Click



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

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

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

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

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

Click…Click…Click…

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

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

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

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

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

A trout rises…

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

The world is silent.

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

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

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

CLICK!

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

click, click, click….

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

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

Click, Click, Click.

Tamarack

Winging It

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

Don’t Worry, I’m all legal and stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamarack

Elder Trout

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There is a river. It cuts through mountains and carves out canyons. Its belly swells deep into the rock, slowly growing deeper as it ebbs and flows with each season. There is a river. It is powerful, relentless, and mysterious. It breeds life, it shapes the earth, commands its world.

Where there is a river, there is a trout. Where there is a trout, there will be an angler. This particular trout, was high in the mountains. The king of his pool. The largest fish in the upper reaches by far, his genetics raining supreme in the volatile world with which he was born. A fish aged and strengthened by the furious river that tugged at his now tattered fins and scales. A solemn trout, a solitary trout, a trout like no other trout. The trout that could only reside in such a pool, in such a river, so high up into the wild where no trout was thought to be.

Where this trout resides is seldom visited by an angler, and an angler would have to walk the blue unnamed lines of the map to find such a place indeed. This place could be on any map, but for each angler that understands, there is only one map, one blue line, one mental note about the location of such a place. No markings on a map unveil it, no names befall it. It is unknown, but known, to the few that know, and it is held in secret to all but a few in a lifetime. The lucky anglers have a few maps that have unnamed and unmarked blue lines which hold the above described secrets. Whether through self discovery or loose lips, these places are discovered and forgotten, rediscovered, and lost. Fished 20 year ago and maybe a few luckily anglers stumble upon it once again. It happens in even the most popular of fly fishing areas.

The joy of my homewater, is that the area for which many of my maps belong to, are within the glorious National Forest and Alpine Lakes Wilderness we have here. A little taste of the wild sandwiched between the west and east. The edge of the Cascades. An angler can hike and fish to their hearts absolute content here. Stillwater and trickles, creeks and streams, rivers and lakes, ponds, and backwaters. Its all here, and it is ever inviting to the lover of mountains and woods, and rivers and trouts.

My solemn, solitary, trout that is like no other trout; lives here in the upper reaches far up river, into the mountains, away from the world and off the trail. A solitary pool, near a mountain waterfall, hidden behind the woods and the folds of the mountains. A blue line barely graces the map near the place of which I speak. Such a special place, unlike any other I have ever witnessed. A place of birth, of life, the very roots of the homewater, with the ancient roots of the trout that populate the system below. The trout lies there for me. Chance and bordering on truly being lost brought me into the embrace of this place. The trout that should not have been. There…feeding…on the surface…

Silence….

The rod in my hand felt heavy from the hours of casting before happening upon this elder of trouts. Nothing but the sound of the falls and the forest were present. The surface broke as a mayfly was delicately plucked from under. A slight ripple and a slosh of surface water broke the silence. The heart syncs with some unknown rhythm lost in the fray of mobile phones, freeways, and crowds of people…civilization. The cast beats the rhythm…one…two, three…four. The feel of fiberglass and line whipping through the air just a few feet more. “We don’t want to spook the trout.” The worry of hooking a large trout on small tippet, and a 3 weight.

The drift falls to far right and the fish feeds on a natural in the correct lane and not the imitation 6 inches off. The tension is quite intoxicating. “Will another cast spook the fish?”

The cast falls correctly and the fish rises to the fly, only to refuse it.

One final cast, out of respect. “I tell myself this fish deserves to be left alone should it not want to share a moment with an angler today.” The cast places the fly upstream for a longer presentation to this old and smart trout. The fish rises…rises….rises, and refuses once again. The angler in me desires one more cast. The human in me disagrees. This place will be left undisturbed after my retreat, and I will be able to find it once again.

But…the angler in me always gets the better of me. I would not be a fly angler if it did otherwise. I leave the pool and give the fish time. The hatch is early, the sun is high, and the trout is withholding. I rest out of sight but still have a watchful eye on my quarry. I enjoy a smoke while writing in my journal of the place I am in and the awe for which it deserves.

The sun gives way and begins to touch the tree tops. The trout is feeding once again. I give him a wide birth, staying low and down river. The pool just large enough to cast across, but the trees behind made a proper cast quite impossible. A roll cast would surely spook the creature once again. A steeple cast was not a desirable solution either, but presented a higher chance of success as the shadows were in my favor. Waiting for the fish to stop feeding in between the drifts of the naturals presented an anxiety filled moment that seemed to last ages.

The window opened and a high cast laid the fly slightly off target but without spooking the trout. The fish rose but the fly was too far out of the lane. “One of the most finicky trout I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.” A slight breeze rippled the water and a large swath of naturals began floating down into the pool. “The trout may have been withholding but the river, was not.” Another cast and a perfect drift was granted to me. The fish rose and my imitation was in position….Silence…

I could feel my fiberglass pulse with the thrash of the trout. A surprise to us both, he by the imitation that foiled him, and I by the disbelief and amazement that I actually foiled him! “A quick but enjoyable struggle and the ratchet of my click paw drag was F’ing nirvana dude.”

The Elder Trout, was in my grasp. The trout and I shared a brief moment while holding him there in his pool…his lair…his ancient castle high above the river below. A Wild Trout that resembles his ancestors that lived in this river before Lewis and Clark met the Yakima where it enters the Columbia. Before the native peoples that lived off the river that this pool resided over high in the mountains.

I paid my respects to the trout. Released him back to his dominion and thanked him. I still visit his castle from time to time. He is long gone, I found him seasons ago while discovering the secrets of the mountain streams. Other trouts that resemble him reside there now. It has been several seasons since I was there. A visit is in order, with a fiberglass rod and a box of flies.

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

Cars Suck, Drifboats are Better

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I hate driving, with a passion. In fact I don’t much care for anything that is motorized really. Its just not my speed. My speed is foot speed. A good 3 mile an hour pace with a pack on my back, a fly rod in my hand, and a good pair of boots. Headed farther up the trail to secret fishing spots and undiscovered riffles and pools.

My speed is more around that of the river. A slow but powerful churn, that can be swift when needed but calms and ebbs just around the bend. More my speed indeed. The speed of a drift boat and a strong back row for one more cast, feels more right than most.

While most around the river enjoy the winter from the back of a snowmachine. I never cared for snowmobiling in the winter months. Far louder and too fast to enjoy the outdoors properly in my opinion. You miss the softness of the winter. The quiet fall of the snow, the light babble of the low river, the lack of wildlife noises opens a world of solitude and silence. I for one, find it utterly refreshing,

I found that the winter months were better spent skiing or snowshoeing into the woods and discovering the wonderfully different side of them, This winter has made that rather difficult but I have fond memories of past seasons. Winter also offered me something even more desirable and just as intoxicating.

The river typically goes through the winter with little angler presence. The few die hards and anxious trout bums like myself will venture out when conditions line up, or even when they don’t. Sometimes just being on the river casting a rod to troublesome and sleepy winter trouts is all that is needed. The winter brings a stillness, peace, and absolute quiet that cannot be found any other time of year.

I have always enjoyed the lonely winter months along the banks of the river. A nymphing rig set up on a fast rod, a double haul with a big open loop, a 30 foot cast to the top of a deep trough, and that sweet sight of an indicator going down, the powerful tug of a hungry trout at the end. I have never been much of a streamer angler. While I love to strip flies for bass, and occasionally when the time of year or conditions demand it for trout, but I have a deep love for nymphing. A high stick drift, over the cross currents into that small soft spot between the boulder and the seam, the trouty place that only a large winter trout would hold in, ya…thats the stuff.

Tricking the quarry of an angler on the nymph requires patience, determination, and damn fine mending skills. A small bit of insanity is also needed. While dry fly fishing is…well dry fly fishing, nymphing is a game of fine tuning and dialing down to the result of tricking the trout. A proper dry fly placed in the correct lane with a excellent drift will entice a strike. A nymph through the fishiest water 300 times may never produce a thing and you would never know the difference, and miss an opportunity at the pod of 12 fish 2 feet deeper below your rig. An understating of current and hydrology helps immensely, spending time observing fish feeding on nymphs with a snorkel also opens up an entire world of enlightenment to the nymph angler.

Studying how the nymphs run through the water column and how they react to water temperature, air temperature, pressure, and the time of year all factor into where the trout will hold in order to feed. Try fishing the Salmon Fly Migration before the hatch, so many fish are left uncaught by the dry fly fisherman because they are full on nymphs. Some of the larger smarter fish as well. During the winter this process becomes a slightly tougher game mostly because less fish eat and fish need to eat less.

Trout slow down and almost hibernate during the winter. Typically in pods in deep slow water, trout hang out and literally chill while the winter months pass along. The fish all eat, but depending on the day they may eat just enough, not eat at all, or eat very little. This means anglers must pay close attention to temps and flows as well as sunlight. Warmer days with warm nights keep the water temps up which means fish need to feed. The greatest thing about winter fishing, especially on the Yakima, is that the larger fish are much easier to catch during the winter months. This is because the biggest fish need to eat more. The little fish may only need a small helping of nymphs to keep their energy levels at nominal for winter time. Larger fish need to eat, and therefore are easier to target.

During the regular season fish will gorge themselves on naturals, mostly because they require more energy to keep up with higher water temps which fuel their metabolism and they expel enormous amounts of energy during faster currents. Factor in fattening up for spawning in the spring and holding for the winter; and the regular season fishing is fairly straight forward. Winter fishing is an exact science surrounded by absolute frustrating chaos within the mind of an angler. A process of whittling down the sections of fishy water until the river takes the win or the angler gets a chance to prove oneself.

The typical single and double nymph set ups work just fine. I find myself light line nymphing with midge and pheasant tails frequently, but a large stonefly nymph and a zebra midge usually will result in success during the winter. I enjoy taking a piece of water and working it out fully. Picking lanes 6 inches apart from each other and casting through them, adjusting my depth every few casts looking for that sweet spot where the trout are holding.

Hitting them on the head is the best method and if you have ever seen trout feeding under water during December, let me tell you, they move very little most of the time, even for food. Working and entire section of water patiently and methodically will usually result in a proper winter trout. Winter nymphing is a matter of working all the variables out until you get that trouty result. You may only get one shot at a trout in the winter. Mostly due to time, the window for good fishing most winter days is under 3 hours. Fine tuning and finding the trout can take up most of that time but an ambitions angler with a good mind set can get the job done.

I spend the winter months tying and chasing the larger 4 and 5 year old fish that live in the deep pools and runs of the Yakima. The river is peaceful, and nothing is better than a soft snow and a quiet river. The silence being broken only, by the sound of a reel slowly fighting against a deep pulling trout.

Our destination is only a couple hours now, I look forward to a change of scenery, a different river, and a new quarry.

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