Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Regs for Salmon River C/R Areas?

New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed some interesting changes to the regulations for the upper and lower fly fishing areas of the Salmon River. These are among my favorite places to fish that river, and although these changes would effect how I fish them (and, likely, my success rate), I think it is a positive change and I support it. The proposal below is taken directly from their web site:

Proposal: Allowable fishing tackle in the special regulations fly fishing catch and release (C/R) areas on the Salmon River in Oswego County.

Proposal Description: Require that the weight of the fly line must carry the fly rather than the weight of the fly or supplemental weight carrying the line while casting and require that the fly line (non-backing) be at least 20 feet in length. Floating and sinking fly lines are allowed as are combination floating/sinking fly lines such as a sink-tip. Use of added weight or weighted flies are still allowed.

Rationale for Proposal: Use of small diameter “running lines” in the fly fishing areas has resulted in many anglers using supplamental weight as the primary means of propelling the fly while casting. This technique is more akin to drift fishing with monofilament line than to traditional fly fishing and results in overcrowding, and generally impedes the traditional fly fishing activities that these areas were originally intended to provide.

I spoke with someone at DEC and he told me that the response -- both online and from talking to anglers at these locations -- has been generally favorable. I started writing a detailed opinion about this topic but actually found a really great discussion on the Lake Ontario Steelhead Association web site. They have more of a vested interest than I, and I enjoyed this site and discussion:

No added weight in the Upper and Lower fly zone year round, EXCEPT, Weighted flies, sink tip lines or looped in sink tips. Use or running line or low weight level line (Non tapered) is not allowed. Level or running line is allowed if a shooting head or at last 20 feet is attached tot he front end. Essentially DEC wants to have a situation where the angler has to make a FLY cast with what ever configuration they are fishing with so the transfer of energy is between the rod and fly line, not cast/lobbed by the added weight. This reg I think needs some work. They've used the words "Traditional". But the definition of fly fishing traditional is truly very broad. Anglers have been adding some kind of weight to a floating fly line and leader since the dawn of fly fishing. The use of sinking lines and sinking tips and weighted flies might not be any less traditional then a simple tapered floating line and leader. The other problem I see with this reg is that it skews the technique of Indicator fishing that is more of a vertical presentation, very deadly....and not a technique that fouls hooks fish very often This is where an angler will add some shot just below the float or indicator before the fly....and true nymphing ,. . I guess this could be achieved with a small section of lead core, but we'd have to think about it. We are hearing all kinds of rattling on this where some folks want it NO weight added at all.

But ...and this is MY you may or may not agree. If we take the chuck and duck with running line and heavy weight out of the fly zone, then the FZ's can truly become a leaning place for anglers....and I'd like to see several techniques still be in play, like no weight, sinking lines, sinking tips, nymphing techniques, shooting heads, and yes indicator fishing. You still in my opinion have to promote fishing success. If you went total NO weight for these zones...that would work fine in summer but the LFZ is closed, and in late fall through winter, you be in a casting practice zone, because very limited success would be generated to get a steelhead to move to a fly in 33 degree water that is several feet above his head. I don't see the progress in doing that. Rather have anglers learn the many different fly fishing techniques to match the conditions of the river that day. Cold water, high water, medium or low water. The key is can you make a fly cast to the target where the rod generates energy to the fly line to cast your offering...rather then have to lob the attached weight....which isn't any kind of true fly cast.

We talked to Fran Verdoliva at length on this...and he's now considering a 'Focus group" to meet a few times at the hatchery. The focus group would consist of different stakeholders from the trib anglers and maybe supporting businesses. Guides as well as rec anglers. This group would drive construction of the proper regulation that enhances the fishery and the fly zones, yet takes away techniques that doesn't start with a true (and maybe true or real fly cast is better then traditional). We'll have to see how that plays out. A reg is not needed to punish should be to enhance the fishery, and enhancement should include angler success.

I will follow this closely, and I hope the focus group includes people from LOSA and others who give serious thought not just to catching as many fish as possible, but to improving the fishery for the future.

(Photo above is my friend Steve battling a King Salmon at the upper fly fishing area.)

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