THE STEAMBOAT WHISTLE Considerations Regarding an Action Plan for Umpqua Wild Steelhead Recovery

Volume 49, Issue I
Summer 2011
Considerations Regarding an Action Plan for Umpqua
Wild Steelhead Recovery
by Bill McMillan
Steelhead Muddler
By Dean Finnerty
Litter P/U
Annual Meeting
Saturday August 13th
9:30am Bogus Creek
Inside this issue:
President’s Message
Page 2
Club News & Notes
Page 3
Fly Tyer’s Corner
Page 4
North Umpqua
Page 6
Membership Info
Page 10
Given the present emphasis by ODFW on continuing hatchery steelhead programs in the Umpqua basin, one approach could be to have a phased plan to
achieve wild steelhead recovery through a more immediate short-term plan
that would initiate reduced levels of hatchery releases contained below designated “wild steelhead reserves.” This could be en route to a longer term goal
of increasing diminishment of hatchery steelhead releases with eventual basin
-wide hatchery elimination and entire watershed designation as a “wild
salmon and steelhead reserve.”
1) Set a long-term goal to sequentially reduce the numbers of both salmon
and steelhead planted with eventual hatchery elimination and an eventual
Umpqua basin designation as a “wild salmon & steelhead reserve.”
Regarding the North Umpqua: as fly fishing water, most fly fishers at least
mouth the belief that wild fish are their primary interest. If so, why plant
hatchery steelhead into water where fly fishermen typically express most interest in wild fish?
Related to the above, the North Umpqua is the ideal place to set up the concept of a more immediate "wild steelhead recovery area." Although there
may have been hatchery introgression due to the previous summer-run planting history, there are areas with long histories of hatchery releases where wild
populations still retain distinctively different DNA. It is a mixed bag. I am not
aware what the North Umpqua summer-run genetics show. Nevertheless,
there is only one way to recover traits that can increasingly adapt to the wild
(if the genetics have been altered) and that is to quit continually introducing
the hatchery traits for domestication with resulting low survival in the
wild. Continuous releases of hatchery fish never allow effective traits for survival in the wild to evolve due to the continuous interaction of hatchery with
wild fish that never ceases -- year after year of overlaying domesticated genetics on wild genetics, and/or competition between wild and hatchery fish at
virtually all life history stages.
(continued on page 7)
President’s Message
Recent times have been good for the North Umpqua Steamboaters.
The Winter Social was a huge success…see Dale Greenley’s description of the event. It was a large vibrant crowd and the air waves were electric. Bill McMillan’s presentation on the historical size of the
Umpqua’s run was eye opening and thought provoking. Just think what this river could be. In my eyes
Bill is “Steelhead Yoda”.
I came away from the event hugely encouraged by the support there is for this magnificent river and its
fish. For days afterward the river was incredibly crowded with winter fishermen waded in up to their
waist in the cold rain…that is true grit, and you know that when this river and the Steamboaters needs
their support, and those times will come, they will be there for us. That is reassuring and you all will be
needed rather soon. ODF&W’s disturbing “Coastal Management Plan” looms on the horizon. Stay tuned
and we will keep you informed.
Pat Mc.
Steamboaters Annual Litter Pickup, Barbeque, and Annual Meeting
Just a reminder to put this on your calendar: the litter pickup, picnic, and annual meeting will be held
again this summer on the Saturday closest to August 15, this year falling on August 13. As usual, we’ll
meet at the parking area at Bogus Creek at 9:30. We plan to have Dianne's Deli cater the picnic about
noon at the Susan Ck day-use area as we have for the past few years. The annual meeting will be held
at the picnic and a notice will be sent out in early summer. (Joe Ferguson)
Club News & Notes:
Native Fish Conservation Plan by Joe Ferguson
As described in the last Whistle, the proposed Coastal Winter Steelhead plan has been expanded to address summer and winter steelhead, spring and fall Chinook, chum salmon and sea-run cutthroat in
coastal rivers north of and including the Sixes River.
Over the course of the last year we have:
Formed a coalition with other conservation groups : The North Umpqua Foundation, Native Fish Society, Umpqua Watersheds, and South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership, as well as working
relationships with several others.
Worked with our consultant, Dr Eric Knudsen, to draft a position paper submitted to ODFW detailing
both the unique problems and opportunities that make the Umpqua Basin deserving of its own
separate plan.
Met in April with ODFW staff including Fish Division Director Ed Bowles, Bruce Macintosh, Tom
Stahl, and Jay Nicholson (Stahl and Nicholson will be lead staff in development of the coast
At the April meeting with ODFW, we presented four requests:
1) A separate plan for the Umpqua Basin. It’s the only coastal river with headwaters in the Cascades, it
has unique habitat, temperature and flow conditions, and its fish have unique life histories. It qualifies it for a separate plan under provisions in the admin rules.
2) The plan for the Umpqua Basin should aim high. The opportunity for recovery of native fish is higher
on the Umpqua than any other coastal river, the runs are in better shape than most rivers, and there
is high interest and public support for recovery of native fish. We requested as a goal the maximum
number of fish the habitat was capable of producing.
3) A focus on wild fish. While recognizing that a significant part of the angling public wants harvestable
fish runs as the top priority, the Umpqua Basin presents a great opportunity for a collaborative approach to wild fish recovery.
4) Participation in the public review process, with a seat in any public review group and the opportunity
to submit and discuss scientific analyses of their draft plan.
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
Fly Tyer’s Corner
Steelhead Muddler
By Dean Finnerty
Several years ago Harry Lemire and I were staying in a cabin on Washington’s Sauk River with one
of Harry’s fishing partners, Stacy Lamaroux. While sipping some of Stacy’s bourbon the subject of “favorite”
steelhead fly patterns came up. Both Harry and Stacy set down their glasses and retrieved their fly boxes.
I wasn’t surprised that both anglers carried just two fly boxes. Presentation almost always means more to
the fish than the pattern, so carrying a multitude of boxes with hundreds of different patterns is not necessary. What I was surprised about was that each angler had one box that was completely filled with a
sculpin pattern of Harry’s design. They varied in size and color, but there were dozens of this fly in each
man’s box. The other box was reserved for spey flies, dee wing flies and more traditional steelhead flies.
The box of sculpin flies intrigued me greatly. I related to each of them how effective a muddler was
on the North Umpqua. I told them how Frank Moore and I had spent many hours talking about fly patterns
we each found successful on the North Umpqua and how we both felt if we could only fish one fly to fish
year around on the North it would be a muddler.
Harry explained that he believed Steelhead instinctively attacked sculpins at nearly every opportunity. He said that sculpins greedily gobble up steelhead, trout and salmon eggs from the nest and therefore, salmonids had a strong desire to annihilate the opportunistic sculpins.
Harry’s pattern is tied entirely of natural materials. He finds this much more aesthetically pleasing
than using synthetics. He also points out that natural materials “breath” and move in the water in a very
life-like manner.
Frank had theorized that his “Ugly Muddler” was perhaps so successful because tiny air bubbles
trapped in the sparsely tied spun-deer hair head would “pop” and release sound as the fly was submerged
and swung through the run, thus making it attractive to steelhead.
My version of the “Steelhead Muddler” combines the best of both innovative anglers’ favorite steelhead patterns. I made the wing and body of the fly like Harry’s, using the natural colors and materials that
Harry favor’s and made the head like Frank taught me many years ago. I added eye’s because I seem to
have more confidence in streamer type patterns that mimic baitfish when I include eyes. The result is a fly
that I fish with confidence in the winter when the North Umpqua run’s clear and during the spring and early
summer season when fresh fish are so aggressive.
An added bonus to fishing this pattern is the way steelhead come to it. They’re never shy about it!
It’s always and arm jolting grab when an Umpqua native attacks this fly!
Tying Recipe
Hook: Heavy wire Atlantic salmon – up turned eye. 4 – 2/0 (barbless)
Thread: Heavy flat mono or 210 – brown
Med. Copper wire
Wing: (Tied Matuka Style) Rabbit strip in various colors from black, charcoal,
brown, olive, tan. Wing length is twice as long as hook shank.
Body: Euro-Seal dubbing, placed in dubbing loop. Colors vary same as wing.
“gills”: Red angora goat spun and dubbed to mimic flared gills.
Head: Natural deer hair spun and applied to create sparse head that is trimmed
to create the natural shape of the sculpin.
Eyes: Small black plastic pre-made eyes. Heavy mono burned at each end is a
good substitute.
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
Club News & Notes: Continued from Page 3
Native Fish Conservation Plan by Joe Ferguson (continued from pg 3)
We were told that the Umpqua would be included in the coast-wide plan but would be a separate
“stratum” with its own separate process which will allow detailed consideration of issues and strategies,
and will include a local public advisory group. Staff noted that the plan’s overall goal was not the health
of each individual population or sub-population, but rather the long-term viability of the species as a
whole. There would be different goals and management objectives for different populations and subpopulations, and some areas would be managed for harvest among other objectives. They also acknowledged the potential negative impacts from hatchery fish, and stated that hatchery programs
would not be the factor limiting recovery of wild fish populations.
The plan is currently being drafted by ODFW staff and is tentatively scheduled for completion before
the end of this year, at which time a public review process will begin.
Elsewhere in this issue is the second part of Bill McMillan’s thoughts on recovery of Umpqua Basin fish
runs. As he has noted, Puget Sound steelhead are less than 5% of historical numbers, and this cannot
be attributed solely to habitat degradation and loss; he believes native fish recovery cannot occur without curtailment of hatchery programs. In Oregon, hatchery runs have a large, vocal constituency. People demand fish to catch and harvest, and license/tag revenue is critical to ODFW’s budget. However,
the development of the Conservation Plans provides a basis for identifying and monitoring risk factors, a
first step. And as our consultant Dr Knudsen noted during his review of recently adopted Conservation
Plans, they are far better than anything Oregon (or Washington) has developed in the past.
New Members
Daphne Devine, Hayward CA
Nancy Dyke, West Linn OR
Matthew Henderson, Danville CA
Mark and Julie Kummel, Santa Barbara CA
Ewan and Rosamund Kummel, Portland OR
Ryan Kummel, Arcata CA
Steven B. Peters, Bend OR
Stan Washington, Reedsport OR
Ryan Whitmore, McKinleyville CA
Josh Voynick, Glide OR
Thank you all for your support and welcome to Steamboaters! Please encourage others you know to join
and help us protect and preserve this majestic river we all love. Membership applications can be found
on the last page of The Whistle, or by email at [email protected]
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
North Umpqua Chronicle
by Pat McRae
Becky and I returned from Arizona to find the aftermath of a powerful storm, with trees blown down along
the highway and high water racing by in the river out front of our cabin.
Fortunately, our cabin sits high above the river and our property suffered no damage; with one exception….sadly the large osprey nest nearby our cabin, the occupants of which have kept us entertained over the
years, appeared to have been damaged beyond repair.
In the past, each spring the family of ospreys have returned to the nest as the trilliums are beginning to
bloom and a loud aerial celebration ensued. This year the celebration was much quieter as they realized what
had happened. We still hear them from time to time and are hoping they will establish a new nest nearby!
A day later, the water has begun to drop and I am anxious to get out on the river. I struggle into my cold,
clammy waders and remember that slow leak I have forgotten to patch. No time for that now. When I round
the bend at Deadline Falls and see the Famous upriver, I feel a kind of electricity in the air. You just know
that the winter fish are in and you are entering the world of winter Steelheading and I love it. Vehicles with
fly rods in the rod racks on the hood race helter skelter up and down the highway looking for an open pool,
while others already in the river sling long casts over the water and mend their lines carefully to get that perfect drift. Strip out more line and do it again…maybe this time. No? Two steps down and do it all again.
Did that gaggle of guys get a hookup or are they grouching about the lack of fish? “Good Gawd, I haven’t
had a hookup this week”
How about Baker? Dammit, two cars there already. From there I head upriver.
Cars racing up and down river like angry bees, looking for an open pool
Pat Mc.
Pat McRae’s most recent book “The North Umpqua Chronicles” is available for purchase at Steamboat Inn, The Caddis Fly Shop, and
Angler’s Book Supply.
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
Umpqua River Wild Steelhead continued from page1
When the ice sheet that covered Puget Sound receded after the last Ice Age, it was only stray steelhead and
salmon from elsewhere that came to effectively recolonize it. Recolonization depends on allowing natural adaptation to work. Stray entering fish have a broad mix of genetic characteristics, and like hatchery fish many
will be ill adapted, but out of the straying genetic mix the prevalent conditions of an area will eventually select for those traits that are best adapted. (If you put gravel on screens of differing coarseness, what comes
out the bottom will be composed of different average size material than what was placed on top -- essentially
demonstrating how straying, adaptation, and evolution work with habitat being the selective screen.) This
has been shown to occur much more rapidly than folks in the past have considered. It apparently takes from
5-25 years for salmon/steelhead recolonization to occur to self-sustaining population numbers (if continuous
hatchery releases do not confuse the issue), with some species doing it faster than others. Once the right
genetics find the right habitat, an adapted population of fish begins to develop with higher survival than the
rest. As their productivity increases, they rapidly outnumber the strays with ill adapted traits. But in the case
of hatcheries, the ill adapted traits straying into the wild are so high in numbers that they continue to overwhelm the adapted traits year after year ... that is, until the large annual numbers of hatchery fish comingling with the wild ceases to occur, or is minimized down to the natural straying rate of about 5%.
The recolonization of pink salmon that were eliminated from the upper Fraser River by the Hells Gate slide in
1913-14 era came to recolonize once the slide area was provided effective passage for pink salmon in the
latter 1940s to early 1950s (sockeye salmon were not entirely eliminated due to having longer life histories
than pinks and because the slide became passable for them as stronger upriver migrators than pinks within 3
years after the slide). It took about 20-25 years for pink salmon to reestablish sustained populations in the
upper Fraser with about 2 million pinks now occurring there. Although still not as broadly dispersed as before
Hells Gate, in time it is thought they will eventually do so when the strays with the right mix of life history
characteristics eventually reach those areas.
Nature is a continual process of selecting for those life history characteristics that work for a particular habitat
2) In the short-term, be continuously critical of hatchery programs and argue for their elimination, but there
needs to be the necessary patience and tenacity that it can sometimes take decades to see progress
(realizing we are now more rapidly running out of decades as a result of global warming with the pressing
need for wild fish to make effective adaptations).
As a result, consistently argue that at a minimum limit hatchery releases to those areas of a basin where they
will do the least harm -- essentially meaning as low in the basin as possible and still provide some minimal
terminal area for harvest opportunity hatcheries are meant to provide. Over and over again we have done
just the opposite by putting hatchery programs in upper basin areas and spreading harvest for them out over
broad basin areas rather than in confined terminal areas.
To achieve the above, advocate for immediate reduction in the numbers of hatchery fish released to minimize
their interactions with wild fish, and to only release them below the forks with designation of both the North
Umpqua and South Umpqua as wild recovery reserves. Incorporated into that should be weirs that can be
used to effectively monitor wild escapement and to eliminate hatchery fish from entry to the reserves.
One good example of where this has occurred is Asotin Creek in Washington where a wild steelhead reserve
has been designated since the 1990s with weir use beginning in 2005 that denies hatchery entry beyond
it. The Elwha River weir is now also operating (biggest river thus far on the West Coast of the Lower 48 with
a weir) and is providing before dam data: It will eventually provide a
means to monitor the rate of salmon/steelhead recolonization to the upper basin. It also provides the opportunity to select out hatchery fish from entry to Olympic National Park if that decision comes to be made (as
would be anticipated from National Park consistency of management elsewhere). CONTINUED ON PG 8
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
Umpqua River Wild Steelhead continued from page7
It is apparent that the Umpqua basin once provided large numbers of wild steelhead. Much of the basin can
still do so -- but only if wild steelhead productivity is not continuously compromised by a steady flow of
hatchery genetics for domestication that drags wild fish down with them during spawning interactions and
perpetually reduced survival. And beyond genetics there is the continual competitive presence of hatchery
fish at all life history levels in both fresh and saltwater environments.
It makes absolutely no sense to invest large sums of money into habitat recovery projects and habitat purchases only to continue to allow hatchery fish entry that denies the ability for that habitat to work with high
natural productivity. We spend millions on one hand to create or preserve productive habitat, and we spend
millions on the other hand on hatcheries that insure the former will not effectively function due to hatchery
fish entry. End progress -- zero -- and at great cost to the public.
Bill McMillan has written of fly fishing and conservation subjects for over 35 years. He has conducted numerous field studies and published investigative reports and analyses in Washington and the Kamchatka Peninsula, and has compiled and published extensive research on historic abundance of salmon and steelhead
2011 Winter Social Recap by Dale Greenley
Guests of honor Bonnie and Joe Howell combined with guest speaker Bill McMillan proved a winning combination for the Steamboaters annual banquet this year. Over 80 Steamboaters and guests gathered at
Kow Loon’s in Roseburg on March 5 to hear an interesting presentation of estimated past steelhead populations in the Umpqua system by Bill McMillan. Comic relief is probably the best description of Dale
Greenley’s stumblebum attempt to give proper honor to Bonnie and Joe Howell for their many years of
service as our ambassadors of the North Umpqua via the Blue Heron Fly Shop. When Bonnie retired from
the Forest Service last October, they shut the doors of the shop and began a stage of their life that won’t
be wrapped around manning a fly shop all day long. Also, they hopefully won’t be receiving phone calls at
all hours of the day and being asked if it will be raining the 3rd week of next July. The Steamboaters presented them with a gift certificate to Dino’s Restaurant in Roseburg. Stan Smith, one of Joe’s old “Royal
Order of the Jungle Cock” high school friends sent them a bouquet of flowers accompanied by a card that
Dear Bonnie,
You have been a ray of sunshine on the North Umpqua, even when it's raining. You have welcomed us,
fed us, and encouraged us when we weren't catching fish (which was most of the time). You promised
that when our wives kicked us out because we were too old, grumpy, and smelly you'd take us in. We
want you to know how much we appreciate you. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement.
Oh, yeah. You're pretty cool, too, Joe.
Stan, Steve, & Gary
Tony Wratney was the lucky winner of the raffle item, a new Sage 7110-4 switch rod. Many thanks to
Robin Knight and Jerry Siem at Sage for the rod donation. In summation, this banquet attracted the largest attendance we have had in many years and a good time was had by all.
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
By Pat McRae
The air is brisk and cold, rain showers sweep the canyon.
Nearly all of the pullouts are full and some double parked.
I gotta go a ways to even find an open pool. There is one open…Not my favorite
place but it’ll have to do for now. Damn, cold water 2 inches deep in the waders
Leak’s getting worse.
Starting to get cooler that wind is freezing.
Two thousandth cast of the day, back and shoulder aching.
The groove in your finger from stripping in line beginning to bleed.
Well, you’re here, make the casts…tough it out.
Hey there’s one spot open…dammit no.
Strip in and cast, strip in and cast…farther and
farther…Rain starting to pour.
Cold, so cold.
Long rod is killing my back.
Nice cast, let it swing, A grab…damn, it didn’t stick…crap.
My ears are freezing.
One more step…oops, almost went in, Not good!
Up the bank down the bank over and over
Legs so tired…so tired.
The nine thousandth cast, Nice cast, perfect…let it swing, let it swing…
A FISH! Line burning my fingers…Did you see that jump? Wow! A big, bright winter
hen…is there anything more beautiful?
V O L U M E 4 9 , I S S UE I
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