Journal notes from quality destinations across the country...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

High Desert Escapades

Two weeks in the high desert of eastern Washington and now I'm exhausted.  Actually guided a few days on a big Cutthroat Lake and then took family and friends for some so-so Bass fishing on Banks Lake.  But that's the fun thing about bass fishing.  It's casual and no one expects great things.  Instead, you give each other a rash and while away the hours mocking each other between getting bites and landing fish. 

The weather was good the first week and bad the second.  We caught some two to three foot waves on Banks Lake that were almost too much for my bay boat.  Of course, the good news is that there is not another bass boat in sight during such times...

Here's my favorite story from week two:

Banks Lake provides nothing if not variety in the species you can target.  We were there to chase Smallmouth Bass in pre-spawn.  But the first night I hooked and landed an eight-pound Carp which taxed my 5-weight to it's limit.  The fish actually hit a gray Puglisi minnow pattern I was slinging on an intermediate sink line.  I've never had one hit a minnow fly before and I was surprised.  Pleasantly surprised. 

A few days later, I was out with Adam and we were dragging deep, looking for more Smallies.  I was less surprised to find that I'd hooked a Walleye on a crawdad pattern in twelve feet of water.  I had caught a chunky Crappie the evening before so variety was becoming the theme for the week. 

Later that afternoon Adam hooked something strong in a small cove and ultimately landed a good-size Rainbow Trout on a Clouser Minnow.  The next day when he was leaving, he gave departing instructions.

"You need keep it going and find another species to target." 

"Well, I'll be fishing with Duane.  He can probably catch a Perch or maybe a Whitefish." 

But then Duane got the last laugh.  We were moving through a series of islands and broken rocks about an hour before dark when Duane took a long cast between two small islands.  Within five or ten seconds he jerked up hard on the line and knew he'd hooked a good one.  A few minutes later I netted a Largemouth bass for him and handed him the net while I got the electronic scales out of one of the lockers. 

I held the top of the scales while Duane hooked the fish under one lip.  Three point eight...  Three point nine...

"Four Pounds!" I exclaimed. 

That's a big bass for my circle of friends and we were extremely happy.

I got to text a photo to Adam later that evening with the note, "your wish is our command."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Muskie

In September, 2010, I bought a thick rod and a heavy line and made my first attempt to find Tiger Muskie on a lake near my home.  I still swear that the lone bump I felt on the line was one of those silent monsters.  Of course, I'll never know.  But the idea of a big Muskie has been lodged in my mind since that time and I don't know how I let last year slip by without trying again. 

So I went out during the first week of May and made my second play for one of these fish.  After a couple hours of casting in a strong wind on a very gray day, I was getting tired.  Or maybe a little frustrated.  Or both...  I knew the fish of a thousand casts can be ten times that for a fly fisherman but I was questioning, for the first time, my ability to stick with the task at hand.  Could I really cast and cast and cast all day, likely over the course of several outings, in order to earn this coveted prize?

God may have known that I wasn't capable of such fortitude. 

I was fighting the wind as it repeatedly blew my pontoon boat in toward the brush-covered shoreline in front of me.  I wanted to work my way along and try this entire stretch so I had decided not to drop the anchor.  But that meant that I only got one or two casts in and then had to grab the oars to move back out.  At one point I cast within a foot of a several branches that had fallen into two feet of water. One or two stuck up to mark the spot.  I made four or five strips and felt the line hang up.  I didn't have time to wonder if I had snagged a branch because the line started to vibrate and move.  Fish on.

The fish flashed and I saw it wasn't that big.  I then immediately assumed that golden gleam couldn't be a Muskie and must be a Smallmouth Bass.  But I was confused because if it was a Bass then it was a big one. 

It wasn't long and I got a better look, the long body giving away its identity.  I knew then that I had hooked a small Muskie.  Small by Musky standards, that is.  He would measure 28 inches.  Nothing to sneeze at for a guy's first Muskellunge.  And I was tickled. 

I'd done it.  And on only my second outing.  I'm a lucky boy...  And I'm still grinning.

April Redfish

My son is in the Army and stationed in Georgia at Ft Stewart. I went down for a visit the last weekend in April and we got to spend a Saturday together, out with a guide chasing Redfish on the coast in St. Simons Sound. For a coldwater boy like me, from the Pacific Northwest, this is exotic stuff.
We had the rare privelege of hitting things just right. It was low tide, pushing the fish out of the grass and onto the flats. It was a nip tide, moving a smaller amount of water and stirring less mud. Combined with the beautiful sunny day and no wind, it allowed us to see the fish and track every little wake they made in the calm, clear water. Fish after fish pushed passed us in a foot or two of water, going by two, three, or four at a time. We lost count of the number of fish we saw.

And, of course, this being a new thing for me and my son, we lost track of the number of fish we had a great shot at but missed because of a bad cast.  Too short, too long, too far in front, too far behind...  We found every way to get it wrong.  It was frustrating but we kept with it.  After a couple hours, a bad guide would have had it with the two of us but our guide stayed patient and kept instructing us. Eventually it paid off and my soldier-boy finally made a perfect cast, two feet in front of a feeding Red. The fish rolled over on its side in the shallow water to take something off the bottom. When he came back up, Tom's fly was just sinking. The fish took the fly without breaking stride and Tom made a strong strip-strike, just like he'd been told to do.
The fish ran and the reel sang. I was relieved for him and excited, too. After a good fight, there was a seven pound Redfish in the boat. Congratulations and celebration commenced and we went on to have a great day with several fish landed, all between six and eight pounds.

Four months earlier, my boy had come home from Iraq. He then took leave in January and got married. He's been passing all kinds of milestones in his young life and he's no longer the nine year-old I still see in my mind's eye when I think of him.  Instead, he's off living his life, 2,600 miles away from mom and dad.  So, I'm glad that I got a few days with him and that we were able to make a memory or two together, passing a less important milestone, catching our first Redfish together...

Near Savannah?  Call Capt. David Edens, Fly Cast Charters (912-289-1061)