Pimping the Kalum, Rob Brown

A metaphor can be dangerous: “The Skeena is the girl everyone wants to date,” writes Pat Hoglund, calling the Kalum her hot little sister.

A metaphor in the wrong hands is a dangerous literary device.

“The Skeena is the girl everyone wants to date. Or has dated,” writes the editor of Salmon & Steelhead Journal, Pat Hoglund. “She is beautiful and voluptuous and has been around the block a time or two. Not that that’s a bad thing, because she’s like an old pro that constantly satisfies her customers.”

Riffing on the comparison, Hoglund describes Terrace’s own Kitsumkalum River as the Skeena’s “smoking hot little sister…a river most people don’t know exists.”

He might have added that after his piece, the number of the Skeena’s “hot little sister” will be known to a lot more fishers.

Before getting down to the business of cranking out the kind of formulaic kiss-and-tell articles that fill almost every fishin’ ‘zine, Hoglund milks the metaphor one more time.

“The past spring I found myself fishing for steelhead with longtime steelhead guide Stan Doll. He’s been guiding on the Kalum since guides were first allowed. He admits most of his clients come to fish the Skeena, but when given the opportunity to walk down the hall and knock on her little sister’s door they are immediately smitten. That’s what happened to me.”I’m guessing that my old friend Stan offered Hoglund a cut rate, or a free trip in trade for a magazine feature advertising his skills, at lease that is common quid pro quo in the outdoors biz. To set the record straight, Stan has been guiding the Skeena for a long time, but he was preceded by a couple of decades by Kolbjorn Eide and later, Derrick V. (Rick) Shaw.

Hoglund warns that the river’s canyons aren’t passable by boat. I once watched the intrepid Jack Hodgins run the lower canyon in his jet sled, though he returned a short time later, missing the cowling on his outboard motor. Years ago, Paul Sneed, outdoorsman and college instructor, had a rafting business that included trips through both canyons. Recently, another outfit has offered the same service. Kayakers have run it too.

Hoglund claims drift boats are rarely seen on the Kalum, which is untrue. You can see my Water Master more than a few times in the spring, and in recent years I’ve seen at least half a dozen other anglers drifting from the put-in just above Digger’s. Noel Gyger, who was the first guide to work the Kalum extensively and often, floated from 14 mile to Leanto Creek, a practice that has continued on the same beat on the lower river by Dustin Kovacvic and the guides working for Nicholas Dean.

“You learn pretty quick (sic) that the river is essentially a jet boat river,” writes Hoglund. He bases this observation on the fact that there are few take-outs for drift boaters. It’s a shame that he didn’t delve into the issue more deeply. The fact that there are few spots to take out and that they are hard  (but not impossible) to find could be a really good thing, since it would thin out some of the pressure on the fish in the upper river, and it would definitely return the corridor into the quiet and beautiful place it once was.

Improving the public easement and launch at the foot of Pat Roy Road, in conjunction with a power boat ban from, say, September 30 until May 30 of the following year, would be good ecologically and aesthetically, as well as enhance the quality of the fishing.

Though he could run shallow water as well as anyone and way better than most skippers, the late Mike Whelpley stopped running the Kalum in the spring because he was convinced it put a strain on steelhead, both ripe and newly returned adults, as well as juvenile salmonids. Former fisheries officer, John Hipp, agreed and was adamant on the issue.

In past columns, I have suggested that a line be painted on the Highway 16 Bridge abutment reflecting mean summer flows, and that there be a power boat ban at all times when this line was visible. As it is now, there are far too many jet boats on the lower river in Spring. Last spring I had 11 sleds pass on one afternoon as I fished a run above Dutch Valley.

Four photos of fishermen holding up suffocating steelhead, 3 of which are ripe, mar “For the Love of the Kalum.” In fact, the whole magazine is filled with shots of guys gripping and grinning as they hold up gasping fish. This kind of mugging got old decades ago. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife forbids such shenanigans, and are wise to do so. If it takes these kind of pix to sell fishing magazines, it’s a sad reflexion on sports fishers.

Reading the story under discussion leaves one with the clear impression that the Kalum is full of big steelhead. As an antidote to this misleading idea, I offer the truth, substantiated by tagging programs. The Kalum has a modest run of steelhead, predominantly summer runs, that are ill served by the fact that people can still fish for them with worms and eggs.