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The River Quiets

Its cold. Cold enough my breath plumes with each deep heavy breath. The current tugs at my thighs trying to push me down river. My feet are almost numb, the bite of the rivers’ frigid grasp on my knees.

The sun has tried to break through the high gray cloud cover. The trees have the first hint of new growth on them…aching for the sunlight. As is my body. But my mind welcomes the overcast…the hatch is upon the river. Small blue wing olive mayflies flutter and dance about flirting with flight. The trout just yonder flirting with my heart.

The surface of the water is like glass in the back eddy. A steady spring current brings dainty insects onto the glass. They slow and bounce trying to lift off in the damp afternoon air. It drizzled earlier, my beard still damp. The anticipation builds, my feet slowly move through the heavy cross current, the gravel and rocks click and clock under my felt.

My arm twitches as I postion myself slightly down river of the glass. I watch patiently. The hatch has just begun and the trout holding just up river has only come up once. But once was enough to ignite the drive. I watch, the cold biting the current pulling.

A Rise

My heart quickens. The cold no longer has the sting, adrenaline starts to trickle in.

Another Rise

I pull my line from the reel quietly, my fingers cold as water spurts from the unrolling line. I wait. Enough line measure out flowing in a large green loop in the current below me.

A Dimple

My fly is dressed. The size 18 mayfly imitation between my fingers. Flossed to my fly rod with hair thin line. I will wait…

The river quiets. I watch.

A Rise

Cast. Drift….

….

The fly passes over the glass.

A Rise

Cast. Drift…

A Rise…

The fly disappears under a small nose. The rod lifts and bends.

The Shake and Roll

The trout moves deeper and into faster water. Pulling.

Counter

I lead and the trout follows. The distance betwwen us closes. The heart races, the breath quickens.

Lift

I hold my breath as my net breaks the water. The tension ceases and the dance is finished.

The trout has spots as big as my thumb on the tail. A deep shade of pink from gill plate to back. The cold water on my hand, the trout sliding away back to the glass.

Another Rise just Yonder.

Tamarack

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Handtied

Many know that my introduction to fly fishing was through fly tying. I bought a vise and tying kit before a fly rod and reel. I was into making my own bass lures at the time for gear and the fly tying aspect and how it mimicked real insects really struck my fancy.

I tied crude flies and soaked in as much info as I could. I read all sorts of books. This was before youtube and social media was big and embraced by the industry. LaFontaine, Schweibert, streamside bug guides, hatch charts, fly patterns, what materials were used for what, I fell in love with it all reading and tying.

I started taking classes, worked for a shop, studied with a teacher regularly and learned a lot. Started teaching classes. Tied thousands of flies. Got pretty good and fast at it. Then I started creating my own, playing with different materials, and widdling down patterns to the few things trout really need to be tricked by a fly. That tried and true, size, silhouette, and color, in the order. Really researching and reading about howna trout sees its food in the natural world and developing and changing patterns to better represent that. After a while you settle into a kind of style for your flies. They end up having a look. Its pretty neat as a tyer, to have people recognize my flies in anglers boxes.

Tying flies is also a way for me to stay busy, make a little money, and tie flies for guiding offering my clients a unique addition to the trip.

There are days it feels like a chore. I have Pat Stones to tie for the guide season. Gonna see if we can squeak through the spring with 6 to 9 dozen. With 4 legs because fish cannot count. But most days its a few hours and a few dozen flies while listening to tunes. I enjoy it and it starts building the stoke for the season.

Coming up its nymphing, streamers, midges, and BWO’s. The snow hasn’t stopped falling for 2 days now and its stacking up nicely for our snowpack. 45 days or so and things will start to percolate and get a little fishy. Tying in anticipation for the season and the spring fly patterns are a lot of fun. Besides the pat stones of course.

So if you are a fellow fly tyer I wish you good proportions and thread that doesn’t snap. If you like to use handtied guide flies you know where to get ’em.

See ya riveraide soon anglers.

Tamarack

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Things Learned

Fly fishing teaches the angler. Over my tenure I have learned so much about angling, people, fish, the environment, business, and life.

Life lessons. Whether its through sports or being raised through childhood we are always learning lessons that can be applied to lives we choose to live.

Best word to describe life…tumultuous. I rely on lessons from fly fishing in most things in life. Mostly because my life is mostly filled with fishing. There are always consequences for actions and decisions. As in fishing so to in life. Sometimes you are rewarded other times knocked down and humbled.

Personally I am being humbled. I am searching to be humbled in angling. I am relying on those things I have learned and developed in angling to get me through and so far it has been positive.

Patience has been the utmost lesson and learned skill from angling. There are times it can bring you to amazing moments in angling. Other times it can lead to a missed opportunity, a close encounter, or no encounters at all. Patience doesn’t always win the day and some days it can be the negative factor. Too much time, not enough time, its all about time and how it is managed. A skill that needs improvement in my off river life.

Determination, angling has taught me to seek out and learn the necessary skills to reach goals. Angling has taught me how to have passion and drive for something. Transfering that passion and drive to things outside of fishing is always an ongoing process but one that improves over time.

Failure. I have learned to meet failure head on in my life before fishing and that has helped me become a better angler. Failure is one of the more important teachers. Fish and life do not always give you another shot, or sometimes it gives you a few, failing is part of growing as an angler and a person. Owning ones failures, moving past them, and learning from them are lessons that are paramount in all things.

Reflection. Taking the time to reflect, be more observant of the world around and within are key in developing as an angler and as a person. When things are bad or good reflecting on the how and the why and critically thinking are necessary for growth.

As the new year comes in and the trout season gets closer everyday; taking the time to look back is important. To move forward both on and off river revisiting the lessons learned is how I prep for what is next.

See ya riverside anglers

Tamarack

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Beginner Fly Tying Class

I have 4 spots open for my 3 hour introduction to fly tying. We start with the basics, learn the techniques needed to get started, and learn the first few basic patterns and how to tie them.

Participants need their own vise and basic tools, scissors, bobbin, etc. Materials will be provided. It is $120.00 per participant.

Please reserve your spot. Contact me with any questions. I will be putting more of these up.

Call, email, or visit the link below for more into.

https://facebook.com/events/s/beginner-fly-tying-class/1028945237459598/?ti=as

Tamarack

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A few of my favorite things

I get asked what my favorite thing in fly fishing is a lot. The problem is it isn’t a simple answer. It changes from year to year and varies between guiding and personal fishing.

I love introducing anglers to fish. As a guide the moment the client feels the fish enter the net and they get to meet the fish. The look and body language of each individual is inherently different but also so similiar. The energy is the same. The reactions are similar but how each individual goes through the process of landing a fish no matter the size is one of most awesome and rad things about my job. Being a part of that process and success is incredibly rewarding. I would say that an anglers first fish…and of course those trophy, life ruining fish are some of the best moments.

Guiding has shown me lots of moments that can take the spot of favorite. And it can change from year to year. This year I got clients into a lot of fish. I like stats and metrics to keep teack of how I am doing personally. This year was fishy AF. This year also put more of those ‘trophy’ trout on the fly and in the net. That is for two reasons. We have a good chunk of big ass adult trout that have grown since the 2015 drought. So more opportunity. I have also become a better angler and guide which means we get to meet more of them. Improving my skills both on and off water and on guide trips and off have really started to show.

The most important thing I have noticed and what was my favorite thing this season…was playing those large trout. It is by far the most adrenaline fueled experience of guiding and I am still very much addicted to that.

Playing a fish, or fighting one on a fly rod is a difficult task. Just like everything else in fly fishing…its just a little more difficult and takes skill to do well. It is a dance between the two, angler and trout. Sometimes I feel like the dance instructor and other times my clients have learned and developed the skills to lead the dance on their own.

The land rate has gone up because this season I got a lot better at using the boat during these dance numbers. Over the years I have developed using the boat to put these larger fish in different currents and change angles, and leverage points with the boat position. My boat and I call it ‘chasin trout‘. It usually involves the boat moving around at sharp anglers and changing speeds to help keep the advantage to the boat and angler not the trout. I have this big ‘ol boat I like to use it.

We play offense, before I used to have clients play defense and wait out the fish. Yakima trout play for keeps so that just didn’t produce as much. We lost fish more often than landed. We would land 30-40% or less. These days we land 60% or more. Some days its 80% with some of my more experienced anglers.

Fish would roll off especially when they changed their position from faster to slower and shallow to deep. They would lead the encounters and I would follow with clients. We got our asses handed to us a lot. I started being more aggressive and using the boat as a way to keep the adtvantage to make sure the client can take the lead for the entire dance. Fish ended up in net a lot more this year after fine tuning that process over the past 2.

Feeling the current, anticipating what the fish will do. I learned to read the water after the fish was hooked and how they reacted and moved in the different currents, flows, depths, and areas of the river. I kept a mental catalogue of all those encounters and built up a basis of knowledge of what fish typically do in these dances. Because I was getting to dance a lot so I was able to learn and improve through trial and error. Lots of toes stepped on so to speak. But that work has paid off. We can dance.

Reaching that goal and the process by which I went through to get there and the experiences I got to be a part of is definitely one of my favorite things. Part of that guide work that the average angler may not be aware of. This job takes that kind of work to be at the level I want to reach. Its also the fun juicy stuff of this gig.

Personally my favorite thing this season was streamer related. Normally its dry fly related. But this is the first season in 5 years of guiding and almost 15 of fishing that steamer fishing was my favorite thing. The St. Joe ruined my life a little…in more ways than one. Damn deer. But trout eat meat in Idaho and I had a lot of opportunity to get a lot better at streamer fishing. The aggressive takes especially on the strip on the Joe were f’ing bonkers. Westslopes are ferocious like fucken raptors when it comes to streamers up there. Unlike the swing eaters on the Yakima. These cutties lie in wait using camoflauge to blend in, then pounce on streamers from the side. Swiping at them…’clever girl‘. Joe cutties would bat at or strike to stun the fly…then disappear quickly…only to reapear from a different angle to hoover the streamer. It was amazing to fish and feel that on the end of the fly rod. It was also spectacular to witness. Trout just appearing and literally killing shit. Aggressive, predatory, incredibly powerful. More than I thought westslope were capable of but they adapt so well to their environment and they use it to their advantage. They learned and evolved to eat and hunt that way on the Joe. It was my favorite thing personally fishing this year. I met some amazing fish, and encountered nature and raw power from wild animals in a way I was not expecting and let me tell ya….I liked it a lot. I kept chasin it even after I almost died on that damn river. Mmmm…ya ruin your life a little bit as I like to say.

I tried to find similar experiences here on the Yak streamer fishing and I will say that streamers on the Yak this year were f’ing decent! But over 80% are on the swing. Its how these fish eat it here. Head first heading downstream typically. Occasionally we get a hit from the side or hang down but alsmost always its at the three quarter mark of the swing just before the rig straightens out. Its because our trout here hit that shit head first hard. This fall we got some cutties to eat like the Joe trout but its will take another season of really looking for those areas to find fish that eat like that here. When you are hooking into fish on a 6wt every 3 to 6 casts that get it bent on streamer eats it can be a little addicting on the Joe. Where as here on the Yak its a good steamer day if you get 3-6 fish to hit the fly on the swing. Landing 1 or 2 is a damn good day. Granted the two rivers are very different and fish population is a huge factor.

But every river is different and has its quirks. Learning how fish adapt to each river is kind of the essence of guiding for me. Trout are trout…all the same. What makes them different is the places they live. Each river, creek, body of water they live they must adapt to. Which changes them and how they interact with the environment they call home. Guiding is about figuring that out and guiding clients through that world and the how, why, and what that make up the river. Then we plug in and fish it with that as our basis. This past season that really sunk in having the opportunity to guide and fish another river. It makes me want it more.

Those few favorite things that are always changing keep this gig from ever getting boring. Always a new thing to learn or improve on. New rivers to learn, new dances to share, and more moments introducing anglers to amazing animals and the places they live.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

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Things Learned

This past season was a big one. A busy one and probably the fishiest season I have ever had guiding.

Over the past 5 seasons I have learned a lot. I have learned about business. I have learned things about myself as a person and as a guide. I also continue to discover things about trout and the places they live.

I have become a very good trout guide. I am confident enough in myself to know that I am good at my job. It has taken a few years and a few hundred guide days to get there. It can make me come across as a know it all, cocky, and or intimidating. I am loud so that doesn’t help in some ways. I battled that my first two seasons. I was new to guiding but had a huge base in fly fishing already established for myself. Those first two seasons I was also heavily involved in conservation and had started snorkeling regularly. I was on river over 100 days each of those years and my mind exploded with everything I was learning about trout through guiding and conservarion work.

I battled what kind of guide I wanted to be and was still feeling out if this was really what I wanted. Heading into my 6th full time season you know the answer. This is my gig.

The example I had of a guide was this football coach style guide who was kind of crotchety. I was also working for outfitters here on the Yak and got to see a lot of different guides and how things looked in other boats. Call it market research, but I wanted something different in my boat from what I was seeing and familiar with. I realized that guides shouldn’t all be the same because every angler is different so why would guides all be the same with all the different types of people and anglers. There was no real guide standard. I saw a trip standatd at the outfitters but it always felt stifling how trips were set to run. The days always felt scheduled for people…not trout or the river. Off at this time, lunch at that time, start with this, fish dries for a little bit, but put them on the same amount of fish as everyone else. It just didn’t feel like I was guiding. It felt like I was kind of in an amusement park just turning on the ride and letting people on and off.

I wanted more. To get clients into the river…not the fish. I felt I had learned all this stuff over almost a decade of fishing myself at that point, and it was being wasted. So I quit doing it that way and started making my guide days look like the days I went out to fish on my own.

I started structuring my trips based on what the river was doing, I started dry fly fishing more than half the day and producing fish with it. Before dry fly fishing was 20% of the trip. Nymphing is consistent and easy. It produces fish period. But thats not really experiencing all the aspects of the river or the fish. I have been told to only dry fly fish for an hour or two of the trip and nymph the rest. I have been told to not do a lot of things. First thing I wanted to do of course is do all of those things that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to do. Duh I am a millennial.

It started to show when running trips with other boats and getting sneered at for dry fly fishing. Or getting louder with fish, out here it kinda felt like eveeyone knew dry fly fishing worked but didn’t want anyone else to know. By my 3rd season I was only working for myself and was running my trips the way I do now.

I became much louder, I let all the secrets flow out, and I just started talking about all the stuff and things about trout and rivers with clients. I started to be myself but also found out more about who I was and who I wanted to be. It just took off. Clients loved all the details, loved being plugged in and getting to understand more about everything that was going on in the world of trout. If you have been with me you know the days are intense, fun, loud, fish filled, but more importantly, clients leave the trip fulfilled that they were guided through the world of trout at that point in time and got to truly experience the river. It made people want to come out and experience the river at other times of the year because it is ever changing. It created this schedule of trips that followed the rivers lead and all of sudden the fishing got kinda silly.

I learned that when you really tap into the river and learn its rythym, the tune it’s singing that day, that week, that hatch, those flows…when you truly understand the river and the trout and how everything works together…you have a much richer fly fishing experience. I felt like I was finally guiding the way I was meant to, the way I envisioned it would be.

I could not have got there without learning and educating myself on the things I was guiding. Over the years, the trips, all the clients I continued to learn more. Every day I learn more. These days they tend to be more intricate things. Like how fish move in certain flows and current types while hooked up, or how to time drifts to rising pods on a rhythm during a hatch. Or how to teach and relay all the crazy info I have stored in my noggin about trout in multiple ways to multiple types of people because everyone is different. I am constantly improving. Constantly humbled and surprised by fly fishing. Never bored. Never. Constantly rewarded in a myriad of ways both personally and professionally through fly fishing and guiding.

It has become a part of me. A huge part of me because I have dedicated myself to fly fishing fully. Not to be the best, or get the most likes, clients, or guide days. I set goals for myself and work to attain them. I accomplish them through fly fishing and guiding. My job brings me true happiness and fulfillment. Something I have struggled with as a man for a good chunk of my adult life.

It has changed me. Fly fishing and guiding has been a huge part of the person I have grown into. It has taught me to be more patient, listen to others, be more present in the moment on and off river. It has shown me what passion in ones life can bring you. It has rewarded hard work and has opened my eyes to things I never would have been aware of if I did not fish or guide. I have experienced natural wonders, shared experiences with people that will never be forgotten and always cherished. I have faced hardship in many forms with fly fishing always learning more about myself through it.

I recently had someone comment on how fly fishing has become a huge part of who I am. Discussing that and thinking more about it myself, I realize that I have made this life for myself and that the past 5 years have seen a huge shift in my lifestyle and myself. It has been a huge factor in my life both on and off river. It can explain a lot the things that have changed in my life especially recently.

The things I have learned, the things I continue to learn, and the life that fly fishing gives me have been a very positive thing. It fills life with so much that bring a richness to everything, it is hard to not chase such a life. And I am just getting started, there are so many more places to experience and things to learn and people to share it with. My career is just getting started…and that feels pretty good.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

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Settle in.

Its cold here on the homewater. I went out today for a wade trip/lesson and uts wicked cold.

The river is low, the banks lined with a crust of snow. The sun peaked out for a bit but the clouds quickly locked in and the temps dropped back close to freezing. The water is 36-37 degrees. Fish are sleeping. Metabolism is at its lowest. Trout don’t move much in the winter. They tend to stay in the same deeper slowest water spots of the river. Typically in large pods and groups. Snorkeling in the winter will give you the opportunity to see the most fish. But its really really cold.

I am tying a lot. Settling into that offseason rythym. When things get cold and snowy I enjoy just staying indoors. Being outside all the time I do enjoy the comforts of a home. The days are slow, wake up late, lots of coffee, texting kids, tying flies, listening to a ton of music, bed late. It may seem boring, but I am getting into that creative mode for tying, I am wanting to sit and tie dozens, fill boxes.

Its making me want to teach tying more. I haven’t done it in a while and its something I miss doing. Being here I have the ability to do it.

The offseason can feel like a lot of busy work. Not the adventurous fish filled days of the season. With not much else to fill up time until trout season focusing on that work and growing my business seems like a good use of the time. I get a week off with my kids soon and then we are halfway through the offseason. Mid February rolls around and its time to stary thinking about trout a little bit more each day.

It was a big and busy year. I checked my annual report and my eyes got wide. It was a big year. Had some negative mixed in both business and personal but what else is new. There are some stresses with this gig that always arise but seeing growth and still feeling successful this season comes through more.

The offseason leaves a lot of time for reflection, adjustments, tuning, planning, expanding, and time for things outside of fishing. Putting energy into new and positive things is what the offseason is for. With a little fishing thrown in on the warm days.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

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OP the Blur

So the last few days of my OP trip are kind of a blur of wet, soggy, dark, fun. Casting and floating, and dealing with the rain. Everything I expected from a winter steelheading trip.

Hanging with Troy and getting out of our comfort zones and targeting a different fish and kind of fishing was awesome. Something I wanted. I don’t get my ass handed to me very often with trout these days so getting humbled by swinging for steel was something I was looking for.

Talking steelhead, trying to figure it out, getting fish to smack things and fucking it up…it was a blast. Sure would have been nice to land and harvest fish but that’s not it was all about or I would have thrown gear. No I want to swing up steel or salmon and I know my patience will pay off…it has in the past with those salty critters.

Camp life was awesome. Campfires, cooking, tents, set up, tear down, the rambling and rolling of river life. Oh did I miss that shit! Damn it was good. The OP was warm, wet but still board short weather for me. We had one day where we were really in the suck when it rained all day non stop and everything from us, the boat, our gear, every fly, my beard, tents…just soaked and wetted out. We did the super early day, bounced around with all the other boats and anglers, got a little bit of that Forks Wa culture. Just a good trip anglers. Really good.

Being back on the homewater is great but I will want to be back before to long. Left my boat over there and everything. It has been a long time since a river and a place has called out to me so loudly but the OP has and I will go.

I also got to spend really amazing river time with Troy and share in the experience with one of the best fishing partners and people I have ever met. Fish or no fish that made the trip worth it. The last few days of the trip were some of the most memorable moments I have had on and off river and I feel ever fortunate that fly fishing brings my life these amazing people and experiences and makes my life richer beyond measure.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

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OP Day 3

We got up late…like typical trout bums in the offseason. I also didn’t feel like getting up at 4:30 am while it was f’ing raining. So we got up late and headed to Forks.

We hit the Bogechiel by 10:30 and swung till 3. I had one hit on a blue intruder thingy. My cast took all that time to get even halfway decent. Troy had an easier time casting but got no love.

We are gonna float tomorrow. Really get into the swing of things. And my boat is itching to get wet.

This place is amazing. Last night the Strait of Juan de Fuca was loud, the way the water sounds out here still gets to me. The smell of the saltwater and campire filled the air. We had thoughts of fish on our minds.

Its so warm here. The minor temperature fluctuations and the sheer dampness of this place boggles me. Its boardshort weather!

The trees keep grabbing my attention, gnarled and bearded with knuckled roots grabbing onto the riverbanks. The mountains, mist and cloud covered only catching glimpses of them. Their scarred sides from logging but full of young new growth.

Its wet. The fire burns dim and cold with how humid it is. It hasn’t dropped below 45 degrees yet. My beard is a curly mess tangled and frizzy from the damp. There is the constant sound of drip…drop…tink…plink…plop..dup..drip. I will take the wet over the hard bitter cold on the homewater.

Checking out and plugging into a different river, different species, different method of presenting a fly…I am completely out of my comfort zone. I am giddy about the place I am fishing, determined to lock into that steelhead swing rhythm. This is relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

Camp life is a welcome change. I didn’t get to camp at the end of the trout season due to losing the roof top in the accident. Its been nice to settle into a camp rhythm too. I coud live like this all the time. I prefer the lack of walls, the quiet, the fishing, just the getting lost in this river life. We only get one of these lives and we get to choose how we live it. I may not get to be with my kids like I want right now, and that will change in the very near future. Until then I will take the opportunity life or the universe…the fly fishing gods…what have you…has presented me with and follow it around the next river bend.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack