The offseason has settled in. The snow has hit the highlands, the river is cold, in the clutches of winters grasp. The time for rest, reflection, and tying.
I spent 20 plus days on a road trip to Michigan for the start of the off season. I shared it with someone very close to me. At the end of 207 guide trips I wanted to get out of here for a good long while. I’d never seen Michigan or that far east. And while I could go on and on about the trip, it was a vacation and not really for others.
Michigan’s rivers are much different. With dark, rootbeer, and olive colored water, sand…everywhere, overhanging trees that have more flies than most boxes out west. There are Brown Trout…everywhere. Fuck Montana, I’ve never seen so many Browns in such small waters. Plus the Brook Trout, rainbows, lake run fish like salmon and steelhead, there are bass, and a lot of Pike and Musky. Different place, different fish, different kind of water. There are no mountains there, so there are no big cascading waters like we have out west. There are barely riffles in most of the water. These meandering streams half boggy swamps in places, with enough woody debris to feed a country of Beavers, are intricate, slow moving, and are PHD waters for casting, presenting, and playing trout with flies.
I say all this because I have been on a search for something different. I’ve been fishing the west and the Yakima for almost 20 years. I’ve fished the famous stuff, some of it 10 years ago now and I have to say it was probably better in a lot of those places back then. More people, more boats, more pressure. It wasn’t until I got out of Montana that I started to feel different.
The pull of western rivers is very strong. Rivers like the Clark Fork, or the MO, the Clearwater, these large wide tailwaters half a mile across in places. Of course the Yak…they have a pull. A draw to them. Even the smaller faster waters like the Bitteroot, St. Joe, or Rock Creek, Cle Elum, they are big, flowing from rocks and mountains, filled with snowmelt and rain, boulders and trees, pulling everything into thier depths…including an anglers passion and ambition to spend a lifetime exploring the depths for what might lurk waiting for a fly.
When I passed into the Dakotas the pull of those rivers ceased. Especially the Yakima. I have not felt the lack of thier presence in some time. And to have a sense of wonder and exploration for new water finally took over.
I have been wanting and planning to move forward with guiding new waters. Since covid those plans have been pushed back. I can’t wait any longer. I crave more, and to share and experience water, people, and fish in places other than just the Yakima and the west.
After this past season maxing out days and feeling beat and somewhat broken after it all here on the Yak, I need a change of pace. I’ve never wanted to just be a Yakima River Guide, and Washington is pretty lacking in water to fish and guide. And I only see more pressure and people fishing the only blue ribbon trout stream in the state. While I will always run trips on the Yakima throughout my career, the time to start guiding other places is now a necessity. I’ve run the most days, had big numbers in the net, caught some of the biggest and baddest trout, shared all of it with clients, experienced pretty much all the Yakima has to offer and then some. It’s time for more and different.
I will only be doing 100 to 150 days on the Yakima this season. After this past year I am ready to tighten things up and start moving guiding to other places. This past year was filled with a lot both on and off river. The tragedy from this season has also been a driver to move outward. I want to be in a place where I am not known, where I can just fish and guide, a different pace to things. And that’s hard here.
This was my last season guiding the Teanaway River. I have spent my time on that water, helped heal it, caught amazing trout, shared it with many, taught my kids to fish there, shared some happy times up there. It also has a lot of loss and sadness folded into that sandstone, forests, and mountains. I’ve been in those woods since I was a kid and have hiked all the trails, made the summits of all the mountains, fished all the waters. It has no pull on me anymore, it is changing up there. Becoming less wild, easier to access. And while I will always admire her beauty and reminisce of the countless days I’ve spent in her embrace; they Teanaway and I need time away from each other.
We will be fishing and guiding new and different small streams next season. And I will be guiding other waters in other states during our high-water in May and June the 2023 season. I’ll also be done earlier in 2023 only working until Oct 15th. I’ll be south next winter and finishing out trout season in other places. The Yakima will be a March and April, July-Oct 15th fishery for me moving forward. I’ll be focusing on tying flies through February this year and won’t start guiding the Yakima until March 2023.
I got booked out months this past year and I’m only working max 150 days on the Yak this season. So pick your dates accordingly. I physically and mentally don’t have more than 150 days in me on the Yakima. The toll of the heavy flows, boat, the kind of guiding I do, the people side, has become more apparent. I don’t want my body or my ability to produce on the level I’ve created to suffer due to overwork. Plus the Yakima River and I are at capacity in terms of pressure I’m willing to put on her. I’ve taught a lot of people to be very good anglers and that shows.
After this busy year its nice to slow down. I’m taking my time. I still feel parts of my body healing from the season. A lot of wear and tear on hips and shoulders. And as good as I am at guiding and fishing, I’m just as good if not better at tying flies and I am actually looking forward to tying this winter. In the past its been a necceassity to pay bills. Especially during covid. The enjoyment and creativeness of tying this off season is strong.
I have to remind myself and people, I’ve been at this for a good chunk of time running lots of trips, teaching anglers, fishing the same waters over and over. Literally over 1000 days on the Yakima. I’ve never been able to settle for too long and the Yakima has kept my attention for longer than most things. But I’ve discovered new adventures, new challenges, more fish, different people, and gorgeous places to be.
There is so much more to fly fishing and all that it entails outside of the Yakima and Washington but also the western states and PNW in general. From the people, the cultures, the fish, the places, and the experiences, there is more and I’ve only tasted it. I want to gorge on it. Like trout on Caddis.
I got to spend the first part of the offseason in quiet reflection over the course of my trip. With some down time to myself I’ve come to some realizations and conclusions. And while I will always call the Yakima River my homewater and always share it with others in some capacity. Like many in the guide life…we move onward and chase more. Look for me in Michigan in May and June. Book your days for the Yakima 2023 season early, grab those prime dates, once 150 are booked that’s it.
Changes are coming. And while they weren’t the original plans talked about riverside this season, they are changes and they are happening. I’m staying on with my independent guide service until the state makes me do otherwise, selling flies, guiding new places, running days on the Yak, and living that guide life. 2022 was my last full time season here in Washington. I’ve been a little quiet since the end of the season and the blog is the easiest way to put it out there.
So there ya go. Get your flies on order, book your Yakima dates early, look for new places and opportunities moving forward…fish and be happy anglers.
See ya riverside somewhere anglers.