Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Evening rise on the Columbia River

"Do not go gentle into that good night," wrote Dylan Thomas, instead arm yourself with a fly rod, a few friends, and some adult caddis patterns and hold on.
Four of us hit the river for an evening of dry-fly fishing, and what started slow, steadily grew with the ebbing light into an exciting double-header frenzy.
We started at Trimac eddy and with few flies emerging, few fish were rising. However, Mike manoeuvered us into a spot on the edge of a precarious seam where the snouts of large rainbow could be seen breaking the water. I cast and a trout struck hard, and, in Mike's words, I "Ralph Lingrened" the small caddis pattern right out of the rainbow's mouth.
Well moments later another struck and again I missed. Not five minutes later I hooked another but this time the line snapped and I had to humbly tie on another fly.
With the trout thoroughly spooked we moved to the big eddy, and soon enough Derek was into a nice trout. Showing us all how to play it with a dramatically high hook set, the fly-angling aficionado landed a three-pound beauty.
The caddis started emerging with conviction now, the surface looked like rain, and soon I was into another. As I played it to the boat, Derek also hooked up and both of us landed and released a pair of pretty bows.
We missed a few, were broken off a couple times but the action was furious. In about a 15-minute span, we enjoyed two more double headers. I hooked about a four-pounder that leapt six feet out of the water repeatedly.
It was so much fun, but with the darkness complete, and caddisflies crawling in every orifice on our bodies, we returned to the launch.
Great time, great company, great river. Thanks guys.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pike reward program implemented

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: August 09, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: August 09, 2013 1:16 PM

Beginning Aug. 21, the incentive for anglers to target northern pike on the Columbia will go up, way up.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources is taking innovative steps to solve the northern pike problem in the Columbia River, and is offering a $500 reward to anglers who help out.
“I can confirm that the province is launching a program, the Pike Reward program, on the Columbia River specifically,” said Ministry of Forests fisheries biologist Matt Neufeld. “The program essentially is related to tagged fish, so we put a number of pike in the river that were captured and released with integrated electronic tags implanted in their head.”
The tags are not visible to anglers, but fishermen who bring the heads of all pike caught on the Columbia to the B.C. Forest District office in Castlegar will have the heads scanned and if a tag is present the lucky angler will go home $500 richer.
“The  basis for the program is that northern pike are introduced and are a non-native species in the Columbia . . . There’s a bunch of concerns related to having pike here, and one of the biggest is that they are pretty efficient predators, they eat fish, they’re top-end predators, so they can certainly have an impact on native fish in the Columbia,” added Neufeld.
The pike first appeared in the Columbia about six years ago, and were confirmed in 2010 when Golder Associates researchers caught five of them during a fish sampling survey on the Columbia near Robson. They are believed to have entered the system from the Pend d’Oreille River, where an increasing number have been caught in recent months.
The Columbia has already absorbed its share of non-native species in walleye, tench, and smallmouth bass, however the effect of pike, its numbers and distribution within the ecosystem, is still uncertain, which is why the province decided to implement the Pike Reward program.
“Non-natives are always a significant concern. They are typically very difficult to eliminate especially in a big system like the Columbia once they’re present. We don’t know enough at this point to know how concerned to be about it, but this program is the start of looking at what’s going on with pike. So get a handle on where people are catching them, and how many anglers are catching, and how people are catching them.”
The information will go a long way to help fisheries managers understand the extent of the pike problem and how to proceed. In the longer term, the province may look at other ways to remove bulk numbers of pike, potentially through netting.
In the meantime, anglers like Mountain Valley Sports Fishing and Tours guide Dwayne D’Andrea of Castlegar will take advantage of the new sports fishing opportunity.
“We’ve got people coming for walleye and when I mention pike a lot of people are interested in them too,” said D’Andrea. “They are probably in the back eddies and slacker water all the way up. We’ll find out more when we start fishing for walleye this fall.”
It’s unlikely that unlimited angling will lead to the complete eradication of the species, says Neufeld, and if they are spawning successfully, then it will be something residents may have to live with for a long time.
“My gut feeling in looking at the habitat types that we’re seeing pike in the Robson reach that there’s not a ton of overlap between rainbows and pike, but there’s ongoing studies to look at rainbow abundance that BC Hydro completes every year . . . so there are some indicators that we’d be able to follow to see if there’s real big impacts there.”
The ministry biologist would not divulge the number of pike heads in which tags were implanted, but  said they will continue to implant tags throughout the year. The program will remain in effect until Mar. 15, 2014, at which time it will be reviewed and possibly extended.
“It’s an ironic thing,” said Neufeld. “We really want to kill them all, but here we are catching them and releasing them back into the system.”
It is the hope of the Ministry that anglers will cooperate in the interest of science and the future of the Columbia,  - if not, a little pecuniary motivation certainly won’t hurt.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Confessions from St. Joe

The St. Joe River in northern Idaho was on the bucket list this summer, and I had the good fortune of visiting the stream accompanied by friend and incomparable fly fisher Jake Waterstreet.
We set off for the Joe in early July not sure what to expect but had heard good reports on the fertile stream.
We pulled into the small town of Avery at about 10:30 at night, surprised to find the fly shop still open. The proprietor gave us some indication of what would work and what would work less often. On the go-to list was a big, ugly purple fly that looked like the mutant offspring of an unfortunate coupling between Madame X and the Chernobyl ant. I snatched up a couple of them immediately, along with a few stimulator, hopper, and humpy patterns.
After setting up camp in the dark, we enjoyed a couple cold beer and plotted out our plan of attack.
Awaking the next morning we were surprised to find the stream flowing quietly six feet away from our tent. We never realized it under the darkness of night, so without much consideration of the previous night planning, we geared up and waded into the Joe.
Jacob was into a sizeable trout immediately, but it shook loose before he could land him. However, he followed that up with a couple small cutthroat on the hopper pattern.
My plan was to start nymphing in the early morning than change over to dries as it warmed, but that didn`t stop Jake from drawing the cutthroat to the surface.
Nevertheless, I persevered and was soon rewarded with a nice 17-inch cutthroat. The fishing was good in the morning, and slowed in the mid-afternoon before picking up again in the evening.
We fished the stretch of River just past 50 mile and found good water above and below our camp.
The next day we journeyed up river about 10 miles and peered into the depths of the canyon and some very fishy looking pools.
Rather than throw ourselves off the edge of a precipitous embankment, I was able to talk Jake into approaching it from a downstream access less severe and intimidating.
We generally landed one or two in every pool, Jake had good action on a hopper while I hooked up a half dozen times with the purple people eater, as we`d dubbed it. The evening hatch came on with vigour, and the trout rose happily to mayfly patterns.
We landed quite a few but not quite as big or as many as we were hoping, still throwing string over such a pretty stream was very satisfying.
As RHB said, ``There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home."