The Steamboater Whistle
Volume 52, Issue 1
North Umpqua River, Oregon
March 16, 2013
Brix 527 Restaurant
The annual banquet will be held at Brix 527 Restaurant on Saturday, March 16, 2013 beginning with a social hour at 5:30 PM, and dinner served an hour later. Scott Howell will be presenting. Scott has been fly fishing for 30 years, the last 20 as a professional fly fishing guide in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alaska and Russia. He assisted Ed Ward in developing the Intruder fly and developed his Steelhead Popper while living on the Skeena. You can acquaint yourself with his demeanor by watching the DVD SkagitMaster 2: Steelheading Outside The Box available at your local fly fishing shop.
The membership will be sent a notice ahead of the banquet which will provide food selections and banquet price.
North Umpqua History: The Kitchen Hole
When the first fishing camp was established at Steamboat by Zeke Allen and associates, they had a big tent put up just above what is now known as the Kitchen. The tent served as a small, open air kitchen area. They cooked meals there, as well as using it for a central part of their camp.(see enclosed photo of Steamboat Fish Camp dated 1929).
Eventually Clarence Gordon took over the location and established the North Umpqua Lodge on the same flat used by Zeke Allen. Clarence built his kitchen and dining room right above the trail leading to the Kitchen Pool. The kitchen was adjacent to the structure that Clarence built for an office and the turn around that came off the hill from the Mott Bridge. It was in this circle that guests would sit around a campfire after dinner and talk about the fishing that day, and because there was no brush to block the view, they could watch anyone that wished to be out later in the evening fishing the pool. The Kitchen was considered the most productive pool in all the Camp Water.
An interesting side light of North Umpqua Lodge was the dinner hour. Harry and "Dolly" Keloir, a retired Vaudeville team, were the cooks. They insisted that the dinner meal be at 7 PM, right in the middle of the prime evening fishing. Most people went along with their schedule, if they wanted to have an evening meal. Harry was a superb cook. He made the greatest pancakes I have ever seen.
Editors Note: I fell in love with the Kitchen Hole early in my exposure to the North Umpqua river. In the 1970's and 1980's you had to place yourself next to the pool well before fishing light or you probably wouldn't have a chance to fish it in the morning. One of those mid-week mornings in the 1970's when the summer hatchery program was in full swing, I had hooked and released two steelhead, one from the slot on the road side of the mid pool ledge. A few minutes later a hen, about 10 lbs, took a wooly bugger in the tailout. Three fish in one morning, I couldn't believe it! Well almost three fish. As I worked the hen over to release her she scooted between my legs and headed down river with rod tip and mid section following suit. In an attempt to save the rod I lifted my one leg over the rod to get on one side of it. In the drink I went. A moment later a hardy HA! HA! came from the cabin upslope, Dick Marlega, the Steamboat District Ranger at that time, saw the whole thing. This reminds me what it must have been like to fish the Kitchen with a camp audience behind you in days gone by. By the way, that hen broke off with wooly bugger in tow. She is seen on occasion rolling in the Kitchen tailout, has grown to at least 20 lbs, or maybe it's her ghost!
President's Message - Lenny Volland
At Dick Bauer's suggestion the Board of Directors sent out a New Years salutation to the membership. I would be remiss to not credit the photo of a blue heron with fish in mouth at Winchester Dam. The photo was taken by David Diaz, my next door neighbor downstream from us. Thank you Dave for your appreciation of our natural world.
The wheels of progress grind slowly, but keeping an oar in the water helps tremendously, witness the development of the Coastal Native Fish Conservation Plan. Enclosed in this newsletter is Joe Ferguson's update of the planning process as the Steamboaters' representatives (Ferguson, Peter Tronquet, and Jeff Dose) have experienced the process so far. Midway through January, Joe, Peter and I visited with Roseburg ODFW representatives, Tim Walters and Laura Jackson, over some information gaps we felt needed addressing. The meeting went well. In a subsequent email from Tim, he thanked us for an open, honest discussion and looks forward to working with the Steamboaters to improve habitat and keep healthy populations of native fish in the basin. As Joe mentioned in his write-up, as part of the state fish management planning process, a public opinion poll is due from ODFW any week now. If the opportunity presents itself we will try to solicit input from the Steamboaters membership.
During this meeting Tim Walters gave us copies of various hooking mortality studies done over the last 25 years or so in Canada and the Pacific Northwest. The studies imply less than 10% of the fish caught using a barbed hook actually die from stress or associated wounds. Mortality rates from artificial flies approximate 3 to 5%, regardless if barbed or unbarbed. I live on the North Umpqua about seven river miles upriver from Winchester Dam. The winter steelhead fishery behind the house runs from early January through about mid-April most years, depending on fluctuations in water flow. Less than 10% of this winter run is composed of hatchery steelhead. This percentage is decreasing each year since the ODFW no longer stocks winter hatchery fish on the North Umpqua. During the peak of the winter run I am still seeing guide boats fishing this section of the river consistently day after day, some days 3 to 5 boats can be counted past the house. The guides are catching fish, but are keeping very few since very few are hatchery fish. I am beginning to wonder what the impact of using barbed hooks on these wild winter steelhead can be. Even though there is a barbless hook regulation in place for the fly water, and a new anti-snagging regulation in the Lone Rock-Rock Creek area (see new CY 2013 regs), I can still back troll plugs, a diver/bait rig, drag a nightcrawler, or side drift yarn balls or fish roe with a barbed hook. So I question a terminal gear regulation which stresses barbless hooks in one section of the North Umpqua and not the other during a portion of the season when by far the majority of returning fish are wild stock. The Board of Directors at various times has considered modifications to the fishing regulations; some are in place now thanks to our efforts. Some aren't because the Board is always leery of over regulating for the purposes of fish conservation. But isn't there some hypocrisy embedded in the barbed/barbless issue when a particular run is completely dedicated to wild fish.
The winter banquet in March should be a real kick. Scott Howell is on the agenda. You'll see pictures of big fish and lots of scenery from around steelhead land. Hope to see you there, and bring a buddy.
Coastal Multi-Species Management Plan - Joe Ferguson
The public process for the long-awaited Coastal Native Fish Conservation Plan (NFCP) began last fall with an orientation session for the four public 'stakeholders' panels, followed by three-day work sessions for each of the four "strata:" The North Coast, Mid Coast, Mid-South Coast, and Umpqua. The plan will address six Species Management Units (SMU) of anadromous fish from the Elk River north to the Nehalem River. The draft plan will be out some time late spring or early summer, with presentation to the Commission now slated for this fall.
These plans implement Oregon's Native Fish Conservation Policy (Oregon Admin Rule 635-007). The policy states that "conservation of naturally produced native fish species in the geographic areas to which they are indigenous is the Department's principal obligation for fish management." The policy also is intended "to provide recreational, commercial, cultural and aesthetic benefits of
native fish populations to present and future citizens." Optimum" is defined in the admin rules as whatever is contained in an adopted plan. So ODFW has considerable latitude in the primary focus of the plans, both coast-wide and in individual watersheds.
The policy outlines a format and objectives that allow for the development of strong, native fish-oriented plans. The format in a nutshell:
~ Identify existing and desired status of the populations
~ Identify factors that limit reaching the desired status
~ Develop a plan to address the limiting factors
~ Monitor the results of plan implementation and adapt as necessary
To summarize the process so far: The stakeholder panels discussed the ODFW's draft "straw man" hatchery and harvest proposal that emphasizes "opportunity" (which for these discussions was a euphemism for "harvest)." Other key elements of the plan were not open for discussion. The aim of the straw man proposal is not the healthiest wild fish populations possible, and not necessarily survival of all of the individual populations. Rather it is to promote fishing opportunity while maintaining viability - that is, survival for the next 100 years of the species as a whole. The Viability Analysis done by the department indicates that there is no crisis in coastal fish populations. In the process so far, there are no apparent changes in management philosophy, although we have only dealt with limited aspects of a plan and we'll have more clarity when the draft NFCP is published this spring.
The term "wild fish sanctuaries" has been used at times during the work sessions, but other than a lack of hatchery fish, there's no definition of what the term means. ODFW staff were reluctant to discuss the criteria used to select rivers for wild fish focus, or what management options are associated with such a designation.
ODFW is preparing a public opinion poll, developed at OSU and due out in late January or February, which will gauge public attitudes around hatchery and harvest issues. Their staff have indicated several times that the poll will be a factor in development of the final plan.
There was no discussion of limiting factors other than a brief staff presentation on two of them: predation, and loss of habitat (the biggest single limiting factor). On the predation issue, the state's hands are tied by Federal regulations protecting pinnipeds and fish-eating birds, primarily cormorants. They are pursuing the predation issue with the Feds, with very limited results.
ODFW has no regulatory authority over habitat protection or destruction. They proposed a set of maps at the 6th field subwatershed level (as Jeff Dose said, think tributaries of Steamboat Creek or Little Rock Cr. and Cedar Cr. as a 6th field) which rates both the existing habitat condition and the potential value of the habitat. These maps will be reviewed by a separate working group. Ideally the maps could be used to prioritize rehabilitation efforts and possible protection. However, at the Habitat Workshop it was apparent that most of the land designated as forest has great potential but a large portion is degraded. The situation is so widespread it's impossible to use the maps to prioritize.
The good news: overall, the North Umpqua was treated fairly well in the ODFW's straw man proposal:
~ Reduce the hatchery release of summer steelhead from 165,000 to 120,000. This is a reduction in name only; they've only had the capacity to produce 120,000 smolts for the last few years, so it's really no change.
~ The winter steelhead run will continue to be completely wild.
~ Hatchery spring chinook will be reduced from 342,000 to 300,000.
~ Increase South Fork hatchery winter steelhead from 120,000 to 150,000 (a disappointment - the upper SUR seems a candidate for steelhead recovery).
~The proposal to renew general harvest of wild winter steelhead on the mainstem Umpqua River was rejected by the stakeholders; it was replaced with a proposal to sell 2,000 harvest tags for wild steelhead with a maximum size of 32" (this was not supported by Steamboaters, TNUF or Pacific Rivers Council).
~ Other NFCPs have done a good job of identifying limiting factors.
The bad news:
~ Overall, no focus on wild fish is apparent. The ODFW proposal sets an extremely low management goal. The 100 year viability is based on an analysis using sketchy data andquesstionable assumptions.Basically the department is aiming to maintain what we have now, with an increased harvest of wild winter steelhead.
~ Public input during the stratum workshops was very restricted. We discussed ODFW's hatchery and harvest proposals but this was a yes or no discussion - no information was provided on how or why the proposals were crafted, no definition of the problems leading them to propose hatchery/harvest changes nor what the desired result would be.
~There was no explanation for why particular rivers were chosen for change. For example, the harvest of wild winter steelhead were proposed for the Nehalem, Trask, Salmon, mainstem Umpqua River as well as Lake Ck. (Siuslaw), Big Elk Ck (Yaquina), S Fk Coos River, N Fk & E Fk of the Coquille.
~There is no discussion of the desired status of either the individual strata populations or the species as a whole.
~ It does not appear that impacts from climate change or private land timber harvest were included in the viability analysis. Climate change could affect Cascade watersheds, like the North and South Fk Umpqua River, more than rivers flowing from the Coast Range.These omissions become more critical given the department's inability to fund a comprehensive monitoring program.
In my opinion the ODFW needs revenue from the sale of licenses and tags. If a significant proportion of the fishing population doesn't buy tags because they can't kill fish, that's a real loss of operating revenue. So there's pressure to harvest fish from a sizable segment of sport fishers, coastal officials and commercial fishing interests, particularly with salmon. A true portfolio approach would provide hatchery opportunity in some watersheds but would include a solid wild fish emphasis in managing certain watersheds, presumably in areas where they have the least number of limiting factors, and that would probably coincide with National Forest lands. The goal should be the healthiest, strongest runs possible, and not simply healthy enough to harvest some wild fish. We may see this emphasis when the draft of the full plan is published. Based on the process so far, that's very doubtful.
| ||The Coon Muddler - Joe Howell|
Hook: black, up turned eye in #4 or #2
Body: gold diamond braid
Underwing: 1/4 inch strip of barred black & white wooduck flank
Wing: raccoon guard hair with some under fir tied in
Head: deer body hair, spun and clipped muddler style
Researching back to old Whistles from the 1980's (almost 30 years ago!) two articles appeared in the Fly Tyer's Corner related to the coon muddler. One was by Bill May in April 1982 and the other by Joe himself four years later. The following is a quote from Bill's column regarding this muddler pattern: There must be at least 20 variations of the standard muddler, but few of them are in the same league as the original when it comes to effectiveness. Of these few, Joe Howell's raccoon and wood duck variation is a real standout.
Joe's original writeup read like this: " Over the years steelhead fly patterns have come and gone. Some have accounted for an occasional fish while others are consistent producers of many steelhead. Shape, color, contrast of color, silhouette, size, movement, and flash are all important elements of fly design.
Flies that incorporate several of these elements usually fall into the more productive category. One such fly is the Muddler Minnow. It is suggestive of many natural food sources. It could imitate everything from minnows, moths, stoneflies, grasshoppers to large emergent caddis. It is one of the mainstays in my fly box..
With the decline in the availability of the mottled turkey quill used in the wing, along with the need to create more contrast in the fly, I made a few changes. I substituted raccoon hair and added black and white barred wooduck in the place of the turkey. The result was a muddler with greater movement and visibility under varied light conditions. This variation of the muddler has accounted for a large number of steelhead over many seasons."
The editor watched Joe tie his muddler at the fly fishing symposium in Glide this past September. I asked him where on a coon he gets these guard hairs. His comment was along the back behind the shoulders. Bill May's suggestion was the hair should be brown at the base, cream-colored in mid section and black at the tips. Next time you see road kill, check it out. Bill also suggested the base of the barred wooduck feather be lacquered before tying it in, to help keep the fibers from separating during the tying operation. He uses a half-inch section of flank feather, lacquer it, fold it in half before tying it in.
|Fly Fishing for Salmon in Alaska - Eric Figura|
Editors Note: Eric Figura won a raffle ticket at last years' March banquet that gave him a free fishing trip to the Kenai River. The following is his story of that trip:
In the world of salmon fishing, the confluence of the Moose River and the Kenai River is famous for being a major holding area for king salmon. At the confluence is a pool where the king fishing is so good that it's known by locals as "King Beach". This stretch of the riverbank is owned by Great Alaska Adventure Lodge and as such, the lodge offers some of the finest shore fishing on the Kenai River. If you attended the annual Steamboaters' winter social last March you might remember someone winning a 5-day trip to a fishing lodge in Alaska. That lucky person was me and the lodge was Great Alaska Adventure Lodge.
The Lodge is in Sterling, Alaska on the middle Kenai River. The facility is situated where the tea-stained Moose River enters the blue-green Kenai. The flow in the Kenai is low in the spring and then continues to rise until September because it is fed by melting glaciers. The influx of cold water in the Kenai is in stark contrast with the warmer waters of the Moose River. Every king, pink, silver, and rainbow pulls into this beach to warm up and sniff its flows.
The fish are big. The Kenai is home to the largest strain of king salmon on earth. In 1985, Les Anderson caught the world record king salmon on the Kenai and didn't even know it. He took it home and bled it in the bathtub, which was the custom at the time. Les' friend saw the fish in the tub and suggested he weigh it. The fish weighed 97 lbs but since it had already been bled, it may have easily weighed over 100 lbs.
I arrived for my trip June 23rd, one day after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed king salmon harvest fishing early in response to record-low returns. I was disappointed when I heard the news but I was still excited about the prospects of fighting and landing a large Kenai king. In the late evening of my first day, the all-night dusk beckoned me-the eternal witching hour of the fisherman. It was tempting to stay out all night but I knew I'd be waking up at 4 AM for a day of gear fishing, and besides, rumor had it that salmon don't bite at night. I didn't dispel the rumor but over a 5 day trip I still averaged only 4 hours of sleep a night. .
A day at the Lodge began at 4 am with a knock on the door and only a hot cup of coffee to greet you. I would grab my gear and head to breakfast in a room overlooking the Moose River. The Kenai Mountains and the snow-capped Chugach Mountain range were illuminated by the same light as when I went to bed. The guide picked us up after breakfast and we headed out. Steve Fickes, the head guide, knows more about kings on the middle Kenai then anyone. He "keeps scratching them up", as he says, even in bad years. As he backed the unbaited spin-n-glows down into likely lies with the 50-horse prop (jets aren't allowed on the Kenai), I enjoyed the scenery on the bank at a backward crawl. Mesmerized by the river and the scenery, I was startled by braided line screaming off the level-wind reel. Leaping from my seat and reaching for the rod in the holder I froze to a commanding, "WAIT!" Fickes instructed to never grab a rod out of the holder until it stops bucking and goes flat. So I stood in the boat watching the line peel off the reel until he calmly said, "OK". Firmly hooked in the corner of its mouth, the king headed to the main current.
After gratefully tipping my guide for the long and exciting day of gear fishing, I usually thought about taking a nap. But there was the beach, the famous King Beach. So I'd don my waders and head out in bright sunlight. During these afternoons, I might hook four kings in an hour and be lucky to land half that many or I might only hook one but have it take me 150 yards down the river. A Gille is employed at the beach to help land the fish; often saving your bacon and, even more importantly, cutting the fight time by half. Particularly during a summer with record low returns of king salmon on the Kenai River, speeding up the fight was particularly good for a soon-to-be released fish.
Around 7 PM the guests and guides would meet at the lodge for drinks and to plan the next day's trip. After drinks, a fine meal, while everyone was chatting, I'd slip off and head back out to the beach for an evening session of fly-fishing. I wasn't the only one eager to fly-fish, the beach is a beat and sometimes it means waiting your turn. One evening, below the tailout of the beach I was lucky enough to land a buck that taped 47 by 26 inches- by Kenai River conversion it weighed 42.9 lbs. The size-1 Gamagatsu hook was bent open when I landed the fish. The hens are bright but the bucks darken quickly. However, they aren't the least bit tired in their darker state and it was some of the most exhilarating fly-fishing for salmon I have ever experienced.
Fishing for the largest salmon in the world with Alaska's wild glaciers and mountains as a backdrop was an incredible experience and I'd encourage anyone to go. If you like salmon fishing, you will fight many salmon in a day. If you like rainbows, Kenai's rainbows are legendary; go in late August or September during the 'big drop' when the salmon are spawning. Toby Sprinkle was very accommodating to all of the guests' fishing interests and genuinely wanted everyone to have a wonderful time.
I would like to thank the Steamboaters for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Specifically, I'd like to thank Tony Wratney for lending me a stout 9-weight Sage gold label spey rod and a spare 10-weight... just in case; I'd like to thank Spirit River for all the materials and a great purple and black prawn pattern; and most of all I'd like to thank all my elders here on the North Umpqua: Joe Howell, Frank Moore and Bob Burris for all the advice you've given me about swinging flies for salmon and steelhead.
| ||Soda Springs Fish Passage - Rich Grost |
After four years of design and three years of year-round construction, the new fish passage facilities at Soda Springs Dam were completed at the end of November 2012. The facilities were painstakingly designed to meet agency criteria for passing all native anadromous fish within the constraints imposed by the narrow canyon, steep topography, unstable slopes, and temperamental river.
The facilities include a fish ladder about 600 feet long with 59 pools. It is a "half-Ice-Harbor" design with smooth, continuously sloped floor and smooth, rounded corners at all turning pools for smooth hydraulics and to facilitate fish and lamprey passage. At each pool, fish have the option of swimming through an 18-inch opening along the bottom, or swimming / leaping over a 4-foot-wide weir at the top, either way gaining a 1-foot rise in elevation. Chinook salmon were observed moving into the fish ladder as soon as it was watered up for testing in mid-October, and several coho salmon redds were confirmed upstream of the dam during November and December. A special video system is being installed at a counting station to document the number, size and species of adult salmon and steelhead using the ladder.
The fish screen, for protecting downstream-migrating fry, smolts, and adult steelhead kelts, is actually a series of three different screens over a length of about 400 feet. The primary screens are about 200 feet long by 19 feet tall; the secondary and finishing screens are smaller in area. All screen material is stainless steel wedgewire, with gaps of 1.75 millimeters (<3/32 inch). Screen surfaces are cleaned by a combination of moving brushes and water jets to move sediment along the bottom and backwash the finishing screens. Most water passes through the screens into the penstock (and hence to the powerhouse a half--mile downstream) or into the fish ladder entrance to help attract fish and supply water to the river. The remaining water flow, about 25 cubic feet per second, carries the fish back to the river via a custom, super-smooth pipe system. When fish are being sampled, the fish flow will be routed into an evaluation building and further screened so that fish can be retained in a holding tank and examined for size, number, condition and species.
Soda Springs Dam and new fish passage facility, November 2012, with features color-coded. Blue lines indicate water flow toward the fish ladder, fish screen, spillway, and out the fish ladder bottom. Red lines indicate water flow toward the old intake and inside the old penstock. Orange lines indicate fish passage pathway from base of dam up into reservoir. Green lines indicate fish screen and path of juvenile fish moving downstream back into the river. Yellow lines indicate new spillway surface smoothed for improved fish survival.
Despite 30 days of rigorous testing and commissioning of the new facility, during which it passed a mid-November high flow event, a larger and faster high flow event early on Dec. 2, 2012, introduced a slug of debris into the river which, within about three minutes, damaged the primary fish screens. Although the fish ladder remains open for business, the fish screens are out of service until repairs are completed this summer. Fortunately, there are no smolts yet upstream of the dam to need fish screen protection. Steelhead kelts and fry are expected to mostly ride the snowmelt downstream and hence pass through the smoothed spillways.
We appreciate the understanding shown during the past eight years of major in-water construction that was inevitable in the course of building all the new fish protections and passage facilities at the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project. The current fish screen repairs are not expected to require any in-water work, and hence will not affect turbidity.
Once repaired and improved, the facilities will undergo a rigorous performance evaluation to ensure they are working properly. Beyond that, monitoring is planned through 2038 (the entire current license period) to evaluate the overall benefit realized from restoring fish passage.
North Umpqua HydroelectricProject
|About Us |
PO Box 41266
Eugene, Oregon 97404
The mission of the Steamboaters is to preserve, promote, and restore the unique aesthetic values, the natural production of wild fish populations, and the habitat that sustains these fish on the North Umpqua River.
The Steamboaters is a charter member club of the Fly Fishers, a member of Oregon Trout and the Pacific Rivers Council.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS
Len Volland, President Dick Bauer
(541) 673-2246 (541) 688-4980
Josh Voynick, Vice President Joe Ferguson
(541) 496-0077 (541) 747-4917
Chuck Schnautz, Secretary Dale Greenley
(541) 496-0328 (541) 863-6213
Lee Lashway, Treasurer Tim Goforth
(541) 953-4796 (541) 496-0780
Pat McRae Charles Spooner
(541) 496-4222 (541) 496-0493