It was with perverse amusement that I read the tetralogy entitled "Hogpens" in your July issue. The stories reminded me of an experience I had as a small boy when my mother took me to a carnival.
One of the amusements was fishing for plastic fish that were swirling around in a large galvanized tub. When the lucky participant excitedly lifted one out of the water by hooking the big ring on its nose with a wire hook, he won a prize. I did not know it at the time, but I had participated in an event that closely resembled a guided fly-fishing trip today. I wondered what kinds of prizes are awarded for catching one of those big "hogs." Then it occurred to me that the prizes might be stuff like "large-arbor" reels and waders that breathe."
The only sporting experience that I could think of that could possibly equal fly fishing in a hogpen would be big-game hunting for steers in a feed lot.
I think I would rather fish in Japan with Peter Fong.
An Average Fish Story
Bruce Holt's article on Blackstone Lake in Ellensburg, Washington is rife with overstatement. I know fish stories are fun, but this article is just plain misleading.
Attached is a picture of a fish I caught there this March. It looks like the same fish in Mr. Holt's photo. I estimated my fish to be six pounds maximum, while he claims his to be almost double the weight at 11 pounds. If that fish is 11 pounds, I'm Lefty Kreh. I also included copies of two photos from two years ago, pictures of nice 4- and 5-pound fish.
I have fished Blackstone for five consecutive spring seasons. While I certainly have caught and photographed many large fish, as evidenced by the attached photos, the large 8- to 9-pound fish are truly rare. Average fish each spring, and I mean average based on catching as many as 50 or 60 a day (true stories), primarily on chironomids, is 18 inches maximum. The way the operators choose to plant the lake means the that most of the fish are smaller on average. One in 15 or 20 fish is large (over three pounds); the rest are in the mid-teens in length. I don't mind shaking off smaller fish in search of the big guys, but to report that the average fish is six pounds is plainly not true.
The problem with this kind of reporting is that people who pay, like me, are misled. We take great pains to seek out these waters, then go there and end up greatly disappointed. We traveled to a pay fishery in Oregon last spring after reading a similar story that claimed: "average fish of four pounds." Well, we went there, paid for the rooms, gas, food, fishing, took vacation time from work, then worked hard to catch 20 fish a day each. But the average fish was 17 inches long. We caught and photographed some larger fish, but the biggest ones were what the author had reported as "average."
You should do some work to corroborate reports like this when reporting on pay fisheries. The reports on the Monster Lake fish in Wyoming look accurate and realistic. The report on Blackstone is fiction.
It was with some interest that I read the article about the Baetis mayflies ("Northwest Spring Olives") by Dave Hughes in the May 2000 issue. The section on matching the naturals and the descriptions of the developmental stages are quite accurate and thorough. In my area of southeastern Pennsylvania, these are important flies, and there are two and occasionally three broods in a typical season.
In addition, there is an important feature that should help to identify these species. While at rest, the spinners characteristically twitch their posterior bodies and tails from side to side vigorously. I have not observed this behavior in any other species of mayfly. This can be useful, especially in differentiating some of the other small Olives that often hatch at the same time.
DONALD WEXLIN, M.D.
Promoting Poor Ethics
I was disappointed to see the Forum in the May 2000 issue regarding fishing to spawning trout ("Fishing the Spawn," by Larry Tullis). It is everyone's responsibility to fish only to non-spawning fish. We try to promote catch-and-release regulations, but there will be no fish to catch if they are not allowed to spawn.
By running an article like this, you promote poor ethical practices. I recently subscribed to your magazine and was impressed until this article ran. I only hope you will use better judgment in the future.
Harassing Spawning Fish
I had settled in nicely for a couple of hours of enlightment while reading your May 2000 issue when I came to page 13 and the Forum article "Fishing the Spawn," by Larry Tullis. By the end of the article, I was dumbfounded, sickened, and mad as hell! Let me explain.
I note your disclaimer at the end of the article, but why would you give this guy a forum for sick, unsportsmanlike behavior and twisted mentality? When the "Antis" see an article like this, they must jump for joy. To give Mr. Tullis the opportunity to try to justify fishing for trout and steelhead during spawning is nothing short of criminal.
Let me point out some major errors in his diatribe. Look closely at the picture on page 13. The fish is out of the water by at least four feet, not supported under the main body, and showing signs of great distress. Note the position of the pelvic fins. The fish is in full spawning color and distinctly ripe. For it to survive, let alone spawn, would be a miracle. Compare that picture to the one on page 18. There is no comparison; the fish on page 18 is in perfect health, having been held properly and close to the water for a safe release, Enough said.
I won't get into his justification for what he is perpetrating to be sportsmanlike. So let's go to the end of the article and examine what is described as "ethics."
I am sorry to say that Mr. Tullis wouldn't know an ethic from a dog bite. Plain and simple, he doesn't have any. Here in British Columbia, we have laws to protect trout and steelhead in their spawning areas. Simply put, these creatures need all the strength that they can muster to spawn and recover. Common sense says leave them to do their thing and we will be much better for it.
Here in British Columbia, we have an oversupply of problems for fishing and fish. Will we solve them all? Probably not, but work at it we shall. During the fishing year, I meet fishermen from south of the border and found them pleasant and good sports. Please keep coming, and we will willingly share what we have with you.
My final note is a bit of free advice for Mr. Tullis. When time is heavy on your hands or you are thinking of harassing trout on their spawning beds, pick up a pair of garbage bags, put them in your pocket, go out to any stream or pond, and pick up the garbage and litter. You will find it more fulfilling than harassing spawning fish. An added bonus will be that when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, you won't have to cringe at what you see.
Chilliwack, British Columbia
Larry Tullis's Response
If you fish for steelhead and salmon in British Columbia rivers, then you absolutely fish for spawners, since the spawning run is part of spawning activity. You are exactly the type of person I was targeting with my Forum piece. I want people to think about and question what they are doing and whether their attitudes are biologically sound. You're smug about your steelhead and salmon fishing, and all the while you don't realize that you, too, are a spawning-fish catcher. I don't promote fishing for spawners on spawning beds; it's an educated individual choke based on sound biological principles.
About the fish pictures: No offense, but you were not there and cannot judge my catch-and-release technique, which happens to be very practiced and proficient. I fish or guide 150+ days a year, and I always pick up trash. I always teach proper catch-and-release techniques and always question silly traditions, such as not admitting that you fish for spawners if you fish salmon, steelhead, bass, bluegill, high lakes, and lake-run fish.
Since you don't know me, I'll forgive the Ignorance of my intent that you have shown. Realize that I like to make people think by questioning tradition. I believe that people don't learn until you get their psyche out of its comfort zone. If my Forum upset you, dumbfounded you, sickened you, made you feel all warm and fuzzy, made you think, fortified your feelings, or changed your mindset in any way, then it did its job. The Forum is for contrasting views and philosophies. Is it okay if I present some, or should every article be absolutely politically correct? I agree to disagree.
Mostly, I love to fish and thank God for the wonderful environs where they are found, the people we meet in the fly-fishing community, and the things we can learn.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Keeping Closed Mouth
Many thanks for David Taylor's article on fishing Kelly Creek in Idaho (May 2000). No doubt we will be overrun by people seeking new areas to overfish. It reminds me of a recent story by 60 Minutes revealing the over exposure and population pollution in Venice, Italy.
I wonder how he would react if articles suddenly appeared about his secret places around Hood River, Oregon. It's no wonder I've gotten to the point in my life where I keep my mouth shut about new places that are relatively undisturbed.
Hayden Lake, Idaho
In your May 2000 article "Jerk-strip for Trophy Trout," by Kelly Galloup and Bob Linsenman, you showed a fly called the Madonna. To set the record straight, this popular fly around the Great Lakes was first tied by Jim Haeck, a client and good friend of mine. He offered the fly up one day as a dig on me--in purple. I scoffed and said no self-respecting Pine River brown trout would eat something as ugly as that. An 18-inch fish promptly ate it. The Madonna fly pattern was born.