NW Flyfishing...part of the problem?

I agree with Kerry. The Toutle is no secret and hasn't been for years. I see far less people on it now than before St Helens blew. There are no zipperlips much bigger than a jump across around anyway. If you get angry because you see another fisherman at a spot you like to fish (or even hear about a fisherman fishing a spot that you might like to fish someday) you need to get over it. The population of this state isn't going to go back to 1900 levels. Fishing isn't about survival of the human race, its supposed to be a fun sport. I find that reading about fishing spots enjoyable and yes even an old dog like myself even checks out a new spot every now and then. If its all about meat on the table its cheaper to buy it at the grocery store.


Well-Known Member
The first river I fished for steelhead was the NF Toutle. In 1968. I had never seen a place so beautiful in my life. So I fished it, its mainstem, and its Green River tributary. But I never fished the SF Toutle before St Helens blew. No need to, what with the abundant good water in the rest of the system. I first fished the SF in 1992, after moving to the south sound region again. The fishing never was hot, except for those brief seasons from 86 to about 90, according to locals who fished it regularly. I haven't fished it in the last 5 years, I think. There are more productive places.

The SF steelhead run rebounded initially after St Helens because the river was able to flush much of the volcanic sediment from the sub basin in the first two years, and then there was no serious flooding unitl 1990, which destabilized a lot of the remaining ash and continues to limit the fishery to this day. The SF is in better shape than the NF, but probably not by much.

The exposure from the NWFF article will likely increase the fishing pressure this coming season, but it most likely will drop off again for the simple reason that the fishing isn't that good. A small run, present for only a few good days each season means few anglers will hit it right to take advantage of the limited steelheading it offers. The CNR regulation and the small steelhead population probably restrict the fishing impacts to this run for the foreseeable future. If the run size (and this run is ESA listed) drops shortly, WDFW will simply close it to fishing.

I don't think magazine articles impact fish populations so much as they adversely impact the quality of the fishing experience of those who fished the named water prior to its publicity. That is a difference with a distinction.


Salmo g.
Well said Salmo. I have fished it a handful of times over the years and never really thought it was a zipper lip river. The vast amount of cars parked on the side of the I-5 bridge should have been a dead give-away that there are fish in that system. Of course they are mainly whitefish :).


Active Member
Let's face it guys - such articles/magazines are a tried and true formula that works for the publisher. Why? I think it is because so many of us need an outlet to demostrate our fishing powers - That outlet can take the form of bragging to our buddies (usually doesn't do too much harm to our future fishing experiences), to posting fishing reports on the internet, to detailed info on zipper-lips, to how to/where articles in fishing rags - all of which the potential to significantly impacting the quality of future fishing experiences.

As a group we seem to have some need to drive ever decent fishery we stumble across to mediocrity by sharing with as many as possible. If you wish to break that trend we need to think before we act. If you don't like what a given magaizne is doing vote with your $$s - don't buy the darn thing, if you are subscribing don't re-up, boycott businesses and products that advertise letting folks know why, etc.

Regarding the Sauk - From someone that was in on that fishery on the very ground floor I'm with Kerry - it has been a zoo for more than 20 years now - a classic example of a world class fishery reduced to mediocrity. As I recall the first "kiss-and-tell" magazine article on that fishery was in the late 1980s with a article by Pete Soveral in Thomas Pero's Coffee table magazine (Atlantic Salmon/steelhead something or other - don't remembers its name and don't think it is any longer published).

Tight lines
I do fish the Toutle. I go because the pressure is very light, and there is good reason for it. There is not a large return, and the number of quality drifts is vert limited. The stream is really small once you get up unto the canyon, so overall there isn't much room for many anglers. I go becasuse I am willing to take a chance on a frequent skunk, simply because I personally prefer a quiet experience to to the crowds found on more prolific rivers like the Cowlitz.
Obviouslly, I do catch and release some wild fish, or I wouldn't keep going. Rather than a prime target for a whole day though, I stop by the Toutle on the way to or from the Kalama for a change of pace. Don't expect this to be the last untapped Klondike of steelheading in Western Washington, because it's not. I predict that there will be a short flurry of interest, then the Toutle will revert to the obscurity it so richly deserves.
These outdoor writers have to write about SOMETHING every issue, so this time it's my playground, next time you can be whore-ified to see your favorite haunt profiled. I look forward to meeting ya'll on the S fork this winter. Once.
If you think me fishing more will make me more okay with these types of articles than you've got it all backwards. The more I fish the less I'm happy with people writing about every single fishery regardless of how undiscovered it is. Writers should draw the line somewhere and my sense is that it was crossed in this instance.

I also think the author should do a better job talking about conservation. Why doesn't he mention the fact that the state dumps hatchery summer steelhead into the SF Toutle in spite scientific literature that says those plants can bring a wild winter stock to near extinction? I don't know whether anyone knows if the hatchery adults are spawning there and producing offspring that compete with the wild juveniles but it is a very important concern, especially if this run is in fact "chronically underescaped". Here's a link with an abstract on just that: http://www.nativefishsociety.org/conservation/biblio/wild_vs_hatchery/annotated_bibliography_on_salmon_hatcheries/ecological_competition/KOSTOW2003Ecological.htm

Maybe that concern seems like an obscure ecological interaction that writers shouldn't have to worry about. Guess what, that has been the status quo for too long and if we want our children to be fishing for wild steelhead and the genetic diversity able to adapt to climate change we better set the bar a hell of a lot higher.
Really? I and my friends read that mag and we often drive 2 to 3 hours before sunrise to our destinations. We fish hard and often, but maybe we are just the exception. I doubt it though.:confused:


Active Member
jbuehler said:






I think we can use misinformation to our advantage if we just conspire together....anyone with me?
Ahhhh a diversion! brilliant!
Interesting thread. Since I haven't read the article nor fished the river, I can't say whether additional pressure will be harmful, but I do have an observation.

In the 1980s, I wrote an article for Outdoor Life where I named some of the smaller steelhead streams on the OP. You know the ones, the Pysht, Hoko, Clallam and some others...

In the 1990s, a writer for Salmon Trout Steelheader wrote about those same streams, and one board I frequent was ready to lynch the guy because he outed their zipperlip rivers...the same ones I covered 10 years earlier. I'll bet that a writer could cover those same rivers today, and there would be fishermen who would shout for his blood because he was giving secrets away.

Fame is really fleeting in the fishing world, especially for those rivers where the fishing isn't stellar-- which sounds like it's the case with the South Fork of the Toutle.

In my experience, there will be a burst of pressure on the SFT, and then it will fall off...and in three or four years, it will once again become a secret river.

However, as several have pointed out, there are more fishermen in Washington every year, and it's population pressure that will cause more harm to a given watershed and run of fish than a few extra fly fishermen.



Active Member
My first time fishing the SF Toutle in the winter, the friend who was showing me the ropes almost drowned. That river was a severe bitch to fish. With so many other excellent fisheries close by, I can't imagine the Toutle will ever be anything but a sideline for the Cowlitz crowd (who are probably amping at the new 6 adult steel limit). It's a beautiful river, but the "crowd" we're all talking about aren't looking for beauty.
NWF -- Not The Real Problem

I can see both sides of the coin here. I can definately see how publishing fishing reports about small rivers will bring more traffic to areas that cannot handle the angling pressure. I can see that reviews certainly can help get to know an area without actually having to travel and visit that area. Also areas that get good reviews see a higher amount of business. Living in rural Montana, I know that it can be a help for the local businesses. I also know that it's nice to keep those areas rural.

Having a vendetta against NWF is going a little far... I mean what does your local fly shop do when someone calls them and wants to know where the best place to go fish is? What do angling reports do? One can gain a ton of knowledge about how the fishing is in that area by reading such reports rather than getting in the car and actually going there.

I in fact am a reader of NWF. I enjoy the articles and reviews of the streams. Outside of the articles I enjoy reading about what flys are hot and how to tye them. I have NOT ventured out to any of the mentioned fisheries. If I lived in the areas that are mentioned in the articles I might venture down to see those streams.

It's all about moderation here guys. If everyone practiced a little moderation and was aware of the resource and didn't abuse it, than things would be fine. If you really have a serious protest to such magazines and articles than write the editor. Also if you have such strong feelings about the way that the State of Washington is handling the fishing regulations then someone needs to start writing people who could make a difference. If all we do is ramble on and on, on a POST online then we won't make any difference.

Write your congressmen or the editor of the magazine not a POST online...

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