Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

So, like most bloggers I had a big year end post in my head, all thoughts and recaps and pictures of the year ready to roll out for your review, but man...I have two kids, a job, a wife and there are never enough hours in a day.  I do think this is when a guy should take a minute to reflect, but I do that every day.  I think we all probably do.  I see carp tailing on gravel flats, reels screaming, friends smiling and tons of other memories when I close my eyes at night, or while on hold with a customer.  I think that is why we do what we do.  

So, rather than a big, long winded rewind...just the highlights of four big time trips from the year.

The season really opened when Wendy Berrell and Winona Fly Factory came west for a visit in may.  Despite flood conditions, we had an epic trip.  I could go on and on for hours, but I promised my wife I would be brief.  The trip was a success.

Shortly after Justin and Justin left, Mctage showed up for a few days.  Trevor benefitted from the extensive water we had covered the week prior, and we found some serious carp.

Next up, Wendy Berrell and I stalked the flats of legendary Lake Michigan.  We got blanked the year prior, but this time we nailed it.  I remember the numbers...roughly 90 carp and 50 smallies in four days.  What a trip!

Lastly, I spent an unforgettable week in Alaska with my dad.  What a place, what a trip, and what a great time spent with my dad.  

I have to admit, it sure is fun to look at all of these pictures again!  Big thanks to my wife and kids for letting me take the above (and so many more) adventures.  And a big thanks to everyone who I fished with this year, or talked fishing with, or read about their fishing exploits, etc.  2011 was a great year, here is to more in 2012!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

JJ was up at four, ready to go.  We managed to hold him off until about 645, then it was a blizzard of wrapping paper and smiling kids.
Merry Christmas to everyone!  Friends, family, fisherman...good time of year to remind yourself to stop, look around and be thankful.  Give those nearby a hug, and smile at everyone you see.  Make joy abound today!

Best wishes to everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Speaking of Tying

Yeah, that picture has nothing to do with this post, though it is a red copper John I tied once upon a time when I was a respectable trout angler.  Anyway, I thought I would put out the idea of a tying get together at my place this winter for any Portland area folks.  Might be fun to sit around, talk fishing, look at pictures, lie a bunch and get some production tying done.  I still need to whip out a ton of Lake MI flies, and can always refill my staple soft hackle collection.if any one is interested, let me know and I will get an email together and set an evening this winter...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not My Forte

I am a very, very poor fly tier.  I am not sure when it all went to hell because I learned the basics relatively quickly, and enjoyed it to the point that I became relatively adept and my flies looked like what you could buy in a shop (for the most part) but somewhere along the line I realized that you don't need "shop" flies to catch fish.  A down and dirty dubbed brown nymphy looking cat puke fly fished just as well as a perfect pheasant tail with the correct number of tail filaments.  It got worse when I started carp fishing.  My personal theory is that carp don't see worth a crap when the moment is nigh.  The second they are faced with a close encounter with your fly they are as like to miss it as they are to eat it...and I have come to believe those instances are less refusal and more "where in the hell did that bug go?" So I simplified further, and my skills (meager to begin with) melted away.  

But I tied today.  One fly. Inspired by Jay at Colorado Fishing Reports I grabbed a sculpin head that I had bought a while back but not used.  These heads are sweet.
As I look at those beady eyes (glued on with zap a gap, and my fingers are still stuck together) I am envisioning the flats of lake MI.  Big, meat eating carp are prowling for gobies and I am chucking monstrous, rabbit strip flies and cackling gleefully as the beastly carp chase them down like smallmouth bass.  Throw this sucker at a Columbia River fish and everything within a mile will Lake MI is on my mind when I finish off my one fly for the day.
Not pretty, but it will fish.  Good material (beads, hooks, etc) make a difference in my opinion, but if you want to see what a really good tier can do with really good materials, head on over and check out Jay's work.  Absolutely outstanding stuff Jay.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In my mind, prior to hitting the river this morning I had the title of this post as Chrome.  Instead of contemplating pictures of bright, winter fish I spent the drive home trying to figure out when the last time I spent a day fishing without touching a fish.  Frankly, it has been a few years since I last felt the dreaded skunk.  Streak over I guess.  Still, I was out, in the cool air, staring at water.  All was well.  I say that now, as I have a hunch that the tail end of this post might turn a little bitchy.  So for the record...this was a great day, and I am really looking forward to spending more time on the coastal rivers this winter.  So...

Things I liked about Winter Steelheading:

1). My new Switch Rod.  So in general, when you find a tool perfectly matched to the job at hand it makes doing said job much more enjoyable.  That is how I felt about the Echo SR switch.  I bought it in a 10 ft 10 inch 7 wt, and that rod is flat out perfect for what I did today..chiefly, nymphing a smallish river.  I could fling the flies with ease, mend like a champ, and roll cast in tight conditions better than I ever have in my life.  Bottom line is I suck as a fly caster, but the switch is such a tool that even a clutz like me can get the line out, and control it once you are on the drift.  I could not be happier with this rod. If I were a dies hard trout guy...I would absolutely own a 4 or 5 wt switch for nymphing.
2). The setting.  What can you say about the Oregon Coastal rivers?  Someone like the uber talented Erin Block could nail their beauty down in a few simple words...I can't, but I can tell you I was mesmorized throughout.  In fact, as a die hard nympher who has been known to talk about how boring swinging flies is...I sort of get it now. When you swing, you can look around...and out there, there is no shortage of beauty.  I want to share it with my wife and kids...the fog, the cold, the wet and all the rest of it.  

3). The Anticipation.  It just looks SO GOOD!  Every cast and drift looks like it should end with a steelhead on the line.  Sometimes things were so perfect that I just KNEW I would get a strike, and that maddening itch was tremendously enjoyable. was still Steelheading and despite the perfection of the water and seamless, switch aided drifts...I just don't think I was on top of fish.  Oh well, I never once "fished" like the river was empty.  It sure felt alive with possibilities.

Things I Disliked About Winter Steelheading:

1). You don't see the fish.  Ironic, I know, since I just mentioned that crazy anticipation...but I am flat out a sight fishing junkie.  I bet there are plenty of times a guy gets to sight fish in the coast, but I only saw a couple of moldy old chinook today, and the carp fisherman in me wants a target.  Can't help it...I like the hunt even better than the anticipation (though it is all pretty good!). I peered into the water all day for glimpse, but nada today.  

2). The crowds.  Winter Steelheading is a big deal in OR, and I can see why.  Unfortunately, it brings out the crowds.  In most cases you can just walk past the crowds and find your own water, but on these small rivers access seems to be an issue (foreshadowing #3 there). Today I struggled to find public access, and when I did there were a bunch of cars already clustered around.  I walked to the river and headed downstream, walking past a bunch of guys happily fishing away.  A few hundred yards later I found a spot and began two and dodging drift boats.  The drift boats came down in a never ending parade, and each time I had to step back into the shallows and get out of the travel lane.  99% of the boat guys were great...they passed as close to my bank as possible to avoid floating over any fish, and always said hello.  One guy sucked ass though.  He passed me, and slide into the hole not 20 ft below me and dropped anchor, leaving me a tiny slice of the drift. I watched for a few minutes, then slogged to shore and walked down to his boat and asked him how far downriver he would like me to go so that I could stay out of his way.  He said 100 ft would be cool (ironic since he gave me 20). I dutifully started walking the 100 fact I  was halfway there when I realized he was rowing to catch me.  I let him pass, and fished the water in front of me (he anchored up 70 ft away or so).  After a while I had worked my way down to his boat, so I reeled up and headed to shore.  The second my feet touched dry land...he pulled anchor and rowed to the next good looking slot.  This continued the rest of the afternoon...he simply didn't want me touching any of the water ahead of him, and was willing to race me downriver if necessary...I wasn't, so just fished behind him most of the day.  Until I came to this:

3). Access. I grew up in Montana, where the rivers (and river beds) belong to the people of the state. Pretty serious bummer to realize that in OR I can't fish the waters of certain rivers.  And yes, the OFC can kiss my ass.  I don't think I should have to pay dues to put my feet in the river.  I am not talking about crossing private lands, walking through fields or backyards, but where I grew up, once you are in the river, you can go where you want without threat of a $1000 fine.  Bottom sucked.  I walked to get away from the crowds, had a drift boat race me downriver only to come to this sign and have to turn back around.  Come to find out later, I had ALREADY gone past the public area.  As I walked back up river a bunch of guys I had walked past earlier told me the landowner had come down and told them to leave.  I do realize this is totally my responsibility to know where I was, but I honestly had no clue I had gone past the public area.  I crossed no fences, saw no signs etc. Overall, this was pretty frustrating as despite not agreeing with the law, I still intended to abide by it.  Near as I could tell, the "public" area (not really public, you paid $1 into a can to walk across the guys field) was only a few hundred yards long and full of people.  I drove upriver and stopped at some well used spots here and there...hoping that they were indeed public based on the well worn trails to the river.  This was disheartening.  Waters should be public.  

Again, I don't want this post to be negative.  Yes, I got skunked for the first time in years.  Yes, I dealt with a jackass in a driftboat, and yes, I disagree with the BS trespassing laws around rivers in this state, but for most of the day none of that mattered.  I was in a beautiful place, with a fly rod in my hand.  I can't wait to do it again.  
Seriously...some time out here and you could easily start to believe in Bigfoot.  Anything could hide in that stuff.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I general, I use 1x tippet for all my carp fishing.  I like to be able to horse them in I guess.  I am wondering if going to a lower X flouro would result in more hook ups...any opinions?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fishpond Rocks

I am a big fan of their gear (this would be their fourth product that I own) so winning one of their giveaways this week was awesome.  They sent a cools sticker too, but before I could slap that sucker on my jeep Elia had snatched it to decorate her room!

Thanks Fishpond!  Awesome pack!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My New Stick

You simply can't go wrong with an Echo.  This year, rather than let cabin fever set in I am going to chase some coastal fish.  I am not really into swinging heavy stuff on the big rivers, but smaller water, seams, nymphs and a new 10 ft 10 inch switch rod seems to be the recipe for avoiding the shack nasties while I wait for spring.  Who knows...I might actually catch something.

By the way...I simply can't say enough good things about Don and River City Fly Shop.  Don has  been my go to guy for a few years now and if you live in the Portland area and love fly fishing, you simply owe it to yourself to stop in and say hello.  Best shop around.  

Now all I need is someoneto show me how to catch these goofy winter fish on the coast.  Any volunteers?  I can't cast worth a shit but I always buy lunch.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


She just screams Portland.  I think that is a good thing.
And credit where credit is due...JJ knows how to relax.

Over on Facebook

Fishpond is having another contest.  I got a win earlier this week thanks to that way to cute daughter of mine, but it is time to try for more.  The contest is for the biggest fish you caught this year.  There are some sturgeon and other gear caught pics up, so I hope they stick with fly caught only, but overall there are some sweet fish pics on that thread.  Check it out:

So, what to put up?  My banner fish I caught with Mctage?  A true beast at 31 lbs...this fish was a literal beer keg in my hands.
Or this Alaskan monster like...special because it was virtually incidental which speaks to just how insane the state of Alaska really is.

Either way, check out the thread on Facebook for some sweet pictures. 

And one more plug for St Jude's!  Click the link and donate away people!

Every $10, $25, $50, or $100 donation goes to the kids!  Skip one trip to the fly shop and you can make a difference!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

This time of year often abounds with various fundraisers, and rightly so.  It is a time to reflect on family and friends and be thankful for all that we have.  This year, my employer has pledged to raise $100,000 for the St Jude's Children's Research Hospital. As a cause, it is tough to pick a better one for a parent to get behind.  Please take a moment to look at their website and hopefully donate to this wonderful place.  To do so, simply click on this link.

This goofy blog that I have so much fun writing has a little over 200 followers (a shocking number to me frankly). If everyone donated just a small amount, we could make a difference.  

Tight lines and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Deschutes

If you haven't fished the Deschutes, you need to put it on your list.  It is hard to explain, but there is just something about winding down into the canyon to hunt for those hard fighting redsides.  It is a special river, and fishing it on the immediate heels of the Crooked added some flavor.  The two rivers couldn't be more different.  The Crooked is small, with grayish tinged waters and an intimate feel.  I spent the late afternoon on the crooked swinging soft hackles and could cover the entire river with ease.  The Deschutes is big...a brawler with huge heavy currents and deep ledges and pockets.  Near Mecca the river has a different character but around Maupin (where we fished today) the D is a brute.  
I beat Coleman, Chris, and Scott to the water this morning and was standing knee deep in a riffle fighting redside when Coleman showed up to say hello.  I hooked the fish in my third cast.  The rest of the day wasn't quite as easy, but for a December day things were beautiful.  I worked the pockets with a size 14 pink squirrel and size 18 pheasant tail, and the fish came at semi regular intervals.  I landed maybe a dozen trout and four whitefish, with the big key being to take the time to regulate my weight.  The D is awash in ledges and pockets and you need to be on your toes and keep adding or taking lead off your rig to keep the nymphs in the strike zone.  When I got things right, I was usually rewarded with some strikes.  

No one caught anything huge today, probably topping out at around 15 inches but even the little guys like the one above leap and fight like no other trout.  That is the only fish picture I took, my camera was out of battery all day and taking pictures of fish with an IPhone is a nightmare.
Two more items about today. First, I fished my Echo 2 six weight and that is quite simply one of the best rods I own.  Just a fantastic rod.  Second, hard to explain how great it was to be walking the tracks of the Deschutes with Scott, Chris and Coleman.  Time certainly flies by and we have all watched each other's families grow and prosper.  I enjoyed the conversations on the tracks as much as the fishing.  What better place to catch up with friends than on a river?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Same Fish?

With my wife out of town I am catching up on some blogs.  Fontinalis Rising just caught two fish on consecutive days that may have been the same fish...reminded me of these two:
I weighed this fish at the time (21 lbs according to my log), took the picture and kept fishing.  A few hours later, and about a mile away I caught this guy.
Again, weighed the fish and took a picture.  When I got home and was writing things down and looking at pictures I realized it was the same fish.
Who says carp are smart?

The Crooked

In general, I prefer fish that you have to see to catch, fish that are measured in lbs not inches, and fish that get your backing dirty.  But as I have said before, there is a certain magic in nymphing.  That split second when you know an unseen fish ate your fly but you don't know why you just lift the rod and feel it bend to the cork.  

It was nice to be back in the saddle today.

The Crooked is a fun little river.  You don't go to the Crooked to catch big trout, but at over 3000 fish per mile, you pretty much know you are going to catch a lot of trout.  There really isn't much to it.  The trout are everywhere, so you just get you flies in the water and let nature take over.  I have fished the crooked three times, and today was the least amount of fish that I have caught there, but I still landed enough fish to have no clue how many I landed.  That is always a good sign.  I was rusty, but the magic of nymphing came back eventually.  Late in the day I cut the nymphs off and went to a double soft hackle rig.  There were some midges hatching but no rises, so I figured a swung soft hackle might be the ticket.  I waded to the middle of the river and cast first at one bank, then the other...letting the fly swing to the center of the river, then stepping down to repeat the process.  It was a simple, easy motion that let me stare at the canyons walls and feel the cold air on my hands.  The only interruption from the gentle pull of the river against my flyline was the rap, rap, rap of a trout smacking the wet fly.  Many trout succumbed to the venerable wilted spinach.

Tomorrow, the Deschutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I have not one, but two wide open days this weekend. My wife and kids are going to MN and due to a business trip on Monday, I am staying behind. The silver lining is that I have Saturday and Sunday to fish.

I am coming to realize how out of touch I am with the local "regular" fishing world. I know I could hit the Deschutes, maybe the Metolius or poke around for winter steelhead, but overall...I am kind of at a loss. The crooked is a nice option since I could crash in a cheap hotel and get enough time in to make it worth the drive. Anyone have any suggestions for a guy that has gotten so lost in the carping world he owns no split shot and realizes he might actually have to buy some trout nymphs or steelhead flies?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meat Eaters

The classic reads about fly fishing for carp (Carp On The Fly by Barry Reynolds and Carp Are Gamefish Too by George Von Schroeder) depict carp primarily as meat eating marauders. Von Schroeder actually fishes large jigs. Fishing the Columbia and Willamette rivers have given me a different take on carp altogether. Don't get me wrong...I do catch them on large crayfish patterns, but for the most part the forage out here seems to be primarily nymphs and clams...the fish quite simply do not have to work hard for food. They don't like to chase.

And that is the beauty of lake Michigan. The carp out there are meat eaters; they hunt in packs and aggressively pursue large gobie or crayfish patterns. On lake Michigan it is not a matter of "detecting the take" but instead a matter of hanging onto your rod. With another spring run to the Mecca of bass-like carp planned for this spring, it is time to tie up some meat.

I tend to stick to simple patterns for two reasons. One, a conscious effort to simplify my fly selection paid big dividends this spring (soft hackles in various colors and I am a good to go). And two, I am a crappy tier. This spring will see Wendy Berrell and I stalking the flats of lake Michigan armed with dozens of rabbit stripped monstrosities, eyes peeled for the dark shapes of predatory carp. I cannot wait.

How long until spring again?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Travel Fishing

If you are looking for some recommendations for New Zealand or Alaska fishing, check out Fly Fishing Consultants. Brad Kastner was one of my favorite guides on my Alaska trip, a real pleasure to fish with Brad. We spent a ton of time talking about New day I will fish with Brad out there! Check it out and drop him a line if you are looking for a fishing adventure...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

College Basketball!

Finally! The season is here.

I DVRed both the Duke/Belmont game and the Gonzaga/EWU gams and watched them late last night. Duke beat a TOUGH Belmont team (NCAA team last year, ten players back) and GU beat EWU in a crappy game. Neither of my teams looked great...could be a long season!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

WFF's First Carp

Thank god for good cameras and a relatively stable memory. I must go through my pictures several times a week in the offseason. What a day this was...

I really need to go fishing.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

It is all about the average

And looking through my pictures from this year I realize how lucky I am to say this.

Just your average Columbia river carp.

Is it spring yet?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Spin Move

That's my boy. At times I feel bad for the little bugger; he has my full on competitive nature, but at 5 doesn't know how to handle it (at 36 I have my moments too). It is awfully fun to watch him run around on the football field though...I am pretty sure he turned to look back and talk a little trash in that last picture. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!