Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting Bested By The Best...

The day started on another river in another state.  A fast rising hydrograph made us question whether this was the place we should be fishing.  As you other fishermen of anadromous fish know, once doubt sets it, move to option B.

Conditions were perfect with dropping water levels and consistent water temperature.   Game on.

Into the second run, a fish slammed my bug mid swing and gave me a hell of a battle.    It was a very, very nice buck that went into the early teens.  They're aren't many fish bigger than this one in the whole realm of inland steelhead, so I was more than pleased as it swam away and the flask was passed around in celebration of good fortune.

The day continued with the swing and step routine from run to run  and into  the closing hour of the last piece of water.    That's when OMR pulled the rabbit, or should I say whale out of his top hat.

The dude knows how to fight a fish, and this one kicked his ass.  In seeing the initial hook up and watching my dad's face, I knew this was a big, big fish.    Most of the time, you can get one of these summer runs in within 5 minutes, but this battle stretched all of 15 minutes and every time the fish wallowed or it's tail came up all we could say were things like

Holy Shit.  F----K.  Oh. My. God.

After 5-6 big runs and numerous short scraps, the fish of a lifetime came to hand

It was a miracle the fish was landed, the hook on the prom dress just fell out.  Fell. Out.

A few pics and the massive buck went back on it's journey. All three of us sat there a bit stunned at what just happened.  Bested by the best, with the best fish I have ever had the pleasure to see in person.  So very wild and in perfect shape.

OMR reeled up and found a great sitting rock to enjoy the rest of the fading light.  No point in casting again on this day, he found his fish of a lifetime.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Give for Wild Steelhead

Looking for a place to make a year end donation?  How about the Wild Steelhead Coalition..

A few years ago I made it a point to find a way to get involved in conservation.  It was an overwhelming feeling that I couldnt just keep taking from the resource and do nothing to help ensure that our sport would be there for my children.    Fast forward to now I am a proud board member of the WSC we've had another great year working to help in the conservation and recovery of wild steelhead.  Here are a few of the highlights of this year's work

--As part of the WDFW workgroup, played an integral part in establishing Region 5 Wild Steelhead Management Zones (WSMZs) that include the Wind, East Fork of Lewis and North Fork Toutle and Green Rivers

--Organized an eight-city West Coast tour of the wild steelhead documentary film “Wild Reverence” to advocate and deliver attention to the plight of wild steelhead to a wider audience and eventually the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

--Continued participation and partnership in the Elwha River lawsuit to end hatchery plants in the newly restored Elwha River basin

--Researched and formulated six rule proposals to WDFW, which were recommended as part of the lower Columbia Basin stream strategy to enhance wild steelhead recovery

--Successful inclusion of arm hook squid—a main staple of steelhead diet—into the PEW Foundation’s forage fish initiative, based on WSC-sponsored research

--Participated in the Steelhead Cutthroat Policy Advisory Group (SCPAG), as well as continued engagement with WDFW and presence at Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission hearings commenting and arguing for progressive measures to recover wild steelhead

--Secured grants for habitat restoration of Skagit River watershed, targeted for Barnaby Slough restoration and Lyle Creek restoration

We did this with well over 3,000 volunteer hours in 2014 from board and committee members

The organization is 100% volunteer run we greatly appreciate any tax deductible donation you'd like to contribute.  We strive to put as much of your donated money direction into conservation efforts as possible.

Click HERE to make your donation and thank you very much from all of us at the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mega Taco...

Apparently 40 inch steelhead can make your spey rod bend a bit....

Monday, December 22, 2014

Observations of a 4 Year Old Pheasant Hunter...

Safety was stressed, 10 times over.  Never go in front of Dad and Ryan.  Never.

Always think the gun is loaded.  Always.

Ok, lets go have some fun.  Watch the dog, she's smelling for birds.

Im not going to lie, I've pretty much been dying to take my buddy Carson outdoors since he was born. With a backpack full of snacks and drinks, we took a stroll down a canyon on a buddy's family ranch.

We never fired a shot, saw a couple flush a football field away and watched a porcupine waddle up a trail.  It was a great time.

The best part, the points of interest for a 4 year old.

Every 5 minutes "Dad, I want a snack"

On a serpentine washout in the farm road  "I bet a snake made this"

Every 5 minutes "I need a little rest"

"Hey Dad, what do ants eat"  "Why didnt you shoot that bird" (referring to a robin)

"That tree looks like your nose"

"I bet a moose made this track"  "Is this moose poop"  "Where are the mooses dad"

"watch me throw this stick in the creek"  X10

"Yes, another puddle to jump into"  The whole road was full of puddles

He was asleep within 5 minutes of getting into the car and didnt move for an hour until we got back home.    It was the beginning of our outdoor adventures together, with a lifetime ahead of us doing the same

I can only hope for more silly questions and observations afield.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Closing Bell Pull...

Hope Springs Eternal.  

The last couple trips have been challenging in terms of conditions.  Cold snaps that make fish sulk and the eventual warmup that brings in chocolate milk throwing off visibility, consistent is not a word to describe the last month of swinging flies

Still, when you make the two hour drive, you give it hell through the closing bell

And the closing bell was met with a solid yank on the last two trips

Each time we came to the last run of the day with fading daylight and hopes for a fish.  Denver from North 40 Outfitters  scored a hatchery buck coming through through the last bucket of the day on the second to last trip

The next outing was coming to an end when I drew the lead swing in the last run of the day.  Nobody had touched a fish all day and the water was loosing visibility by the second as a river above it was throwing dirty water into the mix.  Couple that with a 3 trip skunk, I was resigned to going through the motions and finishing up the day.

I turned back to OMR and Denver to say something as my fly finished the swing and into the hang-down.

Halfway into what I wanted to say and the rod bucked with that familiar feeling.  Finally.

I'd like to say that I know what I am doing enough around these rivers to know when it's going to happen, but the truth is I don't know shit about shit.  Everything is changing...runs change, temps change, clarity changes, fish location changes.  It's all changing and finding the answer is what makes a great line ripping take so special

At the closing bell no less.   A good a time as any to make it happen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Mis-Clip

The take was great, ripping the running line out of my hands.  I was running a solid skunk and had begun to question just about everything I was doing.  Wrong fly, wrong tip, etc.  What was really going on was that I was steelhead fishing, and the mind bender that it is was taking a grip.

Everyone has been there, it was just my time to go through it.

One small jump followed by several nice runs and the fish was at hand.  Beautiful 8-10 lb fish with fire in her belly, but a question to her origin.  All the other fins were perfect, and the fight in cold water made me think she was born in river gravel

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the adipose was a mis-clip.  The razor blades at the hatcheries dont all ways make a clean cut.

But still when you're on the bank ready to make the bonk or no bonk decision, that doubt came creeping in and the last thing I needed was the grey area causing me to get a ticket.

More research after the release leads me to believe that I would have been fine to keep it, but it was a snap decision on the shore that had to be made that put the fish back into the river.

Hindsight is 20/20 and that fish should be in the smoker but I'd rather find myself on the right side of caution

Which leads me to another question.  What would have you done?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Prepare to Launch...

Every once and a while my little point and shoot gets something worth sharing

Spey casting is mechanical.  You have to get from point A to B before going to C.  Screw up the sequence and cadance...your screwed.  Nothing more humbling than a cast that was supposed to go 100 feet but instead flops in a mess 20 feet out.

But done properly, it's a thing of beauty. Damn effective too.

Timing mixed with style, each caster has a difference look but the good ones all get to the same place

Line in the water, bug swimming, hunting away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#PassItOn with North 40 Outfitters

Here's a great program that The North 40 Fly Shop is starting that everyone should see if they can participate in

If you cant find you're way into a North 40 Fly Shop, my bet is that there's a young family member or a kid down the street that would love that 5 weight thats collecting dust and hasnt touched water in years.

Time to #passiton

Monday, December 8, 2014

An Ode To Dive Bars

How amazing does a beer taste after a long day on the river in bars with names like Oasis Tavern, The Blue Anchor or Joes Bar to name a few

Coming home from a deer hunt we stopped into the Oasis and it reminded me how great these places are.  95% of what is spoken inside of them in pure 100% grade A bullshit.   The beer list is never fancy or full of microbrews and a mixologist, the bartender is not one.

American beer, Irish and Canadian Whiskey and some of that Mexican tequila if you want to get fancy.

There's a great dive bar in St John, Washington by the name of The Rialto where I remember sitting around having a beer with hunters and farmers alike, all sharing stories of the day's hunt, wheat prices, politics and women.  I think out of the 14 hunters in the bar, 12 had bucks hanging.   Many were tired, many were happy.  Many were drunk.

I remember on my first big guided trip with OMR where we had a brutal day on Missouri River with terrible weather.  Temps went from 85 at 10am to 40 with howling winds out of Canada and we were stuck on the river as the winds kept us from rolling downstream.   We screwed up and left our raincoats in the truck and to top if off our aloof and grizzly old guide pulled out his G3 coat as we froze our balls off.  I wanted to punch him in the nuts.   It's basically the only time I've ever wanted to throw the towel and walk to the damn road out

At the very end of the day, the storm passed and we were the only boat left on the water and I ended up catching the biggest brown of my life

OMR, the guide and I descended upon Joe's Bar in Craig and because of that brown at the end of the day and a high amount of fine American macro-brews, the perspective of the day changed dramatically.    Soon we were making plans to come out and fish again with the old cuss of a guide.

I bet there's a million stories like that out there about these great places.  Drop a comment here and let us know where your favorite dive bars are.  I mean, research is in order, right?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fresh Bugs...

The cold months mean bigger bugs.  Here's a few fresh off the vice.

I never know what's going to pop off the vice in the beginning.  A general color pallet yes, a finished product, no.

Don't get into fly tying to save money.  Don't even try.  

What it comes down to for me at least,  is a focused art form that sometimes, god willing means a fish will like my offerings as much as I do as well.

Monday, December 1, 2014