Sunday, 27 March 2016

A Note on Knots

There are a slew of knots out there but knowing a few good ones is enough. The Little Red Book of Fishing Knots is good and can be had from Amazon for $4.96: Alternatively, Google: fishing knots in diagrams, or, fishing knot pdf, and you will be shown. Alternatively, look at page 76 in my Maximum Salmon, also at Amazon:

Reel knot – tie a simple overhand knot in the tag end of the line, backing or other line that will be laid down on the reel first. Thread the line around the reel drum and tie another overhand knot, this time around the line itself. Pull and, voila, a sound simple knot that will not come apart. And should a big chinook spool you, wind the ball-bearing snap from another rod around the reel seat a couple of times above the reel and clip the clip and assign the first rod to the sea and continue playing the fish from the second rod, as once happened to me.

Palomar – this simple strong knot is best used for lures tied directly to the mainline for use in either salt- or fresh-water or for end snaps on the mainline. Form a loop in the mainline and push it through the metal loop or swivel on the item. Form a loop from the line through the swivel and tie an overhand knot, then slip the loop around the item being tied to, and tighten. A good strong knot with great breaking strength because the knot itself does not become a breaking point.

Figure eight knot – perhaps the most useful knot in all of fishing. I stopped using surgeon’s knots one day when, on five successive casts, I landed the fly in the bush on the other side of the river, on the first cast, and yanking simply broke the knot at the flyline, this on a stepped down and thus three different test mono leader constructed on the spot with surgeon’s knots. After half an hour and lots of expletives, I decided never to use a surgeon knot again. I had done the same earlier in my fishing with Blood Knots.

As a figure eight knot results in a loop, you can use it anytime you need one – stepping down leader; martingale; alternative to a Palomar. Make a loop in the tag end line, wrap it around your first two fingers, hold the line with your thumb of the same hand, take the line off your two fingers with the other hand, twist it in a circle and push the loop from your other hand, through the second loop. As you tighten you will see the figure eight form in the line and thus know it has been done correctly, before tightening all the way. 

Martingale – often used in fly fishing or anywhere you may have to join two different types/weights of line, or add leader. Form a figure eight knot in each of the tag ends, then snip the tag end of each. The upper knot tag end should be snipped right to the knot as you will catch line on the knot while casting, something that is a pain because you have to bring in the entire mess – which if your fly/lure is rotating becomes a total mess and pain – to lift the caught line off. This is because the knot faces ‘up’ line. The knot on the down side of the knot seldom catches line because it is not facing the line.

Take the upper loop, push it through the loop on the lower section of line, pass the tag end of the lower piece of line through the upper loop and pull that line all the way through, the loop on loop connection is a Martingale. It is important to always push the upper loop through the lower loop first, as if you don’t you will find that sometimes after pulling the entire lower line through and tossing it into the water that you have just untied the second piece of line and just lost it.

Clinch Knot – the most common fly fishing knot for tying a fly on the tag end of the leader. The alternative is a loop knot. Slip the tag end through the eye on the fly, take the tag end around and, if there is room, slip the tag end of the line through the fly’s eye once again, which makes it twice as strong. (Sometimes, when you have used too much head cement on the eye, it gets too clogged to push the leader through again). 

Wind the tag end around the standing line 7 or 8 times, alternatively, twist the fly around in 7 to 8 circles, then the tag end goes through the small opening of line near the eye. Tighten and you have a Clinch Knot. Even better, before tightening, bring the tag end back through the loop formed by putting the tag end through the small opening, and you have an Improved Clinch. Even better, as you tighten, stop and pull the tag end. This results in an improved clinch, that has a loop between it and the fly eye. The purpose is to give the fly more action as it can freely move because the knot is not tightened onto the eye but the line itself.

Guides Wrap/Snelled Hook Knot – used when you are making up rigs of two hooks with six feet of leader, either singles or treble first and trailing single, commonly used for squirts, hootchies and teaser-head bait rigs in salt water trolling.  Pass the tag end through the hook eye, form a loop, and hold the loop and tag end along the shank with one hand, tag end extended an inch from the bend.

Take the loop in your second hand and wrap it around the held shank, loop and tag end at least six times, then hold the loop in your first hand. Pull the tag end with your second hand and a knot lays down neatly against the shank. The tag end is left – at least six inches – to tie the trailing hook the same way. The knot is also known as a sliding knot as you can slide the knot up and down the hook shank, thus shortening the distance between the two hooks, or the distance the trailing single will extend from the lure/bait’s trailing end.

Nail Knot/Nailless Nail Knot – commonly used to tie a loop in the end of a fly line. Form a loop in the flyline tag end, and form a loop of leader along the flyline loop, as you did in the Snelled Knot above. Again the tag end of the leader extends an inch beyond the flyline loop. Wrap the loop around the flyline loop six to eight times, secure the loop and pull the tag end. This lays down a nice compact knot around the flyline loop. Snip the knot on the upside as close to the knot as possible, to avoid line catching on it during casting. Finish with head cement, nail polish, or other adhesive, that covers the upper tag end.

There are many other knots you can use, for example, the Allbrite, but the above cover most situations you will run into.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Ch 2: Dennis Almost Dying

The better part of a year later, after the warm fall afternoon Nick and I passed among the shades of Worthless Pool, I make a decision. I will take myself down to the Nitinat and try fishing the long weekend of May.

I put my little blue dinghy, all nine feet of it, on a long green foamy I used to use for camping. I put it on the roof of my car and pass the rope over and down, through the car windows to the other side and over the boat and so on. Along with me comes my $12 K-Mart special rod, with three flies: a huge Royal Coachman; some Atlantic salmon fly; and one made of orange and brown. I do not know how ugly these flies are and how useless. That’s because I am nervous, having stopped being a river person for almost thirty years. Much of that time I was married with kids and a wife whose version of the outdoors meant walking to Dairy Queen.

So, to the water that I have so frequently thought of as my real home, in the earlier years of my life, I return, apprehensive, pushing doubts away. I do not know what is below where I will launch - waterfalls, deadfalls - whatever. I do not know about the Nitinat wind, but I will learn.

I tie a dumbbell to a rope and tie the line to the bow of the boat. I put the oars in the oar locks, my spinning rod, the one that after the cast, the bale sometimes does not flip back over. Twenty five pound test line as well. Lunch. Water bottle, camera gear, tackle box, pack sack, knife, but not a coat, no lifejacket. I swirl away from the launch oars in the air, turning in a circle beneath the bridge, into my own deliverance, without knowledge of what is in front of me.

When I have drifted down the half mile to what I now know as the Stump Pool, I decide to tie up and fish from the boat just below the fast water that turns to the left and drops into a deep pool. I will be casting Buzz Bombs, some ancient Mepps Aglia used hunting cutthroat in the Altrude lakes in Alberta decades before, a Dar Dev’l, Len Thompson, red and white spoon.

I dump the barbell over the downstream side of the blue dinghy and the line goes taut. The boat rolls over and I am flung to the bottom of the river. I know in that instant I will die, not that I was a father, a former husband, but the knowledge that comes in terror: I am going to die.

Then my feet touch the bottom and I look up several feet. All around me in the water column is my gear, fly rod going down, oar, pack sack. And then I am angry and push so hard I come up under the upside down boat. And I push it to shore, which sends me back down to the bottom, only 8 feet this time, where I push off again and by a slow, inch-worm process come up neck deep and struggle up the sliding, watery gravel.

Expletives I yell, and yell again, drag my upside down boat up the bank, finding I still have my spinning rod in my hand. Fancy that – drowning, but with priorities: I will not lose the rod until I am dead. I throw it down and fetch my sodden packsack, my sinking tackle box. But I have lost some things: one oar, one fishing rod, my water, my vest.

With me shouting obscenities, my oar floats calmly downstream on the opposite side of the very deep pool. I grab my spinning rod and cast my Buzz Bomb across the river, trying to snag the oar. If it is lost so am I. I run down my side of the bank until I have to wade through some very sinky mud that closes on my thighs, casting and retrieving as my oar slowly trundles along over the horizon. While I am shouting: %!@#%$!@#@$!@#$ - which means spirited lament - I go up to my chest and can go no farther.

Then a strange thing happens. The oar turns toward shore and starts coming back up of its own accord. Ah, I see why this has happened: it’s in a back eddy and the water is carrying it up the opposite shore. I go struggling through the mud, lifting each leg and placing its foot down, and pulling the other, causing the first to sink in the silt from a thousand trees felled the previous century. I am too angry to notice that each step sinks farther than the last. I cast like a fiend, Buzz Bombs strafing the air, breaking trees off their roots, white-coloured lead breaking the sound barrier. More expletives. A million bombs sent flying, but not one, not one, snags the oar, its black, plastic oarlock.

I run up my side of the river, casting. A good hundred yards back to my sodden stuff, but the hook will not catch. The line passes over the oar but the hook slides by. And then the oar comes to rest. It has drifted right up to the head of the back eddy and swung so that the blade just touches the big rock at the head of the pool. And there it stays. This is my chance, my only chance, to retrieve it. So I turn the water out of my boat, and like rub-a-dub-dub, three wet guys in a tub, kneel in the bow. I put one vertical stroke down one side of the boat, then a vertical stroke down the other. The river works on me, running me out of reach as I reach my longest finger for the oar. The river carries me away, one stroke on one side one stroke on the other.

Just before sinking over the horizon, I am spared. With the luck of the forest, the maple trees with their green hands, the elk with the velvet knobs of antlers, I am gathered up in the back eddy and carried upstream to my oar. When I came even with it, I simply reach down and pick it up as though nothing has happened.

When I regain the other bank, I open my pack sack and water flows out. I take out my camera and the water runs out; it and my flash and all the film have been ruined – requiring purchase of others - in the first millisecond after my open-mouthed face hit the water. And then there is another long list of curses. My tackle box I empty and later, the water leaves a red crust of rust over everything. My lunch is something left to bloat in the sea for weeks. The banana squashed. Coca Cola disappeared.

I shiver in the weak sun that still to this day, a decade later, is cold, on this north-facing corner. The haunted trees weirdly cry with their load of moss, tons of baggy green fat. It crosses my literate mind that perhaps I can retrieve my no name K-Mart special, the one with line guides I affix with electrician’s tape, with the reel that grinds out the line at the best of times. It does not need a drag. The rust does that well enough on its own, since the day I was 13 and laid my handful of change on the counter.

I row out into the river, look down the shifting lenses of water. Way down there is my rod. Out goes the dumbbell – over the front end - and it tethers me back and forth in the current. The spinning rod tip with its Buzz Bomb goes down, down, down, and I try and try to latch onto the fly line or the rod or any damn thing. To the eagle and mink and otters and elk, to the cougars, there is a screaming human on the water, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, making fists and groaning when the hook misses the line. Twenty minutes and more, until, can I be so lucky, the fiddly line is snagged.

When I pull on it, more and more comes up. When I get the fly line in the boat, I have to pull, hand over hand, the backing from the reel, until every yard is sitting in a pile beside me. Then the reel end of the rod lifts from the gravel and comes to my hand.

And, now, I hear it. There is something else, a presence in the wilderness of rock, water and stump. I can hear it coming up the valley and turn my head to capture it. The tress complain as their limbs brush their neighbours. On this day, I have little knowledge of the river that will become mine, and it will be years later that I realize the wind comes every day there is sun. By noon the wind breathes up the 20-mile lake and then the 20-mile river. Thirty miles an hour it comes, until the sun sets and it forgets about blowing for the day.

Sitting on the shore in my yellow, canvas shirt, I do not know what is in store. But I can not go up-stream, only down. So I swing out, feet in the water in the bottom of the boat, and the first wind brushes my face. Here I am drifting down, oars in the air, watching the trees do their version of tossing like broccoli, bending into and out of faces. My oars hit the water and I cannot understand why the water should be pushing the blades down stream. Until I realize the wind blows so hard it is blowing me up stream.

In my cotton shirt and bare legs and wet crotch, I begin to row, sitting backwards, passing feet-first down stream. My afternoon becomes this: row and row and row and check the trees to make sure they are not going downstream; the big firs with their coats of Spanish moss; the big maples with leaves as large as platters; the ferns exotic as peacocks; and, my fear, as I get colder and colder and my shirt will not dry.

The bones in my limbs lose their purpose and my muscles become numb. The hairs on my arms blow from little red centres of puckered flesh. I pull over to rub myself, run up and down the bank arms around myself. I stare into the implacable, not-there eyes of the forest, thinking of The Heart of Darkness, Kurtz. His civility was stripped in a jungle that doesn’t care, as it throws more beauty at your feet than you can imagine.

My feet are onions in wet runners, my legs white, their fur of black hairs rising. I am not able to stop shaking as I row down the river, to what end I have no knowledge but down into the wilderness farther away from where I know not that I am, not having thought to bring a map, or look at one in advance, knowing only that there is a pull out somewhere down in the wilderness. Tree leaves come free and fall around me like rain. Fir needles are red tide around the boat, migrating up stream as I row and row down, hunched in the boat in my wet yellow shirt.

Where the river makes white noise, I raise my oars and look at a log in the knee deep water beside me. When I see a fish dart from the log, I rise up in my seat to see it better. And then when I am just passing the log, so close I could touch it with my oar, the log transforms it self into a moving being and makes the water boil. The log moves away, steadily toward the opposite bank, and I realize that it is a fish, the biggest fish I have ever seen in fresh water, and the river moves on carrying me with it. In my innocence I do not know this is the first Pacific steelhead I will ever see, my teeth rattling against one another. A log. Mistake a fish for a log. From here it seems long ago.

My day ends with my boat pulled over to the gravel bank where a car shakes itself along the wash board road above me, and dust comes up like a kind of intelligence. My eyes perceive this is the road beside the river. Had the car not gone by, I would not have seen that there is a road above me, so hidden is it within the second growth jungle that is rainforest. I would have missed there were telephone poles along the bank and passed beyond the last place for me to get out of the river. And if I had kept going, I would have never come back because the river would have taken me all the way to the lake in the distant white that is stars looking up from my cold wet yellow canvas shirt. As it is, I turn left and walk the rutty miles back to my car, it having to be upstream after all and thus there is no point turning right and down the road. So long ago, it seems, the dust on my runners, the dust on my knees, my eyes on the gravel in front of them. One step at a time.

2,273 Words

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Hatchery Problems

Hatchery Problems

Last week I sent along a summary of text, and two graphs, by Eric Wickham regarding opening up hatcheries to the private and volunteer sector. A list recipient sent me a good document regarding the arguments for not doing hatchery enhancement at all.

I have attached the document as I think you should read it. The main arguments are that hatchery fish – right from the get-go – are genetically distinct from local wild stocks. While hatchery fish, particularly chinook, have difficulty breeding, where it happens, this represents a dilution of wild genes.

The other main factor is that hatchery fish compete with wild fish for food in the ocean, and thus high levels of such fish can further reduce wild fish numbers. I think that netpen operations with triploid chinook – assuming this is feasible – can increase the numbers of chinook for Killer Whales and humans, in the interim period where wild stocks are improved, and then wind down the netpens.

What this means is doing the habit work in freshwater that is key to wild spawning success. Now that we are in the phase of climate change where hot dry summers are followed by heavy scouring winter rain, there are two issues. Most coastal rivers are so shallow by the end of August that chinook have trouble passing up, and in the past couple of years, I have witnessed even pink salmon, the smallest of the bunch, that need only a few inches to migrate up, be prevented from entering rivers.

Secondly, the drenching winter rains easily wash away all the spawned eggs, thus ruining a year’s spawn, followed by dry and hot that reduces flow and oxygen, while increasing temperatures. I have stood on gravel banks that in four days were scoured out to 12 feet deep, representing thousands of tons of good habitat almost over night in only one spot on a river’s run. Cabling of ‘woody debris’ is one answer to shooting a century of logging gravel out for good.

And lucky rivers like the Campbell that have dammed lakes above them can have their flow augmented in summer, but few rivers have headwater dams.  Having watched Toba Inlet be destroyed by commercial ‘Run of River’ power generation I am loath to suggest adding those in our wilderness lands anywhere.

An example of stellar channel work to vastly increase spawning habitat is on the section of the Taylor River alongside Highway 4 west of Port Alberni. Get out of the car and take a look along the decommissioned road that used to take you to the logging bridge over the river. Exceptional coho spawning habitat work.

So, have a read of the other side of the enhancement question.

Sorry, I could not get the PDF to attach to this blog. If you want it, send me an email.