Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

What is a Trout Worth?

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the love of the trouts,
Tamarack

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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. 

Posted on Leave a comment

January Sun

2015/01/img_2225.jpg

Hit the river for the day. I tied a few flies this morning and hit the river around 10:30 ish. The fog was just starting to burn off when I got to the first spot on the upper river. The flows were up from the shot of rain and snow we got so wading was tough but I managed to fish a few good looking places before moving on. The river was too swollen near Three Bridges for me to try my luck at a few of my favorite winter fishing spots up and down river of there.

I decided to head back into town and hit my old friend the Cle Elum. This river never ceases to amaze me. I hiked upriver today to a spot I haven’t visited in a while. I remember hiking the banks on a early summer day after they start to back the flows off from the dam above. There is a great drake hatch and some of the most perfect looking water I have seen on a river hidden up in the trees. The only way to access it is to walk it or float it and you have to walk a bit so not a lot of people fish it.

The sun was burning off the left over water still clinging to the rocks, moss, and trees when I stripped out enough line for a proper cast. The section I was standing below is where the river narrows between some log jams. There is a deep trough, a shelf, and a large deep eddy on the river right side. A nice 30 foot cast to the top of the trough along the seam between the slow and fast water dropped. Another 30 or so dropped before I finally hooked a fish.

The sunlight was shining brightly through the trees. It hit the water and lit up the mossy and algae covered stones below. Midges flew from the surface of the water and congregated along the edges of the river near still water between the pebbles and rocks. I could see a shape holding in the seam. It flashed. My excitement grew almost uncontainable. I cast far up river, knowing there were probably other fish in the hole. I finally got a proper drift through the cross currents while trying not to spook the fish that was still flashing and feeding below. I did not want to miss my opportunity as the sun could be off the surface at any moment and all could be lost.

2015/01/img_2218.jpg

My indicator shot down and I set the hook with a high stick and a pull on the slack line. The fish hung in the fast water and shook slightly. I thought for sure it was a bloddy white fish but as I worked the fish into the slow water near me it spooked and woke up. It took line out with a slow hard pull and went deep. Then the head shaking came and I thought I was going to loose the fish since it was on the bottom size 16 zebra midge. One roll without tension and its over dude. My Winston bent and arced and vibrated as the fish tried to move into deeper water below me.

The trout took too much time in the fast water and I was patient. The beating the river gave me last week I was determined to do this correctly. The fish admitted he had been outsmarted and I pulled him into my nets embrace.

2015/01/img_2219.jpg

A beautiful Rainbow Trout. Bigger than I thought as well. A delightful surprise. I did not measure but a proper 16 inches of healthy wild rainbow would have been my guess. A hefty fish as well. The water was bitter cold so I kept it in the net as not to shock it too bad. I took my flies from the trouts jaw, had my moment that I have been longing for all winter long, and released it from the net. I gave the tail a light touch and the trout darted back into the deep water on the other side of the river.

Content. The river only graced me with one trout today. I only fished for just over an hour and spent most of it walking upriver. I saw several trout working the midges underneath but they were easily spooked being in the sunlit water. Sometimes, especially in winter fishing, one is all you get.

I will be floating the upper river tomorrow and we shall see if she will give up a few more for a moment or two.

Tamarack