Your thoughts count...
- By: Fly Rod and Reel
Return to the Irigoyen
I glanced down at the cover of my latest edition of FR&R and noticed your feature on the river Irigoyen in south Argentina. Curious to see the images and tales, I was surprised to see myself, me with a fish and our other daily outings spread across your pages! While the author of the article was not on the trip I had arranged through my outfitting company Xclusive Xpeditions, the stories are congruent with our experience and the images brought it all rushing back….After fishing the Rio Grande and Gallegos for sea-run trout, the Irigoyen is literally what I describe as the bridge over troubled water for trout anglers who have dreamed of catching these fish, but who have never wanted to go up against the factors in Tierra del Fuego that most have grown so accustomed to dealing with. Instead, with little to no wind, single-handed rods, smaller water and being surrounded by an enchanted forest—Irigoyen is the perfect alternative!
As an update to “Wither Maine Char,” (Conservation, March 2010) the Big Reed Pond Arctic char project has had recent success with the captive breeding program. There are currently 1,797 healthy fry introduced, and they should start feeding on their own soon. Funding and permitting are also further along. Broad support will help to bring success for this project, and I encourage people interested to become involved. This project is amazing in its scope, and I am honored to be a part of it.
Munsungan Lake, Maine
Fish Story Redux
I think Peter Harrison better check his geography. Last time I fished the Hoh River it flowed into the Pacific Ocean. But that was 15 years ago and rivers do change, especially on the west coast of Washington. On the other hand, if I had just hooked and landed a world’s record steelhead on a fly, I would be cleaning out my waders and wouldn’t care which way the river flowed. Way to go Peter, great fish!
Sent via e-mail
I read the FR&R March 2010 story of a new record steelhead, caught on the Hoh River. Upon my cursory reading, I stupidly e-mailed “Shame on Harrison for killing the steelhead; shame on Joan Wulff for endorsing the story; shame on IGFA for requiring steelhead be killed to qualify for a world record; and shame on FR&R for printing it.”
This summarized my scorching e-mail to Joe Healy, associate publisher of FR&R. It was followed by an hour-long phone tirade with Joe on why my sharp criticism had come from my passion, and that of fellow steelheaders, for catch-and-release of steelhead—that Fly Rod & Reel needed to “set the record straight” by not condoning such articles as Harrison’s, where a trophy steelhead was needlessly killed. My knee-jerk reaction could have been avoided by simply contacting the International Game Fish Association first and verifying that a steelhead must be killed to qualify for an IGFA record. I was very pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from Rob Kramer, international president of IGFA. He was most enthusiastic about catch-and-release for basically all game fish. He elaborated that IGFA “extensively sponsors, and conducts conservation seminars on innovative ways to insure that catches are correctly weighed and carefully released, unharmed.” My misconception evolved from the thought that IGFA record catches must be killed to qualify. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Then I re-read Harrison’s story. To my horror, Harrison’s trophy fish was bleeding from the gills and, as he wrote, “very likely would not survive the ordeal, I decided to dispatch the fish.” (Washington regulations allow killing one steelhead, per angler, per year.) Probably, the trophy was not needlessly killed. Wow! It was time to eat some humble pie. Quickly, Joe Healy was contacted and a heartfelt apology made. The lesson learned: Get your facts straight, verify your premise. Then, and only then, draw your conclusions and craft your letter to the editor carefully.
As regards Peter Harrison’s “Fish Story” in the March 2010 issue it would be fair to suggest that the article is not about wind knots but about ego. The fish should have been released, bleeding or not. It was a moral decision not a legal one. Mr. Harrison flunked, and all to add his name to the IGFA “record book.” There is plenty of evidence both photographic and anecdotal that many steelhead larger than the one Mr. Harrison killed have been landed by fly anglers. Plutarch long ago noted that small acts often reveal more about a person’s character than volumes of biography. Mr. Harrison has disclosed his. I pity him. There is another issue opened up by Mr. Harrison’s conduct and that is the highly debatable question of whether a bleeding fish is automatically destined for death. Fisheries folk who I know and trust say such is not always the case. I know people who have caught steelhead on the fly and when landed the fish had net wounds or in at least one case a significant seal bite. Steelhead are tough resilient fish, and can withstand quite a bit. The story when scrutinized by any right-thinking person is again simply about ego and that should be a point to ponder for all of us who aspire to evolve in our journey through life.
Fly Rod & Reel has been my favorite fly-fishing magazine for many years, mostly because of Ted Williams, John Gierach, A. K. Best and your excellent equipment reviews. I have never written a letter to a magazine in the more than 40 years I’ve been fly-fishing, but the piece on the Hoh River steelhead has tripped my trigger! The death of this magnificent creature should not be celebrated and the person who killed it should not be honored in print. Based upon the many pictures circulated on the internet, the fish was not bleeding when landed—it had been hooked in the corner of the jaw, which is a non-lethal area. Possibly, the angler could have caused bleeding by lifting the fish from the water by its gill plate for a “glory” photo.
The Washington Fly Fishing Club and The Steelhead Committee of the FFF have worked for many years to change the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s policy of permitting the killing of wild steelhead. Hoh River steelhead are in serious trouble in spite of the fact that seven percent of the watershed is in pristine condition inside the Olympic National Park. Current runs are about five percent of historic abundance and escapements have failed to meet even the very low management escapement goals in three of the past five years.
Killing this fish was shameful and not something that Fly Rod & Reel should have publicized. I urge you to never publish pictures of dead wild steelhead which, in almost all of their range are listed as endangered, threatened or extinct.
Secretary, Federation of Fly Fishers Steelhead Committee