Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Technique Tuesday: Right Angle Nymphing

For this week's Technique Tuesday we're going to stick with last weeks topic and elaborate on bobber fishing.  It is still winter, and as much as I wish we had an option for some dry fly fish around here right now a week of subzero temps crushed that opportunity.  And lets be honest, although substainally more effective, there are a hell of a lot more moving parts and technique that go into proper bobber fishing than tying a chubby onto the end of the string and throwing into the drink.

The first person I remember showing me right angle nymphing techniques was my buddy Johnny Boitano (no relation to Brian).  The concept is simple, instead of putting your bobber in the middle of your leader and tying flies onto the end cut you leader back where you would put your bobber.  For my rig, I tend to cut the leader off about 2.5' in, tie a perfection loop, and then loop on strong tippet (0x,1x,2x, sometimes 12lbs seaguar).  At the end of the tippet I bloodknot on the tippet that I am going to tithe fly too (often 2x or 3x).

Why go through this process instead of just throwing a bobber on?  Sinkage!  As you can tell from my rough drawing when you put a bobber into the middle of a leader you still have several feet of thick diameter line coming out the downstream side of the bobber.  This thick line prevents your flies from sinking, and means that you have to run more lead and crap on the end to get where you need to be.  By replacing this section with thinner diameter material your flies sink faster, which means less crap, and a much more successful rig that is also easier to throw.  The guides that I have shown this rig to have all converted once they fished it and the side benefit is once you cut down a leader you can use it for a long time for this application.  A chunk of 30lbs maxima does the same trick, but it seems like I always have a crappy leader around that is perfect for this application.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Steelhead Paradox

Back ya go buddy.

It takes about 3 second looking at my blog to understand that I like steelhead.  The salted cousin of the state fish of my home state of Washington, they captivate me in a way that no other fish has.  It is clear that I am not alone in this view, and this was again drilled into my head as I opened the most recent issue of the drake.  Two huge articles, again, about west coast steelhead.  One that is close to a hot spotting article, the kind that the Drake used to never write (I'll hit this point some other time) and the second a great article about the NU and it's protector.  If I were a journalist I'd tell you how many pages were committed to Steelhead over the last few issues of the Drake and other fishing mags (are there any others?), but I'm a blogger so I just bitch about things with little to no real evidence.  To that accord the press that steelhead have been getting lately is tremendous.

It kills me to see it to some extent.  Shiny pages of hero shots and poetic stories about freezing cold fishing and listerine green water.  Steelhead are without a doubt the hottest thing going in fly fishing, and the marketing world clearly recognizes this.  Promotion of these majestic fish comes in all forms from the articles to clothes and reels and social media, they are everywhere.  Working as a steelhead guide for several years puts me in the cross hairs of responsibility too, along with running a blog and being a vocal proponent of their protection, i recognize my role in the pressure.  I have been a steelhead fisherman for a very short time in the big picture, and the 12 years that I have fished for them the pressure has grown exponentially.

The downside to all of this pressure is easily observed if you float any big western steelhead river.  Pull outs are lined with trucks, boat ramps are crammed with trailers and rooms are hard to  come by when rivers are dropping.  This pressure has the obvious downsides of fish mortality and user of the resource, along with simply not being able to find water to fish.  Days that I have to give up numerous good runs because of pressure are not yet the norm, but are certainly happening more often than when I started steelhead fishing not that long ago.

If there is one thing I have found as a fishing guide and in my professional career it's easy to sit around and point fingers and blame without trying to fix the problem.  Sure mag's, guides, shops, social media and a litany of other sources are responsible for this popularity growth, but what good can come from it?  How can we use this popularity to help the fish that we all love so much?

I think the best possible outcome from this recent fame is going to be protection.  Every time I float into a run that i love and see anglers there I remind myself that if steelhead didn't have the celebrity-like following they wouldn't have the protection, and every last one would likely be removed by one method or another from their native rivers.  Rivers without native fish are substantially easier for politicians to molest, and make hard decisions disappear.  The steelhead creates a symbol for protection that many can rally behind.  I certainly don't know the answers to the many questions this side of steelhead fishing creates, but it's something that I continuously think about.  The more people that are fishing for these great fish the more opportunities there are to not only help them survive but thrive into the future.

I wrote the above piece and sent it to my buddy Mills to take a look and we bounced around some ideas.  Here are a few of the ways that I am personally trying to help solve the problem.  Let me know what you do to help steelhead!

- Donate $ and time.  A couple of the org's that I have donated time or money to are the Hoh River Trust, Native Fish Society and Wild Steelhead Coalition.  TU seems to be doing some good stuff with their Wild Steelheaders United as well.

-  Education:  I don't guide for steelhead anymore, and I would like to say it's because I chose some holier-than-though path, but the reality is I have a daughter and I want to spend time at home.  That being said, whenever steelhead come up while I am trout fishing I am informed about the facts of the fish and educate my guests to the best of my ability.  Getting people on a national level to understand the perils of these fish is paramount to their success.

- The Little Stuff:  There are a ton of things you can do while fishing for them that all add up to a stronger survival rate.  Keep wild fish in the water, bonk hatchery fish, don't take a picture of every last fish you catch, use a net for landing.  These things along with many others all contribute to survival rate and make a difference with every fish you are fortunate enough to catch.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Technique Tuesday: Winter Nymphing

Worth waiting out the cold and a pair of leaky waders.

As I sit here in troutville and hear the wind try to blow down our chimney I think a return of the semi-regular (ok, very random) technique tuesday post about winter nymphing is due.  Sure, there are going to be a lot of days between now and April that in this part of the world it's better to stay inside wrapping bugs than freezing your satchel off for a couple trout.  When those days do warm up a few degrees, and the fish start to get happy here are a few tips I've picked up over the years that make a difference.

Fish slower water than you think

This is number one for a reason.  As I'm sure you already know, slower water = warmer water, which is a good thing in the winter.  When trout don't have to worry as much about o2 levels in the water, they don't have to live in a riffle.  I am always amazed at how slow of water trout will live in when water temps get low.  If you can find an eddy with a slow seam that is my fave, but even when you're on insides start SLOW.  When I am guiding out of my boat in cold weather and rowing laps on a big run I always start way further in than I think I should.  I routinely see my guys question the first lap I make though the run, but it pays off enough times that I have to do it.  The same goes for wading, start shallow and slow, work out.  Keep your eyes peeled in the foam too.

Crank the bobber-daze to 11

When a trouts metabolism drops with cold water, their aggression and desire to attack things goes down dramatically.  When you combine that with living in slower water in the winter, the takes can be very subtle.  I still remember fishing a pod of midge eaters with Jack Mitchel on the Yakima many winters ago.  We were taking turns catching fish, using a zebra midge and a palsa pinch on indicator.  It was my turn, and all of a sudden Jack goes "hit it, hit it".  Knowing better than to question my then boss I pulled  the trip with a fish on the end, and turned and looked at him, asking "how the hell did you see that, I saw nothing!"  He just laughed and said, "I saw your indicator roll over on the surface."  Ever since that day I watch my bobber like crazy and set the hook if it looks at me wrong in the winter.

Tie loop knots to all of your flies

This is actually a tip that I use all year long, but it makes a bigger difference when you're fishing lower water.  My friend Greg turned me on to this trick for nymphing in higher pressured rivers, but it transfers over to winter time as well.  The biggest advantage that you get from tying a loop to a fly is movement.  Even with something like a #18 brassie your bug moves more, so much so that I think you can run one size heavier tippet.  So if you should be fishing with 5x, you can get away with 4 and a loop (all fluoro, mind you).  Oh, and of course you use the best loop knot ever, by the man, Lefty.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Losing Their Specialness

My friend Stuart with a gorgeous Salmon River fish.
I spent my beginning years as a steelhead angler chasing bobbers on foot and out of a boat on numerous Eastern Washington rivers with a variety of excellent anglers and guides.  One of those buddies, my friend Shan, was at a similar skill level to myself when I began this adventure, and was on a similar learning curve, constantly pushing each other to get better.  I have a lifetime supply memories from our times fishing together, but there were a few lessons we learned together that I reference more than others.

Shan, an outstanding angler and as good of fishing buddy as you could ever have, often had a saying when you were catching them and he wasn't.  Comparing steelhead to sex, he always joked about how the more you caught the less special they became.  "Losing their specialness" was the ongoing joke between us, which meant that you were catching a bunch.  10 years and numerous steelhead later, I have completely found this to be true.  Not to say that the steelhead are not special, I know that I will never find a more amazing and rare fish, but the more you catch, the more comfortable and routine the process becomes.

This past weekend, I spent a day on the Salmon with a friend of mine from Bozeman, Stuart.  Stuart and I know each other through work and had never fished together before.  Where I spent years of my life on the giving end of a two handed fly rod chasing anything that swam, Stuart pursued other activities.  A good caster and great guy to fish with, we swung beautiful runs for 3/4 of the day before we found any fish.  We separated on a large run and I squashed the skunk with a beautiful wild fish, colored up and aggressive, it was the sign that we needed to keep spirits high.

The next run that we fished is the type of water that you would read about in your steelhead 101 book.  Gliding along with a side channel to break up half of the seam, there was no question that someone was going to catch one.  After several fly changes throughout the day Stuart deferred to my experience and handed over his fly box for a moment reminiscent of The Natural (Pick me out a winner Bobby).  I grabbed a green butted Hohbo (aka greatest steelhead pattern of all time) and sent him on his way.  10 casts in to starting behind him, in the middle of the swinging "space out", I watched Stuart's line come tight, rod shift towards the bank, and a spunky hen skipped around on the end of his line.

Doing my best Sasquatch impersonation I scrambled down the bank in time to tail his fish, the first of the season for him.  While stuart is a long ways from a steelhead newbie, you could feel his energy as he cradled the fish for a couple of quick pictures.  A hatchery fish that I would normally dispatch of these days, Stuart elected to let the fish go.  This choice instantly brought me back to my early steelhead seasons.  I still remember fishing my favorite 509 river and throwing back hatchery fish, not wanting to club "the specialness" with a stick and put it in my cooler.  To watch this excitement in a friend was incredibly rejuvenating, and a good perspective on a niche of this great sport that I can't get enough of.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fish kill on the Big Hole

What a healthy pre-spawn Big Hole brown looks like
So I walked into one of the local fly shops the other day on my way to the river and learned about a problem that the upper Big Hole is having with fish mortality.  Random dead fish are showing up in a much higher frequency than they should, with the canyon stretch being the worse hit.  This time of year is when the browns are spawning, and should be left to do they're thing, so I stay away from that area anyways as that is where the majority of the browns from the lower river spawn.  Obviously there are ethical ways to fish around the spawners and not "rape redds" but the easiest way is to just not go to the floats that are loaded with spawning fish.

Apparently there is a fungus going around called saprolengia that isn't too uncommon, but is severely affecting the spawn this fall.  You can read all about it from FWP here, but the easiest solution to minimize your impact and protect the future of the fishery is to not be go fish over spawning fish, and particularly don't pull them off their redds.  If you don't know what a redd is, look it up, but you can't miss them this time of year.  There are a ton of other options around right now, so think about the future!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Best of Insty: Follow Friday

So I love Instagram.  Far and away my favorite method of social media.  No words, some food, and not many ads or bullshit.  I was looking at the Chive the other day and their topic was different than this, but it fits great for the fly fishing world.  Here are 3 Insty account that I think are sick and you should definitely check out.  I would like to say I will post three new ones every friday, but I'll commit to doing it occasionally?  Enjoy.

@Troutwaterfly  This is the Insty for my buddies in Ellensburg, WA guiding the yak.  You can't find a better group of guides in that part of the world, and if you're looking for fishporn, it's heavy on that:

Mitch with his first steelhead. #Klickitatriver #troutwaterguides #patagoniaflyfishing #steelheadfishing

@free_cascadia  Not fishing related, but ton's of cool shit from near the land of jefferson, and a great connection to my PNW roots

Autumnal Redwoods #TBT. _

@princeofpburg  First off, if you've been to P-burg, you know what a sick place it is.  Home to likely the best brewery in MT that you haven't heard of, and a lot of fish in pretty much every direction.  They don't post pic's of P-burg brewery beers which sucks, but they post a crapload of huge browns from weird places which is awesome.

#worknafterwork floated tonight with @gfunkit, no trophies (except for that thar dip! ) rivers raging!!🌊🚣 tons of fun and some sneaker fish were had by all #flyfishing #mt #floating #springtime #highwater #goodbuds #teammt #cametoparty

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Itch

From back in the day when I fished pretty flies.

I've been having a pretty good fall, catching some fish, working a lot and in general trying to ignore the itch that starts this time of year.  Spending a bulk of my adult life within a couple of hours of steelhead, I got spoiled.  Now that I have to wait for the waters to cool dramatically and fish to swim further inland than you would ever think they could, it makes the fall even more of a struggle.

Today was the tipping point.  A mildly successful day around the house that included enough chores to keep my wife happyish led to an hour of spey practice and a couple of cool fly pictures led to refining some muddlers that I've been thinking about for 11 months.  Sadly, these are flies that will never see a fish.  I should be tying bunny to a tube, with a small amount of flash, but it's not sexy.  I'll keep tying like I have the time to fish them in the warming water that elicits a strike.  The reality is  they'll collect dust, hopefully lucky enough to make the cut and end up in a box and not just die a lonely death on the tying desk when a better creation comes out.  But they are the small connection that keeps the fire burning, and when the fish do make it to the water that is closer to Montana than the ocean, I'll be ready with a fresh box of the grade A goods, ready for the pluck.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Catching Hawgs V.2.0

What did the 5 fingers say to the Trout?

So for all of you long time blog readers out there you unlikely remember 2 falls ago when I went over to Missoula and participated in the "catching hawgs" tournament that my buddy Ric puts on.  After taking a fall off I returned for a shot at the championship, this year in the recently minted "pro-division".  I was very fortunate to be partnered up with one of my closest friends and long time fishing buddy, Scott Wilson.  Scott is a guide on the Yak, and works with the guys at Troutwater, who would also be taking part in the action.
I don't know what to do with my hands???
 As part of the tourney your guide draws your team number out of a hat, and then gets to fish with you for two days.  This year Scott and I drew the long straw and had one of the best guides not only in the tournament, but in Missoula, Dan Mahoney of Missoula on the Fly.
Don't ever fucking let your guide fish.
We fished a couple of out of the way spots, including an awesome float on the Blackfoot, a river that has always been challenging to me.  It was great to see what a difference it made to have someone who knew where to go, what to throw and how things went down and the impact it had on the fishing.  As a long time fishing guide I can typically go to a new river and have good success, but the amount we had in two days was directly related to our guide know exactly where to go.  It was very cool to see it from the other side.
Apparently fishing with someone who knows the rivers better than you makes a difference?
After a summer of being the guider and not the guidee it was incredibly relaxing to sit in the boat and fish without worry about how many were catching or client expectations.  I imagine Dan had a pretty easy time too, pretty much making sure our beers didn't get empty and pointing out the sneakier spots that only the trained eye would recognize.  It was great to compare notes with a long time friend and another guide who has spent his time in a part of the state that I haven't.  While only a couple hours away it's amazing how different the fishing around Missoula is compared to Twin, starting with the fact that they get to throw dries a hell of a lot more.  I'll definitely be hitting up catching hawg's again next fall, and hopefully get to draw Dan for our guide again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The little things

The flats are littered with blue wings, their tiny wings etching the surface of the glassy water.  The waves come off in such strategic zones that if you are not in the right place at the right time, you'll never even know they're even around.  The fish know though, all of the time.  The first few days are always the best, and as the cold creeps in the bugs dissipate, signaling the finale of fall.  Those early days though, when the fish are dumb and the flies big, make for some of the best to be had all year.  With everything that can be done with a fly rod these days, and a constant barrage of exotic locales daily, I still think a 5wt, a # 12 parachute and rising fish is the best.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bozeman Premier of Wild Reverence

Montana folks, next Tuesday, the 16th, make sure to show up to the Montana premier of Wild Reverence, an incredible film by Shane Anderson about the plight of wild steelhead.  I'm particularly excited about this because I helped support this project when it was in the kickstarter phase.  Get your tickets here and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Three Guides Fishing

Mountain/River pictures are like the spey casting shot of the trout world.  It means you didn't catch shit.
Several years ago (actually many years now) I came to the painful realization that anytime I was going to fish with two of my guide friends, fishing was likely going to really suck.  Through no fault of our own, and even under best guide behavior of conceding float choices, beer selections and bank locations, odds are not in our favor.    Three weeks ago (back when it was still sumer) I reaffirmed this hex by traveling to the Henry's Fork with two of my closest friends. With grand intentions of floating through the ranch and getting schooled by large trout on long leaders and tiny flies, schooled is exactly what we got.  Putting fish down would have been an expected and acceptable outcome, but after recent, first-hand reports of good fishing, and nary a trout looking towards the surface for the bugs that didn't materialize, our concept of schooled was upgraded.  A quick change of plans sent us up to the water that chubby-chucking guides from Montana can even catch fish out of, and resistant to throw a bobber we found a few.  Fortunately having few interruptions like landing fish and taking pictures, three guides have the opportunity to reconnect in the middle of the summer doldrums season, which is many times better than any trout on 14' of 12x and a perfect counterpart to the guides day off stink.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Technique Tuesday: Streamer Fishing From a Drift Boat

In what I hoped to be a regular segment that has turned into a semi-annual piece I'll pick up where I left off last spring: Technique Tuesday!  It's fall, which out here means there's a bunch of dip shits ready to rip browns off their reeds, and those of us with a conscience are going to be going streamer fishing.  I am still a firm believer that if you really want the best streamer fishing possible you show up to MT in the spring, but this time of year it's a hell of a lot better than staring at a bobber.  Here's some intel into what I've always found to work.

1.  Heavy Fly, Light Line:  We all know that the KG sinking line floating fly technique works, but where it really works is Galloups home river that is big and fast and demands a sink tip.  For a lot of the water around here that style simply doesn't get down quick enough and then stays down too long once you get it there.  I always prefer a long leader (9'-10') on a floating line and a heavy fly, such as a Sculpzilla or a home-brew with lead eyes and lead wraps.  This style lets you sink into small deep buckets instantly, as well as impart a jigging motion that is nearly impossible to replicate with a sinking line.  The most effective local streamer I know of has a #7 split shot incorporated into the head.  This is not an accident!

2.  Fish Smaller Flies:  Sure, it's fun tying and fishing gigantic streamers that take a 9wt to throw, but when you're stripping that dead chicken you are weeding out all of the normal sized fish, and limiting yourself to the huge one that is so rare.  "That's the point" you say, and I get that, but there is a streamer size pendulum, and I believe that you can fish a streamer that is small enough that you'll catch a lot of fish in the "nice" range (12"-18") as well as pull the two-footer out of his lumber abode.  To me 3"-5"is the range where you can cover all fish and still show enough profile to get RHB.

3. Throw it Out the Back of the Boat:  Does throwing down and across, and ripping it as fast you can work, of course.  Does it put as many fish as humanly possible into your net?  I don't think so.  When you think about a small fish getting pushed out into the current, even in a small river, he is swimming head first down stream, getting pushed by the flow.  By throwing out the back of the boat, and even mending down to put a belly in your line, you are creating a much more realistic presentation, and typically get better results.  Having more tension on your line also leads to more hook-ups rather than foul balls, which is a good thing.

Hope these tips help this fall as the nights get cold and the fish get snappy, and remember, stay off the clean gravel!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fall with Friends

It is unanimously agreed upon out west that September is the greatest month of the year.  One could easily write a post every day of the month and never run out of material for what makes this time of year special.   Our summer in SWMT had just gotten rolling when September decided to come a few weeks early.  This cold front accounted for the 2nd day that I have worn my waders in August in the last 6 years, as well as the 3 biggest trout that I have caught this summer, all within 2 days.  It's just something about that quick change that makes them snappy.  And its nearly the same week every year.  The only thing that made it even better is I got them with two of my favorite groups of friends that come out every summer.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shooting film

For the last several years anything "heritage" has become unbelievably popular and therefore has made its way to into the fishing world and most obviously it comes through in the current trends of fishing photography.   It would be difficult to not have seen crops of digital photos processed to look like film.  To get this effect, you either use VSCO filters or "crush the blacks" on your own.  I've had mixed feelings on this. I love it, I hate it, I love to hate it.

Regardless this trend inspired me to shoot on films.  I picked up two rolls of Porta 400 and a role of Fuji something or other.  It took me nearly an entire year to shoot the first role of Portra, which actually ended up being pretty interesting.  I enjoyed having 34 photos documenting trips from the year.  Because of the cost of the film and limited number of exposures I only took a handful of shots on each outing. Leaving me with a small curated library of past experiences (as opposed to several thousand crummy digital images hiding the few keepers.)

All photos were shot with a rebel gII, 50mm F1.4, Portra 400 . . .

Swing on the Salmon

 Waiting on the Salmon

It got colder

 Actual vignette.

 Silver fox in Grand Teton National Park

Swollen creek in Grand Teton National Park
Admiring the Grand Teton

Here is my take away.  My 40D has horrible dynamic range compared to film.  Film is expensive to use these days, roll of Portra was about $10 developing and scanning was another $20.  Portability was great, smaller and lighter camera body and the 50mm lens is a lot more useful when there is no crop factor.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Redington Dually Switch

I didn't catch this fish with the Dually, but that is not the rods fault.

Earlier this spring I got the opportunity to fish the Redington Dually Switch Rod in a 5 wt 11'.  I'll be honest for the longest time I thought switch rods were stupid, and to some extent I still do.  This rod is certainly an exception to that.  Where switch rods don't make sense to me is nymphing from a boat or steelhead fishing when you should be using a spey rod.  The Dually in a 5 however is the perfect combination of light weight and feel that combine to make a super fun two handed trout crusher.

Performance:  The rod is certainly a little softer than the other Redington rods I have fished in the past, which all seem to error on being pretty quick.  The Dually has an action that you can definitely feel load into your hands and tells you when it's time to go forward.  When paired with a RIO Switch Chucker in a 325 it sailed.  I ran several different weights of 10' poly leaders and flies up to a 2 and they all zipped out their nicely.  At a 5 it could handle any trout you could ever hook out here in Montana and some smaller steelhead.

Looks:  Those of you know me know that I have an affinity for bright blue, and so the bright blue writing on the maroon blank was a hit for me.  This rod looks like what you would expect for the price point, but the blue writing was definitely a bonus.  Oh and it has alignment dots, like every rod ever should.

Why should I get one?

Because it is a very affordable price point to enter in the two handed world which will then lead you to ruin your life chasing fish all over the place, likely becoming addicted to caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, as well as getting divorced, losing your job and living under the 101 bridge on the Hoh with an obvious new nickname like "The Troll".  Or it will just be another fun tool to add to the arsenal, and at the price of $249.95 an easily justifiable new purchase.  Trout spey fishing is something I should do more of, and this rod is a great one to go swing up the guys that don't make it out to the ocean.

Obligatory nitpicking of a couple random things on an otherwise great rod:

Ummm, I don't like the reelseat that much?  Is that a reason to not buy this rod, of course not, but you have to bitch about something in a review, right?  Go check out the Dually, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shameless Promotion

I'm probably more pumped about this than I should be, but we have an online store now where you can get your blog swag on.  Check it out here:  www.evoanglers.bigcartel.com.  Super easy to order, pay and get some cool stuff within a week or so.  Free shipping for every order too!  We'll be throwing up a few more designs soon as well like the Jah Trucker.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The addiction grows

Few things are as much fun as watching a kid get into fishing.  Ask any guide you know and they will lament the fact of younger anglers are few and far between these days.  My buddy Andrew is the exception.  More interested in fishing than tweeting, it's refreshing to see young people into being outside, and using fly fishing as the vehicle to get them there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

On the verge

Three more weeks.  That's when we will start to see the first few geese headed the wrong direction.  As long as it takes to get here summer can never stay long enough.  It's strange to  think about it being gone when it's still July, but the reality is that in 3 weeks the sky will get that darker shade of blue, the mosquitos will finally die and fall will be knocking on the door.  From now till it completely goes away I'm going to get sunburnt, drink to much beer and shirk responsibility to extract as many rays of winter anti-venom as one can ingest.  Because once it's gone, it's a long time till it's back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Christmas Island Report

Jesse, an awesome guide in Honolulu, with an amazing trevally.

Nei Debbie in waiting
It's been just over a month since I set foot back in the cool dry riverine landscape that I call home.  Returning from the trip of a lifetime that took over a year of preparation has it's downsides, but it was nice to be back.  It has taken that amount of time for the whole thing to sink in.  A trip to the other side of the dateline warrants a report that's better than something you write on the plane ride home, and nearly 6 weeks later I still don't think that it's all digested.  Christmas Island is a trip I have been wanting to make since I was 12 years old and saw pictures on the cover of the Kauffman's catalog, having really had no clue what I was looking at.  18 years later it didn't disappoint.

A little over a year ago my friend Larry and I were floating down the Big Hole when he asked me if I was interested in going to Christmas Island.  I know that I said something in guide mode like "yeah, that'd be great, lets do it!" but in my head I was thinking "Fucking duh, lets go!".  It then became official and we started recruiting anglers to come along.  The emails didn't go far before the trip was full, in large part to my friend Dave who unfortunately wasn't able to go.  His friends who joined on the adventure though were the type of guys that you shake hands with and know there will be many more trips in the future.

The first evening we were explained the program, discussed angling options with our guides, and set game plans for the following day, which for myself, Brett and my Dad would be our first day of flats fishing ever.  A hearty meal of fresh Ahi, Seared Ahi and Lobster and we settled in for a muggy restless night of sleep, with anticipation dripping off of everybody.

I guess you could say that even our highest of expectations were met quickly.  A short ride on the covered seats that lined the bed of a diesel truck/van led us to our boats, an outrigger manned by a smiling captain, a giant cooler and a few leaks.  These boats would be the taxis that shuttled us around the flats for the next 6 days.  On this first morning the boat dropped our friends Dan and Larry off, then putted across the bay to drop Dad and I off on a football field size flat, that was rapidly shallowing as the tide ripped out.  Exactly 3 casts into bonefishing and Dad had his first bonefish on the fly, a trend that would play out for the rest of the day.

Larry fishing a flat just outside of London.
Often trips begin with great expectations and then fly by in one blink.  This trip for me did not do that.  When the boat picked us up for lunch on the first day, after a morning of shot after shot (after shot!) at bonefish all I could think was "are you kidding me, it's only lunch time?"  Even by the end of the trip, the days sped up, but life moves so slow on Christmas Island that you are truly able to enjoy every last second of it.
Cruising back after a long, successful day.  

Brett Angel with a fish of a lifetime.

To list the highlights of our six days on the island would take a month of writing.  I think the impression that was left on all of us from Christmas Island was astounding, and not just simply because of the fishing.  A glimpse into the life of a third world island in the middle of the ocean is very humbling, especially when you are there to catch and release fish, a thought that was laughable to everyone on the island, including our guides even though they were polite enough to not say so.
Dad and T.J. stalking.
One of the best days of the trip was a cloudy, rainy day that resulted in us hooking exactly zero fish.  We had the opportunity to fish with Moana, the first guide ever on Christmas Island.  Moana began his guide career some 40 years ago as an employees of the department of tourism, tasked with taking 10-20 guests per day fishing along the flats for $2 a day.  It took him not showing up to work for him to get a raise, and his climb to legendary status occurred shortly thereafter.  Simply spending time around this amazing, knowledgable and highly intelligent guide was worth the trip.  His understanding of fish behavior and flats fishing was astonishing, that which can only be acquired through a lifetime of fishing. 
Coolest species of fish I have ever chased.
 Many milestones were achieved during our week as well.  Every angler caught a GT, which are far and away the nastiest thing I have ever touched on a fly rod.  In fact both reels that I brought limped home in my luggage to be returned for life-support at their respective companies.  The fish pictured above was one of the smaller GT's hooked, and was all my 12 wt set up could handle.  
Dad with a bigger GT than mine, truly amazing fish.
The only thing better than my grip and grin above was watching my dad land an even larger trevally.  As I have shared before on the blog some of the most special moments I have ever shared with my Dad are fishing, and this day was not different.  The energy on the boat ride in was overflowing, and the Heinekens tasted especially smooth as we zig-zagged our way out of the back country.  
No caption needed.
Our final evening, the prelude to a 7a.m. flight bcd to reality, included a luau and pig roast, our awesome guides sticking around for beers, and the perfect cap to 6 incredible days fishing at the end of the earth.  Just in finishing up this post I get goosebumps thinking about the trip.  Life nchanging may be a stretch, but then again maybe not.  We will certainly going back next year, with most of the same crew, a gift that couldn't be better.  And knowing what we are getting into this time, I expect it to be every bit as good as the first time, if not better.

Note:  If you are headed to Christmas Island or are interested in going feel free to shoot me an email (joe@evoanglers.com) and I'll send you some of the more technical stuff that would have made this blog post incredibly boring.  After one trip I am certainly no expert, and wouldn't claim to be, but am more than willing to share what we learned.  Also, a huge thank yo ufo all of my friends and the companies that helped outfit us with gear including Scott Fly Rods, Winston Fly Rods, Sage Fly Rods, Allen Fly Reels,  Nautilus Reels, and Rajeff Sports/Airflo as well as Modobi, Jersey Mike and Grey.

And last but certainly not least, a giant thank you to Dylan Rose and the crew at Fly Water Travel!  Their service from the first email to checking in after we returned was professional and first class.  You truly made our trip, and if you're thinking about any fly fishing destination you would be remiss without calling these guys.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Montana Summer

My friend Paul and I celebrating his birthday, properly.
Wow, over a month without a post.  A lot of fish have been caught in that time, including some new species from the Christmas Island trip.  Expect a report from there and some regular content again.  As the flows drop the posts will go up.  Promise!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A fishing guides wife

For every April Vokey (see that Google?) out there, there are a couple hundred women who fly fish for many different reasons than they just can't live without it.  My wife would be in the latter.  When it's nice out, and fishing is going to be good, she loves it.  Winter steelhead fishing will not be soon in our plans together.  That being said, when given the opportunity to have the bow of the boat to her self and the opportunity to feed some lonely early season trout some dry flies she is not one to turn it down.  If the Bozeman Mall had a Nordstrom's that might be a different story, but their loss is my gain.

Last friday we floated together without our daughter for the first time since she changed life in ways unimaginable.  A short float that my wife had never done before and ideal conditions made for a day we won't soon forget.  After a morning of good dry dropper fishing, clouds rolled in from the pioneers, kept their warmth, and made for the conditions we lose sleep about.  The bugs took notice equally as quick and the swallows doubled their activity now that their flight was being rewarded.

As we came about a narrow bend my wife threw our two fly rig into a quick slot that needed to be hit precisely before the boat ran it over.  Flies down, a subtle sip, and a fish is on that neither of us knew the size of.  We looked and debated if it was the bottom, until it moved. Moved down and across, and then finally into the shallows.  "We should probably put that one in the net" my wife said, in a tone that had a sense of urgency that is only reserved for times like this.  Not the same urgency as something that relates to our daughter, but enough urgency to know that this is like a perfect game;  the tension is there but we can't talk about it.

Unlike the last big fish I watched my wife hook, which I still lament 3 years later, this one hit the net.  A size 16 Purple Have stuck squarely in the corner of its mouth, we released her to swim free, celebrated, and then hastily hopped back in the boat, realizing that we had a long ways to go, and Harper to pick up before 4:30.  Arriving to town just in the nick of time, Ke'lah's big fish turned out to be the last cast of the day she made.  It's always good to go out on top!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh I'll never leave Montana brother

C-Squad getting after it
Unfortunately it's not nearly that often that my brother and I get to fish together any more.  With him finishing up Med School in WA and me living in MT with a 1 year old daughter, the paths just don't cross like they used to.  This past Friday the stars aligned and we were able to meet over in Melrose for a short float during my favorite season.  After not catching anything in the first two spots, which was a giant surprise, we proceeded to put the smack down.  The best day that Rick had seen here, it was the perfect bonus to the fact that we got to spend some time in the boat together.

Testing out some new flies.  They work.
Fishing was good enough under the bobber that I switched it up and stripped some streamers around. I started with a fly from my friend Mike D. and as with all of his bugs, it was a winner.  Sadly I cracked it off with an errant cast into the willows, so one of mine was up next.  Ever since Dave @ Pile Cast sent me some craft fur closers last year I have been fascinated with his pattern.  Dave lives in Indiana, and so they weren't perfect for what we have here (I can't get brown trout to eat chartreuse), but the concept was awesome and with a simple hook and color adjustment i have ended up with a simple tweak on his badd ass pattern that has so far been very successful for me this spring.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Right now, from St. Regis to Sydney the state of Montana is joking about spring.  When is it coming?  Why is it still snowing?  When will summer be here?  My friend Brett has the best tweak on the old adage, "you know what they say about the weather in Montana?" "If you don't like it, go fuck yourself".  Much more to the point than wait 5 minutes, and the opinion shared by many if not in such a crude manner. We all know the truth, that until the calendar rolls over to July 1 it's a crap shoot.  Lately we've been having the cold weather that keeps the rivers in shape and the fish sluggish.  The first sign of warmth and we are going to see some seriously vertical graphs and a mass migration to those rivers that have been decapitated by concrete.  At least we have those, and the opportunity to hide under their shadows while the freeflowing streams carve new channels and redistribute cottonwoods.  If your living here or smart enough to travel here outside of tourist season though, you'll find the rivers and the fish lonely.  Waiting for company that will be here after the weather cooperates and the flows have subsided.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


It would be utter bullshit to say we've been seeing it coming.  The signs have not been there.  In fact it's been the opposite.  But finally it showed up.  The caddis are disturbed by my lawnmower, but the river is now brown enough for them to not be noticed as they land on the outside bend just beyond my fence..  The window of warm and clear has gone, and we now have warm and high and dirty.  But that too will soon change.  Clear would never describe it, more like clear-enough.  Clear enough for the fish to tip up, as the sun dips down, and provide those rings that we all look for. Soon.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Now Offering Hosted Travel: Christmas Island

Dylan Rose of Fly Water Travel with an awesome GT.
A little over a year ago a good friend of mine asked me if I had any interest in putting together a group of guys to go to Christmas Island.  After 1/2 of a second of thought I said of course.  I then contacted my buddy Dylan at Fly Water Travel, got the details shook out, and started emailing other friends and clients to come along.  Much quicker than expected the trip came together, and one month from now we will be standing in the flats of Kiribati.  This trip is currently full with an incredibly diverse and skilled group of anglers that I couldn't be happier about traveling with.

The opportunity to travel with a large group of friends to exciting locations is beyond exciting and something that I will continue to do in years to come.   On  the docket for 2015 is going to be a trip to Washington's Olympic Peninsula to the lodge of my close friend Jeff Brazda the second week of March.  If you want to joint us there shoot me an email at joe@evoanglers.com as space is limited.  I'll be starting a new page on the blog as well to keep updates on past and future trips available.  Also, thank you so much to the crew at Fly Water and especially Dylan for helping make the booking process so easy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A good walk

If you are reading this blog I don't need to explain to you the many benefits of living in Twin Bridges, MT, but every once in a while it even throws us for a loop for what a cool spot it is, even after 5 years of living here.  This past Sunday after driving out to the Ruby to find it busy, cold and windy, we drove back down valley to take the dogs for a walk and hopefully enjoy a little sunshine.  As we made it to the town park and walked along the banks of the Beaverhead, caddis fluttered about, an unusual sight for a cold blustery spring day.  Approaching the river, we weren't the only ones surprised to see caddis, and heads dimpled the surface of the river in the likely spots.

Being downstream of 1,000's of acres of flood irrigated farmland, the Beav in Twin Bridges is a far cry from it's true tailwater section upstream of Dillon.  To be honest, in Twin it's a ditch.  But every once in a while, when irrigation starts and conditions are right, the ditch clears and the fish are active.  With the stars aligning on this afternoon we called our walk short, flipped a 180 and hightailed it for home.  Dogs dropped off, a chair for our daughter and two cold beers in the cooler and we were back to the park.  Fishing dry flies is always a blast, but having your Sunday afternoon walk interrupted by rising fish is an experience beyond that.  It is these little things that help make the long winter worth it, and living in trout mecca truly the amazing place that it is.

Monday, April 21, 2014

15 Second Fly: Sculpin Steve

I posted a picture of my favorite streamer, Sculpin Steve, last week on Facebook, and amongst a ton of good comments I received two asking for tying instructions.  Rather than do the traditional recipe/instructions,  thought I would do an Instagram video.  15 seconds does go by quick, but with the ability to pause I think it provides if nothing else a cooler way to look at tying a fly.  I'll be definitely doing some more of these, so if there is a pattern you see me tie or read about here and want some instruction, let me know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Trout Streamer Swap with River Menace

My buddy Mike and I swapped a few flies around this winter and he got the chance to take the ones I sent him for a spin this past week.  Mike ties some of the best trout streamers of anyone I know, so we decided to swap 6 each.  I'll be posting some pics of his flies in the mouths of fish shortly, but for now check out these great Utah browns that fell for some Montana tied goodness.

Tan Sculpin Steve

Awwww yeah.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gear Review: Allen Trout Hooks

If there is one thing I am particular about as an angler and fly tier it is hooks.  As the connection point between you and the goal, I absolutely never skimp on hooks.  Ever.  So when my buddy Evan at Allen Fly Fishing  asked me if I wanted some of their hooks to tie on I was skeptical.  Granted there are not that many places on earth making hooks, but if they were Mustads repackaged with the Allen logo they would have hit the envelope right back to where they came from.

Fortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth.  When the hooks arrived I cracked open a package of #4 streamer hooks and started wrapping some sparklers.  The finish on them is every bit as good as any other trout hook on the market, and the point was absolutely as sticky as a tiemco trout hook.  One thing I have found when I buy cheap hooks (read Dai Riki) is the finish is very inconsistent and there is typically one hook per pack that has a major defect.  There were no such issues, and I have now tied on several packs of Allen Hooks with the same success.  When it comes to trout hooks, I don't see myself tying on much else this upcoming summer.

An Allen hook where it really matters.