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Ronan's report

Wednesday 20th June, 2007

This week's topic is "flyfishing we've had recently". A bit of a bummer because I missed fishing last weekend and opted to spend a couple of days with good friends down from Seattle. Fortunately, I keep an angling journal, so it's easy to look back a week, a year, or more. I've been keeping mine since 1998, and it's the best thing i ever did. Some technical notes and sketches of fly patterns mixed with my impressions of all the rivers, good times, and tough times. Start keeping one. You won't regret it.

The theme to my recent fishing has been "Not Trout", and so that is also the theme for today's FP and POD. I've been intentionally taking a break from steelhead (not too many around right now) and trout to fish for some of the other interesting species we have here in Oregon. My three main targets have been smallmouth bass, American shad, and carp, but I've found a few largemouth bass and a big Northern Pikeminnow along the way as well.

I've been chasing these fish on some waters that you might not equate with fly fishing. Backwaters, warm waters, muddy waters, and the heavy flows of the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia. There's no feeling quite like the one you get standing on the bank of a river that's literally half a mile wide, tossing your longest cast out into the flow and hoping for the best. It's even better when a brilliant silver fish manages to find your fly in all that water and decides to grab hold, then leap into the sky.

You all probably know bass and carp, but what about the flashy American shad and the often maligned Northern Pikeminnow?

Shad are anadromous non-natives, transplants from the east coast of the US, that feed on plankton in the sea and return to the Columbia, and other large rivers to spawn. They are pelagic spawners, which means they just toss their eggs into the current and hope for the best. The dams that have hurt our salmon and steelhead have created ideal habitat for these silvery members of the herring family. They average between 1 and 4 pounds, with some bigger (so I'm told). In one day this year, over 150,000 shad passed over the Bonneville Dam. Find the fish, and you can have some fast action. They like small, flashy flies swung at their holding depth, and fight like hell. I've been chasing them with a new 7wt Z Axis Switch Rod and full sinking shooting heads.

The Northern Pikeminnow, formerly known as Squawfish, is a native species that is now considered to be a nuisance. The dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have created an artifically enhanced habitat for these ambush predators. When salmon and steelhead smolt are swept downstream over the dams they often become disoriented in the turbulent flow or sickened by the effect of expanding gasses in thier bodies (like the bends for a SCUBA diver). The pikeminnows feast on these helpless salmonids. The larger pikeminnows seem to like big streamers with plenty of flash. They strike very hard but lack stamina, and come to hand easily after the initial run.

I'm excited to get out again this weekend. Not trout. Until then I'll be checking out the newest Forum dedicated to Double Handed Casting and Fishing. We're thrilled to have Way Yin moderating. Way, who has been posting as Bubba on the Board for many years, is an FFF Master Instructor, Two-Handed FFF Instructor, Double Handed AAPGAI Master and produced the Spey to Z video (which we still haven't reviewed yet - but it's very good).


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