Journal notes from quality destinations across the country...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Getaway

Fall comes too quickly some years... And then there are times when you wish it was fall all year long. The water conditions are so great in October. And the autumnal colors are fantastic. And the fish are hungry. It's just a great combination.

Of course, The guy in the shop told me flat-out to come back when it was raining. He said the water level was a mere 520 cfs and 80% of the Steelhead were sitting down in the Columbia River waiting. Rain and rain alone would bring them upriver. I used my zen-like powers to pretend I didn't mind. I went fishing for four hours and then spent the rest of the weekend sight-seeing with my wife. And I actually had a pleasant time.

It was my last fling before winter. I usually take November through February off and it was a melancholy goodbye to a year I'd spent entirely in my home state for the first time in probably fifteen years. When I stopped and thought about it, I couldn't believe it.

The older I get, the more great fishing I find here at home and the less reason I have to drive eight to ten hours to anywhere else.

Here's to a quiet winter spent tying and restocking fly boxes. And dreaming of spring...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Summer of October

The sun was shining and the temperature was around 50 degrees as I walked downstream, away from our two-man pontoon boat. I could see that the riffle along the edge of the island was dumping water into a deeper run. I walked carefully through the boulder-strewn stretch of river to make my way from ankle-deep to thigh-deep water. I pulled line off the reel and made a few false casts, shooting at a 90-degree angle toward shore. As the line drifted downstream, the 3-inch long black streamer sank into the water column and as it reached the 45-degree position I began to make slow strips to move the fly and maintain contact.

On my fourth cast, the fly hung up and I thought momentarily that I'd found bottom. But the movement on the line soon told me otherwise and I lifted the rod to set the hook. The fish turned and ran downstream and I let it go. I began to reel up when the fish turned and ran back up the run, going past me and slowing as I kept up pressure. I got the fish in close then and could see it was a good one. Once in the net, he measured out roughly to 17 or 18 inches. And he was fat in the belly.

This was a real prize for me. After a long afternoon of trying different flies to no effect, it was exhilirating to hook such a big prize on a streamer. I waded back to the same casting position and tried again. Two casts later something big took my fly and immediately ran upstream with authority. I tried to give out the slack line with my off hand but the fish moved too quickly. Just like that he broke the 4X tippet.

My shoulders dropped and I looked to Frank, my fishing partner.

"That was a big one..." I lamented.

We caught several more before the day was over. And all on streamers. The afternoon sun had long since dropped behind the hills above the canyon as we rowed for the boat launch, content with what the day had given us. A great day during a two-week stretch of sunshine in the middle of the month. We'll long remember our summer of October.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fishing in the Dark

When you're out on a stream in the middle of nowhere at midnight, the darkness can sometimes make it feel like you are stuck up a creek with a paddle... But we did alright this night and had the canoe moving quickly against the gentle current on our way to a favorite hole. Neither of us had tried this location after dark before but we were excited about the possibilities. In the end we caught a few fish and we called our few hours on the water a success...

And, as it turned out, it was the setting and the time of day that was the real story.

"Casting," David called out.

I couldn't help ducking a little.

I had no idea where his line was going and I was either very trusting of this man who I've been fishing with on many occasions... or I was dumb. I've never had a big Wooly Bugger stuck in the back of my head (although in the spirit of full disclosure, I should admit I have done it to someone else) and I really didn't want tonight to be the night I put a tick mark next to that little gem on my ever-expanding list of fishing mishaps...

His line hit the water, something I confirmed by sound alone, and then I put my line in the air.

"Casting." I said with a neutral tone.

As I fished I thought about how often I have been out in the dark with a heavy weighted fly. I've thrown Muddler's by moonlight in Idaho for Cutthroat. I've tried for Musky and Smallmouth, even this summer. I've caught lots of Snook on the docklights of south Florida and even tried for Tarpon one night. So, I actually have some experience at this and can do it by feel now, something I associate with Jedi powers. You either get the feel for it or you spend all night untangling your leader. For myself, the secret is knowing not to put too much line in the air. Keep the range reasonable and all will be well...

I held a mini flashlight in my teeth and changed flies. The red lense provided just enough light and I tied on a small Puglisi micro minnow in olive and white. On my first cast, I made a half dozen strips and was fast to a trout. I eventually took a flash photo of him in the net but my camera didn't focus very well in the total darkness and I went home with the blurry photo of a fat Rainbow Trout.

Still it was an adventure and put me ahead of the game. After all, the fish we caught were more than any my other buddies got at home asleep in their beds.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Late Summer on Banks Lake

A weeklong escape to this 30-mile long lake in the high desert turned out to be more about swimming and tubing than Bass fishing, which was a good thing since my flies were not doing a good job of getting down in the deep water where the fish were hunkered down in the heat. My brother-in-law, Terry, did the best, jigging a Muddler Minnow in deep water from shore and catching several nice Smallmouth.

His son, Josh, did well early one morning from my boat, catching a mess of 6-12 inch Bass and having a ball (see photo below). At one point he even lucked into a larger Walleye but it wiggled and fell overboard before we could get a picture.

I resolved to care more about enjoying where I was than about catching fish, convenient since I wasn't catching a whole lot... Although, during a little midnight fishing I did manage to catch a fat Rainbow Trout which both surprised and tickled me - it was only the second Trout I've caught on Banks.

We left content, having enjoyed the good company of family and the beauty of a lake which offers up rocky high-wall canyons, grassy coves, and fiery sunsets and sunrises. Simply beautiful and relaxing. Everything you want from a final week of vacation before summer comes to an end.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August Exploration

August is coming to a close soon and the truth is that I haven't been out fishing much. Of course, that is typical for me in August. I prefer the cool temperatures of spring and fall and find the bigger fish more agreeable then, as well.

But I did get down to southwest Washington in the Mossyrock area with my son, Terry, to spend a few hours on Riffe Lake and Mayfield Lake, neither of which produced much in the way of fish but it was still a fun adventure. We enjoyed getting the boat out on the water and running up and down such long lakes.

By far the most obscure fish caugh was the majestic Pikeminnow in Mayfield Lake. State officials feel so warmly toward this species that they planted Tiger Musky several years ago in the hope of cutting down or eradicating the Pikeminnow. The one pictured here was seventeen inches long and put up a whale of a fight... for all of about ten seconds before it gave up and I landed it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Sea-Run Cutt's

Everyone has a secret spot or two where they like to fish in solitude and under the sometimes mistaken belief that no one else knows about the place. I was fortunate enough last week to have David Dietrich take me along to one of his and I have to tell you that this tidal creek we went to was about as remote and rustic as you can find and stuffed full of good-sized, Sea-Run Cutthroat.

That's all I'm going to say because I'm sworn to secrecy and I don't want anyone else to find it. See how quickly our altruistic, fishing brotherhood, one-for-the-planet perspective devolves? I don't want any of you bums on that creek. It's mine, I tell ya...

Oh, wait a minute. It's David's. Dang...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Winter of June

June in western Washington was mostly cold and rainy. It felt like winter had returned and the fish decided they could wait a while to get active. Still we went off in search of fishable waters a few times and even found sunshine on the east side of the state. There weren't a lot of fish caught but there were enough and we enjoyed ourselves.

On Riffe Lake, I took my son and his cousin, Josh, in search of Smallmouth but the weather in the Cascade foothills was so poor that when we got there we knew the Smallies would be hunkered down deep. So we fished for Silver Trout instead and caught a few until I looked over at Josh just before lunch. Neither boy had brought more than a raincoat with them and it had been raining so hard that they were soaked. I was looking at Josh's feet and watching a blue stream of water come off his jeans and flow to the back of the boat where it ran out the scuppers.

"I think we may be done." I commented.

Terry spoke up, "Yah, I'm done."

He was as wet as his cousin and we packed it in.

With the heater in the truck cranked on high, both boys were asleep within ten minutes and I was left to daydream of past Junes when the sun used to shine. Still, it was a grand adventure and part of the right of passage for true Pacific Northwest fishermen...

On another trip to Dry Falls Lake, I went with Frank Emrich and we took his two-man pontoon boat out for an afternoon. I caught a few nice fish between 16 and 18 inches and we almost got the boat tied back on the trailer before the evening rains started up. I jumped in the cab of the truck, out of breath, and fairly wet. Frank looked at me and said, "You know I get credit for all those fish you caught. Because I was rowing, that technically makes me the guide..."

I just rolled my eyes and started the truck. I would have a four-hour drive home to think of a rebuttal for that one.

June adventures. You gotta love 'em...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back Again

Gary Rice and I did what he referred to as our "Second Annual" fly fishing trip to Amber Lake. It was a long drive but a beautiful Saturday on the lake with hardly anyone else on the water with us.

The fish were found cruising the shorelines and we had a lot of exciting action but both suffered from hooking a lot more fish than we landed. An Example? Around 11am, I saw that the Damsels were starting to move and I switched over to a double-nymph rig. Within 20 minutes I'd quickly hooked and fought four nice fish but only landed one. That's how the day went. And the bigger fish really put it to me - rubbing me off on rocks, making long runs and turning back to spit the fly, etc. But, as I told Gary later, better to have hooked and lost...

We enjoyed the day and still have a place in our hearts for fiesty Amber Lake Rainbows.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Omak, Year Two

In my dreams, I imagined I would search this eight-mile long lake for the lunkers. After all, the state record Lahontan Cutthroat came from these waters at over 18 pounds back in the 90's. But it was not to be.

Still, being able to land a 24-inch Cutthroat was a lot of fun and I went away satisfied. This early in the year, I had to blindly and patiently search in 10-15 feet of water but it paid off and I caught several nice fish each day I was there.

The Colville Indian Reservation is a great place to get away and going solo on a week-long, cross-state road trip seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I enjoyed the silence that April affords in the high desert and noted that I was the ONLY person on the entire lake. The call of wild birds and the occasional car or plane way off in the distance provided the only other sounds besides the light wind and the gentle splash of my pontoon boat oars dipping into the water.

Sometimes you just have to get away. I hadn't had any vacation time for over six months so this felt needed and right.

Below is the 24-inch bad boy on the beach...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

That first Outing

Well, nothing kicks off a new year like an invite to a private lake.

Bert dropped me an e-mail and said he'd just be kicking around the house Saturday, if I wanted to swing by for a while. Terry and I didn't hesitate to take him up on the invite.

Spring has definitely sprung and we had sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60's. It was a quiet, relaxing few hours on the water and I enjoyed myself immensely. Could it get any better? Oh, you bet... Pictured below is the 20-incher I landed on a blood red Chironomid. And what makes it sweet is that I outfished Terry today. The last time he and I were out, he smoked me Steelhead fishing on the Kalama. So it felt good to be top dog on the water today.

Now finally started, the thoughts are no longer for the upcoming season and the wish for things to begin. Instead, they are of fish just caught and trips about to commence. Let's go!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring Anyone?

Well, I've sat in silence for too long and it's time to acknowledge that winter has passed and Spring is ready to slip in the door - unless by some strange twist a cold Spring arrives like last year, I'll be out fishing within the next couple weeks. I can't wait...

I was able to pass the winter quite nicely with several fishing events to tide me over. I hit the Sportsman's Show in January, the Fly Fishing Film Tour in February, and a stage adaption of "The River Why" in March at the Seattle Center. Of them all, it was the Sportsman's Show at the fair grounds that has had the biggest impact. While there, I caught two different seminars on Musky Fishing. Of course, both sessions were for gear-heads but when you're scouting new territory, it's always good to see what the competition is doing. And in this case, there isn't much chatter in the state of Washington about the seven lakes that were planted years back with Tiger Musky. I came away with my eyes as big as saucers and determined to give it a try. What gear guys call the fish of "ten thousand casts" must be triple that for a novice fly guy but I'm no stranger to the skunk so I think I can handle it. We'll see...

I've picked up a 10-weight rod, some flies that go anywhere from 3 inches to 12 inches and I've scoped out the nearby water - Lake Tapps is five minutes from my house and Mayfair Lake is a mere two hour drive south. Both have given up Musky in the 45+ inch range. I'm repeating my well-worn mantra: "just one fish is all we ask..."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February Musings

It's February now and I did the Sportsman's Show last month. I'm still seeing images in my mind from that day. I somehow found myself attending two different sessions on Tiger Muskie and can't stop thinking about them. I've been calling Fly Shops in the know and have even bought some flies already. There are only seven lakes in this state that have these fish and two of them are not far from where I live. So, now the itch to get out there is upon me. This is truly masochistic since, for guys using conventional gear, this is known as the fish of 10,000 casts. Us poor fly guys will have to have the planets align for success but I think I might be willing to put in my time. A thirty to forty pound toothy monster would be worth the effort...

But for now I may have to quench my thirst with a simple run to Rocky Ford. That might settle me down until early spring can arrive. We'll see.

Since I posted photo's last time of Tommy when he was little, I thought it would be fun to throw on something from Terry. So watch the video and see one of his favorite fishing memories from 2005 on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. Alex Gibson, my cousin, was our guide and he put us into some beautiful fish that weekend. Good memories...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Passtimes & Reflections

So what does a fisherman do who doesn't fish during the winter. That's a fair question I've been asked on more than one occasion. Allow me to explain...

First, I've been pouring over the calendar and making plans for Spring. I'm trying to mix in more nearby destinations in 2010 - some that I usually drive by on my way elsewhere... Riffe Lake and Coldwater Lake to the south are two examples. Lost Lake to the east is another. There's also a certain spring creek in central Washington that no one likes to name out loud and I have actually never fished it. Maybe this will be the year. There are some rivers on the Peninsula I've never tried and a couple of large urban lakes very close by that I've only dabbled at.

That's what I love about my winters. Setting out a calendar and perusing the possibilities is a lot of fun.

Of course, in the mail I have recently received the Bass Pro Shops Marine catalogue and the Cabela's Fly Fishing catalogue. That helps pass the time.

At the end of January there will be the traditional Washington State Sportsman's Show at the Puyallup Fairgrounds but, alas, no Fly Fishing Show in Bellevue this year...

I also like to take time in the winter to pause and look back. Remembering fun trips, beautiful destinations, and great company is worth a pause in the normally busy routine. Below are a few snapshots from a trip that seems like a long time ago but was only ten years back in the summer of 2000. Okay, I guess that was a while ago... It was one of Tommy's first trips to Lake Chopoka with me and for a young man of nine years, it was a pretty successful outing. We fished from shore to keep it simple and he beached some real beauties on Scuds. Dad would spot and tell him when to strip and Tom would dig the butt of his rod into his belly and reel for all he was worth.

I will never forget it and I remember fondly that first night, sleeping in the back of the pickup and talking in the dark before we fell asleep. Tom is grown now and will leave in March to join the Army so there won't be any spring fishing together this year.

But I will remember that there once was lots of it... And we found in fly fishing a way to connect... And that connection endures.