Well…2020 is over. I can’t say it was the greatest. I had a lot of crap and a few good things happen. I’m glad its over and we are that much closer to the trout fishing of 2021 commencing.
As January starts off the countdown to the season starts. I usually start fishing a handful of days in January and when February rolls around its back to a few days a week and guiding starts in March typically. Probably earlier this season to get a jump start on making up for 2020. But before that happens it’s gotta snow.
The snow pack is starting to fill up. We have one of the largest bomb cyclone storms spinning in the Pacific right now. Its bringing some major weather systems our way setting up for some major snowfall in the highlands. We are expected to get nuked with snow this coming weekend.
As the snow pack starts to fill up and the extended forecasts and weather modeling comes out for the next 3 months the early season starts to show itself. What kind of spring run off events we will have, how warm or cold it will be. Starting to guess when water temps will start the warming trend. When bugs might start migrating and hatching. When the spawn might start. All these things and more start to become clearer as the snow falls, the science comes out, and my needy brain starts to plan and prep.
I want to be dialed in this season. And I am preparing for a busy busy year. I am already starting to take early season reservations. As the forecasts come in I will have a better handle on when things should start rolling. But anytime after March 15th and we are typically good, expect for the occasional high water stuff. Maybe bad weather but that’s spring fishing.
Big trout, pre and post spawny fish, bugs starting to hatch, salmon pulses kicking up baitfish getting the big fish to chase meat. Getting dialed back in, feeling the river and finally getting back to being riverside with clients. Still probably gonna be masked up for a bit, but we will be fishing!
Its been rough for the first half of the offseason. Fly sales are low, the craptasticness didn’t just dissappear, money still tight, but its the downhill side of it all. Booking trips early helps a lot. Its already starting. Those deposits make a big difference after 2020. I’m really looking forward to the season. Getting back into the groove, riverside with my regulars, and meeting new anglers and clients as the season progresses.
2020 is over and having a more positive and productive mindset for 2022 is how I am trying to start it out. Things are still tight and slow. But its gonna get better. Flies are for sale, be patient with me they will all get sent out soon. Spring trips are ready to be booked and have already started. If you reserve before February 15th I’m knocking 25 bucks off the trip price, which is basically the tax. So reserve early!
Hope to see you all riverside safe and healthy. This pandemic is still not over but there seems to be some light coming up. Might be a train or the end of the tunnel. I’m going with the latter. I hope your 2021 starts off well. Books trips! See ya out there anglers!!!
We are roughly 8 weeks or so into the off season. Or the midpoint. In 8 weeks I will start to get a lot more fishy. The boat comes back out regularly. I am riverside 4 plus days a week, plugging back in, and getting prepped for the guide season.
This off season has been shit. However, I will say lockdowns and quarantine have made cabin fever easy to bare. Broke as hell but honestly that’s not new being a troutbum and all. My previous blog post made it out like I was at this shit alone and I am not. I’ve have someone through it all, its private not a secret. But I have been good off river life wise, all things considered. Not seeing my kids has been the shittiest part.
I got a lot of comments and messages after that cranky blog. It was more venting the frustration and exhaustion. And instead of unload it on others who have their own trials and struggles right now….just throw it up and let the internet eat it. The biggest frustrations are work related. And there ain’t shit to be done until the new season at this point. Just stuck until the thaw.
Its the halfway point and usually I would feel this cabin fever riddled drive to be out. But 2020 sucked most of that out. I sleep. A lot. 10 to 12 hours some days. Hibernating like most other off seasons. But its quieter during the pandemic. And the exhaustion has taken its toll. And you can sleep through things that otherwise cause stress that cannot be fixed until the world gets right. So much outta my hands at this point. Sleep now work later. Or something like that.
While overlords argue about 600 bucks and cake, I just wanna make sure that I keep the internet on so I don’t have to sit with only books and flies until March. At this point the only thing that seems to fix shit is ourselves. So I get to wait until I can fix it the only way I know how…with trout and a boat. Thankfully we are in this together and there is help there. Its not all bad…its just sucks in general.
The midpoint of the offseason is usually a harder hurdle. Just not this season. I am in a hell of a hurry to get back to it in 2021. With a recovery plan in place for my business from the first trip to the last of next season. I don’t have a lot of faith in a national or even state economic recovery plan as this will be my third economic event in my life. Many of us are gonna have to get creative with making up the deficit of 2020. If trying to get relief during this shitshow is any indication….ya…its gonna be by our own bootstraps and on a community and local level. So getting the mind around what that might look like is essential moving forward.
The trout and the rowing take care of themselves at this point in my guiding. The nuts and bolts of the operation…troot and people….that shit is locked and I’ve worked very hard to get there. This pandemic changes how the business side looks. And with the surge in social media and its necessity for success in the 21st century business model driving a lot of what makes or breaks you…2021 is going to be a busy year to say the least.
So ya, I’ll sleep through a lot of the offseason. Because I can. Normally my body needs it but I think my mind needs it more this year. I’ll share time with the few people I can. I will prep for the offseason, and hold out like the rest of us. Still living day to day and week to week, still worried, but ready to move forward.
So ya, chill out. We all allowed to get mad bruh. Vent, sleep, try and see the good shit…watch Mandolarian…holy fuck! I mean we are all friggin’ stuck and its not like the headlines are making us feel any less stuck. So ya. Get ready for 2021…see if we can do a little better….(shy unenthusiastic yay, from the crowd). Fingers crossed. Let the countdown to trout begin.
Survival…not a word many of us use on a daily basis. A concept that we as a species in many places no longer have to worry for. This pandemic has changed things and the meaning of that word for many.
Like the species we chase, constantly in survival mode. It is the entirety of a trout, salmon, or steelhead, or any fish, life history….survival. From egg, to fingerling, to adult, spawning, it is a journey of survival.
Like the fish I chase, I find myself in survival mode. The toll the season or lack of one due to the pandemic has come due. Scrape enough to get this order finished, get that bill paid, send that order, wait on this one, push that stuff back another 2 weeks. Its been a constant struggle juggle since the lockdown back in the spring.
With news coming from WDFW about new rules on the West Side and Peninsula fisheries I am worried for my guide colleagues and friends, other business owners, and the like. On top of the pandemic the added stress of our fisheries management across the state only exacerbates everything.
Thinking ahead, survival is still the mode I will be in. I see a good 16 months to recover from this debacle for my business. Looking ahead I am also thinking its time for a change in things. With the very likely probability that salmon and steelhead fishing opportunities will continue to diminish places like the Yakima will receive added pressure. This season showed that in full swing. When the Peninsula stuff shut down during the summer we had a massive influx of guides and anglers unlike I have seen. It made me not wanna guide here this summer. Just a lot of pressure and people. And I am not the only local guide that experienced this. But its going to happen as things change we in the industry have to as well.
I’ve gotta get outta here in the summer. Like what I attempted on the St. Joe last year. Guide somewhere else during the summer months. Put pressure on a watershed that has regulations and plenty of days and a need. Go where I’m needed and can do what I love. Great thing about this gig…its done wherever fish live. I never intend to only every work and guide here. Idaho, Montana, at this point I don’t care. Still wanna add southern fisheries in the winter and early spring but that will have to wait again.
This winter gives a lot of time to contemplate and plan. Its also a time to sell flies. Its the only thing keeping me going right now and its light AF compared to last winter. Flies pay bills, keep me from buying flies during the season, and keep me from going absolutely bonkers from boredom…which is already setting in. With covid, and the shit happening on the other side of the mountains fishery wise I have opted to not chase steel and salmon at all this season. I had hoped…but no. Can’t afford it, don’t really wanna chase it, and this just doesn’t feel like the time to get more into it for me, honestly. I don’t have to worry about return numbers on my homewater.
With the winter setting in, and the long waiting just beginning shit is gonna get tough. Cabin fever and me don’t agree, and this season feels like one giant cabin fever session in many regards. Trying to look forward to the next season is hard. I have gotten so accustomed to playing things week by week, looking further out seems foreign.
Trying to look at early reservation specials for spring trips, but also try and push bookings for later in the year. Fill the calendar before it gets here. Hopefully a winning strategy as we start to come out of this pandemic. Which we hopefully will as the vaccine comes out; but not before we have more restrictions and social distancing it seems.
There’s a lot happening to our industry right now. Many of us are hurting, like me and friends and fellow guides. Many are worried they won’t get a winter season in, like many of us this spring. When guides are hurting so are the anglers that frequent their boats. Its hard for a lot of people right now, every client that came out has been impacted by this professionally, finacially, and or personally. Many I didn’t see because of those impacts. None of it good. So flies aren’t bought, shops don’t have patrons coming in, guide days left open.
So support your local guides and shops when and if you can. Book trips early, buy flies and gear. Check in on them, throw support at their social media, it all helps and makes a difference right now. Its a long haul to 2021 and the summer when things might really turn around…we gotta stick it out.
I hope to see ya riverside when this is all over. Hibernating and surviving through the dark winter until then anglers.
Every season I find a fish. Or better put…my fish. Every year I scour the river from top to bottom…mostly up top…in search of a Yakima River Trout that will test me. I find several of these troots each year. I keep some for myself but I mostly put others on them. I do this because these are some of the hardest trout to trick. If I can get clients to trick them…then I know I am groovy.
If you’re a client, these are the fish I warn you about. The troots with names, that live in really prime lies. the ones I go back up river for. These are the fish others pass by and leave for their days off or for more experienced clients. No matter your experience level…I will give you a shot if you listen. These are the fish you don’t see…or barely see. The kind of troot, tricking is only the first hurdle. Landing them takes more skill and typically team work. If you’re a client you know these fish. Only land 40 percent of these trout anglers. The odds are never in your favor.
Clients are one thing. I am still an angler at my core. So I take the opportunity with a few of these trout. I have one spot in particular that has tested me each season for the past 5…this year…2020…I finally found success.
The Cle Elum is no longer a secret. You can blame me. I keep sending people to it. But if you’re not experiencing these places why would you care about them. I love the Cle Elum. It is one of my favorite wading rivers in the late season.
There is a spot, not hard to find. Up river from the bullfrog tiny house bridge. The river goes into the trees and flows heavy and fast up against a cut bank with overhanging limbs and snags. There used to logs in there but they moved out. Which may explain my success as I have broken fish off under the logs in this spot more times than I care to admit. There is video over the seasons of me battling and losing fish in this spot. Like I said. 40 percent see the net.
There is always a large trout here. Its a prime lie just large enough for a small pod of 10 to 14ers or one really big 18er plus. If you’re lucky the big one is there.
The water is tricky. Its compact. River is only 25 to 30 ft wide. Deepest spot along the cut bank is 4 feet. Just slow enough along the substrate to give a cushion for a large trout to chill and eat, safe from predators and within travel distance from a deep slow pool down river. It’s money. There are overhangs and snags above and below the river surface, faster water that others may pass later in the year looking for that walking speed water. But rainbow trout…big ones…like that fast water when its 48 degrees or warmer and it was holding right at 50 in late October.
I came to the spot last. Knowing the fish would be most active after 2 pm. Knowing I only had about a 45 minute window that the fish would be really active I waited for that window. I nymphed as there was no bugs after 2, I was hoping to pick some off with BWOs but alas that was wishful thinking. A pats stone nymph in a size 8 coffee and a small size 16 tungsten bead mayfly nymph. Nothing fancy.
It took 4 presentations. When the indicator slid into the slipstream of the current and hovered slightly on the edge of the fast water near the edge of the small bucket that formed along the bank that cut in slightly….it went down hard. Then went down river and I saw the flash of the leviathan.
My heart fluttered and my body flooded with adrenaline. Immediately feeling the power of the trout and realizing I had put myself right back into this situation like so many previous seasons in this spot. I focused, played the fish coaching myself the same way I coach my clients. Shit works. The fish came into the net…and finally after seasons of trial and error…success.
Even an experienced angler like myself finds challenges and has skills tested and honed through troot. The Yakima still tests me. Learning and becoming an angler on this river will put you on the fast track to becoming a good angler. My clients that started as noobs are a testament to it.
Those trout that test you, make you come back for more punishment, the ones that teach you as much as enrage while also enriching you. Angling is one of the only activities that does that. After 16 seasons chasin trout on the Yakima I still find myself enthralled by the wild trout that reside within her waters. After 6 years of guiding full time…I still seek out the challenge of those trout and the clients I get to introduce to them.
Tis a troot out there for ya anglers. Tis a troot that is the culmination of your efforts, the time, the patience, the trial and error…coming together and locking you into your epitome of angling at that time. Cherish those moments, those fish, and what they mean to you. Think about where they come from, what they’ve endured up to the point of the battle with you. Ponder your own journey to that moment. Both on and off river.. Two species meeting one another…its not a trivial thing and is so much more than just a big trout in your hands.
Its a tough one at times to be thankful and happy this off season. Loneliness, something I think many anglers and especially guides feel…pandemic or not. Many of us are more lonely than we have ever felt this year. Being away from loved ones, sacrificing time…which we only have so much of, to try and be safe and responsible during this crazy shit.
I am comfortable with the loneliness. We is tight. From my personal life to my professional. Doing things more solo now than I ever have. But is it really?
Yes I haven’t spent time with friends and the few people I consider family. I didn’t guide or fish with people and share in that with near as many as I normally do. It has taken its tole. But despite the pandemic, lockdowns, losing money, and not getting to do what it is I love and enjoy to do positive things have come about.
Personally, the pandemic has made me have to get my feet under me quickly after 2019. Knowing I am a shenanigan magnet I couldn’t be two steps behind starting this spring and I had plenty of help from those closest to me getting my feet under me before this shit set in. I will forever be grateful for people like Troy, Pat, and John. And to those thank random check in on me. Even when I don’t respond. You know who you are. The texts at weird hours, the phone calls outta nowhere. I thank you truly.
The pandemic hit and things went to shit. But riverside there is always stuff and things that happen. Like rods breaking, lack of supplies, broken trucks, fucked up trailers, uncooperative fish, weather, flows, what have you. The normal ebb and flow…testing ones patience ever more during the pandemic. Battling riverside shenanigans is something I am rather accustomed to so I dealt with it.
But that pesky off river stuff is relentless. From the financial strain came a new slew of problems I was unprepared for. But money is easily fixed with more money….just gotta make it. And when this is all over I have no doubt I will get that sorted. Time and money solve a lot. And there will be a decent recovery period for everyone when this finally starts to be over.
I miss my kids. We have sacrificed seeing each other a lot during all of this. I keep a lot of that close. Stings. But they are safe and we will see each other when this is all over. Just weird. Really fucken weird. Thankful they are with loved ones and safe during all this.
Car broke down, had so much help getting a new one and getting it road worthy. I can’t thank Bern and the crew at Rally Tuned in Cle Elum for their help getting me rolling again this season.
I had my gal bladder try to kill me. And I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the help of someone really special to me. Many know I met someone just before the pandemic hit. Through all this I have been fortunate to have someone like Kearstyn come into my life. I wouldn’t have made it through the surgery and to be honest, this whole pandemic without her. People come into your life when you least expect it and not always the way you anticipate. Finding a persom that compliments my weirdness, vibes with me, and brings happiness everywhere with them is someone I am very thankful for. Thankful isn’t enough word for it.
I have much to be thankful for this season. Health is a big one. My clients continued support and patronage. The people I consider family, my friends. Even though things are distant that connection and that gratitude is there.
I miss you all. This will be over soon. I hope you all have found things that make you happy, connected with those in your pandemic bubble. Be safe, spread love, and be grateful…be oh so grateful. There is a lot of loss and turmoil out there right now. Many people are missing loved ones at the table this year. Many aren’t seeing loved ones so they have a seat next year.
Well. I guess I could blog. Its been rather hard to find the energy and the creativity to write this season. I posted less this season across all my platforms. Just not a lot to say I guess.
At first the pandemic scared me, I still don’t wanna get sick. I spent enough time in the hospital this year with my damn gal bladder finally trying to literally kill me. I also had the swine flu back in 2011 or whatever. It sucked. I was in the hospital, my eldest got it and I got super scared. Fast forward to 2020 and I was scared like everyone else. Then the lockdown took its toll and tanked the early season. I was still scared but was hopeful for the summer and fall save.
Then memorial day hit. And my hopes started to fade. Despite the lockdown being lifted trips still trickled. Blame it on what have you, the scare of the virus, the economy tanking, just a feeling of why go fishing with all this stuff happening in our world. I felt that a lot. Seemed wrong to be out when so many couldn’t. Or I would find myself deep in thought about the myriad of things, election, climate change, virus. protests, the reasons behind them, it felt wrong at times to be out there, and at other times it felt like the only place I should…or could be. Just funk all fucken season.
July hit, and I thought maybe. But no. Like 12 guide days in July when normally I would work 28 to 30 something trips with a handful of two a days in there. August came and brought fires and smoke on top of everything else. So the summer dried up in the aftermath of the pandemic lockdowns and the now every season effects of climate change.
The fall came and at this point….in all honesty…I just wanted it to be over anglers. I had a decent amount of trips for the fall. It ended a week earlier than I would have liked, and the snow and cold scared away the weak as I like to say…but the fishing kinda just fell off at the end too. Bwos never really materialized and the caddis popped early and went quick. Salmon showed up late and in few numbers, and we had some crazy salmon pulses that just fucked with shit. Happens. Normal year, wouldn’t have been a thang…but this season it was like rubbing bleach in the wound.
I had and still have pandemic fatigue. Burnt out on a weird season. Still trying to recover from the previous years shit show of shenanigans. Just exhausted of watching money never even get a chance to get made. Tired of elected people who are supposed to be helping from state to the top…not. feeling helpless. Missing my children, not sure when it will be safe enough to see them. Thanksgiving, and it looks like Christmas plans have changed due to the pandemic. With this past season the funds aren’t there to do anything anyway. You get to a point where it beats you down. Closes you off. Doesn’t even feel like a year has gone by. Someday it feels like 3 years. Other days it feels like I’m back in November 2019. Ugh. FML.
I have been fortunate to have a new person in my life that has eased the sting of this all. And I have endured some hard shit in my life and at least with this pandemic I am in the same boat with everyone else. Having someone to get through this with is a huge positive. Lucky we met a week before this shit went down.
Some other help would be nice, but I won’t holf my breath. That first set of PPP helped, but like every other business it wasn’t enough and the false promise of things going back to normal didn’t help. 2 in 6 small businesses have closed across the country. Half could close by next year after what is looking to be an abysmal holiday season. A new wave of restrictions is already taking its toll on the small communities I frequent or used to frequent.
There is some hope. I made it through the season. And I can tough it out through a dark winter or whatever they call it. February ain’t that far off. At this point I’d prefer to be told to stay inside, here’s a check, wait until the vaccine is ready, or whatever. Fat chance, but I tried to work through this shit all year and it didn’t really work. I did my fucken part. So did so many others. And the lockdown before flattened the curve sure…but it just put that shit on pause. And we all knew better in hindsight. No longer scared, or really fatigued with this shit….just angry now. Things should move faster in the 21st century.
Everything is on pause. From bills getting paid, to flies getting tied, even texts getting sent. That dark cloud hovers over you and sinks you down. Effective against the rona, but not great for well being. Its been about 2 weeks since the river and I still feel the funk of the season on me. I look at the bank account and the funk thickens. I look at the photos and videos from the season and feel the funk seep. We had some great fish this year. I shared some amazing moments during this whacked out time with clients. I have to remind myself to be thankful for that. I have to remind myself that everyone’s shit has gotta be on pause if my trout bum ass stuff is.
I never really felt like I plugged into the Yakima this season. Never got a chance to. Didn’t get to wake with the river in the spring after what was a shitty winter following a hell of a season in 2019. So I never got to feel her ebb and flow, tap in, listen to what she was whispering. I just felt disconnected. It showed in my guiding. Maybe not to clients but there was a funk there. I tried to remedy it. But just couldn’t.
With my offseason on pause now too, I am hoping I can hit play when the thaw comes. I hope things improve this winter. I feel like they will. Its this slow painstaking process but I feel like its gonna get at least a little better. Maybe not for a month, fuck maybe two. But I see it. I won’t really be fishing. I packed the boat up early. Most of the fly rods are busted if I am honest (couldn’t afford to repair them or wait for them anyway), fly lines are worn to hell. I don’t even think I have leaders. Don’t think I will chase steel this year. Travel is kinda outta the question. Hell I can’t even tie the flies I want because I ran outta hooks. So shit is just on pause.
Like previous winters. I will hibernate, I will tie, I will play a lot of video games. I will read. Make videos, posts. All that stuff. Unfortunately un-pause isn’t as quick as you think. Its like you’re wearing a cape of tar or mollases. Every time you try to adjust it or move it, even take the damn thing off! Its exhausting and requires more effort than neccessary. That’s the best way to describe 2020 for me. I will get it off.
It starts with a schedule, even during a semi lockdown or whatever you wanna call the dystopian cluster we find ourselves in. I stay up late and wake late in the offseason. Like an owl. Waking up late morning sometimes noon. I am usually on rivertime all season, but I am naturally nocturnal anyway. I am back on the yoga. 5 days a week for minimum 25 minutes is the weekly goal right now. Eat good, still after the gal bladder. Ain’t gaining one of those 130 lbs back.
But the offseason is also prep time. Even after 2020…2021 needs to be prepped for. Gotta pump yourself up to kick next year right in the sack. I find no better way to work outta this years funk then to prep for the next. Tie, create, explore, read, fine tune, hone skills, try new things, study, improve myself so I can relay that to clients in the coming season. There is hope. And a reason to stay inside and tie flies still. So I guess I will take it. Spend time with those I can safely. Talk with my kids and wait patiently to see them again. Prep for the new season. Fuck we might all be vaccinated and mask free next year! So don’t let this dark winter get ya down to much. All you can do is slog though it. Slogs usually lead to great places. A waterfall with a pool filled with eager trout. A bend in the river not seen before, an opportunity at a moment to behold with a wild fish in a wild place just through there, bushwhack and slog through…its worth it.