John Farrar is a Northwest fly fishing icon, and he recently celebrated his 30th year as a professional steelhead guide. A day on the river with John isn’t just about catching fish; he is connected to the entire ecosystem and enjoys to sharing that passion with others. John has been a long-standing, committed supporter of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. He even has the rare status of being the only fishing guide who has paid annual WSC membership dues unfailingly every year since the organization’s inception.
When asked to share his views regarding steelhead, WSC, management issues and a favorite river memory, John provided the following thoughts:
Why I Love Steelhead
These trout reflect the beauty of western stream and sea, the best of the Pacific Northwest. I support the Wild Steelhead Coalition because it gives conservation a voice. They, among others, speak for the scientist, the artist, the outdoor enthusiast, the angler, but above all they speak for fish.
Some managers fail to care; as a result, artificially produced fish proliferate and spawn. The solution isn’t to mark and kill hatchery fish, but to close the hatchery. Dams kill fish; fewer dams mean more fish. Don’t kill your limit, limit your kill. An army of fish advocates read, vote and demand as much.
My most memorable steelhead: a warrior buck turns and flashes a broad flank. This reel-busting swashbuckler sprints to the tail in a blink., then turns and confronts me. First a jab to the left, then the right, then KAPOW! My leader parts. Some fish are defiant. In thirty years of guiding I’ve never found a steelhead dead with a fly stuck in its mug.
John Farrar, Fly Fishing Guide, www.nwflyfishing.com
Rich Simms, the President of WSC, penned the following account reflecting upon the special nature and value of advocate members like John :
“John Farrar is a steelhead guide, a wild steelhead guide, but different. I have never fished with John; only spiritually through the tales from folks who talk of his unrelenting enthusiasm and high regard for a utopian place of wild rivers filled with his beloved wild steelhead. A true passion for steelhead not only speaks of angling desires, but runs much deeper; like a river’s force refusing to be constrained by barriers, cutting channels to offer radical ideas that bring a certain level of disruption with the status quo. True passion means sticking your neck out and stating a position no matter how unpopular it maybe and to some folks, may even be a little out there.
“The guiding–for that matter–the angling world needs more of John’s fire. If it did, I believe wild steelhead would be in a better place. Yes, I have never fished with John and never witnessed whatever angling prowess he possesses. But, I have witnessed John walking the talk. Periodically, John will share with me a letter or email he has jetted off to the Fish & Wildlife Commission or to WDFW outlining his ideas and demanding stronger conservation of wild steelhead. And if there is a steelhead issue on the table for a Commission hearing you can usually count on him to be there. Be fearful when John begins to lift his index finger towards the fish manager to hold them accountable. I remember a few years ago at Commission hearing, everyone was providing his or her allotted three-minute testimonies. Finally John’s name was called and assumed his position at the microphone. What happened next was something to behold; John in thunderous voice began, “I Have a Dream for wild steelhead…”, his oration based upon the Reverend Martin Luther King’s famous groundbreaking speech. The audience was stunned. Yeah, wild steelhead need more guides like John.”
Wild steelhead need many advocates. One of the goals of the Wild Steelhead Coalition is to utilize, organize and coordinate the energy of those who wish to promote and protect these spectacular fish. What can you do to support wild steelhead?