible 4 feet out of the water grip and grin photos. There are so many things wrong with this situation none of which have anything to do with invasive species and yet you get angry about smallmouth bass in elk lake?

Focus on the real drivers of oceanic and freshwater impacts on salmonids, which are singularly all human for profit industries, coupled with an unfriendly change in climactic effects, and governments of the day who now have in place the tools and mandate to manage coastal salmonid stocks into extinction, not species that represent in some cases the only truly strong “wild” fisheries that will remain now and into the future.

Sea run cutthroat 101 course

Len Steves Workshop

While the field of courses catering to coastal cutthroat fly fishing is definitely crowded these days, I just wanted to put it out there that I will be hosting a series of upcoming events in conjunction with the Cumberland fly shop focusing on sea run cutthroat fly fishing. In addition to the fly tying night and on the water beach and river course, there will be a free introductory sea run cutthroat fly fishing talk at the Cumberland fly shop the evening of friday March 31, 2017 7-10pm. This evening is for anglers of all skill levels focusing on covering all the bases needed to begin to enjoy this fishery. While it is geared to the novice I’m sure there will be something for a more experienced angler to engage with. We will cover a lot of ground including biology, history, angling techniques, fly tying, salt and freshwater specific topics, conservation and more. (BYOB)

 

One may freely ask why I am doing this, when I have been so vocal against commercial   exploitation of salmonids. It’s not for money, I think there is so much more to this world than just fishing, and I believe education and mentorship are so important in protecting salmonids against the many threats they face. This is an opportunity for me to pass on the appreciation of this species, and I’m going to take it.

 

Please stop enabling fuckwits

As if we aren’t bombarded daily with what is becoming an overwhelming narrative of endless environmental destruction, you get me harping on about some bird that no one gives a fuck about.

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/british-columbia/nature-lovers-ask-b-c-hydro-to-delay-destruction-of-rarely-seen-bird-s-nesting-ground-1.3964201

You can ignore me, that’s fine, but the governments of the day have been living in some perpetual and empty version of 1982, an alternate dimension where everything living in the wild is just endless grist to the mill in pursuit of owning a summer home or a new car. Loggers don’t need jobs this bad (or they’d be logging Stanley park) and we don’t actually need the power from all these projects at all, so what’s the point? Surely not just to blow 8 billion dollars (and climbing) to prove that you won?

Disagree? There still isn’t sewage treatment in greater Victoria, but a bunch of dimwits are collecting a pension or a salary on careers made out of debating sewage treatment. Look at the contaminated soil site in Shawnigan lake and the communities fight to stop it, when the company operating it is is being vociferously defended by the provincial liberal government while breaking the law and operating outside of the government’s own regulations. How about the gutting of the federal fisheries act, or the LNG, tanker, logged to oblivion, hydroelectric project guillotine cloud of threats that hangs over goddamn near every watershed on the whole coast of BC.

When you vote for a fuckwit (as the world has recently seen) you don’t get anything but a fuckwit who has power. What does a fuckwit with power do? Guess, or turn on the news. Christie Clark and the larger government she represents are fuckwits. Criminals from around the world are basically being courted to use our real estate system to openly launder money on a grand scale and the response is to do nothing. The amazing wild places in B.C. like the highly significant and unique Skeena river are being sacrificed to appease a company like Petronas who I think you can be assured are not going to look out for anything or anyone in this province. Why would you as a voter enable this? There isn’t even a strong economic argument to be made to build the site C dam, unless you count smoke and mirrors and the endless “job creation” sound bites that “journalists” seem to be gibbering on about every day.

Honestly forget the fuck about climate change for a moment and realize that there is a real threat to all the wild creatures and places we cherish disappearing long before the shifting climate brings death to the cold water salmonids of the west coast, or the caribou, or the Monarchs, or any other wild species.

Protecting habitat and biodiversity while maintaining an economy is possible when it isn’t about your team winning.

Please consider that when you go and vote.

Those birds are as important as these fish.

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Colquitz Creek

Colquitz creek runs under the Trans Canada highway just out side Victoria, BC. The creek has appeared in this blog before, but this conservation success story is once again facing a threat, this time from the recently begun construction of the Mackenzie interchange. This project is being constructed to address a huge traffic bottle neck (the “colwood crawl”) entering Victoria, which exists largely because of the complete lack of leadership in the capital region municipalities with regards to transit and transportation (and sewage and…on and on).

Coho salmon in the lower reaches of the creek, ten minutes from downtown Victoria

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This project encroaches well into Cuthbert homes park, very close to where the lower creek runs out into portage inlet, to the gorge waterway and eventually out into the Salish sea. While like with every project in BC lots of people say things like “protecting the environment”and “biodiversity” in press releases the project actually has been incredibly impactful to this stream and lower river habitat.

This years fall return once again numbers over 1000 coho, and a handful of sea run cutthroat to the fish counting fence. While there is no doubt this is a success, this remarkable, productive and important habitat for so many species, is once again under pressure from the urban environment that surrounds it.

If you think that chain sawing down trees that have been roosts for red tail Hawks for decades and letting uncontained construction runoff including massive sediment plumes run into a salmon bearing creek and adjoining bird sanctuary is ok, then I guess this blog will never reach you. If this does however strike any kind of chord in you, I assert firmly that this is a special place, a stream that has arisen from the ashes of urban indifference, and an interconnected part of the community that it runs through.

http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/mckenzie-interchange-work-raises-fears-for-fish-birds-1.3426758

These are just a few of the hardworking groups that are fighting to protect this creek

Colquitz salmonid stewardship and education society

They operate the fish counting fence on the river in cuthbert homes park. They check the trap 10 am most weekends once the rain comes in the fall. Stop by and say hello to the hardworking volunteers.

there are links to many different groups and projects here

http://colquitzcoalition.com

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Fly fishing community

While the Internet may certainly be a used as a tool for endlessly bashing meaningless opining on ignorant and trite opinions into your grey matter, every now and again it is true that you may find a few “unplucked gems” out there. It is easy to find so much apathy, negativity and narcissism on the web and yet it is also still true that the internet is a great tool for building communities and sharing information.

I feel like the fly fishing community and its shared values are under attack from many fronts, with the people who want to exploit everything within it for money, those who refuse to understand what fly fishing can represent, and the very fish themselves that in many cases we are wondering if we will see wane into memory in the coming decades. I think we need to celebrate what we have while we still have it, and that we have more in common than we like to think.

If you like coastal sea run cutthroat or any number of other briny species and the pursuit of them with a fly rod, the saltwater section of Washington fly fishing forum is a largely positive forum on what is a typically wildly negative topic (anadromous fisheries), and let’s be honest right about now, negativity is something we’ve had just about enough of lately.

(The fly tying section is pretty good too)

http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/forum/

If you like sea run cutthroat, take a look at one of the larger ones you will ever see…

http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/forum/threads/uhmmm-i-got-the-most-vicious-takedown-while-src.122376/

Over priced graphite for undervalued fish

The laughable idea that only a $1400 fly rod built with lots of scientific sounding horseshit can make you a highly skilled fly fisherman is being pimped so hard by a bunch of blowhard industry clowns who feel their opinions matter because they guided once on the Bulkley and now they’re all worldly and shit. (Wow, really, you caught flossed fall steelhead on T-14, props to your mad skills, clap clap clap)

This marketing shite isn’t fly fishing, it’s pathetic.

Learning how to cast, practising lots and buying high quality lines that match your rod will make you a better caster, not buying a overhyped dick sceptre golf club that is 0.0000987 ounces lighter than the last rod you had. Marketing with moronic terms like “swing weight” is just an industry fallacy created to dupe newbies into chasing some latest greatest fetishized delusion of being cool.

Newsflash, flyfishers aren’t cool, and the latest greatest fly rod is just a golf club with chrome snake guides.

Truth is there are many many really good low to mid range rods available in today’s market and the average (real non poser) fishing cast is under 50 feet and rod manufacturers got that angle covered a long time ago, so what are you chasing?

Put your money into your resource and into learning and travelling. At the end of the day the fish you catch matters, not the rod you catch em with.

I’m the islander

I’ll be brief, it is damn good to be back on the island. Anadromous fish and their stream resident brethren are doing pretty shitty over here, and that really hurts, because this island is a special place. It’s also home, and I’m back, in the comox valley this time, and I ain’t leaving unless you chain me to the ferry to hell(tsawassen)

There are many things to reflect on after a year of living on the mainland, and working in the tackle industry.

1. The tackle industry is a poisonous farce, manned by a bunch of “guides” and “professionals” who if left to their own devices are going to destroy every last fishery that exists on earth.

Buy whatever you can afford and be happy with it, only human waste look down on others because of the cost of their tackle, Farbanks and all the other purveyors of high dollar cool can all go suck a bag of dicks. I have never felt less interested in fishing in my life than the time I worked in this industry.

2. The island is a special place, the vedder river, not so much.

3. I am still going to keep this catastrophe of a blog going, if only to piss off idiots and entertain my ambitions to be a Walmart level fly tier, and more importantly because fish like the coastal cutthroat are magnificent creatures deserving of our awe and reverence.

There are still some signs of life in some streams here (the water in this stream stays cold, don’t worry)

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Cohen: you can’t make a dead horse more dead

In the faint chance you maybe hadn’t heard of the Cohen commission, (put together by the prince of darkness himself in 2009 in response to one of the poorest sockeye returns to the Fraser on record and then subsequently ignored for the rest of the conservative party’s mighty reign) here it is:

http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/432516/publication.html

Since the release of the report in late 2012, the federal government has done little to act on any part of the panels recommendations. But wait!

Justin Trudeau has come to save the day, so now the D.F.O has announced that now they are going to act on all of the recommendations that they had been steadfastly ignoring for the past three and a half-ish years.

Here is a report card for the governments response so far to the 75 recommendations made by the Cohen commission

https://www.watershed-watch.org/issues/salmon-biodiversity/the-fraser-sockeye-inquiry/cohen-report-tracker/

Here is the federal Liberal government’s 2016 statement of intent (and other info) to follow the reports recommendations

http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=index&crtr.page=1&nid=1109249

The reason I include all these long documents full of words and shit is for 2 reasons:

  1. Many fisherman are ignorant as pie about conservation or salmonids in general, and really need to learn how to read and interpret information and then join together as opposed to what they mostly have been doing, which is bickering about long rods versus short rods, or making feeble, racist and incomprehensible rants.
  2. I want to feel important.

While I want to believe in the intent of the D.F.O as an entity to save wild pacific salmon like I want to believe in The X-Files or clean Russian athletes, I do believe that the D.F.O has many members who as individuals want to help pacific salmon and somewhere in there some of them will be empowered to do the good work they are there to do as opposed to being bullied for it.

This is the first real acknowledgement I have seen in years by the department that pacific salmonids are not doing all that well.

Breaking News:

Pacific salmonids are not doing very well across much of their range and most stakeholders are only trying to take a bigger cut of a diminishing pie as opposed to acknowledging their own part in that decline. Looking at you and me!

The Cohen recommendations if implemented will have a much broader impact than just Fraser river sockeye salmon.

That to me is significant.

Then again they refused to acknowledge any impact or conflict of interest in their co-management of coastal fish farms and wild salmon, and the recently departed fisheries minister was carrying on a la Rob Ford’s (rest his soul) mayoral cluster fuck in Toronto so take it for what it’s worth.