Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wagons East: Part Two - Getting it Done

Working downriver, we fished several beautiful runs. The river was practically vacant considering it was a Saturday, the poor weather on roads leading to this Steelhead paradise being the main culprit.

In one particular run, we hit gold... Blake started the hot streak with a beautiful fish on the nymph rod.

I began to swing the bottom end of the run, working a seam that was practically mid-river. With my 11' switch rod, I got into a rhythm booming out a few casts to fish the seam effectively.

As I reached the tail end of the seam, I found myself standing on a rocky outcrop, trying not to slip while making one more distant cast. I made my cast into the seam followed by a quick mend... soon enough, I felt a distinct tug, tug, tug, and dropped my rod to the side. FISH ON!

It was a great feeling, and I sure as heck wasn't going to lose the fish. With help from Blake and Ryan, I brought the fish to the net. Naturally, I fumbled the handoff for a photo opportunity, and off went the fish (Note to self: bring mesh landing glove every time I fish!)

There was no photo evidence of the fish, but I was still shaking in disbelief. After 14 months of trying, I had finally swung up a fish on a two-handed fly rod.

Ryan took his turn working the run, as I took a break to ponder the moment. Blake's Springer Spaniel, Otto, joined me as we watched the guys continue to fish.

After what only seemed like five minutes sitting back and watching the guys fish, I hear another "fish on" and look downriver. Ryan is hooked up on the swing...

Ryan and Blake were machine like in fighting and netting the fish, a bright hen. This fish also decided to be shy for the camera, but we couldn't have cared less. 3 fish in the same run? What a day!

I couldn't keep watching the guys thump on fish, so I grabbed my nymph rod and worked the top of the run. Sure enough, fish on! A feisty fish came to the net, and I had my third Steelhead of the day!

Blake matched with another nymphed up Steelhead and we called it quits with five fish in the same run... what a day it had been.

Cold beers, warm brats, and chili kept us content despite the early setting sun. The red hot fishing had me wishing for the longer days of September, but we had a good plan for our last day on the river.

Sunday came, and we worked separate runs to start the day with nary a tug to show for it. Heading back to our go-to run from the day before, we hoped our fortunes would change.

The guys immediately went to swing the bottom half of the run, while I nymphed up top. After a few whitefish, including one that struck my indicator, I briefly hooked up to a Steelhead. Having lost my first fish of the trip, I was feeling fairly agitated. Without rechecking my rig, I kept casting and soon my indicator buried into the flow. I set hard, but nothing was there. Checking my rig, I figured out why... the fish had broken me off!

The guys kept signaling that they were getting "bumps" while swinging below and I couldn't help but get into the action.

After Ryan had gotten far enough down the run, I began to throw a few long distance casts. Not far from where I had gotten my first swung fish the day prior, my line went tight... fish on!

Photo by Ryan Bailey
This fish was a real treat. Aerial displays, long runs, and the sort of determination that wild Steelhead are known for. It took my own tied fly (another Steelhead first for me) and was the first fish that I've landed with my Hardy reel, which sang beautifully while the fish made its runs.

Photo by Ryan Bailey
After some tasteful photos, the little buck swam back into the river's current. The trip couldn't have gotten any better.

Or so I thought.

It was nearly time to head back to camp to pack up and head home. I asked Blake if I could get a few last casts in behind him, and I went to work.

With barely my shooting head out of the rod tip, my line went tight again... fish on! Another beautiful wild Steelhead had taken my self tied fly, and the fight was on. The beautiful wild hen Steelhead put on  another special show, and capped what will be an unforgettable trip for me.

Over a few days, we had combined to catch ten Steelhead... TEN! I finally got a fish swinging the two handed rod (three of them to boot), got Steelhead on my own flies, and explored new water. Getting to spend time with two good friends was the real kicker to this great trip. I certainly owe them a few days of local knowledge (however crappy it may be) on my home rivers!

As I made the seven hour drive back home, I kept replaying the trip in my mind. I headed East to get it done on the swing... Now to get it done on some of the west side rivers!

Photo by Ryan Bailey

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wagons East... Part One

Wagon's East, a 1994 film that holds an impressive 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is something of an enigma. First off, it's absolutely terrible... no way around that one. Second off, it doesn't seem to make much sense. I mean, sure the wild west was tough and all, but who would give up potential greatness to head back East?

Well, I may have a few chrome bright Winter Steelhead trickling into my area rivers, but I decided to make a bold decision myself. I eschewed the chrome winter fish that are beginning to show on my local streams, and loaded my wagon of an SUV and hit the road.

I was headed East, chasing the colored up fish of Summer that were just arriving to the Grande Ronde and Snake River basin. I had caught these fish months ago on the Columbia when they were as chrome bright as their Winter cousins and now I was looking to connect with them again.

Up until this trip, It'd been a slow month of fishing.

I had worked hard trying to pick up an odd Coho or late Summer Steelhead on numerous local rivers. I fished a small river on the coast that required a two mile hike to get to the first pool above the confluence with the Pacific. With a friend and his sons, I helped them get into a heap of Sea-Runs on the Cowlitz with my tied flies. I witnessed my brother catch his first trout on the fly which was pretty special too.

Above all those things, I continued my skunk-fest of swung Steelhead on the spey rod. So when I had contacted my East side friends about extending a work travel trip into a fishing weekend, I began to think the tide was going to turn. No, I wasn't terribly confident. A year of posting zeroes on the board does not exactly inspire confidence, but fishing the Grande Ronde and Snake can give you a slight feeling of hope.

The Ronde and Snake have relatively large (compared to many west side streams) or concentrated runs of Steelhead. That in itself is amazing because of all of the challenges these fish face (dams, predators, Columbia water temps). Despite these challenges, the fish continue to return each year and my friends from Spokane have gotten the fishery pretty dialed in.

Meeting with my friends on Friday was fantastic. A drive through lonely, albeit beautiful country lead me up gravel roads and a chance run in with Blake on his way back to camp. We set up camp, enjoyed a beverage, and rigged up our rods. Soon enough, we were hiking into holes and Blake was hooked up on his first Steelhead of the trip. The little wild hen inspired a little confidence in my mind that we were in for a good weekend.

Ryan showed up in the evening and we cooked up some camp dinner, enjoyed a few brews, and talked about Steelhead... non-stop. As we tucked in for the night, a storm came over the region and we were absolutely plastered with rain. Thoughts of west side Winter Steelheading came to mind and I wondered if this trip would turn into another west side style "zero" for me.

We woke up to grey skies and a slightly raised river. By 7 AM, I had my first steelhead of the trip. My first nymphed up steelhead in a long time, and my winter nightmare was averted. The little hatchery hen got a quick "thanks" and then was quickly dispatched, destined for the smoker. The day's skunk worn off, we worked run after run, and despite not turning up more fish, I had a good feeling about the rest of the trip.

To be continued...

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Pleasant Surprise On A Dreary Day...




That's what I'm accustomed to when Steelhead fishing on the swing. In fact, I have only had a handful of recognized strikes since picking up the spey rod and I've only made good on a few suicidal salmon from those chances. Needless to say, I've been desperate to catch a Steelhead on the swing.

That all changed when this happened last week.

The Cowlitz River on the last Sunday of September... A day so ugly out, that the normal hum and drone of jet boats running up and down the river was practically non-existent. I fished with my friend and guide Mike Sturza of Lost Creek Fly Shop, and it quickly became a day that I'd never forget.

We began by targeting Sea Run Cutthroat on the swing with a two handed rod. Mike worked with me on my casting and, more importantly, my hook set. I've suspected that I've had more than the few handful of swung fly strikes that I have made count, and I knew that my hook set/perception of strikes was a major weak point in my swing fishing game. Having over a dozen early strikes from Sea Runs and receiving coaching on what to do when these strikes happen was a HUGE help. 

Sure, I may have missed two dozen fish over the course of the day, but the dozen plus that I hooked went a long way in improving my confidence and angling abilities. Mike and I couldn't stop laughing every time I reverted to my old bad habits, but they gradually faded as the day went on. One of my few good qualities is my ability to laugh at myself and on this rainy day, I was laughing with nearly the same frequency as the relentless rain.

The first Cutthroat was special, and with each fish I grew more and more confident in my abilities. I hooked one Cutthroat so large (and aggressive in it's take) that we thought it was initially a Steelhead. The day was rapidly becoming something special and the Sea Run fishery on the Cowlitz had me on cloud nine.

After moving spots a few more times, I was still throwing long casts with the two-hander hoping for a big tug instead of the Cutthroat that were so kind to us. Mike began fishing with a 6 wt Scott single hander for Cutthroat at the head of a run that I had worked through already. Within minutes he had 3 feisty Cutthroat on the bank and he implored me to try swinging the single-hander for these eager trout.

I obliged and began to catch Cutthroat almost immediately. After observing October Caddis in the bellies of our catch we switched to an October Caddis pupae pattern and I made three casts which resulted in hook ups each time. Mid swing on my fourth cast, I had another strike which felt similar to every Cutthroat that I had landed. But after the strike, something was different. This fish was taking line!

Odd I thought... until it rolled. 

"Steelhead! It's a Steelhead," Mike hollered. 

He then told me that the rod was rigged with 5x tippet (5.3lb Stroft Mono to be exact) on the end of the line as there are few Steelhead in the river at this point. We were out-gunned for sure. 

I was in for a heck of a battle... It took nearly 10 minutes and overcoming some serious self doubt to land the 27" Steelhead. When Mike was able to net the fish on the first attempt, I was whooping and hollering in absolute joy on the bank. Our day in miserable weather had turned out to be better than I could've ever hoped for.

I had landed a Steelhead on a swung fly... on a single hander and 5x tippet no less! 

It was a day that I'll never forget... the weather, the education, the first Sea-Run on the fly, the laughter, and the best surprise that I've had in a long while. That Steelhead isn't the biggest that I've caught, but it sure holds a very special place in my mind. 

The lessons and experience that I took from my day fishing with Mike will hopefully lead me to more hookups in the season ahead. Besides, there always seems to be something to check-off on the fly fishing bucket list. Now that I've caught my first Steelhead on the swing, I need to get one on a two-hander!

If you're interested in fishing with Mike on the Cowlitz River (an extremely underrated spey fishery) check out the Lost Creek Fly Shop webpage here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Snaggers Abound... Report Them!

I love the Fall for a few reasons:

1. College Football

2. Late Summer Steelhead

3. Leaves Changing Color

There is a part of the Fall that I despise. Folks who snag fish.

Taking a fish by snagging is illegal in both Oregon and Washington and it's an embarrassment to those who fish legally and ethically.

With a record return of Fall Chinook to the Columbia River basin, our rivers are being overrun with moron poachers who consider themselves anglers. These folks come in all shapes, colors, and sizes with one commonality... the only way to teach them the proper way to fish is by the heavy hand of the law.

Law enforcement in both states need your help in reporting these crimes so the next time you're on the river and see someone snagging fish or retaining a fish that has not been hooked in the mouth please report it to the proper authorities.

Oregon TIP Hotline: 1-800-452-7888
Washington TIP Hotline: 1-877-933-9847 or text your tip to 847411 with "WDFWTIP" followed by the report.

Remember... do not approach those who are fishing illegally. Simply get a good description of the angler poacher, what they are doing, and where they are committing the crime.

Responsible anglers who report these crimes DO make a difference. I hope that with the continued efforts of anglers and law enforcement, the resource will be conserved for those who utilize it legally. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Late Summer Recap - The Skunk Continues

It's been an entire month with nary a post.

That's not good in the blogosphere!

Yikes. Work has kept me on the run and with a lack of good results from my few fly trips, I suppose I've been a bit embarrassed to post about getting skunked.

Speaking of getting skunked... it's getting old!

Sure, I've knocked the crap outta steelhead and pink salmon this year on friend's boats fishing gear, but it's been a rough go on the spey rod. I did get into some Pinks on the fly last week on the Skagit which was pretty fun despite the fish looking like zombies (I think zombies would smell better though). I'm still waiting on that big tug from a Summer-head though...

When I think about it, I'm fairly certain that I've hit the 7,500 cast mark with nary a good hookup to show for it. I've fished the right water, the right bugs, and anymore it seems like I'm fishing the "right" way. Hell, I've even fished two times with guides and I'm still sitting on an 0-fer. The temptation to get a bait rod is constantly in the back of my mind but I haven't caved... yet.

Time to get back on the horse, rig up the long rod, and keep grinding.

With it being the "other" busy season for my job I'll likely only get out a few more times until November but the Deschutes is calling my name and I think I'll have to go for a visit tomorrow.

Thankfully there are lots of trout in the Deschutes. It makes you feel good to know that you won't get completely shut out. If there's one thing I can catch, it is whitefish trout.

Get out there and make your own adventures... be they fish-less or not.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Power Fishing Trip Report - Central Oregon, August 2013

Just because I can...
Two days, two fisherman, two rivers, and one mission...

Fish until we drop.

There is nothing quite like a power fishing trip... those trips where time is limited, your rods are always rigged and ready to go, every worthwhile looking pull off is explored, and you don't stop until your wife calls and tells you to come home.

My friend and I did that this weekend, and we sure as heck made the most of it.

Camping in the Sunriver area of Oregon leads to many quality fly fishing options, both riverine or lacustrine. It's especially helpful when a thunder and lightning storm moves in on your water, and a 20 minute drive will take you to less lethal waters. If only we had brought our float tubes, we'd have had more opportunities, but I can't complain!

During our weekend power trip we saw more people fishing some of these spots than I ever had before. It was borderline ridiculous at a few of our stops that we fished.

First to the hole, serenity for an hour, then five groups of anglers show up. My favorite section of a particular river was so heavily pressured that it's normally ravenous Brook trout had their bellies to the bottom in a way that I'd never seen before. Thankfully, some helpful local anglers gave us a tip on some currently red hot water nearby... Needless to say, we owe them a beer.

We caught Brooks, Bows, Browns and of course Mr. Whitefish, and we did it on streamers, nymphs, and dries. It was the best 43-hour power trip that I've yet to experience.

My fishing partner caught the biggest trout of his life (twice) and got his first Brown trout on the trip. I, on the other hand, lost the biggest trout of my life (multiple times... one was the size of a damn Steelhead...) and landed my biggest Brown yet. Needless to say, I should've been nymphing with my six weight instead of the five.

Enjoy the pictures and remember to make the most of your "power fishing trips."

Best trout of my friend's fly fishing career... for an hour. Then he caught a bigger one. 
My buddies first Brown trout. Great spotting on this guy.
Lamson reels... getting it done!
Even 13" Brook Trout love to crush streamers... Beautiful fish
My friend's big hen Brown. Love the sparse spotting on this one.
Best fish that I've landed on a 5 wt. You don't have to go to Montana to catch big healthy Browns.
Close-up. Love the blue shine on their gill plate.
Parting shot on the way out. Beautiful country, even prettier fish.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ECHO: Bringing Good Fortune to the Bench

Before I begin to ramble, I've got to get something off my chest; I love Rajeff Sports.

Big revelation? I suppose not, but Rajeff Sports epitomize great customer service.

Whether you're purchasing Airflo or Echo products, they give you honest advice, an amazing product, the best warranty service in the business, and in my case they are conveniently close (about 15 minutes from my front door).

Heck, if you're really lucky, Tim Rajeff will personally help you with your warranty repair/exchange, explain what lines to use on your new/replacement rod, and he'll walk you through the warehouse showing you upcoming products and explaining rod design.

Did I mention the awesome Echo Tibetan Prayer Flag that he gave me? Badass!

It proudly hangs over my tying bench, and I hope it's the extra ingredient that my flies need to help me get into more fish. When it comes to steelhead fishing, I need all the help I can get!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ways to Fish Less Often...

Lately, I've found ways to fish less often than I'd like to. Sure, we'd all like to fish more than we do, but I've rarely gotten out at all. Thinking back to last summer, I was knee deep in trout fishing and rabies exposure shots at this point.

Oh well...

Here are some fantastic ways to find yourself fishing less often than you'd like:

1. Buy an old house... (Build a fence, re-landscape a yard, deal with broken plumbing, etc)

2. Work... a lot. (Days off are few and far between lately)

3. Drive 3,000+ miles this month for work alone. Yeah, that's equivalent to driving to Craig, Montana twice (round trip)

4. High water temps and low conditions on local rivers. (It's not good on the fish and it sure makes for tough catching) 

I will admit to a few early-hours sessions including a nice day up on the Upper NFL with a new fishing friend, and one recent gear chucking jaunt on some local water that produced a Summer-run fish for the dinner table. 

Cedar planks and Summer runs go hand in hand!

I guess my past month isn't that bad, but here's to enjoying the days on the water to the fullest. I'm looking forward to some diverse fishing this August (Steelhead, Sea-Runs, Pinks, and more!)

Tight Lines.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Streamers... Central Oregon Report Part 1

What a week. Buying and moving into a house, keeping more than busy at work, and all of the other stress that comes with those activities has left me a little more tightly wound then normal.

Thankfully a family vacation to Sunriver was on the docket and this fly fisherman had plans. Sure, I couldn't fish the whole time (the wife might would have killed me), but I had a few goals.

1. Catch as many species as possible (Brook, Brown, Rainbow, and Cutthroat trout and Atlantic salmon were the goal)

2. Finally catch a fish on a streamer in a river (I don't know why I've not spent more time fishing streamers)

3. Fish the Upper Deschutes and Hosmer Lake

Check. Check. Check.

As the pictures clearly show, chunky Brookies love streamers near downed logs. After a slow morning on the river with our guide Griff (Fly and Field Outfitters, Bend), we went to some hard to reach water. He kept my Father-in-law and Brother-in-law busy nymphing up whitefish and brookies while I chased big guys on the streamer rod. I also got some Brook trout on dries and nymphs.

After fishing streamers so effectively that day, I don't know if I want to fish another way again!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Moving Week...

There are few things I dislike more than moving. Bats. Snakes. Ticks... that's about it.

That being said, I'm looking forward to having our own house and more room for all of our crap!

Moving is making me realize that my wife and I have far too many clothes, junk, and kitchen gadgets. But we don't seem to have enough fly rods, tying materials, drift boats, etc... Coincidence? I think not.

After a few more long days of hauling goods to the new place we will be off to Central Oregon. I've got a few things to check off the list while we're staying near Bend:

1. Atlantic Salmon (sure, they aren't native and I hear that they fight like crap but it's a must catch)
2. Big Brooke Trout... because they are cool
3. Fish 5 different bodies of water over 3 days.

I think I can knock all three of the list. Here's to hoping so!

I'll post pictures and other goodies next week.

Sorry again for the lack of posts recently. Work craziness and house closing sure takes up a lot of spare time.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gear Review: Korkers KGB Boot

Just a few months ago I was seriously contemplating going with all Simms wading boots due to some early failures on my older Korkers. But the fine folks at Korkers Footwear (based in Portland) took fantastic care of me, listened to my concerns, and helped me get into a new pair of their Korkers Guide Boots aka KGBs for a nominal upgrade fee. 

After receiving such great service from Korkers, I figured I needed to at least put the KGBs through their paces before I switched all of my wading gear over to Simms products (Simms makes the BEST waders in my opinion and their boots are fantastic too!).

Let's just say I'm glad I tried the KGBs. With the introduction of this top of the line wading boot, Korkers has seriously upped their game. 

Before I get into my thoughts on the boots, here's what Korkers has to say about the KGBs:

"Korkers Guide Boot incorporates the comfort and technical functionality previously found in Korkers wading boots, while enhancing stability and durability. Extra durable rubber, mesh and laces were added along with a TPU cage and Vibram Idro Grip outsoles, significantly raising the performance of this guide-level wading boot."

Enough of the marketing hoopla and now to the nitty gritty:

Korkers are the kings of the versatile wading boot. We already knew that and Korkers had perfected it with the OmniTrax 3.0 interchangable sole system, but in my past experiences the construction on older Korkers models left something to be desired. The KGBs are built to last with a much more substantial outer shell material, reinforced TPU cage and a design that locks your foot into the boot. These things seem to be bombproof.

With their modern boot designs and almost sneaker-like fit, the other Korkers models were comfortable to walk in (especially with their light weight) but they never seemed to give me the all-day support I wanted. The KGBs are much taller then the Korkers boots previously available, giving you full ankle support which makes those slippery riverbeds and steep riverbanks less hazardous if you're a careless wader like me.

As much as I appreciate the BOA laceless system for it's quick "on and off" ability, I didn't like the maintenance required, and the fact that it can come loose on you during long days on the water. The KGB comes with nice heavy duty laces that feature an ingenious lacing system that allows you to really tighten in the lower lacing structure of the boot separately from the generous upper ankle section. I feel much more secure wearing these boots with the lacing system and I sure like being free from the BOA system. 

The KGBs that I bought came with both Vibram rubber and felt outsoles which both are pretty solid. I use the Vibrams if I'm doing much hiking or am fishing in my float tube and the felts when I'm fishing on slippery river bottoms. The soles attach just like any of the previous Korkers OmniTrax 3.0 boots and I've had no issues switching them out within a minute. I love the versatility factor of these boots.

I've put some solid use on the KGBs and I can say that they seem to really pass the durability test thus far. The outer shell material is solid, the uppers are reinforced, and the lacing system is an upgrade over the BOA setup on other Korkers. The KGBs aren't the lightest boots available, but if support, comfort, and versatility are your three most important criteria in choosing a wading boot then the KGB is a great choice for you. 

Korkers is back in play for this angler. 

Seeing as the blog is STILL 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 review is my honest input about a product that I spent my hard earned money on... enjoy

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Big Bugs. Big Eats.

I've been a serious slacker.

Whether by change of plans, ignoring my alarm clock, or crap weather deterring me, I had seemingly skipped the big bug mayhem that is the Deschutes River in May. Salmonflies and Golden Stoneflies cause the aggressive Redside trout to cast any discretion aside and attack your flies during the height of the hatch.

I honestly thought I was too late but I figured that at least the caddis would be popping in force and I'd experience some decent fishing this weekend. I rigged up a nymph rod and a dry rod and hit the road to Maupin for a solo adventure.

I'll let the pictures tell the story...

Love stumbling upon Goldens when you arrive to the river. They were very active and the trout mid-river (the trout that haven't been fooled five times already in the past few weeks) were receptive.

Nymphing triumph... in sepia.

Best fish of the day... I kept missing him mid-river (55' casts) and he'd refuse the same bug. Five fly changes later and boom! Best fighting trout in a long time. Aerial displays, mid river runs, and gorgeous markings. 

Let 'em go to fight again. Beautiful colors, wonderful day.

Best day of wild trout fishing that I've had in some time. Well into double digits landed (caddis, stones, drakes up top and drake nymphs and caddis subsurface) and I lost another 6 at the net. Despite heavy pressure, it was great. Work the middle of the river if you want to find players right now as the fish near shore were pretty spooky. I only got a few in close and I had to get super stealthy which is not exactly an attribute of mine.

The only bummer is that it makes me miss the Spokane and my favorite N. Idaho and Montana water all the more!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Stress Medication...

I found a new remedy for stress, brought on by work, steelhead skunkings, etc...

It's called private trout water. And while it may not be the most scenic, natural, or ideal fishing venue, it sure as heck made me feel better.

This one kicked my ass on the 5 wt.

Back to the steelhead grind tomorrow... here's to hoping I catch one as big as that dang pond trout.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Exhibit A: Why I Need A Drift Boat or Raft

Here, there, and seemingly everywhere on our local rivers I find access blocked off due to private property. I just want to fish!

Seems like I need to get a boat...

"a house comes first." "a house comes first." "a house comes first."

I think the wife has beaten that one into my head pretty well.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Skunk Off...

Skunked: If you go fishing and catch nothing

I've been really good at catching nothing lately. Heck, it had been well over a month since I had landed a fish... sure, I've hooked trout and a mystery fish while swinging flies up in BC, but my futility streak had reached a breaking point. I needed to catch a damn fish.

Knowing that Steelhead are elusive creatures this time of year, I dragged my Dad out to Central Oregon with high hopes of putting up big numbers of trout on the Fall River. 

The Fall is a lovely, yet eerily artificial fishery south of Bend that has treated me very well my last few trips there. 99% of the fish are hatchery in origin and while there are a few lunkers hiding in downed timber, the majority of the fish are cookie cutter 8-12" planters. With my recent string of bad luck, the idea of 20-30 planters on the end of my 3 weight line sounded great!

After an early rise, we busted over the mountain, across the lovely Deschutes, past the turn off for the Crooked River, and the turn off for the Metolius. Either of those other stops would've been a good call and shorter haul! 

After arriving at my favorite spot on the river we cast, and cast, and cast... and we saw no fish. Hiking a nearly a mile up and downstream to hole after productive hole we were dumbfounded as to where all the fish were. We'd see a lone trout hiding in the downed trees but the normal honey holes were void of all trout life! Not even a blizzard mayfly hatch later in the day aroused activity.

Sure enough, we come to find out what had been going on. Recently, a family of otters had made their way back upriver from the Deschutes... let's just say they've been eating very well. River otters are cool creatures but given that an adult otter eats 2-3 pounds of fish per day, you can see that they can make a big impact on less wary hatchery trout. 

After three hours of crap catching, we decided to tuck our tails and make the hour diversion to the Crooked River. The Crooked has not exactly been kind to me (which is perplexing given it's reputation as easy water) but I was determined not to go home skunked.

We arrived to a very windy, and thankfully less pressured fishery, than I had encountered at the Crooked in early March. BWOs were coming off in droves, and there were a few small risers working the inside seams. I rigged up the nymph rod and went to work. Soon enough, three casts in a row were met with three hookups and landings. Life was good again. 

I caught typical Crooked River wild Redsides (6"-12") and though they weren't close to the size of a Steelhead, landing my first few felt just as great.  

As the day progressed, the focus was more on my Dad's casting and getting him into fish. He's not delved into fly fishing like I have and he has never had a casting lesson in his life. I'm not a true instructor, but working with him was a fantastic experience. He was throwing out some fantastic casts by the end of the day and he was working good water. If he hadn't had some short strikes and bad luck (he lost at least one fish), we both would've gone home skunk free.

Before we packed it up to drive the 3+ hours home, I insisted on working the dry fly rod. My 3 WT Sage had yet to land a fish on it and there were too many BWOs out on the water to ignore. Sure, I didn't see many risers and the wind was nasty, but I couldn't NOT make an effort. 

Blind casting through the middle of the River as I worked my way back up to the car I had a surreal moment. A subtle rise and sip of my emerger pattern, a nice flash, and the setting of the hook seemed to happen in slow motion. After this momentary blip of slow-mo perfection, the fish shot out of the water, jumping many times. 

This was not any old Crooked River fish, but rather a big fish for the watershed. She fought me tooth and nail and on a 3 WT, the near 15" Redside was like a Steelhead in my mind. A quick net, picture, and revival and she sped back to her prime lie. 

A perfect ending to a great day, and the skunk is officially off. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Oh Canada!

Vacation... in my mind, that should mean fishing trip. And I used a few days of time off to head north for what proved to be an amazing fishing (not catching of course) trip. A friend picked me up from a work event in Bellingham and off to the border we went!

It's been a very long time since I've visited Canada and I was excited to see just how quick and easy my enhanced ID would be at the border. With minimal lines, we were asked a few questions and soon enough we were in beautiful British Columbia. Just a few hours later we found ourselves pulling off the Sea to Sky highway in scenic Squamish, BC. A beer and a round of Poutine at a local pub was a nice welcome for us. After the "refuel" we checked into our hotel and then geared up for some tributary fishing in the area.

We only had about 5 hours to fish on our first day in town and we made the most of it. After driving a mere 15 minutes from our hotel, we set up on a pretty obvious run off a very obvious pull out. Other fisherman were milling around and I was certain that this was not as remote nor unique a fishery as we had originally conjured. Nevertheless, my friend was hooked up within 10 minutes of getting his waders wet! A 20"+ Bull Trout came to the shore after a rather mundane fight and we thought we were in for days of fast and furious action.

Not so fast! 

We didn't touch a fish the rest of the day on our tributary exploration though we certainly put some effort into it. After a short night's sleep we headed upriver to fish the mainstem of the Squamish system. Much of the river is not fishable due to Tribal lands and we had to run nearly 30 miles up the river before finding open water... This water is not your average fishery. 

This is BIG water. Braided and natural, the river changes course every year during runoff. Your favorite run is often times gone the next year and this is evident in the log jams and old riverbeds that litter the banks and islands of the upper river. Despite it's complexity, seeing a river in a truly natural state is almost as amazing as catching your first Steelhead. 

Working our first nice run of the day I experienced a pretty solid take. In typical Skinny Waders fashion, I flubbed it up. Wham... another tug... instead of letting the fish take more, I turned the rod in towards shore and tried to set... a good sized splash and loss of tension and there was nothing attached. I can't confirm what species it was, but I sure felt pumped to feel a tug, and pissed that I messed the whole deal up. 

We fished on, with a break to go back into town and get more medicine (I was fishing with a NASTY cold) and beer. The beer up north was not only 40% more expensive but it was also a far cry in quality from the delicious beer found here in Oregon and Washington. Thankfully the medicine was better than the stuff stateside and it was much more reasonable. I'll call that a wash for this trip. 

After our daily refuel we drove back upriver and crossed channels onto island after island. These gravel islands were crisscrossed by washed down timber, piled high upon the banks. These timber graveyards are beautiful but also very dangerous. Climbing over the wrong piece can result in some serious injuries should it splinter or break. It was slow going as we methodically worked run after run of perfect swing water.

The scenery on the river made the day rewarding, as did the casting practice. We felt like we worked the water well and we left the river that night eager to meet up with our guides on the lower river the next morning.

Our guided adventure started innocently enough at the local Tim Hortons Donut Shop. I was in heaven eating industrial donuts that conjured up my long lost memories of Dunkin Donuts in Gresham. After slamming down some delicious donuts and downing some crap coffee, we met our guides Yos Gladstone and Tommy Thomson of Chromer Sport Fishing. 

Two men to a Watermaster raft, we took off down a tributary river starting our fishing day at a beautiful confluence spot on the lower mainstem. This water was incredible... merely 8 kilometers from the salt and less than that to the town of Squamish, we were in Steelhead nirvana. The only sad part was the lack of fish. You see, the system averages just 1,500 fish back per year with the prime issues in the watershed being headwater logging and gill netting. It's a shame because as a whole, their habitat looked much better than rivers I've seen in the lower 48 and they didn't have hatchery steelhead to compete with their wild stock fish. 

Undeterred by long odds, Yos and Tommy put us on run after run of the most prime water I've ever seen. These runs would've been overlooked by most anglers and they sure were hard to reach, but they all swung beautifully. 

Yos took my casting, which had already greatly improved over the past 3 months, and he helped me bring it to the next level. I've never felt more confident behind the spey rod as I was throwing bombs to 80 feet and feeling great about it. We fished hard and we fished a longer than average day as we stayed on the water for over 11 hours! Our lunch break consisted of cold pizza and warm beers (whoops!) during a quick break between runs... we just wanted to fish! 

Yos (the owner of Chromer) and Tommy are two of the most down to earth guides I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. I admit that I've never fished with a crappy fly guide, but they went above and beyond my previous guided experiences. It was like fishing with guys that you've known forever... Chromer offers trips in all of the best watersheds in British Columbia and if you want to fish in BC, you'd be crazy to book your trip with anybody else! 

The guys kept us in the right mindset, and if it was any other person coaching me I'm not sure if I wouldn't have started to get down on the situation. Truth is, I was fishing better than ever and there was nothing more that we could've done to get into fish. We hit the river in low but prime shape, during the typical peak of their spring Steelhead run, and we fished the best and least pressured runs on the river. I guess it was just another dose of Steelhead reality.

Candid camera... the best skunking I've ever had! Photo by Yos Gladstone

After getting off the river and grabbing a good bit of pub food (a strange theme during this trip), we hit the rack. I've never fished that hard, nor been that tired after a day on the water. Despite being skunked again, it was strangely rewarding. Beautiful scenery, great water, and fantastic company!

The next day we hit the lower river for a few hours of DIY prospecting with no love. After fueling up with crappy liter rate gas, we grabbed some more Tim Hortons to-go and made for the border. Seven hours later I found myself back at home, skunked but feeling more alive then ever.

Oh Canada. You were great. I can't wait to fish you again... and eat your donuts!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More Dirty Work...

It was another new experience for me, as I took to the water in search of Columbia River Spring Chinook. Springers are arguably the most prized of the Columbia River Salmon species and with a short season, few fish, and big water, they may be the most difficult to catch!

I was fortunate enough to join some friends who truly know the Springer game and off we went in search of these tasty salmon. Armed with the newly required barbless hooks we went 3/3 and enjoyed a typically manic-weather day on the big C. 

I'm so very thankful to have landed my first Springer, a smallish 10lb fish that put up a fight that a kelt Steelhead would be ashamed of. That said, trolling in the dreary weather with a bunch of lead is just not my cup of tea. Trade me for a spey rod working a long run or chasing trout on a freestone in July and I won't say no... just don't ask for any of this Springer because it is going to taste GREAT!

Say hello to my little Springer...

Monday, April 8, 2013


Fly fishing can truly be a best of times/worst of times type of deal...

Somedays you catch fish. Sometimes you catch lots of fish. Other times you don't even get a hook up. When steelhead fishing, I never seem to get a hook up.

Sometimes the weather is perfect. When steelhead fishing lately, the weather sucks.

You can probably see where this is going...

This feast/famine mentality isn't in the experience itself but also in the crowd you surround yourself with on the water. Let's face it... great people and crappy folks alike share the water with you.

I've compiled a list of things to love and hate about fly fishing. Feel free to have fun with it and chime in.

Things to love:
1. Getting out and fishing... duh. It always beats a day in the office.
2. Catching fish... I'm not necessarily all about the "experience" factor. Sometimes a day on the nymph rod is in order!
3. Cutthroat... see number 2 for more explanation.
4. Tying flies. It's a great for passing down time on a rainy day and it saves money in the long run on your favorite/most common patterns.
5. Sharing the water with friends. There are few things better than good fishing friends. Share stories, talk sports, drink beer, and fish with someone.
6. Getting out and exploring new water. Enough said.
7. Embracing the history of the sport and holding that history close to your heart.
8. Teaching others the sport. While it can be frustrating teaching a beginner, it's also enjoyable to get them into fish. Remember your roots and that someone suffered when you were flailing away, losing flies to trees and brush left and right!
9. Montana. Duh.
10. A good pair of waders and comfort while fishing.

Things to dislike:
1. Not going fishing. Adverse water conditions, crap weather, and work can sure derail a fishing trip.
2. Not catching fish... duh.
3. Steelhead. They are opposite of Cutthroat as they are hard as heck to find and thus hard to catch. At least for me. They do qualify for the love category should you catch one.
4. Spending too dang much money for quality gear. I hate crappy equipment and I've made my share of mistakes over the past few years going cheap and regretting it immensely. That said, why must fly fishing be so expensive?
5. Sharing the water with ass-hats. Whether they fish flies or gear, the plethora of rude people on the local waterways here astounds me. What ever happened to common courtesy? Beyond that, stereotyping folks on the water is a joke. Just because someone fishes bait doesn't automatically make them a terrible person. Likewise, just because I'm swinging a run doesn't mean that I'm an elitist who drives a BMW. Show respect to all anglers... 
6. Lack of water access. Fishing is not a crime and the lack of access on the rivers around southwest Washington is disturbing to someone so used to trout fishing with great to excellent access. I guess it could be worse (England perhaps), but since moving home it has been frustrating.
7. Driving way too far for too little fishing and even worse catching. 
8. Not having a boat... well, not having a river worthy boat is a better dislike topic. I do have a float tube and little lake boat but they aren't exactly river worthy. All in good time I suppose, all in good time.
9. Bat bites and falls down steep river banks. I'm apparently very susceptible to both and they really do suck.
10. Living so far from Montana.

Roscoe, the world's worst fishing dog also misses Montana... a lot. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Logo...

I've been meaning to do this since the blog was conceptualized a year ago. I can dabble a bit in the photoshop spectrum and my wife is a certified Adobe Photoshop pro... We sat down recently and came up with this.

I figured that since the blog has reached well over 10,000 hits that the time is right to release the logo. Soon enough Skinny Waders stickers will be available. Stay tuned to get yours!

Also, since I've gotten all fancy and released a logo, you can expect some more consistency in the posting, though there may be a decent chunk of links, fly shop reviews, gear reviews, tying recipes, and some random thoughts. Work has kept me so busy that I have not been fishing nearly enough.

Heck, I may even discuss music and sports a little since I hinted at those topics being a part of the blog upon its' launch last June.