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.

Tamarack

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. 

River Report 3/10-11

Bruiser Bow



Well I hit the river above and below this week. Was pretty slow both days. I did a Fat Bike Ride and Fish which was a blast. Fishing up near the Cle Elum confluence is really slow. Water temps are still dropping to 39 ish. 



FatFly Trip



I floated the lower canyon from Ump to Lluma, there were a few risers but no Skwalla save for a few. The BWO were pretty good. Fish were keying in on them but it was pretty sporadic on where the risers were. I had more success on the nymph of course and the Skwalla Stonefly Trout Snack did the trick for a handful of large fat bows chilling around 7 feet in the slow stuff. 

I came to the high canyon wall just below Red’s and really worked that deep area along the shelf. Fish were stacked there but they were deep.  Pressure from anglers over the weekend was a big factor today and fish were down. I lost a few good fish on the nymph there. The bottom fly was a weighted BWO Nymph I tie and was doing the trick but the chunky Skwalla nymph was equally effective when fished singular. 

Takes were subtle on smaller fish but forceful on the larger trout. The larger trout I did net were fat. Like obese almost, gorged on all the dry flies and nymph naturals over the past week. 

I did find one very large Rainbow slashing at mayflies and the one Skwalla that passed by. I threw the Moose Hair Skwalla that I haven’t had a lot of time to test. I spooked the fish earlier and gave it some time. It started feeding again after about 5 minutes. I took that opportunity to give myself 14 inches of 5x Supple Flex Tippet.  The trout had just slashed the surface again with ferocity and I laid my fly about 4 feet above. Like clockwork that fish hit it. Hard. It was a great take and a fun fish to play, jumping several times and it pulled and head shook making the heart flutter a bit.

I got a chance to use my swanky new Fishpond Nomad Net, which is awesome by the way, and I like pictures of fish better in the ghost colored nets. The fishing slowed way down after 3 but I did manage to hook a huge whitefish. Bloody thing messed up the whole hole with its display. 

Not a stellar day but not a bad one either. I found that the fish needed patience and lots of casts with lighter tippet and really good drifts. They have seen a lot of pressure on the lower canyon with the past weekend so keep that in mind when making plans. The upper river is getting better everyday but keep angler pressure in mind as well. Smaller tippet, different flies, smaller flies, better presentation, and nice long drifts will get the job done though.  Find off days to get out of possible and it’s so low wading for the three warm hours of the day should just be shied away from. Play around with nymphing depth also. I found fish all over the water column but big ones seemed to be deeper. 

Anyway the river is getting better everyday in terms of conditions and bugs though. Lots of nymphs moving around especially in the upper. Spawn is close, fish are hungry, and the weather is supposed to be good for fishing. A little rain may be just what we need.  I’ve got dates open for some pretty fun spring fishing. 

Tamarack

The Preseason Shakedown

Healthy wild upper river rainbow on the nymph.  Keeping them wet!

Healthy wild upper river rainbow on the nymph. Keeping them wet!

It is time.  I fished the upper on Tuesday and the lower on Wednesday.  It wasn’t really on but fish were on the nymph pretty good in both places.  A few and I mean like 2 opportunities each day for fish feeding on dries. However, the weather reports are making every angler start to swoon.  Warmer overnight lows in the mid to upper 30’s and even the 40’s next week are in the forecast.  The daytime temps are hitting 55 to 60 in the next 10 days!  Water temps will be on the rise, water levels will be low, and fish are going to be on the move as the bugs start doing there thing.  The Preseason Shakedown has begun!  Get those flies tied, get all your gear together, wait anxiously for your Scott G2 repair to come back and your new Simms Wading boots to arrive, and start thinking about dry fly fishing.  Because the trout are gonna start thinking about eating dries too!  We also just had a full moon, the time change happens on Saturday and the days will now start to get longer and longer on our way to summer!  Its FISHING SEASON PEOPLES!!!

I will be tying a bunch of dirty dries for the Skwalla and March Brown hatches that are sure to be happening simultaneously over the next few weeks.  Drakes are not far behind and with this low water that we are having April could be bloody spectacular!  Salmon Fly Nymphs are already starting to move and even the Golden Stonefly Nymphs that hatch at the beginning of summer are starting to wake up from their winter hiding holes.  It’s a mad dash to get ready and find days to get on the water.  Call in sick, take vacation, or at worst…just blow off some work.  I already got my boss to schedule a day of hooky to go fish with me.  Another part of the shakedown is fielding calls and emails for trips which is starting to happen.  This spring is looking to be one of the better springs for fly fishing we have had.

Its also that time of year where the river comes alive not just with trout but with bugs, which is why we are all getting super stoked.  I love seining the river and looking at the naturals, it gives me inspiration for new patterns, lets me know how healthy the river system is, and it helps me get into the mind of the trouts and the river.  With plans to get a Phototarium which is a big plastic view box for fish and bugs, I am really hoping to delve ever deeper into the world of aquatic insects and trout.  There is a large shift for keeping our wild fish wet when angling and it is a movement I fully support.  A fellow guide made a great point: “Fish pics don’t sell trips, good fishing does.”  Keeping these wild trout wet during handling is only going to bolster and strengthen this fishery and put more fish per mile in our river.  As this season starts I encourage all anglers to keep fish wet as they handle them, take flies out while fish are in nets, try not to handle fish, take photos of fish while in the net or in a photo box, and get lots of action shots.  Shots of people fighting or working fish are really cool.  These fish are wild and we want more and more of them to fill our river so lets treat them as such and make this fishery better with every season!

Anyway, the river is starting to wake from her winter slumber and once again fill her waters with life…and hungry trouts.

Tamarack

Quick River Report 3/3/15

Wild Rainbow on the Nymph

I’m not gonna get all foofy with this one just a quick update. I’m tired and  hitting the river again tomorrow and need to tie some.

The weather was sunshine but cool.  The high on the river today was about 44.  The water temps topped out around 42.  Fishing was slow but fish were eating.

Nymphing is still the main game in the upper stretches.  The skwalla stonefly nymph is working but the river gave me another opportunity today with a March Brown Hatch.  Around 1 pm the mayflies starting popping.  Nothing prolific but there was enough.  I found two areas of feeding fish.  I hooked up on the emerger pattern and one cutthroat hoovered the size 14.

The big producer today however, was  my possum hares ear.

I tied it under a stonefly nymph.  Hooked up 6 times with it during and after the hatch.  Got 4 of them to the net.  Lost a monster trout around 3:30 on it.  Feisty trout outsmarted me going under the boat then running to the bank and getting enough slack to roll off.

IMG_2456Didn’t see a single sqwalla dry but did see nymphs.  The flows are perfect, if the water temps bump up after this cold spell we will be in the thick of it.  March Browns and Sqwallas, hungry trout, and eager anglers.

I’ll plug my guiding now by saying, give me a call and get on the schedule, as the weather gets even nicer and the river heats up things are going to get fun and some really great dry fly fishing is right around the corner.

Tamarack

The Benefits of a Blog

A favorite for many anglers.

The blog may not be for everyone. In reality the Internet just isn’t good for some people.  It has had an incredible impact on the sport and art of fly fishing. Some positive some not so much but that could be applied to just about anything.

In the days of old, anglers would write journals and newsletters to their fishing club to communicate and promote the culture and sport.  Short stories, books, pamphlets, scientific studies, fly pattern recipes and techniques used to be passed along between a small tight group that spanned from the high Catskills areas of the north east, all the way to the Washington and Oregon coast with a heavy emphasis in Montana of course.

As far back as the early 20’s there are articles and writings about fly fishing.  A wealth of knowledge and insight is there for the hungry angler.  Those that have taken the time to unglue their eye holes from Kamchatka videos, and trophy brown trout in New Zealand stumble on a history filled with just incredible stuff.  I’m super guilty with New Zealand videos.  I do like when I find short videos the are actual pieces of artistic film too, those are just as much of a surprise and treat as good writings.

Any angler that has spent time reading the literature of this wonderful sport will tell you that it was and is a huge part of the culture.  To write and describe the days on the river goes rod in hand with fly angling.  In today’s fast paced world of instagram photos, 155 character posts, and lightly detailed fishing reports there is a part of what makes fly angling special missing at times.  At least for me and many others that I share this sport with.

While some may get bored reading posts about fishing stories, even ones that are filled with trouty information, there was a time that reading…from guides, tiers, writers, conservationists, and trout bums, was the only way to get information, news, new patterns, techniques, secret fishing holes, and just about anything fly fishing related. Published magazines and journals, large networks of fly fishing clubs with members across the country sharing newsletters and writings through the club; all of these were the staple for gaining knowledge and insight into the sport.

Nowadays, those things have changed, blogs, twitter feeds, facebook posts and websites are how we gain info.  Which is really cool, trust me I love tech!  What I love about blogging is it allows the passionate fly angler who happens to enjoy writing and sharing things, a new age avenue to do an old school thing.  As the season begins this spring, the major benefit of a quick to publish blog is river reports.  Now a quick photo post or a short few paragraphs will be the normal thing as there is less time for writing, because of…fishing.  But there can be troves of information and tools for the angler hidden with the “foofy” words that some anglers use to promote the sport.  Writing is an art form in itself and I learned a lot about this sport through the literature.  I identify with those artful passages from equally artful tiers and anglers.  Its nice to slow down, have a read, and learn something, or just enjoy a good fishing story, or maybe be inspired to fish somewhere or with someone.

Some who fly fish may not be into it, and that’s okay, we are all fly fishing for our own reasons and express our passion in our own ways.  I have found that over time, there is more to just being on the river. For some anglers it “clicks” early, others it takes time to develop, and for some, fly angling is just an enjoyable hobby to do from time to time. We are all angling and that’s pretty wicked.  Part of the culture of this sport is learning and talking with people in the shops or riverside and hearing about their story, their journey down the river.

What I always look for when reading river reports or looking for information is the stuff that isn’t just, the flies used, temps of water, where the fish were, and how many were caught.  That’s great and all, and when you are trying to sell trips in this age of the simplest information at the fastest speed possible to the public, it works really well.

When I stumble upon a report or blog that goes the extra mile its like having a surprise hook up on the river when you are sleeping on the drift.  Something that talks about the sounds heard, the sights seen, the intricate way the fly bobbed along the water before being hoovered. Or the eagle circling above that is watching the same fish you are. The elk that bugles in late fall and wakes up the river in the morning. That troutnerdy stuff.  Those are the blogs and posts that grab my attention. Ones that, as I read them, make me feel like I am there, ones that inspire me to find a similar moment on my homewater. Those are the websites and places I frequent.  Those are the people that I connect with over the ‘webasphere’ and its a neat thing to be able to share passions and stories with others like the old days, in the new age.

So for those anglers that share in the delight of reading something more than just a quick report I can dig it.  Passion, makes everything better, passion in life and in angling.  There is never anything wrong with reading, and fly fishing has a long history of great literature to go along with it.  I always tell people to read, read, read.  That’s what off seasons and off days are for. Reading and tying.

Do I hope that one of my posts inspires an angler to come fish with me. Of course, but I would write anyway.  Its fun, and the above mentioned hope has already become a reality for me personally, with people that are inspired and want to share moments with trout and me.  Its a cool thing, to have people want to fish with you.  Granted I enjoy solitude very much but there is a time for angling solo and a time for angling with others.  The trick is to find other passionate anglers that dig it as much as you do, those are the ones that make those riverside days that much more memorable.

Its not always about the trout when it comes to fly fishing.

Tamarack

Click



Click, click, clickity, click click…click.  Send.  Next email.  Click, click clickity, click, click….click.  

The clicking hypnotizes me into the drone like state of work, work, work.  The phone rings, a high toned beeping sound that seems to never leave, I swear I can hear the phone ringing even when there is no phone.

Click, click, clickity, click click….click.

Ding, another email, Beep, another voicemail, ping…a new text message.  Clikcity, ding, beep, ping….click.  

A drone…is that what I have become? A slave to the paycheck, working for someone else, the people, always with the people drowning me in noise and clicks, pings, and dings.

Click…Click…Click…

I need to escape.  To find a sanctuary.  A place to recharge.  All the clicking seems to put me off, make me feel uncomfortable, something not quite right.  Too much, its time for a break.

Its quiet now.  Within the river’s embrace.  The sound of the freeway is drowned out by the rapid above me.  Only a mile or so upriver and I have found sanctuary.  A wooded, misty, sanctuary, filled with life and silence.  The moss sops, drenched from the light spring rain, under my feet as I follow a game trail through the trees and underbrush.  A tuft of Elk hair hanging on a low branch catches my eye.  I pull the hair from the stick…would be just enough for a dancing caddis dry.  I continue through the woods.  I can hear geese overhead, and the sound of birds dancing and bathing in the light rain.  The sound of raindrops on dry leaves…pip, pip, pip pip pip.

The woods open to a high bank and the river turns a dark shade of green below me.  I find a place to cross upstream, the river cold, clear, and crisp.  I wet my hands and shudder against the coolness.  A duck startles upriver as I make my way across the current.

The rain falls slightly, its faint sound filling the silence…dip dip dip dip dip.  I find a tree and rest beneath its branches and enjoy a smoke while watching the river.  I wait for the rain cloud to pass, enjoying the lack of people, and noise.

The river invites me as the rain ceases.  A few casts are unproductive and I work my way upriver.  

A trout rises…

The rod moves through the air taking the line with it…swiff, swiff, swiff.  The guides sing as the cast delivers…zzzing.  The line extends, a breath is released, and the fly lands in position.  

The world is silent.

(There are no people.  Just me…the river…and this elusive trout.  There is no phone ringing, no email dinging, no phone beeping, there is no click, click, clickity, click click…Click.)  

My vision tunnels.  The fly weaves and bobs along the seam.  Time…seems…to slow.  

I see a flash from underneath, a shape rise to the surface, a snout breaks the surface, and the fly disapaears in the fray…

CLICK!

I hear an actual “CLICK” in my head.  I feel something within me Click…into place.  My fly rod bends, the fish introduces itself with a headshake, and the moment begins.  The world returns to my senses, the sound of birds in the trees, the rapids below, the trout slashing the water, and the sound of my reel…

click, click, click….

I release the trout, the moment passed now.  It is as if I am re-aligned, or put right…everything has…clicked…back into place.  

When I leave my sanctuary, the noise of the world returns.  The clicking is that of a keyboard and not of my reel.

Click, Click, Click.

Tamarack

Winging It

Don't Worry, I'm all legal and stuff.

Don’t Worry, I’m all legal and stuff.

Its been a bit since I posted.  Been sick and busy and just haven’t had anything to really write about lately.  I haven’t even been tying really as I have been sick and uninspired to sit at the vise.  There have been a few awesome things that have happened over the past two weeks.

My license came which was cool. I always like having a permit or license for guiding, when I was backpacking and snowshoeing and I had my permit I was one of the only people who did and that felt really neat. There are a lot of guides on this river and a lot of people who renew every year, but it feels pretty wicked to have one again and I always found it to be a more “official” steward of the river or something. I also joined TU as an endorsed guide which is pretty cool for me, and goes hand in hand with being the Secretary of our new Yakima River Headwaters TU Chapter.

I also got a chance to take The Kid, from my previous posts, out on the river for a lesson/walk and wade.  What a time, it felt really good to work on the river and share my expertise and knowledge with someone.  Especially a young angler.  It was an absolute blast talking myself out of a voice, aggressively wading the river with him, and working water while giving knowledge and insight.  This of course brings me to the meat of the post today and what I like to call… Winging It.

Winging It is how I role…like all the time.  Now don’t be “scurred”.  A lot of preparation and thought goes into Winging It.  While I was working on the hiking and backpacking trails of the woods here, I found that nothing ever goes according to plan.  In fact throughout my adult life, just about…nothing goes to plan.  When it all boils down, being able to properly wing it depends on two things, both of which I have become pretty good at: Expertise and The “Dude” Approach.

Expertise:  Pretty simple, you can’t wing it properly without knowing what the hell you are doing.  Knowing your quarry, knowing the river, knowing everything you possibly can, then researching it, testing it, discovering it for yourself, and putting in the time makes you an expert.  Anyone can be an expert, if you put the time in.  For those who know me, really know me, and those who have fished with me, I wouldn’t be a guide if I myself didn’t feel confident in my abilities.  In order to be a “professional” or “expert”, dues must be paid and time must be put in…a lot of time.

The “Dude” Approach: Or being, Super Laid Back.  Its fishing, it shouldn’t be stressful.  Even slow days shouldn’t be stressful.  You just gotta roll with it man.  On any given day, especially when dealing with the outdoors, rivers, and trout, things are gonna happen that are not factored in.  It may be nasty wind, a crummy hatch, leap frogging other boats all day, or just a bad fishing day, just rolling with it and making the best of what you are dealt is a pretty good approach.  “Hey Dude, it beats working,” is a good motto, but being laid back pays off and it feeds into your clients and people you fish with.  This doesn’t mean having low expectations or anything like that, it just means realizing that, “Hey, even if there isn’t any trout in the net, its still fishing, and at the end of the day…it beats doing just about anything else.”  At least for me.  Besides, a laid back or Dude approach keeps things nice and fluid, stress levels are down, and things stay fun.  If I learned anything while hiking the woods with people here, its that enjoying the day for what it is, is the best way to do it.

Winging It requires a lot of preparation.  Lets detail briefly what goes on for me before taking someone out on the river.

It starts with the interweb.  Flows, weather, reports, temps, barometric pressure, fishing pressure, and bug activity all factor in to the preparation stage.  Then, I typically hit the river a day or two before the trip, even if its not a paying client, I still want the experience to be as positive as possible and that requires getting on the water oneself and figuring things out.  I look at myself as a tuning fork for the anglers in my boat.  Its my job to keep everyone on pitch and if I don’t know what tune the river is singing I can’t do my job right.  I refer to my fishing journals a lot as well.  I have logs of data and stories from my time on the river, and going back and reading things from previous years always helps me get in the right mindset for the day.  Reading over the journals also allows me to get on the river without actually, getting on the river.  I am able to recall most of the river from memory, spots, bends, log jams, boulders, troughs, seams, all that stuff is filed away in the crazy system I have in my head and using my journals helps recall it and helps me prep.

Once I have been on the river, I sit at the vise.  It allows me to calm down, get in the groove, and also tie up some flies for the day.  While I tie I go over the game plan for day on the river.  I tie up flies while getting the last of that tuning in sync.  It also allows me to go over the float in my head, how I would like to approach this area, river right didn’t fish so good so remember to hit the left side after that bend.  I run over scenarios depending on the info I have learned about my clients previously.  How much experience do they have, what are their expectations, what to do if things are off or slow?  All these things come together and finalize while tying up a half dozen flies or so.

So…”Winging It” may sound like I just grab my stuff and its a major crapshoot, but in reality, there is a lot of homework that goes into being able to Wing It effectively.  The bottom line is, if you put in all that prep work, you have a better understanding of the potential for the day on the river.  You are also more prepped for a not so great day as well.  There are lots of days that don’t require near the work described above.  The river can be on and require a bit less thought during the right time of year, but part of the fun for me is getting it all dialed in and tuned up to make the day that much better.  The trout just make it more awesome.

Now…its my Birthday and I am gonna enjoy the rest of the day nice and laid back and prep for the river on Wednesday.

Tamarack

The Subtle Take

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The season seems to be upon us. More or less. While the river temps are rising a few tenths of a degree everyday with this lovely weather we are having, the winter as a whole seems to be on its way out. With forecasting models showing the same issues with pacific ridging and all that cool sciencey stuff that is making anglers swoon.

I took a look at the Cle Elum today, running around 272 cfs and the water was around 42 ish. I looked for nymphs under the rocks near the banks and found a few, nothing major. I also just took the time to watch the areas that always have fish this time of year. There were a handful of trouts feeding under the surface. Most likely midges as there was a pretty good hatch. Nothing on the surface in my observation but thats pretty normal with 42 degree water.

The season is approaching however, and the all to familiar and always awesome sight of driftboats with trailers lining mainstreet in the am is becoming more regular. Of course right now its usually like 1 driftboat. I took the afternoon to wash mine out. Was really dirty from the winter. During which I never clean her because well….its kind of a pain. Luckily my big plastic bath toy cleans up real nice. I love getting things ready for the beginning of the season. My birthday is this month and the Skwalla hatch usually coincides with it or a week after. I typically celebrate turning a year older, this year 29, by hitting the river for the day. This year will be no different and the dry fly fishing could be wicked. That is if a trip doesn’t get booked on that day, in which case I would just get to float another day that week which is never a problem.

This blog post is gonna plug the fact that I do offer guided fly fishing trips. Kinda sucky but I have already learned that these posts have a positive effect on the calendar dates filling up without having to outright say it so there it is. I just said it now lets move on.

Cool fishing story to end it all off from a birthday of mine a few years back.

Before I had my driftboat, I used to walk up river from the East boat launch outside of Cle Elum a lot. I just found there were less people and easier wading. Plus a lot of just killer water. Downstream is great too but thats another story.

It was on my birthday, and we had a really warm spell that led us into March. The dry fly fishing in the canyon was really starting to pick up, with almost 60 degree days of course it was. The upper river however, was slow to get going. Which is pretty normal. While everyone and their dogs crowded the lower river for a chance at a fish on the dry fly; I was more interested in a big fish on anything and I knew just the spot.

I don’t typically care for what size a trout is just as long as I get to chase them and trick a few. But, this particular spot and I had our runs ins and I always found decent sized trout in it. I was in the mood for a cutthroat but had had a moment with a few already for the day on the nymph. I came up to the spot and took a gander.

The sun was grazing the tree tops with her orange late winter hue. The shadows upon the river like jagged teeth closing in for the night. The light was touching the far end of the slack water at the front end of the hole and a foam line was just visible. A good 35 40 feet away from me with the breadth of the river and at least two different current speeds. Then…I saw it. Only just at first.

A nose….

Not just any nose…a nose and head around the size of my fist! Another sip!

I saw the trout rise a third time barely breaking the surface tension of the slack water. My heart panicked. I quickly switched out my rig and set up for a dry fly. I gave myself a nice long piece of 5x supple flex tippet and tied on a size 18 midge dry. One of the ugliest flies I have ever tied. Nothing more than a few strands of snowshoe rabbit, black thread, and some sparkle yarn for a tail. You can’t see the fly without really spending some time watching it on the water as it is so small. Rocky Ford in the early days was helpful.

The trout rose again. I made my approach. I stayed well down stream and kept my cast really low. If I spooked this fish I would never forgive myself. A rainbow that size is always a treat in the upper stretches and only a rainbow would sip so stealthily and delicately in this river.

The cast was quite difficult and left little room for error. I figured I would F it up big time but I gave it a shot.

Now before we finish this tale of trout versus angler we need to have a disclaimer. What is about to unfold….never happens to me…like in ever, and I have caught a lot of finicky Yakima Trout.

I gave three perfect false casts, and I mean perfect, that line just cut through the cool late winter air like warm butter. I remember the distinct sound of my Mastery Texture Series line as it sung through the guides. Zip…Zip….

I placed the fly 3 feet upriver from the infamous snout. I held the rod high, which I thought would be the end all, but with the cross currents the only way to secure a proper drift with such a fly made it necessary. Everything went silent…

My vision seemed to tunnel on the spot where the trout had rose before. I took a deep breath and held it in anticipation. 6 more inches…..

Whether I was blessed by the fly fishing spirits, my trout sense was in perfect sync, or I just got really bloody lucky that trout rose.

The snout broke the surface and I watched in sheer joy, horror, and the utmost excitement, as my fly, the size 18, fugly little midge gnat, was hoovered by this trout.

It was on. This trout was in no mood and I very much angered him by interrupting his late afternoon feeding. The head-shakes of this trout put fear into my rod. My reel screamed against the silence. The calm intensity of the prior moment was now broken with chaos and pure awesomeness. The fish leapt from the river and I got to witness his prowess. An immense trout!

The trout was not giving up and continued to work its way into the deeper water where I knew a rootwad was waiting for me. A high rod tip and a well played fish were all that was needed. Easier said than done. Like I said, I got really bloody lucky. The Wild Rainbow found his way into my net. I was amazed and dumfounded. 22 inches of pure awesome in trout form.

I pulled the fugly fly from my quarry and released the fish who said goodbye with a splash as if to get back at me. I was done for the day. I tipped my hat to the river, said thank you, and made my way back to my rig. There was nothing else in this river that would top that fish for today.

Just to see and chase such an impressive trout is an experience, but to actually have everything click into place and have that perfect first cast moment that tricks the old, sipping, rainbow is damn near…I’m gonna use it….Legendary! At least for me. Its just one of those moments that will go down as one of the greatest on this river for me, and it was on my freaking birthday!

I hope to share moments like the one with Mr. Subtle Take Trout, with my clients. I actually named my boat after that particular trout, and have “The Subtle Take” engraved in my transom plate in the back of my boat. Take a look if you are ever in the hog this season. We might even be floating by the same hole, and there are always decent fish in it.

Tamarack

#yakimariver #homewater #trout #flyfishing

Just an Angler

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My Homewater and The Kid blog post shot my website traffic up more than any other day. More than any other day since the site went live. First off….thank you. I really didn’t expect it. I have been contacted by The Kids family, complete strangers, and fellow anglers about the post and the encounter I had with The Kid riverside. All positive, all overwhelmingly positive. It made me start thinking about something that I think has really changed in the culture of fly fishing.

When I was just A Kid, fishing this river, I would have loved meeting anglers riverside. It was a way to gain on site knowledge and hear stories. The problem I found was that the majority of people along the river really didn’t care to talk or share. When I started working at one of the local shops I had to join the “boys club” and went through the rituals and standard hazing that accompanies the “pro” side of the culture. At least that was my personal experience. I jumped through the hoops, ate stonelfly nymphs to join the club, but what I realized a few years back is that those types of things really can be intimidating to the new angler and detrimental to the continuation of the sport. I made a promise to myself to be different. Nothing negative should be said about the handful of people I worked with. I learned so much, became a better angler, and would not have come back to guiding if it wasn’t for the skills I learned from those individuals. A little “boys will be boys” isn’t a bad thing. In reality it boosted my confidence, and it makes me put up with a lot less shit today. Especially when it comes to angling.

That being said, I am not the “boys club” kind of guy. In fact things like innocent hazing, casting contests, fish count contests, or any of that stuff really turns me off in general. When I am met by those types of things today, I put on the hat, go through the motions, and forget about it. I typically make a mental note to steer clear of those types of things and the anglers that engage in them, just out of personal preference. I went through that stuff and I saw it as part of the deal. Something that needed to be done to be a part of the fly fishing community. I find that my connections with those types of people are face value and little more. It’s just not my thing.

While I have nothing against having fun and doing, “guy” things, I just have little time or patience for it anymore. I turn 29 this month and I should be ripe for that kind of behavior, but with three kids, a 10 year marriage under my belt, and more days on the river in the past 10 years than most people my age or in general, I would rather get to fishing and down to business. I have all the patience in the world for children, trout, and most people, but I paid my dues, went through all that stuff and have no time for it now. As I said, it boosted my confidence and left little room for bullshit.

I also have this weird thing that is new to me. I like to work. I used to hate working and just wanted to skimp by and trout bum it as best I could. Life tends to change that for you. I think that the people who meet me have a hard time understanding how much time I actually spend involved with fly fishing with all the things in my life. Its everyday, plus my family and I have simplified our lives and really downsized. It just makes life less stressful, and gives more time for more important things….like trout.

When I started tying 10 years ago, I found something that helped me focus and release stress. I never thought that it would envelop my lifestyle. Over those years I have had a few that were not very involved. I took a lot of time off from tying and fishing while working on other endeavors but I always was able to find days to fish. In college I would repeatedly be late for class and full on skip classes because the fishing was so good. There are a few grades on my transcript that suffered because of my addiction to chasing trout. Not recommended, but it does show you something in the long run.

As I have said before, all that stuff…the school, the work, the bills, the kids, it all fails in comparison to trout, for me. A solitary day on the river, is all that is needed for me to be content. I love my family and dog, but there are days that trout are all that I want or need from life. While I always come home from the river, there have been days when I have seriously thought about just staying. But, if I didn’t leave the river, and give the trout some time to chill out and for myself to chill; I wouldn’t be drawn back to it. Sometimes the mere anticipation of getting on the river is overwhelming. Trout if anything, are intoxicating.

I have met a handful of anglers that share as deep a passion and connection to the river that I have. Those are the ones I love to meet riverside now. There seem to be more of them. To me, the culture and industry has changed over the past ten years. If feels as if a lot of the ‘boys club” mentality has faded away. At least on this river, but also on some of the others I visit.

When I saw The Kid, casting…like a bloody champion! I just couldn’t help myself. I had to make sure, as a fellow angler, that this kid met someone on the river that would share knowledge and expertise, not just let him stand there casting while criticizing and never saying anything. I saw him and all I could think was, “I hope this dude catches a fish! That would be wicked awesome!”

I used to stand there casting like a noob, while anglers floated or walked by, some called out with not the nicest things, but most just saw A Kid struggling, and criticized to themselves and then moved on down river. In all my years on the Yakima I have never had another angler give me flies. Never once. Its sad honestly. I make a point to make up for all the times that a moment between anglers could have been shared and wasn’t.

Isn’t part of being an angler to share? Whether its a lie, a fly, or a not so secret spot, fly anglers are part of a larger community. A community that has decided to trick trout with flies. Not the most effective method, but there is something about it that draws certain people to it. I saw that in The Kid, just like my mentor saw it in me. I had to make sure that The Kid was welcomed into the community proper….at least in my opinion, and I just happened to be hauling a bloody motorcycle out of the river next to the run he was fishing.

I wanted to pass on the legacy that my mentor gave to me. Share the knowledge, share everything one can, keep the sport going, a good angler is always looking to expand their own knowledge while also giving what they already know to others. It may not even be fishing related. While The Kid didn’t teach me anything new about angling I did learn something about people. I also met a young angler, which is always something that deserves attention and some respect, we need more young people outside in general. Those who choose to be riverside are in my realm. Meeting another member of the fly fishing community riverside is something I always look forward to. Its just an added bonus to the day of fishing. I meet people from all over, of different ages, and all sorts of skill levels while on the river. When I saw The Kid I saw myself, and I saw all the other anglers that I meet, he was no different than any of them in my book. Just another angler.

I especially enjoy meeting the old timer guys, the ones in their 50’s and 60’s that used to fish the river before regulations and the interweb. They have the best lies and stories. They are always surprised when I give over a handful of flies for the hatch. Most of the time they are having trouble honestly. A simple fly switch to something a bit more unique or specific can change the whole day. I just can’t seem to help myself. I see another angler and I want to make sure, as an angler, a local and, an active member in the fly fishing community, that they have a great time on the river. They always appreciate it, its always positive, and it just connects you to more people who share the same passion.

I remember one guy who was having a hell of a time chasing trout during the cranefly hatch in late September. I watched him from downriver as he cast into some of the fishiest water with his October caddis imitation. Fish were rising all over the river. Nothing was being tricked by his fly. While 100 yards away fish were coming up one after another for the cranefly I was fishing. I could see him watching me and you just know what is going through their head. Or at least what would be going through my head.

“What the hell is he using?!” or “Some young punk is out-fishing me!” Again, I couldn’t help myself. I made my way over to him. Fishing along the way. He spoke first,

“What ya using?”

“Cranes.”

“What?”

So I walked up, did the formal riverside angler greeting and showed him. Then I pointed out the naturals. Then I pointed to the pool he was fishing and just told him to wait and watch. Sure enough, after the fish got over being spooked by his casts, a crane shot out across the water and a cutthroat came screaming off the logs for it. He couldn’t believe it. Always fished the October during this time of the year never even knew about craneflies. I handed him a few of the ones I had tied that morning, told him how I would fish them, shook his hand, and left. I don’t remember his name, I’m sure he doesn’t remember mine. He did ask where I picked up the flies, I told him they were hard to find in a shop and that I tie all mine. I saw him a few seasons later fishing cranes, in the same pool, catching trout. All I know is that little moment I shared with a fellow angler made his day better, and he came back to the river and was fishing something I had enlightened him too. That’s more than enough of a pay off right there.

As an angler, a steward for the river, a guide, or a “pro”. Which is a stupid word and should never be used in terms of fly fishing. No one is a pro at this sport. It is a never ending discovery of knowledge and fish. Pro just makes you sound douchey. I’m just an angler. The kind of angler that gets just as excited when others catch trout as when I do. An angler that cannot resist the opportunity to share. An angler that has little patience for time wasting and hullabaloo. Lets get the business out of the way if there is any, and lets get to chasing trout, which is always more fun. The type of fly angler one is can be an insight to the true nature of a person, at least in my opinion.

I…am just an angler.

Tamarack