Sunday, 25 June 2017

Cleaning Fly Lines

Fly lines need cleaning for several different reasons: use in saltwater, brackish water, and extended use in freshwater, particularly with lots of suspended solids or algae. You will find that a dirty line ceases to cast as far, is more difficult to pick off the water and sticks to rod line guides on the cast. It can stick to your hands as well, and if you are managing several loops of stripped-in line in your line hand, the bottom of the loops is in the water, and it will stick to that water, too. Clean your fly line more often if used in brackish water, the worst combination of fresh- and salt-water, typically in estuaries. 

All ‘dirt’ problems lead to reduced casting distance; this can be as much as 20 feet, which for the average caster can be 33- to 50-% of casting distance. Dirty lines also take more oomph to cast all day, to compensate for their unwillingness to slickly rocket out to land within a foot of where you aim to cast the fly. 

Always have a target in mind, and over the years, you will become amazingly accurate, even with other problems in your casting. Such accuracy is critical when aiming for a rising fish, and when you are laying a fly just off vegetation providing cover, typically on the far side of a river. 

If your cast is a foot long, a tug of war ensues, with your fly getting broken off if it is stuck on vegetation. The most important thing to do in a long cast, is to yank the line back asap, before the fly has gotten settled in green or wound around twigs. But keep on trying, because you will never become accurate, unless you try to be accurate for a long time. Accept that you will lose a few flies – the price of becoming more accurate, and catching more fish.

Once a new line has worked through its best, new days – I don’t clean a line until it is through this early period – put the reel with its line in a bowl of warm water after every fish. Use a small amount of dish soap, water just covering the reel. Don’t use too much as soap can degrade the surface of our expensive fly lines. Leave the reel over night and the next day let it dry on a cloth towel, rather than a paper towel. Then wipe the reel with the towel.

Check your line for cracking, or patches where the coating has come away from the braided cord on the inside. If your line is cracked, chances are that it is sinking, even if it is a full float line, because it is full of water. Patches of missing coating are usually from fishing in weather below zero, and water forming ice on lines and guides. When the line gets stuck, a patch of ka-ching fly line breaks away, the beginning of the end for the fly line. Don’t just keep using it, as the ‘hinging’ of a patch of lower density line between two lengths of higher density line will ruin many casts, driving you bonkers. Any fly line surface cracked along its length should be replaced.

I would say that not buying new fly lines soon enough is the number one problem that fly anglers face with casting distance, regardless of level of acquired casting skill. As fly lines cost $50 - $100 each, replacing them hurts. On the other hand, not casting properly, getting the distance and accuracy that comes with casting practice, is a complete waste of your time. 

So, replace fly lines sooner rather than later. And keep the old one for awhile. I have changed only to find that the new line caught fewer fish because the old, waterlogged line was putting the fly in the fish zone, while the new line put the fly above the fish zone. This happens more frequently in beach and estuary fishing for incoming salmon, in salt or brackish water.

Most fly lines come with a small bottle of fly line cleaner, or slick. These are applied after your gentle cleaning step. Cut a two-inch square of cloth fabric from an old shirt that has been put in the cleaning-use pile in your house. Pick something that won’t lose particles onto the line surface, the equivalent of putting dirt back on a cleaned line. Similarly, don’t use paper towel as these ‘bleed’ paper particles back onto the line as you draw it through.

Keep a poster rolled up for cleaning purpose, then roll it out, face down on the floor so that you aren’t stripping line onto a dirty floor. Saturate your square of fabric with cleaner/slick, then with the drag on your reel almost fully off (don’t fully eliminate it or the first time through, dragging line off the reel, you will end up with line over-runs on your reel, and having to sort that out with hands covered with slick ‘grease’), fold the fabric around the fly line, and strip it smoothly through, reel on a clean surface below.

Prior to using a fly line or after completely cleaning the line, mark the end of the ‘head’ on the line, where the thicker head ends in slimmer running line. Most manufacturers change colours between head and running line these days, so spotting the change is easier than in the olden days. 

Take a black, or other contrasting colour, magic marker, and mark two inches of transition so that you will know the end of the head, something that comes in very handy when casting. You simply put the marked line within the top rod guides and the line will not hinge, resulting in longer, more accurate casts. Also, strip another 20 feet and mark that spot with magic marker as well. That is for the lengthy casters who want to reach fish that are further away. It also indicates proximity to the end of the fly line where it contacts the running line, something every fly fisher wants to know, as once that expensive line completely leaves the rod on a long run, we become worried of losing the fly line.

Returning to the cleaning stage, strip the line – head and twenty feet to the running-line mark – to one side of the clean poster paper. Saturate the fabric square once again, taking the fabric in your opposite hand, and strip the line back through the fabric, placing the pile on the other side of the poster paper. Change position of the fabric stripping point frequently, as you will find the gunk on the line gets stripped onto the fabric, and you want to present cleaner fabric to the fly line surface. 

Finally, take the saturated fabric in your opposite hand, and bring the line through the line slick for a third time, making a pile on the side of the stripping hand. Go wash your sticky hands, let the line dry over night and put the fabric in the garbage. The reason for putting the pile on the stripping hand side is that with as much as 80 of line/leader stripped onto the poster, you can tangle line very easily if the next strip results in one pile mixing with the other pile.

The next day, with a new two-inch square of fabric, fold it over the line and strip the pile through, three times, each time making a pile on the opposite side of the poster. Frequently change the fabric square position so that fly line is moving through clean fabric. Once done, you will find that the fly line has picked up a lot of static stuck particles of gunk, and the fabric will have dirty streaks where fly line was pulled through it. Finally, the next time you are out fishing, revel in how well your line strips, casts and lifts from water’s grippy grip.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Salmon Update – In Season

The current retention rules for chinook in the greater Victoria/Juan de Fuca Strait area (Areas 19-1 to 19-4 and 20-4 to 20-7) are based on weak stocks from the Fraser, the spring and summer 5-2s. DFO expects returns of 45,000 or fewer chinook.

The retention rules are: from June 17 to July 14, the daily limit is two chinook, wild or hatchery, from 45cm to 85cm, and hatchery greater than 85cm, using the zone 1 management level. Expect DFO to update these rules for the period after July 14.

The Albion chinook test gillnet (8-inch mesh) fishery began operating on April 23. From May 7 to June 16, the catch was a princely 3 chinook, leading to an estimate of 27,000 to 68,000 (median value of 42,500 fish) at river mouth.

As for coho, the retention rules for most of the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait, because of concerns for Interior Fraser coho, the daily limit is 2 per day, hatchery marked only from June 1 to December 31. Additionally, in Area 19, from October 1 to December 31, the daily limit is 2, one of which may be unmarked. Port San Juan in Port Renfrew has different rules for inside the bay, meaning San Juan River coho.

As this is a pink salmon summer, and while there will be a slightly lower run than average, that still comprises 13.7 million fish, expect solid pink trolling. And Fraser chum fishery for the Campbell River area has a river mouth prediction of 800,000 with an upward trend likely as runs have been buoyant since 2010. Go look at my Salmon Outlook document sent around earlier this year: It has specific targetable numbers for the rest of Van Isle.

The website for updates on retention rules is:

Turning back to chinook, there is the issue of aboriginals on the Fraser perhaps not being allowed to fish, for conservation reasons, and thus we, ahead of them in the water, are zone 1 curtailed as well. 

It seems to me that we need another plan for chinook and coho rather than continual ratchetting down on retention rules based on weak stock returns. The obvious thing to do is for DFO to dramatically increase the net pens for triploided (all sterile, female) chinook. We BC fishers need to step up, ask for it and put our money where our mouths are, to pay for pens, feed and so on. Just as importantly, we would be taking over what DFO has not done.

There are several reasons for this: 

1. With climate change, chinook are the most impacted of the species because they return, the largest fish of the year, to the lowest water of the year, and thus can be wasted as they mill about getting whacked by predators. In the past, I have witnessed daily chinook spawning in just-above-tidal areas, but such low water that they could not rise above. Every day I stood there fly fishing, watching new chinook rip up yesterday’s redds, spawn and die. The next day, the same occurred.

I guesstimated that the redds were dug up 30 times before high water arrived, even though by then, a good portion of the run had already died. Such a waste.

And, if we put out netpens, the fish do not have to use any river space or time at all.

2. Chinook are in our waters 12 months of the year, as in 100% and this is the reason they are the main species for which we fish. The other four species pass through in two months of the year, or, stated another way, are here less than 20% of the time. 

The alternate is chum. They are large fish, arrive and spawn later than chinook, and thus meet with higher flow after the rains begin. The down side is that they don’t taste as good, though they are great smoking fish because of their high oil content.

On the other hand, as they spawn close to saltwater, it is usually easier and cheaper in the flatter estuarial end of rivers to construct spawning channels that can be opened and closed to accommodate spawning while protecting the spawn once it has occurred. Go look at the channel on the Big Qualicum. It makes sense. And it makes sense to have closable channels for chinook that are closed once chinook have spawned, and thus the only spawning on that stretch of a river.

Both chum and pink fry leave freshwater immediately, so aren’t dependent on higher river flow than chinook and coho, the latter really challenged as they are side stream spawners, that with climate change their fry will increasingly perish with lower rain. Remember that seasonal streams means just what the name implies: they don’t flow when there is no rain. It is common out in the bush to see pools of orange-tailed coho fry in landlocked deep spots in seasonal streams, and thus, the dryer the year, the more that will die.

Chinook fry also spend at least a year in freshwater, but as mainstem spawners, while their fry have lots of water, it is increasingly warmer, and has lower oxygen in summer months, both not good for survival. As for sockeye, they spend a year or more in a lake, as fry, and thus fare better than coho and chinook. On the other hand, they transit out warmer, lower O2 rivers, as well, and are the most temperature sensitive of the five species, followed closely by coho.

3. Orcas depend most on chinook of the five species year round, presumably because they are there 12 months of the year, not less than 20% of the time, and are the largest fish of the year. I have watched killer whales thrash a kelp bed to smithereens then pick off all the hapless fish of any species scared out, and throw basketballs sized chunks from elephant sea lions 30 feet in the air for fun, so I don’t buy that they only eat chinook.

But the Southern Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition netpen for chinook in Sooke Basin does precisely what is most needed: provide more chinook for orcas, and some left over for anglers. We need many more such projects. And I don’t buy the competition for saltwater food argument that says non-natural chinook take the food out of the mouths of natural chinook and thus put even greater pressure on wild stocks.

I don’t buy it because, when you consider the, by our standards, huge chinook returns shown in the Saanich Inlet Angling History shots people have been sending me, that it is obvious there are so few fish now, that there are far fewer, not more mouths looking to eat the same amount of feed. Let’s put out some fish, and ones that don’t cause genetic issues.

You may know that DFO minister Dominic LeBlanc got so raked over the coals by BC residents for his ‘saltwater’ habitat restoration budget – ignoring that we only care abut freshwater for salmon – and cutting such programs as the Salmonids in the Classroom (introducing salmon and conservation to 35,000 school kids each year) that he had to back off and confirm the budget for one more year, which included the technical support staff that were going to lose their jobs, too.

While the Kinder Morgan fight is yet to come, and will be great news to watch, the point is that complaining in large numbers gets results. So send an email to LeBlanc supporting BC salmon stocks and netpens:

Finally, DFO has finally indicated it will do something for orcas and is offering a webinar for you 
to take part in, and ask for more chinook, and salmon in general, June 20, 2017, 10:30 to 12:00
(provided they can get people to stop talking): Management Measures on Prey Availability Related
to Killer Whale Recovery, and tell them to put chinook and coho in the water.
“If you are interested, please respond by email at: by June 18, 2017. You 
may also register for this webinar at the following link:” While the 
deadline is today, I only got the note on Thursday, so I expect they will not be able to decline anyone 
who is a bit late asking to sign up.
Here is some of what DFO had to say: 
The science based review builds on the recovery measures identified in the Species at Risk Act 
(SARA) (2002) recovery planning and reporting processes completed to date for these whales 
and presents an opportunity for the federal government and its partners to enhance recovery efforts. 
In Pacific Region, DFO will be undertaking targeted regional meetings for Acoustic and Physical 
Disturbance, Prey Availability, and Contaminants, which were identified in the Recovery Strategy
for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada as key threats 
to the Southern Resident Killer Whale (available at: 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Kiss My… Chinook Derby, Saturday June 17, 2017

Time to pick up your Kiss My… Chinook Derby ticket to help the South Vancouver Island Angler’s Coalition (SVIAC) bring back chinook salmon to the Sooke Basin.

Here is what the SVIAC has to say: “Father’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s time to plan that weekend. Here’s a great suggestion, with the nice weather here again and lots of Chinook salmon present in the Juan de Fuca Strait, there isn’t much better than a great day of salmon fishing.  You’ll get to share quality time with family and friends, while connecting with nature. Now kick that up another notch by entering the 2017 Kiss My … Chinook Fishing Derby, adding a chance to win one of two great cash prizes and support a great cause at the same time.  

SVIAC, the group organizing this derby, invites you to participate in our fun no-frills one day event and help us raise money for the really successful Chinook sea pen project in Sooke.  As this is a one day event on Saturday 17th June, you can still spend Sunday on land with the family too!”
Details: Daybreak to 5:00 pm. Derby HQ is Pedder Bay Marina in Metchosin. Tickets are $80 per rod, which includes a one-year SVIAC membership, a $40 value. You can pick up tickets at Trotac, Island Outfitters, from Eagle Eye Outfitters, or online at: You can also buy a ticket with cash or credit card from Chris Bos: 778- 426-4141. Derby boundaries are Cadboro Point to Jordan River.
Cash prizes are for the largest chinook and a draw among ticket holders for another prize. The size of the prizes will be determined by how many tickets have been sold, 33% to each prize, and 33% to the chinook net pen project.
If you can’t be on the water that day, please donate to the cause: The SVIAC has this to say: “As a group of concerned anglers from South Vancouver Island, who care deeply about fish, we have launched a massive campaign to rebuild and sustain our important iconic Pacific Chinook salmon, to protect Canadians access to our common property fish resources as well as protect the important fisheries of South Vancouver Island for generations to come. For this undertaking to be successful, a great deal of effort and funding are required.

Unfortunately, government, who are charged with protecting these precious resources and ensuring our fisheries, has let us all down.  Without a tidal wave of public concern influencing government, the future of our precious and iconic wild Pacific salmon is truly in peril and our once thriving fisheries will be lost bit by bit.  We, at South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, are committed to stop that from happening!

Our experienced and knowledgeable team can provide the man power, organize volunteers, form robust alliance with other like-minded groups and build the campaign, but we cannot afford this solely from our own pockets. We desperately need your help.  Please seriously consider giving to our cause today and being part of our movement for positive change.”

So, let’s get out there and support the project. The Sooke chinook net pen aims to put feeder chinook into our waters, and, on their return, much larger local fish in years to come. When you consider that climate change is resulting in warmer dryer summers, this impacts primarily chinook, the largest Pacific salmon species, that needs the deepest water to enter spawning rivers in August and September, typically lower rain months. Enhancement, and catching and penning, and taking of milt and eggs, prior to there being enough water, will become more predominant in years to come.

Regarding the comment that DFO hasn’t done enough freshwater habitat restoration, that’s pretty obvious over the past four decades. The kind of catch results in the historical Saanich Inlet fisheries at that time and preceding it, show far larger returns from all rivers, of coho and chinook. See:

You will have read that DFO Minister Dominic LeBlanc recently announced $75 million for saltwater habitat restoration for the next five years, totally missing the point that salmon spawn in freshwater, and further substantiating the BC view that DFO in Ottawa just doesn’t get BC and our salmon. The Watershed Watch Society sends out a weekly email (you can sign up to receive it) on press clippings in the preceding week: Or email:

LeBlanc got so much bad press, and so many letters about cancelling the Salmonids in the Classroom project ( that annually introduces 35,000 school kids to salmon raising, letting go, and understanding freshwater habitat, that he had to make an about face, and say funding is still in place - for one year. Send him a note:

In other words, the actions taken by groups like the SVIAC are very important. They represent BC residents actively filling the void in habitat work, so we need to support them, whether by donating time, and volunteer effort, donations, or entering fishing derbies. And who could miss a day on the water angling for the big one to bring home?

The Sooke net pen project will also put chinook in the water for local orca populations that have been shown to prefer chinook, when they can get them. So, your time, effort and dollars are going to several worthwhile and supportable purposes.