The Great Metaphor of Fishing

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One Fine Passion

I am fortunate to carry a passion for fishing in my heart. I’ve learned many things from it that apply directly to successes in life, in relationships and in the study of things.

North Idaho has it all when it comes to the great outdoors. Taking part in what’s here in a meaningful way adds life to my old bones and brings enthusiasm into my daily enterprise. I find that when I relate to the Nature around me in this positive way that I then also relate in positive ways to the people and challenges found in business.

So fishing became a metaphor where I could lay things out for comparison and see a little better into other events unfolding in my life. The river flows. On it and in it there are many dangers, many surprises and a delightful bounty when you learn to read it and become one with it. I call this latter notion my Zen Attitude, though I don’t study Zen or practice it knowledgeably. Like the metaphor, my Zen Attitude is simply a parallel to a known philosophy. I like to get into The Zone, for instance where thoughts are not being thought, but realizations and insights occur in the moment where I’m in a fully cooperative relationship with the water and air environments around me.

At this stage of my life when most of my friends have retired (but not all, and certainly not me), recreational fishing is a way of analyzing the complexities of modern life and of finding balance within it all. I’ve made many solid friendships too along the way, either on shore or wading or in a boat; and many of those relationships like Mike Robertson of Calgary’s Bow River Blog have become lifelong albeit long distant fishing buddies.

It adds richness to life even in these times.

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Of Bounties, Fines and Plenitude

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Know Your Fish

I fish with a lot of different people in any given season. Many of them are from out-of-state and many are new to fishing altogether. The problem is we, like many states, have an increasingly complex set of regulations; yet the burden of knowledge rests on the angler. Many novice fishers don’t know a peno from a whitefish. In one case, I kept quiet. They would learn at the dinner table.

Go Figure

Your ability to correctly identify a fish caught in the Lake Pend Oreille reservoir and river systems as well as in the Clark Fork River flowing into North Idaho from Montana can mean the difference between reward and violation. This includes North Idaho’s Pack River, the primary river feeding the north end of Lake Pend Oreille and it’s tributary streams as well as lesser streams flowing directly into the lake system, of which there are many. Your knowledge of what fish is which may be the difference between a hefty fine, a sometimes hefty fish for the table or a rather hefty bounty for catching a predator the Idaho Department of Fish & Game deems undesirable to the Pend Oreille Lake fishery.

The Bounty

Though this is likely the last season on this system to carry a bounty on Lake Trout (Mackinaw), IF&G is contemplating introducing its controversial but effective plan on North Idaho’s Priest Lake system in 2013. The objective in this aggressive management policy is to reduce large predators considered responsible for the collapse of kokanee populations in these large bodies of water.

Kokanee (sometimes locally referred to as “bluebacks” are a variety of landlocked sockeye salmon that in good years run12 to 15 inches and populate in very large schools. Hunters and wood harvesters will often see red kokanee in huge numbers on streams that flow directly into these lakes from as early as October well into December as these freshwater salmon go upstream to spawn and die for the next generation of the species.

Kokanee were once so abundant in Lake Pend Oreille and Priest Lake that there was a commercial fishery for them. When I was in junior high school in the early 1960s, we could hand-line for them and keep 50 apiece. By the mid-90’s, the Priest Lake population had collapsed and those in Lake Pend Oreille were in danger of collapsing. The predator management policy introduced first on Lake Pend Oreille was a desperate measure by the department to cull large predators from the system where everything else had failed to revitalize the kokanee numbers.

In 2010, a bounty of $15 per head was placed on Mackinaw Trout (they are actually a char) as well as the Rainbow Trout in the lake as an incentive to reduce the over-abundant populations of these two species, and that under a harsh cry from avid anglers who were sure IF&G was destroying a legendary fishery. However the incentive dominated. some guys, giving in, made a fair living harvesting Lakers and Rainbow despite the fact that specialists from New Finland were brought in to net Mackinaw off their known spawning beds. Biologists radio-tagged some large macks to follow them to their redds and maps were drawn to show the netters where these large lake trout were choosing to spawn.

The third species in this discussion is the brook trout. You won’t likely catch one in the lake and river system other than some fair-sized ones on occasion in streams like Cocollala Creek. I’ve never taken one or heard of anyone catching one in the Pend Oreille River or Lake. Neither one is suitable habitat. I mention Brook Trout because their markings are very similar to that of Dolly Varden. Mackinaw, especially younger first-year and second-year specimens could be misconstrued to be Brook Trout by anyone not familiar with distinctions. So the point is: read the regulations and do as they suggest. Know the differences and respect what you catch. Beyond that, go and enjoy a good day’s catch!

~Dwayne K Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Fulfillment Is The Dream Come True

Something Really Large Is Swimming In Your River

When we land a river-run rainbow this size on a fly, we know we've completed something begging inside. Tom Gower knows for sure.

There’s something fulfilling swimming in every good river and it’s part of the upcoming story co-authored by Montana Guide, Russell Moore and myself in a new book In Clear Water due out this June.

When we’re boys just learning (it happens to girls too) a trout the size of the one above is only a dream. A stream-caught trout eight-inches long is as rewarding to a child as the one caught here was for Tom.

Incredibly, while we’re still young, the stream on occasion gives up a relatively large fish, like the 16-inch Brookie I remember from Berry Creek. I was 10, shaking in the cold dew of a June morning and I caught it on a fly. You weren’t there, I know; but it was a dandy! We’re always dazzled by a fish bigger than the norm, and once dazzled we advance the dream. The great thing about fly fishing the dream is that it promotes catch and release, which translates to sustainability and fish that grow as large as this one.

If we continue to fish as we grow older and manage to keep that dream alive, one day we walk out of the river and photograph a memory like the one Tom Gower gives us in this photo. But it only happens if we believe and if we’re fortunate enough to learn from a fly fishing guide as qualified as Russell Moore. It’s as much about understanding the fish, the aquatic life and the moods of a river as it is about the art of casting and presenting flies, whether dry flies or nymphs.

Russell has been fly fishing, guiding and teaching fly fishers for more than 30 years. He’s added a lot of knowledge to fly fishers like Tom whose great trout we admire in the photo above. Many of today’s fly fishers learned to cast and present from Russell or someone like him. Having Russell Moore on board for this upcoming book is not only an honor; it’s like a scoop on a hot news story.

If we believe, we learn; if we dream, we believe. Figure it out. A truly large fish like this one can be understood and caught; but you’ve got to go to the experts to find out how.

When I was in high school some forty years ago, we thought we’d run out of good fishing. But the fact is, thanks to sound management and people who care to release fish back into the water from which they came, we enjoy today some of the finest fishing the world has ever known.

To help revitalize your dream, stay tuned for the upcoming book, In Clear Water, by Russell Moore and Dwayne Parsons. It will soon be available online as well as in book stores and fly shops near you. It’s a treasure of method, story and dream spiraling through the pages of experience and memory, with new techniques and river wisdom you just won’t want to miss.

# Dwayne Parsons  @ifishwrite on Twitter