Clark-Skamania Flyfishers to reach grant milestone

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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For almost four decades, without a lot of fanfare, the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers have been advocates for angling and fish habitat in Southwest Washington.

This year, the club expects to reach a milestone when its cumulative total tops $150,000 of grants awarded since 2003.

The group was founded in 1975. Initially, it was mostly about protecting wild steelhead populations.

The membership now is about 240, a mix ranging from hard-core conservationists to guys who just enjoy fishing together, said Doug Anderson of Washougal, president for the past three years.

“It’s a nice mixture of not just conservation and education,’’ he said. “There are a lot of people who want to fish and have the camaraderie that goes with fishing.’’

At an annual banquet and auction each March, the club generates around $20,000 to finance its grants.

So far in 2013, the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers have contributed $10,000 to the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, $8,000 to the Lower Columbia River Fish Enhancement Group and $7,500 to Western Rivers plus other grants.

The money for the task force is related to prevention of a mine in the upper Green River watershed. The fish enhancement group money is for habitat work in Woodard Creek, a small tributary to the Columbia in Skamania County. The dollars to Western Rivers helped secure habitat on the Hood River in Oregon.

Anderson said three grants have been given in the past few years to the Gifford Pinchot Task Force.

“That’s probably the closest we would ever get to controversial,’’ he said.

The club also donates both money and volunteer hours to the Klineline Kids fishing event in Vancouver and Merwin Special Kids event at Merwin Hatchery.

Craig Lynch of Ridgefield, club conservation chair, said partnering with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to acquire 1,400 acres north of Merrill Lake in Cowlitz County is a priority.

The elk foundation has an option to buy the land which includes old-growth fir and cedar, ancient lava flows and Kalama Falls.

“Merrill Lake is important to our club,’’ he said. “We’ll look to partner with the big guys.’’

Helping a coalition of interests acquire the “High Lakes’’ northwest of Mount St. Helens also is a club priority, Lynch said. Several lakes including Hanaford, Elk and Tradedollar are on private land outside the Gifford Pinchot National Forest but with willing sellers.

“That’s a big one for us,’’ he said. “It’s major. It’s hiking, fishing, it’s potentially an addition to the forest. It’s a lot of things that are important to us.’’

Anderson said the club is as much about volunteer labor as it is about giving grants. Members work with the Department of Natural Resources twice a year to maintain Merrill Lake campground and boat ramp.

Merrill Lake is fly-fishing-only and catch-and-release only.

“We view that as home water,’’ Anderson said.

Club members also go out four to eight times a winter and throw coho carcasses from state hatcheries in the East Fork of the Lewis River for nutrient enhancement.

“We’ve been able to make a difference as a small club of interested people, most of us who just want to fish,’’ he said.

The club meets the third Wednesday each month at Camas Meadows Golf Club, 4105 N.W. Camas Meadows Drive.

The website is http://www.clark-skamania-flyfishers.org.