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What is a Trout Worth?


Those who I have the pleasure of taking riverside to chase trout with know, my passion for wild fish, especially wild westslope cutthroat trout, runs very deep…to use the cliche’. I am at home, gliding along the currents, down the seams, through the runs, and around the back eddies of my glorious homewater the Yakima River. My oar strokes sharp and firm, my boat responsive, a sweet drift, a fish rising, the sound of a reel zinging, a smiling face, an ecstatic guide, a beautiful trout for all of us to share a moment with, and a quick and wet release…so that tomorrows’ clients have a shot at it and its offsrping.  

I guide because these trout need our attention. In my experience with the outdoors the only way people will ever care about it, protect it, conserve it, is if they are able to enjoy it. It is our first and most ancient form of entertainment and enjoyment. It is our playground, this planet we take for granted is ours, we are in charge. We are responsible for it. For me I take responsibility for the Yakima River and the wild trouts within her. For others it may be mountains, trails, bears, spotted owls, wild steelhead, salmon runs, old growth forests, deserts, lakes, you name it the outdoors has something for everyone to care about and enjoy. Its how we connect with the world we live in. The real world, not the smartphones, and netflix. Not facbook, and the reality TV. We connect with nature, hell there are even studies showing time in the outdoors is healthy for us.

From seeing a bald eagle for the first time, a big horn sheep, a wild trout, or even a lonely kingfisher, there is a myriad of natural things to enjoy and be entertained with when drifting the river. Its not always about the trout. Sometimes for me I just enjoy rowing the river and moving my boat around the seams and currents, playing with the river if you will. And sometimes I find new ways to fish, new angles, things I didn’t notice or quite see before. I have had trips this season that have very little fishing involved. More discussion and education. Others that were intense days of targeting trout and bringing them to net and enjoying every completely F’ing awesome second of it. That moment with that trout…instills something in every angler…if I do my job right. It also instills something in me every time I reach my net into the river. 

We are at a crossroads with our river. The drought is killing fish, and damaging the ecosystems that we hold so dearly, at a record pace. Sturgeon and Salmon are dying in the mighty Columbia, tributaries are boiling or drying up. Fish are dying…a lot more will die. The Yakima River is one of the only rivers in the west surviving the drought. The trout that we cherish and enjoy angling for, are our responsibility. We trick them with flies, we release them, we continue to invade their natural world, we owe them the coutesy of taking every effort to care for them as if they were our children. Our river is barely hanging on and our fish are on the line people. We must treat our trout with the utmost respect this season. From the 6 inch dinker to the 24 inch hogzilla. Keep these trout wet.  

Is a fish worth a photo? Because that photo may be its tombstone. It may be the last time anyone ever sees that fish. Think about that this season. I am heart broken that I witnessed the death of a prime Yakima River specimen in the Lower Canyon last night. Even doing everything right the fish was over stressed before we even accidently hooked him. Watching a wild trout go belly up and knowing that I was the cause even though I did everything right in that situation was detrimental for me. In 10 years I have had now…4 bad releases on trout. One dinosaur that did not survive the fight in the company of two seasoned guides that did everything they could to revive the trout. Two to deep hooks, and one…to warm water, over angling pressure, and one last drift of the fly. It happens, its part of the gig. You learn, you educate, and you move on and become a better angler.  

These wild trout are precious to us. They are precious to me, and my family. I make my living off of them. I want to continue to do that for years to come, so that one day I can float with my grandchildren down this river and net cutthroat and rainbow trout and share moments with them all. I make my living off of them so that I can continue to protect and care for them.  

Without the trips I take people on and get paid for, I would be unable to continue donating what seems like every minute of my time to them. When my boat pulls into my driveway after rowing 8 hours, I come in, talk about trout with my lady and children, even my dog. I tie flies for the next round, I think about how to better dress a fly to produce more fish in the net for clients. I think about hatches, and compare them to previous years, the weather, the flows, the temps, the stress I am putting on them. Did I just float that section? Yes, so I should swtich it up. Give fish a break. All of that and more run through my mind when I get off river. Somehow in between it all I find time to be a dad and husband, play video games with my son, hang out with my toddler, and listen to my eldest tell stories and watch nerdy movies with. Plus I fish on my own…a lot. Without my clients I would be unable to attend clean ups, take samples of algae, snorkel the river to check on fish, hike into the headwaters and take water temps, remove rock dams, save dying fish, educate other anglers and guides, introduce people to new places, attend meetings about conservation, count fish, the list goes on and on….

I love every damn minute of it people. EVERY MINUTE. I love my life and the type of lifestyle being a guide graces me with. My family does too. My minions look forward to doing shuttles with me in the upper river. They ask me about my fish. They noticed I was upset about a bad trip I had yesterday and we discussed warm water, fish handling, and why these trout need our care. They are 6 and 8 years old, people. They get it. They comprehend it. They appreciate what I do for a living and undesrtand that without proper care and protection they may not be able to fish like dad in the future.  

I have received a lot of heartwarming praise the past few days. I have been called a headwaters hero by people I respect and admire as anglers and people. I have fought for these trout this year and it has brought me heartache and grief, and absolute happiness. The efforts of a few can influence many, and diligence and determination win out. I have the patience of a seasoned fly angler and to date, nothing deters me when it comes to my trouts.  

I applaud the individuals that are making the effort to protect and conserve this watershed. I have to praise Joe Rotter and Red’s Fly Shop for their proactive approach to these warm water drought conditions with a voluntary Hoot Owl for their guide service in the Lower Canyon. This type of action is the management we as guides and stewards for the Yakima River and her Trout can be a part of as a community of anglers. No matter if you work for an outfitter, shop, are an independent, we all can agree that protecting this watershed should always be part of our job. We are doing the right thing with our river and I encourage all anglers that visit the Yakima River to care for our trout and use good angling and fish handling techniques. Voluntarily engage in the Hoot Owl hours and do not fish the Lower Canyon after 2 pm until water temps and conditions change. Take a guide and fish with them and learn about the river and what is going on. Fish for the trout, for the love of all that is holy fish for the trout! A guide like myself, will make sure that when we fish, I am giving not only you, but also the trout, the best experience I possibly can.  

I will continue to run trips on the Yakima River to chase these trout as long as conditions allow. Most floats that are scheuled will be in the early morning until the fall. We do not fish water that is 65 degrees and up in my boat. 68 or 70 may be the cutoff for others and that is within the scientific ranges to be safe. Professionally and personally, 65 is my limit.  

I also ask anglers to be open to other angling ideas. Bass fishing or other species of fish on the fly can be incredibly fun and challenging. I will be offering $375.00 Guided Bass Trips for the remainder of the season. I’m pretty good at tricking some of those greasy bucket and small mouths. Carp and trout lakes too. Even some musky hanging around the basin that we could go for.  

I also call on the Dept. of Agriculture, and especially the Forest Service, to begin considering opening guiding via special use permits to lakes and rivers in the National Forest Service Land for next year. To relieve pressure on our Yakima River and to bring more people to our natural places to recreate, spend money, and conserve, we need professional guides like myself, to facilitate those moments of inspiration and wonder that we all search for when we answer the call of the outdoors.

Thank you to all that have contaced me and thanked me, to those that inspire me, to every single one of my clients this season. Every one has learned about the conditions we are facing and the work we are doing as a fly fishing community here to protect our river. Thank you for taking trips with me and allowing me to continue doing what I do here. I look forward to fishing with many more this season and for many seasons after.

For the love of the trouts,

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Guide Season

Hey everyone!  It’s been since May that I posted an actual blog. Mostly because it full on guide season. I’ve got a lot of blogs rolling around in my trout nerdy noggin right now and they will begin trickling out in the coming weeks. 

So, give me a call or an email and come fish with me and maybe your trip will end up as one of the blog posts. 


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Funkiness Leads to other Species

I have no BEARD!!!
                 I have no BEARD!!!
So…its caddis time.  I have a love hate relationship with caddisflies and trout.  The hatch here on the Yakima can bring the best and the worst out in the river, the trout, and anglers.  Its been frustrating to say the least.  An early start, weird water conditions, bloody salmon smolt everywhere.  Dry fly fishing is sporadic at best in the upper and meh in the lower unless you are fishing from 7 to dark:30.  It gets better but with all this food and low flows, trout are lazy…and lazy fish don’t eat.  I also believe that trout are feeding into the evening.  With the hot weather, direct sunshine, and low water, the water temps fluctuate a bunch, especially up here in the headwaters.  This is causing fish to be more nocturnal, when the water temps are prime during the evening…the trout are more active then.  Meaning fishing tends to suck major butt during the day.  This has been proven to me over the past several days by tough and sporadic fishing.  We aren’t even seeing fish feeding under water in this low water.

So what does all this funkiness do to the weary troutnerd wishing for better more consistent days of trout chasing?  Well it drives him a little bonkers, and I have been beating my head up against the bow of my driftboat for to many days in a row now as I have literally done everything to try and get things dialed in.  Even fishing super early in the morning…not productive.  If the fish are eating…its at night and willy nilly throughout the day.  Bleh…bummer…ugh.  Even my conversations with fellow guides and troutnerds alike are giving me anxiety.  Fishing is slow, but then again, referencing my journals from previous years…its typically slow before and right after the MDC (Mothers Day Caddis) hatch.  Summer flows will be low this year so it will be an interesting year all around.  This means that fishing the Yakima may not always be the best option for taking a guided fly fishing trip, I said it…it’s the truth. Luckily, Yakima River trout are not the only trout or the only species of fish that I chase.  Being a versatile and experienced angler comes in super handy now. 

This brings me to two things.  One…to keep from going absolutely nutter because of the funkiness….I start working my way higher up into the mountains where things are more stable, less effected by the weirdness, and trout are more eager to eat as the season starts early for smaller mountain stream trout.  Walk and wading the upper river and its tribs is going to be a very normal thing this year in my opinion and I am already out hiking the banks of other rivers that feed the Yak in preparation.  Two…other species of fish.  I don’t snub fishing for other species.  I just happen to be a trout minded individual.  Its the way I am wired.  But I didn’t always fish for trout.  I grew up with bass on the brain for a long time.  So something I do when things get Funky is go chase something else.  Its like getting the Shanks in golf…sometimes you just gotta change it up.

So, tomorrow, I am going to chase my old friend Mister Largemouth and Smallmouth on Stan Coffin Lake in my stomping grounds of the Columbia Basin just east of us across the mighty Columbia River.  Bass fishing is a little less involved than trout fishing.  Less specific really, and while I could delve into the intricacies of bass fishing both on and off the fly, I won’t today.  I will simply say, its fun to do, the flies are cool, the fish are typically HANGRY and full of awesomeness, and it keeps my trouty brain sane.  I also have a guided bass trip coming up next week so I need to prep for it.

So when the river gets funky…its time for a change of species, or scenery, or watershed…or all of the above.

See you Riverside…or Lakeside in this weeks case.


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The Yakima River is a Caddis River

I love mayflies. I love tying them, I love fishing them, I absolutley love watching trout feed on them. But the Yakima River…my glorious homewater which does sport some epic mayfly hatches…is a Caddis river. 

top water patterns for yak caddis

 The Mother’s Day Caddis or American Grannim is the most abundant and prolific hatch that our river has to offer and our trout know this best of all the species that dine on the aquatic little moth thingy. 

It’s a quirky insect. One that troubled anglers for decades. The 70s brought us new science to help the angler better understand his quarry.  Anglers such as Gary LaFontaine spent countless hours observing trout and their secret and intricate relationship with the Caddis. His book simply titled Caddisflies is amazing. Read it. 

Back to the Yakima River, the Caddis are early this year. And the trout are already on it. The Yakima River gives up her secrets willingly during this time. Knowing how to properly and accurately break down a Caddis hatch can give you some of the most memorable and enjoyable days of fishing on this river. 

While the Lower C is the place to go for the Caddis Hatch it happens on this whole bloody river and trout know it. The upper fished just as good as the lower in my opinion and cutthroat get stupid for Caddis. The trick is getting the timing right. Caddis hatches typically fall into a rhythm and follow that pattern for the course of the season. 

Throughout the season the hatch will come off later every night. Sometimes a few minutes some nights a whole half hour later. Pressure and temperature are a factor as well as water conditions. Hence why we have an early hatch. Everything is a bit funky so things are early.  The best way to get the hatch dialed in is to be on water and observe it and fish the tail end of it making note of when it started and then hit it the next day. Or…go with a guide or a friend that is already dialed in and knows when to get on it. 

my deep water pupa

 Knowing when the Caddis hatch pops off gives you your midpoint when making a game plan for fishing. Two hours before the actual hatch I typically start throwing a deep water Caddis pupa as a trailer fly under a stonefly nymph. Then about 40 minutes before the hatch I switch to a hopper dropper or a light indicator set up with a weighted Caddis pupa or soft hackle pupa, two feet down or so, waiting to see if fish have moved into position for dry flies.  Swinging flies at the end of drifts every time. The second I see fish start to boil I grab my dry fly rod. 

mmm caddis pupas

When fish are boiling you will typically see dorsal fins and tails or just the backs of the fish. This means they are eating emerging pupas as they are making their way to the surface to hatch. Throwing dry flies will get a few bumps but to catch all the fish in the river, a sparkle pupa 18-22 inches below a small tuft of yarn tied into a blood knot above the tippet, or as a dropper, is the way to go.  This is where fish gorge themselves. 

Next for me is a special little emerging Caddis dry I tie that works really well for fish that are eating the struggling emerging Caddis on the surface. Typically the first time you see noses breaking the surface. Especially slow sipping noses of smart large wary rainbows that won’t eat an elk hair that floats by bit will smash a Caddis emerger….mmm Caddis…its what’s for dinner.


Big trout are smart. The typically eat two stages of the Caddis hatch…the emergers…and the spent ones. We will get to that later. 

Next is when the fish get silly and will take anything. Sometimes it’s only about 15 minutes of the actual hatch. The frustrating sweet spot everyone looks for when they are fishing Caddis patterns. It’s there…but it’s easy to miss and I tend to not worry about it so much. The emerging insects when fish are boiling is where it’s at dudes…listen to the trout man. 

Once the furor of fish eating is over…it’s time to switch to wetflies.  A soft hackle with a little Antron and a wire wrap is all you need. Slinging that thing into softwater, eddies, and the foamy stuff for the big trout coming out at dusk, away from the chaos…to sip peacefully on spent Caddis as they collect in all the trouty places of the river. 

Peaceful that is, until you stick a 20 plus incher that isn’t very happy about you F’ing up his chi, and it’s show time. Wild Yakima Trout at their finest. Jumping, yanking, taking line, giving guides heart palpation’s and making novice anglers buttholes pucker. Ya you know the ones I’m talking about. Those crazy big fish that usually pop off right near the boat after you think they are tired out. Mmmm…ya we like those trout…we like them a lot. 

Those are the times I’m coming into the take out at 8:30 or later with a headlamp on. Good times. 

So that’s how I break down the Caddis hatch. It’s one of the only hatches where I’ve actually caught 60 fish in a day.  That and the cranefly hatch…mmm craneflies. But that’s for later. 

See ya riverside. Bring the Caddis…it’s what’s for dinner. 


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Epic Moments are just as good as Epic Trouts

A few posts back I wrote about a young man who I had the pleasure of meeting riverside while hefting a bloody motorcylcle out of the river.  The Kid, casting like a Champion, in winter, chasing trout.  Crazy dude.  

It was my pleasure once again to have The Kid and his Uncle riverside this week.  I had fished the day before and had a wonderful day of mayfly dryfly fishing and was hoping for the same.  The river had other plans for us but more on the later.

I enjoy taking people out on the river more than most things.  I have this desire and passion I must fullfill.  Sharing the outdoors and moments with trout and anglers is a driving force for me and gives me purpose.  It is something that I am happy to be completely immersed in now, much like when I spent more time in the woods than not.  

We floated the Upper Yakima Canyon and we had a slow day.  A big drop in water temps from the previous day due to low overnight temps made for slow fish.  The sun also shone brightly and the Osprey were out.  The dreaded W also…did not help.  But that is how chasing trout goes sometimes.  We saw a few fish.  The Kid was bestowed a few new nicknames all of which are hilarous and have been bestowed on many anglers including myself.  The Whitefish Whisperer, Fast Water Fighter, Champion Caster, Back Seat Driftboat Huslter.  Those are a few.  Anchor Line Tangler is a good one too.  

While his Uncle and I talked and we floated, The Kid hung out in the back seat, just slipping casts all over the river… Like a Freaking Champion!  I didn’t even have to tell this dude where to put the fly, he knew.  The lesson and his independent study shows in his ablity to read water and instinctively know when and where to put the bug.  I would look back and his indicator would be right on line, then he’d pick up, give it a quick flick, and BAM back on target below a log, or a boulder.  Tight loops for the wind too. He was snaking water from his uncle, coming in behind the frontman’s fly poaching water like a guide would.  His uncle would hit a good line, and The Kid would flick his cast that much closer,  right on target, just money.  All day long I’m telling myself, “Damn its nice to have good rhythm.” 

I like my life the speed of a driftboat interrupted by chaotic moments of pure awesomeness and happiness.  Its a simple, dirtbaggy way to live, but my lady and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  When I am literally going driftboat speed with interruptions by trout, life is that much sweeter with two fly rods flicking through the air while I row down the line.  Nothing better than a driftboat riverside.  

Casting on the shelf.

While the day went by slow in terms of trout, everything else was about perfect when I think about a river float.  We were coming to the end and I had all but given up and was haphazardly holding a lazy line along the diversion above Tanuem.  

I may have mentioned to The Kid to hit the seam as we came down but he had already picked his line.  We moved near the rocks, I see out of the corner of my eye; The Kid bomb a wicked sweet cast into the seam just above the diversion line of boulders.  I look down river and put on the breaks with a few good pulls on the sticks.  

I look back and The Kid’s line goes tight and we both think its a rock and he yanks on it to set it free…holy…shiznat!  It wasn’t a rock…  The line goes tight, the fish pulls…its on.  

The Kid is on his game right from the get go once he realizes its a trout.  And I mean a trout.  Of course this fish tries to school the young angler.  It heads for the rocks with full force.  Take into account the current is pretty good here and we are moving down stream and looking back upriver at this trout now. Like a trout that has been played before, the indicator goes between two rocks and this is the instancne I wince, and everything goes silent.  The Kid lifts his rod tip high, I swear he was on his tip toes in the back of the boat.  We both watch, him in amazement, me in horror, as this trout goes into the boulders.  Then we see it…I thought it was steel at first, this raibow colored slab rolls down the rock into the fast current and runs down river…stealing line, running like it robbed a bank.  I tell The Kid to let it run but keep tension.  (I knew he had 4X on so I intended for him to play this fish like a mother f’ing boss!)  He did too.  From the back of the driftboat The Kid out Hustles this wily trout in the fast water…Fast Water Trout Hustler.  

As all this is happening, as a guide, I am looking at how we are going to land this fish.  It’s the best of the day, at the the end of the float, and its F’ing Decent!  I find a soft spot on the edge of the current just large enought for the boat.  Its fast and deep, but I can make it work.  Like tucking behind boulders landing big fish in fastwater up river.  We go across the current, I slide in, couple crab strokes, like freaking butter, just a wicked job if I do say so myself.  

The Kid is still playing this fish which is now headed back upstream in the faster water.  Exactly what we wanted it do to.  Play em hard, get em in, and put em back.  This entire process lasted mere minutes in reality.  In one aweome guide moment, I drop the hook, hop out of the boat into thigh deep water with current, grab the net and get to work.  The water is fast, the boat is held and we have a small seam of slower water to get this done in.  Its perfect.  As a guide and an angler its nirvana, dude.  

I am reveling in the moment unfolding and cannot wait to see if we can meet this trout.  It sees the net and runs, pulling line out.  I yell, “Let it go!” “Rod Tip Out!” as I motion for The Kid to keep the rod at an angle.  His Uncle is just as excited and coaching him perfectly as I move into position.  The trout comes close, I reach for it and it runs down just out of reach, headed for a pile of junk just below.  “Rod Tip UP!”  “Try and get the head up!”  The fish turns back towards the boat and moves for me.  I get out of the way, I can hear The Kid and all his enthusiasm.  Its wicked cool.  The trout tries to go under the boat.  I duck under the line and scoop the trout into the net just in front of the boat avoiding disaster.  The chaos only builds!  Its a wonderfully bright, post spawn, leapord spotted, rainbow.  Hefty trout, not the longest trout at around 18 inches but fat and full of newly invigorated muscle from chowing down after the spawn.  

Wild Trout Chased and Tricked

The Kid hops out, I know exactly how he feels.  The fish took the Dirty Batman Prince I tied up…Double Awesome!!  Right in the corner of the mouth.  Fly slipped right out with a twist.  We held it in the net in the water to let it recover for a few moments, the water was fast and cold so I knew we were good.  The trout was still thrashing angrily in the net, when The Kid prepped for the release.  Just a healthy Wild Yakima Rainbow.  The Kid had a great wet release, handling the fish with respect and finesse.  The fish sped back into the fastwater, a wonderful end to the moment.  To top it off another guide boat drifted by as the high five was happening and they were just above us listening in on all the awseomeness.  (Back Seat Driftboat Huslter).  Living in the moment.  Living in the life. Epic Moment, and Epic Trout.  Both for angler, and for guide.  

Its the stuff I live for.  That moment when I get to share the world I live in everyday.  Not a day goes by I don’t think about trouts.  It’s a slower world, a simplier one, a river world, a world where wild fish take flies.  Where anglers and trout test one another through river, rod, fly, and cast.  I am still jacked about it dude.  Just thinking about it makes me want more of it.  To chase these trout.  To net the fish.  I get to introduce anglers and trout and its my life!  I get to teach people why its important we have these wild fish, why the trout and the rivers that hold them deserve respect, how sharing in these moments makes us want to keep having them for years to come, and be able to share with all who are willing.  I also forgot to mention how much damn fun it is.  I mean really…its pure fun.  

Driftboat speed with choatic interruptions from wild trout, while being riverside, with anglers.  Fly Angler Life…Abide.  See ya riverside dudes.


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Driftboat Love

I run my fingers along the side of my driftboat.  Its polyethylene roto molded hull smooth to the touch.  She’s one of a kind on my homewater.  The big plastic bath toy as I like to call her.

I heft my anchor into its place at the stern.  I drive my trailer down the ramp and hop out, always reminding myself to punch the parking brake.  I get anxious with the ratcheting sound of my winch unloading as my boat slides into the Yakima River with a thunk and a splash…she is at home now.

It’s just my boat, the river, and me today.  I have been guiding several days this spring season already and I have not had enough time to chase the wild trout within the waters myself.  It is time.  I say goodbye to my lady as she pulls away with the trailer.  I won’t have contact with another human for the next 8 hours if things go as planned.  I like to fish the off days during the week as I typically get the river to myself.  I put my phone on silent and block all incoming calls, I turn up the bluegrass, light a smoke, and push off away from the launch and down river.

A favorite section of water I have chosen for today.  The fishing has been slow, but sometimes…its not always about catching fish.  I feel the crisp spring morning on my face, the faint sight of my breath, the soft noise of the riffle I am floating through.  I see a good trouty hole, one I am familiar with.  A long shelf, with a deep slot along a large run.  Money water.  I slide into the slack water and drop the hook.  The familiar sound of my chain and cylinder anchor splashing and rolling along the bottom for a few seconds before it holds brings me to my feet.  I grab my Winston, rigged with a single stonefly nymph, and a tuft of yellow yarn a few feet up the leader.  The worn cork feels at home in my hand.  A distinct spot in the cork where my thumb rests feels as if I am being reunited with a long lost appendage.  I pull the indicator line out and begin my cast.  The sound of the line and fly through the air settles my soul.  The river calls to me and I place my fly in the seam.  The indicator dances down stream drag free and effortlessly.  I cast again.  The indicator pulls slightly and I lift my fly off the boulders below.  I adjust my depth to keep the fly slightly higher in the water column.  The increase in flows should push the fish into this area like my journals from previous seasons state.  Again a drag free drift through the seam.  Several more casts and I decide to move down to the middle of the shelf.

I drop the anchor again, stand, and cast.  This time I adjust my depth slightly deeper, knowing this section of the shelf to hold fish during this time of year around 7 feet.  My indicator goes through three times without so much as a bump.  Two more casts and then the indicator sinks with a purpose.  I lift and feel tension.  Its slow and pulls deep…whitefish?  I reel in the mostly undesired trout species letting its ghostly gray body slide back into the deeper water.  I cast again.  Where there are whitefish, there are other trouts.  A second dip of the indicator yields a small rainbow around 12 inches.  I move my cast downstream and the indicator dips with purpose again after a few casts.  This particular trout head shakes and runs to the faster current leaping from the water trying to outsmart me!  A rainbow, bright and beautiful, full of wild.  We share a moment while the trout is in the net and I release, feeling fulfilled.  I haul in my anchor and move to the bottom of the shelf.  I fish the bottom of the run with no other invitations from fish, and move on down river.

The sun breaks through the clouds and the drizzly weather clears slightly.  A proper PNW day.  One where a good flannel will do you better than a rain jacket.  I anchor on another bountiful hole and nymph two flies, a stonefly and a hare’s ear.  The March Browns should be coming off soon.  I work the water and come up without a single strike.  I move down river to a favorite boulder garden.  I see a trout rise…then another.  I time my float on this particular stretch to make sure I arrive at this spot when the hatch is just unfolding.  It never ceases to amaze me, watching these wild fish do what they do.  Being able to witness truly wild animals in their natural habitat is something that brings me into the outdoors.  The Westslope Cutthroat before me, feeding on emerging insects, hold ancient genetics that date back long before man and dams, and they are a testament to the health and pristine place in which they live.  I have a special place in my heart for the Wild Westslope Cutthroat.  I imagine the days when they filled the stream in vast numbers alongside the salmon, bulltrout, wild steelhead and rainbow trout that called this place home.  I grab my Scott G2 and tie on a small size 14 March Brown Emerger.  A klinky looking fly with a brown quill body and a white poly parachute post.

The rod casts through the air effortlessly and its slower timing compared to my Winston seems to slow time down.  I cast up river to the feeding trout, congregated around several boulders and a well placed log.  One drift…two drifts…three.  No fish to the fly.  I wait and watch.  Another fish rises…a small splash and a flash of color from the larger cutthroat.  I wait a bit longer.  It rises again.  I cast a few moments after the rise hoping to entice a strike…feeling the rhythm of the feeding fish and trying to time my drift to its internal metronome.  The fly drifts over the fish and a late strike catches me off guard!  The finicky trout tracked the fly and hit it late in the drift making for a wonderful take and a unexpected fight from the fish.  A cutthroat does little in terms of acrobatics and showmanship, but they make up for it in sheer beauty and the bright orange cutts under the jaw that seem so misplaced in the natural world.  They serve no purpose to the trout, only a natural decoration, but to the angler in me they are intoxicating.  I release the fish and move on down river.  I have little desire to cast the fly rod much more today, and instead enjoy the float and watch the fish rise sporadically to the brown colored mayflies.

I come around the bend and meet up with a wading angler.  We pass each other with a wave and a smile.  I feel no desire to talk with anyone today and enjoy the solitude as I round a point and drift out of sight.  Content and full of happiness that my driftboat and I have the river to ourselves again.


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The pre Post

So I have a great blog brewing but I’m super busy with guiding and some fly orders to fill. Plus I’m behind in tying for guiding. So this is a pre post, post. I have had some great experiences guiding this season and they all have sunk in and I’ve got some fun stuff to write up. But not today. Flies need to be tied, scheduling for trips finished, kids tucked into bed, and the dog feels neglected. With a day off tomorrow there should be something pop up here tomorrow evening. 


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I sit fireside/riverside on a late spring afternoon. No trout will be caught today as the faint patter of rain lightly sounds throughout the dry leaves and nettles of the woods. A riffle is in front of me and a large pool just below. I watch from my resting place below a small pine tree and wonder at the trouts living under the currents. 

I add some fuel to my eager and sputtering fire. The wood is damp and smells of what home is for me. It’s quiet. The rain is subsiding now. The afternoon is late and I do not yet wish to venture back to civilization. 

The warmth of the smoldering wood soothes my soul…absolutley. Amazing how such a simple and primal thing calms and brings me back to some ancient peace. Much the way a cutthroat does when I share a moment with one eager enough to take my fly. 

I enjoy a smoke and peruse my fly box, secretly admiring my creations and imitations. The March Browns and Green Drake dry fly patterns are my particular favorite for this time of year.  I ponder the many times I have sat as I am now, and reflect on what such moments have done for me in my life. From the fires I’ve made, to the trouts I have chased.  The disappointments, set backs, bullshit, and hullabaloo that had been a constant in my adult life is gone now. I have found what it means to be alive. Content and awake to the world. 

A Skwalla flaps near the rivers edge. I take a moment to watch it flutter down river hoping a trout decides to make it a later afternoon snack. I grab my fly rod and sling on my satchel, grabbing a fly from my box, I make my way to the pool below me. A few casts and no takers…I’ll venture back to the car…at my leisure, taking a few casts at every fishy seam and boulder I come across. 


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Fishing Report 3/17-20

So I hit the river a few times this week.  For some guide trips and some personal time.  The upper river was slow with water temps still hovering below 44 degrees.  Warm sunny days are better for bugs but the fish are still in winter mode a bit so nymphing has been the most productive method.  While bugs need warm air temps and some need sunshine, fish need warmer water temps to get active and we are still not seeing a lot of that in the upper river yet.  We have a big set of systems rolling in off the Pacific bringing us a bunch of moisture and possibly snow up high around 5000 feet.  This will be followed by warmer temps if the forecast is accurate, which means some higher water potentially later next week.

I fished the lower canyon on Friday and we had an epic day.  Large fish caught, lots of rising trout, blue wing hatch that was crazy and finicky fish that were keyed into the naturals and refused flies all day long.  We had several instances where fish would track flies and then hit them lightly.  Lots of large trout being selective which is always fun to watch.  We had several instances where fish were podded up around boulders sipping on BWO’s as they floated by.  Fun to watch and fun to try and trick them.  One of those days where flies are switched a lot, leaders and tippets extended, and presentations worked on, just a fun day of fishing and guiding.

The lower river is in spring mode for sure with hungry and eager fish.  With the way the flows are the fish are spread out all over with some deep in the runs and some on the boulders.  As the hatches get better and the temps both for air and water rise those fish will move into faster water and tuck into the boulders and seems even more making for some great fishing.

I did witness one of the largest trout ever, I was doing a double boater, we coasted by as they were playing this huge trout.  Ended up being around 26 28 inches and weighing in around 5 to 6 pounds.  Not steelhead just a big ass trout.  Took the dry fly.  Was amazing to see such a wild specimen.  Get on the river if you can and call me for available dates for guided trips.


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A few thoughts on tying flies and pattern selection for the wary quarry. 

store and hand tied

I used to buy flies like a crazy person. I love flies, I would buy a few take them home, tie some that looked identical, and go fish. It’s how I learned a lot of stuff about tying and composition. Deconstructing and recreating fly patterns is how you develop your own as a tier a lot of the time.  

As I delved deeper into tying and studied more literature, trout biology, and listened to my mentors about flies, I began to buy flies less, and tie more. I found myself tying flies that seemed dull and dreary compared to the ones in the bins at the local fly shop. The more I tied with my mentor and worked on patterns and skills with him the more I understood what made a good fly. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the flies you pick from the bin is totally awesome and it’s gonna work. If you get all the other pieces of the fly fishing puzzle to fit into place that fly is gonna catch the majority of fish in the river just fine. I just found that more and more the flies that manufacturers were churning out we’re getting more colorful, flashier, larger, filled with foam, and Krystal Flash, just Lady Gaga playing Las Vegas looking patterns. 

Did trout suddenly start wanting glitzy looking flies hanging out of their mouths as you fondle them trying to get a good release?  No…probably not. Trout…want insects. Not flies. So why do flies seem to be looking less and less like bugs and more and more like pieces of bloody jewelry for trout to wear for pictures? 

Well tying at that level is commercial and flies are easier to sell when they catch an anglers attention.  Problem is, flies are for trout not anglers. Trout only care about a few things in terms of flies. The better it resembles the natural, the more productive it should be….I mean that just makes sense. Both common sense wise and in terms of biology and science. There is a science behind flies and insect imitation. 

Certain materials mimic natural actions of insects such as angora goat and its ability to create a breathing undulating look even at the smallest level. Which lets face it, a trout is looking at little bugs with eyes designed to look at them under water. As a tier, it would be in my best interest, to tie flies that look as close to the natural as possible, maybe not exactly but imitating those key things that trout key in on instinctually is foremost in my mind when at the vise. 

Color, shape, size, profile. All important. But what about the way Caddis create an air bubble that sparkles under water, a factor trout key in on. Well throw on some Antron and you are good to go.  (By the way, Thanks LaFontaine for making Caddis fishing much more productive through your study of trout!).  There are lots of things to consider and even more material to use to mimic all sorts of things that trout key in on in relation to each pattern and natural. 

Patterns today, for me, seem to have lost a bit of that. Sure a bright orange stimulator with flash out the ass, and big sparkly legs is gonna catch fish, it looks right.  For me though, too many times in my ten year of fishing on the river here; I watch large trouts refuse flies of the store bought nature. Finicky trout are impressive really. A quarry that strikes me two fold: as an angler and a tier. Can I tie a pattern that can trick such a fish?  Because, if all the other parts click into place from cast to drift to proper tippet length, and the trout refuses, what else is there but the single most important thing you need in order to trick said trout with a fly rod in the first place?  

The Fly. 

Fly tying is an art, and the art for the trout chaser such as myself, is in the ability to tie effective flies that trick the most leery of trout. I have spent seasons testing flies. Searching for those finicky trout and testing my patterns.   Hitting hatches with handfuls of different patterns and seeing which ones work best and developing more from there. It’s some of the most fun for me in terms of angling. Having a trout be tricked by a dry or nymph pattern I have tied is that pure moment I yearn for. Some anglers it’s the perfect cast before the hookup, some dudes it’s the big fish, others it’s the perfect Snap T, the perfect take, whatever it is it’s awesome. For me it’s tricking a wary trout with a fly no one else has. The fish that no one has caught, the fish that every one tries for, big or small, I wanna trick it with my fly.  Ya man, that’s my jam. 

Tying used to be a necessity as there was no where to get flies unless you knew a tier.  There are troves of literature and journals on flies from all over the life of modern fly fishing. Going back and finding that many patterns that were the most effective were simple, subtle, and more natural looking. It wasn’t so much about selling flies as it was discovering what made up a good fly and why?  It was about tricking fish.  Guides and writers would sell flies to go fishing and fly shops would buy them until the sport got so big it required mass production of flies.  A little bit of the art of tying died or kind of faded away. 

For me, when I browse the bins at the fly shop I typically end up buying nothing. I just never find anything that stands out to me and I feel that the flies in the bin aren’t going to trick that persnickety trout. They will trick the other trout just fine but that’s not my mindset when angling as much. It’s less about tricking lots of fish and more about tricking those fish that stand out. The one 14 inch cutt that isn’t slashing the surface like all the others. The one sipping instead, maybe it’s been caught before, maybe it has some cool marking, maybe it’s bigger than I thought?  Doesn’t matter, it’s in the zone refusing flies left and right. Let’s see if one of these patterns will trick him?  That’s what goes through my mind when looking for or tying flies. 

When you look for flies at the shop, look for subtle, smaller patterns. Yes a salmon fly dry is a size 6 but when you cram a bunch of foam and flash on a size 8 4X long hook so you can fit all that crap, the fly is huge to the trout. A size smaller is typically a better idea when looking for flies for the larger insects. Look for buggy flies, both nymphs and for dries, but especially nymphs.  A Pats Stone will catch fish and I’ve even got big old steel on it, but for that trout hiding behind the boulder that flashes but won’t eat shit…ya smaller buggier bug, that’s gonna give you a better chance. I test myself on this every time I fish. Especially when working on patterns and fine tuning fly composition and material selection. 

So, if you seem to be having trouble with fly selection and trout not taking your flies, think about what you are throwing and how it looks to the trout in comparison to the natural. If you are unsure, find a trout nerd and ask them.