Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Cause for concern

The Maryland DNR has just announced this year’s Young of the Year (YOY) index, a measurement of the number of young striped bass born each spring in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay. The index was measured at 3.2 – being the average number of fish taken in each haul of the seine – which compares to the long term average of 11.7. Maryland biologists assert that this is no cause for alarm since there is a long history of variability among year-classes. Still the graph below shows that 4 of the best 5 YOY indexes ever recorded occurred in the past 15 years yet only one year in the last seven (2003) has been significantly above the long term average, while three have been alarmingly lower. This is hardly the sign of the fully recovered fishery being trumpeted by fishery managers. The mega spawning years of 1989, 1993,1996, and 2001 haven’t been remotely approached in the last 7 years. Those big years should have produced an abundance in the spawning stock biomass, yet the recent stock assessment released by the ASFMC confirms that this too is declining. Today’s catch levels and quotas are based on a theoretical abundance of fish from the 90s. The problem is that this abundance seems to be mostly theoretical. Despite the clear downtrend in the population numbers and the distressingly low replacement rate, absolutely no one is talking about reductions in quotas. It is certainly cause for concern.

Contribution by Stripers Forever Photo by Rene Braun

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You gotta work 'em

Here's a trip report from Henry Barber and Ed Bielijec. Both these guys are special people that push the boundaries and I thought it was worth sharing with the Way Upstream community. Henry wrote "Ed and I paddled out four miles to a remote point in Cape Cod bay. We got out for the outgoing tide and we fished high slack outgoing all the way to low. We were able to find the flats off the point and figure out holes and troughs near shore to target when we came back. The seals were everywhere. I landed one blue (bluefish) and 29 stripers in our first session. Hence the seals were pissed because we were stealing their lunch. Ed didn’t fare as well but he would fix that the next night when we paddled out for a midnight session. We left in early evening for the same four mile paddle because walking the sand would have been exhausting. The fish were surfacing even in the shallows. When we got out I immediately had a beer and went to sleep while Ed proceeded to roam another 1/2 mile off shore on the flats, in the dark, on an incoming tide! He maintained that he could bounce off the bottom pretty well and make it to higher ground if need be. Ed caught eight fish on his first foray but no hogs as we had hoped. He came back to sleep until we got the high slack again around 1am. We awoke as two coyotes passed by growling at us for trespassing on their point. We headed out at the high slack tide and I landed a fish on the first cast in a hole/trough that I had marked on the low tide the day before. I had a slow night though and only landed two more fish while Ed slayed them with his spey rod all night long. I guess when you find those honey holes you gotta work 'em."

Contribution by Henry Barber
Photos by Henry Barber and Ed Bielijec

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


October's arrival meant that it was finally time to embark on a long scheduled trip that would take me and two other colleagues to British Columbia. The specific location was the Bulkley River Lodge and the task was a week long steelhead fishing assignment. I packed two handed rods, reels, a variety of lines and tips, Riverwalkers (felt), new S9 Guidewater Waders, the new S9 SST, Shelled Insulator Pants, the Insulator Jacket, the Stormfront Pack, the new S9 Hip Chest Pack, plenty of wool, a small collection of other protos, flies, tools and such. Everything fit in the regular Freightliner and the Guidewater Duffle (Large). Rod tubes were carried separately.

Flying in over the coastal mountains and drainages gave me a sense of the vastness and wild remnants still on the ground. Fall colors were in full swing and the water levels were running a bit low and blue green clear. Just the view from the air made me understand why my professed steelhead bum friends were so passionate about this species and the terrain.

We spent our first night at the Stork’s Nest in Smithers and met up with Tim Pask for dinner. Tim gave us the rundown on fishing expectations, his views on recent Guidewader Wader testing and updates on a range of environmental threats to the wild steelhead fishery we were about to experience. That would be the only path crossing with our friend Tim. His assignment was to connect with the AEG crew for a filming mission on remote sections of some other Metalhead waters.

The following morning we were picked up by Dave “Whitey” Evans and Jimmy Simonelli from the Bulkley River Lodge. We loaded the rigs and headed for the river bank where we would spend the next seven nights. Brian Bennett and I were assigned to cabin #2 which would become technology central. I wasted no time setting up because my first assignment was to get out the door and into the Bulkley River currents with Jimmy. The highlight of the day was a double hook up on a tricky wading ledge section. That would be my only landed fish on day 1 but the ice was broken and I was fully engaged.

The lodge took great care of us throughout the trip. The staff was phenomenal. Coffee arrived at the door each morning, hot breakfast followed, lunches were packed and on the boats, drinks were ready upon return and a ceremonial dinner capped off each day’s steelhead quest. After dinner Whitey would stand and begin a nightly ceremony with a toast, “Good evening, good evening, good evening everyone…” He proceeded to recap the day. The guides then provided award pins for the deserving anglers. Next would be the announcement of the “Prick of the Day” award winner which is a rather unique contest that this lodge created to make light of the events of the day. This helped form a bond between all the guests. At the end of the week a “Prick of the Week” would be crowned. Last came the next day’s assignments, “out the door and up”, “the magical mystery tour” and “in the canyon” were some of the location descriptors. Once this ceremony was completed it was time to digest the events, pix, stories and to prepare for the next day. Getting gear into the drying hut was paramount.

As the days passed I became completely enamored with the people, this place and this fishery. Wind, rain, snow, frost, sun, elk, deer, grouse, raptors, ravens, coyote, bull trout and black bear all made their presence felt as members of this steelhead environment. Friendships were formed that I hope remain into the next years. I highly recommend this wild steelhead adventure to all of you in the Way Upstream community. Keep the fly in the water and believe in every cast.

Here’s a short video of me fighting my largest fish of the trip.

Video by Brian Bennett

Photos by Dave "Whitey" Evans, Jimmy Simonelli, Pat Beahen and Brian Bennett