What WVFF does abou

Conservation and Education

The WVFF was organized, among other fishy concepts, to promote the well being and sustainability of quality fly fishing in our area.  We strive to support events, projects and educational seminars that advance this mandate. 

Stemilt-Squilchuck Recreation Planning

Sub-Committee Report

The well attended meeting on Nov. 28th was made up of governmental, industrial and recreational interested parties.  First we recapped our mission which is to gather information and ideas which will be applied to a Recreational Plan by the end of summer 2018.  The route for the Plan is to be presented to and hopefully aproved by the Stemilt Partnership, then comments accepted from Land Managers for the Park, County and State.  Public comment period will be inserted into the process at somepoint before going to the County Commissioners for adoption into the Chelan County Recreational Plan. 

Then delved into the concept and components addressing the funtion of "monitoring" a location after the Plan is implemented.  After the presentation we broke into groups and addressed the Challenges and Opportunities afforded by this Plan upon the Squilchuck Park, numerous Stemilt Basin interests and how it dovetails with the existing Nannum Plan from Kittitas County.  We looked at our core mission for each item and brainstormed our way to listing how each could be easily monitored.  The WVFF volunteered to be one of many monitors needed for this Plan to succeed and discover if what was implemented; is working? working well? having no affect? or making things worse.  

The meeting closed with the plan to have another meeting in January sometime.  In the mean time the great folks from the National Park Service (helping with the plan creation process via a grant) and the staffers from the Chelan County Natural Resource Department, will capture the groups comments and ideas and compile thoughts into Plan components.  


Below is a list of the conservation efforts

the club (is) has been involved in

  • Each year the WVFF sends 2-3 children from local groups or schools to the annual Northwest Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Academy.  

 Co-educational, ages 12 – 16.
 Curriculum focuses on conservation, natural resource stewardship, and fly fishing essentials.
 Fly fishing classes include fly casting, fly tying, knot tying, reading water, and water safety.
 Morning and evening fly fishing activities on Nisqually Pond and Deschutes River.
 On-the-water aquatic macro invertebrate sampling activity.
 Career discovery opportunities.
 Faculty and staff include wildlife resource professionals, northwest fly fishing and fly tying
professionals and enthusiasts, and northwest fly fishing club volunteers.
 Academy held on Hicks Lake, Lacey, WA.

  • Represesnting all fly fishers at Stemilt-Squilchuck Recreational Planning Committee meetings.  Efforts are underway to "not love this area to death", coordinate with orchard and Mission Ridge expansion projects, retain access and fly fishing opportunities at Upper Wheeler resevoir.
  • Financially assisted  a community group of like minded enviornmental stewards, to purchase of the Pashastin Mill waterfront property on the Wenatchee River.  This property has been signed over to the WA FIsh and Game Dept. which will hold it in a public trust for all future generations to enjoy. Minimal development and 100% public access.
  • Helped to create a "fly fishing only" designation for the Upper Wheeler Lake in the Stemilt Basin
  • ALEA Grant / Wenatchee River unknown accesses (Topic that has yet to be resolved but will not be forgotten) 


    With the assistance of the ALEA grant and official title serches, we identified over 60 special river front properties that have legal easements from the '60s.

    • Some are public access paths through a parcel of property,to the river.
    • Many are locations that increase the public access along the shoreline, but not through property.
  • Brown Trout Tagging
  • A five year funding committment used in part to purchase two sections of land in the Stemilt Basin slated for conservation work and recreational planning.
  • Boat Ramp Construction and Maintenance at Upper Analon Lake.
  • Educational Signs in the Entiat drainage.


The word "Conservationist" is an old terminology, used long before "Environmentalist" was coined.  What's conservation?  Webster defines it as, " 1. the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss prevention.  2. the controlled utilization or official supervision of natural resources in order to preserve or protect them or to prevent depletion.  3. the restoration and preservation of works of art." 

The first two definitions apply easily to our rivers, their riparian zones and all the outlying components that affect them, one way or another.  But definition #3 urges us to consider a more philosophical perspective.  Most consider art as something created by a human that is enjoyed by an observer but we propose that it applies most specifically to the environment that flyfishers occupy when  pursuing their sport.  If we're not soaking in natures "art" while standing/wading/rowing/drifting or floating in it, then we need to start seeing what we're fishing in and not just looking at it.  This art, this symphony of nature needs protectors.  It needs a human voice and a face, for without such representation the art form will surely not be conserved.   

Our club is one such voice that promotes the conservation of the surrounding fisheries.  You may note that we do not consider this fishery as "ours".  Sure it's in our neighborhood but we just live in it for awhile.  As cohabitors of this area, we should protect it, speak for it, and work to maintain it's integrity and capabilities as they have been for eons.

The Release – Fundamentals

of fish and the path to responsible angling

By Andy J. Danylchuk, PhD   
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?

This is where the ‘fundamentals of fish’ come in. A couple of good friends of mine (Dr. Steven Cooke and Dr. Cory Suski, who, like myself, are anglers-turned-scientists and focus on recreational fisheries) published a research paper nearly a decade ago that highlighted that, although stresses imposed on fish are species-specific, there are some fundamentals or common ground that can form the basis of best practices for catch-and-release.


Sure, there has been some ‘catch-and-release science’ performed on certain species such as bonefish, rainbow trout and largemouth bass, however, the physical and physiological tolerances as well as the environments these species reside in are quite different. Nuances in the best practices for the catch-and-release of bonefish, such as the presence of aquatic predators (sharks, barracuda), may not apply to rainbow trout in shallow, cold, mountain streams. Nevertheless, predation could be a problem for largemouth bass, not on adults but rather on fry as they float vulnerably around the nest while the father is being caught and released.

Until hard science is done on more of our favorite quarry, what are the broad fundamentals of fish that anglers need to keep in mind to act responsibly and with the fate of the fish in mind? Let’s break it down by the elements of the angling event, and focus on some things that are truly in the angler’s control.

Images capture a brief moment of the handling event after a fish is landed or once it’s released. For example, if a fish is completely submerged in an image, can we safely assume it was submerged for the entire handling event? As we move forward towards responsible angling, it will be important to encourage anglers and photographers to capture images of best practices.

Work to ensure the operculum (gill cover) is completely submerged and that the hand supporting the head is not impeding the water flow through the mouth and across the gills.

Any air exposure after an angling event should be avoided; it stops respiration and slows recovery for the fish after being exercised on the end of the line. Note how dry this fish looks, too. Also, avoid lipping a fish—it can put undo torsion and strain on the head and vertebrae. Photo: Bryan Gregson

If in moving water, point the head of the fish into the current to maximize the flow of water through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum.


Ever wonder why a fish gives up and eventually is reeled in? Fish experience exercise-induced stress when on the end of a fishing line. We cannot and should not deny this. To fight the tension of the line, fish release sugar (glucose) into their blood to fuel muscle activity and fight when hooked up. All vertebrates in the animal world fuel exercise this way: when hunting for food, when competing for mates, when running away from a predator. Prolonged exercise and related muscle activity also results in the buildup of lactate in the blood. This has cascading effects on muscle function; the same thing happens when we run a race and get a cramp in our calf muscle or thigh. Playing fish for too long increases the response in blood glucose and lactate levels, and then it takes longer for the fish to recover physiologically following release. Across all species, match your tackle to the species and conditions, and try not to play the fish to exhaustion.

Hooks and Handling

The tip of a hook penetrating a fish’s mouth or other body part causes physical injury—it just does. A goal of ‘responsible angling’ is to find ways to minimize hooking damage. One simple way is to crimp the barbs; this not only reduces hooking damage since there is no longer a need to pull the barb in the opposite direction to entry, but it can reduce overall handling time. Barbless hooks can also be more easily removed by simply grabbing the hook with hemostats or pliers while the fish is still in the water. A quick turn of the wrist and the hook is free without even touching the fish. Also, if a fish is deeply hooked, several studies have shown that it is much better to cut the line and leave the hook in place rather than trying to dig the hook out. Go barbless and practice techniques where the fish is not even touched. If it is unavoidable, do all you can to reduce handling, including avoiding nets and lip-gripping devices. If you can’t get the hook out, cut the line.

Respiration and Air Exposure

Fish respire (breathe) by moving water in through the mouth, over the gills and out the gill flaps, otherwise known as the operculum. Some fish actively pump the water by a coordinated set of movements involving the mouth and operculum, while others are ‘ram ventilators’ swimming with their mouths open to get the oxygenated water to pass over the gills. Either way, visualize ‘in through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum.’ It is also important to know that water flowing the opposite way, like when moving a fish backwards, does not aid respiration.

Now think of what some anglers do once the fish is landed. Taking fish out of the water stops dissolved oxygen from getting into the blood via the gills. No, the gills are not adapted to capture oxygen from air. A small number of species can use their swim bladder to ‘breathe’ but it’s generally not their preferred method.

After being exercised on the end of a fishing line, it is additionally stressful to a fish to take it out of the water, which essentially stops respiration. We are forcing the fish to hold its breath after running a race. There are tricks for minimizing air exposure, like asking whoever is taking a photo to call the shots and get the angler to keep the fish in the water until the camera is ready. That being said, the goal for ‘responsible angling’ should be to eliminate air exposure altogether.

Work to submerge more of the opercula when taking shots of fish just out of the water. It is evident in this photo that water flow is from front to back. 

Recovery and Release

Does it help to keep the fish in the water after it has been landed? Yes, and most importantly recall that the water has to move ‘in through the mouth, over the gills and out the operculum’ to maximize respiration. So, the mouth and all of the operculum need to be submerged, and anglers need to be careful not to grasp the fish so that the mouth and operculum cannot move. Holding the fish with one hand under the body and one at the base of the tail works well for many species.

Fish that have experienced considerable physiological stress due to exercise and handling can lose coordinated movements of their fins and roll, nosedive and lose equilibrium. These fish should be recovered before release. If in a stream or river, hold the fish completely submerged while pointing the head into the current to promote respiration (do not move a fish back and forth—recall that water moving backwards over the gills does not help, but in fact, can actually harm the fish). Support the fish gently, do not cover the mouth and operculum, do not grip the fish too firmly and observe for coordinated fin movements. If in a lake or slack water, move the fish in a figure-eight pattern to promote respiration (again, only move the fish in a forward direction). If in a boat, put the motor in idle forward and hold the fish headfirst towards the bow. In some cases, live wells can be used to help fish recover, but be careful since these confine the fish, plus it will be important to maintain some water flow or aerate. Recovery bags have been tested for some species (Pacific salmon, bonefish) and are showing promise for allowing fish to recover before release. Overall, only move a fish in a forward direction when helping it recover, let the fish go when its fins are showing coordinated movements, it can keep itself upright and it is actively trying to swim away from you. If you are in an area where predators are circling (e.g., sharks, eagles), consider releasing the fish elsewhere, if you can.

Although studies have shown that it can take hours for a fish to physiologically and physically recover from an angling event, matching the tackle to the species and conditions, not playing the fish to exhaustion, minimizing handling and eliminating air exposure will greatly reduce recovery times. This will give fish the best opportunity to get back to doing their thing, whether it will be contributing to the next generation, contributing to the ecosystem or to be caught another day.

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