Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Anti Black Friday...

There wasnt a Target, Best Buy or Fred Meyer for 100 miles.

Thank God.

Deep Snow and tight holding roosters with miles hiked in between opportunities were the order of the day.

Following a longstanding tradition, OMR and I got the hell out of dodge to follow the noses of our bird dogs.

And what a day it was.

Watching our dogs work on a snow day defies the ability to describe accurately.  A good friend asked me the other day what the dogs did when they hunted.  I stumbled around for an answer for a while and finally landed on the non descriptive, you have to be there to see it answer of "they, they just are birdsy"

The twitchy tails, the lowering of their bodies to the ground the follow the scent, the laser intense staring at a bird that holds it's ground.

It's a thing of beauty.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What you do when it's 5 degrees outside and snowing...

Hit the tying bench. 

Here's my version of the Hobo favorite bug to swing

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fly Fishing...can do some good!

Us fly fishermen can do some good.  Real. Impactful. Good.

We band together to make tremendous on great causes out there.  Pebble Mine.  CCA. Trout Unlimited.

And now, Casting for a Cure

Kirk from the Unaccomplished Angler and author of the Olive the Little Woolly Bugger childrens book series has started an online auction to benefit Casting for a Cure....

What's Casting for a Cure...

(from Kirk's blog)

Casting 4 A Cure is a tremendous organization comprised of folks who love kids and fly fishing. The passion for one benefits the love for the other as fly fishing serves as a vehicle to raise much-needed funding for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

Rett Syndrome is a cruel neuro-developmental disorder which begins to show its affects in infancy or early childhood. It is seen almost exclusively in females, although it can occur rarely in boys.  The disorder severely disrupts gross and fine motor skills as well as robbing the girls of their ability to speak and communicate with the outside world.  Seizures and breathing problems can also be prevailing symptoms. It affects every aspect of a family’s life, as our girls are dependent upon us for almost everything, from helping feed them to helping them get around, bathing, and most other daily tasks that most of us take for granted.

Currently there is a very special Ebay auction taking place over the next 10 days. View the auction HERE

All proceeds will go directly to Casting 4 a Cure

The package includes some seriously kick butt stuff...I suggest you follow the link to go find out it's contents.

You wont be sorry!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fishing Dog Couture...

 no.  I think this thing could be swung for Kings with a big enough spey rod and a balanced Skagit head....snarf.

What I am talking about is adding a little flair to the Murph Dog. 

It's about time for her be the outward canine representation of what we're about.   

The good buddy who owns the pet shop where we bought put it aside for Murph as soon as it came in.  Of course, I obliged.
Ok fine, Murph couldnt tell the difference between a Steelhead and a laser pen.  All she really knows is that they're both fun to chase and bark at.  But who cares.  She still is a better dog now because of this collar.

If you're in Spokane, you should check out the Yuppy Puppy.  Aquila will hook you up with what your fishing dogs really need...including the collar above

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Bristol Bay Resources

Sam at Headwaters of History alerted me that I might have missed a few resources for education and enlightenment about the Bristol Bay Region.

Please take some time and visit these sites to learn more.

Trout Unlimited site.  Full of info.  Well put together.

Caretakers of the land.  Native groups banned together against Pebble

Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska.


Please let me know of others I should be posting.  Thanks in advance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Protection of an Idea....

More than anything, I want to protect the idea of it. 

(photo courtesy of Nat Geographic via Headwaters of History Blog)

I have never been to Bristol Bay, Alaska. 

I have never fished it's legendary tributaries.

But the essence of the place reaches down to me like few others have. 

Many know about the proposed Pebble mine by mining consortium Anglo-American.

Many know that some of the biggest battles of the fight are upcoming

Many know, the mines have a tremendous amount more money to fight the PR fight

But we have a tremendous asset on our side.

The fight to protect an idea

The lower 48's western coastline used to to be some of the most productive salmon and steelhead habitat in the world.  I cant fathom what 16 million fish coming back to the Snake River Basin must have looked like. 

These rivers are now ghosts of their former selves.  Artificially kept alive on a lifeline of hatcheries, the idea that they can recover to their former self is to me, a complete long shot.

Right now, the Bristol Bay region is a resource that continually renews itself via the clean, clear and pure water that come from the headwaters down to the ocean. 

Without this water, without this habitat, I can only imagine that the swimming resources will be greatly effected

To put the worlds largest scale Pebble Mine in this area will be a travesty.  Immense short term gains will happen and many will become rich.

But it will come at the cost of bankrupting our soul because we failed to protect the idea

And what is the idea? 

It's the idea that pristine habitat still exists within this world and the inhabitants of this habitat are given the opportunity to do their job.  Hatch, swim, go to sea, return, spawn, die.  Over and over again

We need these places.  We cannot afford another mess up.

It's too important.

We will be working more here to get information on this issue. 

Here are some resources for you to help join the fight against the proposed Pebble Mine

1.  Visit Headwaters of History's Blog.  These guys are at the front lines of the fight

2.  More important info

3.  If you haven't seen it, find a copy of Red Gold by Felt Soul Media.  This amazing film brings a visual representation of this fight

I've wanted to write about this issue for a very long time.  I will keep an ongoing dialogue here about it and hopefully we all continue to band together to protect Bristol Bay

Maybe one day I will set my boots into it's rivers with my son and find out how amazing this place is.

If you have other resources about protecting Bristol Bay, please contact me at

Monday, November 15, 2010

The beauty of Macro....

Is that you can take a crappy, no nothing photo like this....

boil it down a bit and find a gem hidden in the first picture. 

Subject--Wild Redband Rainbow from the Spokane River, caught just after falling in on a 38 degree morning

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Curse of the First Cast Fish...

Hanging close to home lately has me thinking of funny things that us fishermen and women believe in.

The banishment of bananas,

The "lucky fly"

and to the topic of today's post, the first cast fish.

Nothing scares me more than hooking up on the first cast of the day.  It's like instant success causes all your senses to scream, "Oh shit" and think that nothing's going to go right for the rest of the day.

Last year I had two instances steelhead fishing where I took beginners, lined them up the bank and started to go over an intro of the techniques we were going to use that day. 

Lobbing out a cast, I was mid presentation of the idea of a drag free drift when the thingamabobber dove down.  Mentally, I was a little sheepish about setting the hook.  These were brand new steelheaders and catching a fish on the first cast (pictured above) is NOT the thing you want to showcase.

First, it doesnt happen

Second, it's technically bad luck.

The rookies mouths were agape when I set the hook and the steelhead went ballistic.

Even more oddly, that fish was the first in the greatest day I have ever had fishing for steel.  8 were swung to the bank and the rookies all hooked up.  The myth of first cast fish had cracks in its armor

Weeks later found us on the banks of the Grande Ronde teaching my buddy Brian the inter workings of nymphing for steel.  The exact same situation happened.

First cast, bobber down, fish on......shit again!

I took the rod and thrust it into Brian's hands.  Despite his protests, he landed the fish. 

And...4 more that day

Back down to the point, even with these two examples offered up, that I still think of a first cast fish as a bad omen.  Blame it on my roots as a pitcher as to why I am like this.  When throwing in the bullpen before a game, if I was laser on point....uh oh.   That's what it feels like to catch fish on the first cast.  It's like I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

So am I crazy?  Probably.

I'd love to hear other stories of first cast fish, and your opinions on the subject. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Breaking away to the Channeled Scablands

The previous week has become a blur, and when I called my mother to say hello early yesterday morning to hear a loving and reassuring voice to tell me that we were doing things correctly with our new Bambino...

I had a feeling....

OMR had broken away.

"Tell Josh he knows where I am", were the words mom told me as to where he was.

Of course, I knew right away. 

The cataclysmic floods of eons ago shaped the land we have run our dogs through for 30 years or more.   Tell people who dont understand the state of Washington that we hunt upland birds here and they look at you like your head is screwed on backward. Isn't Washington the Evergreen State?

Oh, yes...our state is half desert and upland steppe....and there are birds to be chased that are wild and fly as soon as you close the door on your truck.  Challenging? why yes they are

This wide open country is strangely beautiful.  To imagine the volume of water it took to carve this land to shreds  is almost unfathomable.  The Willamette Valley in Oregon can thank us for the topsoil

We hunt the pockets around the rocks and run a circuit that we know so well that when my father and I hunt together, we know where each other are at all times. Our labs Murphy and Dakota know the drill as well as we do and quiver with excitement when we park the truck and load up.  They spring from their cages like a bottle rocket set to go off.

We know where the birds get up

We know their escape routes

We know the angles, the drives, the particular weird anomalies that produce birds.

And yet still, these wild roosters present a hell of a challenge.

Throw in a bit of Hungarian Partridge and Quail for spice and you can have yourself a hell of an upland adventure, just an hour or so from home.

At the end of the day, the phone rings and dad gives the anticipated report.  We always go through this routine when we aren't hunting together.  After all, why not live vicariously through another's actions afield?

I feel like I am right with him as he describes a 3 rooster day and I know exactly where he got the birds.

The cut to the right of the fence line on the "canyon"

Near the old farmhouse, and no...not to the right...the left

At Mike's place, just above the house...

And lastly,  with vivid imagery OMR tells me about the fantastic retrieve that Dakota had on a wounded rooster.  A broken wing brought it down at 40 yards and the lab nailed the bird on a full sprint.  Smiling, she brought it to the feet of my father.

As our baby stirred in my arms, I was right there with him

Soon I will able to join him again, as we continue our quest of wild roosters in the channeled scablands of Eastern Washington

Friday, November 5, 2010

Letter To my Son....

The good folks at Deneki Outdoors recently gave me the opportunity to write a guest column for them.  With the impending birth of our first son,  I felt the urge to write a letter to him.  I hope you enjoy

This letter to him was originally published on the Deneki site this morning.

Letter to My Son

I get to meet my new best friend in a week,

My first born;

My first born son.

Half of the emotion is the excitement of anticipation, the other half is a deer in headlights I am scared as hell but here we go feeling. Either way about it, he’s coming to join us like it or not.

I have lived a life so far with an extremely strong connection to the outdoor world. With an understanding mother and a father who lives to hunt and fish, my path in the outdoors was spoken for at very early age. Thank goodness I have a very, very understanding and patient wife.

The transference of being fish crazy wasn’t a hard sell for me at any point in my life. My father and I have been joined at the hip for as long as I can remember. From quietly waiting for a trout to take the bait as a toddler to today waiting for the elusive yank of a steelhead, fishing is deeply ingrained within my life. Taking up a fly rod a decade ago was a galvanizing event in my life and I haven’t looked back
So it’s this impending change that has me thinking about what I am excited to share with my son, in a fishy, outdoorsy sense. The rest of this is written directly to him and I hope someday when he reads this, all these wishes have come true, or he aspires to make them happen. I hope you enjoy.

Photo: Josh Mills

You’re about to join us, and it’s time to cast the net to the future to harness a bright future for you, whatever path you take. First and foremost, I wish for your health and happiness but I would be lying if I didn’t have a few other things I am excited to share with you as you grow up and progress from birth to manhood.

I hope you find the wonderment in fish themselves. They are transference of the natural world back to you
I can’t wait to put you in this onesie that your mom found for you. I can’t tell you how excited I was when she showed it to me.

Coolest wife ever?  Photo: Josh Mills

I hope you wake me up early on Saturday mornings and ask, “Daddy, can we go fishing.” I hope to never say no.

I hope pictures of you grinning ear to ear line our fridge and I will never stop taking those silly, goofy pictures
I hope you get to see the twinkle in the eye of Grandpa when he swings up and lands a big steelhead. It’s a special sight.

I hope you see the look of love in Grandma’s eye when you tell her fishing stories. She will be your best listener and cheerleader.

I hope the wonderment of a night under the stars on a river gravel bar is as fun as it was for me when I was your age. Shooting stars are an amazing thing.

I hope you find the fun in even a poor day’s fishing because after all, you were fishing.

I hope that you get to know the joy of a wet dog in a drift boat.

Taylor takes it in.  Photo: Josh Mills

I hope you look forward to a weekend trip with as much excitement as I do.

Riverbank sunrises are a special thing.

Check your pockets on your fishing trips because I hope you get one of your mom’s love notes in them.

I hope you find that wild cutthroat are wild gift worth protecting and that carp are pretty too.

I hope that spey casting will be right up there in coolness as baseball and football. I will help you with both. The ability to throw a nasty curve and a drop spey lasers both take practice.

When a steelhead takes your fly, I hope it feels like a lightening bolt.

Listen to the stories of older fisherman, including your father. Take what they say as 50% truth.

I hope that a fly tying vice will be your artistic canvas.

Letter to My Son

I hope you think that a new self bailing raft is cooler than a Ford Mustang or the newest iPhone.

For spring break, I hope you want to go to Bristol Bay instead of Cancun.

I hope one day you find the love of your life. Bonus points if she can double haul.

Most of all, and my biggest hope of all, is that I can share this all with you. My relationship with your Grandfather is rock solid because of all the time we spent together growing up, most of it either staring down a river or lining up the dogs to chase pheasants. You can’t buy quality time like that.

Fields and streams can be unbelievable teachers and can give you some of the greatest joys of your life. They can bring you relationships with the best people in the world. They can be the foundation of a honest and respectful life.

Respect them, cherish them, and protect them.

And one other thing…Always listen to your mother!

 Dads' Note---
Carson Mills was born Wednesday night, happy and healthy and huuuuuge.  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My new fishing partner...

After a particularly difficult labor, Carson Mills has joined us

More info to come.  All donations of Winston Fly Rods and Lamson Reels can be sent directly to us in Spokane.  Thanks to everyone for their good thoughts and prayers

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fly Tying Bench Inspiration...courtesy of Chewbacca....

Dont get it twisted....starting at a pile of feathers can get a little overwhelming.

Solution, fermented wheat from Dry Fly Distillery here in Spokane.

This little bottle made it's way from Spokane to Twin Bridges, and back to Spokane courtesy of Chewbaca.....err, wait, Joe from Evolution Anglers.   You cant even buy this stuff in Spokane, the darn city it's made in because it's so popular amongst Whiskey aficionados.  All admit it's very inspiring whilst tying on the bench.   Joe spotted the bottle while on a trip back home in Twin Bridges grog shop and gave it to me as an early congrats present on our son to be.

Fresh of a full guide season for the Stonefly Inn in Twin, Joe's sporting quite the man beard these days, ala' SF Giants closer Brian Wilson.

So really, he looks like Chewbaca....FACT.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cue up Judge Redden...

Cause they think you're not paying attention.....

Across the wire last night was an ask for help from the good folks at the Save our Wild Salmon.

Apparently the old salmon recovery plan has been re-issued without much work done to it.  The same plan  was previously thrown out of court in Portland by Judge James Redden.  The graphic that SOWS sent me is a day late (Halloween), but I think you get the message.

Whether penned by a democrat or a republican, a man or a woman, a cat or a dog...I dont care.  What I do care about is the various councils and scientific organizations that are lining up to wholeheartedly pan this administration's plan for Salmon recovery.

As many have put's like the old, failed and rejected plan of the previous administration was purdied up a bit and sent out with a new dress.  Same pig, different look, same expected result.

Read more here about this issue from a press release from Save our Wild Salmon