Carry the torch

As little as this post means ultimately I just wanted to say that the world is a poorer place for the passing of Doug Rose out on the Olympic Peninsula, a true champion of anadromous fishes and gifted writer. He was a flyfishing guide and yet he did not turn to abusing the resource and spoke in reverence and respect of his quarry, and was not afraid to speak out against fishing when it was damaging, a perspective which is very lacking these days. With Doug and many other older conservationists passing recently here’s hoping his legacy is that some of the younger people involved in anadromous fisheries on whatever side can pick up the torch and carry on the voice of reason and respect for the fish and their ecosystems that are increasingly under fire.

RIP

The Little Campbell River

There is a small river down right near the US border near White Rock where I have spent a great deal of time exploring, fishing for and learning about anadromous fish and their habits. This river has a small volunteer run hatchery that augments steelhead, coho, chinook and sea run cutthroat populations through wild brood stock capture both through angling and through a fish trap in the upper river (pictured below). The reason I wanted to mention this place is because I love this little river and recently it has become quite fashionable to hate hatcheries as if they are the primary reason for the decline of salmon in this part of the world. This is not true. This old small ragtag group of volunteers is the prime reason there are wild fish in this river. It is a tiny urban river, it has many threats to it’s continued viability as a strong salmon bearing stream. They have fought, educated and advised landowners, businesses, land use policy, fought tooth and nail for years for this river as advocates, completed rejuvenation projects on multiple creeks, cleared log jams, chased poachers, educated local elementary classes and provided fry for in class rearing programs, educated fishers like myself, all in the face of a near collapse of stocks in the nineties, no funding, spills, endless urban construction, draw down of water tables, blow after blow and yet they still work. for free. None of them fish the river, and they don’t do this to provide food for local unemployed dirtbags. They love this river as much as anybody. It is far too simplistic a view to say that this is evil or wrong. It isn’t, this isn’t a massive US style hatchery which uses wild broodstock as a guide welfare program, and nor is it that I think that the methods used to produce or the fish themselves are in anyway helping the wild fish in this river. My point is that the organization itself has tirelessly advocated for these fish and provided a focal point for the preservation of this river and this deserves respect. Bob Oswald for a time directed operations out of a wheelchair while going through serious health problems. Others have tirelessly devoted their own time during their own health crises. Ask yourself if you would do this for free for years with no expectation of any compensation, or returning fish in any number. Tyne head hatchery on the Serpentine river(devastated by a chlorine spill in the eighties) and the Nicomeckl (whose fish were essentially extirpated by pollution and sewage in the thirties) also have done the same. These hatcheries are not the reason for the declines on these rivers.

There should be serious consideration to the damage hatchery fish and fish rearing policies have on our precious wild fish and perhaps they should all be disbanded, especially the large scale meat market US style hatchery inbred snag fest (they disgust me too)but this does not mean that some hatcheries aren’t valuable or part of fixing the problems that exist on our rivers

Hats off to small community run hatcheries that tirelessly advocate and educate for these fish, evil or not.

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(above)A week ago on the river, there was a steelhead sitting along the left side bank that took off a few seconds before I took this picture

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(below)-me and my niece checking the fish trap for coho in the fallOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ghosts of spring

Alright enough negativity, sea run cutthroat still exist throughout much of their range, and enjoy a modicum of protection on much of the island, and for that all is not doom and gloom. The logging going on now is nowhere near as bad as the old days.There’s a lot to celebrate and enjoy. Get out and do it.

There are sea runs in a variety of spawning related states dependent largely on the types of rivers they frequent, and a few foraging along the beaches, as the first few chum fry make their exit from the gravel and on to the ocean. It is challenging and fun to try and find them this time of year depending on where you fish as in the rivers or beaches they can be just about anywhere, and with higher winter levels and poor weather they can be difficult to target with lighter lines and rods. Sometimes they are right behind spawning steelhead, sometimes they are in the estuary, sometimes they are way up the tiny creeks that they spawn in, you just never know. Searching is half the fun, and you never know what you’ll see, or how many steelhead you’ll spook or almost step on when wading and hiking as my friend and me have done ha. Silly steelheads. Soon as it gets warmer the fry will emerge in greater numbers, the hungry post or pre spawn cutthroat will congregate if only for a while to feed on them and the warmer weather will bring the insect hatches and I and a few other deformed freaks will be right behind searching for those aggressive nomadic ghosty trout.

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Oblivion

My great grandfather was well known in the lower mainland for making spoons and spinners for salmon/steelhead, my father was an avid winter steelheader, and I make shitty blog posts about a fish that nobody cares about,and for nobody to read, kind of a nice parallel with the state of anadromous fish on the west coast.

In my great grandfather’s era there were lots of wild fish, high abundance and high survival, high fecundity, small creeks abound with chum, coho, sea run cutthroat trout, and even steelhead, hydrology and groundwater largely in good shape, and this is in spite of virtually no environmental consideration in commerce. My father’s era saw the recent glory years of the early eighties steelheading, Saltwater salmon abundance in the straight of georgia and the west coast of vancouver island that is the explosion of hatcheries and finished with the near complete collapse of many coho and steelhead stocks up and down the coast. Today what I see is remnant or near extinct runs, collapsed ecology, poaching on the scraps of tiny runs, a sport fishery that wouldn’t exist without expensive and subsidized massive hatchery output. Rivers run through pipes, and dams, creeks that had measurable runs of steelhead are now concrete drainage pipes. People fishing for pink salmon because they are the only abundant remaining species left. Most of the famous rivers no longer contain fishable numbers of the species they are famous for. Ever fished Campbell river for steelhead? Even the Gold, Salmon, Cowichan, and a bunch of others actually have low abundances of steelhead. Squamish river is the same. God forbid the Thompson river not be mentioned(it’s the only river in the world don’t ya know). And a whole bunch of people who should know better are acting like there is nothing amiss. If you read literature about fisheries from 20-30 years ago you get painted a picture of abundance and large wild fish galore, then you actually go to these rivers and find them recently logged to the banks and runs of fish that maybe hit 100 fish over a 4 month season(read: devoid of fish).

Apathy is not a pill you can take. it’s not magic, not passive. It is something you are actively doing to the world around you. stop it please. I don’t want the world I live in to be a terrible place just because you can’t be asked to care about anything. Please, it’s time to give a shit. There are powerful groups that are working to dismantle the woefully inadequate protections that exist for the wonderful coastal cutthroat trout and their environs. They are not considered a fishery, they have no economic value (supposedly), and they have no enforcement protection.Who gives a fuck if somebody kills a bunch of wild sea runs out of some creek?

There are a bunch of little urban creeks that right this second have tiny runs that are teetering on the edge of extinction and yet where are the fundraising dinners, and the islander auctions? Who knows where Spius creek is? Here’s the thing, you all know where the Brunette river is, Byrne creek, the Coquitlam, the Serpentine, the Salmon, the Nickomeckl, the Alouette? How many others are there? The beloved Aquilini’s and their blueberry and cranberry farms have completely annihilated the North Allouete (and they’ve been fined for it) and yet go canucks go is about as far as the commentary goes. How about Colquitz creek here in Victoria? How about the kokish river? What the hell is that? I’ve seen more passion expressed about hardy perfects than what I’ve seen from anybody in the fly fishing world about this, hell Willie Mitchell had more to say than most about the Kokish. How about every other moonscaped, cut to the banks, sedimented and logjammed watershed on this entire rock. It’s a testament to the adaptability of these species that they exist at all because there isn’t a great deal of evidence that any supposed management has actually helped. These rivers have runs that have been barely clinging to existence for a long time. I think a wild steelhead in the Serpentine is just as important as one in the Bonaparte and I’m apparently completely alone.

Look at the difference in the Campbell River between 1901,Roderick Haig Brown’s Campbell river, and the Campbell river now. It’s an embarrassment. are there any steelhead left? The home of the champion of fly fishing conservation is a monument to the failure of conservation. Yes keep telling yourself its all ocean conditions, that pesky ocean did it. The fight for our fish is pretty much a fight to the death.

What is my father’s legacy? Is there anything being invested in the future of these fish and their ecosystems?

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A beautiful wild cutthroat trout from the Little Campbell River

Shine on you crazy egg wagons

Many island streams host very small runs of winter steelhead these days and are closed to fishing because their numbers are so low. I just wanted to post this in celebration of a whole runs of fish being able to exist and spawn in spite of the best efforts of most steelheaders, loggers, companies, governments and various cultures that have done nothing to protect, celebrate, or otherwise coexist with these fine fish. I’m not at all against fishing smaller rivers and runs but with the local “friends” these rivers have and judging by the behaviours regularly displayed on the Stamp, I’m going to venture that these rivers are actually better off being closed. Saying that goes against a lot of what I believe but the truth of the matter is that there is a problem with many sport fishers attitudes when it comes to smaller rivers. Most people think that the same grip n grin, flossing and snagging, hatchery fish abusing techniques and attitudes are fully transferrable to small creeks with small runs and wild fish. Many creeks and rivers have had their winter runs closed in recent years here, and while there are lots of issues involved with those declines, fishers don’t often bear the brunt of the blame. So, here’s pointing the finger at you, all the douche bag guides and fishers who give steelheading such a bad name. You are part of the problem.

By the way, “steelheader” as a term refers to far more than just an out of work lout with an attitude

So, shine on you Cous creek and Nahmint river winter steelhead (sneaking by in such close proximity to the crown jewel of winter steelheading douchery), shine on