Saturday, June 30, 2012

Redbands Love Caddis Pupa...

The title says it all.

After Wednesday's dry fly success in Montana, I was productive Thursday. Applied to a few jobs, researched for my upcoming Montana overnighter, and cleaned the house. All done in time to hit the urban river for an hour of fishing before dark.

Native Redband trout were very willing to eat, the flows were lower, and I even managed to have a few fish break me off... not too common.

Did I mention the crazy guy walking around area howling before dark? A little entertaining, but mostly uncomfortable. The group of Juggalos (look it up... they're awful, and abundant in Spokane) having a picnic on the river were another surprise. When you hear things like "Woot! Woot!" while fly fishing, you know that you're in Spokane!

The best surprise was this fish though... 17"+ and very healthy.

Pat's Rubber Legs and a tan caddis pupa is a money combo at the moment. With flows dropping in pretty big increments over the next few weeks, I recommend letting the river settle for a day or two before venturing out. Let the fish get comfortable in their new homes and then head out, as they seem to respond better when they get comfortable with current levels. Just be ready to see your indicator go under when you get out there!

As always, practice catch and release on this river. Fish densities are very low, and these are truly wild trout. Savor every fish you catch, enjoy the moment, treat 'em with respect, and properly release them. If you see poachers on the river, call them in. You can dial 911 and report fish poaching or call the WDFW poaching hotline. I haven't encountered poachers yet this season, but I'm certain that they're out there affecting our local native trout population.

Now get out there and get some hook to mouth.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dry Flies and Redemption, NW Montana Style.

After last week's 19-hour, one-day fishing adventure, I figured I'd take it easy for my fishing trip this week. I've got a 2+ day trip to Montana with the Trout Jedi planned for next week, and while gas is getting cheaper, me falling and destroying gear + not being home does cost money. And that rest and sleep thing... underrated in my mind.

Icing on the cake... 17+" small river Rainbow. Thank you Caddis hatch.

With all those factors in mind (and a Montana fishing license in my pocket), I figured I'd hit the St. Regis River for some mountain freestone action. A straight shot over I-90 (which parallels the river for most of its length before it dumps into the Clark Fork), the St. Regis River is a bit of an enigma. Not known for great fishing, it runs cold and features high gradient fishing in it's channelized waters (thanks Interstate!). Some of my friends swear by the river and gave me excellent intel about where to go and what to use... others said to stay away from it (they used less appropriate language). I decided to give it a shot.

What I found when I got to the river was interesting. Some fishy looking spots, freeway traffic blaring in the background, and very few fish. I several promising looking spots and saw just two fish (one of which said "no thanks!" to my Golden Stone pattern) in 3 hours of fishing. I followed my friend's advice but with water temps just barely over 40 degrees, I figure that most of the fish aren't terribly active yet... that and there wasn't much in the means of obvious holding water in the heavy-ish flows.

Dejected, I pulled into St. Regis, conferred with some locals (who also scoffed at my fishing their local river, telling me it'd been poor this year), and grabbed a bite to eat. I couldn't head home yet. A two hour drive with nothing to show for it? No. I decided to jet north an hour to the Thompson River... get a few hours in on the Thompson and then cut over Thompson Pass and be back by 8 pm. Not a poor plan it seemed. Worst off, I'd be down two more gallons of gas... but at 30 MPGs and $3.40/gallon (sad that I'm stoked about that), I couldn't pass up the opportunity to catch fish.

Last week on the Thompson, it was a nymphing clinic that my fishing partner and I put on... This week was slow on nymphing. I had one strike while nymphing a usual hole that produces for me. I worked my way upriver (which was substantially lower than last week) and pulled up to a favorite spot of mine.

Pulling off the road, I looked into the water below and saw rises... lots of them. I could literally see 30 fish stacked up in the current below... smallish fish, huge fish... it was like looking at a wild trout aquarium, and these fish were hungry. Money.

I casually worked up to a hole well above where the fish were working and examined the hatch... PMDs, Drakes, and an odd Golden Stone. And big looking ones. I tied on a Golden Stone, PMD double dry set up and went down the bank stealthily below the active fish. Now, I'm known to be a clumsy, piss poor wader. I could scare a fish across the river from me, but on this day, I was smooth. On my hands and knees, ninja-style smooth wouldn't even describe it. I made a first cast upstream to the rising fish and it was game on.

Westslope Cutthroat... A fishing partner would've made for better photos!

Cutthroats, Browns, Rainbows... it didn't seem to stop. While I didn't hook them all, and I certainly lost a few fish during the fight, it was a glorious time. Over the course of a few hours I landed several fish on the PMDs.

Feisty small Brown trout.

I rested the hole for 10 minutes at a time (it's a big run and you can fish different sections in it without scaring too many fish), and eventually noticed a lull in the action. I moved upriver to a different locale (which was a big producer last week) but came up empty handed... the lower flows made the hole less suitable for holding many fish.

Back downriver, I saw that a Caddis hatch had broken out and the fish were working the same hole that I had fished earlier. Re-rigging to a Yeager's Neversink Caddis/X-Caddis trailer, I played the same game working the bottom of the hole to the top... Money. It was just that kind of day. I landed the largest fish that I've caught of the Thompson... a 17" Rainbow that looked a lot like the Spokane River Redbands that I love so dearly.

Big Thompson River Rainbow. X-Caddis.

After three more fish in the same hole, I realized it was nearing 5:30 (PDT) and decided I should get back over the pass. It was my first time taking the Thompson Pass road, and I doubt I'll go another way again! I saved 40 miles and nearly a half hour of drive time... Only downside was a robin that decided to play chicken with my car on the CDA river road. My car won and I felt a little bad about the whole affair.

All in all, it was a great day on the river. I wasn't gone too much longer than I had originally planned, I caught nearly double digits trout on the dry, and got some stealth wading practice in. Always have a back-up plan, and never let a skunking ruin your day on the water.

Now it's time to gear up for my extended Montana trip next week. More reports to come! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sunny Skies, Healthy Trout, and Busted Reels

Graduation has come and gone. I've got a B.A. now, and have begun my first school-free summer in some time. I've been job searching, preparing resumes, and working my restaurant job in the meantime. I also have more time to fish... never a bad thing. Especially when you have a Montana annual fishing license.

This past week, with flows finally dropping, temperatures rising, and a day off work, I met with my friend Dustin (of Big R Fly Shop - Ponderay, ID) and headed out to a small tributary of the Clark Fork River in NW Montana. This stream was running just over 1100 CFS and dropped another 10% while we were on the water (about 10 hours).

Saw some drake activity, a few golden stoneflies, and lots of caddis in the evening. Rock checks revealed green drake nymphs, and caddis cases galore. I had three rods set up and the first run yielded the day's first fish. Double nymph rig, meet Rainbow trout. Shortly after our Rainbow friend came to net, a Whitefish followed. The next run yielded a small Cutbow, and we were into fish early and often.

A slight mishap occurred on the water early in the day. I took a spill on a large rock (studded boot bottoms, not a good call here!) and my reel took the most damage...

Broken reel... no good.

Shortly before I noticed the damage to my reel (one run later), I hooked into something BIG. It happened in a spot that is typically a "honey hole" of sorts for me. Big boulders in the water redirect the current as the river takes a hard turn, and the hole is DEEP. Think 15'+. Drifting my nymph rig through the hole, my indicator takes a slow deep pull into the water. I react and set the hook figuring that I snagged a rock. Now, rocks don't head shake and move though, and this fish has my 5 wt doubled over. Into the current, back into the boulders, up a bit (I see a nice big silhouette), and then back down... it was 30 seconds of bliss. While I began to walk down the shore towards Dustin, hoping to work the fish downstream and out of the heavy current, I feel my line tension slacken. NO! The fish was gone. Came unbuttoned. 

What was it? I have my thoughts (the fight, location, and seeming size of the fish indicate Bull Trout) but I can't be certain. This missed fish would haunt me all day.

Dustin got his first trout of the day in the same hole on a nymph rig and we head upriver to a spot that I had explored but didn't hook up at the previous trip to this stream. With water levels lower than before, the hole looks better than ever, and better accessible (a short hike and then wade out to a gravel bar) than my last trip. It was during the hike out to the hole that I realized my 5 wt reel was toast. Nymphing was out of the question at this point, as I did my fishing on a 4 wt that was rigged for dry flies the rest of the day. Dustin began annihilating Rainbows on this hole. It was a strike nearly every cast for him.

 Healthy Montana Rainbow

The fish Dustin was getting were of great size for this system. We're talking  average fish of 12" (the norm) and the ones he was catching were 15-17"+. Not shabby at all, and on simple attractor style nymphs fished at the bottom of slots. I threw dries while Dustin was harassing the trout down deep, and low and behold we soon had our first of three doubles for the day. 

Dustin's biggest Rainbow of the day... healthy fish!

I landed a fantastic Rainbow at the head of the run on a anato-may dropper fished below a Golden Stone. Great color on this 15+" Rainbow who had struck my dry on an earlier drift through the slot. 

Great color on this fish. My best (landed) trout of the day.

My one and only Brown trout of the day came in the same hole shortly after I caught the Rainbow. Dustin didn't get his Brown until later in the day, but it was a pleasant (and colorful) surprise when it finally met the landing net.  

Small water Brown trout. 

We fished the entire afternoon, and despite ever persistent drakes and caddis flies, few fish were consistently rising. After fooling multiple sub 10" fish on dries, I decided to re-rig my 4 wt as a nymphing rod, and was rewarded with a solid Rainbow on the last  productive hole of the day. 

Final tally was 20 fish to hand between the two of us and well over 20 fish lost. Gotta love barbless hooks. By the end of the day, Dustin and I were both muttering and joking about all the fish we'd lost. The colder water temps (hovering around 50) seemed to induce short/soft strikes. 

Lots of laughs, good brews on the riverbank, and some nice fish were what I will remember the most from this trip. The broken reel (sent to Lamson today... I'll have a post on the warranty service when it returns), lost (Bull) trout, and lack of sleep (5:30 AM - 1:AM on the road) won't dampen this angler's mood. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Economical Fishing Trip Machine...

Here's an endorsement for the Honda CR-V. A frugal angler's dream. Sure, she can't tow much (or anything at all seeing as I've yet to put a hitch on her!), and she doesn't have AWD (I was cheap), nor does she offer much off-road capability.

But... 33 MPGs on my last trip to NW Montana to fish. And I didn't even have to break down rods between fishing spots, nor stick them under my windshield wipers. Rubber mats for those dirty wading boots, more cupholders than a soccer mom needs, and a burgeoning reputation for bringing the hammer down on trout waters in the region. Sure, I could go all Bozeman and get a Tacoma but my gas bill would sure suck, and besides, who wants to pay $30K for a truck. I know I don't!

What's your economy fishing vehicle (or vehicle of your dreams)?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Anniversary in Montana

This past Tuesday was a very special day for myself and my wife Ashley. Not only was it the date of my last class/test of my undergraduate career(!) but it was also our second wedding anniversary. What would be more romantic than a quick round trip to Missoula for a day of good food, sightseeing, and a bit of casting? I'm sure Ashley could find a few better options, but she gamely decided it would be a fun way to spend our special day.

The morning started off with a final exam at 8 AM in Cheney. After the test, I rushed home, loaded up the wife and spaniel and made our way out of town.

All the driver could think about was fishing... the passenger, not so much.

We made good time across the panhandle, my mind racing as to what fly patterns would trick fish in the short hour I had to fish on the way to Missoula. Rain fell intermittently through the pass, and the rivers we passed were absolutely raging. The creek that I had in mind (a tributary to the Clark Fork) would likely be running high, but I figured fish would love to hit a meaty Salmonfly pattern up top... Only a little ways further and we came upon this inconvenience...

Jack-knifed Semi on 2 lane interstate = Less time on the water.

Aside from the jack-knifed semi truck, what seemed like miles of endless construction and 45 MPH speed zones (very un-Montana...) made the trip towards Missoula stretch on. This all meant less time on the water for me. Ashley does not fish (yet) and I bribed here with the promise of a fine dining meal in Missoula after we fished and checked out the fly shops and bars in town. Being our anniversary, and my desire to keep the anniversaries coming for the long term, I would not break that deal!

We finally hit the creek, and raging it was. From what I'd heard from friends who fish this little known body of water, the water was running at double the typical flows. Rainbows, Cutthroat, Whitefish, and a few Bull Trout inhabit the stream and I was anxious to get fishing. So anxious that I pulled into the first spot at the first access point on the creek. 

She's moving...

I believe that this is a Green Drake nymph.

Golden Chubby Chernobyl

It only took 10 minutes of throwing my dry dropper rig (Salmonfly pattern w/ red CJ) to get a strike up top. A decent Cutthroat came and took a swipe at my fly and in my trigger happy excitement I missed the fish. This scenario played out another 5 times, though I did manage to hook up with 3 fish, all of which came unbuttoned. A Golden Stone Chubby Chernobyl attracted the most attention with one brute (at least 16") Cutthroat taking two stabs at my pattern only to get away without meeting my net. Despite my frustrations, my lovely wife (who has a Fine Arts degree), managed to take some great photos of the excursion before Missoula (and that promised dinner) beckoned. 

A spot that yielded countless strikes, and no hook ups. 

Mirrored water + Chubby Chernobyl... success

Beautiful water, with the fuel saving fishing machine (CR-V) across the stream. 

Beautiful water.

Despite getting blanked, I was beyond ecstatic to spend time on the water with my wife. She got to see, firsthand, what I love to do. I couldn't complain about having 8 strikes up top on dry flies in under an hour either... not too shabby at all. 

Oh, and the rest of the trip. It was fantastic. Wonderful meal at Scotty's Table in downtown Missoula. Lots of Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale, fantastic thunder and lightning storms to experience throughout the day, and my best friend along with me. Happy Anniversary indeed.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Can I Get Please Get Your Vote?

I'm taking part in the Korkers Footwear/Chucking Line and Chasing Tail "Visor Fly Box" photo contest.

My picture will have my name on it (Tyler Comeau), and I hope you check it out and vote. Simply find my picture in the "Chucking Line and Chasing Tail" photo contest album and like it! The top three vote getters win some sweet Korkers swag. And if you know me and my affinity for my Korkers Chrome wading boots, then you certainly know how stoked I'd be to own more wonderful Korkers products.

Korkers Facebook Page

You should totally vote for my visor box... Cliff Products all the way!

UPDATE 6/13... First Place WINNER! Definitely not the gnarliest visor box but thanks to friends, it's a winner! Thanks all!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It's Not Called Catching... For a Reason

I think the title says it all. The old BS saying, "It's called fishing, not catching..." really does hold true. It's all a part of the game that we knowingly, and lovingly play. Most of my recent trips have been successful, so apparently I needed a reminder of what getting skunked is like...

Here's how it went down...

The long work days this past weekend, coupled with my success on the river on Saturday A.M. may have gotten me a bit cocky.

"I'm gonna get 'em tomorrow... caddis pupa, soft pockets off heavy currents, etc... I'm dialed..."

I deserved what I had coming...

I met up on Sunday A.M. with Wayne Jordan to try and up my score on my lovely urban waterway. First hole (my usual $ hole) proved to be dead... perhaps I hooked the few trout that reside here yesterday and they are spooked, so we moved on. Wayne pointed out a nice looking little run. Tough to get to (drift was around some submerged brush) but sure enough, first cast, fish on. 10 seconds later... fish off. That would be the story of the day.

Next hole, fish on. This one was substantial and made an appearance near me before diving to the depths. It looked to be a Brown trout... and I've never landed a Brown on this particular river as they are exceedingly rare. Of course it came unbuttoned as well.

Wayne was matching my success with a few takes and no solid hook ups on streamers and nymphs.

We crossed over the river and worked another section. I had a fish chase my fly as I brought it in. Figuring the fish were keying on movement, I let my caddis pupa pattern swing on the next cast through the hole. Fish on... fish off. Unbuttoned.

Next cast... same game. But this one was on for a good amount of time. Felt like a nice fish, and my 6 wt was bent in agreement. A minute later, and a few runs and my fly came back at me again. Another strike on a retrieve, a short fight, and a fishless fly came back before we called it a day. 5 hook ups. No landings. Really?

I'm not new to such things. What fly fisherman doesn't know the pain of losing a good fish? I'd like to meet this magical fisherman and learn their tricks if they even exist. At least my reactions to losing hooked fish aren't nearly as ridiculous as they used to be... (see loud, frustrated, potentially profane, etc)

Here's a gem of a shot that Wayne took of me in the fall on a local lake. I, of course, lost this nice Rainbow a few seconds after the photo was taken. I'm fairly certain that things were muttered that I cannot type on this blog.

Losing Hooked Fish. It Beats Not Hooking Them At All!

Annoyed with the results of our Sunday A.M. trip, Wayne and I met up for a few hours of fishing before sunset on Monday. The river had risen 3,500+ CFS over the past 20 hours and despite heavy rainfall and higher flows, there were fish working the surface. We nymphed, fished dries, and I threw some streamers just for the heck of it. Nada. Not one strike. The only thing of significance was me loosing my waterproof point/shoot camera somewhere along the river. (Which after a morning search is still missing... time for a new one). Oh, and a skunk ran in front of my car on the way home, though I avoided hitting it by a few feet... ironic or what?!

After Monday evening's debacle, I've come to a few conclusions. One, getting skunked is never welcomed, but it's always educational. On Sunday, I was doing many things right (hooking 5 fish in a few hours on my favorite urban river is not a bad day!) but I learned that I needed to scout my spots better to fight/land fish, and improve my fish fighting tactics. On Monday, I learned a few things as well... the flows were getting tough, I need to double check my pockets/secure my camera in the future, and I should get back to refilling my fly box while the river is out of shape from all this rain!

Caddis Pupa Lineup. Money Patterns... Olive, Caddis Green, Tan, and Brown.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

An Urban Retreat

Yesterday at work was... well, how should I describe it? INSANE. Artfest has taken over the neighborhood, and the crowd at work was larger and more intense then most Fridays. Add to the fact that I worked from 11:15 AM until nearly 10 PM and you get one tired, burnt out restaurant employee. What could possibly be better than a little urban fly fishing to soothe my nerves? Maybe a beer, but that's a different story all together...

Double Nymph Rig. Check. 

I set out this morning on my favorite urban river (you know which one I'm talking about, so don't be shy) that just opened the day prior. Wild Redband trout along with a healthy dose of Mountain Whitefish and a few lunker Brown trout patrol the waters that I was fishing. None of these fish are in extreme abundance (it's a C/R fishery for trout) and bigger fish size is more typical than numbers of fish caught. Add in flows that are still over 10K CFS, no boat to fish out of, and you have a tough fishing situation.

This river is best fished with nymph rigs, and I came readily equipped with my 6 wt Scott, a Pat's Rubber Legs and a Spitfire attractor nymph. No dice on the first few holes I hit (though I did surprisingly see a fish rise) but after losing my Spitfire pattern to a tree (tight quarters + high water = lost flies) I tied on a tan caddis pupa pattern that I tie myself. Bingo. A few casts into a back eddy that formed between a few trees and some heavy current... Indicator DOWN. I hooked into a hot fish that took me into the current, ran at me (saw the fish in this case... big Redband), then back to the current and into some tree limbs... Uh oh. I feel the tension in the line slack and the fish was off. I was beyond bummed out.

I've lost some nice fish in this hole before and thought that it was going to get the best of me again. I sharpened up the caddis pattern hook before throwing out my rig again and mended to my hearts content letting the indicator work around the back eddy to the head of the pool... Indicator DOWN. I thought it was a hydraulic at first, but hydraulics don't make your rod tip dance, nor do they jump out of the water. After a nice fight, several aerial displays, and a tough time finding a spot to land the fish, I brought in my first urban Redband of the season.

First Redband of the Season.

Spunky little 12" native Redband.

The fish, 12" in the measure net and small for this river, was certainly not as big or feisty as the one I had hooked just minutes earlier, but I took an extra second with it in my net, thankful that it played along with my and helped alleviate my stress from a crazy day. The fact that it was my first of the season was also not lost on me as it flopped out of my hand while trying to take a close up shot... he shot off into the pool after sitting at my feet for a second, surely more wary of a fly in the future. And low and behold, my little caddis pupa pattern struck again. Here's to hoping that the Redband I caught today matures and grows to look like my birthday fish that I caught this past winter in the same exact spot.

Birthday Redband in Spawning Colors.

I only had one more takedown in the hour of fishing that I did. Homework, house chores, and another shift at work took me off the river before I would've liked. But I can't complain, because there's nothing like an urban retreat after a long, hard day. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lake Season Wrap-Up

It's nearing that special time of year where rivers are opening up and coming into shape. Combined with the fact that I'm almost done with my time in Cheney (my usual jumping off point for lake fishing) and the end of my Spring lake season is near.

I'm one of the few younger guys around here that truly enjoys stillwater fishing, but I must admit that running water brings more excitement to me then sitting in a float tube getting blown around a desert lake. This Spring, it has been predictably windy, fishing has been hit or miss, and I've explored some new waters. There are moments when I'm on a lake and I feel completely lost, not knowing why my pattern that worked the day before is failing me, or where the fish are at. I know what bugs are hatching/working, but I wonder if weather system changes, lunar phases, or something else keeps fish down.

Needless to say, I've experienced a few skunks on the lakes this year, but I also had some dynamite days. I'm happy to say that I hit the local lake Trout Slam this year... 4 hours on the water, 3 different trout species to hand (Brown, Tiger, Rainbow...) and all were BIG and healthy. Not bad work... especially since they took my own tied chironomids and leaches.
Big (read long) Tiger Trout

Lacustrine Brownie (not a fan of the net)

Gorgeous Rainbow in my Sunburned Hand

To wrap it up, I had a great time this year spending days on the water with good friends. No truly banner days (4 fish days were the norm) but some fun experiences. I got my first Amber Cutthroat (on a dry fly no less), finally caught fish on chironomids (definitely worthwhile... with a beer in hand), and had my first experience with ticks (not a pleasant thing to find on your float tube after taking out). 

Blurry Amber Lake Cutthroat

My last trip was a fun one but water temps were nearing the mid 60 degree mark which means that fishing the area lakes (for trout!) will soon end for me until the cooler days and nights of Fall arrive. Not necessarily a bad thing though as I have many squiggly blue lines to follow and fish, as well as some road trips to high altitude lakes brimming with eager fish waiting for my fly.

Heftiest Rainbow of the Spring Season