The fire from last night still burns at my face. My skin still hot to the touch. I still smell it’s smoke in my hair and beard. Lingering, reminding.
The lake has done its job and I feel the urge to ramble on. The fishing slow but there were a few to hand. Needed and wanted. Striking camp I look at the ring that held the fire on the prior eve. It’s smolder gone, cold ash it’s remnants. May I not rage in its absence.
The woods usher me out of the mountains. And I see the river. It is high. The turmoil and torment of its flows familiar to me. How can such a cold and ever moving thing have more rage than the flames I gazed into the night before? But it does.
More powerful than it’s heated opposite, the river rages onward, carrying all that come into its grasp further downward. Sinking, spinning, rolling, rapidly through the cold green water down the current ocean bound eventually. Washing all in its path, cleansing through its angry rage.
I see the Yakima, higher than she has been in a decade! Her banks swollen, roads washed away, yards flooded, trees snapped and pulled down yonder. She is angry, the fire last night does not compare in any sense. The largest and hottest of wildfires does not compare to the flow I bare witness to. Able to quench and quell the rage filled flames that try to burn the world, if only she could escape her dams and banks.
Rage river, with your torrent of current. Make a new path, without care or concern, flow the direction you choose, carve, weather, wear down the rocks, sand, dirt, and earth that hold you. Charge ever forward, surge with might and ferocity… rage…river…rage and let me drink it in.
I stand knee deep in its frigid embrace and welcome the numbness that works its tendrils through my nerves. Stinging and burning with icy fingers, reminding me I am here and offering me a fraction of the rage within the river.
This water I can navigate, I can understand, feel its movements, unlock its language, unlike the fire. Even at this humongous flow I can still decipher her thoughts and feelings….angry, cold, spiteful, unrelenting, revenge filled, tormenting, tortured…all encompassing rage. Or are those mine? The river and I speak similarly and familiarly. So rage river…and let me feel it…hit my chest and make me breath deep against the cold. My heart races and my blood quickens, trying to battle against the chill. But it is wanted and I beg for it. Slow me down, make me view time differently. Take away the feelings and add them to yourself. Cleanse with your rage…so that I may feel it leave me.
Rage river…so that I may simmer. Rage…river…and take mine away.
The fire burns. The mix of fir and cherry wood smoke fill the surrounding air. Heavy with the wet stench of the old wet wood. The embers liquid orange, flames lapping at its fuel, burning itself out in the process. Rage fire, rage with flames high into the evening sky. Spark, pop, crack, and send tendrils and parts of yourself flying into the darkness. Rage fire.
Rage fire, so that I do not. I have always held anger deep within since finding fly fishing. These days it wants to creep and seep up, oozing its hurtful painful self into my fibers. Rage fire…so that I may not.
I would rather be sad and weep then to clench my teeth and tighten my body as that rage moves through…so rage fire and let me bask in its essence. So that I may not…rage.
The clouds hang low, a quiet still over the forest. The plink and plop of light rain hisses and sizzles in the fire. The flames to intense for the fire to feel the gloom. Rage fire…as I too don’t want to feel the gloom.
The heat hits my face and pushes away that seeping ooze from within. Keeping it at bay as the flames rage and race, sucking all the oxygen from within the rock hearth; barely containing the ferocity of the fire. Tentacles of orange grasping at the night 4 and 5 feet high now! Rage! Fire! Rage until there is no more to fuel your wrath! Rage until the forests burn, the world ashes, the skies fill with your heavy thick smoke! Consume all that stand before you, reckless and abandoned of care, path or purpose! Do you hear me fire!? I say rage! Rage…I pleade rage fire….so that I may not…..
….the fire dims…the fuel it needs all but charcoal, barely visible against the blackness of night. Will dawn approach soon and that fire of a star rage all into light? I will not wait to see it rise. The fire before me all but a hum of what it was. It’s spent, burnt, the fire no longer rages…but do I?
Rivers are blown from here to Montana, Canada to Oregon. It’s been a late big snow year. Snowpacks are in the blue for most places and the rain and moisture coupled with cooler temps are giving us a more normal year. We forget that big snows and big water into the summer are the normal. The snow coming so late not so much.
Even the Cedar River in Maple Valley where I am staying is high. Fished a little side channel today. Was fun to cast. I fished the basin lakes a little, but it was slow and dusty, and now the thunderstorms and wind are ripping through the area.
Things have settled a little. I’m not getting into anything other then saying things have settled a little. Still in the storm but…
Here with friends, doing normal things, talking about other things, all helpful. I feel foreign, but everyone knows me. I just want to fish but the river has other ideas.
I ran errands, did people things. Getting the rig ready for the rooftop. I might be borrowing one until I can get the one I have lined up to me or look at a other option. I’m cleaning gear, organizing for a season of trout bum guiding and living. I’m planning on being solo for some but have places with good people to stop in and frequent.
I’m going back to work on the 11th if the river will simmer. Probably won’t until later but I’m moving forward with work. I’ve made plans to take time to fish in Montana and Canada, spend time with my children, reconnect with old fishing peeps, guide buddies, and fellow river rats. I want to meet new people. I’ve spent the past 2 years with someone who is no longer here; filling my life with new people, places and experiences seems like a good mindset moving forward. Time. Time is where I’m at. What I need and what I will take.
I guide for a living, I fly fish for my life.
I can’t sit still. Since I started working and living the outdoors I’ve become accustomed to moving. I don’t like to be bored, or sedentary. I get anxious within a few days of sitting still. After covid it is harder to stay still. After everything recently it’s almost unbearable to sit still. I want to move. I want to range. Work my way into highlands and mountains and follow the rivers and waters back out and down stream to find more places to roam and move through.
Only ever seen going to and from, at put in and take out, that run to this riffle, that river to the other. Hard to hold down, hard to find but always around and showing myself when I want or I think is neccessary. I want to be quiet for a while, only write things. I talk enough at work. To the point I lose my voice.
The one that starts the campfire but walks away from things first. The first one on water and the last one off. I’ve done a lot of talking lately. Deep conversation. Scary and moving, intellectual and silly. Contemplating and curious. But things have settled. And that sinking and lonely feeling I know all too well is there. But I have never felt lonely in the solitude of discovering fish through fly and rod. It takes up to much of the mind and a river is always a familiar companion.
The trees that sway and sing, the rocks that make the river babble and chat are familiar and friendly. The Herons, Beavers, Otters, Osprey, Eagle, Bear and other critters keep the feeling of utter isolation at bay. The few people I choose to spend my non guiding time on water and at camp with lately have been fulfilling, enriching, moving, but also sad, and maddening, beautiful but frightening. The calm of that solace I find on the river solo is ever creeping into me. The desire to fuck off and be away. There’s enough hurt, solitude does little to cause more pain or to bring it up, except when a trout is uncooperative. It heals in a strange way but one I know the power of all to well.
And I want to discuss trout technically and dial in hatches and teach casting and reading and boat rowing and all the things that I love about guiding. But I also just want to be lost in the act of fly fishing and all that it encompasses. No pressure from clients, or other anglers with me, no yielding the run to others, no sharing, no talking, no Instagram photos, no hollering or cursing. Just fly fishing. Like I’m barely there until the trout realizes that it’s a fly and not a natural. Then I’m a part of it. I am fluid and moving with all that surrounds me. It’s familiar to me but in essence the river is indifferent to my presence. When the fish is released it is again as if I was not there. Save for my heavy breath, my soppy footprints as I walk to the next riffle, and the anticipation of becoming a part of it again with rising trout in the tailout.
Anglers, thank you for the overwhelming love and support. This tragedy was devastating to me. For those that don’t know, my girlfriend Kearstyn Brammer passed away in a car accident Saturday morning on her way out to camp with me in the Teanaway.
I’m taking a week off from work. I may not guide the Teanaway for a while as I heal. I will reach out to clients as the week progresses to talk about trips and rescheduling if neccessary.
Thank you for your patience and respect. And the overwhelming support and love.
The river is swollen. And as it should be. Am I upset that I can’t really fish because she’s running at 4500cfs and is literally on the bank and then like 2 more inches. The river sides are swampy! Yes I’m upset. But it’s late May and we have amazing snow pack, so ya…its like fake runoff.
The reservoirs are full. The 4 lakes, Kachelus, Kachees, via lake Easton and Lake Cle Elum that feed the headwaters above the Teanaway are at capacity anglers. What is flowing into them is coming out of them. And a little extra. And now that the warmer days are here…there’s gonna be more water coming down. The Teanaway has had a little runoff earlier in March, but the cold nights, wet weather, and immense snow pack is slowly trickling out. And the flood plain restoration is working. I’ve seen it. Drove up to look at that swampy mess just the other day. River looks fishy, but its wicked cold. But they are in there.
As things start to heat up we are in for some high water. The prediction charts are already saying over the Memorial Weekend the flows could reach minor flood stage. And if the Teanaway decides to top 1500 to 2000 cfs in the next 2 weeks the river will hit 6000 to 7000 cfs if the reservoirs have to keep spilling…because they are at capacity anglers.
So…things could get real funky. And that’s why I’m cranky! Gonna have to switch it up, chase bass and lake fish and shit. Ugh. But hey it’ll keep me from being bored and with a roof top incoming its easy to be mobile and camp and search out places. I know a good chunk. But I’ve got a few on the radar. Anglers need options and the Yak is being sassy.
The Yakima has a right to surge. She’s had a rough go since that shit ass drought in 2015. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Thankfully a lot of restoration work, better management of resources, and more educated angling and non angling communities; through a plethora of local, state, tribal, and federal organizations we have a system that is thriving…its on a line…but it’s thriving. Our battle against climate change and other issues our freshwater watersheds face is one we can make ground on. And we are getting snow pack and it hasn’t lit on fire for a while. That’s also due to work but that’s a whole other thing.
I’ve had the privilege of being a part of that and giving my time to the resource I hold dear and literally live off of. It’s important that work continues throughout my career in angling across any and all watersheds I guide. While the river has her “salmon pulse/faux runoff” I’ve got small water on the brain.
The Teanaway, I wrote blog years ago about the Teanaway, it’s still the most read entry to date. It still gets reads. I actually haven’t read it in a few years. Just a quick little aide note if anything has been repeated from the previous post.
I cherish the Teanaway. I’ve spent time in it’s valleys and forests, and played in it’s waters since I was a small child. Before the roads were paved. I used to snowmobile, and bike, I had Boy Scout trips up there. My family lived in the area so we played up here frequently. 29 Pines was a normal.ppace to go in the summer for the day. When I got older, I started hiking and skiing, and my first experiences as a outdoor guide were in the Teanaway. I climbed all her peaks, fell of Iron and almost lost my brother on another. Seen the whole state from up top, the fire lookout, hiked the old forgotten trails, been to a few mines and caves, seen trees that are old…like really old, before people old, and almost as tall as sequoia. I’ve found hidden waterfalls and tarns, laid cairns for other mountaineers and hikers. I’ve volunteered to hike pit toilets in and out, was on search and rescue, helped during the fires in more ways than I can remember, was a trail angel for thru hikers, I encountered bears, wolves, badgers, owls, otters, elk, deer, pine martin, and mountain goats. I’ve made the summit of Mt. Stuart twice, and all the enchantment peaks except 2, skied the lines of the ridges, got fucked around in a small avalanche in the neighboring Blewett Pass. The things I have experienced within the folds of the Teanaway are the fabric that sews and holds me together.
It opens this Saturday for fishing and man am I stoked. When I first started fishing most of my time in the summer was spent trudging around the forks of the Teanaway in a shitty old pair of Hodgman Waders and heeled felt soled boots. Hot as balls, in my own soup, throwing my way to long 5wt for Trout the size of my arm. I lost so many fish, and I learned so much from every encounter I had with trout. I was a self taught angler at my start. I didn’t start frequenting fly shops until later. In 04-08 I was told the Teanaway was a good place to go in the summer when the river is high by Tim Irish so I went. I didn’t have a boat except a little Scadden pontoon and the Yak scared me back then in the summer. I never even tubed it.
The Teanaway gave me the passion of angling and exploration with trout as the main goal of the journey. I learned to read the water through trial and error, learned to headhunt, what bugs and flies matched, I took journals upon journals of my time up here fishing in my earlier days. Most of what I learned transfered to the Yakima as I began to develop as an angler. It led to me getting a boat. That want to float, to explore and learn more, encounter more, I started feeling that need to chase trout, and the Teanaway was where it started. It still holds that passion for me, and even though I’ve literally seen all of it…it changes, it holds secrets, and wants to teach and learnt me things. It talks to me all the time, especially as the summer approaches. There is still a major part of the angler in me that just wants solitude and small mountain stream fly fishing. But it’s not just fishing, hiking, and skiing.
I have snorkeld every inch of every fork of the Teanaway River. So I have seen every inch of it. I have seen its jewels of Westslope Cutthroat, Chinook Salmon, Mountain Whitefish, and salmon smolt. I’ve witnessed the illusive Wild Native Steelhead, and the rainbow trout cousins that frequent the pools and riffles. The sandstone bedrock exposed, it shouldn’t be but it is, it’s beauty and scar from years of logging, mining, stripping, irrigating, and straighting to accommodate human needs and wants.
It’s amazing to swim in that sandstone. A way to enjoy it before the flood plain hopefully restores it with gravel and riverbed over the years. It creates amazing underwater chutes and slides that propel the brave, faster forward than one could ever swim even with fins. You glide and twist, dart and curve about like the trout that join you from time to time. The log jams…oh the log jams are a sight. So much happens under and in them. Like an underwater truck stop. I can sit and watch the water slide underneath them for hours. Fish and other critters in bountiful numbers and the spectrum of shapes, sizes, and species. The Teanaway is beautiful above and below the waters. The Teanaway is a gem to our county and the state. The community forest and the work that’s been done here is a testament to how you care for our public lands and spaces.
When I stepped away from fly fishing to guide hiking and run a store in Cle Elum I always had my fly rod in my pack and would always take time to fish. I got the name Tamarack from the thru hikers because they would see me in the fall months with my rod in tow, Tamarack because that’s when the larches change color. Lot of Lake Ingalls hikes. It stuck and I’ve kept it going with my business. So many things from the Teanaway are what make me who I am today. My children have all learned to fish up here. I’ve shared experiences with people, clients, friends, anglers, I will hold close forever. I make new memories now with my partner in the Teanaway doing more and different things that I’ve never done. It’s continues to enrich my life after 30 plus years. Especially when shared with someone special.
When I came back to fly fishing in 2015 as a guide the Teanaway was a hellscape. Fried, no water, fish dying. By August 2015 the river dried up in the middle fork, less than 8 cfs in the west and the north fork was less than 30, getting all the way down to 11cfs at one point. It was horrible. I watched fish die in the upper north fork near the source. I cried watching them eat each other trying to make it to the colder months. Bugs stopped hatching, predators had thier fill, fish just couldn’t breath with 70 plus degree water temps. We did what we could, but it was apparent she was going to take time to come back and needed a lot of help.
Flown in log jams, beaver relocation, culvert work, flood plain restoration, reforestation, riparian zone repair, bank repair, livestock management, more efficient irrigation and management, axing suction dredge mining, and more than I either can’t remember or don’t know. It’s a lot, millions and millions of monies and hundreds of thousands of people hours working on it. I was a small fraction of that process. But a part of it. When I fish the waters now I keep that in mind. The trout the size of my arm have returned after years away; their home refrisbished and working towards something better.
The bugs are back, as are the critters, the salmon too, and my westslope cutthroat are here…because they haven’t been in the Yakima…and this is where they’ve always wanted to be, trying desperately to join the mountain goats high in the mountains where the cold water they thrive in originates. Silly westslope cutthroat trout just want to be in the highlands hiding, camouflaged into the backdrop of the log jams and sandstone…waiting to feed, or maybe hiding from the few wild bull trout I hope are starting to return too….
The season is in full swing now anglers. The only thing that gets in the way of fishing now is the wind. The water temps are up, the bugs are hatching regularly, and trout are coming out of the spawn and feeding.
This season has already been busy. And it’s shaping up to be the busiest I’ve had. Working towards 200 guide days and we are on track. Still need to chase those days and fill those dates but the vibes are positive and high.
After the past w seasons of weirdness with the world I’m taking some time to get back to my trout bum roots. Be the guide that lives the life so to speak. It’s not necessary, I could totally live in a regular house, pay regular bills, run those off river errands, and also guide. But that’s not me. And my guiding would suffer for it. Every day that I’m out here, riverside, I’m finding more of that passion for angling, guiding, and living that kind of life. Content is the word.
This allows me to focus on the important things off river. Like my personal relationship, my children, and the non trouty things of my business. There’s a lot of noise when you lived that more plugged in life. Spending the rest of the season living the trout bum life is something I’ve wanted to get back to but didn’t realize it fully until I was back at it.
But it can be lonely and the desire to share it with others. Not just those close or important to me but also other anglers and outdoorsy people who need a taste of that unplugged life for a bit. The guide in me can’t help but want to share it.
That’s why I am doing this kind of roaming come out and stay with me, fish, talk, camp, stuff. It’s time to just embrace that part of myself until I’m too old to enjoy it. I’m not much for creature comforts and would prefer a tent to a hotel room any day, but I’ve got the energy, drive, and physical ability to live that trout bum way.
It’s not classy or anything amazing. It’s just camping anglers. But without a lot of the noise from the rest of the world. Just the trout world. I haven’t seen or looked at the news in over a week. I haven’t watched Netflix, or played a video game, only things I do on my phone are work related or for my personal life. I’ve checked out a little bit. And I’ve also noticed my patience for off river stuff is fading. I’m falling into the grind of just fish and fish and fish. For the next 150 to 180 days it’s fish. And the more I do it the better it gets. Just in tune.
Today’s trip kind of sealed that for me. Just on the rivers time, not having to try as much as just feel it. And that’s where I love to be as a guide and angler. Just, ‘in the pocket’ as my girlfriend would say. It’s what can set an angler apart from others. Some find it silly, others think it’s unnecessary, but tell that to my clients and the fish we see. It makes a difference, being in that zone. It makes you good at it. You learn more not just about fishing but about yourself. Little bit of the soul finds its way out. When I’m in the grind…that’s what’s happening. It’s not just rips, and Money and clients, anyone who puts guiding and fly fishing down like that just isn’t worth my time…because they don’t understand and probably won’t. Some experience and a good ass handing by the river will usually help the doubters.
But it’s getting late, my body is more sore than I want to admit, my brain is tired, ita cold this evening, and there’s another day of chasing trout ahead of me. So lets get back to the grind anglers.
It is my home. Not my home away from home, but where I belong and feel myself and welcomed. I’ve spent most of my adult life riverside. Almost every important moment I’ve had in my life I’ve come to river for reflection, peace, advice, and vibes.
Rivers do something to many of us. A primal connection embedded there from our ancient past, the same as being around a campfire inspires and instills something within, so to the river does for me.
I miss the river when I’m away for more than a few days, I understand when she is feeling sassy or angry. She speaks some days, lightly whispers others, gives the silent treatment too. But the river is always there. Doing its river thing.
As an angler and a guide I have the privilege of being a part of the river. It’s worked itself into my DNA. My very person. It can be hard to explain to people who aren’t connected. It can make life off river lonely and filled with a lot of arms lengths friends and few really close ones. Which isn’t all that bad.
I spent last night and this morning reconnecting with the Yakima River. My homewater. She sang for me. Like she missed me too. High flows and fast water but nonetheless she was saying things. Caddis percolating, sneaky fish slurping, a skunk, beaver, and otter said hello along the river bank. Eagles playing, swallows zooming, the chitter of stellar Jay’s and red wing black birds, an Osprey hovering over hunting. I’ve learned the language over the years and its like talking with a friend after a long time away but it’s like you never left each other. I need that in my life.
The joy of chasing trout. Traveling and seeing the places they live, and hopefully sharing it with some good people are all any one of us river rat, troutbum, angler/guides can hope for. It’s not a life for everyone. The older I get and the more the off river world changes the less I want to be a part of it. Off river sucks. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole is what it feels like trying to operate in the ‘normal-sphere’. Its exhausting, and not conducive to the lifestyle I set out to have for myself.
At the end of the day my passion will always be the river. Hasn’t changed in years and I don’t expect it to. I continue to learn more, be enriched and fulfilled in ways others only get a glimpse of on a guided trip. I may not be rich with money, but life and experiences I have in droves and that seems to be worth more these days.
I know I need that normal world to keep trucking along to have this lifestyle. Feeding off it so to speak. But I’d rather do that than be a part of it. There just doesn’t seem to be wasted days or time on the river. And off river seems like it just gets in the way of that precious river time. Selfishly, I would prefer to live like a hobo along the river…a nice hobo that showers everyday, but that non traditional kind of living makes more sense. Having a season of experiencing that in 2019 I want to go back to that.
The real world is expensive, inflated, filled with hate and stupidity. After covid it’s tiresome and who knows when we will all be stuck inside again in fear while neighbors and loved ones die around us. Fuck that, I’m not being cooped up anymore. I want to experience things, live outside of walls, chase fish not just trout, experience the planet through water, rivers, and wildlife before it’s all gone. Before we all die in a wildfire, aliens invade, or what have you comes. I’m not wasting anymore time. I’m getting to old and have run out of my last few fucks to give. I just want to guide and fish, and live that river life. Before I’m too old.
Just some thoughts while spending time riverside anglers.
The Month of May is here and with it the green in the trees, the smell of budding cotton woods, high green water, sunshine…and bugs.
Caddis are just getting started. Still a little cool for them but as the flows settle after this salmon pulse and the weather warms up even more it’s gonna be bonkers. We also have March Browns still going strong in the afternoon and the Salmonflies are already out and about and will become more prolific as the weather warms this month.
Dates are filling up for the summer. With May almost full June and July are ramping up to. For May I’ve only got the following dates open:
May 11th and 12th, 16th.
May 20th, 28th-31st.
Things are heating up anglers and the summer fishing is almost here. Get on the calendar today. Teanaway opens up at the end of the month and fishes through July!
Plus the boat is all done up pretty after its face lift down in Colorado…come check it out on a trip.