Sunday, December 18, 2011

th'OP, takes two and three

a couple weekends ago i made another trip to the OP to fish. Paul and James both came as well and we brought 7 rods between the three of us. i indicator fished for a couple hours one day but besides that we were swinging flies on two handers the whole time.

the amount of time i've spent casting a single handed rod far outnumbers the time i've spent with a two hander. it's fun to learn something new. sometimes frustrating. when i'm fishing with a two hander i find that my mind goes back and forth between focusing intently on the mechanics of my cast, or focusing on the swing, presentation and a grab from a fish, or something completely non-fishing related. when the latter happens, i'll eventually bomb a cast out there and snap out of my daydream, start thinking about my cast again and then it goes to shit.

just like fishing that pond in the Allagash on slow days, the level of excitement is up and down. sometimes i'm sure that the grab is going to happen in the next second. other times i forget i'm even fishing.
when swinging flies for winter steelhead, one "encounter" per day is considered success. i like this. it really puts things in perspective. it's not all about the fish. it still is a little bit, but when the fish does come to hand, it makes it that much more special. Paul went 1 for 2 and landed this beauty of a fish. a wild buck, fresh from the salt.

on the Peninsula, there are runs of hatchery fish. these fish were stocked in rivers at a young age, they travel out to sea and then come back to the rivers to spawn. hatchery fish have their adipose fins clipped, wild fish do not. wild fish are to be released, but the hatchery fish can be killed at a rate of three per angler per day. that's a lot of fish to eat. i'm not one to keep a lot of fish, but in this case, there is added motivation besides consumption to kill the hatchery fish: preservation of the species. every time a wild fish spawns with a hatchery fish, one might argue the gene pool of the wild steelhead is diminished. "food" for thought anyway.

after Paul had his encounter, i was fishing the same run when i had one of my own. my fly had all but finished its swing and i started to strip line in to cast again when i felt something. i raised the rod to set the hook, but it was too late and/or wasn't meant to be. the fish jumped once and that was that. an exciting "encounter" for sure. i had at least done something right with my fly. so my confidence was slowly building in that my casts were occasionally looking better, my fly was swinging decently, etc. later in the day, on what would be my last cast, i had a great grab and my first dolly varden/bull trout came to hand. a great end to the day. James got one earlier in the day. after a great weekend with lots of laughs and a few fish, i was as pumped as i've ever been for winter steelhead season. with a holiday party coming the following weekend, i wouldn't be able to get back to the Peninsula until Christmas weekend. but then a call at work on wednesday morning would have me fishing again on thursday! perfect.

and then there i was, standing at the top of the same run that had given Paul his fish and my lone encounter the weekend before. it just seemed scripted, and that's not the first time i've felt that was recently. i had confidence in the run and in the cast i needed to make. it was just too perfect. and then it happened. halfway through the run, halfway through a swing came the encounter: the grab, the explosion, the run, the fight and then the fish. my first pacific steelhead. a wild fish. on the swing. in camo waders. i'm spoiled.

we gave some hatchery rats the rock shampoo that day and had a steelhead feast the next night.

bring on the weekend.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

hats for fishing

over the years i've acquired a good number of hats and most of them make it to the water with me here or there. i thought i'd talk about some of my favorites. enjoy!

name: old school 4UR captain's hat
acquired: at the 4UR ranch two summers ago, a gift from head guide Andy
notes: a favorite hat to be worn by Dale Moon or Tony Champion, this hat was reserved for special afternoons or the bar
notable trip: Dale Moon's all-day video shoot on Goose Creek, catching numerous rainbow trout

name: 4UR guide hat
acquired: first season at 4UR
notes: my go-to guide hat for both seasons at 4UR. quite faded from high Colorado sun and visibly dirty from my left hand removing hat in frustration while on guide trips
notable trip: first and last guide trips in Colorado. netted a LOT of fishing wearing this one
name: Welcome to Colorful Colorado hat
acquired: at the welcome center in eastern Colorado on my first time entering the state
notable trips: great trips to Gunnison, Lake Fork and San Juan rivers, among others
name: Bates Fly Fishing hat
acquired: senior year at Bates from bookstore
notes: while not official BFC apparel, this hat has been a great friend
notable trips: worn during my New Zealand trip, 2010 road trip with Boone and pretty much every trip in between. love this one.
name: RIO hat
acquired: last month at RIO
notable trip: spent a day with this hat on the Henry's Fork by myself, landing numerous rainbow trout, including one stud
name: Patagonia fleece ear-flap-thing hat
acquired: at Patagucci outlet in Freeport during college
notable trips: first trip to Salmon River, NY where first ever steelhead was landed. first trip to XXXXXXXX pond in the Allagash, landing stud brookie
name: The Fish Hawk hat
acquired: at The Fish Hawk fly shop in Atlanta, GA
notable trips: worn on 2010 road trip with Boone from Georgia to Maine and also 2011 road trip from Maine to Colorado with Lucas. lots of fish
name: Garden & Gun hat
acquired: through a care package, courtesy of Jessica from G&G
notable trip: guided in this hat for the week that Jessica and Kathleen visited the 4UR. a great trip to the Lost Lakes and five other phenomenal days of fishing on the Creek

name: Carhartt fleece hat
acquired: Reny's, Belfast, Maine, 2008
notable trips: ice fishing trips, winters, 2008 - 2010
name: Dorfman Pacific hat
acquired: from Uncle Frank, summer 2000
notable trips: northern Quebec trip, New Zealand. Chappie Chapman wears the same hat

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

saw a bunch of wildlife on the Yakima River this weekend. it seemed like everyone was out and about, even though it was kind of cold. i was there because i wanted to go trout fishing. so was the eagle.
for the first time, i saw a herd of elk. i spotted them moving along the river's edge in the trees and then they came out of the trees into a small clearing. a few looked at me, but they didn't seem to pay much attention. i whistled to try and turn some heads, but it didn't work.
when i was leaving the water i came across a couple blacktail deer. we all stopped and looked at each other. i tried to be as quiet and un-dangerous as possible in an attempt to not make them run and it worked. they watched me come, and watched me go. i often wonder what goes through a deer's, or any other animal's mind when they encounter me.
this one was a bit of a surprise. i've been in rivers that salmon spawn in, and i've seen lots of dead, post-spawn salmon around, but usually where there's one, there's many. i saw a lone coho salmon on sunday. fairly fresh too.
the fishing was solid. on average, much larger fish than my last trip to the Yak. i didn't catch any fish on the nymphs i tied with the new variety of rubberlegs. that was a bit of a disappointment.
i've been missing trout fishing in rivers. the Yakima is 100 miles from Seattle. it feels like it's in a different state. once you get over the pass and out of the Cascades, it's the west. that's a nice feeling, that "the west", and trout fishing of "the west" is near.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


when i began my relocation to Bainbridge Island, a co-worker put me in touch with a couple who had a room for rent in the basement of their home. it was furnished, cheap, and available immediately, meaning it was perfect for a broke and homeless fishing guide who was about to re-enter the real world. in one of my last email correspondences with the landlord before arriving, she mentioned that there was a pond on the property that she thought had some trout in it too. i was intrigued by this statement but questioned the validity of it. i arrived, moved in and found the pond.
shortly thereafter, i found its inhabitants.
the pond is maybe half an acre in size. according to the landlords, the pond has never been stocked, which would mean the cutthroat living in it now came are of a coastal variety, becoming landlocked some time ago. very cool. there are even rumors of salmon reaching the pond on spawning runs of the past.

i've got to know a handful of waters pretty well by visiting them often and i'll add this one to the list. it's a pleasure to get to know a water, and this pond is no exception. on windy days, the leaves and duck weed flow across the pond and back, opening and closing areas to cast to. sometimes on windless days, rise rings dimple the pond all day long.
the fish aren't the most sophisticated i have dealt with. to use a phrase of Keith's, the fish are very agreeable to most fly presentations. any small mayfly will work. hoppers will rise fish, but the fish have a hard time getting their jaws around bigger bugs. small streamers work well also.

picky eaters or not, they are very beautiful.
when i first arrived i was fishing with my 490. it obviously over-gunned the fish, but it was fun to launch 70 foot casts across the pond to risers. at some point it occurred to me to size down my stick. i was able to find a perfect tool at work, and i've had it on loan for a while now.
what fun. a fiesty, 11" native coastal cutthroat will put a good bend in a double-aught!

from my seat at my computing/tying/dining table, i have a perfect view of the pond. ducks frequent the pond, as does a heron. last week while James and i sat outside on my patio eating breakfast sandwiches, a blacktail stag walked out of the woods, down to the pond for a look, then continued on his way.
when the rises become too frequent to ignore or when i just feel like fishing, i grab the double-aught from its perch and in 50 steps or less, i'm there. i'm lucky to have the pond there. hopefully i'll get lucky again someday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where does the horses going?

cast right behind that big dark spot...
they don't grow em like that back home eh
i used super close up mode
went to a rainforest and forgot my raincoat
how did these trees get here?
elwha thataway
see em? big ones
tell me how big it is
caught em all already
love ya

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fishing with Terry from Yakima

As a follow up to Fishing with Bob from Texas, I present the next installment of "Fishing With": Today I went fishing with Terry from Yakima.

I rolled east after work on Friday evening, across the Sound, through Seattle and onto I-90. My destination was a campground on Canyon Road, the road that winds its way along the Yakima River through the canyon stretch between the towns of Ellensburg and Yakima. After investigating several websites, I had a good idea where the campground was and what to expect as far as the fishing was. After three weeks of pounding beaches for sea run cuttys, I was jonesing for a trout river. So the Yakima it would be.

Half way through my drive it was dark. It's always exciting to wake up in a place you've never seen, especially when there's a trout stream there. The Yakima canyon is gorgeous. A high desert setting with a good looking, good sized river running right through the middle of it. Sometime in September each year, the "flip flop" occurs, as flows in the Yak drop from ~4000 to ~1000CFS and the river is suitable for wade fishing. I was told the river hasn't been stocked since the early '80s, which is pretty cool, but the drastic change in flows makes it tough for fish to get real big. Average fish were 8 - 12". What it is.

I got to the campground around 10 pm and was very surprised to see that most of the campsites were full, taken up by RVs and small tent communities. Most sites had fires roaring with anywhere from one to a dozen people around them. I set my tent up, strung the rods up and moseyed my way over to a fire nearby with a couple older guys sitting around. I heard some fishing phrases coming from their direction earlier, so I figured I'd at least get a recent river report.

At this fire I met Jim and Terry. They had known each other only a week or so, as they both had been on extended camping trips. The site was Terry's and he had four tents set up, a half dozen camp chairs around the fire, a slew of miscellaneous river rafts in various sizes stacked up, a trailer made from an old truck bed, a generator powering a light, stoves, pots, pans, tarps, coolers and other random "camp" articles. I introduced myself and asked how the fishing has been. Terry had a lengthy report.

Terry has floated the Yakima River "over five hundred times." He was born and raised in Yakima and has hunted and fished his whole life. He does not fly fish, but fishes the Yak with a roostertail spinner which he cuts off two of the treble hooks and pinches the barb on, because "that's legal." Two days ago he caught 25, two were 20"+. He was a talker, a Mahoney type character, and full of fishing information for anyone who will listen. These types of folks are interesting. It's pretty safe to say that everything that comes out of their mouths isn't true, but exactly which parts are false or how much the truth is stretched is tough to say. So I listened. I doubt he's floated that river five hundred times, but he's definitely spent some time on it. That night Terry told me the goal of fishing is to catch as many fish as possible. He talked some shit about fly fishing. Jim defended and looked to me for support but I stayed fairly quiet, avoiding argument. It was tough to say if Terry was drunk or stoned or both, but he was a local redneck so I tried to stay neutral on any disputes between the two, angling or otherwise.

I chatted with the two for a little while and then Terry offered to take me on a float the next day in his raft. This was an intriguing offer! A float down a new river with a veteran angler. I pondered thoughts of catching three fish to his one with flies, or worse - 25 to 0 with his roostertails. I declined on the offer, saying I wanted to wade the next day but maybe Sunday. I bid the men a goodnight and retired, planning to be on the water early.

I was standing knee deep in it at 6:45 the next morning. I fished the whole day, landing a dozen or fifteen and losing several others. Sizes ranged from 3 to 15", mostly on Pat's Rubberlegs stonefly, various small baetis nymphs and one on a SJW (just for you Keith). The river was big and it was sometimes a good fifteen minute walk between water I felt inclined to fish. Long, shallow, slick water separated riffles, structure and faster water and all the fish I caught were in pretty obvious places. It was a good day on the water, but I was curious if I could've caught more, what I should've been doing, etc.

I collected some wood for my own fire that evening and sat around it, sipping a cold Kokanee while my dinner cooked. Terry appeared, his own dinner in hand. He observed my stack of hand sawed firewood, campstove and remarked, "You're pretty self-sufficient, kid. Just like me." And over a few beers and an hour or so we conversed on fishing, life, women and the like. As I said, Terry's a character, but for every couple statements or opinions that would make me shake my head, he'd offer one that I respected. Terry was once regarded as a "top snagger" for salmon and steelhead. He told me a story about how once, from a bridge twenty feet above a river, he spotted a steelhead, snagged it, fought it to its death and then hoisted it up, hand over hand to his perch. He took out his spotlight and showed me a couple owls in a tree. I showed him some flies and he said, "I can tell you know how to fish, looking at your flies. I haven't tied any in a while..." When he told me about some sort of freshwater shrimp in a lake and fish hiding under weeds, I offered that the fish might have been feeding on scuds living in the weeds. He liked this thesis and decided I was "pretty damn smart." So over the evening's fire I agreed to float the next day with Terry in his "two man raft."

We combined supplies for a big breakfast the next morning and while we ate, he showed me some fishing pictures on his digital camera. It was then that I began to have second thoughts about the day's float. His "raft" looked something like this:
It was also at this time that I began to notice the quality of Terry's gear. All his tents had holes in them, two had doors with broken zippers. He then told me how he found all his gear in dumpsters. He was very pleased with these finds. I also realized that his stacks of floating noodles and other rafts had been found abandoned along the river or in dumpsters. I wasn't too hot on the idea of spending four to five hours in a small raft with this man at this point. I had a feeling at the least a decent story would come out of it, so long as I did myself. So after discussion, and some attempts to get out of the whole thing, I agreed to do a shorter float than planned, five miles, ending at our campsite. I'd get to look at some water anyway.

So we drove upstream, pumped up his raft and were off. Shortly into the trip, Terry spied a beer can on shore. He rowed hard to make it to the shore to investigate. I thought he might be collecting cans to return for supplementary income (Terry does not work due to recently dislocated shoulder), but Terry was more interested in the contents of this can. Specifically, whether or not there were any contents. This can was empty, but Terry assured me that rafters (the Yak is a popular spot for college kids and others to float and drink) loose full beers all the time. Five minutes later we were on shore again looking at the next beer can. Then we were on shore looking at a deflated raft lodged between two trees. Then we were looking at an empty Mountain Dew bottle. By the end of the float, Terry was 1 for 27 on beer cans and the one full one he did find he promptly drank.
Terry showed me his roostertail spinner. Three hooks, all barbed. I stayed quiet. Between investigations of beer cans 4 and 5 Terry lands the first fish of the day a 12" rainbow. 'Oh shit,' I thought to myself. But Terry wasn't about competition, he was about having a good time. Despite the high frequencies of swears coming out of his mouth, he was in great spirits the whole float. I reckon he talked pretty much nonstop for most of the trip, ten of his words to one of mine.

Terry also brought a bag of Tootsie Rolls on board for our trip. "I love these!" he said as he popped the first of fifty into his mouth and then I watched as the Tootsie Roll wrapper went straight into the river. I looked wide eyed at it, then at Terry, who was preparing for his next cast while chomping down on the roll. Fifty Tootsie Rolls consumed, fifty wrappers into the drink. I stayed quiet.

A while into the float, Terry had caught three and I got my first. He was ecstatic, asking what the fish ate, where it did, etc. He congratulated me on the fish. "I knew we'd both catch fish man!" When Terry had to take a leak he rowed us over to the bank. I stayed in the boat in an attempt of not increasing the length of time in the raft. As he stepped onto shore he remarked, "Dammit! I've got to take a shit now! You got any toilet paper?" I did not. I roll casted while Terry took care of his business. A few moments later I could see Terry through my peripheral vision and realized that he had not gone into the bushes like I expected. 'He can't be,' I thought to myself and then I took a quick glance. Terry was twenty feet upstream, a few feet from the river's edge, squatting, his pants around his ankles. I looked away and stayed quiet, hoping that the drift boat we had recently passed did not come around the bend. Back in the boat and floating again, he offered me a Tootsie Roll in his hand. I declined.
Terry's stance on rowing was fairly lackadaisical. We spun three-sixties countless times, drifted through the middle prime runs, cut off drift boats, floated three feet from banks and rock walls and zig-zagged our way downstream investigating beer cans and miscellaneous trash on the river's edges. At some point we approached some good looking water and we were a good distance for me to get a good drift through it. "Get ready, I always get one in there," Terry said. A few seconds later I was tight to my biggest fish of the weekend. Terry skillfully rowed us into slack water where I played the fish and landed a gorgeous 18" male rainbow. I obliged Terry's request for a picture on his camera. I smiled as the fish swam off and Terry hollered. I suggested Terry take up guiding.

When it dawned on me that I should probably take a picture of this human, Terry was agreeable and then I noticed his sunglasses. No doubt found in a trash can or in the river, they were ladies designer shades, probably bought at a gas station for ten dollars. He wore them well. We finished the day with ten fish - Terry 6, me 4 - one rescued raft and one frisbee.

I don't think I'd float in Terry's raft again but I might sit around a campfire with him if I ran into him. My guess is he'll be camped out in the same spot for a while longer.