I was a little reluctant to post this, but the EY stretch has been one of my favorite fall and winter steelhead areas on the American for the last 30 years. I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the “habitat improvement” that has been done on the river - for example, I think some of what was done at Sailor Bar was actually pretty positive, while some others were complete wastes of money and time.
I went down to EW for the first time since March this morning, to fish and see what was done.
For description purposes, I’ve sort of broken this stretch into 3 “beats” that were separated by some wing dam-ish rock piles along the north bank (river right) and the pool and tail out at the top.
The trail out of the pool at the top, which used to slowly taper into a long, fast tail out, has had a very shallow gravel bar graded completely across the river, so the longer tapered chute is gone. Better or worse is probably a wash, although there is less cover for fish moving up into the pool as they have to traverse much shallower water.
Beats 1 and 2, which were shallow to medium shallow runs with some fish holding structure, are both gone. They actually seemed to fish better since the high water 5-6 years ago. It is now a wide, uniform, shallow, essentially featureless gravel stretch that looks like it will be cruise-through water now rather than someplace some fish will hold. With a little higher flows…. It will be a slighter deeper, uniform, featureless stretch.
What I’ll call beat 3, the long riffle at the bottom, has always been my favorite stretch, although it hasn’t fished as well for winter fish for me since the last high water. It was a long riffle, and could be comfortably fished by at least 2 people on the north side and 2-3 on the south without a problem. That riffle has also been destroyed. The river has been reconfigured into a chute about 30’ wide along the south bank, with a shallow gravel bar parallel to the flow that extends halfway across the river on the north side. The fish will be funneled into this narrow chute, rather than spread across the riffle, and the riffle itself is less than half as long as it used to be, at least from the perspective of someone who fishes the swing. On the other hand, if you enjoy shoulder to shoulder fishing and the social interactions brought about by constantly tangling with the guys fishing from the other side, you’re golden here.
I’m not a fisheries management expert. They didn’t teach much fisheries science to us forestry majors at UMaine in the mid-80’s. But from a fishing standpoint, about 80% of the fishable, fish holding water here is gone, as is that wonderful Klamath / Rogue-like lower riffle. This really feels like a do-it-because-we-have-the-budgeted-money projects that justified the data takers and report writers jobs at the end of the fiscal year, but really served no real world purpose. I’d love to know what other’s thoughts are.