fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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what we saw last week… (2012-02-29)

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can calling it a native fish make it so? or: how you can learn to stop worrying and love the fish that eats a fly

This week, I might be stepping into quicksand. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining for the rest of you to watch.

While a good many local anglers applauded the California Fish & Game Commission’s decision at its Feb. 2, 2012 meeting to strike down proposed changes to striped bass regulations, changes that, at the very least, would degrade the quality of a fishery that supports considerable segments of the local economy, there was a curious footnote to the proceedings.

A desire to declare striped bass, introduced from the East Coast, as a ‘native’ California species.

California Fish & Game Commission’s then-Director Daniel W. Richards summed up the issue:

Another great comment that I heard today was this issue of what is native. [California Department of Fish & Game] Director Bonham and I had great conversation just yesterday about this. We are regularly, and just several months we were being challenged with a frogs and turtles matter of non-native species…it’s controversial and there’s both sides to it, and these striped bass have been here for 130 years. At what point in time do we…and some of the analogies we gave I thought were terrific, especially when you take it down to the human level, who’s a native Californian and who’s not. I thought it was really very apropos. I mean, they’ve been here 130 years, that’s, I don’t know, what is that, that’s three or four generations I think you’d probably call that. [Striped bass] starts to be fairly native to me.

After that, then-President Jim Kellogg, after pointing out that he worked on the first pump station on the Delta (1966-’69) and saw the numbers of fish those unscreened pumps dumped into the canal announced in his last act as president:

…because nobody’s got an answer as to how this is done, or who declares it or something like that, I’m going to declare the striped bass a native species in the state of California.

Central to the proponents of the new regulations painted striped bass — asking it be considered an invasive species — as largely responsible for the decline of the state’s salmon stocks. Opponents cited striped bass’ long history in the California Delta (declared a sport fish in 1935) and its coexistence with salmon and Delta smelt over that time. (The definition of ‘coexistence’ may be considered ill-defined in the absence of any hard, long-term, historical data.)

While most will agree that these proposed changes to the striper regulations was a thinly veiled water grab, it does bring to light a conflict that can arise between native and now wild populations of introduced fish, particularly without a firm scientific understanding that can overwhelm any argument from either side of the debate. And while the predation of introduced species changes ecosystems, there’s no scientific model to predict the consequences of eliminating such a long-entrenched species.

In the short span of our lives, does ‘native’ becomes anything that was here before us? Big brown trout and competitive rainbows have so well supplanted Lahontan cutthroat trout — it and the Eagle Lake Rainbow were once the only trout in the Easter Sierra — that rarely does one hear of an angler landing a decent Lahontan, expect those in Crowley Lake and the Upper Owens River. And it’ll be a shame when Lahontan cutthroat no longer exist in California, which is likely to happen.

But it’s hard to label the non-native trout that provide us so much recreation as ‘invasive.’

In any case, might these naturally reproducing fish populations better fit a status similar to that of ‘historical (living) landmark?’ Is there an appropriate measure of time before anyone can declare an introduced species to be a ‘naturalized citizen?’ And will the difference between native and naturalized fish populations eventually become indistinguishable, legally or otherwise?

Regardless of the answers, I’ll be the one overlooking the illegal immigration status of the trout that eats my fly.

If you’re interested, the video recording of the meeting can be found here; click on the link for Feb 2, 2012 and fast forward to about 1:35:00 for the start of the striper discussion.

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what we saw last week… (2012-02-22)

  • A species of chipmunks shifts 1,600 feet higher in the Sierras over last century. #
  • I’m certain one could fit #flyfishing around a visit to every one of Forbes’ Ten Top #Microbreweries Worth A Visit. #
  • Simms to sell direct starting next August. Targets “brand fans,” leaving other buyers to fly shops. #flyfishing #
  • Like the Dutch boy? Washington fights the pike-pocalypse in Columbia River tributary w/ catch-and-kill, gill nets. #
  • No statue of limitations? 78-year-old granddad revists the scene of poaching in 1960s, thrown in jail, 43 years later. #
  • Questionable study shows no remarkable change in Sierra Nevada snowfall over last 130, though variable year to year. #
  • Where’s her wading belt? Joan Rivers falls while trying #flyfishing Better she stick to bass, they like plastics… #
  • Maybe they wanted gear for Polish nymphing? Boulder PD arrests suspect – a Polish national – in Denver-area rod thefts. #

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surprising ‘emergence’ suggests fly fishermen are a gullible an affluent bunch

The last few weeks have left me not thinking too deep about anything in particular except what the lack of rain and snowfall here will mean for fall conditions on my favorites Sierra streams. The vest finally got its annual washing, and the old granola bar found within tossed. A new list outlines small streams and larger rivers near the cabin but still unvisited out of laziness for lack of time. But there’ll be no piles of new gear this year. Just a few closeout flies, a new license, of course, and a few newly acquired hooks for tying as yet undetermined patterns.

It’s clear that I’ll not be doing much to support the industry, but the proliferation of fly fishing television shows suggests that the sport as a whole has become interesting, at least to cable programmers, even when one dismisses the dangerous fly fishing date on “The Bachelor.”

Fly Fishing TV ShowsMy DVR ‘fly fishing’ wish list has picked up more shows in the last month and half than recorded during all of last year, despite a limited cable line up in which the Outdoor Channel and NBC Sports Network née Versus are the main suppliers of these shows. I’m not so certain how or why some of these shows came into existence and made it to my cable line up, but there must be some belief they are worthy of some sort of cash outlay. (I do miss “Fly Fishing the World” and Trout Unlimited’s “On the Rise,” both on Sportsman Channel, and the hard-to-find “The New Fly Fisher.”)

There are a lot of dollars being thrown at fly fishing video, from homemade DVDs to the once underground and now nearly mainstream Fly Fishing Film Tour. While instructional DVDs may be the bread and butter of this genre, it’s easier to grab the remote than insert a disc — and tell ourselves that we can easy to ignore that the gear manufacturers sponsoring these shows hope to convince us to buy stuff we don’t need.

Our efforts at resistance may be in vain. Research suggests those of us still active in the sport bought more in 2010 after a 10% drop in sales in 2009. It helps to have a captive audience; most of these shows run during the winter months when local waters aren’t available to many of us. It might be sour grapes on my part; I’m suspicious that some shows are well-thought-out tax write offs that just happen to include fly fishing in exotic places.

There’s no immediate way to determine if this explosion of fly fishing shows is good or bad† ; much of the content of these shows is fly fishing porn; beautiful shots of scenery and fish. It speaks to the already interested, generally not something watched with the girlfriend/wife or kids. These shows likely will lure into the sport some novices who will suddenly face the reality that their companions on the water will be unkempt and rather plain looking, not the well-dressed and good looking host‡ casting perfect loops to big fish.

These novices will also quickly learn that good editing always excludes those back casts that snag the tree that’s always behind us.

† Such a discussion will bring up the ever-present debate about the growth of a sport that utilizes finite resources. It’s worth noting that fishing license sales continued a two-year decline in 2011, according to a selected sampling of states by the Recreation Boating & Fishing Foundation.

‡ There are a few hosts who might be considered ‘average Joes’: Greg Heister of “Seasons on The Fly” and the goofy Curtis Fleming of “Fly Rod Chronicles.” Though a celebrity, occasional fly caster Larry Csonka comes across as that friendly guy we’d all enjoy on a fishing trip.


start them lying fishing young

From well-known outdoor writer Tom Stienstra in the San Francisco Chronicle today, presented without comment:

Tall tale about giant bass

Word came from Pleasanton last week that a 13-year-old boy had landed a record 18-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass at Shadow Cliffs Lake. It seemed too good to believe. Unfortunately, it was.

At Shadow Cliffs, park rangers say several people saw the boy wade into the lake and scoop up a large dead fish. Park officials said they do not acknowledge the fish as a record.

When the story first emerged, the boy said he caught the fish with a lure, that the giant bass did not fight much, and he gave it to a friend to eat. A photo of the fish I was provided showed that its eyes had turned white and its body had a layer of slime, similar to that of a fish that has been dead for some time.

This is yet more proof that, while all people are born honest, by the time they go fishing they usually get over it.


what we saw last week… (2012-02-15)

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the ultimate fishing truck, or the fishing truck you didn’t know you needed, until now

Thanks to our vigilance and hard work we’ve found THE fishing vehicle for big river and stillwater fishermen. You only have to choose between Gibbs Amphibians’ 30-foot, 500-horsepower turbo diesel powered Phibian or the 21.5-foot, 350-horsepower V8 driven Humdinga (pictured).

Gibbs Humdinga

Gibbs Humdinga