Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Year of the Fly

What the heck happened to me? I could put all the normal stuff here about why it's been two years. I'm not going to though.

The first year of my hiatus, 2012, was the year of the fly. The fly finally caught up to me. Then it ate me. I received a small bonus at work and the Domestic Goddess said I should spend it on some fishing stuff. I had a pretty good stock of spinner bits. I also had a head swimming with conjured images. Images of trout slaming dry flys. Images of graceful loops unfurling over sparkling water. I drove over to the fly shop.

I walked into River City Fly Shop and stepped into danger. I had money to spend. I did not know what I needed. My ignorance was armed with powerful conviction. A certainty something there would fling open doors to an epic new vista. All I had to do was find, and buy it. Thankfully Don is a standup guy. He took the time to talk to me, and answered a ton of questions. I shared my meager budget and he helped me get the most I could with what I had. In the end I walked out with, an Echo Solo 6 Wt, Echo Ion 6/7 reel, backing, flyline, two leaders, tippet material, waders, and wading boots. Everything I needed to start my addiction priced to keep me out of the dog house.  

The rest of the year was spent learning my new tools. My spinner gear sat out the rest of the spring and trout season. Thread, fur, and yarn began replacing beads, clevises, and bearings on my hobby bench. Brass blades gave way to feathers. My trusty guide pliers, and flush cuts turned into bobbins, whip finishers, hackle pliers, and a vise. New authors showed up on my shelves, Davis making room for Huges and Gierach. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

38% Fewer Sturgeon for Retention

I'm not a Sturgeon guy, but I think it's good that the powers that be are taking steps to increase the chance there will be some around if I decide to give it a shot. In a news post yesterday ODFW and WDFW announced that retention of white sturgeon for the lower Columbia system will be reduced by 38%.  This is the third year in a row they have reduced the number and reflects a 16% harvest goal of fish sized 38 to 54 inches.

The reduction has been spurred by declines in legal size sturgeon available in the system. ODFW reports that here are 50% fewer of these size fish available now than there were in 2007. Also, last years harvest target of 22.6% wasn't reached in 2011 falling short by almost 1,200 fish.

The new harvest target will be reduced by 6,040 fish to 9,600. With the shortfall from last year that is an actual reduction of 4,800 fish. ODFW Director Elicker said, "For 2012, the plan is to maintain the season and catch-allocation structure that has been in place for several years, but with shorter fishing periods.The 9,600 available fish will be divided as follows: 4,160 for the estuary, 2,080 above Wauna, and between 1,768 and 2,022 for the Willamette. The range on the Willamette was agreed to because the directors believe some flexibility might be required to meet ODFW's goal of four retention days on the Willamette.

The post also noted that the meeting to set Sturgeon and Spring Chinook seasons for the the lower Columbia will be on the 29th in Portland.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Water Less Fished

I started fishing for two major reasons. Chiefly was so that Littlefisher and I could get out of the Domestic Goddess's hair. You see back in '10, when this all started out, Littlefisher and I were around the homestead a lot. I was growing a tech consulting business, and the DG was starting to homeschool Littlefisher. The nature of the service I provide allowed me to work from home alot. With Homeschool in full swing and me home a good part of everyday we were all struggling for "off" time. As a solution DG got Littlefisher and me basic spinning gear setups, a fishing license, and a season pass for Hagg Lake. Secondly, I really enjoy being out in the forests and exploring the world. I grew up in a dry stretch of eastern Oregon. Trees were something that grew near the rivers, around farm houses, and in town. Everything else is covered in fields, what can't be farmed is carpeted with sage brush. Water was confined to reservoirs, irrigation ditches, and sparse rivers. Some people really like the desert hills and dry canyons where I grew up. I can understand their attraction, but tall trees, mountains, and a little creek in every draw is where it's at for me. Littlefisher thankfully shares my enthusiasm for searching out "new dirt" and the freedom of sparsely tread places.

Now I arrive at the point, my quest for "Water Less Fished". In the beginning I shunned other anglers from embarrassment. I had fished in boy scouts and enjoyed it, but stopped after moving on from scouting. In those early fishing expeditions of '10 I was a complete noob again. My time was divided between the unholy knots that appeared on my reel, untangling my gear from various bank obstacles, doing the same for Littlefisher, and precious little time actually fishing. Wild hail mary casts propelled my line nearly to a point I could reach by just chucking the whole mess; rod, reel, and line into the lake. With research and practice my form improved. At the close of the '10 season I also upgraded our gear as Littlefisher and I pushed past our starter kit.

Last season I was comfortable in the company of others. However, I discovered I didn't really care for the types of fishing done in close company with one exception. To me working a section of bank with several other fellows means one of three things. Bait fishing off the bottom, bobber and jig/bait fishing from the top, or working the same water over and over with lures. The first two involve a lot of sitting on a rock/chair/bucket waiting for fish. They are a good way to kill an afternoon with friends and beer unless the fish are REALLY biting. The third seems like gathering up little pebbles of futility until the pile obstructs your view of the fun. The one exception is fishing from a boat. In my mind anything involving a boat is worthy of doing and having others along only makes it better.

Over the last season Littlefisher and I discovered a number of places that we had mostly to ourselves. In all the fishing we did I can count on one hand the number of times anyone was within sight. I thought it would make a great feature for the blog to put up information about these places. A locale review of sorts, for out of the way fishing.

When I began this post a few days ago I was all gung ho. Yesterday my ardor faded somewhat. A thread on a forum I follow got a bit heated when the original poster mentioned the stream where he found success. Some criticized the poster for revealing the stream, fearing his report would bring a horde of the uncouth to ravage the area. I've pondered both points of view and I have decided to proceed. Look for my first "WLF" article in the next few days. Hopefully the kind of people attracted to the places I am will share or surpass my respect for these places. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Ink

Saturday concluded my first year fishing for salmon and steel in the fine rivers here in NW Oregon and my tags have nothing to show for it. I started working at a new job last Jan and wasn't able to chase the steel. When April rolled around I was busy getting Littlefisher hooked on trout at Hagg Lake and Dorman Pond instead of chasing springers. The end of May through October was spent with Littlefisher and I chasing cutties on Gales Creek, the Wilson, and Nehalem. For the remainder of the year the rain and my work schedule could not sync up. We only had two really good rains for the fall season, just before Thanksgiving and right after Christmas. Both blew out the rivers and left me with only two decent opportunities in November and December. I fished both those days hard but so did everyone else.

Littlefisher stalking the cutties.
Thankfully I'm not basing the success of the year on filling in little boxes on my tag. Littlefisher thought catching planter trout at the lake was alright. She was duly excited for her first one, but she was still more interested in catching frogs, bugs, and snakes during our lake outings. She turned the corner when the rivers opened for trout. On our first outing she was introduced to the acrobatic cutties on the Wilson. It was a great day and we both played at least a dozen fish. On the way home I asked her if she wanted to go back to the lake and she replied, "No way dad, the river fish are so much better!". We spent the rest of the summer on the rivers chasing fish. Nearly every weekend had at least one day where we were in the open air exploring the rivers. We were warmed by the sun, cooled by the waters, and soaked in the beauty of uncultivated places.

There was also success with actually catching fish. On our summer trout outings I averaged about seven fish played fish per trip. Of those I kept four, three were hooked in ways that would have killed them. One just flat out looked to tasty to let go. Late in the spring run I managed a clipped chinook jack that didn't need to be tagged. I landed a beautiful native coho hen in late October but the quota had already been hit for the Wilson so off she went. Through November and December I released a few boot black nooks.

For this year Littlefisher and I both have tags. With all the experience from last year, I look forward to us both enjoying our time together on the water. We might even get some ink!

Friday, December 30, 2011


A forum member at OFF posted some interesting info today. Apparently every 4 years the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife solicits proposals for fishing regulations from anglers.

This cycle they are doing things abit differently. They have created a 5 step process for the overhaul of the 2013 regs, with each step having a specific time window.

Step 1 started in October and ends tomorrow, it was the time ODFW and OSP staff had to create and submit their own proposals for consideration.

Step 2 starts in January 2012 and concludes the end of February. In step two the public is invited to create and submit proposals for review. Information on everything needed to submit a proposal can be found here. Further, if you are lucky enough to live on the East side of the state, meetings are scheduled to provide more information on putting together proposals. There will be one in Ontario 1/5/12 and Burns 1/12/12, times and locations can be found here.

Step 3 is proposal review by ODFW staff and will occur from January to March 2012.

Step 4 will occur in May 2012 and includes public meetings to solicit comments on the proposals that passed the review process. A PDF of the current schedule can be found here. Each of the meetings covers a particular zone so you might attend more than one depending on where you fish.

Concluding in Step 5, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will preview the proposed changes August 5th in Salem, and adopt the changes September 1st in Seaside.

An overview of the whole process can be found here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

North Fork Nehalem Nada

Saturday afternoon (12/10) Littlefisher and I headed out to some new water to chase the steel. The day was nice and overcast so I figured a late start wouldn't hurt too much.  Since the spot is popular I was also hoping that the Saturday morning crowd would have thinned by the time we arrived. We had until dark to fish so I figured the water would have had time to rest by evening. During the afternoon we could fish and scout for a prime spot or two to hit just before dark. 

Upon arrival, just a bit past noon, we met five other fishermen leaving, the plan was going great so far. The two who were packing up in the parking lot had been there since morning. They hadn't gotten any action but said a guy caught one on the platform. They wished us luck and Littlefisher and I gathered my gear and headed down to the hatchery. We stopped by the traps to see if anything was swimming around and only found empty pins, same with the fish lader. At the cleaning station we met the lucky guy from the platform. He had landed a nice hen every bit of 24" and prolly closer to 30. After congratulating his success we headed down to the platform for our first look at the river.

The water was low, and clear. I mean straight from your faucet clear. The last time I was at the hatchery was mid summer, and I couldn't tell if the water had been any lower then. There is a tail-out just below the platform that is legal for everyone. I expect under better conditions it would be a good spot, but I with the water so clear and low I could see every rock and pebble. The only spot I couldn't see was under an over-hanging tree on the far bank. That spot would be a decent hold but casting to it is difficult, with the tree branches drooping to about 4 feet above the water and over hanging the bank by 6 or 8 feet. Determined, I flicked a small dark spinner under the branches and worked what I could with no luck.

Moving down to the next spot we met the next fisher leaving. He had also been there since morning and hadn't seen anything. He did say one of the two guys who had permission to fish the private property below the hatchery had caught one earlier in the day. From the tail at the platform there is about a 20 yard run. At the end is a small pool under a large fir on the far bank. This pool feeds a 10 to 15 yard run with deeper water hugging the curve of the far bank. The run ends in a large pool that wraps around the rocks of umbrella falls.

Two gentlemen where fishing the large pool under the falls with bobber rigs, so I started at the small pool under the fir. Two casts in I got what might have been a head shake, but it could have been rock rub as well. Either way I tried for a set, if it was a head shake I was too late. If it was rocks I didn't snag, so I broke even I guess. I worked this water a couple more times then started down the run with my brass spinner. By the time I finished the clouds had thinned abit so I tied on a black spinner and worked the whole stretch again. No luck the second time either.

While I was working down the run, the gents with the bobber setups packed it up and left empty handed. Given the large pool I worked it over from head to foot with both spinners. I paid special attention to the area right below the falls where the water in the pool was broken up. I snagged briefly on a large tree limb in the lower section but got no bites. As I was finishing with the pool three younger gents showed up and Littlefisher and I headed for the water above the hatchery.

The the day was nearly done by the time Littlefisher and I had hiked to the other side of the hatchery and started working the water. In this area Soapstone Creek joins the NF and a long slick tailout runs from the confluence about 15 to 20 yards. It then runs through white water a ways down to the hatchery platform pool. I fished the confluence, the tailout, and the NF water above with the black spinner with no luck. I switched to a small silver plate and worked the same water again also with no luck. As we were packing up we saw the first fish of the day. It was a boot black nook and just barely clawed it's way through the white water and into the tailout. After letting us watch it for a few moments in a slack pool just to the side of the tailout it got spooked and lit-out for the deeper water. Well at least we got to see a fish.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Itch

The itch started on a hot early September afternoon. After crawling down a cliff to a new hole on the Wilson. I was rewarded with the sight of several large trout cruising a nice deep pool. Sure of success I setup my pole with a small dark spinner and carefully cast into the pool's head. The trout initially moved to the splash but when the spinner got within a few feet they turned away. I thought perhaps my offering wasn't interesting enough so I knotted on a flashier lure. Again, the trout would start for the spinner only to peel off. This time further away than before. I reasoned that this was too flashy and switched to my smallest darkest spinner. While they did not retreat from this new device, they would not hit it either. The most reaction was a slight move to keep from actually being bonked. This whole time, while switching spinners or resting the pool I watched the trout. They were happily taking invisible things from the surface bubbles and foam floating by. That day, while being ignored and sometimes shunned by the trout, I thought to myself, "I bet I could catch them with a fly". 

Curiosity about fly fishing had been in the budding stage for awhile at this point. Earlier in the year a fly combo went on sale at Fred Meyer. It included a 6WT rod, pre-spooled reel, 6 forlorn looking flies, a pair of nail clippers on a tether, and a hat pin all for the paltry sum of $35.99. Though tempted, I am not a fan of "starter" equipment. I once related the concept to someone thusly, "Would you teach your child to ride a bike with one pedal and sketchy breaks?".  I bought some more spinner parts instead. Later "A River Runs Through It" came up in my Netflix streaming recommendations. I went out and started looking for fly equipment the next day. The fly combo at Fredy's had made it's way into the clearance bin. Poor packaging had made it easy for people to "liberate" the flies and hat pin. Now the package contained, rod, loaded reel, and tethered clippers, all for fifteen dollars. Brad Pit's epic ride down the river, fighting mobby trout the whole way was fresh in my mind. Inundated by that epic scene, the "starter" gear came home with me. 

I began to learn how to cast the fly rod that night. I visited a bunch of sites and learned about the general terms. I watched several youtube videos repeatedly. I found some insightful advice. Foremost of which was to practice casting with a piece of yarn tied to the tippet. For an earlier experiment with flies and a casting bubble I had acquired a 9ft tapered leader and a couple flies. The leader had a loop at one end, and my new fly line also terminated with a loop. I spent a few minutes searching online and found how to join them together. Then ignoring the insightful advice, I pulled out one of the flies and snipped the hook off at the bend, then knotted it on to the tippet. All set I headed for the wilds of my backyard and began to flog around. I flopped "loops" into the garden. I caught my line in a tree that I was sure was far enough behind me. I discovered how out of shape my techie arm was. The next evening I was back. Scaring the cat and baffling the chickens. I would manage several false casts in a row and have the whole thing fall apart in mid air. Then spend the next few minutes untangling the magical knots. I ended a particularly good streak of false casts with a smarting pop between my shoulder blades. I followed this feat with a stinging flick to my right ear on my next attempt. I embraced the wisdom of yarn. After a week or so of daily practice I could false cast with moderate success and shoot line to the extents my yard allowed.

May arrived and the Domestic Goddess took a trip to visit family. This left me to my own devices for a weekend and the Fisherman's Shack beckoned. The shack is a place that specializes in all things spinner. I had never visited because it's over an hour from my house and not really close to anything interesting for my girls. Free to roam I headed south and fell back into the arms of spinnerdom. Once there I picked up enough trout sized parts to keep in lures for the next few seasons. I also found some excellent copper blades that produced some great cutties on the Wilson. Shiny new bits and success with the fish conspired to keep my hand from the fly rod through the summer months. 

Back a top the rocks on that hot September afternoon, I notice the itch. In my mind's hand is the fly rod. A respectable loop unfurls over the water, gently wafting a fly to the surface. My mind's eye watches the trout rise through pellucid waters toward the drifting fly. In an explosion of droplets the trout abandons cautious mottled green for flashing hungry silver. I dreamt of arched rod, taught line, singing reel, and flashing fish.  

The weather soon began to cool. From mid September to late October I fished for trout, but hoped for salmon. Those closing weeks of the river's trout season we full of feisty cuts and the rare surprised salmon. I thought often of the fly rod. However, visions of salmon tearing through trout tippets kept spinners in the water. The end of October neared and my family accepted an invitation to our friend's annual pumpkin carve. My friend, Wally, had moved his family to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho earlier in the year and we looked forward to seeing them again. 

On the second day Wally took me fly fishing with his boys. We drove along the Coeur d'Alene river and seeing all this great fishing water roll by had me really excited by the time we all piled out of the truck. After a few quick pointers I was off and casting. Two false casts and I noticed I had snapped off the fly, not an auspicious start. Tied on a new fly and after a few more pointers I actually got the fly into the water twice before I snapped it off. Determined not to lose another one so quickly I relaxed a bit and the casts started to flow. I played in the riffles for about twenty min and managed to keep the fly the whole time. 

With bolstered confidence I moved down to the pool. The head of the pool is just to the left of the log jam above. I drifted an Adams dry along those logs a few times. While doing this I noticed some small fish rising just to the left of where the light falls across the river in the pic. I moved down and let my next cast drift over the area. There was a small flash and over excited I set the hook so hard the fly landed on the rocks beside me. Thankfully the little guy didn't really have it! I let it drift by a couple more times with no interest. After trying the tail of the pool a couple times I came back. The fish were rising again so I got ahold of my self and let the Adams drift again. The flash came again, larger this time and I managed not to rip it's lips off. It was game on and I started reeling. The only problem was the fish didn't seem to get any closer. At this point I realized I had been paying out line instead of taking it up! Worried the fish would run under the logs I started stumbling backwards away from the water while I sorted out which way to reel. All the while the fish danced in the pool like a silver leaf in a stiff breeze. With everything sorted out I landed the beautiful nine inch cutty.

After plucking the fly from his lip he shot off for the logs. I realized while he was free of the hook, I was definitely not. I've heard that some drugs create an addict on their first hit. All I can say is that catching a fish on a dry fly is one of those drugs.