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.