Happy Holidays everyone. I hope this finds you beginning to find peace and rest after a nice Thanksgiving. I've worn out a few things over the years, so I'm really looking forward to Christmas as an opportunity to refresh a couple of those things! I often get to San Francisco for work and had a relatively late meeting one day last week. It was a perfect opportunity to visit George Revel's Lost Coast Outfitters fly shop. The shop is adjacent to the financial district on Jackson Street. Just find the Transamerica building and you're but a block away. It's a beeeeautiful shop full of all sorts of things you need. I'm glad I still enjoy Christmas.
George was writing in his blog that he was reaching that big milestone in his life-turning 30! When I was talking with him and another of his colleagues, I was referring to him as a kid and that 30 is just the start. I was also at the same time remembering when everyone in this club called me "kid." It does seem like a while ago. Hey, would you do me a favor right now and think of someone in the club who has made an impact in your fly fishing experiences this year, and shoot me or Kevin Murdock an e-mail with their name? We'll add them to the ballot box for the Dame Juliana/John Steele Award we hand out each year at the annual dinner. Yeah, like right now!
We left October with no rainfall and the most deadly and destructive fires in all of California's history. Hopefully at this writing we've received some of the rain forecasted. I'm really depressed about the San Lorenzo and all our Steelhead/Coho waterways. For me, fly fishing just seems so secondary to what is happening here in Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. Twenty-five years ago, I was working hard to stop the killing of Steelhead with regulation changes to eliminate bait fishing, barbless hooks, and no kill. In 1998, we got some of that, which you see in the regulations today. There are currently so many efforts to clean up the habitats and make it look nice, natural, healthy. But now, there is no water. And, again I'm beginning to stick my neck out for the fish, feeling the sharp edge of the knife of those who'd like to chop it off because I'm fighting for the fish. When do we stop "development" because there just isn't enough water to be sustainable? Who is that person who finally says "NO!"? At this writing, the San Lorenzo is 50% lower than its 82-year average. The City is pumping 7.4 million gallons of water-per day-into the ocean. Yet Loch Lomond remains at 86.9% capacity, which basically means it's still full. Scotts Valley is stripping every square foot of land it can to build homes, with the Water District Manager doing some of the most visible damage building a townhouse complex of 19 units in a place where water was never needed. Drive slowly down Scotts Valley Drive and look to the right or left-proposed development signs everywhere.
When I attended the environmental gig at Felton Community Hall last week, SCFF had a table there with brochures and flyers, a bunch of my fly fishing gear for show and tell! A lot of "gray heads" were in attendance to hear Mark Stone talk about PG&E and the fires. No one talked about water. No one addressed the rampant destructive growth, traffic - a number of people came to me talking about when there were so many steelhead in the river and they would demonstrate with their arms, how they could scoop them up that way.
The Steelhead and Coho need water to thrive. Not runoff. Most of the people moving here don't know these fish used to exist and don't know how to care that they do, did or could. I don't blame them for wanting to live in an apartment in Santa Cruz, vs. an apartment in San Jose, but I am afraid we are seeing the final years as the San Lorenzo is drained for the tech industry.
The Fish and Game advisory commission is reviewing "low-flow" regulations where fishing would be cut on days the flows are too low for steelhead to move from holding areas. While most of us wouldn't fish on a low-flow day, it's a good idea to stop others. But I asked then, "What if the flows are too low period and they don't return and we can't fish because the flows don't return?" She said, "Oh, that's a good question." Could the City see to it that flows never return, the fish don't return and those of us who care about the fish, eventually die or move away? No more being bothered by fishermen?
It's no wonder many of us start looking to other waters around the world to experience fly fishing. Do you know that every time someone asks me about fly fishing, the first question they ask is "Where do you fish around here?"
In light of what's going on elsewhere with the devastating fires, loss of life, homes, businesses - how much water or fish in a river seems pretty petty. The river is pretty and there is some water in it. But let's work to do something about it. Be the voice for the Steelhead and the Coho. Fish don't care about "studies" being done, or what is "proposed" for the future. Steelhead/Coho rely on water flow. Their instincts are imprinted in their skin and the flow dictates what they do and when. Not a study or a proposal. Fish don't care about "numbers" -unless it's Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS), or numbers of mayfly, caddis and other food sources. For the "trout" that used to flourish in the San Lorenzo and all her tributaries where kids could fly fish-practically all year-like they do on my home waters in Ohio on the Chagrin River, they need water ALL year, not just October.
I understand everyone is busy. It's a daunting task, and I do regularly ask myself, "why do I care?" Why do I stick my neck out and risk being chastised for not knowing the whole story? Do I think the Scotts Valley mafia will come after me? Sometimes - yes. Am I perfect? No. Maybe it's a selfish thing. I want Steelhead and Coho in the river, so I can play with them during the fishing season, see their amazing beauty and strength five minutes from my home. Maybe because I'm cheap and don't want to travel to exotic places, to do what I should be able to do in my back yard. Maybe it's jealousy because I see what the Skeena, Kispiutz and other rivers have and I want that here. Or maybe it's because they were here first, like so much before us. And maybe it's because, when there was water in the river, there was water, trees, open spaces and untouched wilderness everywhere else.
I've told this before, when someone wanted to use a part of my property as consideration for purchasing the home next door, I politely declined. When they asked what I was going to do with that part, I said "Nothing - leave it as it has been for as long as it was here before me. Nothing."
I'm praying God makes a fool out of me and lets others tell me - see, it was going to be all right, Tom. And the water returns to better than its 82-year average. That would be a great Christmas gift.