June2013

Don’t reach for the Sky

WA—The town of Index is said to have a population of 180. On Wednesday June 12th the population seemed to have temporarily doubled, or came dam close to doing so. It was on this date that I attended a meeting in the Index Fire Hall to hear citizen comments with regard to a proposed dam on the South Fork of the Skykomish River. The result was standing room only inside and outside of the Fire Hall.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was on hand to hear public comments on the scope of the project which is being proposed by the Snohomish County PUD. The project is listed as the Sunset Fish Passage and Energy Project #14295-00.

Before we go any further I’ll issue this disclaimer: I am not a member of the press. My job (which is really not a job at all) is not to report objectively on this project.  I am here to give you a very nutshell description of the project as I understand it, and to state my opposition because this is my blog and I am opposed to this dam project. So there.

If you want to read an unbiased article about the proposed project, I recommend this article from the Monroe Monitor, March 12. 2013: Dam: Environmental Boon or Bust? Here’s another article from the Everett Herald, June 15, 2013: But many factors will be weighed in considering a proposed mini-dam.

For me personally, here are the arguments I use in my opposition of the project:

1. First off, this proposed dam is not a concrete hydroelectric structure. It is an inflatable diversion weir that would redirect water into a large intake chamber where the water would then plummet some 2000+ feet to a power generating plant below Sunset Falls. This weir will not function 12 months of the year. In fact it will be taken offline when natural river flows are at their lowest, from July-October. It seems to me that a source for generating power should be able to meet the peak demands for electricity. In this case the it seems that the highest demands would be when customers are using air conditioners/heat pumps during the hottest months of the year (July, August and September).  I don’t pretend to know much, but something seems amiss here.

2. The water intake chamber would be a 19 foot diameter tunnel, over 2000 feet in length, that will be blasted through the granite bedrock. The potential for geological problems with this is not insignificant— naturally occurring levels of arsenic in the rock could be released into the river. Index lies within a region that has the potential for significant seismic events—think BIG earthquakes. Once blasted you cannot convince me that the structural integrity of the bedrock will not have been compromised.

3. Sunset Falls is a migratory fish barrier. Salmon returning to spawn can go no further than the base of the falls so they spawn in the gravel below the falls. Messing with the flows over the falls at all will affect the salmon redds. Redirecting the natural flow of the water will change the makeup of the stream bed.  It can’t not have an impact on the fish that spawn there. Oh, and the upper Sky is also a stronghold for the endangered bull trout, FYI.

4. Cost estimates are $110 million to $170 million for this project that will only generate power for about 10,000 homes. That’s a chunk of change right there for a power source that is not sustainable. Al Gore’s Global Warming Climate change is affecting the annual snowpack. We don’t know what the future holds for that. I believe the PUD needs to explore other means of sustainable energy production: solar, nuclear—I don’t know. But I know this dam is a bad idea.

And if by chance I am off the mark in any or all of my assertions listed above, here is my final argument that nobody can refute:

5. The Skykomish is a beautiful place: a wild and scenic river and one of few un-dammed rivers in the world. Let’s leave it this way. Save the Sky River

Leave this is place alone.

Redington Vapen: a Preview

 

Looking down the 9 foot barrel of the Redington Vapen Red.

When you first use the new Redington Vapen make sure you’re in a legal shooting zone because, according to Redington, “You don’t cast this rod, you fire it.” That seems like a rather bold statement and I figured Redington had better have something to back up such talk, so I delved into the matter.

First, let’s start with the name: Vapen?  Sounds like something out of a Star Wars movie. Curious, I did more delving, this time into the origins of the word. As it turns out it’s pronounced ‘Vay•pen’ and it translates to “Weapon” in Swedish. But my real “Ah-Ha!” moment occurred when I imagined a conversation between two feuding Swedes. Work with me here, folks…

 Uff da! The brand new Vapen comes in two models: the standard-issue Vapen with a cork grip; and the Vapen Red, which features Redington’s new PowerGrip. Both models feature an attractive blank using X-Wrap technology. The technical talk is best served up straight from the horse’s mouth:

“X-Wrap Blank Technology effortlessly transforms angler input into powerful casts. When we combined this new technology with PowerGrip, we couldn’t believe the change in power. With every angler who tested the rod, loop geometry got tighter and casts went further,” notes Redington General Manager, David Visnack.  “The word Vapen means weapon, Visnack continues, we quickly realized you don’t cast this rod, you fire it, so Vapen is a perfect name for this weapon! It is the perfect addition to an angler’s arsenal.”

Redington’s new X-Wrap construction method involves wrapping one layer of super-high density carbon ribbon inside the blank and another counter-wrapped on the exterior surface. X-Wrap construction provides surprising power with little effort. The technology is so distinct you will actually see the difference in the blank. Anglers have the option of combining X-Wrap technology with the entirely new PowerGrip or a traditional cork handle, thus having an abundance of options within Redington’s new premium fly rod family.

To create the Vapen Red’s custom unique grip, Redington collaborated with renowned golf club grip company, Winn Grips. Together they developed an advanced polymer grip that won’t slip when wet, feels soft in the hand and reduces fatigue. It also cleans easily, doesn’t chip and helps amplify casting power.

Cork versions of the Vapen series are also available and come with Portuguese premium grade cork for the more traditional angler.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but all that marketing mumbo-jumbo is merely rhetoric for most prospective customers. Real world feedback is all that matters, and while your mileage may differ, here are my thoughts on the Redington Vapen (I was provided a Vapen Red model in a 5-weight to demo).

Not your father’s Oldsmobile

I’ll be the first to admit—the red PowerGrip takes a bit of getting used to, visually. Given the long-standing tradition of using a particular grip material in fly rod construction it’s hard not to gasp when anything other than cork is used. However from a functional standpoint the PowerGrip certainly makes sense. And why not borrow from golf to enhance your fly casting experience? Afterall, Golf and Flyfishing are Kindred Spirits.

Golf technology comes to the aid of the flyfishing industry.

It was a warm day in the upper 70’s with a touch of humidity when I did my lawn casting. I noticed that while my hand did sweat a bit, the grip didn’t feel slippery in my hand thanks to the rubbery texture of the polymer material. And it’s comfortable, too. There’s a cushiony feel to the grip so I can see how hand fatigue may be reduced over the course of a long day casting. Visually it’s the grip that is going to cause folks to either love it or not love it. My son, Schpanky, digs the grip. He loves golf, too so that may say something about his character. I understand why Redington chose red but I’d prefer something a bit more subtle. For old guys like me there’s always the cork option.

Cool, visual texture of the X-Wrap.

The blank is a very cool looking dark gray (almost black) with a slight greenish tint under certain lighting conditions. Red accents are pleasing and sporty. You can see the crossing pattern of the fibers which is a result of the X-Wrap technology. The result is an appearance that looks rough and twisted but is smooth as the windless surfaces of a millpond. In my opinion it’s one of the nicer looking blanks I’ve seen on any rod. The carbon fiber reel seat is also very attractive. The overall appearance of the rod gets a thumbs up from both Schpanky and myself with the caveat that I prefer the look of cork to the red polymer.

Nice looking seat.

 

First thoughts when lawn casting the rod?  Powerful. This thing can throw some line. I happened to be using Rio’s brand new Perception Freshwater line, and it shot through the guides effortlessly. Weighing in at 3.4 ounces, the Vapen feels light in the hand and nimble like nearly all modern graphite rods being produced today. Some rods are lighter than others obviously, and the Vapen is no uber-featherweight, but it’s not going to wear your arm out by any means. It has some flex down to the middle of the blank so it’s no broomschtick, but it is definitely a fast action rod that hits its stride when distance casting. Most of my rods are fast so the Vapen fit my casting stroke nicely. I am not the world’s greatest caster, but I ran out of room in our back yard before I could exhaust the Vapen’s capabilities to shoot fire line. Fore!

So off to the river’s edge I went. I hear tell of some who can cast their entire line, but the best I can seem to manage is 65-70 feet, and even at those distances I am pushing it. Be that what it may, I was able to match that distance with the Vapen and in doing so thought that the 5 weight might really enjoy being over-lined with a 6 weight line—maybe next time. My on-water testing revealed something unexpected: the combination of the Vapen and the Rio line made mending effortless. A quick flick of the rod tip easily put a decent mend in it—the line seemed to be the least sticky flyline I’ve ever used.  Rio says:

“Built with ultra-low stretch ConnectCore Technology, the RIO Perception lines provide pioneering levels of sensitivity for intuitively better cast timing, easier line lift and sharp, precise mends. Lack of stretch also means enhanced detection of subtle takes and significantly reduced reaction time when setting the hook.”

Unfortunately no fish were hooked in the testing, but I did like the line. A lot. I never tend to think too much about the lines I use, but I can honestly say that this line felt great and was a perfect match for the powerful Vapen.

If I were to be in the market for a new rod, would I consider the new Redington Vapen?  Yes, without a doubt. Would I get the traditional cork or the Red model? My old school inclination would be to go with the cork and leave the polymer grip to the younger, hipper crowd. That being said, the polymer grip is very functional. Hmm…

The Vapen (cork grip) will retail for $299 while the Vapen Red (polymer grip) will go for $349. No matter which grip you prefer, you won’t be able to get your hands on either one until the rod becomes available in August.

Redington Vapen Red.

Redington Vapen.

 

BREAKING NEWS: More than a month before the rod is even available, The Vapen Red won the top prize in the fly rod category at the European Fishing Tack;e Exhibition in Vienna, Austria. That’s not a bad way to launch a product.

 

Tip the Big Hole

As a friendly gesture you can Tip your Hat (a good thing).

 

As a show of appreciation you can Tip your Waiter (provided they’re deserving of it).

You can also Tip your Boat (generally not a good thing).

Now you can Tip the Big Hole River, and that’s a very good thing.

A fundraiser is being hosted to benefit the Big Hole Watershed Committee.

My buddy Joe Willauer who resides over Evolution Anglers writes:

Introducing the first annual Big Hole Watershed Committee “Tip the Big Hole” fundraising event, June 22nd at the Sunrise Fly Shop in Melrose, MT. For the event every guide on the Big Hole that signs up to participate will be donating their tip from the day to the Big Hole Watershed Committee. These funds will be used to aid in the upkeep and maintenance of the in-stream flow monitoring gages. These gages are routinely used by the fishing and guiding community, and are essential to the river management. Reps from the biggest companies in the industry will have booths set up including Simms, Scott, Winston, Rising Tools as well as Montana FWP and many others. Dinner will be provided to all participating guides and for purchase to anybody who stops by. Donations from everyone on the river that day is encouraged, all you have to do is stop by the Big Hole Watershed Committee booth. All participating guides will also get a gift bag, event t-shirt, free beer and entered into a raffle. If you are in the Melrose area, make sure to come by and see what’s going on, grab a mule at the hitching post, and help give back to the Big Hole River and the Big Hole Watershed Committee.

Keep checking back here and the Facebook event page for more info as the date gets closer.

WHEN: June 22, 3-7p.m.
WHERE: Sunrise Fly Shop.  Melrose, MT
WHO:  Guides will be donating their tips, but everybody is invited to show up, meet some great people and enjoy the BBQ and festivities and help contribute to the Big Hole River.
WHY: To raise money for the Big Hole Watershed Committee to support the USGS river gages
MORE INFO:  http://bhwc.org/events/tip-the-big-hole/ or email me: joe (at) evoanglers (dot) com

A dam poor idea.

Proposed dam site on the Skykomish River

Environmental stewardship seems to be trending in recent years and I’m not referring to #Twitter #trending.  There’s more and more attention being given to habitat protection and restoration for wildlife and fish—more than ever before—as we right the wrongs of the past. So why then, in this day and age where unnecessary dams are being torn down would another be proposed?  Kinda makes you shake your head in disbelief. Kinda makes you outraged with disgust.

The Skykomish River is a jewel of a mountain stream that grows in size as it tumbles toward Puget Sound. It provides pristine spawning grounds for endangered wild steelhead and salmon, as well as bull trout and other native species. It is one of very few remaining undammed rivers in the region/country/world, but that will change if the Snohomish County PUD has anything to say about it.

Well, Andrea Matzke has something to say about it. In fact she leads an organization tasked with opposing this proposed dam. Some of the opponents’ concerns, she writes, include:

  • Extensive destruction of protected salmon and trout habitat would hurt fish populations
  • Reduced instream flows would be dangerously low to salmon and steelhead migrating downstream
  • Generation turbines and tailrace would destroy salmon spawning habitat
  • Highway 2 traffic, already extremely congested at times, would be halted for construction vehicles and equipment for three years.  Businesses relying on Highway 2 traffic concerned for their livelihoods.
  • The economic value doesn’t add up and the power generated would cost 3.5 times the power on the open market
  • SnoPUD’s hydro track record with new hydro is poor – Youngs Creek lost over a million dollars last year and applied to FERC for financial exemption because of the loss, which puts part of the cost of their losses on taxpayers.
  • Power generation curve of the dam project based on river flows is almost exactly the opposite of power demand in Snohomish County
  • The hydro project would only generate at capacity in the spring, when there is a surplus of energy in the Northwest, and demand is at its lowest.
  • With the except of December, project would produce minimal or no power during peak power demand
  • SnoPUD’s recent acquisition of a certificate to sell renewable power to California concerns Washingtonians who don’t want state’s protected resources sold off to our states
  • Homeowners would be forced off their land via eminent domain
  • If a dam is allowed on a State Scenic Waterway and NPCC protected area for such a small amount of power, no river is safe from dams.
  • SnoPUD has misrepresented data and level of opposition to media and FERC

Please take a moment to read the information provided on the Save the Sky River website. There’s an important meeting coming up next week. If you’re local, please attend the meeting.

Guest Post: Schpanky, Spawn of the Unaccomplished Angler

 

A not-so-recent photo.

Taller and better looking than his old man, Schpanky is also a superior fisherman. But genetics are a powerful force and he cannot escape his breeding: antics from a recent trip to the Yakima River confirm that he is truly my spawn.

I recently turned over my backup 4 weight Sage Launch rod and Orvis Battenkill Mid Arbor reel to the boy. I’m not overly attached to any of my gear—it’s all replaceable. Therefore the backup gear cannot be considered something to which I have any great emotional attachment. I am, however, rather cheap and would hate to have to spend money to replace gear if, perhaps, said gear were lost…

Schpanky writes (unedited):

SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/kirk/Library/Mail%20Downloads/Log%20jam.docx

Due to my inconsistent work schedule or two random weekdays off, it’s not very often I get the chance to get out of Town and do something, but if I get the opportunity, I will. Gil, a buddy of mine, texted me asking if I wanted to go fish in Cle Elum with him on a Wednesday (luckily, one of my days off.)

The next morning we headed to Easton from North Bend for an afternoon on the river before Gil left for his summer fish guiding job in Alaska. The river was looking good for being a little high. Clear water and a handful of fishy lookin’ holes, what more could a wannabe fish bum want? Geared up and ready to go, we broke the seal from dry to wet as we waded in the river discussing our game plan and securing our feet in the current. The rust chipped off as I did a few warm up casts and proceeded to snag a tree branch like it was a tradition. I waded out to about my waist fishing a particular spot just above a log jam with some swift water moving through it. Like a scene from a movie, I had a flashback to me as a much younger boy, listening to my father describing the dangers of getting caught in a log jam, and how you could possibly not walk away from it. I had never had any trouble like that before so I thought nothing of it.

A few casts later I felt a tug on my line and instinctively set the hook. Could it be? Was an overly excited and loud “FISH ON!” to be heard echoing throughout the woods this early on in the day? Of course not, just a snag. It wasn’t coming loose and I could wade to it to save the flies so I proceeded to do so. I moved down river and was able to knock the log loose I was snagged on with my foot. However, my flies stayed hooked and floated down river still attached to the rather large log. Due to the fact that the water was moving swiftly where I was, it was hard to walk backwards upriver with the drifting log pulling me down river. Scrambling, hopping and already crying for my mommy, I looked up to see I was slowly being forced to hop down river towards the log jam I earlier spotted. The closer I got to the jam, the deeper and faster the water was getting until finally I felt my feet giving out. I knew right away I wasn’t getting back to shore without getting wet, so at the last second I jumped as far as I could towards the safest part of the log jam (if that exists…?) and hooked the longest log in my elbow. Water was rushing into my waders as I threw my left arm over another log and pulled myself up just enough that I wouldn’t float away when I realized I was missing something. The rod! As if almost getting sucked into a log jam wasn’t enough of a downer way to start the day, loosing your fathers rod that he loves more than you will be free pass to belt lashes. I yelled to Gil to see if he could spot it drifting down river, but it was nowhere in sight. Now standing on top of the log jam, I stripped down to my whitey tighties and drained water out of my waders. Gil and I decided to walk down river in hopes of spotting the rod. I knew we wouldn’t find it with the water being as high as it was and moving so quickly in this area, but hey, at least we could say we tried. We walked back onto a bridge that crosses the river and started to scan the waters for any signs of the rod. Nothing. As we turned away to walk back to the car to dry my clothes off, a pink blur caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I made out a faint lime green line in the river with a pink ball attached to it.

“Gil! There it is, see the strike indicator?” We thought we’d never see the rod again, but there was the fly line and indicator in a reachable spot of the river. Since I wasn’t in my waders, Gil waded out to the fly line and tried to snag it without getting wet. As a last resort, he heroically dunked half his body under and grabbed the rod that was somehow still in one piece and so far had no damage. I jumped with glee and thanked Gil for sacrificing his dry clothing for my fathers’ rod. The log I had snagged drifted about 100 yards down river before it somehow wedged itself between two rocks in the perfect way to stop the rod from drifting off to Narnia where it would never be found again. As a bonus, the flies and line were still attached which I am going to take credit for since I tied perfect lucky knots that held.

Next time I go fishing, I’m bring a quick-inflating boat so I can paddle to safety…or maybe one of these.

 

A little river rash

All joking aside, I’m relieved the boy made it out unscathed as it could have ended badly. His mother would never have forgiven me had he been injured or worse. Thankfully there was no harm, no foul. The previously-spotless reel now has some character wrinkles and a story. Thankfully so does the lad.

And I get the satisfaction of being able to say, “Told ya so.”