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Mark Stangeland - NUFlyGuide
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Spinning your wheels

Posted by Mark Monday, July 29, 2013

 Watching a fly swing is good therapy

It's only fishing, relax people! Can you be uptight fishing this river? I think not......

 I see a lot of people running around with their hair on fire on the North Umpqua. Racing up and down the river in a frenzy, trying to get to places first. Driving into pullouts like Mario Andretti, trying to win at Indy. Like the guy at the Gorge run a couple days ago. I was already in the pullout driving slow to the middle parking area when a guy races in from upstream and beats me there. I was clearly in the pullout and diving slow with rods on my truck, set to pull over and fish. I wasn't going to race him. Lets just say his car was stopped sooner, but I was there first. Who cares really you say? Well I do and here's why.....

 I roll over to him and put my window down and say " Hey how's it going man, where are you going to fish?" He jumps out of his rig real quick and gets all bowed up and starts grabbing his rod like if he has it in his hand he gets the run.  He says " The Gorge" and I say " yeah no kidding,I figured that much since that's where we are.  Are you gonna fish all of it"?  There are three distinct sections there thus the reason for my inquiry.  My purpose was to try and communicate with this guy and see what he was gonna fish and maybe we could have worked something out and both been able to fish some of the water in there.  You know, share some water, which could have easily been done.  I was also hoping that if I talked to him for a second he would realize it's all OK, I was just out  fishing like him, and he can slow down and relax a little.  I was also hoping that in talking with me he would offer me a chance to fish the upper or lower section knowing he was a little hasty and possibly out of line for racing me to the spot.  None of that happened.  Communication is always good on the river and something that I try to pursue when the opportunity arises. It is also something that is truly lacking the last few years.  Any way he says, "No were fishing all of it"!!!  "Well OK, that's fine have a good night" I say as I drive off slowly.  Now I could care less that he got the run and I wasn't going to make a big deal about it.  I know the river well enough that I always have a plan B and beyond.  My point is, I tried to have a friendly interaction and was met with someone who was all about themselves and what they wanted to do.  He was in such a hurry to beat me to the run that he forgot he was just fishing and it was supposed to be fun.  I could see in his eyes that he needed to fish that run more than me. Have at it buddy, knock yourself out.  He was spinning his wheels!

That's not the way the river and it's history were passed down. It's not the way I will show the river to people either. Sure there has always been competition and friendly rivalries but that's what they were, friendly.  Sure, the early risers got the first shot at the run and that's fair and the way the game has always been played.  Now days it's gone to the extreme.  People are going to ridiculous lengths to fish some runs in the Campwater. Guys spending hours before sun up waiting for the Station. That's fine and all but it just makes a competition out of a leisure sport.  I don't fish to compete.

 Many have learned or are learning bad etiquette from others.  Many of those anglers that are supposed to be leaders are not leading well and that is now the legacy that is being passed on.  The 5 miles below Steamboat Creek has become so crowded that I often avoid it all together, maybe fishing a small percentage of the runs I used to fish.  They can have it all.  I would rather fish the upper river or the lower river in relative peace than deal with the dog and pony show that has evolved in the last few years.  Little does everyone realize or even consider that the wild fish they love so much are the very ones that are being relentlessly pursued day after day so close to their final spawning destination. The river is being loved to death before our eyes.

In the old days, which were not that long ago, people talked more on the water, people exchanged flies and information with total strangers, people shared runs or sections of river when they came together at the same time.  People would gladly give up or share a run as a gentleman knowing that it was not worth the conflict. They knew full well the favor would come back to them down the line.  People respected others space. The pace was more laid back.  There was room for everyone.  It is still like that in many ways and those friendly exchanges still happen don't get me wrong. But we all have to work a little harder to help keep it that way.

The dynamics of the river have just changed in many ways.  The players have changed.  A new breed of angler has come to the river.  A new generation that has no idea about the history and personalities that have made this river what it is. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us and we can never forget that. The "Me/Entitlement" generation has come and it's effects are far reaching. The youtube and How To videos of the river from a few years ago have literally gone worldwide and the river is seeing pressure like never before. People come more and more to catch fish and that was never the sole reason to fish the North Umpqua. The fish will come when they come if you put in your time. For many the catching of the fish and not the total river experience has become the goal. Turning the river into a self serving steelhead slot machine demeans the sport, the river and the legends that made her great. If you want numbers go to the Deschutes, the GR,Trinity, Klamath or Rogue.

As the years go by, the old guard is slowly dying off and with it go much of the stories, history, ethics, soul  and the very fabric that hold the river together. It doesn't have to be that way.  Do your part to have pleasant exchanges on the water. The day you save may be your own.  Lets try and keep the class and elegance of The North intact. It will take all of us to do it.  It's worth it.

Do your part out there and don't spin your wheels..........


  1. Ken Campbell Says:
  2. Aye brother

  3. Amen Mark, competition on the water negates the peace I seek when I go down there. You are definitely right about the importance of communicating and being friendly and courteous on the river. There is so much more the North Umpqua experience than getting as many steelhead as possible, now.

    It was good to visit with you last week. Hope to see you again down there soon.


  4. Unknown Says:
  5. I disagree with your assessment of it being the next generation of fisherman that are the ones in a hurry, or being super competitive. There are plenty of "older" fisherman that have the same type of attitude you speak of. I do agree that people need to relax more and be friendlier, but most of my negative experiences with people trying to race to water, lowholing, etc. has been people 45+.

    On a river like the NU there are so many old guys that have so much knowledge its probably in your best interest to try and talk to everyone and be friendly with everyone so you can to try and soak up a tiny piece of that knowledge some of these guys are spilling over with.

  6. Jay Says:
  7. Very well put. I see a lot of that same mentality at Pyramid Lake in Nevada. It's amusing how serious people can be doing something that is supposed to be fun.


  8. Keith Says:
  9. Great post Mark. My goodness what a great place it is. Worth reminding folks, indeed.


  10. Mark Says:
  11. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Casey, when I say "next/new generation" I include young and old in that. You are absolutely correct when you say older people have given you problems. There are just as many older people out there that have not taken the time to learn a bit about the river and it's history as there are younger. It's not a young or old thing. It's an informed or uninformed thing. As time marches on the original players that made the river what it is slowly fade into the past. ALL of us, young and old, my self included, need to keep those giants like Umpqua Vic,Major Mott,C.Gordon, Zeke Allen,and of course Frank Moore to name but a few,at the forefront in our minds as we fish. These are the guys who paved the way for everyone else. The point of the post was to remind people that this is a wonderful place, a magnificent fishery and river and fishing is fun. Lasting friends and life time memories can be made every time one sets foot on this river. I will never be afraid to speak up when I see things going awry on the river, however unpopular it is with some people.

    If I am forever known as the jerk that tried to keep ethical fishing practices, proper pool rotation and a strong love for the early history alive on the river then so be it. I have been called worse. I can live with that. The river has given me much, I want to help to preserve the elements that drew me in almost 30 years ago now.

  12. Anonymous Says:
  13. So well put! I couldn't agree more. I started on the NU about 8 yrs ago and was more than a little intimidated at times to say the least and it took a few years before I started hooking fish. On one of my early trips there I ran into F. Moore at the gas station not knowing at the time who he was and what a amazing guy! We just talked fishing and flies for a few minutes and went on our way he was just so "into it" it got me stoked to meet a complete stranger with a big age gap willing to just shoot the breeze about a shared passion. From that point I have soaked up every bit of info I can on the N. Umpqua including the etiquette that has made it a very special place to share. That said we all need to be alert to our surroundings. I was really surprised earlier this summer to get completely run down by a "local legend." I was fishing a well known easily fished run when this guy pulls into the pullout grabs his rod come scrambling down the bank and starts casting a mere 15yds upstream of me. I attempt to make eye contact maybe offer up a smile or a bit of a chat but nothing doing he is zoned in on his task and moving down fast. Now I'm wondering "am I in the wrong spot, am I not fishing thru fast enough..?" It got to the point of not fun and I backed out only to have him just fish right on thru w/out even a glance, scramble up the bank and race off down river. Now I'm not gonna describe the guy or give his name because a one sided story is never a fair tale, maybe he was having a bad day, maybe he really needed to hook up, maybe I was in his "plan B" late in the day...who knows? But I do know this: Stewardship starts at home, so we must all make an effort to work together (especially those who consider a stretch of water their "home waters") so as to enjoy what we are lucky to have and share. Great post as always Mark!

  14. Cory D. Says:
  15. Nice post Mark. Great reminder for those new or old to the NU or any steelhead river for that matter. It ain't life and death, it's fly fishing.

    Also, nice meeting you last week when I was down for the day with Todd.

  16. Mark Says:
  17. Thanks, nicely stated anonymous. Nice seeing you as well Corey! Glad you had a little action....

  18. Anonymous Says:
  19. The Umpqua has so much to offer besides the landing of fish.

    quality post.


  20. "I don't fish to compete." I like it Mark. Like many things in life, it seems that fishing, whether fly, spin, bait, etc., has become more and more competitive over the last decade or so. It's probably mainly due to an increase in the number of people fishing or social media and the internet.

    Generally, I think the the cause of many instances of miscommunication on the river is derived from a lack of education and a lack of respect. From my experiences, when some one steps in below or pulls something similar to your story in the post, it is because one person does not know or understand the etiquette. While it can definitely be frustrating, I think it is in all of our best interests to share the knowledge and tactfully explain the etiquette so that that person does not repeat the mistake. The person might think you are being inconsiderate but years down the road that person will come to appreciate the advice.

  21. Anonymous Says:
  22. Terrific post, sir.
    Many thx.
    Happens in many places and in many outdoor pursuits, sadly.
    Too many people?
    Too easy to access info?
    Too much "me"?
    Too much too much, weird values?

    Probably all of the above.
    Too bad, "you" are missing a lot of It.

  23. Steelhd32 Says:
  24. Well said!

    Unfortunately, "Competition Fishing" seems to be the norm now, no matter what river you fish. From fisherman arriving at the river at 4AM and then bemoaning the rascal that arrived at 3:30 AM to beat them out of their spot, to fisherman fishing far too close, etiquette is becoming increasingly difficult to find on a river. I would rather move on to plan "B" than fish in the vicinity of boorish fishermen.

    Hats off to you for stating your case so eloquently!

  25. amen brother, and thanks for your post. Good stuff and I totally agree. Your buddy Freimuth turned me on to your site and I love how you "take the High road" with this stuff. Be well and keep up writing the good vibe.


  26. Mark Crosse Says:
  27. Mark what you say is so true. There are many reasons for the mentality you describe but I chalk it up to the fact there are much fewer fish hence the stress that fishermen put on themselves to hook a steelie. Back in the hatchery days if you didn't get at least a grab or so every day you thought you were doing something wrong. I would suggest bringing back the hatchery fish but don't want to hijack the thread and/or get nasty emails from the wild fish purists. I have been fishing the Umpqua for 20 years and last month I fished for a week without even a bump, but you know what, I still love the river not for the fish I catch but for the peace it instills in me.


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