The Cleanest Line

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    Wild Fish Don’t Ride in Trucks

    By Yvon Chouinard and Matt Stoecker

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    This op-ed was originally published in the Sacramento Bee on July 23, 2015.

    On May 7, the Yuba Salmon Partnership Initiative (YSPI) shared a plan that would create the first “trap and haul” program of its kind in California. Trap and haul involves capturing fish, putting them in trucks, and moving them up or down rivers around obstacles such as dams.

    The initiative is proposing a 50-year, $700 million project that involves moving spring-run chinook salmon around two dams, Englebright and New Bullards Bar Dam, into the North Fork of the Yuba River.

    We all want to see the Yuba River and its salmon thrive. But an expensive project like this one, which doesn’t achieve real recovery of wild and self-sustaining fisheries or watershed function in the Yuba River, would be a huge mistake.

    Above: Yvon Chouinard looks out over Englebright Dam back in 2011, Yuba River, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker

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    Oregon Rain

    By Kate Taylor

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    I stand at my kitchen sink, looking out the window as I fill a glass of water. I live in Rockaway Beach a coastal community of 2,500 people, renowned for all that is epic about the Oregon coast: stunning beaches, lush forests and rich ocean and inland waters.

    I take a sip from the glass. Outside, targeting a nearby clear-cut hillside, a helicopter sprays a sheet of herbicide. I spectate as the chemicals float to dirt, supposedly doing their job—killing weeds that might choke out saplings. Those weeds line Jetty Creek, the source of my small community’s drinking water. Yes, you read correctly: logging companies spray chemicals over my community’s drinking water. And under the protection of the archaic Oregon Forest Practices Act, they’re permitted to do so.

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    The Release – Fundamentals of fish and the path to responsible angling

    By Andy J. Danylchuk, PhD

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    Recreational angling is an incredibly popular leisure activity in North America, spanning a wide demographic of our society and occurring almost every place fish can be found. Tools and techniques for recreational angling are also vast and selecting the right gear often consumes a lot of our leisure time, basements, and wallets. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ sport and, for the most part, I think we like it that way.

    Given recreational angling’s popularity, breadth and depth, this also means that many different kinds of fish are caught in many different ways. That is part of why we do it. In some cases anglers catch to keep, but even they have to release fish that are the wrong species, aren’t of legal size, or when the limit is reached. There is also a growing movement focused on voluntary catch-and-release—a way to enjoy the sport but potentially reduce the impact on fish. In theory, catch-and-release is more sustainable and more conservation-minded. If you see it swim away, the fish is fine... right?

    Above: April Vokey releases a Skeena River steelhead. Photo: Adrienne Comeau

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    Save the Chuitna – Watch the trailer and join the fight against coal mining on salmon streams

    By Paul Moinester

    There is something intensely visceral and awe-inspiring about the Chuitna Watershed. Deep pools teeming with wild Pacific salmon pervade the vast landscape. Oversized tracks from grizzlies and moose are omnipresent, creating an eerie feeling as you navigate through fields of fireweed. And the spirit of the native Tyonek people, who have called this land home for millennia, resonates with every flight of an eagle and leap of a salmon.

    For the media team privileged to visit this remote Alaskan paradise, the harsh reality that we were experiencing a wilderness slated for destruction proved incomprehensible. Even still, it seems unfathomable that the river we waded could soon be bulldozed to make way for one of the United States’ largest open-pit coal mines and Alaska’s largest coal export terminal.

    Above: Chuitna - More Than Salmon On The Line (Trailer). Video: Trip Jennings and Save the Chuitna.

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    Xboundary – Defending Alaska & British Columbia salmon rivers from open-pit mining

    By Ryan Peterson & Travis Rummel 

    An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines—at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska—has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the August 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

    Last summer, as part of production for Xboundary, we completed a 100-mile transect of the Unuk River watershed. What follows is an excerpt and action alert from an interview we did with Trout Unlimited Alaska after the trip, who, along with Patagonia, sponsored our project.

    Video: Xboundary a salmon film by Ryan Peterson.

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    Protecting Bristol Bay: Smart Money

    By Dylan Tomine

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    President Obama’s recent protection of Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration may feel like a victory for fish and the environment, but I think it’s really about time and money. Which in this case, is just as good. Here’s why:

    Oil and gas reserves, as we know, are limited by however much is already in the ground and our ability to extract it. Sure, advancing extraction technologies (fracking, etc) can extend the life of a deposit, but unless we’re waiting for more dinosaurs to die, nobody’s making any new oil or gas.

    Salmon, on the other hand, if properly managed, are perhaps the ultimate renewable resource. By all accounts, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is one of the best managed fisheries in the world, producing a sustainable $2 billion annual fish economy.

    Above: Nushagak River, draining into Bristol Bay, Alaska. Photo: AlaskaTrekker (CC)

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    Elwha River Uplift

    Words and photos by Dylan Tomine

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    The kids and I decided to squeeze in one last, close-to-home, weekday excursion before school started, so we headed over to the newly dam-free Elwha River for a little float. The last piece of the upper dam was removed last week, so it seemed like a good time to go see what had changed since I was there earlier this summer. And I wanted the kids to experience a river being reborn. That’s Weston and Skyla starting out, courtesy of our friends at Olympic Raft & Kayak.

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    The Lost Dory – Traveling in Baja with my dad and his handmade boat

    By Joe Curren

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    When I think of my dad, I think of roughing it in Baja and traveling up and down the peninsula in a rickety old VW Bug. For three straight years, between the ages of 13-15, my dad would pick me up in Santa Barbara and we’d make the 1,000-mile drive south to Cabo on Highway 1. We spent six weeks in summer and two weeks in winter mostly staying at my dad’s place on the East Cape, but we also camped, surfed, fished and dove along the way, and always with his handmade foam and fiberglass dory.

    The trips are some of the best memories I have of my dad while growing up. Yes, we did rough it, but a bit of hardening was good for me. Traveling in Baja is a rite of passage for the Southern California surfer and getting dirty comes with the territory, especially once you venture south of Ensenada. Shipwrecks, Scorpion Bay, Seven Sisters; as a grom it was the waves that drew me in. Many hours, of course, were spent surfing. But my dad really made sure I experienced everything the land and water in Baja had to offer.

    [Above: The first trip when I was 13. Many adventures lay ahead. Photo: Pat Curren]

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    Fear and Self-Loathing in Punta Allen

    By Mike Thompson

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    “Push the button.”

    “No, you push the button.”

    “What the hell, push it Ellen!”

    She did.

    I knew I was going to be profiled as a narcotraficante even though the contraband I was trying to sneak past the customs officer was anything but drugs. In fact, it was several thousand dollars worth of fishing goodies to be given away at the Palometa Club, a fly fishing destination in Punta Allen, Mexico.

    The lodge, named for the permit fish, was playing host to a fundraising tournament to benefit Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, as well as the community school. Somehow—it is now lost to memory—I agreed to act as a mule to carry the merchandise for my friend and client, David. Since the weight of the Patagonia fishing shirts, polarized sun glasses, rods and fly boxes more than exceeded the allowed weight limit, I conscripted my friend and neighbor, Ellen, to haul some of the stuff for me. She naively agreed.

    [Above: Dark skies and rain shells, a sign of things to come. Photo: Matt Jones]

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    Tenkara with Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia [Updated with Video]

    By Jess McGlothlin, Fire Girl Photography

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    My watch battery died within ten minutes of setting foot on the plane about to whisk me out of Great Falls, Montana.

    I should have realized it for what it was: a sign things were about to change.

    I had left behind an increasingly weird existence on the Missouri River front and hopped a plane to Salt Lake and then on to Jackson Hole. The job was to cover a Patagonia women’s fly fishing press event held near Ashton, Idaho. For my part, I hopped on that plane feeling sick, stressed and generally pretty damn tired.

    Forty-eight hours later found me tenkara fishing and wading on an Idaho river with Yvon Chouinard, arguably the founding father of outdoor retail as we know it today, feeling better than I have all year. Yvon, or YC as the Patagonia team calls him, founded the company in 1972 as Chouinard Equipment. He’s an old-school gentleman; patient, soft-spoken, full of incredible knowledge and incredibly, undeniably quotable.

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