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The Big One.

So…I’ve seen a lot of big fish over the years. Big steelhead over 20lbs, Kings, well all the salmon species, pike, musky, bass, carp, multiple trout species, even walleye perch, sunfish, and other panfish. I’ve got some big ones.

But let’s talk about cutties.

I’ve got some big ones. Out of lots of places. Specically let’s talk about Westslopes. Not known for getting super huge, westlope cutthroat are a very interesting trout. They are unlike other trout and when they get larger they become something very special. They use their camouflage, lateral line, speed, and vast range to survive. On the Joe, where these wild westies have literally hundreds of miles of water to range through seeing a big one is still rare.

Well…I seened one.

I was fishing up high on the Joe. I’ll keep the exact spot to myself but the adventurous angler can find the spot way above Avery. It’s a big fish place. Big rapids, canyon walls, deep underwater trench with boulders some as big as a house. This place is loaded with trout, as is the whole river, but this place in particular has some rather large cutties in it.

I was dry fly fishing. Small size 16 bow dry. I hooked a nice 15 inch cutty. As I was bringing it in…a leviathan from the depths slowly came towards the struggling trout I had tricked and then hit it…hard. Bending the rod. It happened about 30 feet from me. I thought…holy hell that was a decent sized bull trout giving me a slap. Something that is common with bulls…hitting a trout already hooked. I landed a smaller bull on Rock Creek MT in a similar encounter with a 8 inch trout.

My heart raced. I couldn’t believe I saw a bulltrout. I landed the 15 inch cutty and recasted to other rising trout. Hoping I’d see the big trout again and maybe give me a chance to target it with a streamer.

I hooked another good sized cutty on the dry. As I was bringing it in this large trout was back, this time much more aggressive. It chased the fish in all the way to my feet. Literally could have kicked the fish in the head. But when it got close enough to really see…I realized it wasnt a bulltrout.

It was one of the biggest Westslope Cutthroat Trout I have ever seen. Over 2 ft of trout easy. It came right to me, insane ita insanely pink gill plate, its orange and red belly, and when it took a swipe at the smaller trout I had hooked, literally at my feet, I saw those bright orange cutts flash. It cared very little that I was standing there. When I landed the fish it hung out within a rod length and chased the smaller trout after I released it

Now…I’ve seen some big fish…this fish was massive…to the point I thought it was a bulltrout. 2 foot cutties are super rare. At least of the westslope variety.

I switched to a streamer. I swung and stripped theee different patterns. The big trout only showed interest in the double sparkle minnow…it gave it a chase before diving to the depths never to be seen again.

I still am having dreams about this fish. Just to have seen such a large westie is a special thing. To land one like the one I saw would be a once in alifetime experience. I know they are up there. Big old cutties, in the 5-7 year old range. Spawned a time or two, ranged hundreds of miles over their life history, survived predators, droughts, warm water, anglers, and more to become one of the gnarliest of Clarkii’s.

Spending as much time as I do riverside, I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit when it comes to wildlife…seeing that trout reignited something in me. That desire to know more, to see more, to experience more. There are trout out there that hold secrets, have history, have lessons to learn from…to have seen it was humbling. Such an impressive animal, just to see, in a time where wildlife, public lands, and the very planet seem under attack…its moments like this one involving a truly amazing and rare creature of the earth…that one can see why they are so important. Because if trout like that can still survive and pass on to the next generation…then there is still hope.

Big fish stir something inside most anglers. For me it’s that deep founded passion within. It brings it up. All the things a trout like that has had to go through just to survive boggles the mind. And having the ability to see, and be a part of its world is precious and should never be taken for granted. For when we stop seeing those trout…we know…that we are on a path that may never allow us to see them again.

Just some thoughts on what happens when I see and meet trout that literally scare the shit out of me.

Tamarack.

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Fishtober

The summer is coming to an end…finally. It seems like every summer some crazy shit happens. Then the fall settles in and things go back to a more normal pace. I love the fall fishing and the Yakima River is at it’s best in the autumn.

I’m down a trailer still. Which I’m hoping to have remedied soon. May end up borrowing a reserve trailer until I can fix mine. Boat has new parts and pieces waiting to be installed. I haven’t tied any late season flies but what else is new.

I’m here in Spokane waiting until Wednesday to fly home and see my family and to pick up my new rig. I’ll be driving back up the 8th. Grabbing my shit and heading over to the Yak. I love the Joe. Its proven to be a slightly difficult place to work even though the fishing is worth it. Big thing about the Joe…it needs days stacked in a row or blocks to be a cost effective for me to guide.

I’ll be very happy to be back on the homewater for a spell. The Yakima in the fall is some of the best fishing there is and I’ve spent seasons learning it better than most. It provides anglers with some of the best and most memorable dry fly fishing experiences there are. Big wild trout on big silly dries.

It’s been a busy year. There has been some hardships, frustrations, growing pains, and amazing moments shared riverside with clients. Trying to keep the positive highlighted over the negative can be a struggle. I tend to get burnt out on the little things that get in the way or cause problems of just running the river. As the season gets to its end my patience for that stuff wanes considerably. I just wanna be riverside. And things that keep me from that tend to get me pretty irate. I’ve worked hard to get to where I’m at and when shit goes south it can get the better of you sometimes.

Its been a year of growing too. Working for another outfitter on new water and in a new state has had its challenges. It’s part of the process. It’s also allowing me to figure out how working for others and with others can be and if it’s something I want to continue to pursue. So far yes…and I want to look into more Outfitters for more work as I chase 270 days of guide work. I’ve given up working for Outfitters in Washington State save for one. Every experience I’ve had working for or with the list of Outfitters in WA for fly fishing has been a shit show, save for the little shop in Roslyn. That’s just my opinion and my experience. I’ve done this long enough now and do alright on my own that I say no to trips a lot more than yes when it comes to guiding outside my own business.

Expanding to other waters and other Outfitters I knew was going to bring a boat load of new things to work through. Again part of the process of expanding and growing a business. This late in the season I’m to a point now where I just wanna get back into a routine of guide work. When we hit Fishtober anything that is gonna get in the way of the guide work and rivertime is getting pushed aside. That’s because this work is seasonal…there is a time constraint. And wasted time this late in the season costs money. So I focus on where I can succeed the most for the rest of the season. About 60 days for me as I dont do steelhead. Although I might…but that’s a big might.

I’ve ran this business for a few years now, and have two other businesses behind me that failed. This one is going well and is successful and on track with business plans. I know when it’s time to cut losses, revamp, reflect, and make changes. I made several changes this season, added new water, fine tuning the camp life routine, building the business more and getting 60% new clientele over the past 100 plus trips. I’m seeing repeat business sky rocket this season over the course of the year. But I am losing money in fuel. Losing money due to shennanagins big and small. Losing money on lack of days due to splitting time between two rivers, and that split time takes away from one river or the other. I haven’t been on the Yak in weeks…that’s a concern for me. Even though 13 seasons of fishing it I have it dialed in, without being riverside everyday, live streaming, and promoting my business regularly…I’m losing money. With the fall approaching it’s time to dig in and push through to the end where things will be the most successful for me.

At the end of the day anglers…this is a business not a lifestyle and if I’m not making money then what am I doing? I dont need to be a guide to be a trout bum fishy person. I guide because I love the work, am really good at it, and have set out to make it a career. At this stage in my life this is what I’ve picked to do so I’m gonna put everything I can into it. I’ve got things I could fall back on…but Tamarack’s Guide Service has done everything I have set out to do with it. It is on track, hitting our milestones, our goals, expanding, growing, and turning a profit. I am constantly fine tuning the operation with Hannah, my wife and business partner. Running cost analysis reports while on the road via speaker phone, ordering gear, coordinating a new rig, business loans, tax payments, savings, depreciation on equipment, all the things that have jack shit to do with fishing…all that is done behind the scenes between floats and fishing and social media posts. And I couldn’t have done any of this without my wife’s intuition, patience, financial know how, and understanding of how this business works. I trust her opinion on all things above all…but especially her insight and perspective on business. No major decision gets made without her counsel. With all this down time we have had a lot of time to talk and reflect on the season so far, the expanding to another river, the hardships, the good stuff, and how the business is faring this season. Identifying where improvements can he made, cutting losses, tightening overhead, keeping the scope of our business from creeping, and making sure we arent over reaching. Doing to much to fast can be disastrous and cost a lot of money. The situation I find myself in presently is due to over reaching. So we evaluate, downsize, and refocus.

With all that my focus is now on the Yakima River. The St. Joe is an amazing place to fish and guide. I may be back up the Joe this fall for myself. But I’ve never missed a fall season on the Yak. It’s where I want to be and where I want to work. It is my homewater.

The craneflies are already starting. The water is dropping, the temperatures are cooling and rodeo weekend is done today…I dont work labor day weekend anymore. I’ll have a new rig, a loaner trailer until mine gets fixed, and a slightly dented boat that still gets the job done like she always has.

Come out this fall. I invite you. The best way to help out since the accident is to come fishing. I love to guide and love to share the river with others. It’s all I want to get back to. The business side of this has taken up enough time this year…let’s just get back to fishing.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack.

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The Joe.

Well today sucked. Which is becoming all too common. But in this business there are gonna be some scheduling snafus and today was one of those.

I drove up the to the Joe Monday, took care of releasing the wrecked car. (And I can’t thank Benewah Motors in St. Marie’s enough for helping make that whole process easier.) Which also sucked sifting through the wreck and gathering all the salvageable gear. Then I drove up the Joe, organized my crap, and prepped for my trip. Spent 2 hrs organizing my flies. All my other shit is a mess so I figured having organized fly boxes would help. Then woke up had a shenanigan that made the trip not happen. Drove all the way back to Spokane to turn in the rental car early. Got a little money back which was nice.

Then got a call from a Yakima River Peep and fellow Guide saying they were headed to the Joe to fish with me for two days. He was checking out before a big run of trips over Labor Day Weekend and I need to break from guiding until the 10th because of the accident and dealing with everything because of it.

So I’m back up on the Joe.

This river makes me keep coming back. I’m addicted…no matter the shenanigans…I keep coming back. I want to come back, I want to guide it more. I want to tap it, feel it, learn it, understand it…and trick its troots.

A few days of just fishing then getting into prep work for the fall. Fishing in the late season is my jam. I need to tie flies, get my mind in the autumn headspace for fishing. I also need to promote and book trips which requires work.

I want to guide, but logistically its proving to be to difficult to here without all my shit in order. I’ve got a new rig waiting for me in Rupert. Wife picked it up today. I’ll be driving it back. Hoping to get the trailer fixed but have loaner options until then. So it’s best to just wait, settle, and not push or rush things. That only causes for shenanigans. I’m set to run around 140 plus trips this season so it’s never a bad idea to take some time and recharge. Especially when you roll a truck into a river. Might mean you need to chill out a bit. I’m all about getting after it, but sometimes you gotta listen to others telking you what’s good for you, listen to your body and your mind, and take care of yourself. I can’t be at my best guiding if I’m not good off river. And I need more time.

So I will be fishing with a friend in the high country, then tying and prepping promoting the fall season before heading home to see the family before the last run of the season. About 60 days of trout season left anglers. I wanna be at my best for it.

See ya riverside.

Tamarack

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Aftermath

I’ve been through some crazy shit over the seasons. Almost drowned a few times, crashed my boat on the Naches, fell off Iron Peak and had to self arrest, hit log jams and boulders, lost things broke things, never body parts, was in an Avalanche, fell off a waterfall, and yes rolled my truck down an embankment into the St. Joe river. In the list of things that I’ve been through this accident was about a 9.7 on the Shitastic River Shenanigan Scale. It sucked and I’m still processing and healing both physically and mentally.

The shock was something I’m all to familiar with. I’ve been through it before and you never really know how your body and mind will rebound. It takes time. I still have to shake the accidnet out of my head from time to time and I’ve woke up several times during the nights feeling like I’m rolling again.

Truck is gone. I hated that truck anyway. I’ll miss my roof top for the rest of the season. Cleaning up my gear and equipment and releasing the rig today was not fun. My whole life in terms of fishing and guiding was in that rig. Shit happens anglers. What matters is how you deal with it and how you pull yourself back up.

I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the help and support. I was overwhelmed with the response. From Tyler, Sierra, and Kyle with White Pine that have bent over backwards to keep me going. To the friends and river peeps and clients who reached out…you all know who you are….thank you. Truly.

I’m a guide. And that’s what I do. Getting back to the river and doing what I do is all I have on my mind. This community of fly anglers, river rats, outdoorsy folks, and fellow trout bums have been my people for years and I cannot express my gratitude fully.

My family thanks you too. It was my wife and I’s 15th wedding anniversary the day after the accident. Also the first day of school for my kids and my youngest, Zoey, it was her first day of Kindergarten. Needless to say…I really fucked up thier day. I am lucky and thankful that I walked away from the accident and get to see my wife and kids again. Shit was a little scary there for a bit.

My body seems to have recovered. The soreness is gone. Bruising healing. My mind is still jarred. Which will take time. Riverside time heals and guiding keeps me busy and focused on more important things than near death experiences of the deer kind.

I fly home the 4th of September. For some much needed family time, haven’t seen my family since June. I’ll be driving a new guide rig up to finish the season out. I’m hoping my trailer can be repaired, a new hitch needs welded on and a new axle…which I am all too familiar with. Boat floats, needs a little love but she still gets me down river and that’s all that matters.

Life is always filled with shenanigans. My life especially. I’ve learned to be resilient and bounce back quickly. Not much keeps me down and hard work always pays off. This season has been a roller coaster of amazing and shit but I wouldn’t change it…well maybe the rolling the rig part but….

With the Fall season approaching I am super stoked. The autumn is my favorite time to fish and guide. It’s the best time of the year. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna miss it.

Book a trip, a lesson, a clinic spot, come out and see what Fishtober is all about. And support my trout bum beardy ass getting back into the swing of things in the process. With the Yakima and the St. Joe transiting to fall, and potential Grand Ronde guide days in late October and early November I’m just anxious to get back to it. The waiting for things to come together is never my strong suite and I’m more annoyed now with what happened than anything else. Money takes care of itself when you put the work in, but time…that shit cant be sped up. In 2 weeks this will just be another River Shenanigan Episode that is my guide life. Add it to the story list.

By next spring I’ll be back to that sweet camp life guiding. Until then I am humbled and ever thankful to those that have offered help and a place to stay while I finish the season.

I’ve gotta guide the Joe in the morning. I’ll see ya riverside anglers….watch out for deers.

Tamarack

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Fall Fishing Clinic Sept 22nd

I will be hosting a Fall Season Clinic during the Cranefly Hatch on Sept. 22nd on the Yakima River. This clinic focuses on late season fishing tactics, reading water, and flies, as well as wading techniques.

I have 6 spots open. $90 per person. The majority of the clinic is spent teaching with hand on help and some fishing. Waders and boots are required for participants and a fly rod and reel with floating line in a 4 or 5 wt is also needed. You can DM me to sign up, or email me, call, or text.

Tamarack

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Rollover accident on the Joe.

Yep, I was in a roll over into the St. Joe river due to deers on the road. It sucked. My truck and trailer are totalled. Boat is doing alright. We’ve got parts coming to fix her up. Already in the process of getting a new rig and trailer. Have temporary stuff until then. Fly rods and reels are being sent in for warranty this week. Thank you to everyone for your support. The best way you can help me…is to book trips on the Yakima or St. Joe Rivers through October.

The fishing is always amazing, its my favorite time of year to guide, and if you’re gonna give me money to help out it might as well be for a trip. So book a trip, a lesson, sign up for a clinic, walk and wade, halfer, full what have you. I just wanna get back to work and doing what I love. Trips are how things keep going and things get replaced, bills paid, and kids fed. Thank you to everyone. I’m slowly getting to everyone who has reached out.

Thank you and I’m sure there will be more details and posts about it and so much more from this season. Just wicked busy with guiding. Stay safe, wear your seat belt always, drive the speed limits, don’t drive intoxicated, and watch out for wildlife. It can be a real bitch otherwise. I got super lucky people, really lucky that I wasn’t injured and walked away with only stuff and things broken and damaged.

See you Riverside.

Tamarack

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The High Country

A Summer Stone just crawled over my bare foot. It’s just after 11 PM and the stoneflies are hatching on the St. Joe. I flip on my headlamp and see several crawling around the bank and flying into the trees. I can hear bats chirping and eating. We are 77 miles up the St. Joe River in North Idaho.

I have not fished up this high. The river is simply beautiful. The kind of river I’ve had dreams about and only thought existed in my mind. The fish are plentiful and come in all shapes and sizes. Big ones…oh yes. Very big. Lots of little ones. Yep. Cookie cutters galore…fosho.

In 4 hours and 2 miles I landed over 30 missed another 30 and hooked into and lost 4 very very large cutties on the streamer. Dry fly fishing is spectacular. The river is cold…and it holds its temp throughout the day. The fish have a rhythm. They move about frequently. Fish you hooked an hour ago, have moved up or down and maybe 3 miles away by next week. Cutthroat move, and with a range like this with so many tribs…these fish can move like they were meant to. Cutties like high grade, higher elevation water. When it gets hot fish always seek out the cooler water. They use thier speed, range, and camouflage to survive. Westslope cutthroat blend right in. For such a colorful fish, they have the ability to disappear against the river bottom and the broken up currents. They are amazing, using thier camouflage to tuck in, rest, then move, feed, move, tuck in rest, move feed, up and down and up and down the river system. Sometimes 100 plus miles a year. Hundreds of miles over their life span. Truly amazing critters.

Up here, way the fuck up here, is where some of the oldest, most gnarliest of clarkii-iest of westslope cutthroat reside. Ranging high into the back country to spawn and moving about the high country ranges throughout the year. I saw a few today. Flashing bright aged colors at me with a streamer lodged in thier lip. They all bested me with aggressive headshakes. I’m very out of practice. Having only touched a fly rod to teach and rig up, not to fish with for several weeks now. Tomorrow will be better.

There are also bull trout up here. I am cautiously optimistic that I will meet one over the next few days. Having finally made it up here, and knowing a little about bulltrout…this place may have a few willing to test my angling abilities. Rarely do I feel the absolute need to fish…but seeing this place up here…ya…I could spend the rest of my life here and it be a happy and fulfilling one…

Tamarack

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Thoughts upon return after a hard run.

I’m back on the homewater. It feels like we’ve only seen each other in passing lately. My heart fluttered a little when I saw Castle Rock on the Bristol to Greenbridge Section. The Yakima will always be my favorite river. From the challenges it faces, the trout it holds, and the community it supports, the Yakima will always be my one true river so to speak.

I’ve spent thousands of hours over the last decade on the Yakima. I’ve been tested, beaten, and amazingly successful tricking the wild trout that lie within. Thousands of fish I’ve met, generations I’ve seen, I’ve even saved a few, lost a few, and spent many minutes in the embrace of truly wild and beautiful creatures. I care about them. It sounds weird but after all this time and with what I was taught about being a guide, I have this feeling of responsibility to the Yakima. I owe her that. A river steward. I know I’m not the only one. From guides, to anglers, to rafting guides, tubers, homeowners, landowners, farmers, busiessowners and every member of the community and the angling community are connected to this river in some way. It behooves a select few of us to take on some of those responsibilities. When I come back to the Yak, I’m reminded of that as I drive from one end to the other and see what life this river brings and what more we can to do keep her healthy. We’ve messed up this planet a lot, it’s time to start coming together and recognizing that these places need us and we are responsible for their well being. Taking care of them is taking care of us.

Keep that in mind when you’re riverside. Have an open mind about the world, listen, critically think, and remember these places are for everyone to enjoy and all deserve respect and courtesy when enjoying the rivers and public lands we hold so dear.

Tamarack.

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Trout Season

Fishing has been stellar. Landing fish always has room for improvement. This year I’ve worked a good chunk. Not my busiest season, not the slowest, and the fall is still to come.

I’m currently on a rougher week and a half of work where I’m bouncing back and forth between the Joe and the Yak. A 280 mile trek one way. Like 4 hrs cuz I drive 60 with the boat. I also just dont drive fast. Everyone is a fucken hurry these days and I dont understand it.

I’ve run 1500 road miles on freeways, back dirt roads, washboard and potholed to hell, down steep rock filled embankments, and put over 50 miles of rowing in there as well. I think I’ve slept a total of 25-30 hrs in the last 5-6 days. My body is racked, my mind is mush, my patience is waning, and my sassy-ness riverside is coming out.

I want more. A day of downtime is needed, and there are always shenanigans, issues, and frustrations that arise with this gig. There is always stress and frustration when working for others too. Something I haven’t had to factor into my guiding for a few seasons as I have been running my own gig.

I’m a very trouty person. The more I guide, fish, and meet, and work with others in this community and industry the more I realize that all the time, passion, and energy I have put into learning and advancing as an angler have paid off. My experience over the past 5 seasons also shows the more I do this. I will be honest…it feels good…to know that I’m really good at my job. The successes and memorable moments are so numerous it’s a blur of awesome. I’ve reached that groovy mode of everything else fading away and I’m just guiding. Sure theres all the stuff off river that comes up… but when I sit in that boat, grab those oars, and feel that river under me as I glide my boat through its currents….its all just faint background noise. Just get me in the boat and let me do my thang. The money will come in, the clients always seem to keep coming back for more. Just get me and my boat in the river and the rest takes care of itself.

The haters are quiet, or I’m too busy and having too much fun to notice. I swing back to the Yak, run it like I always do, it gives me what I expect consistenly… even on the tougher days. It’s just groovy.

The Joe is different, harder, more rugged, hard on gear, and me, the boat. But those fish, and that water…fuck its decent. I may not guide it for long. This career will take me to lots of different places and I enjoy the nomad river lifestyle. Where there is fish to be tricked with a fly, and clients that want to experience them…I will ramble to it.

With every new river, species, or place and people, there are challenges, pains, stresses, and there are amazing moments, incredible people, and beautiful fish that connect us all through a fly and a rod. At the end of the day…I just wanna be riverside tricking trout with anglers and flies. All the other stuff just seems to get in the way.

I like things smooth, efficient, and quick. More time for fishing that way. I’ve built a very well functioning business with the Yakima. It takes care of itself for the most part. I put hours in and trips get booked. Managing my business while also working for another has been a challenge. Definitely made me better, also making me smarter. Always learning and adapting, fine tuning. This gig in all aspects is 80% people, whether its clients, co workers, bosses, fellow river guides, or social media….its a lot of people with some fish peppered in. Sometimes I dont do people well. Those are the days when you dont see a photo post or a live stream. Days where I’m lost in a current somewhere. I’m due up for a few of those kinda days.

Most days I just wanna take people fishing. Getting paid for it is a bonus and a necessity with my family…but I just wanna take people fishing really. I’ve fished a lot, and there are times that fishing strikes my fancy. But it doesn’t present the same kind of challenge that guiding or taking others fishing does.

With 90 days or so left of the trout season. I just wanna take more people fishing. Wherever that may be. I don’t wanna sit still, or have a lot of down time, thats what the winter is for. It’s called trout season for a reason. Its seasonal. So get after it while its here.

I’m ready for the fall. With the summer just past halfway I’m ready for the chill riverside life of the autumn. I also prefer the fishing in the fall. The summer in August is always a crapshoot and even though it’s called trout season sometimes trout need a break. With water temps starting to creep closer to 65 I’m just not interested in pressuring trout. With both rivers I work on facing warm water temps this season I’ll be switching to bass and muskie for a few weeks. Let the fish chill so they are ready and healthy for the fall. Go fuck with some, bass, muskie, and carp while it’s hot. Get your redneck on, and catch some different fish. It’s time to do more of that and put anglers and clients onto warmwater species when trout need less pressure. So we adapt just like the trout.

So I will see ya out there…

Tamarack