Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Friends

Still the biggest steelhead I have ever seen
One of my favorite thing about guiding are the great friendships that I have developed over the years from meeting people on the river.  My buddy Carlo emailed me yesterday to check in, and also to remind me that it had been exactly one year since the picture above was taken on the lower Hoh.  Carlo lives in Helena, and we met in Forks while I was guiding.  At the beginning of the day we were talking about fish size and Carlo said that if I put him on a 20lbs steelhead, he would row the rest of the day.  About 2/3 of the way through the day, on one of the bravest drifts you need to make, we landed the fish pictured above that taped out at 42".  Easily over the 20lbs mark, after we stopped shaking Carlo held up his end of the bargain and offered to row, which I politely declined.  We finished out our day with out another fish, exchanged info, and continue to fish together out here in Montana.  Although we do split time on the sticks now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

So, what's your real job?

More of this coming up this summer!

Well, I'll finally be able to answer the question to guests in the boat, "when are you going to get a real job?"  I have begun working as a Food and Agriculture Development Center Coordinator and Natural Resource Planner for Headwaters RC&D in Butte, Montana.  After a crazy couple of months this winter, we are very excited that we will be able to stay in a place that we love (We will still be living in Twin Bridges), and I will be able to pursue my dreams that don't involve catching fish.

One of the conditions of my new employment was the ability to continue to guide.  I will no longer be guiding every day all summer long, but will guide enough that I will be able to fish with the people that have helped make my guiding dreams a reality, and continue to meet some new guests.  If you are interested in fishing with me in Montana this summer (through Dan Leavens, outfitter #10393), shoot me an email at joewillauer@gmail.com.  My schedule will be limited, so if you want to fish with me this summer, please get in touch soon.  I am really excited about this new chapter, which will also allow for a little more time to have the wife in the bow of the boat as well.  It's going to be a great summer!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The return of C-squad

If you've been paying attention at all, you may have noticed a lack of posts by yours truly.  I like to imagine that I've been living a nomadic life of fishing and skiing.  The reality, though, is that I've been spending all my time in the bottom of the UW health sciences library learning doctoring stuff.

Thankfully, for my sanity, I was able to make it out to Forks for the last two days to stay and fish with my classmate Andy and his wife Lisa, who have their wall tent set up on the Hoh for our spring break.

I showed up to camp late Monday night, just in time for some dinner and a few beers before heading to bed.  Tuesday came with an early start and swinging flies at the run across from camp.  Lisa and Andrew both lost fish there and I didn't touch a thing.  We spent the rest of the day on the upper Hoh, Andrew being the only one to land a fish.  As is typical I didn't catch anything, but I did get some photos and some much needed time out of the city.

Lisa on the Hoh
Bad Andy
All Andy could do was laugh after losing this fish

Hero Shot

A C-squad classic.  Who hasn't seen this photo a million times.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tips for being the best "dude"

Even the best sports make some mistakes

"Dudes" are the reason that there are a few of us that get to call places like Twin Bridges, Montana home year-round.  Here are few tips from the middle of the boat that will help you be the best guest ever next time you're contributing to the delinquent lifestyle of your favorite Hank Patterson.

Have Fun!  
This seems like a no-brainer, and is number one on the list for a reason.  It is surprising how many guests stress themselves out about the fishing.  It is understandable when you have been looking forward to your week long fishing trip all year that you are probably going to be a little amped up (hopefully!).  A little pressure can help you preform when that big fish eats your fly, but make sure that you’re not hanging on too tight.  It’s a fine line between too much pressure and too relaxed, but just remember, don’t stress yourself out too much.  I tend to error on the side of laid-back.  It’s always best to take it easy on the water, and have fun!  After all, they’re just fish!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time around guides has probably heard them laugh at the guest that asks the stupid question (Does this river go in a circle?) and may be gun-shy to ask questions through out the day.  Rather than be intimidated, ask away.  My all time favorite guests ask a lot of questions about how we’re fishing, why we’re doing things, and in general trying to learn through the day.  This is huge, and helps them to become better anglers!  If you do end up asking a really crazy one (at what elevation do deer turn into elk?) you can rest easy knowing that you’re going to live on in guide stories forever!

Bring your own tobacco 
Although a bad habit that I would never recommend, many guides and clients enjoy a good dip or smoke while fishing.  When I chewed, there was nothing worse than having to give away the end of a can to a guest who didn’t bring their own Coppenhagen.  Being on the river tends to turn the non-chewer into a cowboy-dipper, so if that’s you, bring your own can so that your guide doesn’t feel obligated to give you his last dip and run out at the end of the day.  And if you really want bonus points, bring a log or two to dole out to the guides on your Alaska or destination trip where tobacco is harder to come by, then you know you’ll be getting the good flies all week.

Tip Cash  
We all know that tipping is a sensitive issue on a guide trip, and can cause confusion as to how much, when to give it, and who ends up with it.  As my buddy Modobi says, “It’s never expected and always appreciated”.  That being said, it is the norm to tip your guide, and cash is always appreciated it.  For most guides this is the gas, grocery, bar and make-it-through-the-summer fund. That extra percentage doesn’t need to go to Uncle Sam, and can help keep that boat cooler stocked with better beer than keystone light!

Fish hard and don’t apologize (unless you hook me in the face) 
These two rules could easily be separate, but are too closely related to combine.  If you fish hard for me while in the boat, or at least as hard as you want to (or can), it will cover up many other flaws that you may have as an angler.  In reality, I could care less how well you fish.  If you try hard, and try to do what I’m telling you, that’s all I can ask for as a fishing guide.  If I get pissed at you for not doing something and you’re trying, that’s my issue, not yours (and might be time for you to find a new guide).  And when you’re trying your best, don’t apologize if you screw it up.  We all screw up when fishing.  You’re guide will screw up multiple times through out the day.  I don’t want to hear you apologize for little things like a bad cast or missing a fish, this is all part of the game.  I have one apology rule for my boat, you can only apologize if you hook me in the face.  Anything short of that doesn’t matter, we’re fishing!  This is supposed to be fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Having the faith

The Western Lady Hopper.  Pic from www.hopperfishing.blogspot.com
Anyone who has fly fished for more than one summer know how important believing in your fly.  Steelheaders know this to be an absolute truth, and it has a great impact on your trout game as well.  I have seen many days in the boat where only one angler has the faith, and consequently catches most of the fish.

I know few anglers that have more faith in a single fly than my friend Ralph and The Western Lady Hopper (WLH).  Excellent anglers, Ralph his wife Kim and I get to fish together every summer, and after the very first day we spent on the water I was convinced of the mojo that Ralph and his fly have.  About half way through our first float together, Ralph asked if he could tie on his own fly, The Western Lady. Were he in the bow of the boat he likely would have seen me sigh, roll my eyes, and then politely say, "absolutely, I love trying out new patterns!"

After one big bend in the river and 3 fish I was convinced.  It was not until this summer though, two years since my introduction to the western lady, that Ralph came full circle with proving to me how believing in your fly can make a difference.  During these two years I dedicated one small spot in my hopper box for ralph.  In that section sits half a dozen western lady hoppers that only get used one day a year, by Ralph.

Me, firmly believing in the WLH

This past summer, towards the end of another day that started, fished and ended with a western lady on Ralph's rod (the only day a WLH gets fished in my boat, I don't have the faith) the best fish that I got to see caught in my boat all year got fooled by the WLH.  Ralphs persistence and faith in a fly that I never fish proved to be all that was needed (and maybe a really good cast and drag free drift).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Steelhead and Basketball. Go Zags!

Photo courtesy of The Evening Hatch.
"We don't believe there is any jinx," said assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, subbing for coach Mark Few, who was said to be fly fishing and unavailable for comment. "Obviously, it's a dream for us, the ultimate accomplishment."

Growing up in Eastern Washington I was 15 when the Zags made the cinderella run into the elite 8 that propelled them onto the national stage.  We used to spend summers at Gonzaga team camp, and looked up to all of the great players that spent time in Spokane.  Today was a historic day for Gonzaga, and their first #1 ranking in school history (First for any team in WA, at that!).  And to top it off, Coach Mark Few was fly fishing (more than likely on the Grande Ronde) and couldn't be reached for comment.

This fall while on the Ronde with my Dad, we ran into Coach Few and his young sons at Boggan's Oasis on their way out the door to go fishing.  No one said anything, or bugged him for pictures or autographs like the celebrity he is, he was just another fisherman sharing a second great sport with his sons, the same way my Dad did with me.

March Madness is the best thing in sports, and hopefully this is the year that the Zags make it to the Final Four!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter Wrapping

Been a little busy lately, and haven't spent time at the vise or the computer, so here's the combination of both.  I saw this sweet streamer a few weeks ago over at Dawn Patrol, and loved the use of Senyo yarn.   I couldn't get ahold of the yarn locally, but the Senyo dub did just fine.  It's going to be a few before they really start chasing things around here, but you can bet the fish in the Hole will put the smack down on this.