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

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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

Snow…what’s that?

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A topic that is floating around the fly fishing community here on the Yakima is Snow. Not typically something that fly anglers talk about as we just want it to leave so we can get to spring. However there has been very little snow this year. Checking the snotel sites of the high country we are looking at some of the worst numbers in the past few seasons for snow. This means a lot of things for anglers.

The river flow here is controlled by two things. Nature and man. With dams that hold water back for irrigation that helps grow the hops, grapes, wheat, pot, and of course hay and all that other great stuff, anglers are blessed with a river that can be very consistent during the prime angling season. While the issues of dams is not the topic here I support dams and also their removal. I come from a family rooted in the agriculture industry and lived a good chunk of my life in an area that feeds the majority of this country in the Columbia Basin. I see dams as one of those necessary evils in many cases but also love when we as a species can remove our impact on our environment to help let it return to its natural state.

The dams here help make this fishery what it is today. No question about it. These small dams that hold back water to create these large reserves are always in the back of mind when the season begins. With our dismal snow pack and our extended forecast looking more and more like spring, it seems that snow isn’t going to happen. This means that when we get our normal snow dumps in the late spring and early summer above 5-6000 feet, the river has the potential to be a very different lady come this season.

Water will more than likely trickle out of the dams all season long to help keep the levels up for the growing season in the lower valley. This means low flows, warmer temps, and hopefully….some wicked awesome fishing. There have been a lot of complaints about the lack of decent hatches in the past seasons. High water, bad runoff, and later in the year, low water, and high temps. This past season alone we saw temps go well above 65 degrees in the lower stretches and stay outside optimal trout habitat ranges for extended periods. I myself witnessed a massive shift in the hatches of several aquatic insects this summer and fall due to high water temps and high air temps. We also had a lot of high pressure systems fall upon us this season which also does not help the bugs.

The summer and short wing stonefly hatches this past season were amazing…from 9 to midnight. Massive hatches of stoneflies in the thousands on the upper river especially. More than I have ever seen in my 9 years on the river. Fish feeding through the night and into the dawn hours gorging themselves on these huge naturals. Of course I overnight on the river when I can and thats how I came across these observations.

I spent some time with a pair of goggles and a snorkel this year and migrations of insects for the hatch were much later during the summer in the upper stretches than any of my journal entries from previous seasons. I expect much of the same this year if the weather is hot and dry again.

While observing the trout without the use of a fly rod I found that by the time anglers got on the water even in the early mornings, the fish had already had their fill. Many days of frustrating summer fishing are not because of poor fish numbers or poor hatches. Its all do to full fish and irregular hatching times due to weather and water conditions.

When did they eat them? All night long! I remember camping riverside enjoying a smoke and a tea over a small campfire and all of the sudden there were stoneflies crawling everywhere. I was amazed, realizing that the hatch wasn’t in its full bloom until lower temps set in and the river cooled. Typically from 9 to midnight. A few reports in my journal show late hatches and night hatches but nothing like what I was seeing. Think prime caddis hatch but with stoneflies, and in the dark. I was finding them in my boat and clothing for a week after that. The hatch I witnessed for the two nights I was on the river in this instance, was epic to say the least. When I fished blind at night just to see if fish were on the surface at 11:30 pm, I was welcomed with some of the largest trout on the surface I have ever had the pleasure of releasing.

When I rose to fish around sunrise the fish were still coming up but sporadically and mostly smaller fish. Observing the fish again underwater I found fish were in rest mode digesting all the food they gorged themselves on the night before. That was how the whole summer went.

When the October Caddis came around the same thing happened. Fishing with the October in the upper stretches was by far more productive during the very early morning and late evening with the hatch happening in full force considerably later than usual. If I was able to stomach pump fish I can guarantee that they would have upchucked insane amounts of stonefly and October naturals.

What does this have to do with crummy snowpack? Well the water is going to trickle out of the reservoirs all season long. Only increasing when demand is at its peak and when shots of water are needed for salmon runs. Otherwise, it should be rather consistent albeit low, even through the summer. We may not see flows over 3800 to 4000 cfs in the lower canyon this summer. We could potentially see some of the greatest fishing conditions for the the spring and early summer season. When late July, August, and the fall come about, we could see another season like last year.

I am especially interested to see how the mayfly hatches are this year and their time frames. In the past years I have only seen an increase in the upper river of hatches, save for the mahogany dun in the fall, but I attest that to the previous described conundrum of midnight rendezvous of horny insects.

I witnessed some wonderful PMD hatches this year as well as drakes. I am hoping that if the river operates in the way the community is talking about, we will see some epic spring and early summer hatches. I am particularly excited for the March Brown but more so for the Drakes of the upper river and Cle Elum.

I fear for the late summer and fall but over the past few seasons that has been a normal worry. With the dry and high pressure we have been having and the bloody BURN BANS! (I hate burn bans but always obey them, but damnit not having the ability to have a campfire is quite irksome especially when hiking into the blue lines or overnights with the dog and the boat on the river.) The river could have a late season like last year. Which was not bad, but not stellar in my opinion. Even the salmon were funky this season due to the conditions, and we at least had some snow pack last year!

The window for snow fall is rapidly closing. We have about 14 days before, if it doesn’t happen, its not going to happen. We have 40 degree days and rain….inches of rain in the forecast for the rest of February. The models are predicting the same for March. The spring could be one of the better ones we have seen in a few seasons and I look forward to feeling the pulse of the river as I anxiously wait for the weather to change. We have Robins in the yard, no snow base, lots of rain, and days that feel more and more like March and not like a typical February. At least in my observation.

Chime in, lets talk about it, at least it gives us all something to do while we wait for fishing to pick up.

Speaking of fishing. Hit the river from Ump to Slab yesterday with a good friend and while the fishing was down right awful it was still a good day being on the river and getting a sense of where she is at. She will tell you a lot. We have warm days that bring her to life and bugs move and things happen, but we are still having days of cold and gloom that make for rather unproductive days. I fished everything, streamers, nymphs, light nymphs, and I went deep, shallow, looked all over the river for trouts. We had one nasty smelly white fish, seriously just a gross “teenage boy” smelling fish. Big but oh damn! We had one rainbow 15 inches, purple and blue, just gorgeous. She took the Yak Sandwich, or shit sandwich, as we like to call it. A rubber legs stone and a san juan worm below. Sometimes its all that works. Its a bummer but its still a trout.

The main reason for the craptastic fishing, at least my assessment, is as the river has dropped over the past week these fish went from being pushed into the banks from all the water and needing food to help with all the energy they used. We had great days of streamer and nymph fishing near the start of the drop in flows. We also had sunny warm days which kick things to life in the winter here on the river. Now we are at colder water temps, less current, and less energy used. Making trout revert into their normal winter lies and patterns. We also had a warm and sunny day previous and would have given the fish ample opportunity to feed enough to hold them over through the cold day we floated. If you listen to her the river will tell you all you need to know. Well, the river and a group of anglers talking non stop about fishing.

Join me this Saturday the 7th from 11-5 at Firemans Park in South Cle Elum near the South Cle Elum Boat Launch for our Trout Unlimited Cle Elum River Clean Up. Its gonna be soggy so bring your rain gear. We will have trash bags, maps, donuts, and spots in boats available but we will be doing a lot of walking. You can visit my facebook page or visit the link below to RSVP. We also have a BBQ after for volunteers! Help us clean up the river, catch a few fish maybe, and it gives you a chance to hang out with a bunch of anglers for the day!

TU Cle Elum River Clean Up

Tamarack

Endurance and Tea

Photo by John Hicks of Sea Run Pursuits

Photo by John Hicks of Sea Run Pursuits

Good things comes to those who endure. Thats the best way for me to have a positive outlook on the life I have. Enduring hardships, loss, but most importantly, disappointments have been a powerful factor in my outlook and way of going about life. Positivity has not always been so easy.

As I described in the previous post, I enjoy the simple things everyday as much as I can. With a day off and a quiet morning here in the apartment, I am enjoying a strong Irish Breakfast Tea, the only tea worth drinking in the morning in my opinion. Tea, like beer and coffee, should be black, strong, and filling. My youngest daughter woke up rather early jabbering to herself, after the rest of the family left for school we hung out playing and talking before she decided to zonk out on me and fall back asleep. The amount of happiness and energy a baby wakes up with in the morning is down right unfair. Little minions have never been a stress for me except during birth, and with this third kid being my final, I take every chance I get to slow down and hang out with her.

I enjoy these slow mornings, sitting in my little room under the stairs at my tying table, typing, the wispy tendrils of steam rising off my tea, the lingering smell of smoke from my pipe at rest, a rolling bluegrass tune in the background, the thoughts of trouts swimming through my head.

A long journey to be able to enjoy the simple things. Seems rather backwards really. I feel as if I was lost for too long and am finally realizing what life is supposed to feel like for the wary but young trout bum. Life seems to be more and more like the river and chasing trout than ever these days. As if I had just finished developing a relationship on the most difficult part of the river, the torrent, upstream section, hard to access, hard to land fish, but worth the journey to learn how the river and fish begin.

Now I am on the prime water. The long stretch of “good” water. That 70 mile stretch if you will. There are still hard days on this part of the river, difficult and finicky trout, troublesome weather and water, but the days of great moments and easy floating are upon me. Indeed, life seems to be more like the river and chasing trout these days. When I do find myself on the actual river, not the metaphorical one that comes out in the cliches I write, there are days I fish less and enjoy embracing the river more. Don’t get me wrong I fish…like a lot. But there are days especially when I float solo or with the dog, that I find myself parked along the bank listening to the trees sing back and forth with the wind. The river adds her talking and babbling to the chorus. I hear a slight dimple in the water upstream and see the ripple of a now less hungry fish. Another rises, and another, I see the insects hatching, I feel the pulse of the river change as the life within her bursts into the fray. But my fly rod is at rest on my shoulder, I am just watching and enjoying this moment of life the river is showing me. Enjoying the simple things, of a caddis hatch, a slight breeze, and rising trout. Life should be more like the river.

Of course the angler in me always gets the better of me. I wouldn’t be a fly fisherman if it didn’t. I false cast three times and lay my fly and line upstream at the rising trout. A decent cast, a perfect drift, an eager but wary quarry, and a connection between angler….and trout. The disappointment, and memories of loss and hardship fade away. There is only the moment, the calm simple moment. What more is there really?

Another cup of tea and a few flies tied this morning is in order. Take a moment and enjoy something simple…and think about trout.

Tamarack

Bytes, bits, and a life of bites.

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I enjoy the slower side of life. Being 28 I feel as if I stumbled on some secret almost a decade ago. Fly fishing seems to be the driving force behind my, “enlightenment” if you will.

I fell into a field of study at college that fed on the technology this country has such an appetite for. Even as I type this app and manage my website, check Facebook, send emails, and listen to internet radio while doing it, I realize the irony that sometimes presents itself here. Using the very tools I am somewhat condemning to write and promote myself, for a lifestyle that feeds on the complete opposite.

We live in a world of bytes and bits. Bytes of computing speed, bytes of internet speed, small sound bits, small clips and bits of video, bits of text coming on bytes of data, fed directly into your eye and ear holes. The more we use it the more they pump into it. Now I can watch how to tie a fly on the Internet, while watching a video of fishing in New Zealand, filling out a fly tying order, and checking my facebook feed, while also looking at whats trending, checking the flows for tomorrows float, and reading the news and blog articles. Oh wait someone just messaged me, and I have a new guide trip inquiry, and a voicemail!

Its a never ending comma stream of things we do every day on auto pilot at mach 10 going full speed all the time! Its exhausting to even type it all out.

STOP…

Fly fishing is the complete opposite. For me it all about the river. The river moves slow around the bends, fast through the drops, and light and airy through the riffles. It has deep slow troughs that can move trees, it carves canyons and hews rock with its very touch…slowly over time. A slow powerful giver. All a river does is give, it gives life to the valley, it carves beauty into the mountain side, and is home to species upon species of life. The river is the matriarch of the wild, if the mountains are the father.

They give the angler many things. Why everything starts with the river for me is two fold. It brings me silence, and it demands patience.

I suffer from some wicked tennittus, playing drums in bands when younger will do that do you. The ringing never ceases. Like most who suffer from this annoyance of a problem, it can make things rather uncomfortable sometimes. Sleep is a big problem at times, crowded areas with lots of crowd noise make it worse making it difficult to hear, staring at computer screens for extended periods also make it kick up. The river…is the ultimate cure all for it. It combats the ringing with its constant running and the silence that surrounds the river makes the annoyance disappear and I find relief. It sounds silly but it works. It doesn’t work for any real scientific or health reason. It works because of what the river does to me.

All that noise, the plugged in nature of everyday life today, can flare up all sorts of problems for people. Stress being the biggest. The river takes that all away. She gives me my cure, by drowning it all out and I can focus and find a sort of peace in the form of chasing trout and all that it entails.

There is none of the regular life on the river. The river doesn’t care for any of it. Mobile phones should be off in her presence, not always a reality, but try it sometime. The river demands your attention, your focus, and your patience. She gives, but not without testing. The gift I love most is the silence.

The river is anything but silent but it is silent to the world away from the river. She drowns out the world around with her subtle flow, birds sing and chat along her banks, squirrels talk at one another, a river otter chirps, a beaver slaps its tail, a bugle of a distant elk in the fall, or the loud call of an osprey or eagle riding the air in search of prey. The river uses all of this to clear out all the noise and fill me with silence. A silence we have lost touch with. Imagine a world without the noise? Just you and nature….some people can’t handle it. Its intoxicating to some who find a place of such silence. A mountain top where no plane flies overhead, a river with a roaring rapid around the bend, a snow filled day and the sound of a cutting ski, these bring silence to the noise.

Patience. A skill hard learned for an angler. The world off river is a fast paced one. I find that if life doesn’t slow down, insanity will ensue. It starts with that cabin fever you get. Some people don’t realize its cabin fever and they snap after 30 years of doing the same grind everyday and buy a sports car. Screw the car, buy a drift boat!

I get cabin fever about every three days to be honest. I find myself yearning to be outdoors and on the river more and more. The winter has not been kind, and even when I am not on the river she is teaching me patience. Be patient for spring Nate, its coming.

I hone my patience through tying when not on the river. Sitting and focusing on a singular activity for extended periods of time that is not plugged in helps my patience. All the while I am thinking about trout and the river that holds them. I’m like a drug addict. A patient, angling addict.

That patience has trickled and infiltrated into my everyday life. I am patient with my children, my lady, my co workers, the general public. I keep a cool, calm, steady, and patient demeanor, a giving outlook on things, and deep powerful passion; the river has no room for anything else so why should life? Why do those with money, large houses, and lots of things, envy the trout bum with a simple happy life? Because life is slower, and they see it, and they want it. It’s worth more than any amount of money. Pretty sure we are missing something about this thing we call life. Fly Fishing reopens a door for me. I enter into a world that is devoid of the very things we think make up life. Money, job, car, family, bills, the stuff that clogs up what life actually is, isn’t on the river. Where would it be…there is no room for it.

When you spend enough time on the river you start to figure some things out. The biggest one for me always comes back to patience. Life, much like the river, necessitates patience. My life has slowed down. I take my time to go about my day. Always trying to stray from feeling rushed or constrained. I take my time on the little things: the mornings are for slowly waking early, with the sun is best. A strong cup of tea is recommended, always taking the time to drink it fully. I typically enjoy a tea and a read, or I will write in the mornings. This sets up the rest of the day. Taking the time to enjoy it is the best method for a proper day. A good groom of the beard and a curl of the mustache in the morning makes for a dapper day as well.

I spend time enjoying the simple things. The turn of the thread while at the vise or holding my baby daughter and listening to her tell me all about her day requires attention and patience. Brushing things aside and rushing everything means you miss the whole point. You don’t jet boat down the river fishing one cast in every hole and moving on! You float or walk, with the river, at her speed, you slow down to spend more time and give each fish the proper attention. Should life be any different? Why not approach life as if I were approaching a wary rainbow lurking in the under cut. When you spend enough time on the river….you learn things.

The pace of my world has slowed so much I enjoy the simple pleasure of rolling the perfect smoke, tying the perfect fly, making the perfect cast, or spending hours with legos and a couple of kids, all of them making me fill fulfilled for the day. I may work 8 hours a day a few days a week and get a paycheck every month but it does not fulfill me. It pays for the off river world that is a necessity and allows me to spend more days on the river and chase trout with friends and clients. There is always the hope that my days of work are always ones that involve trout, but taking your time to accomplish your goals seems to be the best strategy in my experience. Rushed never works and sometimes doing things solo is the best method, much like a walk and wade trip into the mountains in search of trout and solitude.

So there it is! A few insights about life from a fly fishermen. Going the speed of the river seems to be a better way to get through things. Making a goal everyday of downloading less bytes and bits and making the only bites I have…from trout keeps me happy and content.

Tamarack

January Sun

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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.

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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.

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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

Thoughts on Flies…and Winter…or Bleh as it shall be referred to.

In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.

In my Harry Potter room, tying a MB Emerger.

Yet again we are given a dose of warm weather and rain.  The river has jumped up a few hundred cfs.  It should settle by the end of the week again.  That seems to be the mode of operation for this winter.  No snow, lots of rain, and a fluctuating river.  Why doesn’t it just be March already, without any consistency its like a precursor to Spring.

UGH! MEH! BLEH!  Its kind of a downer really, all this pretty great weather in between all the rain and frozen H2O particles coming down, and no fishing.  Water temps are still topping out around 39 degrees which is damn cold but fishable, so when the river is in shape it is worth it to nymph or streamer fish some holes.  I am not getting my drift boat out until it decides to officially be spring and with February looming and big snows still anticipated for that month, it looks like it may be a late one.

If I have learned anything about the winters here its this (this is applicable to the months of November through March): “Winter is Coming…eventually…maybe around February 4th…but maybe next week…I don’t know…get back to me.”

DAMNIT!

DAMNIT!

Where is the bloody snow!?  Literally everywhere else in the country that it is supposed to be snowing it is, but not here.  While I have no doubt that it will snow, and it will probably be one of those miserable snows that just never stops, causes problems.  Then when it all settles it will be March 15th and everyone will be bitching about how the winter was too short.  Dude, the winter was shot like two weeks ago.  Its so late now anyone that has a weather dependent business has already took the hit and is just playing the waiting game like the rest of us.  The upper elevations are finally starting to get better but with crummy snow, warm winds, and rain mixed in, the conditions just plain suck.  I haven’t even got my skis or snowshoes out of storage and at this point I may never this season.  It’s too late to be playing in the snow, too much stuff to get ready for the spring…if it ever shows.  My fear is that the winter will finally arrive…and then never leave.  Like a few years back when the damn snows up high didn’t melt until late July.

I keep looking longingly at my fly rods all secured in their tubes propped up in the corner by the door.  My wading boots have a permanent spot next to the heater in the bathroom where I dry them between wade trips.  I say permanent because I have been out two times since November.  Its driving me bonkers really.  The saying, “Winter is Coming,” can suck it as far as I am concerned.  Pretty sure Winter got lost and when it does show up its just gonna make everyone mad with its tardiness.

The tying has been my salvation.  Without the ability to unplug from the day and the world by visiting the river, my cabin fever gets the best of me.  Anglers everywhere know what I am referring too.  That need to be outside, in the river, the smell of trout on your hands, bugs in your beard, a strong tug, a tight fly line, and a filled net, its becoming overbearing now.  Late February is so close but the weather may have other plans.  The vise is the only refuge I have, besides youtube videos of New Zealand and the Lapland.  I have been taking my time and relearning a few techniques, fine tuning a few newly acquired ones, and getting creative but simple with my patterns.

I love developing new patterns, trying different materials, working out different ways to replicate and imitate the natural.  My need to get into a decent fly shop with a plethora of tying choices, and a wad of cash is increasing dramatically as we get farther into this snow-less winter.  My supplies are dwindling which is a good thing, I get a kick out of perusing the feathers, hair, and synthetics for flies, much like some anglers look at the fly bins.  The other thing that short supply does is it forces you to try new things.  Shit, I ran out of that, well lets try this instead.  Then, bam!  I have a sweet ass new fly to try.  That’s how a few of my more productive patterns came about.

Is this the river of my dreams?  No seriously I found this pic and don't remember what river it is.

Is this the river of my dreams? No seriously I found this pic and don’t remember what river it is.

For me the trip starts at the vise.  Every time I tie a new March Brown Emerger, or Skwala Stonefly Nymph I fish it in my head.  With each turn of the quill or wire I cast the fly into another riffle or run.  When I head cement the fly at the finish, in my head, I am releasing the fish and casting for the next.  Sitting at the vise didn’t use to be that way.  I sat at a vise before I ever picked up a rod, but now, every time I tie its like a little dose of fly fishing on the river.  It gets so bad sometimes I tie flies in my sleep and come up with new patterns for the rivers of my dreams.  It sounds super dweeby but hey, I am a nerd for fly fishing.

The one thing that I am missing is that angler to angler connection.  My Lady listens to me talk about trout, flies, rivers, and everything in between all the time.  We stay up after the minions go to bed and talk about fishing.  Well I talk and she listens.  She thinks its cool.  A little nerdy but she has been watching me develop into an angler and tier closer than anyone.  While I love talking to her about fish, she doesn’t share the same passion for it that I do.  She wants to travel with me to rivers, learn how to better row the drift-boat, and there isn’t another lady I know that can rough it in the outdoors like she can.  She’s the best kind of fishing partner…the one that doesn’t fish, but can row.  My Lady is not an angler and that’s cool and she knows it.

I do miss tying with a group of anglers, talking shit and telling lies.  I saw that the local fly shop is having tying on Sunday mornings and I will try and hit it, but work gets in the way.  I should look into a group of anglers getting together somewhere like a coffee shop or something and tying for an hour or two one day a week.  It would be cool to be amongst other anglers, share patterns and techniques, talk about fish and the river.  I don’t get a lot of that in my tiny little room under the stairs where my vise and materials sit.

I love to tie, but I love to fish even more.  With tying for guiding now its a bit more fun because I am tying a huge amount of flies that I normally wouldn’t.  For myself, I typically tie a set of flies at the beginning of the season and that’s all I need.  A set being 6.  I do not intend to tie all of my flies but a majority of them will be tied and not bought.  Why not?  I still tie a set at a time, but I was taught that tying the same pattern 24 times in a row can make tying really boring and mistakes happen when you get lazy after about the 20th fly.  I switch between two and three patterns until I have 2 sets of each.  The next day I may repeat the same patterns or move on to the next hatch.  It keeps it from getting dull or feeling like a chore.  I finish a set of March Brown Emergers, I get tired of tying tiny little mayflies, and move onto a large Salmon Fly Dry, then maybe a Green Drake nymph, and then back to the Emergers.  I get special requests from friends for sets of flies, Craneflies are a big one, as well as my super tasty October Caddis Pupa, and those also give me an excuse to change it up as well.

A little troutsnack party

A little troutsnack party.

The other plus side of tying for the guiding season is I feel like I am working.  Not just tying for myself but tying for clients is a big push for me.  I have tied for anglers and sent sets of flies off in the mail from time to time but never the amount I’m tying for guiding this season. The guides at the shop I used to work for would have me tie certain flies for them.  It saved them having to buy a few before their trip. We also used to tie for each other all the time. Carp flies, for trout flies, a particular guide had some amazing bass flies that I still use, and we all shared patterns and tying lessons. They were notorious for stealing flies from the table before heading out on trips though. So don’t leave flies hanging around.  I always got very critical but always constructive feedback on patterns of mine so I welcomed the less flies in my box.

There is something quite satisfying to hear a guide or angler praise a finely tuned, personally tied fly pattern.  It always made me feel like I was doing something right when my flies were in other anglers’ boxes.  I never got nervous about my flies being out there, but I have always been laid back about my flies. Fish eat ’em for me.

It’s cool that not everyone can tie them, you can’t find them everywhere, and just because you have one doesn’t mean you are fishing it right.  I have met a lot of anglers that just put the fly on/in the water.  Its always a riverside treat to meet an angler or anglers that see you catch a decent fish and ask what you used and you show them something they wouldn’t have in their box.  I am always handing out flies on the river.  I never want someone to get off the river with a bad taste in their mouth.  If a few of my flies help make their day better than of course I am gonna hand them out.  What really get’s me is when they ask how to fish it!  Oh man, yes, lets talk about that.

Flies do a lot of things besides catch trout; they inspire anglers, help concoct stories of grandeur, enlighten and educate on the ways of the river, and each one is a tiny work of art.  Such simple but intricate things; much like the trout they catch, much like the anglers that tie them on.

Tamarack