Wild Steelhead Spotted Above Deconstructed Elwha Dam

For the first time in a century, a wild steelhead was spotted upstream from the location of the now deconstructed Elwha Dam.  Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to convince many people, that this was a possibility.  Today, it is a reality.  It illuminates a very important concept in conservation.  Salmonids are resilient creatures.  Give them clean water and a chance to spawn and they will do just that.

A tagged steelhead in the Little River, a tributary of the Elwha. Photo by John McMillan

Fisheries biologists have been capturing, tagging and relocating wild fish along the Elwha this spring.  The belief is, that if they relocate some of the fish to the upper river, other steelhead will follow.  In June, biologists located a thirty-five inch male swimming in the upper reaches.  The fish had not been tagged and was much bigger than any fish they had relocated.  This proved that this particular steelhead had followed the scent of spawning females upriver, just as he would have a century ago.

A pair of spawning steelhead in the Little River, above where the deconstructed dam was located. Photo by John McMillan


I was excited to see the trailer for Felt Soul Media’s upcoming documentary, DamNation last week.  I was even more pleased to see, that multiple view points are being presented in the film.  Agricultural and economic ramifications are always a key factor in the decision to remove a dam or series of impoundments.  It’s important to understand that dam deconstruction isn’t always a necessary or plausible alternative, although I would argue that habitat rehabilitation is.

Dams on the Klamath River in California are scheduled for deconstruction in the next decade, but setbacks have already been a factor.  Success on the Elwha River and public interest generated by conservationists, tribal nations and groups like Felt Soul Media, should help propel California toward a future where free-flowing streams and self propagating Salmonids are the norm, not the exception.

To read the entire article in the Seattle Times, go to http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/fieldnotes/2018609640_steelhead_spawning_in_the_elwha.html

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Here’s the trailer from Felt Soul Media’s new movie DamNation, which focuses on the whys, whens and hows of dam removal in the U.S.  The Elwha dams, which we’ve focused on a lot this year, is at the forefront of this feature.  Check it out!

DamNation Trailer

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Family, Surf and Welding Loops

It’s the time of year I dread the most; hot, dry and no steelhead left to chase.  I used to feel this way years ago, when the snow melted in late spring and I had to forget about powder runs and building booters.  At least there’s a beautiful ocean close to home and good waves to ride.

It’s time to record music, work, surf and spend as much time with my family and friends as possible.

Kiene's staff testing a welded loops strength!

Here’s something interesting our friends at Kiene’s Fly Shop in Sacramento have added to their shop, the first Airflo loop welding center!  Now you can slice, splice and loop any line (for a small fee) and create the perfect head or line that fits your rod and casting style.

Head down to Kiene’s and start splicing!

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The Ecology, Life and Future of the Eel River

The Friends Of The Eel River presents the Eel River Symposium on April 14, in Fortuna.

The event will be held at the Fortuna River Lodge at 1800 S. 12th St. Fortuna, CA and will feature presentations by Mary Power PhD, Bill Dietrich PhD, Bill Trush PhD, Brian Cluer PhD and a slew of other Ph-Dites.  The keynote speaker is Brock Dolman of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center.

I’m looking forward to this event a lot, because it kicks off a season of hard lining ecology and conservation issues for us at Weight Forward Films.  And, what better way than to support the Eel River and all of its’ friends.

You can register at http://www.eelriver.org  Please make a donation and I hope to see you there.

Posted in Conservation, Dam Removal, Eel River, Fly Fishing, North Coast Rivers, Salmon, Spey Fishing, Steelhead, Steelhead Fishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March Storms, Mud and A Glimmer of Hope

The last two weeks have been plagued with a slew of storms that have punished Northern California for its’ mild winter.  Every river is high, muddy and unfishable.  This event, and the quickly approaching March 31 closure, is spelling D-O-O-M for this steelheader.  It’s almost time to put away the two-handers, Skagit heads and winter fly boxes and pull the surfboards out of their bags.   Or, is it…

A glimmer of hope on the horizon.

The majority of the north coast rivers will close at the end of the month, save two.  Sections of the mainstem Eel River are open, but the Eel usually takes a dry week or two to drop into shape.  The one last glimmer of hope on the horizon, California’s hold-out river in more ways than one, is the mighty Smith.  The Smith runs emerald green most of the time.  It’s really a matter of the river dropping to a level that’s fishable with a fly.  In the Smith, we have the possibility of the one last fix, before the long, hot doldrums of summer.

A wild steelhead to hand is an occasion to rejoice and a welcome interlude to the long wait ahead.

Posted in Fly Fishing, Northcoast Rivers, Spey Fishing, Steelhead, Steelhead Fishing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elwha River Running Naturally for the First Time in a Century

We’ve been posting news of the Elwha River in Washington state a lot lately, because there’s a lot happening.  The deconstruction of two dams on the Elwha, began in September and is way ahead of schedule.  Within the next few weeks, Lake Aldwell, the reservoir behind Elwha dam, will be drawn down and eliminated.

The Elwha River.

This Summer, the anadromous fish of the Elwha, will gain another eight river miles of prime spawning water.  Deconstruction will cease when the fabled fall Chinook salmon enter the river in July.

When both dams are removed, a total of seventy river miles will be available to spawning fish, for the first time since the river was impounded in 1910.  Over eighty percent of this water, is permanently protected within the Olympic National Park boundaries, and can never be developed.

The mouth of the Lower Elwha where it enters the Pacific.

This is a momentous victory for the anadromous fish of the Olympic peninsula and for Salmon and Steelhead conservation everywhere.

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Elwha River Chinook Salmon Photograph

This antiquated photograph popped up on the Wild Steelhead Coalition’s page today. This is evidence of how large the salmon, that once ascended the Elwha, were.  There are records of 100 pound Chinook Salmon that swam those waters, before the dams went in.

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Amazing photos from Beyond Searsville Dam

These photographs were posted today by the Wild Steelhead Coalition from their friends at Beyond Searsville Dam.  I’m not sure who the photographer was, otherwise I would definitely give him credit.

Steelhead in very skinny water.

These fish ascended San Fransquito Creek in Palo Alto, in the bay area.  It’s been a  very dry winter this year and the lower creek had completely dried up.  Northern California finally received some much needed rain in the last 24 hours.  Let’s hope it was enough to keep San Fransquito Creek alive for another few weeks.

This fish didn't make it back to the Pacific.

Hopefully this fish will be pushed to the sea by the rain.

Steelhead are truly remarkable, resilient creatures, in desperate need of help.  I believe that they will flourish, given the opportunity to ascend their natal streams to spawn, without competition from hatchery fish and impeded by obstructions, like the Searsville Dam.  They only need to be given the chance.

Check out the Wild Steelhead Coalition at www.wildsteelheadcoalition.org and become a member.  You can learn more about San Fransquito Creek and the Searsville Dam at http://www.beyondsearsvilledam.org.

Steelhead truly need our help.

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Klamath Dam Removal Determination Delayed

From the Times-Standard, February 28, 2012.

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced today that he is not making a decision on the Klamath Dam removal, by the March 31 deadline, because of a lack of action in Congress.

According to Salazar’s office, Congress has not enacted the legislation necessary to authorize a secretarial determination, under the terms of the Klamath dam agreements. Salazar was expected to decide, whether or not the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, would be in the public’s interest and advance the restoration of salmon and steelhead fisheries in the Klamath Basin.

JC Boyle dam in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon.

“The department of the Interior, working with our partners at NOAA and the U.S. Forest Service, has upheld our commitments in these agreements that are so important to strengthening the health and prosperity of those that depend on the Klamath River for their way of life,” Salazar said in the release.  “I am proud of the work of our team of experts who have completed more than fifty new studies and reports, that are providing significant new information on the potential effects of Klamath River dam removal as part of a transparent, science-based process.”

Iron Gate dam in Northern California.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has been completing peer reviewed scientific and technical studies, and an environmental analysis in the past year to inform Salazar for the determination, a condition of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Klamath River Restoration Agreement.

Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the Karuk tribe, one of the parties to the agreement, said this will not deter the parties or delay the dam removal.  “This is a bump in the road.  All the parties remain committed to seeing this through,” said Tucker.

The removal of the four dams is scheduled for 2020.

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Heading North

I put the new Gopro to use this week on our way up to fish for the movie.  Check it out!

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