Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Kinda like Corraling a Fart.....

Looking across the river, just beyond the brush pile to where the gravel reappears....I hooked the biggest steelhead of my life.  As the title says, it was like trying to corral a fart.

Beyond that, the Hen kicked my ass.

The sequence of events still hang heavy in my brain from 5 days ago.  After two great guided days on the OP, we had a day to explore on our own, to find our own way and get back to catching steelhead unassisted.   Leaning a river like the Upper Hoh takes time,  so pulled off where we could, searched down the gravel bars where the water seemed likely and put our hope into each seam that looked right.

Towards middle afternoon, we chanced upon a run that looked a likely canidate to swing with the spray pole.  OMR posted up below me, and I took the head.  No more than 3 casts into this stepdown session than I hang up.  I give a little lift up and pull back and...Snnnnnnnnnnnnap Booooooom...

My spey rocket was toast.  Freaking unbelieable. 

Dejected, I grabbed my nymph rod and pushed out to the far bank to drop my bugs into some ultra sexy h2o

Progressing down the bank, it happened.  I hooked Walter...or maybe I should say, Waltina

Twenty pounds of supercharged hen chrome took me on a ride that is on a permanent loop in my brain.  Into my backing in five seconds, followed by a series of boils and runs that had me catching my breath.  Going as fast as I could down the gravel bar to gain line back, I finally worked the fish to a stalemate.  10 minutes turned into 20, and I could BARELY move this fish.  I had as much pressure on the line as I thought the 12lb maxima could stand. 

The whole time, OMR was dropping sage hints of wisdom like

"Dont let that fish get int that next set of rapids, you'll loose it"

Thanks.  Really.  Thanks a lot for that nugget. 

We got to the point where I had lost enough ground, was about out of good landing water and I owed it to this steelhead to hurry up and make something happen.  As the leader knot hit the guides, my dad reached down to tail it...and realized...shit, he cant get his hand around the tail to restrain the fish

And just like that, one last surge and the hook poped out.  Gracefully...the hen drifted off. 

I sank to my knees in the gravel and chucked my rod to the shallows.  

Originally, I was heartbroken I didn't get a picture.  But really, that steelhead gave me more than enough to remember it by.

What a breathtaking exchange. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Going Costal...

What a trip.  Repeat.  What a trip

It doesnt take you long to fall in love with the the OP.  Forks is one of those places where you know you're in the right place when you go to breakfast and there's more trucks pulling rafts and drift boats than other cars in the parking lot.  

I almost cringe knowing that before this trip, my steelhead experience was limited to the Clearwater, the Snake, Grande Ronde, Wenatchee and Methow.  Going on this 4 day excursion with OMR was like going through to the next level of steelhead addiction.  A whole new world of new rivers and winter steel.  I get it now...

The beauty of this area is undeniable.  The times I was able to pull my eyes off my drifts and swings, the scenery flat out awesome.  Rivers like the Hoh that find it's own way, different each year.  The bolder gardens and over hanging trees like the one above on the Sol Duc. 

And oh my lord, the fish

OMR had a wild ride with this estimated 15 lb buck

A little coast steel love for me

The best fight of OMR's fishing life

Yes...we were in a rain forest

 I have a couple more stories to tell about this trip.  Including the monster that got away.  More to come tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Best. Shot. Evah...

Cause the pure joy of the moment is captured perfectly.  Quite possibly the coolest steelhead fight sequence I have ever seen,  cuminating in the perfect netting and soon thereafter, the release.

Just returned from 4 days on the Olympic Penninsula, fishing with buddy and super guide Joe Willauer

Full write ups and observations coming soon, but all I have to say is this

Winter steelhead are the shit

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nothing like coming home with a gift on your doorstep

Show up home after a long days work, and there's a gift sitting at my door.

Open up the box, and it's free swag, courtesy of Korkers and herself

One free pair of killer "Predator" wading boots by Korkers, size gigantor (I gots big feet), followed by one hell of steelhead swinging bug by April Vokey, prostaff of Korkers.

I sure hope to be able to tie as beautifully as Ms Vokey soon.  I am scared to fish this fly because I loose them like it's my job.  I might have to anyways, it's got to be full of good BC karma

Thank you again Korkers for that great gift.  Become a friend of them on FB, and who might win too.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

ummm, I should be in Forks today.....

That's one sexy graph.  Big jump in flows followed by a nice gradual decline.

Off to Forks for our inagural Olympic Penninsula trip on Wednesday morning, and I am praying the rivers stay in shape.  Other prayers to the rain gods will also be accepted from others

Watch out Carp...the Carp Taxi's almost done

 Old paint out, new paint in.  Next up, staining the wood.  We're almost done

Gots to go find a push pole

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another great blog....Metalhead

I sure enjoy reading this one.  A shared passion for chasing steel, I found these guys through my good friend Steelie Mike.  I highly advise making this part of your bliggy blog daily reading.  They are now added to "Sweet Reads" to your right...or by clicking here

I hope to fish with you guys soon!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Family, Portland and the search for Springers

I put my fly rod down this past weekend.  Bigger game was in our sites.  Columbia River Spring Chinook


Daybreak on the Columbia

Trolling for Springer Chinook is very familiar to me.  It's how I grew up going after anything bigger than twelve inches and didn't come from a stocker truck.   I am not afraid to bait up a cut plug herring, lash on 6 oz of lead and go bounce the bottom.  It was very, very early for this run of fish.  Fishermen in our family are optimists, and if you're not an optimist, you wont last as a fisherman in my family

OMR and OMR Jr

The best part of this trip is the Mills family in Portland.  This town feels like a second home to me, as OMR's entire side of the family resides there.  Family dinners with 20 or more people at my uncles house are the norm.   His three boys are more like brothers than cousins, and my wife and I get the opportunity to hear legendary stories of our family, past down through oral history and aided by a generous helping of vino and spaghetti. 

Time on the water was a testament of will, especially on Friday.

Uncle Chuck, spry and fish crazy at 84

Layer after layer of waterproof clothing buffered us against repeated squalls and high winds.  Drift, reel up, repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  I was starting to see a similarity between swinging for Steel and trolling for Chinook.

Saturday brought much better weather, great conversation with OMR,  OMR Jr and his son Cole.  Larry, aka, ORM Jr. is a great boat captain on his home water, and I tried to learn as much as I could.

Boat traffic was way up, but nobody was catching anything.  ANYTHING.  In over 80 boats, we saw ZERO fish caught.  Of course, conversations with other boats hinted at success, but we hadnt seen anything.

The day drifted away and on the way back to Rodgers Marina, we hoped against hope and made one more drift.  And as you would dirt

Twenty pounds of dime bright hatchery chrome threw our boat into a crazed mess.  The buck hit my cousing Cole's offering, only to wrap into OMR's herring, then circle under the boat to wrap into Uncle OMR Jr.'s rig as well.  Talk about a five alarm Chinese fire drill.   Four guys all 6'2 and above and all over 220lb....dancing around a 20 foot Boston Whaler.  With a tank of a Chinook hooked up as well.  Holy Hell

So you have three fishing nuts screaming instructions to Cole as he's attached to two other lines and one pissed off Chinook.  Finally, we determined what lines could be cut and the dance ended with this beaut on board. Nice work Cole!

What a great weekend with family, traditions and of course, that beautiful fish

Not  to mention that second slice in was phenomial tonight for dinner.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the quest for Columbia Springers....

I caught a clam.  Oh, and a smolt.  Full trip write up tomorrow, but in a slight case of what those literary types call "foreshadowing"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Welcome to the addiction Harmon

Nice work on your first steelhead.  I bet you remember this little summer run hen for the rest of your life.

The Grande Ronde yet again the baptismal place of another new steelheader.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Free Korkers and flies from April Vokey, for me?... God bless the interwebs

So I open up the ol' facey page tonight and what is the message I get from Korkers Footwear?

"JOSH MILLS !!! You have won our Korkers HardKor contest. Call us here at Korkers at 1-800-524-8899 or email me at We will be starting another contest with our new HardKor Fan being introduced this week- Keep posted!"


The Predator Wading boot, part one of my interwebs swag

Part two, the lovely Ms April Vokey of, and who rocks these boots on the water,  has also donated a steelhead fly or two from her vice to the contest winnings.  Thank you April!

Korkers make in my humble opinion the best wading boots on the planet.  I actually have a pair right now, but as hard as I am on gear....I will gladly accept.  All I did was become a fan of Korkers on Facebook, which you can do as well here

The boa system on these boots are an absolute joy.  Click, snap snap, your in. small pull, you're out.  Easy as that

So thank you Korkers, keep kicking you know what!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Triple Secret Boat Project

Rescued from a barn near Nez Pierce, Idaho, we have plans for this little 10 ft beauty.

A trip to the car wash started the process to remove layers of old paint and dirt

 Local Lakes and Carp Flats...whaaaaach out

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ok...I'm really done now....for reals

I'm done. Yesterday marked the end of fishing for quite possibly the greatest run of Summer Steelhead up the Columbia System that we might ever see

This run provided so much. So much learning, so many firsts. First on the spey, first year of steelhead camp, first steelhead for a few of my friends and of course so many great days with OMR. I hate to even say this, but this season there were Zero skunks. That alone should tell you what kind of year this was.

From the first fish of the year on the Ronde

To the last, it was one hell of a run

Soon, I will take my first trip to fish for the mythical winter runs of the OP. What I left with now is the realization that at my core, there isn't another fish I would rather chase forever. And ever. And EVER.

Apologies to all those around me, but I a slave to the Steelhead.