Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

It's been too long. Far too long. 

My life has been, for the most part, a drama this past month.

Work has been crazy, I've been preparing for an exciting new career, and my life at home has been a roller coster. I can say that the holidays unleashed every possible emotion in the Skinny Waders household.

I have gotten out on the water exactly one time since my trip early in the month to the Deschutes. This morning, I closed out my year of fly fishing with a quick run to a local river for some swing time in search of Steel.

No dice today, but just getting out and making casts during the light snowfall helped me process some of the craziness that has been my life in the past month (and year)!

I've had a few things affirmed this past year:

1. Your family is the most important thing you have. Secondly, a wife that lets you fish regularly is pretty dang great. Don't mess with that!
2. Trout are wonderful. Steelhead just might be better though! After latching into Steelhead on the Klickitat, I finally get it. There is something special about a fish so powerful, beautiful, and rare (talking about wild fish on this point).
3. Spey casting and two-handed fishing can be overwhelming. I'm loving the challenge and the gear is starting to make more sense to me, but I really need to get some casting lessons or go on a guided outing that instills the right way to fish on the swing.
4. Conservation of our fishing resources should be the number one priority of fisherman. If you can't conserve your fishery, you won't have a species to target, catch, and harvest. Simple but ultimately the truth. Get involved in any way and make a difference in your watershed.
5. Being patient makes a world of difference when it comes to finding a great job. I've worked restaurants for the last 10+ years, and even braved a retail gig this holiday season, but I sure am glad that I stayed patient and found a perfect career position... I'm the new Assistant Director of the Coastal Conservation Association of Washington. That's right. I'm going to do my best to make a difference within the CCA (which is a tremendously influential group that all recreational fisherman should be involved with)!

My favorite fish of the year:

This one was tough to choose. I caught some great Redbands on the Spokane, landed a trophy Westslope Cutthroat in Western Montana, and even tamed my first Tiger trout. It's been a great year on the water for me, but I have to go back to my large native Steelhead on the Klickitat. 

Worst moment of the year:

The bat bite and rabies bill sure sucked a big one... but, a recent health scare involving Mrs. Skinny Waders takes the cake. A happy, healthy wife = a great life. I don't know what I'd do without her! 

2013 Fishing Bucket List:

1. Catch a big Brown... and preferably on the Missouri. 
2. Steelhead on the spey.
3. First Pink salmon.
4. First Puget Sound Cutthroat. 
5. First Chum Salmon.

2013 Personal/Career Goals:

1. Make the most of the job with CCA. Sounds vague but my exact professional goals are my own, but we'll leave it at this... I want to see CCA Washington as an even greater force for change than it currently is. Bigger, stronger, and more vocal. BE A PART OF THE CHANGE!
2. Buy a house... My wife has a bunch of stuff and we need more room for it.
3. Drift boat/raft purchase.
4. Be a better husband... you should always be looking to improve yourself!
5. Lose less gear (cameras, nets, etc...) because my wife will kill me. 

Good fishing in 2013 to all.

Happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Double Nymphers... you must try this!

I love to fish with double nymph rigs. That dang Spokane River has made me into a nymphing machine... but I was always frustrated at how quickly my leaders would get ruined because of Thingamabobbers kinking and fraying my line.

The video above (from Red's Fly Shop) solved my problems. They are sharing this great solution to making easy adjustments to your depth while taking better care of your leader...

It's really simple. Use some old fly line material (the running line or rear portion) and nail knot the fly line to the leader... Kinda unorthodox, but it works great!

I attached my leader, loop to loop, to my fly line first, and then nail knot tied the fly line onto the leader via the thinner tippet end of the leader. I found this much easier to execute versus putting the looped end of the leader into my nail knot tool. The video will tell you to do otherwise (and if you are using a leader that is not pre-looped, than by all means, do it that way) but I prefer nail knotting the tippet end and running the nail knot up the leader before tightening.

After nail knot tying one piece of fly line onto the leader (and moving it up to the butt section of the leader before tightening it all the way, you then slidw\e a thingamabobber onto the line by threading the leader straight through the metal grommet on the indicator.

Then, you repeat the first step of nail knotting a section of old fly line to the leader, moving it up to the butt section of the leader before tightening it all the way.

The end result is an easy to slide and adjust indicator system that doesn't fray or kink your leader up in the manner that a standard application thingamabobber does.

I used this method recently on the lower Deschutes and I can say with certainty that I will be using it again! I loved being able to change depth quickly and not ruining leader or adding on more tippet material.

It's very convenient for those frigid days when undoing and reattaching thingamabobbers become a genuine pain. Saving time and material? Winner!

Thanks Red's!

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Two Right Feet...

Back at it... yes sir.

After transitioning between jobs (restaurant to seasonal retail... more on that another day) and twelve straight days of work, I finally found myself with a few days off.

On my first day away from work, I celebrated my birthday with friends and family. It was a needed day that I enjoyed immensely, but something was still missing.

I needed to fish!

So today, I went with a new fishing buddy (Chris) and explored the mecca that is the Deschutes River near Maupin, Oregon.

Chris, working the "nervous" water.

I had heard that the trout fishing had been stellar the past few weeks on the D and steelhead were also still being taken. Trout and steelhead have a way of motivating me to drive two hours in order to (possibly) put a hook in their mouth.

A cool, but calm morning greeted us as we pulled into Maupin. As Chris rigged up his rods in the Maupin City Park lot, I threw out my nymph rig into the mighty D. First cast. First fish! A nice 15" Redband was my morning greeting... celebratory cinnamon whiskey went down the hatch and the curse was on.

A fish on your first cast can be a bad omen at times. It's not often that I get a fish so quickly and I normally don't buy into the superstition regarding it, but today the curse came through.

As we pulled up to the next hole, I began to wader up... CRAP. In my moronic, early morning packing, I accidently packed two right wading boots. A right footed Korkers Metalhead and Korkers Chrome boot are NO good for wading. Laughing at my luck, I ran back into town to rent a pair of junk boots for the day.

A windy, yet beautiful day on the Big D. 

The hit parade continued as the wind picked up throughout the day. What started as a light breeze was soon 20+ MPH gusts, ripping down the canyon. Throwing double nymph rigs became a chore of sorts, though I managed to get into a nice Redband that came to the net as I hung precariously on the side of a basalt boulder on the shores of briskly moving back eddy. Flows were over 7,000 CFS in town, and the river was fishable, but just barely.

Chris and I conjured up some over eager Chinook parr with dry flies in a spot, and we both missed a few dry fly strikes by trout before we decided to explore new water in hopes that the wind would be less intense downriver.

Wrong. The wind was still awful. I took out my spey rod at this point figuring that I might as well try to go big since the trout weren't being too cooperative. The steelhead were just as unwilling to play as the trout though Chris did get into his first Deschutes River trout.

Chris and his catch... gotta love native trout.

Chris was beyond excited as the fish took down his nymph rig and put on quite the aerial display. Despite being a newer fly fisherman, Chris did a great job getting in quality drifts and it was nice to share some tips that passed onto me with him. It always pays to pass on knowledge, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the trip.

We called it quits after being battered by the wind for 8 hours, bringing the wrong boots, and catching our first lower Deschutes Redband trout. For my first trip on big D, I sure can't complain.

I can't wait to fish the Deschutes again... maybe next time I'll bring the right (and left) boots!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Swinging before the great flood...

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day!

Last week I was able to get out to the Klickitat for a day on the water with my Dad. He's never fly fished for steelhead, nor spey cast before. I'm still a true spey rookie but with each trip, I feel that my casting improves.

On the Klickitat, we braved cool temperatures and light rainfall fishing in the Canyon and even exploring some of the river above Leidl campground. It was surreal, swinging in the fog covered flats, watching salmon completing their life cycle in the tail outs, and driving my numerous wild turkey.

No steelhead to hand (surprise, surprise as my Dad nymphed up an eager whitefish), but we did beat the downpour by a few hours. Upon leaving the river, the rains started in earnest, blowing out the Klickitat by the middle of the next day. Who can complain about spending time on beautiful water with your old man and a beer though? I sure wont!

Back to bench, tying, and waiting for the next time on the water. Soon enough, I will connect with a steelhead on the swing...

Friday, November 16, 2012

In Search of Grey Ghosts

Steelheading is not a game of constant fish-catching action.

I get that. You get that. Etc.

That being said, progress is being made.

A tasty tailout on a local stream... no Grey Ghosts in sight though.

I'm simply trying to spend more time on the water when conditions are good. Sure, it's between seasons here in SW Washington but you can't catch steel without having a line in the water.

So I find myself out on local waters a few times a week, swinging proven patterns, in tasty looking water, hoping that a grey ghost decides to greet me with a feisty tug. Soon enough, it will happen.

Hopefully that tug will come tomorrow on the Klickitat... I'm pretty certain my one thousandth cast is near!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Importance of a Weekly Retreat

Does life have you stressed? 

Get out! Fish!

That my friends is some very simple, but accurate wisdom. 

Lately, I've found myself out on the water once a week. A far cry from three days of fishing trout in Spokane, but the opportunities are fewer and far between for trout around the 'Couv. 

With nearby rivers either blown out, or nearly devoid of anadromous fish, I'm getting impatient. I keep feeling like I need a fix. My past few trips to the Cowlitz produced mixed results (mostly great casting practice) but no true prize. I need that tug on the end of my line... I'm a damn junkie, and I admit it. 

On the way to Merrill. A gorgeous, albeit cold, day!
This week, my fix took place at Merrill Lake. I hit the water around noon and as soon as I launched my float tube, I realized I had forgotten my stripping apron at home. Genius! Oh well, I had a few hours to fish before hopefully meeting up with Mike Gamby, an original Early Morning Freestone Pimp (much like Jay Johnson, my early fly fishing mentor). 

I found feisty Coastal Cutthroat all around the lake that day, and despite the smaller size of many of the fish (12" average), I felt elated to get some good mojo back. Add the fact that these were my first lacustrine Coastal Cutts, and I was quite happy with the day.

Mike and his friend Chad showed up later and we worked the shoreline, replete with downed logs and a raised water level in search of fish. Mike nailed several Cutts and I took back to my tube for a few more fish before the sun set behind the hills.

I would post pictures of the day's catch and scenery but in typical fashion, I lost a piece of gear on the water. Yes, for the second time in five months, I lost my camera. Remember that missing stripping apron? Setting my camera in my lap in lieu of the apron was a terrible idea... slipped right out of my lap and into the drink. Perhaps the floating attachment would've been a good idea when fishing a lake. But alas, a sweet Fuji waterproof camera is sitting at the bottom of the lake and there's nothing I can do about it. 

The day was an overall success (though I'd trade the many cutthroat caught for my camera back!). It was nice to fish with some new friends and explore water that I hadn't touched before. Heck, it was nice to know that I had still had some skills on a lake! But in this season of transition, I find myself checking water levels, hatchery escapement reports, and weather patterns. While I'll never be over trout, it's almost time for winter steelhead and this guy is going to be relentlessly chasing them.

A real fly fishing junkie can never get enough.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Fish on the Spey...

You read it right. I hooked up with fish (read multiple!) on the spey rod for the first time.

In fact, I did the old "hook to mouth" move two times this morning on the 'lama. Heck, the first take on the swung Silvey's Extractor pattern was vicious. Head shakes, a nice flash in the water, line flying off the reel across the river, then nothing. Of course!

Working down the run, I hooked up again. This time, I saw the culprit and he was not exactly pretty. One of those "swimming dead" Chinooks decided to take my fly and he made his presence known with a jump, and several rolls as I landed him. Not yet a moldy mess, but darker than my black SUV, the morbid fish actually "ate" my fly. I figured foul hooked, but I guessed wrong.

After unhooking the nearly dead, and shockingly unclipped (read wild) Chinook, I watched him swim away. First landed fish on the swing/spey. First Chinook (ever), and first salmon on the fly. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I cannot complain.

The rest of my day was spent moving from hole to hole (Red Barn, Weber's, Beginners, The S-Curves, etc) with only practice casting gained. But hey, I can now Perry Poke decently well, and my Double Spey continues to develop. Good stuff out on the 'lama.

Here's to hoping that some Steel will greet me on my next day spent swinging.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Two Handed Fishing For Steelhead

Okay. I'm a rookie. Let's get that out of the way.

I've been a "serious" fly fisher for a year and a half now, and chasing Steelhead is my latest obsession.

Anyone who's fly fished for Steelhead knows that it's an ultimate challenge of sorts. Unless you're headed north to rivers that are packed to the gills with big, naive Steelhead, you are in for some serious torture.

The fish of a 1,000 casts is what they call Steelhead. And for that reason (among others... logistics being one!) spey (or two handed rod) is a great way to fish for these elusive creatures.

I gave in and recently picked up a used spey rod for a steal of a deal. It's not the fanciest of sticks out there, nor is the operator terribly skilled with it (yet) but it's cause for excitement nonetheless.

The lingo of this new style of fishing is like Swedish to me. I can't really understand it. Scandi? Skagit? T-14? Perry Poke? 510 or 540 grains? Volvo or Saab?! Help!?!?!

I've been scouring my local SW Washington rivers in search of Steelhead (and anything else that may bite my fly) for the past few weeks now, trying to figure out the nuances of the double spey, snake roll, and snap T casts. Let's just say, it's been a trying process. One cast, I rip it 70 feet on target... the next, a putrid mess that travels 40 feet. Frustration!

Prospecting on the upper Kalama.

Recently, I was able to share the water with a new fishing friend who's also begun the process of chasing steel on the spey rod. He's a few steps ahead of me though, and I can't begin to tell you how nice it is to actually watch people who kind of know what they're doing fish. Monkey see, monkey do... well, at least I try to make it happen.

On the last day that I was out we managed to land a dead Chinook salmon (fresh fish...), I caught a Whitey on my nymph rod (of course), and I did have a big time take down on a bobber rig. This game is going to be frustrating but I'll figure it out.

To anyone who cares to join me, I'll be out on my local rivers spey casting regularly. Sure, it's in-between seasons for the novice two handed fly fisherman like me, but you can't catch fish by sitting on the couch. And you sure as heck can't work on your cast from the couch either!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Trout Fishing...

This past week has been a roller coaster of sorts for me. I've fished two well known, fish packed bodies of water and have had two extremely different experiences.

To start the week off, I took my Grandfather along for a trip to Diamond Lake in Southern/Central Oregon. The drive down was miserably long (I had worked the night prior and slept for just a few hours), but upon arriving to the lake (a big one at 3,000 acres!) I was excited.

I've caught more fish out of Diamond Lake then I care to count. The lake is not only massive, but it holds Rainbow trout that average over a pound. Fish to 10 pounds swim in Diamond and a 20" fish wont raise an eyebrow on the dock. When we went to rent our boat though, something told me we were in for a rough day. Near sixty degree water temps and an algae bloom (pretty odd for October!) had kept fishing slow according to the resort staff. After driving 5 hours though, we didn't relent and hit the water.

Early in the day, my Grandfather caught a fish on eggs and since he was nose hooked, we released the little guy. I fly fished to my hearts content trying nearly every lake method I know. Nada. Most boats complained about off fishing, and these folks complaining were pitching power bait. Not good!

6+ hours on the water and I had just one definite strike. It was a first for me, a skunking at Diamond Lake. We tucked our tails between our legs and hit the road, homeward bound down the gorgeous N. Umpqua highway. I watched in envy as fisherman spey cast to Steelhead around every bend. I knew I needed a fish fix!

Low and behold, I returned to Central Oregon in the same week. A family member had work to do in Bend and I offered to drive, knowing that I could get 4-6 hours in on some water near town. With such a limited time frame I decided to hit a well known and easy to fish spring creek, the Fall River.

The Fall River is a beautiful spring creek that flows into the Deschutes near La Pine. The lower Fall, ironically below the Fall River Falls, holds native Redside/Redband trout, whitefish, and some monster Brown trout. Regrettably, the lower river closed the week before I made it down to Bend, so I was relegated to fish the upper river which is stocked with Rainbow trout from the Fall River hatchery. These fish stocked are from Crane Prairie Reservoir stock and are actually very attractive hatchery fish, but I must admit they still leave much to be desired compared to wild, native trout.

Some of the trout in the upper Fall reach upwards of 8 pounds, and I did spot a few lunkers hiding under the numerous downed logs in the stream. These big boys are targeted specifically by many local anglers and can be quite picky. Most fish in the river are 8-12" though, and these are what I had a field day with.

BWOs, Mahogany Duns, even a Callibaetis attractor, rose fish to the surface. I tried to target rising fish when it came to fishing dries. Many fisherman working dry flies seemed frustrated that they couldn't get fish to eat... they were simply fishing the wrong method in the wrong spots.

I worked a small double nymph rig through holes, putting a clinic of sorts on. Carefully working the nymph along the volcanic bedrock ledges under water, and around downed trees, I picked up some solid fish. In fact, I hooked one fish that was all of 17" and had him to the net before he came unbuttoned. CDC collar PTs, anato may nymphs, October Caddis pupa, and a good old tungsten weight fly were hot items for the trout.

By the end of my 5 hours of fishing in two different areas, I had caught at least 30 fish. I stopped counting at a certain point because it was so ridiculous. No, these weren't the wild trout that I so dearly love to catch, nor were they monster trout out of a lake that fight with reckless abandon. But they were a needed pick me up of sorts. An affirmation that I still am a fishy dude, even if I haven't gotten out as much as I would like to.

I guess one could say that the Fall River is like Prozac for a recently skunked fly fisherman.

Next time though, I'll up the game. I'll be wading the Metolius River chasing Bull trout with streamers. And I will most definitely be on the prowl for Steelhead as we have just received some much needed rain to get the fish active.

But for now, I'm content with my week of experiencing the highs and lows of trout fishing on the fly.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lost in an Ancient Place...

Gorgeous scenery.

No other person on the trail.

Feeling immersed in an ancient place.

Oh. And wild trout, eager to hit a Norm Wood's Special.

While I haven't found trophy trout water nearby, I have found some beautiful places to cast a line. If only I had a 2 wt!

Here's to hoping for the rain to come so I can chase some fresh Steel.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I need it. I need to get away from the crowds, the job (which I'm thankful to now have), and from the prison that monotony has become.

Learning to spey cast has been a fun challenge. Calling in snaggers has become repetitive and depressing. It's time to get out and make something happen.

Tomorrow, I'll explore new stretches of water, in search of whatever is daring enough to strike my fly.

Report to come.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Snag Fest 2K12 Has Begun...

The title says it all.

Fall Chinook are arriving in area rivers and the snaggers are out in force.

These folks put lead, a corkie, and a treble hook on their rods and toss them out into pools where Chinook gather up. The lowlifes that fish this way "rip" their "bait" back hoping to "floss" a fish in the mouth. Well, at least they say that they are trying to get the fish in the mouth. Or that they didn't know the rules? Or perhaps they've never fished here before? Regardless of their piss-poor excuses, fishing in this manner is not only illegal in 99% of cases, but it's also unethical.

It was a sad reminder of what I was missing while fishing for trout in Eastern Washington and Montana. While driving along the Kalama River today, trying to scope out some future Steelheading water I ran into a sad, familiar sight. A snag fest at the Modrow bridge hole. I know it happens on all the local waterways (Washougal, Lewis, etc) but it is still a depressing sight in the least.

I watched with my young cousin today as several Chinook were ripped from the pool that they held in by an army of snaggers and were unceremoniously bonked and harvested. The scene was a lawbreaking "shit show" of sorts. Anti-snagging restrictions on the Kalama make harvests like these illegal, and the hatchery technicians who were also observing the behavior called in WDFW enforcement to help take care of the matter.

Snaggers at work. These low life characters can be found on a myriad of local waters. 
I know that some would argue that the fish aren't worth much (Tule Chinook are not exactly quality table fare...) but fishing like a bonehead doesn't make harvesting them okay. Where is the fun in trying to snag a fish? I'm sorry, I just don't get it. Then again, I also don't use meth...

The simple truth is this. When you see activity like this, whether fishing, driving over a bridge on a local river, or whatever, REPORT IT. The only way that this activity slows down is if more citizens report the poachers/snaggers and do something about it.

The easiest, most anonymous way to report poachers. License plate numbers also help!

My experience today reminds me why I fly fish. I don't enjoy combat fishing, nor do I care to catch fish for the sole purpose of killing them for eggs (very common among the snaggers). Simply put, I try to respect every fish I catch. That doesn't mean that I wont bonk a hatchery brat when I can, but it does mean that I'll catch my fish in a legal manner. People that rip and snag aren't fisherman, they're poachers.

Report poachers. Be friendly and remind them of rules if you want to, but don't try to stop them personally. WDFW Enforcement, however understaffed they may be, are much more effective in stopping criminal acts. 

The best part of our trip to the Kalama today occurred on the drive back downriver from visiting the Kalama's fly fishing only "Holy Waters." We saw a WDFW Enforcement truck headed up to the hole where poaching had been occurring the hour before. 

My cousin asked me, "What's the police man going to do?"

I replied, "He's going to stop those snaggers and write some tickets."

But regrettably, those people will be back at the same hole again tomorrow, doing the same thing. 

Make a difference and keep the heat on poachers. Continued harassment of them means less harassment of the fish.

Dial 911 to report poaching in progress. Call 1-877-933-9847 for other poaching violations. Simply report what you see, where the violation is occurring, the time of the offense, and any other pertinent information (suspect vehicle info, etc). 

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Steel... Uh Oh!

I've long joked that should I get into the Steelhead fishing game, my life would be effectively over. My wife would probably leave me, my dog would disown me, I'd be unemployed, etc.

Well, I've jumped into the game and only the last of my concerns is true (though I'm hoping to hear back about that situation in the very near future).

Let's preface this whole experience.

One. I've never caught a Steelhead. The guy who's spent nearly 75+ days on the water fishing for them as a kid (terminal tackle) never friggin' caught Steelhead. A jack salmon... yes. A crazy Steelhead... no.

Two. I've never truly fly fished for Steelhead and I have a 7 WT custom rod built on a Winston BIIX blank that needed to get some work in.

Enter Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop in Spokane. Sean, knowing that I moved back to the Portland area last week, told me that he may be down in the Gorge fishing the Klickitat for the first time. We kept in touch and when he asked if I wanted to fish with him this week, I jumped on the opportunity.

Meeting this Tuesday on the Klickitat, Sean and I had a quick rendezvous with Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters (the fishiest Steelhead dude this side of anywhere) who gave us a rundown of where to fish, what to fish, and how to do it.

It was nice having both Sean and Tom by my side as I hooked my first Steelhead from the bank early Tuesday afternoon. The fish put some real work into my Winston flying across the river doing several acrobatics. Tom calmed me down (I've never been more excited...) and helped me tail and land the native Steelhead which was estimated at 8-9 lbs. After thanking the fish, and Tom for his advice and help, Sean and I fished through the evening before setting up camp.

Tom Larimer helping me land my first Steelhead.

The next day, we floated the Canyon stretch of the Klickitat. I got an impromptu Spey lesson from Sean and nymphed from the boat with my Winston and from the shore with an Echo Switch setup. It definitely took some getting used to but I can see myself rocking a two-hander soon. Sean was experimenting with centerpins and swinging some tasty runs in what is one of the more beautiful river canyons that I've ever seen.

Gorgeous scenery. 

Nearing the final third of the float with no solid takes, we worked some very small buckets and pockets out of the boat. Bingo... I hooked up with a very hot hatchery fish that took us downriver, and did some acrobatics before coming to the net. A sweet little buck (7 lbs) was the reward of the day.

First Hatchery Steelhead. 
My final day on the Klick was bittersweet. Potential work opportunities and the need to still get my stuff in order after moving kept me from staying an extra day out on the water.

Sean and I hit the canyon again and it was wonderful. While fishing was slow to start, we saw a Black bear busting it up a hill side, and despite more fishing pressure (3 boats in front of us), we hooked two fish.

The first was a PIG native Steelhead. The fish jumped out of the air higher than I ever thought possible and Sean estimated the fish as 15 lbs. The fight was tense as we beached the boat and worked down the shoreline. I wanted this fish. It didn't want to cooperate... after a good fight, the line went slack and the fish got away. My 7 wt singlehander got worked. It was like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

I was bummed... really bummed. I've never hooked a fish like that, and to lose it after seeing it... well, it sucked. It's part of the game though, and I play it knowing the consequences.

But redemption was a few bends away. Once again, a tiny pocket proved fortuitous for us. I hooked up another hot fish. Unlike the other Steelhead we hooked, this guy ran upstream on us through heavy water. Next thing you know, I'm halfway through my backing thinking "here we go again."

But the fish was turned just in time, Sean expertly guided me through the fight, and we landed a gorgeous, colored up Native buck Steelhead. I've never been more excited about a fish. The first was great, but this fish was something special.

Admiring the catch of the trip. 
After removing our hook (and someone else's that this guy had lodged into his craw) and taking a few respectful photos we released him to swim away and hopefully fulfill his purpose.

Native Summer Steelhead. 
Despite Sean being a rookie on the Klick (though a Steelhead master in his own right!) we got the job done. Larimer's knowledge that he imparted on us certainly helped, and it was a weekend that I'll never forget.

I know that Steelheading is typically about putting in long hours, many casts, and getting a few, very significant rewards. I suppose that in a sense, I've put in my hours (albeit on gear), and this week was meant to happen. And with Steelhead now on my brain, all I can say is watch out. This guy is now officially in the game.

Small endorsement here... fish with Sean Visintainer. Great guy, great shop owner, and a ton of fun to fish with. (Spokane River, Grande Ronde, N. Idaho Cutthroat Rivers, etc)

Also... Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters. (Deschutes, Clackamas, and Hood River)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Goodbye Spokane...

Goodbye Spokane.

It's been an weird interesting past year and a half in this town, and I sure as heck won't miss the snow, crappy roads, plethora of tweakers, nor will I miss the under-abundant cultural offerings.

I will, however, miss the good fishing friends, awesome co-workers, the Spokane River, and the fact that I lived in a jumping off point to famous/wonderful fly fishing waters within just a few hours.

Since the next day plus will revolve around finishing packing and loading a moving truck, I decided to get some final urban river time in with good friends and my Dad who is in town.

First up, was a Monday walk and wade on the Spokane with Wayne, the Trout Jedi. I cherish every opportunity that I get to fish with Wayne because I try to observe the way he inspects water, fishes it, and how he truly loves and respects the resource. If I was told to choose one fly fisherman who I look up to the most, I'd answer Wayne without a doubt.

Anyways, Wayne and I did some hiking, missed a few fish, fell in the river minutes apart from each other, and then proceeded to hook into, and land, some sweet Redbands. Urban gold as I like to call 'em.

A Redband in the net with my Prince nymph still attached. 

Wayne with some morning gold on the Spokane River.

After Wayne left for work, I returned home to prep for the move and plan the evening's float with my buddy Blake.

Blake had a raft on loan and we decided to put it to use on the Spokane. We launched mid day, and within 10 minutes on the water I had quickly hooked and lost two fish. The strikes were short and I was far from surprised considering recent reports from this stretch of water. Slow fishing, soft strikes, and warm temps were the reports from friends floating the river...

Sure enough, my luck changed. I hooked into a PIG. It flashed hard and turned right into the current. A good 20 seconds of fight were for naught though as it came loose. I landed a scrappy Whitefish in the same run minutes later but Blake and I talked about the lost fish the rest of the float.

After another nearly fruitless river mile, we beached the boat and began to fish the bank. Bingo. Double. I landed a healthy Redband and Blake netted a fat Whitefish.

Blurry shot, but a nice Spokane River Redband. 
Back to the raft, I switched spots with Blake and took the sticks. Disclaimer, I had only once before rowed a raft and I was TERRIBLE at it. For the first 100 yards or so, I felt that a repeat of my previous rafting experience was occurring, but something miraculous happened. I figured it out. That's right, I took the sticks for most of the rest of the float, skirted by some nasty water, got Blake into fish (I got a few more myself...) and developed some sweet blisters on my palms. The best part of it was the fact that I now feel comfortable running a raft and can be of some use to my float fishing friends besides the obvious gas money contributions.

The evening was a success and I had a great time fishing with a good friend. But onto my last Spokane River experience of the year...

My Dad came into town this morning and I had a few surprises for him. First off was a shiny new fly rod... nothing fancy now, but still a good, fishy piece of graphite. Second off, was that I was going to work with him on his casting and get him on the water.

After a nice lawn cast with the Old Man, I got him out on the Spokane. In the first run, I managed to hook (and land!) a feisty, and very nice Redband. Dad was a bit new to the throwing junk game (double nymph rigs on big water are not the easiest things to manage as a new angler) but he managed to up his game throughout the day.

Showing the Old Man how it's done in Spokane. 

We fished hard in several spots, but being that it was mid-day, I wasn't expecting much. Our last spot of the day yielded another gorgeous Redband to my rod, and another fish that when hooked went aerial and came unhooked.

Sweet fish coming unhooked? On my rod? On the Spokane? No way?!?!? I see a pattern developing...

Needless to say, it was a great experience taking my Dad out to water that has meant so much to me over the past year, and showing him how to fish it, and why the Redbands that I rave about are so special.

When I landed the first fish and showed it to him, he remarked at how it was such a beautiful trout... yeah Dad, rub it in. Those trout are now going to six hours away from me.

On to new waters, and new adventures.

Thanks Spokane. You've actually been pretty great.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Been Awhile...

Life has been crazy around the house lately. Packing to our hearts content for the big move, applying for more jobs everyday, getting an interview (!!!!), and working 40+ hours at the restaurant has kept me off the water to a degree.

I did manage to sneak in a trip to the Thompson River nearly two weeks ago. I can say, with some certainty, that I'm not a fan of high-summer fishing. Water temps get warmer, fish are less active, finding them isn't necessarily hard, but fishing responsibly (read... not when water temps are over 68, fight 'em fast, bring 'em in, release them after plenty of fishy CPR) becomes more paramount. It all has me longing for June and early July. I don't mind a little run-off when fish are accessible and ravenous.

Big Rainbows like this guy will be much easier to fool come Fall.

It's truly become a "dog-days" of summer routine with temperatures in the high 80's-90's in Spokane. The Thompson River has experienced the same type of temperatures that we've gotten here in Spokane with the exception of slightly cooler nights. Needless to say, my trip over there was slow going. I found fish yes, I found some very nice fish (seeking refuge from the Clark Fork and warmer water temps) but there weren't as many players compared to previous trips over the pass. 

Typical Thompson River Rainbow. Feisty and beautiful. This one had someone else's fly embedded in it's jaw. I removed it and let it go... no more extra lip jewelry for you.

Biggest Thompson fish for me yet. Caught 300 yards above the confluence with the Clark Fork... wonder where this Lacustrine looking guy normally lives? 

Gorgeous fish... it really worked the four weight. 

CDC Caddis emerger patterns were the hot ticket for me. Hoppers and Chubby Chernobyl's caught a few fish, but the big boys were working the caddis. Nymphing wasn't the winner that it typically is for me on the Thompson with just a few fish to hand sub-surface. 

I can't complain when I'm in Montana, catching trout, having to work harder at it (and learning new skills the whole time), but hot dang do I miss my trips of early July. It makes me wish that I had taken an extra-day off work to fish more before life got crazy (or to have just avoided the whole bat incident...). 

Speaking of bat bites, rabies, and other stupid fortune, I received my last post-rabies exposure vaccine this week and am done with treatment. We're just waiting for the first bill to arrive at the house, and for reality to sink back in again. Until then, I'm happy to be safe, rabies free, and not extremely poor... yet. 

I sure hope to get out before we leave Spokane at the end of the month, but work will likely dictate otherwise. Aside from a few short jaunts to the Spokane (thanks Upper River for the HUGE hookup and lost fish the other day...) I'm about done over here. It'll be Steelhead and Oregon trout in the near future for this Trout Bum. I'm excited to move back to the area and see what kind of fly fishing opportunities exist over there that I may not know about. 

Keep reading, please follow along regularly, and most importantly, keep on fishing. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back in the Game

After a way-too-short trip to the Oregon Coast, I returned to Spokane the other afternoon...

It'd been over a week since I'd landed a fish and I was getting understandably antsy. I needed a fix. Despite the warmer water temps, and the fact that it was 94 degrees when I hit the water that evening, I had a good feeling that I was due for some urban Redband action.

The first few holes I hit (spring fed areas with heavy oxygen) are typically good producers for me... this day, they didn't surrender a single strike.

My disappointment was tempered though as another favorite spot delivered.

Gorgeous Male Urban Redband
A Bastard Prince pattern under a Pat's Rubber Legs was the trick. This fish fought like heck and despite being sub 16" he is probably my favorite fish of the season.

I'm hoping that I can get out for a bit Thursday. I've been packing up, checking on job apps, and working since I've been back in town. Spokane and its' myriad of fishable water is no longer going to be easily accessible to me so I need to get out and fish asap! And so should you! What's your excuse?

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Float Through an Urban Wonderland

Yesterday evening, I was fortunate enough to join my good friend Wayne "Trout Jedi" Jordan on a float with Sean Visintainer, the owner of Silver Bow Fly Shop here in Spokane. I've floated the river before with Silver Bow, but that was last summer with my Father-In-Law. In fact, last year's trip was one of my first forays back into fly fishing and it occurred almost a year to the day prior.

Big Spokane River Redband.

This year, lower flows then the previous season coupled with rising water temps and lots of pressure had me thinking that the trip would be good, but perhaps not red hot. After being on the water for 10 minutes, I stood corrected. Wayne and I, under the direction of Sean of course, put on a friggin clinic. We netted countless Redbands, got a token pikeminnow, and I of course landed two Whitefish...

Another BIG Spokane River fish.

These weren't just any fish though... we caught some HOGS! I got my two best fish out of the Spokane ever, with both over 18" and chunky. Wayne got one that was pushing 19" and looked more like a Triploid out of a local lake. It was insane. Perhaps the best part was the fact that we used our own dropper flies (Wayne's Bastard Prince and my E-Z-Wing Caddis). Several fish also destroyed our Pat's Rubber Legs.

The "Jedi" Strikes Again!

When fishing with more experienced fisherman, I like to try and pick up some new tips or learn new tactics. If I'm lucky enough, the other fisherman will catch a flaw or two in my methods and help me improve my catching ability. A guided trip is an ideal time to pick up these pointers and tonight I was thankful that Sean noticed me pumping the rod too much while fighting fish. I was creating slack in doing so much and lost several nice fish early in the float because of this habit. Lesson learned, and by the end I was sticking and landing nearly every strike.

Healthy 14" Redband. Native, Feisty, Beautiful.

The float was a great time, and I highly recommend a trip with Silver Bow in the near future. They are a great shop with wonderful staff who know their stuff.

Putting a bend in the Winston. Thanks again Sean and Silver Bow!

The photos used in this blog entry were taken by Sean, Wayne, and myself!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The High Price of a Bat Bite

It's been a week now since I've had my run in with the batty bat that decided to put his teeth into my hand last week on the St. Joe River. After the incident, and my many trips to the doctor/hospital thus far for treatment, I've had many different emotional stages.

First, I was extremely concerned about my well being. I'm not a complete idiot while outdoors, and I scouted ahead to place my hand on the stump that the bat was resting behind, but I didn't deserve rabies for my apparent misplacement of my hand. I'm 27 years old and dying this young from an awful disease would be a terrible way to go.

Barely perceptible, except for the bill...

After getting my first round of treatment, I was then freaking out over the cost of treatment. Anger over my faux-pas of not killing the bat to get it tested (which would possibly save me a ton of money should it not be rabid), and the medical system which only offered shots at hospitals (and in ERs to boot) was heartbreaking.

Now, after two rounds of vaccines, a trip to my primary care provider, and three more vaccine appointments scheduled at the hospital (starting tomorrow!), I feel certain (100%) that I will not get rabies. I also am afraid that my insurance will not cover any of the treatment and that it will all count towards my deductible (regrettably $7,500). That being said, I'm seeing the positive side of things, and the day that this is all paid for (sometime in 2018?), it will become a huge laughing point... wait, it already is one.

Thinking of the price that I'm paying for all of this (estimated of course... with help from the CDC and my insurance company), I've found that the bat bite fishing excursion was the most expensive fishing trip of my life. Here's what I could've done with the likely $7,500 that I will be paying the hospital to make sure I live a rabies free life:

- Paid off debt... duh. Not exciting in a materialistic sense, but it'd be great to knock out a chunk of the old student loans or car loan.

- Buy a fly fishing raft... a nice one. A Streamtech Boat.

I would prefer this to a bat bite.
- Buy ten premium fly rods (Scott, Sage, Winston...) and have a disgustingly complete quiver.

- Get another Hernia operation and have some scratch ($2,000+) to spare... at least I got something more tangible out of that hospital experience. 

- Buy a house in Detroit... maybe not, but it was possible a few years ago.

- Buy a fleet of Watermaster rafts... seriously, a friggin fleet!

- Do nothing... I didn't have the money so in theory, this would be the correct answer. 

Overall, I'm laughing about the whole thing and here at the Skinny Waders household, we're thankful that it'll all be over soon. The health of a person should never be measured against money, and that's the simple truth to the situation. 

It's time to get out on the water again soon... I'll just have to take extra care to avoid bats. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cutthroat, Dry Flies, and Bats...

I'm moving away from Spokane soon. The end of August to be exact. It will be bittersweet... I'll miss the Spokane River, my fishing companions, co-workers, and the proximity to Montana. I won't miss the crazy tweaked out meth addicts, the terrible roads and drivers, nor will I miss the awful economy. I guess I'll miss the fishing most of all though...

That lead me to this week's short fishing trip, originally planned for a two-day trip on the St. Joe River in North Idaho. The Joe is a tributary to Lake Coeur d'Alene and is renowned for its Westslope Cutthroat fishing. I hadn't been on the Joe since last September and sunny skies greeted my fishing partner and I when we arrived on the river this past Wednesday.

This 18" Cutt fell for a Stonefly Nymph. Caught by Dustin Bise. 

The intense heat and cloudless day was not great for hatches (sparse PMDs, Golden Stones, and Caddis) but fish were still active. Combining nymphing slots and buckets and throwing attractor dries, we quickly got into fish. In fact, our first fish of the day was actually one of two on the same cast. Yes, my first one-man double... a 16" Cutt on the stonefly and a 6" Cutt on the Prince dropper. The day was looking solid until an incident on the next hole.

Two Fish = Win! 

While I was hiking down a trail to a boulder that created a huge eddy, I reached forward to brace myself (going downhill) on an old tree stump. I looked at the stump before I reached for it, and saw nothing unusual. As soon as my hand touched the top of the stump (and my fingers reached over the edge of it) I felt a sharp prick and heard an odd screeching noise. A small creature of some sort fell to the ground and started crawling around while I quickly jumped down to the river bank, scared to death. I looked at my finger and saw two small puncture wounds (practically superficial) and looked on the trail to see a small bat (silver haired bat) hissing/screeching at me.

Now, I was scared, didn't know what to do, and in hindsight I should've captured and killed the little bastard, but instead I went to the river, got out my soap and began washing the wound out continually. We continued to fish for the rest of the evening and set up camp that night. I figured/thought that rabies took some time to set in and the bite looked mild enough that I'd be fine if I waited till the following day to trek back to Spokane.

We fished through the night, netting 20 fish between the two of us, mostly Cutthroat with a few Whitefish thrown in for varieties sakes. The following morning, we fished for a few hours working fish on dries and nymphs in the nicer buckets on the river. Even a big pool produced fish for us, which was shocking considering how much pressure these fish had seen recently.

Great Cutthroat from the "Bat Hole."

It turned out to be a near 40 fish trip for us, which is phenomenal considering the chatter from most anglers on the river was that fishing was terribly slow.

Nice Cutthroat following release.

Wrapping up early, we drove back to Spokane where I went immediately to the hospital. It was determined that I needed to get a Post-Exposure Rabies treatment (series of 5 shots, plus an EXTREMELY expensive anti-body shot to start off with)... the bummer is that insurance will barely cover any of it (read none... just adjustments... they say it's not a preventative thing but rather an injection) and the average bill for people bitten by bats who need the treatment is $10,000. No joke. In fact, that first day I had 11 shots at the Hospital including 6 of the anti-body into my fingertip... painful freaking stuff.

So a trip that went from being a cheap, camping overnight for Cutties, turned into the most expensive and frustrating ordeal of my life (wait... maybe college takes that title).

I won't be posting too many fishing reports in the near future as medical appointments, work, and packing for our move will occupy most of our time. I do have a float planned for next week on the Spokane and will have a full run-down on that.

So next time you're out fishing/hiking/exploring in North Idaho, be aware of bats and stay the #%#@ away from them. They do have an important role in our ecosystem but they sure can be expensive and possibly deadly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Last Minute Trip...

Hey all... seems like a while since I've posted a trip report. Last week, with the FFF Conclave in town, sending out job apps and cover letters like crazy, and seven shifts at work, I didn't exactly hit the water much. I did get into a few Redbands here in town and an ugly sucker on a day off, but I wouldn't exactly consider the week of fishing to be very satisfying.

This week was looking pretty mundane as well until I realized my friend and I both had similar days off. With a quick shift swap, we worked out a nice two day trip on the St. Joe River in Northern Idaho. We will be camping one night and fishing all day long for two days straight. It should be solid as levels are just coming into shape for wade fishing, and the Joe has likely not been pounded by wade anglers like some of the other area rivers... yet.

I'll have a full trip report and pictures in a few days... And next week, a float on the Spokane River will be the trip report topic. I'll also be traveling back home to the Portland/Vancouver area in a few weeks time and hope to hit some small water trout fishing in rural Southwest Washington.

Check back soon for sweet fish pics, and perhaps a funny story or two.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gear Review: Redington Torrent Fly Rod

Seeing as the blog is in it's infant stages, I'm not in the position of receiving free fly fishing goods to test  and review. That being said, if I personally buy a product and feel strongly about it (for good or bad), then I'll possibly post a gear review on it. The following review is my honest input about a product that I spent my hard earned money on... enjoy.

Redington Torrent 8'6" 4 wt 4 pc. Rod

Despite being on a budget, I was on the hunt for a perfect small/medium water dry fly rod. I had a few 5 and 6 weight rods in my quiver but wanted a faster action 4 weight that could shoot some serious line, had solid pick up, but would also cast accurately in close/tight situations. With summer dry fly season nearing, I wanted to find a rod that would fit all those needs but for under $300.

Thankfully, you don't need to spend $750 anymore to get a quality made fly rod. I looked at rods from Echo, TFO, Orvis, Sage, and Scott before settling on the Redington Torrent. One of my local fly shops, Westslope Fly Shop in Spokane, was kind enough to order the rod in for me and allowed me to cast it before I walked out with the rod. Being a newer model, none of the local stores had any Torrents in stock.

Beautiful wraps and green finish. Nice work Redington. 

After just a few days, the rod arrived from Bainbridge Island and I met owner Jesse Clark at Westslope to test cast the rod. First impressions were simply... "wow." The Torrent featured a fairly fast action but was inherently smooth with a slightly tip heavy flex. I was throwing accurately from 15-60 feet and if needed I could punch it further. To be blunt, it cast better than my older Scott A series 5 weight and it gave the Sage VXP (a $500 rod) a serious run for it's money in lawn casting scenarios. Needless to say, after test casting it for a half hour, I left with the rod in hand.

Finish wise, the rod features a nice dark green finish that has some SERIOUS coats of paint on it. Talk about a glistening finish. The cork was not necessarily premium (some filler, but to be expected) but the grip was comfortable and more than adequate. The reel seat has a green graphite insert and a single up-locking reel seat keeps my Lamson Guru 1.5 securely in place. Stripping guides are PacBay and are high quality, and the wraps are nice and neat. The rod tube is a sweet stealthy gray aluminum with a lime colored Redington Logo.

Graphite insert on reel seat. 

The real test for a rod is, to me, how it fishes. A rod can lawn cast like a dream but until you fish it and become infinitely familiar with it, you don't know what you're getting into. The Redington Torrent is built to fish. I've used it with great success throwing everything from dries on the Bitterroot (60 foot reach casts with accuracy) to dropping lighter double nymph rigs on the Coeur d'Alene River. This rod is simply wonderful. Fish from 6" to 18" are a blast on this setup and though a 3 wt would be fun on smaller mountain streams, the 4 wt. Torrent doesn't feel like overkill in those situations.

I love the faster action (now that I've been fly fishing for long enough, I feel that a faster rod can work for many different applications) and enjoy the light weight, sleek finish, and of course the low sticker price.

This Bitterroot Cutthroat was a Torrent 4 wt. victim. 

You can certainly find a cheaper rod out there, but you wont find many with this quality finish, action, and phenomenal warranty (Redington/Sage are some of the best in the business). I suspect that the rod taper was borrowed from an older or current Sage model (perhaps the VXP with slightly lower modulus graphite?) and I don't regret the purchase in the slightest. I'll be looking at a Torrent or Predator in the future for a solid 7 weight streamer/bass rod and recommend it to anyone looking to find a quality, fishable stick.

Redington Torrent Grade Sheet -

Finish - 9/10 (only cork could be better... but for the price that's not realistic)
Hardware - 8/10 (reel seat is solid, but a slightly sturdier one would be nice)
Lawn Casting - 9/10 (faster, progressive action... similar to Sage VXP)
Actual Fishing Situations - 9/10 (can really do it all in the 4 wt class...)
Value - 10/10 (Great work by Redington... as usual)

Overall - 9/10. I prefer this single-hander over a similar CPX and find it to load with minimal line out, make accurate casts from 10-60 feet, and the fit and finish of it is excellent for the price. Pick one up and you wont regret it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Putting Lipstick on a Poop Plant?

Driving up and down the lower Spokane River will inevitably take you past the Wastewater Treatment Plant at some point.

The Poop Plant (as I like to term it) has been undergoing expansion/construction/etc since I've been in Spokane (over a year and a half now) and I understand that they are making it more efficient/effective in cleaning up wastewater before it is returned to the river system.

That being said, it was interesting to see this new public "art" in front of the complex the other day.

I'm all for public art and sculpture but does this really do much? I understand that the "see-through" pieces blur the view of the plant a bit... but I can certainly still smell it...