Saturday, November 26, 2011

Forum Vocabulary 101 -published January 2011

In The Net
Forum Vocabulary 101
Trevor Shpeley

Hi folks, it's been about two months since we re-launched the BC Outdoors forums and I thought it might be a good time to explain some common discussion board terminology and what it means to you, the forum members.

Internet forums are not new. In fact long before there was a real internet there were bulletin boards where like-minded people would gather to share information, discuss computers and make fun of the newbies.

Newbies were people that arrived after the first wave of early adopters had established a beachhead and claimed an internet space as their own. It didn't really matter that the new person might know more about the subject material than everybody else on the board or that they had arrived only a short time after the veterans, they were newbies and therefore fair game for a bit of virtual hazing.

Luckily that was then and this is now. These days the people you meet online are the same ones you meet in everyday life and just about everybody outside of the teen gaming world understands basic social skills and follows the golden rule. The term “newbie” still exists but making fun of one will get you chewed out by your fellow forum members and often kicked right off the board. There is no longer any need to be nervous about your first posts because if you commit some sort of horrible gaff the other members will gently steer you in the right direction and if you fall afoul of a Troll, the moderators will step in before you get in over your head.

No, I'm not talking about the large unattractive creatures that hide under bridges and extract tolls from passers by. I refer to the large unattractive creatures that hide behind keyboards and attack anybody unwary enough to respond to one of the carefully worded traps they design solely to get an emotional response and cause people to write an angry post in return. Nothing warms the cold lonely heart of the internet Troll like disciplinary action being taken against somebody that the Troll has provoked into hostility.

Trolls are not to be confused with their much appreciated and less common cousins the Faux-Trolls. Faux-Trolls keep a forum interesting with biting sarcasm that never quite gets mean, clever well researched rebuttals and a good nature that takes the sting out of their criticism. Real Trolls contribute nothing of any consequence and are easily avoided.

The way to deal with Trolls is to ignore them. If you resist the bait they will slink back down into their Mom's basements and look for a place with victims willing to play. They are far too crafty to get themselves banned so a website with good moderation will in extreme cases eject a Troll in the interests of public tranquillity rather than have their productive posters go elsewhere to avoid an obnoxious Troll. BC Outdoors has very good moderators.

Moderators are the police of the internet. The BCO forums are a community and like all communities it has community standards. Sometimes a good discussion will get out of hand or somebody will make racist, sexist or insulting statements and that's when a moderator will step in.

Moderators don't make the rules, they may not even like all of them but they do try to ensure that everybody gets a level playing field. A good “Mod” will never let his or her personal opinions guide their moderating and will make every effort to keep the critical discussion focused on the subject material and not about the person doing the posting.

An internet forum is a collection of “threads” which consist of a collection of “posts”. Without posts there is no forum. It has been a couple of months since the re-launch of the BCO forums and new membership is way up. Unfortunately a lot of the new members are brand new to discussion boards and are a little shy about posting.

To those people I say, “just go for it”. Write about whatever on-topic subject interests you. Ask questions, have a rant, pass on a tip or just say hello. Tell us what you like about the magazines or the articles. Tell us what you don't like. All we ask is that you post early and often. There is nothing more tedious than a forum where nobody talks so take a chance and start a little chatter, we don't bite. Much.

Eitism in Fly Fishing, published Oct 2011

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer as I am wont to do on quiet autumn evenings, (who am I kidding, I take an ipad on the water with me so I can check my e-mail and play Angry Birds), when I came across a lively thread on fly fishing elitism. This one happened to be on FlyBC but the same thread pops up on most fishing forums from time to time.

Since the subject was being discussed by fly fishermen one might imagine that the the thread would develop along predictable lines in much the same way as if you had asked a few McDonalds executives to debate the ethics of paying minimum wage or a gaggle of soccer moms to discuss the merits of their precious snowflakes. In other words, it's a tough arena to get an unbiased opinion never mind some constructive, informed discourse. One might imagine that but that wasn't really the case.

The thread began with the usual question; “Why are fly fishermen so elitist and why are they always pointing their fingers at the gear crowd in regards to ethics?” Which was promptly answered by a forum member with more years on this earth than the Joshua tree;

“This is the order of life,
#1 – People that use two handed rods for fly fishing.
#2 – People that use single handed rods for fly fishing.
#3 – Gear fishermen
#4 – Bait fishermen.”

As trite as the above statement may appear, it is unfortunately an opinion that is at least casually shared by some fly fishermen.

Here are a few more (slightly edited) quotes from the FlyBC thread;

“I think that flyfishers feel it requires more intelligence and skill to be a flyfisher. There is also a sort of mystique and romanticism connected to fly fishing, an art form if you will. I remember when I used only a spinning rod and I watched a fellow fly fishing and it was poetry in motion. I thought someday I would do that and I do. For me it was a spiritual and cerebral pursuit which became more important than actually catching fish. Maybe this is where the perception of elitism comes from?”

“I think that you will find that most, if not all, fly fishers started out as bait/gear fishermen. Very few bait/gear fishermen will claim to have “been there, done that” with fly fishing.”

The fact is that most flyfishers do not believe they are elitist . We all pretty much started on bait or gear and then chose another path. I myself use gear and or bait when conditions require it, I just prefer to flyfish when I can and my choice of fishing locations and target species tend to reflect that preference.

Some more words of wisdom;

“ You have three fishermen at the top of their game.
One is the best angler with a spinning rod.
One is the best angler with a bait casting outfit.
One is the best angler with a fly rod.
Of the three, which is the best most ethical angler?
If you can narrow it down and come up with an answer, then you likely believe in elitist values.”

“Fly fishing is what you make of it, if you look for elitism you will find it. It's all a matter of personal perspective and what you fixate on.”

Bottom line is that you will never get away from elitism. If there are two or more methods of doing something, the person that does it one way will think anybody that does it any other way is misinformed at best and at worst, living in a uni-bomber cabin in some backwoods hollow married to his sister. Ferrari drivers look down on Lamborghini owners, beef farmers believe the best use of land is for cattle while canola growers feel they could put it to better use. It goes on and on. Rarely do people just shrug and say “Go ahead and stand next to me brother and practice your dark art while I just enjoy my own thing and live and let live.”

Fly fishing, gear fishing, bait casting, it doesn't matter how you do it as long as you enjoy it and the regulations allow. Elitism is a sort of racism and we as thinking entities should be able to rise above our xenophobic genetic programing. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and just fish!

In the Net, May 2011

In The Net
Flossing, the great debate continues
Trevor Shpeley

Well, summer is here and I've been talking about the BCO forums for about six months. In that time we have more than doubled our membership although getting the new members posting has been a bit of a struggle. So enough talking about ourselves, it's time to get on with the real business of this column which is to report on what BC fishermen are talking about when they sit down at their computers.

For this first instalment of forum hot topics I thought we should start with the granddaddy of all internet fishing debates which is flossing Salmon. By the time you read this, the annual debate/argument/street-fight, on the practice of “flossing,” (as long-leader bottom-bouncing has become known,) should just be getting started and forum moderators everywhere will be working overtime trying to keep the virtual carnage to a minimum.

The basics of the issue are this:

Bottom bouncing for Salmon is a legitimate fishing method where a heavy weight is attached to a three way swivel with a short leader tied to the other end and a hook at the end of that. The rig is then dead drifted through a run and allowed to bounce along the bottom keeping the bait close to where the salmon are. At the end of the drift, the line is reeled in without being allowed to swing. Fish caught by this method are usually fairly hooked.

The problem comes when people use a long leader and then cast across the current and swing a large arc through the Salmon that are packed side by side with their mouths wide open into the flow. The wool decorated hook will often snag as the long leader “flosses” through the Salmon's mouths and if it doesn't, the huge pull the “angler” sometimes imparts at the end of the swing will usually do the trick. The hook is often in the inside the mouth giving the impression that the fish was fairly hooked and by the letter of the law, it was. THAT, in a nutshell is the core of the debate.

Just because something is legal, or quasi-legal, or just ignored by fisheries, should you be doing it? Many people would say no, snagging is snagging and it is a black eye on the fishery. Many other people would say “What difference does it make? The fish is dead either way. Do you think the fish cares how it was caught?” Sport fishery or harvest fishery? Do people really care? You bet they do.

Nothing has the power to divide an internet forum like a debate on flossing. Good friends have parted company over this prickly question of ethics. Whole websites have sprung up to denounce the practice only to collapse under the ponderous weight of their own idealism.

So who's right? I have no idea. Here's a sampling of posts taken from various fishing forums. Screen names have been deleted to protect the opinionated.

“ Until DFO states that it's illegal, I'll exercise my right to bounce for Socks. As long as I'm fishing within what DFO deems is legal, don't tell me what I can and can't do.”
“Flossing is snagging and snagging isn’t right. It will be a great day for sportfishing when they finally stop this so-called harvest fishery”
“Flossing is good. That's what the sockeye are there for. Whether you net 'em, floss 'em, or snag 'em, it's a resource that we should be allowed to enjoy. Have fun!”
“Just as long as this form of "fishing" isn't confused with being sporting. You wouldn't catch me dead doing this. If I am seen as uppity or holier than thou then so be it”
“I can understand having a moral revulsion to flossing in one’s conscience. But why must I obey your conscience?”
“It is my personal belief that any fish that does not hook itself is snagged”
“A small group of folks has arbitrarily defined terms like sport and morality, with the definition based on their say so. Then they have applied their rules to everyone else, with the not surprising conclusion that anyone who disagrees is not sporting”
“What happens when you see people lined up on the Thompson doing it!! It won't be OK then will it?”

Do I have an opinion? Yes I do but I'm not going to share it here! If you want to know come to and ask me!

15 things you only do once - published Oct 2011

15 things you only do once
Story by Trevor Shpeley
Illustrations by Marie Murphy

Fishing is a sport of repetition. We cast, cast and cast again. By repeating ourselves we become skilled and wise in the ways of the water. There are some things however that you only want to do once if at all. Here are 15 of them.

1 - Forget to replace the drain plug in a boat before launching
A lot of boats come with drain plugs in the transom which are removed when the boat is on a trailer to get rid of any accumulated water. When you arrive at the boat launch the first thing you do is secure the plug before you back down the ramp. That's the theory anyway. If you are like me and you spend 20 minutes every single day searching for your car keys and have left children in shopping carts at the mall then this simple task of remembrance can be a hit or miss affair.

The problem is compounded with the addition of a wife who has been placed in the boat before launching. Trying to explain to a panicked partner about the location and mechanics of a drain plug as she slowly sinks into the shipping lanes is hardly ever the start of an awesome day on the water.

There are plenty of commercial solutions like long colorful ribbons and tethers, use one or at least if you choose not to, don't think poorly of me as I stand on the shore laughing at you while you find out for sure if the boat manufacturer skimped on flotation.

2 - Step off the side of a boat at a gravel boat launch
Your average boat launch is very predictable, about the most drama you can expect when you take the boat out of the water is a 45 minute wait while the guy ahead of you does everything but paint his boat and re-grease his trailer bearings before moving out of your way.

This is not always the case if you fish somewhere like the Fraser where the launches are made from river gravel and half the people using them are in jet boats. Jet boaters often back the trailer halfway in and goose the throttle until the boat rises and settles on the trailer. It takes a little skill, looks cool and they are out in a hurry. No harm done, right?

Well not really. The problem with goosing the throttle of a jet motor at a 45 degree angle to a soft gravel bottom is that it digs holes. Big holes. Wife swallowing holes. The Fraser is murky and many a fisherman's spouse have stepped over the side of a boat only to vanish in a froth of bubbly curses and floating sun hats.

Unless you were planning to sell your boat and take up permanent residence on the couch anyway, probe the bottom with a net before you send your wife over the side at a Fraser launch.

3 - Take a young dog fishing
Dogs make great fishing partners,,,when they are old. Young dogs are like young humans in that all they really care about is food, making noise and breaking things. It is inconceivable to the mind of a young dog that it might be possible to stay still for minutes at a time and really, those loons were just asking for it.

70lb dog overboard + small boat + attempted collar-grab rescue = swimming fisherman, broken rods and a doggy date with Dr Neuter. Why the good creator decided that young dogs only need a brain the size of a huckleberry to control 12 feet of leg and a tail that could sweep a barnacle off a navigation buoy is beyond me.

Leave the dog at home until he is old enough to appreciate a dry spot to sleep and an occasional piece of beef jerky tossed his way. I feel pretty much the same way about young humans.

4 - Slam car door with fishing rods anywhere near the opening
You can leave fishing rods on your car seat over 50 miles of bumpy roads and they won't move but give the door a shove when you have fishing rods within 10 feet of it and they will slide out the opening just before it closes, every time. There is no stopping the carnage. All you can do is watch in horror as time slows and $600 worth of space-age graphite is obliterated like a twig in a wood chipper.

Put your rods back in their cases before you put them back in the car, even if it's only for a few minutes. BTW, rod company warranty guys can tell the difference between a rod that broke from a fish and one that was crushed in a door. Don't ask me how I know.

5 - Place fishing rods against tree while you finish loading the truck
I always insist on loading the truck at the end of the day by myself. I'm not trying to be rude to my partner but when you break your routine, bad things happen. One of those bad things is placing your rods against a tree while you load everything else and then driving away without them. You might get lucky and they might still be there when you come back but most of the time they vanish like socks in a dryer the moment you drive out of sight.

They say, “if you love something, set it free, if it comes back to you, it's yours, if not, it never was” but don't believe it. If you love something, keep it locked in the truck at all times. Common sense trumps t-shirt philosophy every time.

6 - Fail to check your knot after catching a fish or three
How easy is it to take a quick look at the connection between your lure and your line? It's pretty simple, I do it all the time. Usually right after I get 50 feet of fly-line in the face after an unhappy fish decides he's had enough of this nonsense.

Fish have sharp teeth and tippets are typically small and relatively weak compared to the rest of your rig. When you catch a fish you are in effect rubbing very thin plastic across a very sharp cheese grater. One fish can destroy a connection, a half dozen and you'll need divine intervention to keep a nice trout on your line.

7 - Low-hole a pack of Steelheaders
Steelheaders are a friendly bunch. Sit down next to a few of them in a pub and chances are they will spin you tales of fish caught and lost and the glory of rivers past. Like I said, real nice guys. Until you step in below them on a pool that is.

To understand the sudden change from jolly old men to raging medieval beserkers you need to understand a little bit of Steelhead etiquette. A fisherman will start at the head of a run, fish his cast to the end of it's swing, take two steps downstream and start over. When he gets to the bottom he walks up shore and waits his turn in the rotation. The system works well and it has been working well for a long time.

The problems start when a someone, typically a neophyte, sees a long stretch of nice water downstream from a line of fishermen that appears to be vacant and quite innocently steps into the bottom of the run and starts fishing. That's when the fireworks start and the blood pressure pills come out of the vests.

At that point if words are exchanged it's best just to apologize and ask them for advise on how to work the river in a cooperative way, they will usually become friendly and helpful again if you respect the fact that they know the drill and you don't.

8 - Take your kids fishing and bring your own rod
When my kids were young I loved to take them fishing but not until I learned to leave my own rod at home. Kids enjoy fishing and they love to spend time with you. If you try to get in some fishing yourself however, it's only a matter of time before you are frustrated, your kids are bored and somebody is crying, usually you.

Here are some simple rules for taking kids fishing:
Let them pee when they want to.
Don't let them hold their rod while you tie on a hook.
Buy cheap disposable gear.
Bring bandaids, lots of bandaids.

Until your kids decide they don't want you helping them anymore, you're better off thinking of it as a day in the boat and not a day fishing.

9 - Fly cast between you and your partner in a boat
I fish with a lot of different folk and there are maybe two people I trust to cast a fly-line between us on a boat. I am not one of them.

Position your boat so that you can each cast in opposite directions to the outside of the boat. Either that or wear a big hat, a high collared jacket and make yourself as small as possible. Try not to squeal when the fly gets too close, your friends will make fun of you.

10 -Use lawn chairs in a tin boat
Folding lawn chairs in a small tin boat are bad news. They tip over backwards much easier than you would expect. I can't even make a joke about this, too many people have died this way. Get a proper boat seat if you have to recline. Seriously.

11 - Try to learn Spey casting from a book but ignore the directions regarding wind direction
It is possible to at least learn the basics of Spey casting by reading some of the fine books available on the subject. Combine them with a video and you will have a general idea of what to try out on the river but you must pay attention to the part of the text that tells you which casts are appropriate for which river and wind direction.

Spey lines are longer, thicker and much heavier than a standard flyline. If you try to learn the wrong cast for the conditions, it is very possible that you will end up looking like a cartoon tornado as the line hits your head and wraps itself around you. If you are very lucky you were practicing with a piece of yarn instead of a fly but lets face it, you probably had a big heavy Salmon fly on there didn't you?

Read ALL the instructions, they really are there for a reason.

12 - Wade a river in open toed sandals
Summer, the river is cool, and the landscape around you is shimmering in the heat. What could be better than wet-wading while you throw a line to Stonefly crazy trout? Nothing. Nothing that is as long as you put on a pair of wading boots.

The temptation is great to just strap on the old sport sandals and it seems wonderful until you step on the first greasy volleyball sized rock and your foot jams down in between it and the next greasy rock at which point your toes are compacted into a space that wouldn't hold a McDonalds pickle. Even running shoes will leave you feeling like you ran your foot through a pasta maker.

Ditch the waders on hot days but wear the boots!

13 - Cast a heavy fly with a light fly-rod
You've heard the term, “chuck-n-duck”? It describes a particular way to fish heavy weights with a fly-rod but it also describes the process of fishing too big a fly for the rod you are using. A heavily weighted fly hits surprisingly hard when you get it in the back of the head. It can also destroy a graphite rod, both from the action of casting it and the impact of a solid collision.

You hardly ever really need a fly that big and when you do, bring the big rod, don't try and cast a brick with a chopstick.

14 - Ignore requests from your bladder while fishing from a float tube
You can get a long way down a lake in a float tube, especially if you are going with the wind. In fact even on a small lake you can put an hour between you and an approachable shoreline with no difficulty. None of that is really an issue until you get that little tickle that tells you it's time to make your way in to where you can peel down the waders and relieve the situation, hopefully without traumatizing any sensitive cottagers.

That also wouldn't be a problem if we heeded that first warning but we don't. We tell ourselves “one more cast” and after 20 “last” casts we catch a fish and the whole thing starts all over again. By the time the red light is flashing in our brain that says “either you take care of this now or you make up a leaky wader story” we realize we are a long way from shore and that it's really tough to cross your legs while you paddle with your feet.

If you are an observer these folk are easy to spot, the grim look on their face, the steady rhythmic paddling, the frequent glances over their shoulder to check their progress. I don't know if the old wives tails of exploding bladders are true but who really wants to find out?

15 – Change your line with a cigarette in your hand
This actually happened to a good friend of mine. We were fishing the Thompson and had paused to take a break and change to a more suitable line. The line he was changing was an old favorite and one that had been discontinued by the manufacturer. He being a smoker was killing two birds with one stone and satisfying his demon while he fiddled with loops of flyline.

I happened to be looking right at him when the cigarette in his left hand contacted the fly-line in his right and half the line fell to his feet like an electrocuted snake. I wish to this day I had had a camera to record the look of dismay on his face as he stared at his treasured heirloom lying impotently on the ground.

I guess the moral to this story is “don't smoke”. Or maybe it's, “when they stop making your favorite line, stock up” or perhaps it's “don't do anything funny in front of your friends because who knows, they might put it in a magazine someday” but I prefer to think that the moral to this and all the other stories is simply “Be present in the here and now and if it sounds like a bad idea, it almost definitely is.”

Simple advise that I mean to follow myself. Yup. Any day now.