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Please send an e-mail to your Oregon House Representative today urging him/her to oppose HB 2873, a bill that would roll back existing fish protection laws that currently apply to development of hydro power on manmade canals or diversion structures. The bill is coming to the floor for a vote today. To find your legislator click here. Please send your note to your state representative at the bottom of the list.

What House Bill 2873 does: HB 2873 prohibits the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from requiring fish passage, screening or bypass devices when an “in-conduit” hydroelectric project is developed on manmade canal or diversion structure.

The development of hydroelectric facilities on existing manmade canals and diversion structures (otherwise known as in-conduit hydro) has long been allowed under Oregon law (ORS Chapter 543). In 2007, HB 2785 was adopted to allow an expedited process for the development this type of power. This new law allowed for a much quicker approval process—providing an incentive to develop this type of power – but only if key resource protections were in place. Fish passage and screening were contemplated from the outset as a minimum condition and were agreed to by the Oregon Water Resources Congress (the proponent of HB 2873), the Oregon Farm Bureau, conservation groups, state agencies, and others. This agreement was the basis for conservation groups to not oppose the 2007 bill.

If you are looking for a cut and paste message, this should work:

Please do not roll back existing fish protections, vote NO on HB 2873. HB 2873 is inconsistent with Oregon’s long-standing commitment to fish passage and screening across the state. HB 2873 undermines existing laws and policies intended to protect fish and allow energy development. Energy development is neither “green” nor “renewable” if it involves shortcuts that compromise existing protections for imperiled fish in Oregon.

Note: The development of inconduit hydro is not at issue in this bill. These projects are a viable source of power but provisions should remain to protect fish.

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Deep in the Coast Range, it wasn’t Saquatch that inhaled my roe. My friend Jason and I were catching lots of salmon and I do mean lots, every couple casts type lots of salmon. We even had a simultaneous bobber down double . . . . But we were catching mostly dusky chinook and the occasional bright hot coho thrown in and we were sorting through those fish looking for a chrome chinook or two.

‘Bobber down’ and I set the hook into a pretty hot fish. Hooked not far off the bank, I instantly caught a flash of purplish red tiger stripes. “Dude, this thing’s a chum!”

“Are you sure?” Jason asked incredulous.

“I think so.” While not so for folks in Alaska, BC or Washington, in these parts calling “chum” is a big deal. I had never caught one in Oregon. There are two stable populations, one in the streams draining into Tillamook Bay and the other in the Yaquina. According to the Oregon Native Fish Stock Status Report, the Oregon Coastal chum SMU consists of 13 populations, eight of which exist, three of which are extinct and two are presumed extinct. In the river system we were fishing, the chum is presumed extinct. Does this look extinct?

Rare Oregon Coast Range Chum

Rare Oregon Coast Range Chum

Almost eveyone who fishes salmon is inspired by their lifecycle and during spawning season goes voyeur. I’m no exception and spent a couple hours doing my best (which isn’t very good) National Geographic imitation.

This year, I switched things up and took my first underwater point-and-shoot pics. I discovered quickly that in a such small stream, light interference from the reflection on the surface makes underwater shooting tough and the camera doesn’t have much range. You have to be really close to your subject. Now, big ocean fish who migrate into tiny tributaries are pretty darn spooky which ups the difficulty level further. Lest I forget, I also couldn’t view the display to see what I was shooting. I ended up crawling on my hands and knees through the mid-forties water inching the camera towards a group of chinook. I spooked a couple but was sure not to tread on any redds. Does this make me a bad person? You can be the judge.

Salmon Spawning Stream, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawning Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawning Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawning Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawning Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawning Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawing Chinook Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Spawing Chinook Salmon, Central Coast Range, Oregon

Wednesday marked a milestone and it couldn’t be a bad trip unless I sank or otherwise messed up the dory. See, Oregon’s fall salmon returns were in a serious trough, a downturn of epic proportions. Coming off the huge runs of wild chinook and coho it seemed the good times would never end but . . . ocean conditions crapped out worse than the only time I ever went to a casino and the salmon disappeared. I mean, we are talking going from over 100,000 salmon in the Siuslaw to probably 15,000 fish and even what we considered huge was was down from historic returns of 300,000-450,000 fish.

So, I made what I considered a self-less decision. Well, almost self-less (I did hope my decision would please the fish-gods and bring me good karma in years to come). I decided not to fish for salmon until we started to come out of the trough. I figured the fish I would likely catch were more needed on their spawning grounds than in my gullet, a decision made easier by the plain fact that there weren’t very many fish to catch anyway. I did fish for salmon once last year on a river that has a hatchery run of coho and I caught a wild fish that was released by my nameless net man who contrary to instruction took a stab at the fish while it was still hot. Whatever. It would have been released anyway.

So it has been a full two years since I really fished salmon. But everything indicates that we are climbing out of the trough and recent heavy rains brought the Siuslaw up a boatable level. The environmental conditions all indicated a bonanza, a salmon stampede. I called my friend Mike, “It’s gonna be on like Donkey Kong.”

“Count me in.”

It was then I realized how my self-imposed exile was effecting me. As soon as I decided to fish my mood improved.

We put in just at first light and floated down to the Forks. I noticed right away one of my enemies in the Mckenzie wild fish fight on the water and I wondered if he noted my “elitist” fly guy gear: plugs, spinners and a bobber and jig set-up. Whatever. Strangely, there weren’t any fish around at the beginning of our float, we weren’t even seeing any “rollers” and no one was catching anything. The first salmon we saw was the buck Mike hooked:

Buck Chinook, Siuslaw River, OR

This was Mike’s first salmon! A very respectable buck chinook, nice work, Mike! I think he was happy about it:

Mike with a buck Chinook, Siuslaw River, OR

I’ll be darned though if the fish weren’t doing what the textbooks said they should. We kept working. Most boats and bankies had zero fish. Some had one. We worked down the second to last pluggable run on our drift and the left rod popped off in some heavy current. Fish on! We manuvered into some slack water and dropped anchor and the hen chinook took the fight to me. She kept using the heavy current to the river right to her advantage making repeated runs with the help of the fast water. The first time I saw her, she had the whole plug in her mouth. A few minutes later when she surfaced again I saw that only one tine of the rear treble was between me and a broken heart. But things went my way and we landed her. A quick inspection revealed why it had been such a battle, she still was strong with her sea-spirit:

Sea-Lice, Hen Chinook, Siuslaw River, OR

Hen Chinook, Siuslaw River, OR

We had to really work for our fish but it was great day on the water, not in numbers of fish, but it’s awesome to be back in the game!

Alan Moore, staffer at Trout Unlimited’s Portland office and awesome wild fish advocate has launched a blog, Wild Fishasaurus, a difficult decision he decribes thusly:

“We decided to go ahead and try this, at considerable peril to our reputations and financial well-being.  There are no criteria, clearly.  Nor is there quality control, clearly.  And most significantly, rotting, reeking, festering on-line ice-pick-in-your-eye-cuz-it’s-so-damn-boring fish conservation content sprinkled with bathroom humor knows no borders,boundaries, limits, laws or rules.  Hope to post something new or two a week.  Please anyone who likes what he sees and has an outlet, help us spread the word to anyone who isn’t to likely to be offended.”

Please add him to your blog rolls and check back often.  This is bound to be good . . . .

Last week I fished the “Town Run” of the mainstem Willamette river in Eugene-Springfield several times.  The herd has been thinnned by now and fish are harder to come by but there were no skunkings.  This is the story of the last of those trips.

Friday morning, I awoke with a bit of congestion in my upper chest. I knew the crud was coming on fast but I supressed my cough, hitched up the boat and met my clients for a day of urban flyfishing fun. I knew it would be hard work. Almost all of the fish seemed to have moved into one spot at the end of our run and the put in was a circus . . . there were at least four other boats. ugh.

I backrowed hard, all day, because missing those upper spots meant we had to spend more time in areas that were productive earlier in the season but hadn’t been so lately. Besides that, I knew of another guide trip that would be focusing on the area in which the fish were kegged up and I didn’t want to follow too closely behind that hoover. We were plucked at twice early in the float.  Could have been steelhead.  The clients said they were.  That early action was followed by a loooooooooooooooong lull.

Finally, we were in the spot were the fishing has been most productive. We swung across the tailout and one of the clients’ flies was eaten. He reefed back hard (NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and the fish was off but it also grabbed the next fly to swing into its lair and the fight was on. This fish broke off and it was my fault. I felt terrible. It was the first time on a guide trip that I can place the loss of a fish squarely on myself and I didn’t like it at all. Thankfully, my client was more circumspect. We continued to work the tailout without any more grabs until I was too exhausted to row any more and I asked if the guys minded if we took a break to “rest the fish?”

“and rest the rower?”
“Yes. To rest the rower.”

We headed over to the bank and anchored up, stretching our legs, drinking from our canteens and swapping stories of our lives and times, fishing and families. Finally, I thought I was well enough rested to give it another go. We worked tenaciously in the tailout to no effect. After twenty or so minutes I couldn’t hold it much longer. “Last pass guys.”

“That’s okay Karl, maybe today just isn’t our day . . . . FISH ON!”

This one was hooked solidly and wasn’t going anywhere.  A bacon-saving redemptive last pass fish! Steelheading takes determination to be sure. I backed away from the swift tailout, dropped anchor and Mike worked:

Willamette Mainstem (Town Run) Steelheading

Willamette Mainstem (Town Run) Steelheading

Willamette Mainstem (Town Run) Steelhead

None of these photos show scale but I’d estimate the hen at a solid six pounds. I asked Mike if he wanted a grip and grin shot and he said “no” and before I could say much else he had twisted the hook free and released the fish. Fred’s eyes were as wide as saucers and I was a bit surprised myself. Mike, from Nevada had only fished steelhead in BC where everything is catch and release and it never crossed his mind to keep it. As for me and Fred, the idea of releasing a hatchery fish rarely crosses our minds. But hey, it was his fish after all and so his call.

As soon as Mike and Fred and I shook hands and they were on their way I realized …. My head was light, I felt faint and fatigued, my muscles ached and bones hurt, my skin was hot but my body chilled, I swooned with any exertion. Somehow, I hadn’t realized any of this as I worked to get these dudes into fish and in the end, despite the adversity, I did. That’s why my friends call me the Mule and why One Mule Team Guide Service is one of the hardest working outfits out there.

No matter what, I will work hard for you and you will catch fish!

It has been a long time since I posted on this site and even longer since I updated the status of my restoration of a 19′ Bartender. In fact, I was still in the deconstruction phase of the project when I last shared any information on this blog. The project has been exacting and time consuming and a great learning experience.

I decided to replace all of the frames in the boat. This is kind of difficult. What I do is I obtain the shape of the inside of the hull at each frame using a compass and a board. The board is place on top of the frame inside the boat and the compass is used to scribe the inside shape of the hull onto the board. Now you have the shape of the bottom of the hull drawn on the board. This shape is transferred to a sheet of MDF and then from there re-transferred to a new, quality piece of stock. Voila. New cross member. The piece you see in the foreground has the shape of the hull drawn on it. Once the piece of stock has been cut an exact fit is obtained using either a planer or a angle-grinder.

Layout

Fabricating Frame 6

My friend Bill helped immensely by showing me how to do this. He has also helped by fabricating the most difficult pieces (with the steepest and compound bevels) due to both his superior tools and skills. He also cuts the basic form of each side frame using a jig and his tablesaw and places the bevel on the side frames using his band saw. Thanks Bill. Tuna runs are on me! (When I’m done, that is.)

Speaking of side frames, we run the stock long to get the basic frame shape. I place the bottom of the frame in the boat and utilize a piece of wood that crosses the bottom portion of the  frame vertically(ish) and also touches the side of the boat. I place reference lines on the bottom frame piece and thus am able to locate the outside of the sides of the hull on my MDF sheet so I am able to cut and bevel the bottom of the side rib and fit it in place in the hull. Reading over my explanation of this process, it  is easier to demonstrate than to explain.

I have replaced eight of the twelve frames and in the process of replacing the ninth. I also need to replace sections of the keel and that is what is holding me up, at the moment at least from completing the frame replacement portion of the project.

Frame 5 Replaced

You might notice the pieces of ply under some of the the frames. These pieces reinforce the hull because tough the ply was generally sound, there were portions that weren’t which were removed in order to prevent future issues.

Frame 5 Replaced

Bartender Restoration

Bartender Restoration

Bartender Restoration (frames 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 replaced)

Bartender