Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Whistle

ATTENTION ALL STEAMBOATERS: The most recent issue of The Whistle was sent electronically on Tuesday, October 30th. If you did not receive a copy it is because we do not have (1) your current email address or (2) the one we have is incorrect.

Please send your current email address to

Monday, August 20, 2012

North Umpqua Chronicle - August 20, 2012

The Summer Run of steelhead is well underway; my legs are already exhausted as a mountain climber, my casting arm aches like a sore armed Seattle reliever, my feet hurt like a New York cop..… take it from me, I am thrashed.    Fishing partner Jim Stanton is even worse off in my estimation.  We happened to stop at Spot X……Stanton sees a fish down there and magnanimously I allow him to go down and fish for it. 

I am the older of the two, you see,… one week and I question Jim’s good sense as we gazed down the steep, rugged trail of shattered loose rock with very little hand holds to cling to. He somehow survives the trip down. Surprisingly the fish is still there.  He wades upriver slightly out of view and then there is a shout from below. I holler “have you got him” and then see his yellow fly line being launched through the air  unencumbered by any connection to the fly rod and continuing out over the trees, flying away free to land who knows where. We are sure it would have won the Olympic fly line throw if there was such an event. We have no idea how the line got disconnected from itself. I thought it was truly hilarious…Jim, not so much.

Pat Mc.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

North Umpqua Chronicle July 29, 2012

Becky and I get back to the cabin after watching grandson, Callan, play in an All Star game. Jim Stanton, staying at the cabin, greets me with the news he found a pod of fish in the upper river and having several big “look-see jumps.” At least it is some evidence that fish have finally entered the river.

Keith Bendix, also at the cabin with son, Gannon, tells us at lunch about a fish coming to his Nemo and then disappearing in the lower river showing more evidence of the presence of fish.

Hope builds upon hope, so after Jim and Keith have gone back home, Becky and I go out. She has better eyes than I and sees a steelhead holding deep in a crevasse at lower Archie. I am excited and sneak quietly down the bank to fish over it. But, when I reach the bank, my fly, which had been hooked on one of the guides, comes loose and becoming a tangle along the bank. My frustration is overwhelming and results in more than just a little thrashing and swearing. By the time the episode is over, I am surprised to find out the fish is still there. But, as I cast to it, the fish clearly has no intention of even looking at my fly.

So, we hop in the Bum and head to Upper, Upper Archie where we park along the guard rail. I quickly march upriver to the trail and, as quiet as possible, stumble and slide my way down it until I can crouch along side the casting rock. I strip out 4 or 5 arm lengths of line and lay a Nemo, out into the river. Immediately, a large fish shoots straight up into the air and smacks down loudly. I can hear Becky’s shriek from up on the road where she was standing and watching. Two more times, I do same thing with the same result. After several more casts, the pool is silent as if the fish had never been there.

Back up on the roadside, I find myself nearly as happy as I would have been had I hooked up… least it was something.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

North Umpqua Chronicle - July 5, 2012

Lenny calls early this morning and Becky answers…I hear her say, what sounds like, “Joe hooked a fish at Bogus yesterday.” Holy Shit, What? I immediately roll out of bed, suddenly wide awake. I am stoked and jealous by the way. So when Becky hangs up I say to her, “So, Joe caught a fish at Bogus yesterday”. No, she says, “ he saw 8 fish at Bogus yesterday.” I say, “THAT LUCKY BUM GOT 8 FISH AT BOGUS YESTERDAY?  That lucky bum has hooked 8 fish in one day.” Really, eight fish! Then Becky says “NO!, Joe SAW 8 fish at Bogus yesterday”.  What the hell!!  No matter if 8 fish or a fish, one way or the other, somebody saw a fish in the fly water yesterday. Boo ya!

Pat Mc.

FYI - ODOT has begun work on the new bridge crossing the river at the bridge abutments - expect short delays going both ways in the Susan Creek area.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

North Umpqua Chronicle - May 31, 2012

Spring has seemed long, dreary and cold this year. The water remained higher than normal, and fishing pretty much a losing enterprise.  I know I am way early but today the water was noticeably lower, and my fly seemed not so manicured, perhaps something a fish might find interesting.

When I waded in, the current was gentle, and with the two hand spey rod I felt like I had a chance. The thought of those legendary big springers that Frank has talked about from time to time were on my mind, maybe they still come in…maybe I can reach them on the far side of the river. I entered at the Upper Boat and in as far as I felt safe.  The water was so pleasant that I didn’t even mind it when a few steps deeper I got a cold chill in my crotch. There was no sign of the legendary run, but I didn’t mind.  I fished from Upper Boat all the way down to the Pantry without any sign of fish.  Becky accompanied me from a distance where she was deep into a novel on the bank.

Becky comes with me most of the time now because my eyes have become so poor that I cannot tie a new fly on if I lose one, a hell of a deal, but my eye doctor tells me cataract surgery will take care of it when the time is right.  Not a bad deal having the prettiest gal on the river changing your flies for you.
Pat Mc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

North Umpqua Chronicle

May 23, 2012

Becky and I return to the cabin today and are surprised to see that the Green Bridge Rock is half out of the water. The “Rock” is my unofficial measuring stick for river water levels and at this water level you can begin to actually have some hope for a hookup.
Of course Becky, who keeps all kinds of things in her brain, will remind me that I wrote in my book that one really needs to wait until the summer soltice, June 20th, to have any hope for a fish and she emphasizes that it is still May.  Yes I know she is right, but on the other hand you just never know. She is going to be outside playing with her flowers and feeding those fun to watch hummingbirds, so I am going fishing!
Pat Mc.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Steamboat Falls Fish Ladder Update

I know you would like an update on ODFW plans for the summer and the repair work that will be done on the ladder. Yesterday I had a conversation with Tim Walters and today I attended the pre bid meeting at Roseburg office of ODFW. I can tell you all that our concerns for migrating steelhead are going to be taken care of now and hopefully well into the future.

Bids are due back into ODFW on May 17th.  It will take a couple of weeks before contract is actually awarded. Steamboat Falls Campground will be closed to the public on July 9th and General Contractor will be able to start their mobilization. There will be minimal in stream work allowed until August 1st and the ladder will remain open.

As soon as it is safe to enter the ladder, hopefully by the 1st of July, crews from ODFW will clear debris and make sure there are adequate flows for fish passage. It is the hope of ODFW fish biologists that a good many steelhead will pass through the ladder during the month of July and make it up to the Big Bend Pool where they will be safe and resting in cool water. Work during the month of July is not to  start until 9:00AM to allow as many fish as possible to pass through the ladder without any disturbances. Steelhead seem to move most early morning and early evening.

Fish that remain in the pool below the falls during the month of August while the ladder is closed will be protected from any human harassment. The pool will be closed to the public and there will be no swimming allowed. USFS will post closure signs and have patrols watching out for violators. At the pre bid meeting it was made clear to potential contractors that none of their crew would be allowed to swim there either.

It is my understanding that the ladder has to be made fish passable by September 1st and the project has to be completed by September 14th. There is a penalty clause of $1000.00 per day if schedule is not met.

I hope this alleviates some of the worries you have had about construction time frames and the fish we are trying to protect. If desired, you can go to State of Oregon website to download plans and specs. You will have to register but it is no big deal.

Jon Kurtz

President, The North Umpqua Foundation

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Past Abundance of Wild Summer Steelhead in the North Umpqua Basin

13,000+ Wild Fish on an El Nino Year?
Past Abundance of Wild Summer Steelhead
in the North Umpqua Basin

This is an assessment of The Umpqua River Study, a joint report by the Fish Commission of Oregon and The Oregon State Game Commission in 1946.  These two agencies later became The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).  This means that it is part of the historical record for past Pacific salmon numbers in this basin.
This study is of interest as the earliest historical documentation of fish counts over Winchester Dam and is apparently used as such by the North Umpqua Basin ODFW office.  This report contains data about run sizes for wild summer steelhead and other Pacific salmon in the North Umpqua River for 1946 and about past abundance.  All page citations herein refer to The Umpqua River Study.
First of all, The Umpqua River Study defines the summer steelhead as those fish crossing Winchester Dam from June through October (p. 41).  Presently and for some time now, the ODFW has defined as summer steelhead those steelhead crossing the dam between May 1 and November 30.  I have corrected the data from their Table 3 for this discrepancy  The number of wild summer steelhead documented as they passed the dam in 1946 becomes 4,137 fish.
The Umpqua River Study states (p. 43) that 1,244 steelhead were taken during the coho net fishery below the dam from October 1 through November 15, 1946.  Sixty-six of these fish were from the Smith River, leaving 1,178 North Umpqua River fish.  The timing indicates that these fish were undoubtedly summer steelhead.  The study further states that 97 summer steelhead were taken below the dam during the shad net fishery May and June of 1946.[1]  When the summer steelhead taken during the coho and shad fisheries are added to the corrected number of wild summer steelhead counted as they crossed Winchester Dam, the size of the 1946 run of summer steelhead becomes 5,412 wild fish.  This is 2,051 more fish than are presently listed as running in 1946—3,361 fish—by the ODFW.
Past abundance.  “The only summer steelhead caught by the commercial fishery are those few taken incidentally in the shad nets.” (p. 45).  In 1926, 18,000 pounds of summer steelhead were landed during the shad net fishery in May and June (p. 43).  When the average size of the summer steelhead landed in the 1946 shad fishery, 6.8 pounds, is used, this 18,000 pounds becomes 2,647 fish.  During 1946, May and June summer steelhead—including the 97 fish caught in the shad nets during 1946—make up 24% of the 5,412 summer steelhead that ran in that year.  Dividing the extrapolated 2,647 summer steelhead caught in shad nets during 1926 by 24% (0.24) yields a minimum of 11,029 wild summer steelhead running in 1926. 
The run size in 1926 is a minimum number because certainly some summer steelhead made it past the shad nets during May and June of 1926.  If even 20% of the summer steelhead running in May and June made it past these nets, the run size could have been over wild summer steelhead for that year.
Other factors had a negative influence on the size of the wild summer steelhead run in the North Umpqua River in 1926.  Commercial fishing was in full swing on the lower Umpqua.  “From 1916 to 1923 the fishing intensity gradually increased.  Then, in 1924, sixteen additional gillnet boats were brought from the Colombia to the Umpqua River.  This, coupled with the success of the previous season’s fishery, raised the fishing intensity to an all time high in 1924.” (p.23).  Even twenty years later in 1946, commercial fishing in the Umpqua River supported fifty fishermen and their families as well as four processing plants (p. 6).
Another factor influencing the numbers of summer steelhead returning to the North Umpqua River was the presence in the river—in the neighborhood of Rock Creek—of weirs stretched bank to bank from the spring until sometime in September.  These blockages to migration were for the purpose of taking eggs from Pacific salmon.  This had occurred since at least 1900 and continued in some fashion through 1946 (p. 11).  “From 1939 to 1946, inclusive, a total of slightly over 3,000,000 [eggs] were taken.” (p.11).
The final factor influencing fish abundance in 1926 is that 1926 is well recognized now in the literature as a severe El Nino year, that is, a year of exceptionally poor ocean conditions.  El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events occur every two to seven years and last from six to eighteen months and, while primarily a tropical event, it affects regions of the world far removed from the tropics with anomalous weather.  The main influence of these events on Pacific salmon numbers is probably through their interruption of southerly near-shore winds of spring and summer that bring about the coastal upwellings of cold nutrient-rich water, fueling the rich ocean ecosystems along the coasts of Oregon and Washington and increasing productively by more than 100%.  The adult abundance of various Pacific salmon species is correlated with the strength of these seasonal upwelling events.
So, in the face of decades of permanent egg weirs, of an intensive commercial net fishery, and—additionally and exceptionally—in the face of a very poor ocean conditions, a minimum number of 11,029 wild summer steelhead returned to the North Umpqua Basin.  In the fifty-seven years (only until 2002[2]*) since counting began at Winchester dam, the average return of wild summer steelhead to the basin has been 3,461 fish [1,951 fish less than what The Umpqua River Study documents ran in 1946—5,412 fish—and approximately a third of the fish that ran in the severe El Nino year of 1926.].  And consider, if in an El Nino year eighty years ago, the minimum number of wild summer steelhead was 11,029 fish, what was the wild summer steelhead run on the years when ocean conditions were average or good?
The historical number documented in their official file of Winchester Dam counts for 1946 by the ODFW is 3,361 wild summer steelhead.  This is approximately the number that would be obtained from Table 3 in The Umpqua River Study by ignoring the summer steelhead taken in the shad and coho nets and not counting those fish that ran in May and November as summer steelhead.  Why is this number of 3,361 wild summer steelhead being used by the local ODFW today?
How did the Fish Commission of Oregon and the Oregon State Game Commission assess the 5,412 wild summer steelhead that ran in 1946?  They don’t say directly, but indirectly they do.  The sport fishery that year was considered “particularly unsuccessful” (p. 46).  Their single recommendation bearing specifically on steelhead populations (p. 44) was to close the North Umpqua and its tributaries above Rock Creek to all fishing between October 31 and the opening of the trout season the following spring.  Together these observations suggest that the authors of The Umpqua River Study were not impressed with the 5,412 wild summer steelhead assessed for 1946.
In their summary, the authors of The Umpqua River Study actually state that “Under a proper management program, an average sustained yield of several times the 1946 catches [sic] may be expected.” (p. II).
And, please bear in mind, the permanent egg weirs and commercial in-river net fisheries have by now been gone for more than half a century and the absence of these two wild fish killers more than offset any subsequent deterioration of the habitats used by the various life stages of wild summer steelhead.[3] 
So where are the fish?  Has the ODFW reasonably and responsibly managed our  management of our wild summer steelhead populations? 
Take care, go well,
Lee Spencer

[1] With reference to the incidental catch of summer steelhead in shad nets, Chris Frissell notes that an uncertain percentage of these steelhead may be ocean-bound fish that have survived the spawning process (personal communication 2007).
[2] The seasonal percentage wild fish versus hatchery fish reported as passing Winchester Dam ceased to be believable around 2003.
[3] You would do well to consider that there has been a hatchery program for summer steelhead in place for more than fifty years now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Frank and Jeanne Moore

Part 2 of Don Roberts article on Frank and Jeanne Moore is in the January/February issue of NW Fly Fishing.