Friday, December 08, 2006

A Tumultuous Year

I’ve missed Blogging lately. My laptop shit the bed, then the Holidays arrived, and all seemed to converge blurring the years last months. Looking back, all months seemed to pass in such a manner. I hope your fishing season didn’t erode at the rate mine did. Fortunately I put a few trips on the books in advance, otherwise I may have never gotten on the water. It was that kind of year.

Outside of a number of distractions that kept me from fishing, there is a new fly fishing tool that's creeping into the sport that's troubling me. As the year came to a close a particular product has been gaining acceptance, the balloon strike indicator. I got into this business because I have a great passion for the sport. Recent product introductions have me questioning some practices and the lengths we’ll go to catch more fish. The introduction of fluorocarbon tippet and leader materials was the first of these new products that I find ethically questionable. I’ve written about this inert material in the past: Fluorocarbon and Lead: Environmental considerations and concerns. The balloon strike indicator is another that pushes my button.

This crutch and others similar to them have crept into our shops, vests and arsenal of fly fishing apparatuses. The balloon, literally, happens to be the latest handicap we now attach to the end of our line. Guides, not all of course, have driven this trend hoping their clients only care about the number of fish caught irrespective of the techniques employed.

Earlier in the year I witnessed these indicators being used for the first time. A local guide with two very new anglers had each rigged with them. He’d positioned his clients not too far apart, making it all that much easier to instruct both on the finer points of lopping line. Last time I checked fly casting involved a loop of some distinction. With such devises attached to their line these two naive anglers had very little chance of making anything that would resemble a fly cast.

To my recollection, since 1496 when Dame Julian Berners wrote the first book of fly fishing, the challenge of fishing with a fly has been its lure. Bobbers were invented some time ago to aid in a conventional cast when using bait. I thought we left these conventional techniques behind for an esthetically more pleasing and challenging means of catching trout, salmon or steelhead. I guess not. Fishing a fly behind a bubble cast from a conventional fishing rod and reel is not fly fishing. Fishing with a bobber attached to your fly line isn’t either. Think about it! Or possibly for the sake of adding one or two more fish to your daily total, we’ll ignore such cogitations. Those who came before us and laid the groundwork for this challenging sport went to great lengths to pass on their legacies; Marinaro, Wulff, LaBranche, Skues arguably they are rolling in their graves.

In May an issue arose that involved the Green River; SITLA’s willingness to sell a critical piece of land smack dab in the middle of the corridor. It just so happens that it’s the only parcel with the potential for being developed. If Brett Prettyman hadn’t written a follow-up article in the Salt Lake Tribune reporting the progress of this project it would have been consummated long ago. His piece sparked a furious retort by anglers nation wide forcing SITLA to ponder its direction. That pause allowed dedicated anglers, Rich Seamons in particular along with members from the Stonefly Society, time to participate in the process. Earlier I’d dedicated several Blog’s on the progress and process as it unfolded. Unfortunately it's the process is still lingering.

What bothers me is SITLA’s lack of principle given the sensitive nature of this land. They claim their mandate forces their hand in such matters. Under similar circumstances they’ve made exceptions in the past. They even state such in their brochure. SITLA knew that this transaction would be met with great controversy, however I don’t think they were fully aware of the extent of the opposition. They know it now.

For years The DWR (Division of Wildlife Resources) has communicated with SITLA their desire to acquire this critical parcel. They, SITLA, had options before them that involved the DWR that would allow them to satisfy their mandate, yet preserve this unique parcel. Speculatively they didn’t.

In fairness, to SITLA, the Division dropped a ball or two in the process as well. The Division has access to sufficient funds to secure this parcel, yet they choose not to exercise or entertain such financial options for fear they will set a precedence. Others viably argue given the unique nature of this parcel that there is no precedence. After all we are talking about one of the nations most valuable resources. Not to mention it’s also one of Utah’s.

Adding insult to injury, the legislature recently announced that it is willing to free up 20 million dollars to aid in the purchase of another controversial SITLA parcel, Tabby Mountain. All we needed was a few million, which we begged for. We spent a concerted effort trying to get Gov. Huntsman to support the angler’s efforts. Although we met in his office, he refused to personally engage himself.

At this juncture, the angling community remains involved but increasingly frustrated. It appears that an access issue is the only leg we have to stand on at this point. That issue, thanks to the DWR, remains key in any further transactions. Should SITLA not be able to clarify this, they won’t be able to receive fair market value for the parcel. If such is fact, there is a possibility the parcel will be taken from the auction block lending some room for optimism. At this juncture we can only hope.

While whining I have to throw the ugly giant that moved down the street into the fuss. Disneyland (Cabelas) came to town this past year. That’s not news to anyone in this part of the country. We felt their impact before they finished building their store and it wasn't the tax incentives and other sweet offering they received. It started when they took one of our key employees, Ryan Barnes. They were able to take him from us because of all the sweet deals local and county officials poured upon them for locating here. We weren’t the only ones they impacted in this manner.

It’s taken us eight months to get our feet under us after their opening. We weren’t sure we ever would. Their presence and long term impact still raises grave concerns. Our ability to keep our head above ground comes with a significant amount of gratitude from loyal patrons who stuck with us during their initial dog and pony show. Now that the wave has subsided, we appear to be back to normal. To those who didn't succumb, thank you.

If establishments like these are to be our resources for fly fishing products, I’d give up the sport. The Big Box revolution seems to be taking a strangle hold on this country and with it many small good retailers are going out of business. By the success of our year most of you share my sentiments and recognize the contributions and niche specialty fishing services brings to your sport. Cabelas and the likes have little interest in stewardship issues when it comes to our local resources and our sport. Since being publicly traded, the sales of their Cabelas brand products and their bottom line is foremost on their minds.

Enough venting. In many ways it was the most trying year I’ve experienced, but it also bore some great rewards. I did get out and fish some this year, but many of the elements that I’ve just ranted about kept me from wetting a line as much as I would of liked. That’s standard for 99% of us who fish. We all have our excuses. I know of only a few who cast a fly as frequently as they would like. My hat goes off to them.

Looking back, fishing provided my salvation and lent a bit of sanity to my year. It always does. With winter's severe cold I’m reduced to living vicariously through the latest versions of fish porn. I’d have to say that the latest viewings are pretty darn good. If you are into the new DVD's and your should be, make sure to check out "Running Down the Man" and "Trout Bum, Diaries, Volume II" They are soon to be released. If they are anything like the teasers we've been viewing, we are in for a treat. Nothing like the real thing however. As it’s been said “the tug is the drug” and if such be the case I’m a hopeless addict.

Monday, November 20, 2006

An Eight Fish Limit

Several years back I imposed upon myself a limit of trout that was reasonable to land in a days fishing yet minimize the impact I was having on the resources I frequented. Being somewhat of an Old School’er I set that number at eight. Why this number versus another or for that matter any limit at all , especially given fewer fish to the hand isn’t what most anglers are pursuing these days?

To begin, I arrived at the number eight based upon Utah and many of the west’s fishing regulations prior to catch and release or slot limits becoming effective management tools. Back then a legal limit was eight trout. After pondering this, that number seemed like a reasonable goal for an outing. So "8" it is.

This impetus was derived 25 years of being a fly fishing professional in various capacities and observing first hand the impact as anglers we were having on our waters. Having run a shop for the past twenty years I’m privy to a tremendous amount of feedback on everyone’s days out. It soon became evident that there were a lot of 20, 30 or 40 plus fish days being done out there. Even if some of these numbers were stretched, halving them would equate to a fair number of fish caught in a day. If you’re on some wilderness stream that rarely sees a soul, that’s one thing, but on many of our pressured western waters it’s becoming evident that fishing with the proficiency we are capable of does have an impact on our resources.

I don’t know your preferences, but I don’t care much for catching a trout that harbors the evidence of past battles, especially those that bear the scars of numerous hookings. I refer to these fish as “Trout Junkies” their jaws marked from previous catches, much like the residual tracks on a drug addicts arm. I remember one of the largest rainbows I’ve landed in some time on a Shop outing to the Beaverhead. The fish gave me a great battle, but upon landing it looked like Rocky in his most recent film at the end of the fight. Its mandible was torn, the mouth bore countless scars and it’s body had the evidence of numerous past photo opportunities. That was the last fish I caught that day.

As fishers we have become very efficient at catching trout. Today’s tools, such as Fluorocarbon (I don't think this stuff is all cracked up to its hype) and the berth of the strike indicator, combined with a wealth of readily available information have significantly improved our successes. Those successes, in my mind, have deteriorated the quality of our resources and fly fishing experiences on many of our most fabled waters. The questions simply became: does the catching of one or two more fish really make a difference? By limiting a catch does it really deter from ones enjoyment and success? My personal findings and challenges surprised me.

Since my limit was established, days on the water surprisingly have become much more enjoyable and rewarding. For the first time in a while, I find that I’m experiencing those aspects of the sport that I found attractive in the first place. Fly fishing compared to many other types of angling is challenging. I would venture to say, that's why many of you first picked up a fly rod.

It has also greatly transformed the way I approach my days fishing. I no longer randomly cast a fly in hopes that any trout will accept my offering. I don’t’ have favorite holes, or pieces of water. My days and angling ambitions are more centered on finding challenging trout to fish to. Having fished this way for over a decade I now understand that the methods were far more rewarding than the overall volume of a days catch. Situations that were the most memorable were those that were the most demanding. My restrictions have taken me back to the root of what I find the most enjoyable about this sport, the callenge.

In my early years of initiation I was fortunate to share the waters with some of the west’s most skilled fly fishermen. For them, a day on the water was about catching a particular trout. It was quickly evident that their daily quests challenged them in ways that required hunting, skill and patience. One of my early mentors was Reid Bonson. After a day on the water he took me to the Box Canyon to check out this fish. It was in fairly broken water, so it took me some time to locate the big rainbow. That particular evening we just watched. This obviously wasn’t the first time he’d been here, sitting in quiet observation waiting for the right moment. Over several months he patiently pursued a single trout without ever casting a fly. When the day finally arrived and he crawled from the heights in an attempt to catch that trout, he did. It was a 28"rainbow that had the tail remains of an 11" rainbow still protruding from its gaping mouth.

Reid was the consummate hunter when it came to trout fishing. To this day he’s the most skilled trout fisherman that I’ve come to know. From him I learned that the more you put into the game the more you got out of it. He was a superb caster and flawless at presentation.

As much as I took these early lessons to heart, for a time I got off track and simply just caught trout and at times a fair number of them. I guess I thought that such feats were important and the reason I fished. As time went on my outings had little meaning nor left any semblance of recollection at days end. Small or large, it didn’t matter, for I’d reduced each trout to nothing more than a part of an insignificant whole. Over time my thoughtless proliferation was having an impact on those waters, waters that were special and offered valuable recreation.

As pressure on our limited resources grows to ensure the quality of our experience is preserved we must take into consideration the impact we are having. The next time you have one of those epic days of 10, 20 or s0 plus fish, try limiting your success on your next outing to a fish or just a few select fish. Challenge yourself with the one that got away. If you're new to the sport just trying to get to an 8 trout day, spend more time hunting trout and focusing on catching specific fish. You'll learn a great deal more about fishing with a fly than by sticking a strike indicator on your line hoping it will signal you've possibly hooked a fish.

Bottom line is, I'm excited for anyone who wants to fish with a fly, regardless of their daily limits. I'd like to see everyone get as much out of the sport as I do, whether it's one fish or more. We must, however remember we are stewards of our resources. Therefore, we should be concious of the impacts we are having upon them and on others we share our waters with if we care to enjoy this great sports as we've come to know it.

Monday, October 30, 2006


First take this or anyone’s opinion about fly rods with a grain of salt. After all we are biased towards a personal perspective. My perception, unlike many, has also been shaped by almost thirty years of working with anglers of all abilities and all configurations of rods for a wide variety of fishing situations or simply improving their casting. So I interject some additional influences other than my own.

Since graphite was introduced I’ve watched fly rod designs evolve. The evolution has led to overly quick and lighter rods. Finesse rods being replaced by rods of power. Fishing rods by casting rods. However, as of late some of that power has been toned down. For the first time in a while this new breed of rods has me excited about the latest in fly rod offerings.

My first good rod, as many of you know, was an 8’1/2” for a 5 Winston. I picked it up back in the late seventies. In my mind this is the best all around trout rod ever built for the wading angler. At least for the way I prefer to fish. Since that purchase rods have evolved to become lighter, faster, and overly powerful. At times casters had to over line some of the more powerful ones to load them properly. Flyfishers could cast these rods further, yet when they got them to the stream they often had difficulty getting them to cast effectively within the fishing range. For those of us who preferred rods that had more feel and flex, they were becoming scarce.

Not all was bad with this direction. The generation of power rods made life easy for fishing conditions where rods with backbone were needed; long casts, long rods, big bulky indicators, steelhead, saltwater, launching big flies, boat rods, there were a number situations were these rods added to ones choice of weapons depending on their fly fishing situations and preferences. However, for the average caster and fly fishing scenario they were to much gun for the game we were pursuing.

Some rods companies got carried away. I won’t bash any here since I do realize that if you like your rod, it’s the right one for you regardless of how I feel about it. But, some of these stick were better for staking tomatoes or beating off bears. You might actually stand a chance of fending off and unwelcome intruder should the need arise with a few of these power sticks. But for most of our trout fishing needs this wave of rods and their designs were too much gun.

Personally (surprised) I don’t have much use for rods of this nature. Having grown accustom to the feel of a smooth rod with a sensitive flex, I’ve always gravitated towards those that have similar properties to my old buddy. Steelhead, Tarpon, Bonefish, it doesn’t matter; I like the sensation of a rod that flexes right into my fingertips. One of the aspects of this sport that attracted me was the cast. Rods that are sensitive in the hand help connect you to what you’re trying to accomplish when on the water. For me, those tools involve rods that are smooth and have a more moderate flex. Like fast rods, their not for everyone, but for us “Old Schoolers” there sweet music once in the hand.

So why am I so excited as of late with the rod world. For the past several years we’ve seen a number of rod companies put some of that good old music back into their rods. Sage, long one of the driving forces in modern fly rods designs, has toned down their latest offering with the new Z-Azis rod line. The new Z-Axis, in our mind, is an improvement over the XP for the average fly fisher. It’s much easier to cast, has more of a feel, and in general is a better all around rod.

No by now means is this new Sage slow compared to many of the more traditional flex rods that are available today. But, one cast with this rod and it was rather unanimous as to the comfort and ease of casting this rod compared to the now defunct XP.

Many die hard XP lovers, and for good reason, won’t let go of their old sticks for the same reason I can’t deviate from what I find acceptable in a rod. The good news for the XP aficionados, these rods in various conditions will be available for a long time to come through a number of clearinghouses and fly shops. Just like I can still find original Wintson graphite rods, you’ll be able to find almost any rod you bias will steer you towards thanks to the power of the internet. All is not lost.

Last year Scott came out with their new G2. That was the best rod, again in my opinion, that came out for 2006. Scott has always leaned towards full flex rods, but like all rod companies for a time they got caught up in the chase. Their popular G series embodies their rod philosophy, and always has. The G2 carries many similar properties as the G, just tuned it up; lighter, and a littler quicker, but still with a great presence in the hand. I give great kudos to the guys as Scott for sticking with their roots and thus introducing one of their more successful lines of trout fishing rods.

Winton this year, got back to their roots as well. Over the past few seasons, like most manufactures they got busy trying to keep up with the Jones. Most of those rods have been put to rest. A few years back they introduced the BII. Like the Scott G2 it to received wide acceptance and quickly became one of our more popular rods. This year they’ve done it again with the BIIt, (t-Trout). I made one cast with this rod and immediately felt it was made for me; soft, slow and with great feel. It’s properties are very similar to many of the older more traditional fishing rods.

These and other new rods are the first to revisit that which many of us have become familiar with. Until recently rods with similar prosperities have been like old friends, hard to come by. For the first time in a while I can now go over to our rod rack with incredible options. Options that I’m very excited about.

My poor reps have listened to me rant and rave about the rods for years. How’s it go; opinions are like A… everyone’s got one. It wasn’t just me however. I could see the difficulty, and displeasure in many of my customers when casting some of these more powerful rods. As of late I’ve no room to complain. I tip my hat to the rod designers and companies. They keep pushing the envelop, but for now are moving it in a directions that is good for us all. In fact I’m charged up enough that I just might have to go out and buy a new rod. It’s been a while.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why Steelhead?

It’s been four steelhead seasons removed since traveling to BC. That last visit my son of sixteen accompanied me. Having returned from this year’s trip I called him. First thing he asked was whether I got his fish. I tried, I replied. In a run fondly known as Four Banger he hooked his first steelhead. After retrieving his backing for the third time, it came unbuttoned. My son, welcome to the world of steelhead fishing.

Four Banger didn’t produce any fish this past trip, yet it did raise the fear of God and the indelible image of my son playing that fish. If you’ve ever wade a boulder or ledge rock strewn steelhead river near dark, or any river under similar circumstances, you'll ponder my inference. That which you can not see seldom yields firm contact. Your aching toes reminders of the uncomfortable nature of your endeavor. The hour of light, or lack there of, when you can’t see your feet, ratchets up the entertainment factor a notch or two. Such were the conditions as I tried to revive Four Bangers images of four year ago.

The fact that my son remembers vividly his first anadromous fish says volumes about the nature of steelheading. They say it's the land of a thousand casts. In the law of averages that's true. But steelheading isn't about averages when you get to its soul. There are no laws, there are no averages. Steeheadings what a river gives you in the true sense of the word. Although you're part of the process, you have very little control of its outcome.

Greg Smith, steelhead pioneer who's responsible for infecting me with the bug, once uttered after a few cold Schooners after another humbling day on the ditch; "When I pass through those pearly gates and come before the almighty the first question I have is why steelhead?" Dam good question! At the end of many a day I’ve asked the same. One day, year, week you've got them figured out the next they're figments of ones imagination.

Several years removed, a pair of steelheaders hadn't touched a fish all week, no yanks no tugs just thousands and thousands of casts. Towards the end of another cold wet fishless day they pulled into Humble Pie, a rather well know piece of water in the great Northwest. Humble Pie is one of those intimidating pieces of water that can take half a day to fish properly. Should there be no takers it can break you. But it can also spit fish as it did for these two fortunate anglers.

In total darkness and some twenty fish later they floated into camp. Upon their arrival their buddies, dejectedly took in the recount of the epic day. Steelheading can be cruel and unjust with no rhyme or reason to the outcome. Thomas McGuane wrote in The Longest Silence,"...evil luck in steelheading, when your companion once again had a deep bow in his rod, and you are on cast 65,509 without an eat."

If one chooses to chase these mysterious fish and persist, then you quickly come to surmise that that which you pursue often never materializes. In steelhead circles it's called paying your dues. This lesson of patience and pain was taught to me on my first trip, going twenty nine straight days fishless. The thirtieth day between fishing and drying out in local Laundromats I got the tug. The Rolling Stones wrote: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need." Perseverance, faith, and the satisfaction of being knee deep in some of the world’s most beautiful rivers gets you through and eventually you get what you need, the tug.

Since that first Wenatchee Buck I've experienced weeks where you measure a days success by yanks, tugs or an illusionary boil. Compared to days where no such indicators are evident, these are measures of success. I've had moments where I could call the tug. When you've got the steelhead MoJo everything vividly appears ephemeral. Those days that you endure cast after empty cast, run after empty run, day after day, will wear on the rational of your decisions. Your presence in the water takes on an unsettled state. The cinch grows tighter.

Generally I'm not a superstitious individual, really never have been. I would think it fair to say that most people aren't. Steeheading can change that. One September fall day a comrade hooked a dead cat, which he landed. You should of seen the guide trying to release this catch. I was rolling. Worse yet, he hooked this cat twice. Talk about bad JuJu. Needless to say, he went 14 straight days with out a sniff. After fourteen straight days our friends will had been broken, his faith tested, the sanity of steelhead questioned. Yours will be to.

So, why steelhead? What would motivate an angler to stand in forty degree water in the pouring rain with good odds being a fish a day? In today’s world of balloon strike indicators and instant gratifications, it’s not for everyone. I'm thankful for that. Steelheading in many ways represents all that I truly enjoy about fishing with a fly; the unseemly odds, the tug, wild places, big waters, passion, respect, challenge, and the common bond. And then there these fish. If you've ever caressed one in your hand to then respectfully watch it slide illusively from sight, you know what a magnificent piscatorial creature steelhead are. This is why I steelhead fish. To be connected to a fish that has few rivals and travels through some of this earth's most beautiful lands.

So, there I was, fishless. I must be steelheading. My partner had called it after being disgusted, tired and spent. Wanting to take in the solitude of fishing a run solo, I decided to fish into darkness. The evening’s air warm hung silent in the canyon. The run I walked shimmered in evenings dwindling light. At the runs head cradled in the midst of a worn path lay one of the most perfect eagle feathers I’ve come across. Smiling I gently picked it up and rolled it through my fingers admiring natures work knowing my fortunes were about to change.

Entering the run at the head of the pool, I could almost cast across the smooth currents as they flowed over a series of submerged boulders. Huge fir towered overhead, watching in silence. Each cast, the grease lined fly pulled smoothly through the run, the only sounds from the anchor of my single spey and the two steps taken after every presentation.

Having come across the feather, the ensuing tug was expected. Before I could lift my rod, backing was exiting my reel, its scream shattering the virtual silence. Maneuvering to shore, I slipped, pinching a kidney, and proceeded to crumble in pain breathless into the river. Minutes passed before I could regain my feet and continue the fight, the steelhead miraculously still fast to my line. After my ordeal she again headed to the toe of the run, cart wheeling across the waters surface. The bursts became shorter as the fight lingered. The last few moments before the fish came to hand were the most pretentious. Quietly resting I admired the hint of pink that adorned the gills and side, the fins virtually translucent in the waning light. With a single push of her powerful tail she silently slid beneath into the depths of the dark currents disappearing effortlessly as if the moment never existed.

I finished out the run before heading back to join my friend. Knowing I traveled a path frequented by grizzlies added to my elevated mood. Entering the small wilderness cabin, eagle feather in hand, my partner knew without asking of my success. With a smile he called me a son of a bitch. Cracking a Kokanee and taking a seat nothing needed to be said know tomorrow could easily roll fortunes his way. I was just thankful for what the river gave and for tomorrow I'll ask of nothing more.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Steelhead Addict

It was August, somewhere along the Inland Passage perched decadently in a slatted chair on the back deck of a cruise ship in search of whales. A young woman came out to check if I needed anything. Such pleasant encounters take place at regular intervals on this vessel. I replied that peace and quiet, my coffee and that which lay before me was all I needed, “Thank You”.

It’s raining on this day and for the first time in a while I had to pull on some fleece. After summer’s retched heat in Salt Lake the northern latitudes cooler temperatures were welcomed.

I haven’t had much time to work on my journal and was seriously behind in recording times on the water this year. For me, such labors mentally revive my excursions. With my week at sea, I’ll have some extensive stretches of down time to put my thoughts to paper and recount the sparse year of travels I’ve had.

On this rainy day before putting pencil to paper I came across last year’s trip to the Salmon. I settled comfortably in the cool air, took a draw of coffee and immersed myself briefly in Steelhead. The cooler weather and rain are the first triggers that invoke visions of my favorite fish. Ever since my first travels in pursuit of these migratory creatures when falls rains finally douse summer’s inferno my focus wanders from trout to “Steelies”.

My steelhead obsession began in the Northwest back in the early 80’s. That first year I spent as much time in laundrymatts as I did trying to catch one of these fabled fish. After 30 straight days of fishing I finally caught my first Steelhead on the Wenatchee River. Ironically today, due to their steady decline, this river is closed to fishing.

I remained fishless when it came to Steelhead until the fall of 86. That August I’d received a phone call from a chance acquaintance offering to guide on one of British Columbia’s premier waters, the Bulkley River. Having just had a son the timing wasn’t the best, but given the opportunity and in need of an income I packed my meager Steelhead belongings and headed for “Steelhead Paradise”.

I remember arriving that first day in Smithers, the Steelhead capitol of the world. There I met John Simms and others who like the fish they pursued had migrated annually to this wonderful country. Their stories of travels through this province, the fish and rivers they fished only heightened my anticipation.

After arriving I had a little over a week to help get camp together and navigate 80 miles of river. Plenty of time! In addition to my river experience I also had to learn a new vocabulary; farming, tugs, boils, squirts, Chromer, Buck, Hen, Schooner, a vernacular uncommon in the trout world was common terminology in these parts.

My prowess for farming Steelhead quickly anointed me with the title “the Minister of Agriculture”. For clarification, farming in Steelheed circles is when that which you pursue prematurely gets off. Trout sets, which definitely leads to the farming of fish, don’t work on these big pigs. Yet I had the most difficult time letting the little buggers just eat my big dries without wanting to stick them. If you have ever had a Steelhead take a dry fly, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You see that big red side come up out of the water, here the sploosh, watch your fly disappear into the abyss, what’s your next move. You got it, you stick-em….wrong! Due to my success at this technique, I was presented with the honorable John Deere hat and anointed the Minster of Agriculture. Welcome to Steelhead Paradise.

Near the beginning of my vist to BC a sage Steelheader told me that I’d never be the same. He was right, “ the tug is the drug” and I’m a hopeless addict.

By the time I’ve finished my readings and wandered off those pages of past reflections, my coffee’s long gone. For the first time I realize that below this massive vessel of floating human flesh lie Salmon and Steelhead honing their senses for their home rivers. From Alaska to California they’ll silently slip into those waters where their life began. It’s one of nature’s most amazing natural acts. And like these fish soon after this voyage ends, I’ll gather with thousand of others and too migrate to the great rivers of the Northwest for a chance encounter. Just one, if I should be so lucky.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Decision has been Made

SITLA has made it's decision to put the Little Hole parcel up for public auction. Here is the information that led them to their decision: . This is very unfortunate, although I can't say that I'm surprised. We have 15 days to appeal their current motion, but only the DWR can make this gesture. Since SITLA announced this late Friday, we've already lost 3 of those days, SOB's.

SITLA more or less ignored the Divisions offer, which included parcels of equal or more value plus cash. It seems there is more here than meets the eye. If it’s true that this agencies agenda is to maximize it’s profits from their inventory of owned lands, then the DWR’s offer was their best. Their offer would have preserved this parcel for it’s wild and scenic values yet given Trust Lands the opportunity to achieve their goals.

I believe that the current Georgia developer and the money behind them would prefer to purchase this parcel vs. lease it. To some degree we have played into their hands. However, there are still options available and they will be exercised and explored.

I received an e-mail from a fellow angler who ran into Dudley at Cabela’s the other day. His comments regarding their conversation around this project were interesting. Dudley believes that those of us who aren't in opposed to this project are just jealous of the opportunity and if we had thought of it first we would have exercised the same option. Problem is we're all too busy trying to protect our fisheries from just such projects. Personally, having traveled and fished extensively throughout the west, the development that's taking place on most of our western waters I find appalling. This should give you some idea as to where his head is at.

Unfortunately there is more work to do. Another issue that, should this development go through, is its potential for a Wild and Scenic designation. The Green as it crosses from Utah into Colorado is of highest priority for this. This project will significantly impact this designation. To date there are no rivers in Utah with such a classification. I’m sure the Daggett County Commissioners will do what they can to keep this from happening and are motivated by this project with this little caveat in mind.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's all about "Fish Porn"

It seems that I’ve been out of commission for some time. Looking at my last Blog, it really hasn't been that long. Towards the first of the month I went on a cruise to Alaska with my mother, father and sister. Having never been to Alaska before and making my living in the fishing business, you would of thought my first travels to the “Last Frontier” would have been with fly rod in tow. I didn’t even pack one.

Many years ago I learned that families are much happier if under certain circumstances fishing doesn’t enter the equation. I’ve been accused of being a slow learner, but fortunately I seem to have caught on soon enough to keep my family relation in-tack. Oddly enough I’ve also found that I tend to be a little happier if I don’t mix matters of family with matters of fishing.

So off to Alaska I went. Upon returning my manager, Ken, took off for the Dean for a week. Poor guy. Someone had to go and since I'd had the opportunity to fish this legendary river a time or two I felt that Ken would best be served by jumping on this grenade.

If you haven't been to the Dean before, it's one of those magical places. To get there your means of transportation gets smaller and smaller until you touch down within the Dean's narrow corroidor on the floats of a single engine plane. This place should be at the top of your "A" list if you have such a compilation. While Ken was gone Outdoor Retailer was in town. Between him being in “Steelhead Heaven” and OR I had my hands full. Upon his return we both backed our bags and headed to Fly Tackle Retailer, for our industries annual buying show. Where did August go. For that matter where did the summer run off to.

Fly Fishing Retailer first and foremost is a show about fly fishing stuff. The latest, greatest, bigger better bobbers, it's all there. Rods usually highlight the big buzz. It's been that way since the first year breathable waders were introduced. The new rods looked good and felt nice in the hand, however with the casting ponds lined with testosterone laden “Casturbaters” there’s never room to give any of these new rods a flick let alone leisurely stroke. These masters of the fly rod are the same bunch every year. As active as the ponds were the new stuff must be pretty good. Can't wait to try some myself.

There was a cornucopia of new items introduced that you guys, me included, are going to have that are pretty trick. After all, we are nothing more than a bunch of "Godfrey Gear Freaks" when it comes to this stuff.

For me the flies are what really gets lit up about. I'm a fly junky. Needle marks all up an down my arms when it comes to creations tied on a hook. Did I tell you about my $400.00 fly box that contained only a dozen and a half flies. Desperate men do desperate things. I won't incriminate myself any further on this one. However, there are those who will.

I remember the first time I saw a bin chauked full of flies. I was hooked. No pun intended. One of the great advancements in this sport over the 25 years I've worked fishing retail is flies. There are simply some very edible bugs out there. Flies that our finned friends love to rap thier lips around, but also make me want to go fishing. In my mind these are two critical components of a great pattern. On any given day I can walk over to our fly bin and pick a selection of flies out that I have total confidence in. I couldn't of said that 10-15 years ago. Again this year this fly addict found some very very tasty morsels.

Running out of steam late on the third and final day of the show, I stopped to say hello and take a brief reprieve with our friends at Scott Rods. These guys always have good fish energy. Several nights back they sponsored the first Fly Fishing Retailer Film Festival. Frank, kindly referred to as Fred when he’s our drinking buddy, asked me if I’d seen his starring role in “Running Down the Man”. My "No" answer got me promptly escorted over to the Oakley booth for a look.

At this juncture in the show I could use a little juice to revitilze my efforts. What better way than to view a little teaser about what got me into this business in the first place.

“Running Down the Man” is the second film by Feltsoul Media. Their first “Hatch”, we’ve watched a thousand times without tiring of it. Their new production takes place in Baja and opens with Frank and his brother motoring down a desolate dirt track in a sand buggy of some sorts. Talk about a couple of desperados. They looked like a couple of drug runners, vs. two guys headed to the emerald waters of Baja in pursuit of Rooster Fish.

As the brief clip came to a close a rather significant crowd had gathered to watch. By demand it was run again. More gathered to take in the second viewing. As good as Oakley's shades are, unfortunately, all present focused on the "Fish Porn" playing on the screen.

Unlike most areas we now fish in, this part of the world is still raw and rather desolate. Frank and his compadres were the only one frantically wind sprinting up and down the beach in pursuit of these elusive giant Rooster Fish. Not a location or way of fishing that would appeal to the masses, fortunately, but definitely of great interest to this crowd, myself included.

Needless to say I and my cohorts can't wait to see the full version. For the next several hours business matters at hand were temporarily put on the back burner as visions of vibrant blue waters, stripped piscatorial giants and frantic fishermen clearly overtook our mission. Pornography of such a nature will has such and effect on fish starved anglers. Evidence of the films success was easily recorded in our ensuing actions.

As enthused as I get about fly fishing gear, the show and its success comes down to what I love most about this sport; the people, wild places and fish. At the close of this last day several of us shared a taxi to the airport loaded down with the industries propaganda on their latest offerings. Yet it was clear our focus wasn't on products. Instead our conversation soon wandered to fishing, fishing trips and a place not to far from here called Baja.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Old Ones

No one talks to the old guys anymore, who in many instances have pioneered our sport. That is unless his name is Lefty. These pioneering guys know things about a time and place in fly fishing that most of us will never come to appreciate. They have been through eras where the advancement in fly fishing equipment will be like none other. They have fished waters that in their time have been fished seldom if at all, and the arduous travel necessary to reach some of these places alone is worth the conversation.

As I’m getting up there in age, there’s much that isn’t the way it use to be. An expression among this group that is frequently uttered and one that is more relative now then it use to be. For example just look at the way we fish today. For gods sake we put balloons on the end of our line where most of this group wouldn’t even think of using such a crutch. I thought that’s why anglers began fishing with a fly in the first place. To get away from all that stuff that made conventional fishing so cumbersome.

Looking back into my brief history of fly fishing, I’ve been fortunate to run into one or two of these sage old veterans. I can’t say I’ve spent my time wisely with them, but friendships were kindred and memorable days on the water were spent.

I remember one of my early ventures to the Strawberry River brushing briefly with an older gentleman. Back then the Strawberry River below the dam was a labyrinth of beaver ponds, clear as any spring creek and loaded with very large and selective Cutthroat. After the Division removed these dams from the upper portions of this river it’s never been the same.

While fishing this tremendous fishery, I ran across this guy name Whitey. Obviously the connection with his name was related to the color of his hair. I remember him introducing himself. While I had been busy trying to trick a trout or two on my intricate hand tied imitations, he was using patterns that were indicative of his era: Millers, Mormon Girls, Hare’s Ear, Cow Dungs and such. They’ve always worked and he offered me some. Being ignorant as I was, I refused his offer believing that his outdated flies wouldn’t fool any of these educated trout. Of course he proved me wrong. That was the one and only time I saw this fine gentleman who had obviously fly fished far more years than I had.

Another choice encounter happened several days before I opened the shop, back in 1986. He was my first customer, Art Dittman. Art didn’t know the word mediocre. I remember at Art’s funeral all his buddies paying their last respects and expounding on his vast array of achievements and virtues. Art won just about every state tournament there was to win. In his last years, he was still working on perfecting his fly fishing skills. He was also taking a few young bucks at the pool table. When he was younger his parents would drop him off in Kamas and pick him up in Duchesne some weeks later after fishing his way across the South Slope.

On most days, you’d find Art curled up in one of our chairs reading the latest fly fishing publication. After all the years he’d spent chasing trout with a fly rod, he was still interested in hearing what other anglers had to say and learning the latest fishing or tying techniques. Most people barely paid this incredible gentleman any mind. For those who did, they got an incredible dialect on; taking trains to Yellowstone Country, trekking across the South Slope solo, insight into virtually every famous water in the west, and if you were one of the lucky ones, a personal casting instruction from the master. I miss Art. His unique laugh was a part of the shop for many a years.

Then there was Cal Riggs with his crusty laugh. The Henry’s Fork was our common denominator. Until then I found Cal to be one cantankerous old man who didn’t give anyone the time of day. Cal use to guide out of Godfrey’s shop, The North Fork Anglers, back when I first began my travels to this part of the world. By the time I met him, he had good reason for being gruff. Cancer combined with a life of hard living will do that to you.

He had a great story from those early days at Godfrey’s. The guides that lived in the shops back room took turns doing dinner. On one of Cal’s nights he decided to make a nice large serving of spaghetti. A nice bag of basil leaves just happened to be available to season his Italian dish, however he would learn later that his bag of basil leaves were actually a bag of pot. He’d tell this story and get the best chuckle out of it. Although he told it with some frequency I never tired of the story or his ensuing laugh.

I’ll never know of Cal’s cooking abilities, but I’m fortunate to have experienced his abilities with a fly rod. By the time we met he was failing in health and struggling to make it day to day. Even with all his ills I learned that he could still fish with the best of them. We have a photo of Cal framed with his favorite fly in the back of the shop. Although Cal wasn’t the warmest human being in the world, once you broke the code he was as genuine and knowledgeable as one can be. How could you not be. After all he was fortunate to guide and fish with some of the most talented anglers in all of fly fishing: Reid Bonson, Will Godfrey, Mike Lawson, Gary Engelbretson, Terry Ring, Carl Richards and Doug Swisher, along with a few other prominent figures. I use to love getting the opportunity to sit around and listen to his stories about the early days on the Ranch, back when Lawson and Godfrey’s were the only two players in town. I only wish I’d gotten the opportunity to share a day with him on the Henry’s Fork. That would have been special.

A number of years back I got several opportunities to fish with two gracious gentleman, Jules Dreyfous and Henry Dinwoody. I took them on the Green one day and remember several young ignorant fly fishers mocking the rods they had brought to use for the day. These two young arrogant anglers thought these two old chaps to be a couple of stuck up fly fishing snobs. I should have looked to see what they were fishing, but was too agitated to pay them much mind.

Jules was fishing one of his Edwards cane rods. It was beautifully worn from years of fishing. I can’t remember what Mr. Dinwoody was fishing. It may have been a Pezon Michelle, for I remember that name coming up during our morning of preparation. I would have given my eyeteeth to fish rods of such character and quality. Although I have fishing some with bamboo, which I truly enjoyed, it’s only happened on a few memorable occasions. To both of these men, their beautifully crafted rods of bamboo where nothing special, it’s just what they fished, much as I fish my old 1978 Winston.

On this trip, Jules hooked a Rainbow that I can vividly remember to this day. He took it on an old Royal Coachman. It jumped 13 times before we landed this large trout. He was joyous in laughter through each and every jump. That old bamboo rod of his worked just fine and in actuality made more poignant the special qualities of that moment. Those two arrogant no nothings at the put will never know what they missed nor likely experience the pleasure of fishing with such elegant rods or gracious gentleman.

That night, upon their insistence I’d stayed in a hotel room. Those who know me, know that I much prefer an open ceiling of stars to the confines of brick and mortar. I had to do a few things before I turned in, and both these gentleman were sacked out when I returned to my room. To my surprise they had turned my bed down and left me a bedtime toddie on the nightstand. That’s class.

All these guys had unique and venturous lives, each very different yet equally fascinating. As I grow older, I realize what a gift it was to have crossed their paths and have shared, however briefly, in their travels during an era that harbors much of our modern fly fishing roots. Today many of our elder sportsman have been driven from the sport by the new prevailing young guns whose aggressive streamside nature has eliminated what they have found to be pleasurable in our sport. This is unfortunate, for in their loss and waning interest we lose much that makes this sport special.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We're Being Played!

I’m headed to Alaska tomorrow. Believe it or not, I’m not even taking a rod. It’s a family trip with my mom, dad and sister. We’ll all hook up in Vancouver on a cruise line that will eventually take us to Juneau. Inquiries among those who have taken this trip before, all enjoyed their travels. Although I could fit some time in with a rod, it would be a distraction under the circumstances. Besides I’ll get a chance to go back to Alaska one day and wet a line. These days, time with my mom and dad are special. They really aren’t the Alaska type, so I’m just excited to spend time with them in a part of the world where I feel comfortable. That is once I’m off the ship.

So while I’m gone, I plan on doing a fair amount of napping, eating, reading, writing and learning as much about the native costal cultures as I can. With the events at Little Hole and work taking up so much of my time, I haven’t any opportunities to write about much else. Over the next week, I should find plenty of time to get caught up and it will be nice to be able to focus on other things for a change. Although I’m nervous about leaving with regards to the events surrounding the Green River development. I leave the efforts in very competent hands.

Before departing here is the latest in our efforts to work with SITLA to preserve the Little Hole parcel. Things took an interesting turn last week after meetings with DWR and Kevin Carter. For those who have had little time to follow this, here is a brief summary of where we are to date:

For over a month SITLA and those opposed to the development of the controversial parcel situated within one of Utah’s most prized water resources, the Green River, have been exploring options in hopes of preserving these lands as open space. Considering that in the grand scheme of things, should this parcel sell for development, it would only generate a rather small amount of revenue to SITLA’s beneficiaries, we are a little puzzled by their position. However, those opposed to this development feel there are options available to SITLA that would allow it to not only preserve the parcel but in the end generate comparable revenues to satisfy it’s mandate. Evidence of this became very clear at the end of last weeks meetings.

On Thursday, July 27, 2006, a meeting was held with Kevin Carter and those interested parties opposed to proposal to develop the Little Hole parcel. Those opposed asked that he consider a deal that would involve a land exchange between the Division (DWR) and SITLA. Mr. Carter was adamant in saying that such a transaction at this late juncture was not possible. . Such a land exchange would allow the critical Little Hole parcel to be maintained for its wildlife and esthetic values. Lands to be exchanged could then be sold or, as in the case of many SITLA properties, left to increase in value to be transacted at a later date. A virtual win-win situation for all parties involved.

At the time, back in December, when the Division became aware of the proposal, they immediately called Mr. Carters office to discuss such a possibility. The DWR’s initial offer of properties to exchange did not meet SITLA’s requirements of preferred parcels for such a transaction. Upon the rejection of these Mr. Carter stated that he called the DWR to communicate which properties were desirable. Mr. Carter said that the DWR never responded to this correspondence. Since these properties were never on the table, at this juncture in fairness, he could not go back and accept an exchange from the Division.

Friday, the same individuals meet with Jim Karpowitz and members of his staff at Division headquarters to review documents secured through a GRAMMA request involving these critical lands. These documents were able to identify letters that showed the Division had offered the preferred parcels for exchange, but also additional properties. Not only did they respond to Mr. Carters request, they met in person with his office and discussed this options. This meeting was even acknowledged by a member of Mr. Carters office in another correspondence.

Mr. Carter has a better deal on the table. The Division properties are not only comparable in value, but are developable. This is a questionable aspect of the current parcel that is in questions. Even if the developer is given the opportunity to build on the Little Hole site, there remains significant problem: access, water quality, special use permits, power. In plot mats from the 50’s, the road that SITLA claims as granting them access fall 400’ short of their property. There are no water treatment facilities on this side of the river. The FS, in another letter has stated there opposition to this development and refuses to make available any Special Use Permits granting the ferrying of clients, equipment or supplies from the north side of the river. Should these and other viable issues prevent the development of this parcel then SITLA would have a property that is worth considerably less than the current offer that is on the table. A risk they appear to be will to take.

Another issue that SITLA is unwilling to disclose is the investing party. Flint Timber is a front for those who will be financing this Lodge. From two independent sources it has been learned that Casino owners are the money behind the project. One source lies within a federal agency, another is an angler from Texas with connections inside Flint Timber. When Mr. Carter was confronted with this issue he didn’t deny the allegation or care where the money came from as long as he is able to satisfy his mandate. Although he stated that those he answers to would not be influenced should such be the case, given the heat that SITLA has been under as of late that would be questionable at best.

Again, why all the fuss over a potential windfall that in the grand scheme of things isn’t significant given the fact that there are viable alternatives, alternative that would be in the best interest of the public and SITLA. SITLA has an opportunity to not only serve their beneficiaries but serve them two fold as stated. The DWR’s offer is appropriate and was made in a timely manner in response to Mr. Carters suggestions. Why he continues to deny such an offer exists is a mystery considering his options.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Times of the Essence

The Little Hole issue continues to consist of negotiations and fact finding as we end near another week of meetings. There is still hope, yet SITLA would like to make a decision. We are trying to prevent this parcel from going to public auction. Unless we severly discredit the value of this parcel, which is possible, we really don’t stand much of a chance. I believe they will make the right decision if they are presented with the appropriate scenario. Although they have given us some directions, we are still throwing darts in the dark.

Today we meet with the Division (DWR). There is a deal on the table that has yet to be fully explored by either party. As I’ve stated earlier they, the Division, has yet to clarify this offer. As Kevin Carter has insinuated, our best opportunity lies with them.

In letters that we have obtained through a GRAMMA request it shows the intent to offer a wide variety of lands in exchange for the Little Hole parcel. Yesterday, in meetings with Kevin Carter, he stated that he responded to this letter and was rather specific with what they need. In his words, the Division failed to respond or failed to respond in an appropriate manner.

It is clear what Kevin Carters job is, to maximize revenues from properties they control. We feel that they can still do this, yet preserve this important parcel from development. This would involve the offer that is still out there where they would accept a comparable parcel/s in exchange for the Little Hole lands. The Division has properties of equal value that have yet to be put forth, but at this juncture appear willing to now throw into the mix.

Should the Division make such an offer and SITLA decides to accept it, then, for the most part everyone wins. That is everyone except the Casino owners and the few elite users who will benefit from this development. SITLA can then sell the exchanged parcel and meet their fiduciary responsibilities and intern preserves the Green River corridor from private development. Such a deal would benefit Trust Lands beneficiaries in two ways: one they benefit from the diverse recreational attributes this unique resource offers through its preservation. Two, they would also have an opportunity to cash out on the exchanged parcel. Although this organization focus centers around cash, how can you put a price on the value of this resource when it comes to the quality of the experience it offers.

Should the Division step up to the plate, I personally believe they will send a clear message to their constituents, a group who at this juncture is not very happy with their efforts when it comes to fisheries management. This attitude is a clear reflection in the states steady decline in license sales. They have a number of programs in place to market and promote Utah’s great fishing to dry and drive license sale, however for the money I think there are few options before them that would have the impact and send a very clear message to the anglers of their intentions should they consummate this deal and preserve this controversial parcel.

That is where we are as of today. By this afternoon we may no more. If the Division doesn’t want to play, then our only hope is to focus on the access and environmental issue that a development would face on this property. This is still a strong case, but far more risky, time consuming and spendie. Should it go this route, it get ugley and we really loose a potential win/win situation.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Still Going

Time seems to be standing still as we continue to have meetings with a variety of entities in a continued effort to preserve the Little Hole parcel. We have been trying with no success to get Mr. Carter to treat this parcel with special considerations. Within the content of their own borchure they can treat such sensitive properties with consideration to their unique values. The special consideration we would be to allow a purchase to take place between DWR and SITLA that satisfies their mandate yet preserve these lands for a use that best suits the public and wildlife.

Should Mr. Carter not allow such a transaction to take place then the parcel will go to auction. Given the news from last weeks meetings and inquiry’s the Division would be unlikely to win out under this scenario. Rumor has it that Flint Timber is only the developer. A Las Vegas Casino owner, actually he or they own several of them, is the money behind the Lodge proposal. We have heard this from two different sources. When we asked Mr. Carter about his thoughts should this be true, he said that he really doesn’t care who the backers are as long as SITLA satisfies its criteria. I wonder?

He obviously cares, otherwise he would not have responded to the publics input and concerns. His other comment should this rumor be true, is that in time people will forget. He obviously spends little time on the Green. Ever time we fish these waters we will be reminded of Mr. Carter and SITLA’s decision, good or bad. Given this states position on gambling and lotteries I wonder what the powers that be think. SITLA’s had considerable bad press over the past several years. I don’t think this is the kind of feather in ones cap that will make people forget such news, yet should these lands be set aside in the best interest of the masses, they stand to gain a fair amount of good press and public sentiment.

Last Wednesday morning, Paul Dremann, Rich Seamons and David Sedar met with Mike Styler(DNR)and Jim Karpowitz (DWR). Not having heard from their offices since our last sit down, we were getting nervous about their position and efforts to broker this deal. Although they have had numerous opportunities in the past to secure the lands from SITLA, they have failed to do so. Although they say that this Little Hole parcel is of high priority and has been for years we have seen little evidence to support their position.

More players are coming to the table everyday in support of the anglers efforts. Hopefully, in combination there will be anoffer that will be acceptable to the powers that be. There is really a win win for SITLA and those who oppose the construction of the Lodge. That decision is in their hands and theirs alone!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Where Everyone Stands

With the 4th of July weekend it’s been difficult to get some of the issues still on the docket resolved. At this point there are two primary players who are willing to partner with the DWR to purchase the SITLA parcel. SITLA met with their board today to discuss options available to them at this point before moving forward. We are anxious to here what they have to say.

In our recent discussions with Kevin Carter he appears to be willing to take the next step and consider a purchase agreement of some kind. However, to my understanding, only those who have been involved in the process and have made offers can participate. The Division, regardless of what it has offered in the past, can participate since they own the grazing rights to the land. This would be good news but, it doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet.

Since my last Blog the Stonefly Society, one of the driving forces behind this controversy, has paid to have the parcel appraised. This isn’t an easy process given the numerous complexities involved, access being the most significant of these. Yet, at this juncture we feel we have a fairly reasonable assessment of the properties value. This information will help greatly if the DWR is given the opportunity to make an offer for purchase.

As mentioned there are numerous complexities and issues. If by chance, and there is still a chance, that Flint Timber and Spinnerfall be awarded the lease, there are significant issues that need to be resolved: access and environmental impacts being the most noteworthy.

It’s still questionable whether the road enters SITLA’s land. If the DWR sticks to their guns then they have a legal argument here that would still need clarification since the access road passes directly through the middle of their adjacent parcel. Old plot maps indicate that this road ends 400' short of the SITLA parcel. Then there is the cost of improving this road and the issues surround that development.

Power is another issue. It’s unlikely that those federal entities that border this property would grant the passing of power lines through their turf. Therefore, it’s likely that generators would have to be used to power the lodge and accompanying buildings. The developers say that the facilities would have little impact on the area, visibly or audibly. During the construction phase and after its completion with no power I can only imagine the audible effects to wildlife and users of the canyon. It's bad enough across the way. Surround sound would do little to improve matters in this already congested area.

One of the access issues that has not been brought to the forefront is the road from the south side and it's impact to the shops and services on the north side of the corridor. Should this project go through the traffic to the south side of the river would increase significantly. Not only would you have the development, but you would see an increase in the number of users on this side of the river. This would only add to an already congested area. It would also decrease the traffic on the other side of the corridor where all of the areas services are located. It may not be a huge number, but such impacts are not easily made up. Having just gone through this with Cabelas, I know first hand.

The Daggett County Commissioners feel that this development would create some positive economic impact, however those who could now easily access the river corridor through the other side, should access be grated, would have little need to venture to the north side of the river nor use any of those facilities that rely upon the rivers visitors for their revenue. Not to mention the impact to the overall area, which we believe would only deter overall visitation to this great river. Elevated use over the years and that national perception has already led to some adversity regarding the experience anglers are having on the Green.

The Commissioners are also concerned about the loss of tax revenues to Daggett County should this parcel fall into DWR’s hands. Its common practice for the Division to pay such taxes, therefore this concern can be easily negated. These guys could use all the letters you could send. We need to get them on board and at the moment they are waffling:

The Green River Corridor is unique in it's absence of development at this point. That fact is one of several reasons that makes this fishery so spectacular. If you fish around the west at all, you know that there are few riversof such caliber that have no private development: Madison, Henry's Fork, Yellowstone, South Fork; its a long list. Should this parcel be developed, we would loose forever one of the few remaining great fisheries absent of private development.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Green River Update

Since our meeting with Kevin Carter a lot has happened. I don’t know that we have made progress; I’d like to think that we have but, the picture is definitely clearing up. The bottom line is we have two government agencies that really don’t like each other and have done a poor job of communicating back and forth over the years. Getting them both on the same page for now is what needs to happen.

On Monday we met with DWR. They have expressed their interest in this parcel on numerous occasions to SITLA, however they have valued the land based upon its grazing and wildlife potential. Those values equate to roughly $1000.00/acre. Obviously, SITLA isn’t marketing this property based upon these values. Consequently the Divisions offer has or was not acceptable.

The current offer from Flint Timber and Spinnerfall, although we don’t know what that is, is higher than the $1000.00/acre that the Division put on the table. The Division by mandate can only spend 10% above their own appraised value. Again this number falls significantly short of what is on the table.

Due to public pressure and some other issues SITLA would really like to do this deal with DWR. There are a number of factors that play into this, which are all positive. The biggest hold up is DWR’s valuation.

After our meeting on Monday the Division agreed to reevaluate their appraisal based upon the offer that is now before SITLA. It’s frustrating, however since no one but Flint Timber and Spinnerfall know what the present offer is. This is a unique piece of property. Should this hit the open market, who knows how much it could sell for?

Our time table is July 7 for a decision by SITLA on which way to go. They must take the current offer if a competing bid of some sort doesn’t materialize. The Division has an opportunity here, but it is complicated. They also have some partners who are willing to help finance the deal. Unfortunately at this juncture there are a lot of what if’s and maybe’s. Hopefully by next week there will be some clarifications and all these factors will fall into place to our benefit.

Worse case scenarios, if this should go through, are the complexities and complications of developing this property. For one, the Divisions attorneys have determined that the access road to SITLA’s land falls 400’ short of the property line. Even if the road enters their property, you can’t pave it, so how would you get material to the job site. There is the issue of historical artifacts that litter the property. Power is another problem. Most likely this development would have to be run off of generators. These are just some of the major stumbling blocks that may end up putting the kibosh on this project.

Keep the pressure on. Things are moving forward. Not at fast as we would like, but we remain optimistic. If you haven’t written letters, there are e-mail addresses in my previous Blog. I would add Flint Timber and Spinnerfall to your list as well. If either of these parties backs out at this stage of the game, there is not deal.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Road Trip

It’s Saturday afternoon and Matt from the shop has just returned from the Henry’s Fork. He stopped by my home to drop off a set of keys and to fill me in. Unfortunately I was entrenched in a phone conversation that I couldn’t break from, so he barely wet my whistle before I had to get back to my call. By the time Monday rolled around, there wasn’t much time to think more about wetting a line.

Monday 7:30am I get the first of the weekends fishing reports. It’s been a while since I’ve taken time to fish and the calls are getting to me. Plain and simple, the fishing is really good and it's good all over. It’s that time of year when making a decision regarding where to go gets difficult. Time maybe the limiting factor.

Pete, and old shop rat, and a few of his buddies ring me up at 8:30 am. It’s a three cup starter and I’m already into my fourth when he calls. They’ve just returned also from the Henry’s Fork. He started out the conversation something like “man you gotta get up there. Brown Drakes, Caddis, PMD & Flav Spinners all over the waters, it was awesome”. With the long weekend ahead I’ve been eyeing a window of opportunity to travel. Regardless of what I have on my plate, it my just have to wait. Hopefully the recent politics that I’ve been caught in the middle of will be such that I can escape for a brief reprieve. Sounds like the years first “Road Trip” may be in order.

I’d stick around here, but part of my motivation is to escape the little head wave we are having. Arriving back at the shop after a meeting with DWR over the Green River Development the outside temperatures have reached 97. The massive caldera that precolates the prolific waters of the Henry’s Fork will yield far cooler temperatures. I despise heat, andtolerate it only when emersed in water somewhere. So far the plantes seem to be lining up and there's great motivation to get things do to clear my calendar of anything that may impede a few days of camp coffee, drakes, and Grub Stake lunches.

Development Progress

Friday we met with Kevin Carter of SITLA to discuss options that may still be available to those who are seeking alternatives to the use of this 363 acre parcel other than what is currently on the table. Unfortunately there are no easy solutions given the mandate that SITLA must follow.

The good news is tha there are opportunities and there are interested parities with the financial ability to purchase this parcel. However, SITLA, at this late juncture must perceive that there is a viable and competitive market that is capable of entering into a financial arrangement before triggering this process. I don’t think that this is going to be difficult to prove or initiated. But that’s where the process gets complicated.

Regardless of the direction that this project moves, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty. After our meeting it was clear that their mandate for moving forward in a direction that suits the public's interest is not one that is cut and dry. However, thanks to everyone’s letters some doors have been opened and options made available. If we had not gotten involved this would have already been a done deal. As a result SITLA has granted us time and graciously given us opportunities. I respectfully use the term gracious due to the late nature of our intervention. After all we entered into this process at the 11th hour.

The deadline for their decision could come as late/early as July 7th. At his point in time that decision would involve staying the course and leasing the parcel to the Flint Timber and Spinner Fall Guide Service or triggering the purchase process. To my understanding, should they enter into the latter of these two options, decisions won’t be made until December.

Letters are still a good thing to send in. Again if you should write, keep the letters positive. As Kevin said, correspondences that start why “Hey Asshole”, don’t get paid much attention. His office has responded to our requests. Public sentiment has opened the door and we’ve got as good an opportunity to change the course as we are going to get. If you are going to throw expletives around, they should be directed to those currently seeking to develop this land.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cross Your Fingers

It’s 6am and I had a rough night of sleep contemplating what is to unfold today. I’m not good at politics, but have learned over the years it’s a necessary part of the business process regardless of your vocation. I find it very emotional and draining. Although it can be rewarding, I much prefer dealing with the my customers and sticking to what I know best, fishing with a fly.

Today is a critical one regarding the Green River Development issue. At 2:00pm we meet with the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) before sitting down with Kevin Carter of SITLA. TPL is willing to negotiate with SITLA for the controversial parcel that would have been awarded to Flint Timber and Spinnerfall guide service for development. Thanks to anglers and a number of individual efforts this contract has been rescinded hopefully for ever. We will know more after 3pm today.

TPL is a group who intervenes in such critical issues and negotiates to take such lands and habitats off the market. Should they be successful, they will then make arrangements to place these lands into appropriate hands for management. Should this be successful, it is most likely that this parcel will eventually end up in UDWR’s inventory. They already have a section that adjoins this SITLA parcel.

TPL isn’t the only group who is pursuing this property, however all parties currently involved are working together to see that this goes through. At the moment we are in a great position to move forward and settle this. We are fortunate that SITLA is entertaining a sale of the property that would take this parcel out of their inventory and put it in the hands of someone who would manage it for the beneficial use of all with the intention of preserving the experience that we have come to enjoy and respect on Utah’s Green River.

The Nature Conservancy is another group whose involvement has been instrumental in this. I have had a number of conversations with David Livermore and Chris Montague that have helped us negotiate this transaction and bring it to where it is today. Without their intervention in the early stages of this process, I don’t know that we would have gotten the opportunities that we currently have.

There are a lot of people and groups here, Stonefly Society, Denny Breer, Terry Collier to mention a few, who are making this happen. Hats off to all! Wish us luck and at 3:00pm keep your fingers crossed. We’ll know more by the day's end….

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

For now a Reprieve

Monday the fishing community received a gift. Gayle McKeachnie called to inform us that he had received information regarding the Green River Development that we would find interesting. We were all ears.

After receiving confirmation on Friday that SITLA had come to a decision and would announce their deal on Monday, we were optimistic that the angling community’s efforts and voice had been heard. At 2:00 pm our speculation was confirmed. Kevin Carter and his office had decided to hold off on their decision and for the mean time and not lease those sensitive lands within the Green River corridor to Spinner Fall and it’s partners.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune there was an article stating that SITLA would not make a decision on how best to deal with this controversial parcel for another 3-4 weeks. More good news!

Keep writing those letters. At this juncture should you respond, please express your feelings and concerns in a positive light. Since we have our foot in the door, we don’t want to slap the hand that has extended the “Olive Branch”. E-mails should be sent to the following addresses:,,,

We’ll done everyone. Keep your fingers crossed. I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated at to this issue progress.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Green River Development

Back in the fall, I learned of a proposed Lodge potentially being built on the only piece of land that is not controlled by the Forest Service with the Green River corridor. This property is controlled by SITLA (School Institutional Trust Lands). Their sole purpose is to maximize the profitability of lands they control. They do this with very little regard to the impacts their practices have on wildlife or recreational values. Should this come to fruition, this Lodge will serve only a few of the corridor's privileged clients, yet it’s impact and presence will effect many.

Dagett County Commissioners have supported this project believing that it will help increase their tax base. Given the potential impacts as perceived by the public and users of this incredible resource, I can’t help but believe that what few dollars they receive from this development will be offset by those who are deterred by further development and use within an already congested corridor. This doesn’t take into consideration pressures from the developer to provide services that others enjoy within the county.

The project as presented by Spinner Fall Guide Service and their clients, who represent timber interests, would encompass a main lodge and ten to twelve individual cabins to house the lodge's clients. This is just the preliminary development. As indicated by the Executive Director of SITLA there are opportunities for further development.

The Green is an amazing resource. Without a doubt it is one of the finest and most beautiful trout fisheries in the country. At times, like any fishery of its caliber, it gets crowded. This does not go without notice and publicity. Should this Lodge be built it will only add to the congestion and perception that has lead to a decline in visitors to this river.

More importantly this piece of land, a little less than 400 acres, is critical habitat for wildlife. The Division of Wildlife Resources has tried to sequester a deal with SITLA on this property for years recognizing the potential for development and that potential to disrupt and impact wildlife and fisheries. We know for fact that all and any offers have been denied.

SITLA has options. To date they have been unwavering in their efforts. To see this development go through given the impact it will have on all users and wildlife would set an irreversible precedence. At the moment there are no public or private developments within this pristine 20 mile corridor, a unique and priceless rarity this day and age. Although the developer says their project will have little impact on the area, how could it not, especially during the construction phase of the project?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Selective Harvest

A few days back a customer breeched me on the subject of keeping a fish or two. In the state of Utah with the recent change in regulations on several of our streams back to general fishing regulations, allowing the use of bait, this subjects has been a hot topic. The DWR (Division of Wildlife Resource) is concerned about the fish health on some waters, stating literally that there are too many trout in some of them. Their impression is that flyfishers won't keep fish, so their only option for these fisheries is to change the regulations that would allow more fish to be harvested and for all anging methods to be used. Needless to say there was an our cry from the trout fishing population to leave the regulations as they were.

Now my friend, who likes to keep a fish or two, was concerned about how he would be treated if he kept a couple of browns from the Provo River. He felt that should he be seen leaving the river with a few tasty little Salmo trutta's that he would be crucified by his fellow constituents. Personally, I don't know if that would be the case, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few words would be exchaned upon departure under such circumstances.

After being in this business for twenty five years my position on catch and release, the keeping of fish, and fishing regualtions as a whole have changed considerably. Back in them earlier more nieve days, so to speak, I wanted every fishery that was worthy to be Catch and Release. Having cut my teeth on the banks of Silver Creek and the Henry's Fork and seeing the successes that C & R regulations had on these incredible resources, I wanted the same for all the other waters that I fished. We'll you can see what success my lobbing efforts have had since in the state of Utah we don't have a singgle C & R fishery. In fact to date, we only have a single flyfishing only water and not a single water that has a C & R regulation. At this juncture, I don't know that I want any of that to change. However, that's not to say that I was in favor of the recent regualtions change. That was an absurd and ill conceived change that still does't sit well with me and should be reversed.

Some of our best flyfishing waters in Utah are those that have a general fishing regulation. Not for the sheer number of fish, but for the size of the trout these waters hold. The reason they have such large fish is there isn't much room for competition among these fish since most of these waters don't harbour very dense populations. The keeping of fish has something to do with that. This was one of the arugments that the DWR posed regarding their justification for a regulation change on the Middle Provo (they just left out a number of other significant factors that also contributed to the decline in overall fish health). I believe that the Lower Provo, which has over 3000 trout/river mile could use a little thinning out. Nature has been doing a fair job of this every winter. Those fish with mold of them are evidence of an overpopulated fishery combined with fishing pressure and water levels.

Regualtions create a strange perception about the viability of a fishery. For example, if a fishery has a bait fishing reg attached to it, most flyfishers assume it to be not very good. If you should put a more restrictive regulation on these waters, I'm farily confident that you would see a steady increase in their use. Look what happened to the Green. You would also see the fish counts start to increase along with angler success. But, it's biologicially proven that as numbers increase, size is inversly effected.

Those waters with general fishing regulations don't draw the crowds in part because of thier low trout densities. Most anglers who fish the Provo or Green are use to catching a dozen trout or more in an outting. These waters that I'm referring to that permit the use of all angling methods acceptable by the state, don't support the numbers of trout that our more populars fisheries do. A couple of decent fish can be a farily stantard day with an exceptional day maybe approaching a half dozen. Most flyfishers today are playing a numbers game where a day of only a few doesn't cut the mustard and double diget days are the measuring stick.

What many don't realize is that C & R fishing practices yeilds about a 10% mortality rate. Simple math; for every 10 fish you land one dies. Although when we let trout go, they have a far better options of living than bonking them on the head, like it or not we are still killing a fair number of those fish when we let them go. So letting them all go, as we are fond of saying, does have its impact on trout mortality. Although we aren't harvesting these fish, our net affect is quite similar.

Keeping a fish or two in a number of instances will not have much effect on a fishery and in many instances may improve them. Those Uinta streams where you can catch as many little trout as you want would be enhanced if a few fish were culled out. Of our more popular waters, the Lower Provo, which boast and incredible 3000 +/fish/river mile, may produce some larger more healthy fish if their numbers were thinned out. However, we tend to keep trout like we kill our prized bulls. If you are planning on keeping a fish or two, don't take the prized bulls. Leave those trout to spawn the next generation. Those fish that you may hook a little to deep, or are a little "Snaky", should be the ones we take.

As much as C & R fishing practices have improved our waters it does have its impact and the fact that it does yield a 10% mortality rate in the long run, will benefit some waters, but can have more detrimental impacts on others. Selective harvesting when practiced with some thought can positively benefit those waters where trout populations are extreme. Pick your waters, pick your trout, and more importantly know your facts before you get on someone’s case over the taking of a trout for the frying pan every once in a while. And if you are really concerned about the health of the waters you fish, limit the number of fish you catch each day. I have since I've owned the shop. My magic number is the old general fishing regulations limit 8, which I rarely get to. We will save that subject for another Blog down the road.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Strike Indicators and Flyfishing

The Strike Indicator these days has taken on new meaning. They do serve their purpose, but as I've watched their development over the years I wonder if we are taking this helpful fly fishing as an easy way out to introducing flyfishing and catching fish.

The other day I was out and watched this guy working a run with this rather large cylindrical object attached to his line. From where I stood, at first, it looked like one of those little red bobbers that I use to use when I was a kid. Later I'll come to find out that what this gentleman was using was a simple party balloon, blown up and secured to the butt sections of his fly line. It was obviously effective, watching him hook a fish or two, but in such instances when strike indicators are so obtrusive, why bother to use a fly rod?

As explained to me back in my younger days, since I'm not a spring chicken anymore, the difference between fly fishing and conventional fishing, when it comes to fly casting, is the weight of the line. When fly fishing, it's the mass off the fly line when combined with the action of a fly rod that propels the fly/lure through the air. In conventional fishing, it's the lure or weight when attached to the line that propels the line through the air. To me, this seems about right, and as I've gone about my fly fishing endeavors have tried to adhere to these basic principles.

In my book casting is what separates fly fishing from all other types of fishing. Although I have fished with a fly rod since I was 9, it wasn't until my 20's that I saw someone do it really well. His name was Jerry Siem and it was in the parking lot of The North Fork Anglers on the banks of the Henry's Fork. That name sound familiar. I was in the Will Godfrey's now defunct shop tying flies in between gusts of the Ranch's infamous wind, when my fishing partner somehow arranged a bet over a little casting competition. At the time we didn't know who Jerry was. Jerry bet my partner that he could cast further with just his hand than my buddy could cast with his fancy graphite fly rod. We all ignorantly thought- piece of cake.

So out into the parking lot we went. Jerry being the gamester puts the pressure on my fishing partner and has him go first. He winds up and several false casts later lays down a respectable 50-60' cast. Jerry sets up, pulls most of the fly line off his reel, and with just a few false casts lets his cast go. Now his cast was about the same in distance before he let it go, but before it landed almost the entire fly line had slipped through his fingers. Money was exchanged, before like a scolded puppy my friend heads back into the shop.

It was only later that we found out who this guy was. Jerry is now head rod designer for Sage Rod Company and one of the smoothest and most accomplished casters you will ever meet. Having spent a lot of time on the Henry's Fork, I got to meet and learn from some our generations great flyfishers and casters: Jerry Siem, Jim Vincent, Reid Bonson, Terry Ring, Mike Lawson, and Rene' Harrop to name a few. These guys were superb fisherman and their casting skills had a great deal to do with their success.

So where am I going with all this. I think that fly casting among most flyfisher is becoming a lost art and that the strike indicator has had a lot to do with this fact. All of us, in the industry are a fault here, guides, shops, and manufacturers. In these time of immediate gratifications we’ve looked to quick fixes. Rather than take the extra time to teach new and experienced flyfishers the wide variety of nuances this sport has to offer we focus on meeting, often times, unrealistic expectations and defer to using techniques and aids that can limit one learning.

As a result I feel that the strike indicator has led to a decline in the popularity of dry fly fishing. These days it's very common to find a frustrated angler trying to fish a hatch with a dry fly, when it's so much easier to use a nymph and strike indicator rig. Now if you like to fish dries this isn't all bad, since often times between the two schools of fishing, nymphs and dries, anglers take up different water.

Don't get me wrong. I think that the use of the strike indicator in certain situations is critical to ones success, especially if you are just learning, but we tend as an industry to defer to this tool to easily. There are other techniques that can be of equal success that are rarely taught, especially to new anglers. One of these is fishing soft hackles. These flies and the simple techniques that they require to fish them effectively are rarely taught. Another is streamers. Both of these very effective techniques aren't taught to most fly fishers until they have been at it for a while. I'm constantly amazed by the number of customers in our shop who have not tried either technique.

For the past twenty years of working in this industry I have seen a steady decline in anglers casting skills, a skill that defines the sport. Where once casting was paramount to ones success, and it still is to some degree, it isn't as critical as it use to be. As a result, flyfishers as a whole are not as well rounded nor versed in the wide variety of flyfishing techniques as they use to be nor do I see the industry professionals teaching these techniques as they once did. Like much in life we seem defer to quick fixes that are at our disposal versus investing in something that will benefit us for the long haul.

Fly fishing offers a wide variety of techniques. That’s what makes it such a great sport and pastime. I encourage you to challenge your self and learn them all or as many as you can within reason. Time vested to increase your skills will only improve your success, understanding and enjoyment when fishing with a fly.