Halfway….just about.

We are roughly 8 weeks or so into the off season.  Or the midpoint. In 8 weeks I will start to get a lot more fishy.  The boat comes back out regularly. I am riverside 4 plus days a week, plugging back in, and getting prepped for the guide season. 

This off season has been shit.  However, I will say lockdowns and quarantine have made cabin fever easy to bare. Broke as hell but honestly that’s not new being a troutbum and all. My previous blog post made it out like I was at this shit alone and I am not. I’ve have someone through it all, its private not a secret. But I have been good off river life wise, all things considered. Not seeing my kids has been the shittiest part.

I got a lot of comments and messages after that cranky blog. It was more venting the frustration and exhaustion. And instead of unload it on others who have their own trials and struggles right now….just throw it up and let the internet eat it. The biggest frustrations are work related. And there ain’t shit to be done until the new season at this point. Just stuck until the thaw.

Its the halfway point and usually I would feel this cabin fever riddled drive to be out. But 2020 sucked most of that out. I sleep. A lot. 10 to 12 hours some days. Hibernating like most other off seasons. But its quieter during the pandemic. And the exhaustion has taken its toll. And you can sleep through things that otherwise cause stress that cannot be fixed until the world gets right. So much outta my hands at this point. Sleep now work later. Or something like that.

While overlords argue about 600 bucks and cake, I just wanna make sure that I keep the internet on so I don’t have to sit with only books and flies until March. At this point the only thing that seems to fix shit is ourselves. So I get to wait until I can fix it the only way I know how…with trout and a boat. Thankfully we are in this together and there is help there. Its not all bad…its just sucks in general.

The midpoint of the offseason is usually a harder hurdle. Just not this season. I am in a hell of a hurry to get back to it in 2021. With a recovery plan in place for my business from the first trip to the last of next season. I don’t have a lot of faith in a national or even state economic recovery plan as this will be my third economic event in my life. Many of us are gonna have to get creative with making up the deficit of 2020. If trying to get relief during this shitshow is any indication….ya…its gonna be by our own bootstraps and on a community and local level. So getting the mind around what that might look like is essential moving forward.

The trout and the rowing take care of themselves at this point in my guiding. The nuts and bolts of the operation…troot and people….that shit is locked and I’ve worked very hard to get there. This pandemic changes how the business side looks. And with the surge in social media and its necessity for success in the 21st century business model driving a lot of what makes or breaks you…2021 is going to be a busy year to say the least.

So ya, I’ll sleep through a lot of the offseason. Because I can. Normally my body needs it but I think my mind needs it more this year. I’ll share time with the few people I can. I will prep for the offseason, and hold out like the rest of us. Still living day to day and week to week, still worried, but ready to move forward.

So ya, chill out. We all allowed to get mad bruh. Vent, sleep, try and see the good shit…watch Mandolarian…holy fuck! I mean we are all friggin’ stuck and its not like the headlines are making us feel any less stuck. So ya. Get ready for 2021…see if we can do a little better….(shy unenthusiastic yay, from the crowd). Fingers crossed. Let the countdown to trout begin.

Tamarack

A Testament to A Good Angling Partner

 

A good fishing partner is something that can be monumental in an anglers life.  When I first started chasin trout I was selfish in my endeavors.  In my early years of angling I spent all my time solo.  Discovering and exploring every blue line and running water way I could find from valley to mountain peak.  I searched out the sources of my beloved rivers, hiked miles and miles, bushwhacked and cut trail to forgotten and unnamed streams and creeks.  Nothing but a box of flies, a cheap fly rod, and an insatiable hunger for all things trout and wild.

It wasn’t until I had fished myself silly and I got a little older that my solo time on rivers and with trout became a lonely adventure.  I had kids at home that were too young to chase trout with me, being very young with kids left little room for friends, especially when I spent all my free time fishing.  I recall even back then when I was in college and working the 9-5 to pay for shit that the few people I did know through angling were always too busy to keep up with my appetite for rivers and trout.  A good angling partner is not easy to find.  There is always someone ready to go fish…but just taking someone for a float or hiking into secret waters isn’t what I was looking for.  Yes I wanted another angler, with fresh eyes, different instincts, someone who matched or exceeded my own technical and physical skills to chase trout.  But damnit…I needed a friend and a person that had passion and respect for rivers that was in line with mine.

I’ve mentored anglers, fished with people and friends, but interests change, life takes people away from the river.  I’ve shown my secrets to some…only to have it bite me in the ass later.  Nothing worse than showing an angler a treasured spot that is still secret or ‘locals only’ and to find them guiding in it or talking too much about it at the local shop and causing it to lose it’s luster.  I still keep a lot of places close to the chest.  Areas that I still only visit solo…some places I haven’t seen in years over fear that they will be discovered by others and parts of me are still not ready to let them go.  Not many of those places are left for me…but a few.

My pursuit of a good angling partner came about as I began guiding more.  Meeting new people everyday, many of them lifelong angling partners, some married couples that have fished for decades, college friends that chased trout together in between classes, river side acquaintances that turned into life long trout aficionados.  I wanted that.  The chemistry angling partners have is a unique and interesting connection, as different and as varied as the people that frequent my driftboat.  It wasn’t until I had been fishing for almost 10 years that I found a fellow angler that shared in my interests, skill, and passion, for these wild aquatic animals and the places they frequent.

I shared a brief time with Casey, we fished almost everyday I wasn’t guiding.  Exploring the high reaches and rapids of the mountain rivers, floating the big water tricking trout, discovering more about each other both as anglers and people every time we ventured out.  Tying sessions at the house, dinners with the family, always talking trout and life.  That connection to the person formed over the catching and releasing of trout.  Learning about another person, where they come from, their perspective on life, where their passion is rooted, the desire to chase trout and why it is so fervent in them.  Those intricate things that tie a person to a river, and to the others that are woven into the riffles and runs are the part of angling that is lost when fly fishing is a job; and something that I was very grateful to have found with Casey.

I lost my angling partner to suicide.  A veteran, and man who suffered from intense PTSD, angling and sharing the river with me was his cure, his coping mechanism, the thing that allowed him to lose himself in the waters and disconnect him from the events in his life that brought sorrow and pain.  I miss him everyday.  I still have not visited a particular section of river in the mountains since his passing because of fear I will disrupt his memory.   Every now and then I hear his boisterous cackle of a laugh over the sound of our favorite riffle “Drake Alley” on the Upper Yakima and I catch myself looking behind me every time I float by.  Like the large wild trout that makes your heart sink when it frees itself from your fly and severs that connection, I still feel that phantom tug in my arm.  Haunting…but I feel privileged to have been introduced and spent however short amount of time with Casey riverside.  It changed me, had a profound effect on me and left me with questions, doubt, anger, sorrow, and a new sense of loneliness and longing that I had never felt before.

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I spent some time solo fishing again…wishing I was sharing these fish and places with another.  I threw myself into angling and tying throughout the off season.  The void left by losing Casey filled me with emotions and loss that I had never felt before.  A lot is shared riverside between two people.  Something that is hard to explain to those that haven’t shared a river with others.  He was my brother, uncle to my kids, someone I talked to everyday.  And not being able to share life on and off river with him was and is super shitty.  As the season after his passing approached I focused all my attention on honing my skills further as a guide and angler.  I worked constantly, spent every free minute I had wrapped up in trout and rivers.  My work doubled that season, and I was fortunate to meet a fellow angler through my work that sought me out as their angling partner.

As many who follow me on social media or have seen me on a guide’s day off recently riverside, Ross and I fish a lot together.  And while you never replace the people you lose, somehow the universe puts people in your life that just need to be there.  I must have done something good in my previous life, or have stacked up karma points, because I have been fortunate to have people in my life that share a passion for trout and rivers.  Sometimes the river presents an opportunity at another large wild trout.  Finding another angler, or having an angler find you, that rivals your passion and need to explore and seek out trout is the golden ticket.

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Being able to look at a run or riffle and pick it apart and have a counterpart do the same and arrive at completely different approaches both equally successful in their ability to trick wild trout is one thing.  But to be able to share in that often unspoken deep connection to nature, wild animals, and people is something else entirely.  Its that one thing that I think a lot of anglers who I take on trips are searching for but don’t know it.  Its something I see from time to time with life long angling partners when they reserve a day with me.  I have moved past the need to catch every fish, the want to catch the biggest fish, or the desire to be the best.  For me its about that connection to everything that is happening above and below the surface of the river.  To try and understand and decipher how its all connected and how I as an angler can be a part of it.  Ross shares that passion.  And while many of the things that pop up on social media are the weird, funny, and sometimes stupid moments that can fill a day on the river.  The days that you don’t see, the days I write about, the days that are discussed over dinner, the ones that are never even talked about…those are the ones that matter, that make up a life on the river.  For every dancing video, hoot and hollering trout encounter, every photo posted to keep butts in driftboat seats so I can pay the bills; there is a silent morning watching the river over coffee, enjoying the peace of the wild and the pleasure of another anglers company.

While its referred to as a bromance, and Ross is my Biden.  Its more than that.  A brother, a friend, a person that shares in my passion for trout and life.  A good angler requires a constant honing and fine tuning of the skills.  Being able to share in the chasing of trout with another equally but differently skilled angler is a key component of that in my mind, a fortunate byproduct of a good angling partner…because it’s not really about the trout at the end of the day is it?  Outside of angling people make connections with each other that last their lifetimes.  The connections that are made with people through shared passions are the ones that stick.  The ones that change your life, enrich it, fill it with the things that make us human.  All those intricate things that make up what it means to human.  Watching Ross and his lovely wife married in the woods, Thanksgiving dinner, my children excited to see them when they come to fish or hang out, the things that happen off river that make up the juicy parts of life and friendship.  They mimic the juicy parts of a day of fishing.  As I find myself getting older, watching my children grow, and spending more time riverside than I ever have, I chase the off river life as much as I chase the riverside one.

A testament to a good angling partner indeed.  When your entire life revolves around trout its nice to have another person knee deep in the run with you from time to time.  Not because they paid to be there, not because they want to know all your secrets, not even to learn from each other, but because damnit…fishing with them is bitchin’.  When the hatch is over, the river is quiet, and the boat is parked back in the driveway, and you still can’t pull yourself away from the conversation or the people you’re surrounded by…you know you found a good angling partner.

I hope to see ya riverside.

Tamarack.

River Update 4/22/16

SALMON FLIES!!!

  
The Salmon Flies are starting to appear. A good 25 minute hatch today with a fair amount of bugs. Fish are still uncooperative and are not looking up as much as we would like to see but things are still settling down for irrigation and run off. 

We’ve also got March Browns and some Caddis. 

Fish are starting to feed on a schedule, keying in on hatches and hanging out in all the good water. Flows in the upper are still wonky but sections are fishable. 

  
The Teanaway is still making a mess and the flows are forecasted to be high for the next 7 to 10 days. That being said, as this runoff settles, fish should be more cooperative. 

We have lower temps, cloud cover, and light rain for the next 10 days. This should help get the river back into shape and make fish less hesitant to surface feed. 

  
We’ve got high winds and thunderstorms in the forecast for the weekend. But starting Monday things should be prime for some fishing.

I’ve got availability on the schedule. Give me a call and let’s go sling some big bugs for trout!

Hope to see you on the river soon!
Tamarack

Skwalla McTwitchy aka The Bacon-Nater

There aren’t many patterns of mine that I would say work better than just about any other for a particular hatch or insect. 

But Skwalla McTwitchy aka The Bacon-Nater when not tied for a specific bug, is one of those patterns.  The recipe is at the end. 

Skwalla McTwitchy aka The Bacon-Nater


This pattern is based on a simple Stimi based dry tied Parachute Style. But the poly yarn underwing holds floatant very well, the moose hair wing floats as good as foam without the non natural look of foam. 

The hi via parachute is over hackled for more floatation as well. The body can be tied in just about any color or dubbin type you can think of. I like full ice dub bodies for summer time in multiple colors, and I like hares ear ice dub blends when I’m going for more specific colors to match a hatch. I also tie them with no flash or ice dub for when conditions and trout call for subtle flies. 

The legs are whatever strips of rubber you have lying around. I tie the body like I would a Pats Stone.  The legs are the important part. This pattern is for stoneflies and grasshoppers. But mainly stoneflies. Stoneflies are active on the water surface. 
They skitter and dance, crawl and flutter about the river. Salmon flies like big chinook helicopters beating the air so loud against their heavy bodies you can hear them coming before they get stuck in your beard. Skwallas slow and sleepy as they battle against the cold air, or Golden’s that flutter and cause commotion on the surface as they hatch in the current like a mayfly instead of along the rocks like their cousins. This pattern is all about action. Just like the natural. 

The body and legs of the fly ride low in the meniscus, even in faster or heavier current when floatant is added.  I twitch this fly like crazy, fish that are keyed in on stoneflies are looking for bugs that move, and the strikes during this type of feeding can be intense and violent. It’s wicked fun. These legs that ride low in the water give the desired twitchy effect of a natural stonefly that is doing its thing. Sometimes they fall in and are tryi to get back to shores, other times a female is laying eggs on the surface. No matter what these bugs have action. So does this fly, even with subtle twitches.

So tie some up or order some, and throw some action on those big dry flies when the stones are hatching this season.

Ingredients:

Hopper Hook or long shank Dry fly size 10 or bigger. 

6/0 thread

Rubber legs

Hi Vis Poly Yarn for para post. 

Dubbin of choice

Poly Yarn 

Krystal Flash

Moose Hair

Grizzly or Brown Hackle size matched to hook or one size larger. 

Recipe:

Lay thread base and tie in rubber legs as tails and antenae. 

Tie in your hi vis para post at the 1/3 mark back from the eye. 

Dub the body up toward the para post but leave enough space to tie in wing. 

Tie in 3 strands of Krystal flash V style so 6 strands lay out the back. 

Tie in poly-yarn wing. 

Stack some moose hair and tie in the wing. Trim the hair so that the para post is upright. 

Tie in legs. 

Add Glue then tie in hackle. 

Dub and create a thorax, and rest the thread on the front side of the para post. 

Wrap hackle para style. Heavy. 

Tie down hackle. 

Add small amount of dubbin and create a head.

Whip finish and Boom!
Trout Season Is Coming. 

Tamarack

Craft

Fly Fishing is a unique activity.  We intereact with trout in a much different way than other anglers.  Tricking trout with a well presented fly, defines the word craft with its very action. While many forms of fishing inolve craft…fly fishing, it seems, is held to a higher standard.  

It was a late evening after the TU Meeting this past month.  Two good friends of mine and I along with Danny the dog, sat near candlelight in the Teanaway Community Forest.  The conservation evolved throughout the evening but when the subject of craft came around my ears perked up.  

You see…fly fishing and I fit very well together.  I am a science nerd, I love biology, so I am set for learning about trout, their food source, and environment.  I soaked up all the information and knowledge I could.  I still do.  But when it comes to the artisitc side of me things get very cool.  I was a musician.  I was a drummer, I loved to play the drumset.  I don’t do it much anymore.  I used to be pretty good at it.  Rowing a driftboat with anglers, chasing trout is a lot like being a drummer in a band.  The drummer keeps everyone on tempo and entertained.  As a drummer I fit right in at the rowers chair.  Lots of things happening, people fishing, fish reacting, water moving, its organized chaos and I live for it.  It requires craft to do it well.  Anyone can row a boat down a river, but not just anyone can create a whole concert complete with opening acts, encores, and all the good stuff.  Thats why I like guiding.  Its a gig, and its my kinda gig.  

Delving even deeper into fly angling we come to the cast and presentaion, as many of us know being able to cast well is a skill that we all practice, being able to cast to weary trout, under an overhang, with wind, and three different cross currents at 30 feet…requires craft.  But even further, especially for me the real craft comes in the form of flies.  I tie flies for trout.  Not to look pretty in the box, sell in the bin, or anything else…they serve a purpose…to trick trout.  They may not look fancy, but they get the job done, and after 10 years of doing it I like to think I have become pretty good and creating patterns that effectively 

  trick trout.  Spending the time to create a fly that looks natural and tricks the most persnickety trout is my jam…thats my ultimate gig.  I’m a purist in that sense.  Tricking a weary wild trout with a hand tied fly is the most sought after moment for me.  If fulfills me.  It compeltely satisfies me…it requires craft.  

What does all this mean?  Well craft to me requires one thing above all others…time.  A good angler needs to put in the time.  We all know fly fishing requires patience…and in order to be very good at it, time is needed.  I have devoted years now, to the art and craft of fly fishing.  A life pursuit I will never cease.  I have no goals of becoming the best, I only strive to share more moments with people and trout through learning and honing my craft as an angler and a guide. 

Just a quick blog post today.  I have had the subject of craft on my mind for a while now.  I will expand on it more in a later post.  I’ve got trips stacked for the next two weeks and I am loving every minute of it.  Even in this tough year for the river I am glad to be riverside doing what I love and taking care of the river.  

Tamarack

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.

Tamarack