Memo to anglers

Get kids involved in fishing, too many video games do not foster imaginations they make adult dullards, take them fishing every chance you get, get them excited about the outdoors through positive experiences, they might not grow up to be fishers but they will be making decisions about “natural resource management” in the future and someone who has intrinsic connection to the outdoors and wildlife is a lot easier to convince of the importance of as an example non clear cut headwaters of sensitive creeks than trying to convince someone who has only ever watched nature on TV.  Oh and a bunch of old stubborn men(no matter how well intentioned) will usually end up being an exclusive group and can be very intimidating for anyone who isn’t part of the club. And they also aren’t very good at influencing people.

Stop worshiping Talismans of the ruling class in Britain eg. hardy perfects, none of you are lords, and if you lived in Britain in the early 1900’s most of you would probably be shoveling horseshit or working in coal mines, not fishing for atlantics, with flies tied with exotic feathers from across the realm. You wouldn’t be allowed to fish those rivers. You would be peasants.

steelheading is most definitely not about your ego, in spite of the sad attempts of some to make it so.

There are other rivers besides the Thompson River

Cutthroat are awesome

There are other rivers on the island besides the Cowichan river. I often hear about how crappy the fishing is on the island. Really? This is paradise. There is no pressure to speak of, and some of the nicest rivers I’ve ever seen are on this island. Have you ever tried hiking?

Protect really small creeks and rearing ponds. Even the ones that go dry in the summer can have steelhead, chum, coho, pinks, chinook, sea runs, rainbows, sculpins, stickleback and a bunch of other creatures. They rely heavily on these habitats. Educate at every opportunity with regards to this.

Fishing for summer run steelhead with roe once is a learning experience, fishing with it every day and expecting to catch the same 20 summer runs a day out of the same low water high temp pool all summer as if it is your god given right is pathetic. It also kills those fish. Disagree? funny, I guess all those dead steelhead sitting at the bottom of the pool are there because of ocean conditions.

Are you really going to question catch and release as a management tool for anadromous fisheries? What steelheading would you be able to do without it? Entire watersheds around the world are effectively managed and have strong fisheries only because of C&R( puget sound sea run cutthroat come to mind), the key is to know how water temps, methods, and species characteristics affect mortality, and to play fish quickly.

Buy local dammit, big chain stores destroy local economies. (yes there actually is lots of documentation to support this)

Please stop using bait for cutthroat, they are very susceptible to mortality via this method…but if you must don’t sit there and watch the fish swallow it, and then set the hook, and then take 5 minutes to extract the hook dropping the fish on the ground five times, “release” it (sans esophagus, protective coating and bleeding out) via head over tail knuckle ball toss into the water, and then repeat, and then talk about how much fun you’re having

Love the fish more than the gear you use to catch them

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In praise of beaches

There are many many organisms that inhabit the beaches where you will find sea runs, and it never ceases to amaze me how much you will see if you take a few seconds to look(even between strips of line). I challenge anyone to take the time to appreciate the incredible diversity that can be found in these places. I have encountered everything from swans to oystercatchers, pelicans, ospreys, several different types of owls, bats, hawks, eagles, herons, mink, seals, sea lions, river otters, bears, canada geese, to wading in with a red rock crab firmly clamped onto the laces on my wading boot, at least 4 different kinds of shrimp scooting around the break in the tidal flow around my feet, sculpins, cabezon, skates, starry flounder, sand lance, smelt, herring most types of salmon in adult, fry, and smolt or juvenile form, ghost shrimp, marine worms, surf perch, piling perch, even rats, raccoons, deer, and mice to name a few and this isn’t even touching on almost any of the marine invertebrates that are out there. It’s really hard to do when you are fishing for them but if you ever get a chance to watch sea runs feeding on salmon fry or young sand lance on the surface, or sipping amphipods. It is absolutely amazing to watch. My hands are usually shaking. Awesome.

The kaleidoscopic effect of looking into the watery surface and trying to distinguish the well disguised scuplin following your fly close in, and the speckled and refracted light bouncing back off the cobbled and barnacled bottom is just mesmerizing to me and I do catch myself just staring time to time. Sometimes there’s a silver ghost stalking my fly too.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget your polarized sunglasses

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Sea run cutthroat data sources

There have not been a great deal of studies done on the diminutive, mysterious and non commercially valuable sea run cutthroat and much conjecture as a result (hell, the lack of data on steelhead which are considered much more “important” than cutthroat, is laughable). I just wanted to post up some links to some info and a couple of resources that I have used in my quest to understand and catch these amazing fish

this is a good link about sea runs in lower mainland BC streams, also has economic info on sea run cutthroat fishing effort (Pg. 8)

Coastal Cutthroat Trout as Sentinels of Lower Mainland Watershed Health

This is a CRD (capital regional district) page that is a very simple, clear and concise description of the cutthroat, its traits, and its environment

Cutthroat Trout

This guy is as obsessed as me, and he’s a good writer, and his book is definitely worth picking up if you like these fish

Chester Allen’s watery planet

Les Johnson is a pioneer of fly fishing and champion of the sea run cutthroat, and this book is pretty much the bible of this weird subculture –Fly Fishing Coastal Cutthroat Trout: Flies, Techniques, Conservation…much respect

Here is an article about fly fishing for them by Les

This guy loves sea run cutthroat(and hates the meat head culture so prevalant in fishing) much respect

The Quiet Pool

Older study from washington (like I said no one is doing much of any studies on these fish)

Sea Run Cutthroat Trout

Another older washington oregon study

Lots and lots of pictures of cutthroat   like thirty four pages woohoo

A handsome hatchery Little Campbell River Sea Run Cutthroat after being scooped out of the fish counting trap at the hatchery

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There is not a lot of info about these fish published or posted, but these are some of the ones I go to often, enjoy!

Why?

People ask me, from time to time, why Sea Run Cutthroat (and other lesser but still great anadromous fish) are important to me? I think that’s a fair question and so will try to address it here.

First off let me explain where I’m coming from within the niche fly fishing world. Sea Run Cutthroat are an anadromous fish that lives along the pacific coast from California to Alaska. They spend a variable amount of their year in both salt water and their natal fresh water rivers. They are fun to catch on light gear, they fight hard, they are aggressive, they live in diverse environments which are fun to explore, they are challenging to find at times, and not at all predictable. Sometimes they are downright mysterious. You can catch them on just about any presentation you want; whether fly, spinner, bait, float, tenkara, nasty sliders or poppers, tiny dries or big sink tips. Kids can catch them, just like I did all those years ago with my dad. You don’t have to have fancy gear (unless you want to) or something to prove, to fish for them and feel good about yourself and the fun you’re having. They are the ultimate sport fish in so many ways, and next to nobody is willing to fish or care for them. This leaves your fishing paradise, typically, uncrowded.  You don’t need to be secretive about your favourite places or gear(again unless you want to), as most people seem puzzled about what a fly rod is, much less why you would want to catch such a “little” fish. One thing I do know is that I have rarely run into anybody fishing for them that was anything less than friendly; an experience that is in great contrast to the many salmon and steelhead anglers that I’ve run into.DSCF5080

Looking beyond the often petty world of fishing, it needs to be mentioned that people have thrived in this part of the world for a long, long time largely because of the bounty of salmonoids available to them. I think it doesn’t require much more of an explanation of their importance than that. Do I need to justify the importance of wheat or chickens? Clean water? Typically not. Most people view sockeye salmon, for example, as a luxury; an expensive, once in a while, food item. They have been and are a fundamental source of nutrition for surviving winter all over the west coast and inland, from California to Alaska. I have talked to many people who had to fish for food for their families when they were kids, and had to can salmon to get through the winter, and I’m not talking about people in their nineties. I have even heard stories of people subsisting on Sea Run Cutthroat from small rivers, for part of the year. There is not only a deep seated arrogance and apathy, but also a complete disconnect with our local environment and history, in the need for an explanation as to why these fish are important and interesting.

Not convinced? How about the economic benefits of these fish? I personally do not agree that a dollar value is a valid measure of the worth of a wild anadromous fish, but I acknowledge that there are those that disagree. There is a long history of commercial fishing for salmon and steelhead, that provided the primary economic engine to entire communities up and down the coast. Today these fisheries are given very specific openings and are regulated fairly heavily. In times of drastically reduced stocks these fisheries still provide significant economic impact to many communities. Sport fishing is frequently ignored as an economic driver and yet look at retention fisheries such as the Vedder or the Fraser. Like them or not, as fisheries guided or otherwise, there is a significant dollar value attached to each salmon caught, and even more so for a lot of famous catch and release steelhead fisheries. Travel, food, coffee, rods, reels, lines, flies, nets, vests, various watercraft, licenses, jackets, waders, wading boots, and more. Yet for most steelheaders there can still be a very reasonable expectation to hook or catch nothing. I can’t think of many other examples, of such high recreational expense, for so little return, and this speaks to the inherent interest that these fish inspire. Eco tourism, as a broad heading, covers all kinds of non fishing related economic benefits related to anadromous fish; from tourists travelling to view spawning chum salmon at the Goldstream River near Victoria, to watching grizzly bears eating salmon at Brooks Falls in Alaska, to seeing exhibits such as the artificial salmon spawning creek at the Seattle Aquarium, just to name a few. There are many towns where these tourist dollars are as or more important than any of the local resource extraction industries which have typically dominated the local economy. Even catch and release cutthroat fisherman in Southern Coastal BC, have a significant economic impact. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but I still spend a significant amount of my meager recreational budget on chasing these fish every year. There is a significant argument to be made about the economic value and thus importance of anadromous fish (whether I agree with it or not)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These fish inhabit some very complex and fragile ecosystems, and I believe they are important and deserve to be protected. It’s pretty easy to not care but it’s a lot harder to come up with a good reason not to. I could go on but this is why I think these fish are important. These fish exist in spite of , not for or because of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA