|Column nr.1 2001|
INTERNATIONAL SPORTSMENS EXPO, PORTLAND, OREGON
The moment I saw the panoramic view outside my suite at the Double Tree Inn over looking the sweeping Columbia River. I felt at home and ready for the excitement of this show now in its 11th year. The expo ran from January 4th to the 7th at the well maintained Oregon Convention Center. On the first morning before the doors opened a crowd of several hundred were anxious to get started. This show has become a must see for all those serious about fishing and hunting in the great North West or around the world. The publicity staff at ISE including John Kirk run a top drawer show! I spent many hours taking in each booth and special event, which were numerous and too much fun. The fly fishing community was well represented from Alaska to Mongolia. Fly tiers demonstrated the latest in equipment and technique. One could almost cut the excitement with a knife as the long distance casting contest began and the pros lined up to throw lightly weighted jigs 75 feet plus. My eyes were being fed a rare feast as I spoke with vendors like Ira Stutzman. Who happens to make the finest custom special exotic wood handled fly rods I have ever seen. His tiny foot and a half long working fly rod with three inch working reel made by J. Austin Forbes was amazing to handle and actually cast! Yes friends no matter what your outdoor poison this show had it all. Countless booths representing lodges from Lake Marie Alaska to Costa Rica.
Then just about when I thought I had seen the best of the best. I look up and see this angelic face belonging to five year old Megan Little. With alittle boost from her mother Ann. Megan was standing all by herself in front of a big crowd. The casting instructor gave her a quick lesson and boom Megan throws her second cast atleast 40 feet! Which must be a world record for five-year-old angels? The crowd went bonkers as she threw afew more loops out about as far. Megans Mom sighs "Whenever she and her brother trout fish below Mt. Hood Megan catches three or four and says" "Mom, can I go play with my Barbies now?" New generations of fly fishers are born each time these shows come to town. Welcome Megan we need more likes you to keep the sport healthy into this century.
A grand prize Valued at $7,000 is given to whoever wins the "Best of the West Distance fly caster" The longest thrower takes home a new Hyde Driftboat. Virtual Shotgunning and high tech archery ranges made this show special and exciting. A large tank featuring several species was used for classs and technique drills. The fly tying theater was a big hit for the hard-core fly fisher who walks the walk and ties his own bugs. One tier was tying size 22-32 so small one needed magnifying glass to see them. A live animal display and catch and release trout fishing were available. A hot spot for the kids to get up close and personal to live action.
No stones were unturned and what great fun it was to spend four days in this atmosphere listening to more wild fish tales then I usually hear. I could not help but notice the different sorts of avid and would be sportspersons wading through this show. I spoke with many middle aged fly fishers from the Portland area. These guys and gals cut their fly fishing teeth on legendary trout and steelhead waters like the Deschutes, Umqua and other world renown Oregon fish repositories. The general consensus seemed to be positive in regard to the current state of Oregons fishery. Of course old timers almost always drift back to those great old days of yore! Atleast three of the Oregon old timers related the fact that if you knew how to fly fish to begin with. You would catch fish anywhere clean water runs in this Northern State.
The feeling expressed by several fly fishers was Steelhead and dry fly were and always will be the only way to go. I had a chance to take along hard look at the mighty Columbia River that is very much a part of Portlands landscape. I did notice not as many birds and insects as I thought there would be? In places the river runs wide and quick with all the usual city type commercial and industrial buildings along its banks. The majority of the sportsmen I spoke with hailed WAY UP NORTH as the place to fish. The sportsmen show itself was a big hit and I had a ball meeting many fans of this column and spending alot of time with my friend John Wilson who ran the Lake Marie Booth. In past columns I have mentioned John and I have combined forces to lead and guide exotic fly trips to places like Mongolia, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Lake Marie Alaska. The declining Salmon returns of the past few years have hit many of Alaskas prime waters very hard. A forty percent drop in some areas and a rather bleak outlook generated by many forces such as global warming and overfishing. If these trends continue we avid fly fishers will have to face sobering consequences and find it much harder going in the years to come.
One very positive aspect of this years ISE show is the presence of Frank Amato and his mini publishing empire. If your serious about the sport and all it entails in regards to trends and hot button issues. Frank and his many expert writers can provide alot of hard facts to consider. I have been a big fan of Franks since reading about his quest to bring practical science into rivers and streams. The idea many of our waters are almost sterile and need to be seeded with natural type nutrients in order for fingerlings to survive. This kind of thinking will help the sport to survive rather then become more difficult and expensive to pursue. It is sad to think many of these massive fish plants happen on streams that are all but barren of nutrients needed to help fish survive. Thanks Frank for spotlighting the real issues facing fly fishers and conservationists. The more time one spends studying the issues impacting our sport. Translates into the group awareness we need to move forward and not have to face the kind of exclusionary limited access now occurring in many states. Why hasnt anyone else other then Trout Unlimited, Frank Amato and a handful of others picked up this sword and thought about the big future picture? Healthy rivers and streams are the only future we have friends!
SERMON ON THE MOUNTAIN
In January I had the honor and privilege of speaking to an esteemed group of lady fly fishers at none other then Fanni & Mel Kriegers lovely home next to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The Golden West Fly Fishing club is one of the oldest and most respected woman's clubs in the United States. What a thrill it was to discuss a wide variety of issues facing our sport with this highly motivated group. Fannie Krieger President of the club was most gracious and served a potluck dinner to remember. I was taken to task on many subjects as expected and had quality back and forth moments with several members. One hot button was my quest to break all fresh water light tackle records in the next five years. One member said, "Oh boy, this is just the sort of male trophy hunting that gives the sport a bad name?" I explained how I felt only a very small percentage of fly fishers could even attempt such a quest and that I did not feel if properly played the fish suffered. I do respect the views expressed by all present that evening. In attendance were about thirty members and a little girl about to embark on her fly fishing life. I salute these ladies and their undying respect for and work in river, stream preservation. We need many more clubs like this to spread the good word. I was most pleased to spend few moments with Mel & Fanni and thank them and the club for making me feel quite welcome. Those clubs within 100 or so miles of the San Francisco area need only contact me and I will make every effort to arrange to speak and show slides of my adventures in the USA or around the world. Simply call (415)332-3803 or e-mail me via this monthly column. My e-mail address is at the end of each column update.
One of the most exciting aspects of well organized fly fishing clubs like the Golden West Fly fishers has to be the work they do as volunteers. It goes without saying these groups on their own with little help from any agencie. Give of their own time cleaning and restocking many rivers and streams around the USA. In fact the impact of their work can be understood every time you and I come upon a near perfect river or stream near a major city! Of course Trout & Ducks unlimited along with the Sierra Club are the high profile caretakers we always hear about. In reality its the little clubs and the students of various school districts who work just as hard to help save their local waters. Here in Marin County California many are working to insure one of the last viable Salmon runs can be saved at Lake Lagunatias. It almost makes me cry to see youngsters as young as six years collecting trash and spending their quality time helping to clean up grown up disasters... Will we ever see the light of day in respect to turning back the clock on these damaged watersheds? Maybe, maybe not, one thing is certain it will depend on massive legislation and these volunteer groups to help reverse the tragedy of many of our wild waters. God bless all of you, especially the kids who get their hands dirty and really make a difference.
This sport in many ways is exactly as it was when I was a boy over fifty years ago. Earth shacking new technologies have really made little impact. Yes rods & reels are far superior in some ways and not so great in others. For instance I still get more kicks from my Bamboo rods then any other period. I have yet to have a fancy new disk drag large arbor actually catch a fish for me. The usual suspects in regard to flies still work fine. My new space age hydrocarbon flyline throws about as far as my old line used to. So what if anything under the Sun is new and exciting. I loved the idea Ira Stutzman came up with as an alternative to cork handles on expensive rods. He and his daughter came up with the idea of fashioning expensive exotic woods into fly rod handles, which look great. I will be field testing several of them this year. A real innovation in portable, stable-fishing flotation has to be the Wannamaker Pontoon & Paddle outfit. What a cool idea it is for almost all small river & stream use. These little pontoon boats work and are indestructible. The idea you can stand up on them and cast on a stable platform is outstanding! I will review these portable devices also this year. One can reach Ira for more info at (541) 742-44828 or check out his website at: http://www.hellscanyoncustomrods.com. I highly recommend either of these two innovators, check them out and mention my column. What if any of the new so called innovations have actually changed fly fishing?
In my mind the new space age disk brake reels are fine for beginners who need all the help they can get. These reels do work if you need to depend on your reel to slow fish down or you are unable to palm control your catch? They work and they will help you learn to land fish. The evolution of fly rod material from Bamboo to glass to graphite has created a system where one can learn to cast quite far easily. In the bad old days of this sport fly fishers had no choice but to learn how to maximize every cast and learn to load each cast and understand what leverage means. Todays graphite allows many mistakes in form and follow through to occur and still get the line out fairly far for beginners! These innovations may help to sell alot of equipment to would be fly fishers and those who cannot or refuse to learn the basics. I suppose that is progress and certainly more revenue for those that make the gear. In the end fly fishing comes down to very simple basics and much study. The shortcuts available via technology may help keep the sport evolving and vibrant. It would be nice if suddenly it all came back to the good old basics consisting of hard work and careful study of past masters... Im reminded of a Native American Indian friend who took me deep into Yosemite Park many years ago. I was busy getting my fly rod assembled and tying this and that. He found afew Robin feathers and a Manzanita branch. After borrowing some of my line and tying the Robin feathers to one of my hooks. He proceeded to drift his rig near the stream edge and caught two nice Brookies while I was still getting ready.
TRUE TROPHY TROUT SUCCESS STORY
Here in California we have many little known success stories in regard to thriving trout waters. Eagle Lake located in the northeastern portion of the state has become one of the most highly regarded trophy trout lakes in the state! This lake is the second largest natural lake 42 square miles of near perfectly maintained trout fishery. The State of California Fish & Game manage this jewel and it has garnered a reputation as the place to catch six to ten pound Rainbows over and over. This ideal natural lake has all the natural food needed to sustain this exceptional growth rate. Minnows, leeches, freshwater shrimp and numerous insects abound. Each year 200,000 Rainbows from eggs taken by Fish & Game are stocked. A spawning facility near the town of Spaulding operates during March and April. Eagle Lake nestled at 5,100 feet has become the sleeper trophy lake within the state for all the right reasons. The state has done a wonderful job maintaining and studying this jewel and the results are outstanding in every way. I have fished this lake several times by boat and on shore. Each time I shake my head and dream about the same care and study applied to many other California lakes? Will this ever be the case in our lifetime? Perhaps Eagle Lake and its custodians can spread the gospel on considerate habitat management and the need to balance serious stocking with an eye on natural nutrient balance. The good news this year from Eagle Lake is PH has fallen to a level where Minnow populations have soared and this year may be the best year yet! Dont tell all your friends, just pack your gear and quietly head north for record bows and near perfect trout waters here in this overpopulated state. Oh yeah, you did not hear about this almost secret hot spot from me. For info call (530) 273-1986 Tight lines Guide Service.
THE SALMON CENTER
Within the often crowded stream of would be conservation oriented organizations "The Wild Salmon Center" stands out in a league of its own. This group of talented science minded experts are working to establish a system of sanctuaries for native salmon, steelhead, and trout. I have studied their mission statement and will attempt to define it. The WSC believes the effective and reasonable way to save salmon and their ecosystems. Is to locate rivers around the Pacific Rim, which still have the most healthy and vibrant natural stocks. The theory being it is much less expensive and more effective to attempt to preserve and maintain them now, while they are still thriving. This common sense guiding philosophy has been applied to teams of researchers that have begun scientific studies of areas like Kamchatka Russia, ten coastal watersheds in Oregon and Washington states and may isolated areas around the Pacific Rim.
I fully agree with this strategy and mindset in regard to possible salvaging of the very little left in healthy thriving wild salmon stocks. The idea of spotlighting the last wild salmon hotspots as they are referred to by WSC officers. Will be most interesting to follow and report on as this vital work continues.
One can obtain more information by calling The Wild Salmon Center main office in Portland Oregon. Phone: (503) 222-1804 or website: http://www.wildsalmoncenter.org
SPRING FLY FISHING SCHOOLS
Due to an unanticipated demand in regard to my two-day fly fishing beginners school held during the period May till June 10th 2001. I have begun a second school in Northern California in a little town called Shingle Town near Redding.. Contact Angela at (530) 474-3738 website http://www.westonhouse.com This wonderful quaint Bed & Breakfast can be viewed via an outstanding website.
The two-day Yosemite School for beginners consists of a day of classroom work and then a morning on the Merced River. I provide all equipment rods & reels. Students buy their own license. The Yosemite Fly fishing School is held in Mariposa California 32 miles from the Park entrance. The historic Mariposa Hotel Inn is offering a two-day accommodation and fly fishing school package very reasonably priced. The hotel is quite famous for its Hummingbirds by the hundreds and its many resident ghosts. Contact Lyn at (209)966-4676 - toll free call! -800--317-3244.
This two day school is situated close to the park and is perfect for helping first timers get a real classroom to water discourse on how to assemble, cast, present and catch trout. Day one consists of morning class leaving afternoons to enjoy the scenery. Day two consists of morning on the water actually throwing flies and possible catching fish. Only afew openings are left, classs restricted to five students at the most. Contact Dan Fallon at ( 415) 332-3803 Sausalito California for further information.
Written by Dan Fallon, January 2001 ©
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