Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Wrap-Up

It's very difficult to not write a year end post in 100% cliche's but 2015 disappeared in a hurry.  I looked back at my 2014 wrap-up post and I vowed to write less bullshit, and accomplished it.  With all of the other avenues out there to get your opinion online I'll be interested to see how much longer blogs have any impact.  I know the ones I get jacked to read dwindle every year.  So, that being said, thank you so much for those of you that do come here and read what I periodically throw up.  It means a lot to me.

Like last year's 4 for 2014 here's 5 of my favorite pics from 2015.  



Lat but certainly not least, the highlight of 2015, Michael William.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why the WDFW Ruling on OP Steelhead Sucks

My buddy Art, before he was my buddy Art, with a beautiful swung fish in the newly "no float fishing" zone of the upper Hoh.

Last week the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission made what has been announced as a historic ruling on the rivers of Washington's coast known lovingly as the "OP".  These rules, which include a ban of bait, barbs and killing fish on all rivers, as well as designating a portion of the upper Hoh off limits to fishing from a boat, do come as a strong indication that science is being taken into account in WDFW, something that has not always been the case.  However while many seem to be celebrating this as a huge victory, I don't completely share the overjoyed view of these regulations.

As a long time steelheader, former OP guide, and Washington resident for most of my life you would think that I would be singing from the mountain tops with the rest of the internet.  While I do agree that it is great to see these changes, and I do think it will have a positive impact on the fishery, it leaves me with a lingering question:  What the fuck took so long?

Wild steelhead are as incredible a fish as you can possibly catch on a fly rod, and to me, a fresh native winter steelhead is the pinnacle.  No colors but black and silver, see-through fins and a deep rooted anger that they're summer brethren don't share, there is not a fish that I hold in higher regard.  As a guide I had the choice of most anywhere I wanted to spend my winters guiding, and I chose to return home to the coasts rain soaked rivers.  That is why I find the amount of time that it has taken to make these changes to be so frustrating.  Every river that has been listed in the bait/barb/kill ban falls well under escapement every year (meaning there are not enough fish coming back, according to the state, which has a very low bar as far as "enough" is concerned) and it has gotten to the point that the fishery has nearly collapsed for the absolute most no-brained incremental changes to be made.

At what point do things have to get to on the coast for some real decisions to be made and some action to be taken that truly protects fish?  Is the state of Washington going to let things go like they did on the Puget Sound rivers to the point that the only option is closing the rivers?  This would be the greatest disappointment of my angling lifetime because many of the answers are so clear.  Obviously removing nets and dealing with the tribe is the easiest answer.  Get rid of the mechanism that remove half of the fish as they enter the river and all anglers are happy.   I have witnessed the many different netting techniques employed, including drift netting, and it makes you sick to your stomach.  The political nightmare that is this option is more depressing than i can fathom, and I just hope that in my lifetime this is accomplished.  There are many other parts to the puzzle that can be picked off in the mean time, from enforcement and poaching to habitat degradation and logging, that offer easier solutions and don't involve federal/state pacts and treaties.

The other part of this ruling that I have noticed online is the continued segregation of steelhead anglers.  The comments I have seen from gear and fly anglers about the impact of the boat ban have at times been moronic.  The general argument that the spey anglers now have a sanctuary, and this is going to lead to trampled redds and an increased impact on fish is bullshit.  Even as a guide who spent a ton of time rowing bobbers around, I have absolutely no prolem with the fish having a boat free zone.  It is the only place in the entire state of Washington where fishing is banned from a moving boat.  In a state full of fishing regulations that a neanderthal would scoff at for being archaic, it is refreshing to atleast see an attempt at something progressive.  If any conservation impact is to ever be had, anglers need to put aside what type of rod they are using, where they are from, and get their shit together to make some reel change.  

I am fortunate that i have been able to work with some very good conservation organizations, and have gotten to see a lot of good work done.  In no way am I questioning the work of  of WSC and the other groups that pushed for this, and I understand the political powers and incrementalism that is conservation.  This is a victory, and certainly a step in the right direction, I just wonder how far things are going to have to go before changes are made that actually have teeth.  The only solace I have is that I know the fish will always be there, even if it's only a few and we can no longer fish for them.  When you hear of fish spawning above the Elwah dam site just down the road, within months of the dams being removed, it eases the pain, and provides some eternal hope that no matter how bad we fuck things up, the fish will come back one way or another.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Economic Impact of Fishing: Montana

Not that much different than a gold bar.

So for those of you who don't know almost three years ago I cut my guiding back to part time and started working as an economic development planner for a company out of Butte.  Since then, I have definitely developed a passion for economic development (certainly not a passion that would rival fishing) and am fascinated by the dollars that fishing brings to my region of Montana, and particularly the juxtaposition between fishing/guiding and agriculture in a valley that is constantly yearning for more water.

I was fortunate enough to sit on the Upper Missouri Basin planning update process a couple of years ago, and helped to form a water plan for the Upper Missouri which included everything from my part of the world (Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Madison) to just past Great Falls and Fort Benton.  One of the big takeaways I got from the economic development side was talking to fellow ED Planners from the lower river, who had no concept of use of water for recreation.  To them, and obviously the bulk of the irrigators, water was something to be consumed.  This consumptive use was something that those of us in the upper part of the valley, and as a minority the anglers, had to work to combat in the plan.  While there is certainly a need for consumptive use, the value of non-conusumptive uses are tremendous and renewable.

Today I opened up The Chum, and saw this interesting article on the economic impacts of fishing throughout the country.  I quickly scrolled though the states I was interested in and came to Montana. $350 million spent statewide directly on fishing, spread amongst 350,000 anglers, so about $1000 an angler (I know I did more than my part).  One of the most interesting facts I learned at the Upper Missouri meetings was that approximately 50% of angling in the state occurs in the the Upper Missouri (including Big Hole, Beaverhead, Madison, Jefferson, Gallatin).  Combine those two pieces of data and you have $175 million dollars spent in our area directly on fishing.  Even with more conservative number (lets do 25%) thats still $87.5 million! Obviously this is a very simple overview, but certainly enough to get my brain working.

So, why is that important?  In case you haven't noticed we aren't quite packing away the snow every year like we used to 100 years ago.  And with temps increasing and water decreasing, the demand for such a precious resource increases dramatically every year.  When it comes down to thinner and thinner years, and more difficult decisions are to be made, being able to show where the dollars go, and more importantly where they come from, is what decision makers are going to be focused on.  It's great to see that the conservation efforts that take place don't go to waste, and that there is some real economic value to leaving water in our rivers.

Part 2 of my very simplistic economic study is going to be Washington's coast.  We all know the best financial use of steelhead is not dragging them out of the river in a gill net and shipping them to Pikes Place.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Connected



For the longest time I never bothered tying intricate steelhead flies.  They eat a piece of bunny or flash just as well, and catching them is the fun part, right? I was young and frankly happy anytime I hooked one that didn't involve a bobber.

During the time that I didn't get it, I was fishing every day, guiding all the time, and viewed fancy flies as getting in the way of time I could be fishing.  Now that I sit here and write this post across from my daughter and her play-dough, with another kid sleeping in a swing in the other room, knowing that i will only have 5 days to go steelhead fishing this spring, I understand.  Taking time to put the feathers exactly where they should go, pulling material off when it's not perfect and geeking out to the point of OCD makes sense, when time at the desk is easy to come by and time on the river is tough.  It is through tying that I stay connected, think about the fish I've caught on each different pattern and color, and am reminded why these fish are so special.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Montana Stream Access Law: A How To

Nice to see this bridge without barbwire and no-tresspassing signs all over it.
Last week or so an article came out about a Montana writer who got fired.  This article laid out the facts about a landowner in our valley who has done his best to try to ruin stream access for all of us here in Montana.  I believe that if there is one unifying thing amongst most Montanans (natives and transplants, D's and R's) it's that we all love having access to the great outdoors.  I thought a good way to show some support for the cause, one that is particularly important  given it's proximity to home and importance to our state, would be to post a how to on accessing rivers, and especially the lower Ruby.

Step 1:  Find the river you want to fish.  This would be a river that is legally navigable and allowed for recreation.  This includes most big rivers, and many small rivers, such as the Ruby.  I would highlight recommend one that has fish in it as well.  Don't

Step 2:  If there is not a giant public parking spot (which are good to launch boats from and suck to fish at anyways) find a bridge.  By state-law there is a 60' right-of-way.  This means that when combined with the high-watermark of the river, you can get in and go fishing!

Step 3:  Go Fishing!  Keep your feet wet (below the high-water mark, wet feet is the easiest way to do this if it's a small river), don't litter, and don't trespass.  Thankfully, Montana isn't some dumb-ass state like Colorado or Wyoming where you can own the bottom of the river.  Public land and water in Montana can be (Gasp!) used by the public.  Be thankful that we have a Supreme Court who believes in public access and public land.

Note:  In no way do I condone trespassing, which would surely not help the case of the phenomenal stream access laws we have in this state.  Be courteous of the landowners who are generous with access, don't litter, and don't be a cox.  Also, think about where you donate those precious dollars to conservation.  The juxtaposition of DU's "conservation" and willingness to bend to one donor is frustrating, and certainly makes me think about the conservation organizations I give to.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The greatest steelhead year of my life.

First steelhead on a spey rod and likely my first (and last) goatee.
This time of year as guide season is over and tying season begins I always start to think about past steelhead seasons where I fished every day.  Or at least it felt like every day.  Either way, it was a hell of a lot more than I do now.  Driving in to work the other day a song from Death Cab for Cutie's "Plans" album came on, and instantly brought me back to the greatest steelhead season I've ever had.

Anyone who regularly fishes the NW would likely think that my best year was 2009 and the epic return of steelhead up the columbia.  While 2009 held a special place in my heart, 2005 still stands out as the top. I was a senior in college, I guided all summer so I actually had some money, and I lined up my class schedule so that I had Tuesday and Friday off.  That fall was when I went from wanting to catch as many steelhead as I possibly could to beginning the journey of appreciate the process.


Naturally as a 20 year old, when I first caught a steelhead all I wanted to do was catch more.  Any way I could, anywhere I could.  It took several years of this approach before i started to realize that this wasn't what it's all about.  This fall I swung my first several steelhead, all on a dry line, caught many bobber fishing, and learned a ton.  It was certainly the beginning of the end.  I also spent a lot of time with good friends.  We learned what is now my favorite river anywhere, all on foot, fishing from sun-up to sun down.  Many laughs were had, many fish were caught, and memories were formed that still come flooding back, with something as simple as a song on the radio.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Payback



 My friend Bob is one of the absolute nicest and fishiest guys that you will ever meet.  I say "friend" because although he lives two doors down the street from us "Neighbor" doesn't quite cut it.  My wife and I bought our first house this summer and Bob was instrumental in the majority of my renovations.  The typical exchange would go something like this "Hey Bob, can I borrow a saw?"  Bob-  "Oh yeah, and Im just sitting around, I'll come spend the next 5 hours helping you build a fence with all of my tools and energy and knowledge".  There is no possible way to pay back someone who is so generous, but Bob had one thing I could help him with, swinging his first steelhead.

A born 406'er, Bob has caught more fish in this state than most, and plenty of steelhead with a variety of techniques, but as a new spey angler had yet to check it off the list.  With a 1 month old boy running around my house the idea of a trip to some water I knew really well back home was not an option, so we headed out for the closest thing we've got, and tried to get Bob on the board.


About 2/3 of the way into our float I finally came tight to a fish in the middle of one of my favorite runs.  A couple of quick headshakes and it was gone, but it was a good reminder that we were throwing into an empty river.  We decided to row across the river and fish the same run from the other side, now that we knew there were some fish around.  I set Bob up about 3 casts upstream of what should be the money spot, walked upstream to some crappy riffle water to come in behind him, and of course promptly hooked a fish.  A short fight and a quick hatchery-fish-to-rock and we got Bob back out there.  No more than ten minutes later I looked up from re-rigging some gear and watched Bob's rod bending with the unmistakable pull of a a fish.  We put the fish in the net, dispatched of it as well, and shared a handshake that had been 2.5 years in the making since Bob started throwing a two-handed rod.  a handshake I was very happy to be a part of.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Video!

This has been my brainchild for a while, and am very happy to finally have a couple of them shot and ready to upload.  This week is with a buddy of mine, Mike Stack, of Fishtale Outfitters.  The nymphing technique is one of my favorite ways to bobber fish, and a huge improvement over throwing a thingamabobber in the middle of a leader.  Look for another vid next week.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall Favorite


After a long dry summer that seemed like it would never end we have been enjoying and indian summer that came after a bump in flows, just the way you would want it.  There haven't been a ton of fish looking up, mostly because there haven't been a ton of bugs.  Apparently they like the schizophrenic weather as much as we do.  However, if you know exactly where to look, the noses pop up every day, at a consistency you could "set your watch to".  The end of summer is always bittersweet, but the reward of fall is always worth waiting for.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Waiting Game

With a 9 month pregnant wife at home, weather that cannot make up it's mind, and steelhead taking their sweet time to make it to the close rivers, I've been spending a lot of time waiting around lately.  This is not something that I am accustomed to, and not that good at, especially in the month of September.  The appropriate fishing for this waiting game has been throwing around some small spey rods and streamers.  Much like my life, an enjoyable cast is followed up by a lot of waiting.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ready for the reset

Most years I'm dreading the end of summer.  The 3rd week of august always shows the first signs of fall around here, and this year was no different.  The schizophrenic weather patterns return, and we're as liable to have 90 degrees heat as snow.  Hopper fishing is waning and fall bugs aren't quite motivated to do anything yet.  With all the changes I think for the first time I'm ready for it to just start dumping snow and reset for next year.  Here's to El Nino making it to the rockies and loading us up for a good 2016.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Return of an old friend

When I first moved to Montana I had a Clackacraft 16wf.  A perfect boat for the guiding I was doing back in Washington, it was a bit of a slug for the little rivers around SW MT.  There was a nearly-new Headhunter skiff in Mission Blue (the color all 5 of the Clackacrafts I've owned has had somewhere on it) laying around that I was able to trade my big boat for.  It was this blue skiff that I learned the area out of, and made a ton of good memories.  A few years ago, with visions of traveling a little more and bigger water, I traded ol' blue in for a new Eddy.  Far and away the most versatile drift boat I've owned, the Eddy was awesome, but coming to the realization that i was not traveling like I expected it was time to go back to the skiff.  I picked up New Blue on Friday, and have yet to christen her, so very soon there will be some trico sipping fish nearby that will be reminded to keep their traps shut when blue rolls by.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fly Fishing Film Tour in Dillon!

Well it's been a while since I've posted, mostly because I've been fishing, which is the best excuse ever to let a blog die a painful death.  Worth taking the time to sit at the computer for though, is an upcoming showing of the film tour in Dillon, with all proceeds going to the Poindexter Slough Project.  All the pertinent are below, but here's my take:  Poindexter is one of the coolest spring creeks yo will ever see and a shitload of people have worked a lot to restore it to a functioning stream.  and oh yeah, IT'S PRIMARILY PUBLIC WATER!  I don't know of another fishery like it in the state.  So get down to Dillon and enjoy an awesome evening and support a project that you can use!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Christmas Island and Redemption Trevally

I originally wrote this for the great guys at Fly Water Travel to share, but figured it would be good here as well.  If you are interested in going next year hit me up, joe@evoanglers.com.

My first trip to the fly fishing paradise of Kritimati was a learning experience. As an experienced trout guide and flats fishing beginner, I looked forward to the ample bonefish opportunities, but had my mind set on the big prize, a GT on the fly (NO CHUM!). On day 5 of 6 I finally had my opportunity, and after some equipment failure and a few choice words I watched my dream fish swim away at a much further distance than I was comfortable with.
Prior to that I had already decided that I was going to be returning to paradise, but losing what I was after was an even better motivator. I landed back in Honolulu and emailed Dylan for the “big GT tides” in 2015, got everything dialed, and set about tying for what would be a trip of redemption. We landed on Christmas Island 11 months later to the day, and set out for another adventure that would hopefully include more trevally.
The very first day of fishing we walked a flat for bonefish and watched two of our friends fishing a small pancake about two flats over. About an hour in and we heard the excited screams that a bonefish simply cannot produce. We didn’t find out until cocktail hour that evening that they had just doubled on GT, and it turned out that 4 of the 6 anglers in our group had caught trevally in the 15-25lbs range that day, all while stalking flats. An excellent start to our week.
Fast forward through the trip and my friend Brett and I took a whole day to dedicate to GT. As lifelong steelhead fisherman we were both comfortable with knowing 1-2 good shots would be all that we were after and the day didn’t disappoint. The first flat produced a 30lb trevally with its back out of the water on a shallow reef. After we had several good shots the fish made a speedy exit, nearly swimming between our legs as it left for deeper water. We moved to a new spot and had a great shot at two happy fish within minutes of jumping off the boat. After an easy cast one of the two fish peeled off and destroyed a tan mullet fly. The fish ended up rubbing the leader off on the coral, but was still hooked and fought, we had met our goal. We had several other opportunities, and never put a fish in our hands. A rewarding day nonetheless, and a very nice break from bonefishing.
Again on our second to last day we traveled as a group of six to the backcountry. A rainy day that was ideal for seeing the larger trevally, we waited for the high-tide to bring in the fish, and what we saw next I will not be able to do justice with words. Guide Biita took us to a spot where we could see several trevally cruising, and on his command my friend Jay and I ambushed them. I hooked up and subsequently broke off, a severely frustrating moment. We thought for sure that the fish were going to be gone, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. For the next hour and a half we watched what seemed like fireworks and holes opening in the ocean as packs (the only way to properly describe these predators) of trevally came into the bay, killing everything in sight. I don’t dare repeat the expletive laden tirade I spouted the first time the fish came in, but it resulted in Biita jokingly asking if I was having a heart attack. The action was so quick I genuinely don’t remember how many fish I hooked, but it was over 4.
After releasing a fish, a pack of two peeled off at my 3 o’clock. Halfway through my forward casting stroke Bitta told me to drop it short. I checked my cast down, stripped twice and saw a silver face the size of my chest inhale the fly and start back for the ocean. Having followed Dylan’s rigging suggestions I had a backing color change that signaled the “Oh Shit” point, and I came within several rotations of the reel to that point. Half an hour later and after giving every ounce of energy that I had, I put what will surely be the best fish I will ever catch on the beach, a trevally that Biita estimated to be 110lbs. A quick picture with the fish in the water and we watched it swim away to the depths. I followed suit and dove headfirst into the blue drop off, having found the redemption I had been waiting for all year, in a manner that was so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. If you have not experienced a GT on the fly, there is no place better than CXI and the amazing guides at Christmas Island Outfitter’s. The fury and the fishing we saw, without chum, is something that I will never forget in a million fishing trips.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Signs of Spring

As much a sign of spring around this house as Skwala's and BWO's.
It's hard to write about spring when we didn't have much of a winter.  A transition wasn't clear, but it is still appreciated, and as the tailwaters drop for (too) early irrigation demands, the freestones suspend at the perfect level until the begin their spring swelling.  My friend Scott always speaks to the connection of baseball and fly fishing, and as a life-long lover of both I definitely think of the beginning of both seasons being conjoined.  My fishing doesn't stop in the colder months, but the first pitch of the season certainly tells my brain that it's time.

Editors Note: I started this post the other day and it snowed all day today.  It kind of took away the fun of writing some more about spring, even though its going to be back by the weekend.  Whatever, Montana.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Early Season Stones


Skwalas, the stonefly that gets everyone out of their winter funk, wrapping foamy bugs, and remembering that after a long, cold winter there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Although their the size of a small hopper, and most the patterns we fish could be just a dark hopper pattern, the behavior of fish in March and April is quite a bit different than in July and August.  Here are few tips to help you make the best out of throwing the first big bugs of the season.

Fish Slow:  It's was to tie on a Chubby and pretend like it's August and fish outside seams and hard edges all day when you're fishing.  While fun to pretend that summer is here, it doesn't do much in the realm of "actually catching them".  Every spring I am amazed at how slow of water fish will sit in, and shallow for that matter.  Think about water that is warm, has good cover, and will not force a trout to waste precious early season energy.

Fish Downstream:  This is actually a do-all-the-time thing(at least for fishing dries out of a drift boat), but is particularly important this time of year.   When the rivers are still fairly low, and the fish aren't 100% convinced that they should be saying big food, the last thing that they want to see is a leader.   When you combine this with fishing slower water (which allows for more time to look at your junk) it is really important to chuck it in front of the boat.

Watch for the slurp:  Slow water, slow takes.  Sure, occasionally you get the fish that body slams the fly with it's face, but most of them are going to sip it like it's a may fly.  This can take some getting used to, and when you're not expecting it a  subtle take can easily be missed.  Yesterday we had several fish that neither Seth nor I (over 25 years combined guiding experience) were confident were even fish until we pulled the trigger.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Attention to Detail

Recycled picture that I felt captured the title of "Attention to Detail"

Those of you who know me on a personal level are probably thinking that a post from me about attention to detail is an April Fools joke.  My truck is constantly a mess, my brain is scattered and you could likely fish for a week from the random gear strewn throughout my boat.  I often use the line in my boat however that the only control issues I have are manifested in my nymph rigs.  Even with a lot of my buddies who are certainly capable fisherman I prefer to do the rigging myself so that I can have control.  This attention to detail is critical to success, and part of the game that really gets me fired up.  When something as simple as a knot type can make a difference in your day, you don't want that responsibility left to anyone besides yourself!  Here are couple parts of the process that I really geek out about.

Knots-  Not only the type but making sure they are tied correctly.  I can't begin to tell you how many lefty's loops I've clipped because they are not the right size.  Always sealed with a lick, making sure that you're knots seat correctly (and knowing what this looks like) can make a difference in putting "the one" into the net.  Also having the correct knot for the correct application.  There are times for loop knots and times there aren't.  knowing when to use each is something I know with absolute certainty puts more fish into my net.

Depth-  Another one that i really just freak about. I want my depths the same, and consistent. Whether I'm bobbering 12' deep down the middle of the missouri or shortleashing the upper beat with a dry dropper, when I rig I want the same every time.  I constantly use my body as a frame of reference for this.  I am nymphing extended left arm to right shoulder, a lot.  knowing that on me that's my point of reference ensures that it's the same, every time.

Weight-  Just like both of the above, how much cowbell on the end controls your sink rate and speed. My mentor Braz taught me a lot about weighting and different places to put it on the line.  Certain rivers have certain styles that I use exclusively there (Pogo, anyone?).  Things like weighting above and below your fly, all below, and then distance above all impact the drift, which in turn impacts the fish that are impacting your net.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Perspective


Living in Twin Bridges is as close as one could possibly come to living a dream life as a fly fisherman.  Life at the convergence of 3 of North America's best trout streams leaves little to be desired as a trout fisherman.  Sadly, I all too often take this for granted and approach my time fishing with the mentality of a skier in a resort town. "only ski powder days, brah!"  A week in LA gives great perspective to the unique lifestyle that those of us in MT are able to live.  Being from Montana automatically makes you the most interesting guy in the bar, and the looks you get when you describe what life in the mountains is like range from pity to pure envy.  The anonymity of the city is alluring, and I love walking around without a soul knowing my name.  By the end of a week, gorged with exotic foods and expensive beers, there is nothing better than flying over the Headwaters of the Missouri, picking out each valley as you watch them meander north.  Flowing water is a great comfort, even if its viewed from several thousand feet in the air, and there is no better welcome home.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Crossing over


As a fishing guide you have to be a firm believer in the faith.  I have written about it before, but believing in what you're throwing is critical to success.  I have been incredibly fortunate to start saltwater fishing, and will be heading back to Christmas Island in just over a month.  That being said, a week of fishing there last year wasn't enough to really earn the faith in patterns, especially for the Trevally when you only have a couple shots in a week.  Big EP flies are cool, and I love learning new tying techniques, but they don't have the sex appeal that your typical steelhead fly (or trout bug for that matter) do.  I tied a wad of them, and they worked fine, but there was nothing that I was looking forward to tying before my return, much more of a tying out of necessity.

That thought stuck with me till I saw this post courtesy of the Chum.  flies with natural materials, hackles and flavor.  Not just a wad of synthetic on a big ass hook.  Surprisingly, finding good hackle tips have been the hardest part of the equation to find, but as I come across them I have been experiementing.  Part deceiver, part marabou and part Kinney's skagit minnow, I am pumped to see how they end up working, and hopefully I can get the faith.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stay Who You Are


As I started to write this post I recognized the instant hypocrisy.  I am as guilty as anyone for downplaying trout.  My instagram feed is nothing but intruders, my thoughts are of nothing else for a good portion of the year, and the views are substantially higher with every mention of steelhead and other more popular fish.  For some reason unless you're on the other side of the world doing it, trout aren't sexy.

I don't know why that is, and frankly I don't think I'm going to do anything about it, but as the days get long and the rivers thaw, the locals are all I can think about.  All it took was randomly flipping through one pic of a rainy spring day to jog the memory.  While far away shots at swung steelhead are often in my mind, there is a reason I live where I do.  Throwing flies to rising trout is still the pinnacle of fly fishing to me, and living where that is THE thing to do couldn't be better.

The memories of hiking mountain streams, getting carried by the back of my waders across the big rivers, and all the while trying to understand what was going on underneath is what my summers consisted of after age 12.  Maybe it's the lifetime of fishing for them that has ingrained trout into me, but I get as fired up every spring about it as the last.  Soon they'll be looking up, and the reason a few of us live year round in the middle of nowhere pays off.  It cannot come soon enough.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Swing and a Miss


I figured after a 2 month blogging hiatus I should make a return with something worthwhile, so figured a Technique Tuesday would the best return.  Since my last post i've mostly worked and been responsible, but I did get to go to Washington and see a bunch of old buddies including one of my best friends and mentors, Jeff Brazda.

The above fish was one of the cooler steelhead I have caught recently, not because of the veracity of the take, crazy fight or size, but purely because of the method in which it grabbed the fly.  After two fishless days I was with my buddy Andy on a run we debated on bothering to swing or not.  Two-thirds of the way through the run I finally felt the pluck that was unmistakably not the bottom.  Two quick taps, a small amount of my loop slid through my finger, and then nothing.  Fortunately after two days I had the wherewithal to not pull the trigger early.  This is where the technique kicked in.

First cast after the pluck I through a good long, straight cast to the same spot as the last one, didn't mend, didn't do anything and let the line rip through the zone.  This cast does two things for me.  One, if the fish is particularly pissed they crush it on this cast, which is awesome.  The second is it reaffirms to me that the subtle pluck wasn't a branch.  After a couple days without a tug are refresher in what a fish is never hurts.

My next cast is again without stepping, but I then sink it deeper than the cast that elicited the strike.  This low and slow swing provides ample opportunity for a picky fish to change it's mind.  It seems like this is often the cast that does the trick for me.

I follow up these two casts with a normal swing cast, just like the one that worked the first time.  I will typically do this once or twice depending on what I think the fish is doing.  If it was a very committed bite that I thought would come back quickly I make more than one.

After all of this and no love, I take 5-10 steps back up stream and start the process all over, trying to replicate what happened the first time.  With the fish above this is the move that worked the magic.  As I stood in the run and discussed comeback theory with Andy, the fish pluck two more times than the first time, and made it to commit time.  A fish that took a lot of work, a gorgeous fly (the last one I tied before I left) and a memory that I won't soon forget.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Four for 2014


I figured the way to end my month long blogging drought would be with what are typically my favorite posts on the other blogs I read, and one I rarely do, a photo wrap up of the year.  My 2015 blog goal is to continue my recent trend of posting quality over quantity.  When the itch to write is there it'll flow, when it's not it won't.  So that being said, here's my fave four shots from 2014.