By Paul Hoobyar
For The Register-Guard Aug. 15, 2017
Standing in two feet of water along the northeastern coast of Cayo Romano in Cuba, I asked Raffa, our guide, for some pointers on stalking bonefish with a fly.
This was my first time wading for bones, and after hearing stories of bonefish getting spooked by an errant cast, or turning their noses up at a poorly presented fly, I wanted some advice on how to land these cagey speedsters. I handed Raffa my rod, and as he stripped off 70 feet of line he demonstrated how to “prepare” the rod when wading for these elusive beauties.
While he was talking, a school of bonefish snuck behind us near the bank. Raffa peeled off more line and cast the fly in front of the retreating school — 80 feet away.
We were on the second day of our four-day float down the North Fork of the John Day River when we heard a shrieking “honk” and saw a Canada goose running through the tall grass, its wings raised over its body in a fixed “V.”
The goose splashed into the river with enough speed that it water-skied across the surface toward us, its shrill honk piercing the morning’s tranquility. We thought it was attacking us, but then we saw a golden eagle dive-bombing the tall grass on the bank beyond her. Within seconds, two goslings scampered down to the water and joined their mother as the eagle made repeated dives with its talons armed. The mother led her brood away from the bank and ferried them across the river while the eagle perched on a basalt outcropping; its eyes locked on the swimmers.
As I stepped out of my rig in late October at the Grave Creek boat landing on the Rogue River, Jeff Helfrich strolled over and said, “Paul, I hope you didn’t bring your guitar this time.”
“No, I left it at home,” I said.“Good,” he said. “’Cause it doesn’t look good out there.” He nodded toward the river as he spoke.
I showed up at the boat landing early that morning expecting to help unload the stack of drift boats for our late October steelhead fishing trip through the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue, but, instead, I joined a covey of men standing around keeping one eye on the river, and the other watching the rains come down.
Fishing the Skeena--a Cautionary Tale
Like many steelhead anglers, I’m susceptible to dreams of landing a 20-pound steelhead on a fly. Hooking into one of these ocean cruisers on a fly rod connects an angler to a force majeure that sucks the wind out of most mortals. In conversations about which rivers offer the best chances of hooking into such a steelhead, invariably the name “Skeena” gets mentioned.
Known for 15- to 30-pounders that will take a fly, talk of the Skeena River in northern British Columbia solicits a misty-eyed glint from many anglers. When my fishing buddy, David Bayles, suggested recently that we head to the Skeena River to chase steelhead with flies and Spey rods, however, I thought he was joking.
Photo Credit: Derek Barber
Hunting Big Trout in Patagonia
Rapido!!” Diego, our guide on the Alumine River in Patagonia, muttered behind me.
“Again?” I squawked. We had been stalking large trout with dry flies in the eddies and slow waters of the river, and once again I had pulled the “Bicho Feo” — the ugly bug imitation I was using — out of the mouth of the rainbow instead of setting the barbless hook.
I’d been fishing the Alumine for three days, and while I had landed some of the river’s big trout, I had experienced more whiffs than hookups — even though fish were on the bite.
Photo Credit: Mark Reusser
“OK, you’re up,” I called to my wife in the front of our drift boat. We had just rigged up after lunch on our first day of a six-day fishing trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. And Gretchen, fly rod in hand, was eager to test her skills catching native cutthroat trout on a dry fly.
But shortly after she made a few casts I yelled, “Better sit down!” The river had pushed us out of the fishing pocket and into another rapids.
Photo Credit: Gretchen Matsuoka
In 1916, a simple dictum regulated trout fishing for the entire McKenzie River Basin: “75 trout per day. Bait allowed.”
Since then, conditions have changed in the McKenzie watershed: more people live here, more demands are placed on the river from multiple users, and our understanding of native trout as part of a complex ecological system has evolved.
Photo Credit: Ethan Nickels Outfitters
Watershed Initiatives provides effective, informed leadership solutions for agencies, local governments, and multi-stakeholder forums to:
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In May I moderated a panel on the island of Eleuthera (one of the outer islands in The Bahamas) focused on tourism and development issues. The panel was part of a day-long conference that the Cape Eleuthera Institute and a private school had convened to bring government officials, NGOs, local residents, and other concerned people together to become educated about, explore ideas for, a more sustainable tourism industry that would be beneficial to the ecology and economy of Eleuthera. This conference was created partly in response to the numerous failed Club Med-style developments that littered the beaches and landscape along Eleuthera's 110 miles of coastline.
Watershed Initiatives' clients have included federal, state and local agencies, public interest groups and local communitiy stakeholder groups. WI helps clients resolve contentious public policy and natural resource disputes, and helps clients develop restoration and management plans that garner a broad base of support.
About Watershed Initiatives, LLC
Watershed Initiatives, LLC provides procedural, organizational, and editorial support for groups, science teams, government agencies and stakeholder representatives involved in natural resource management and planning. Paul Hoobyar, principal at WI, is a trained mediator/facilitator specializing in natural resource issues. Paul is registered with the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution and is past Vice President of the Oregon Mediation Association.
Photo Credit: Tim O'Dell