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)