Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas Funny....

Exhibit A: 
Me fishing the surf in Florida for Snook. 
My father-in-law likes to call my stripping basket my "laundry basket." 
Ex: "Grab your laundry basket and lets go see if the fish are biting"

Exhibit B:
My stripping basket is on the left.  My Christmas present from my father-in-law is on the right.
"Now you should be able to cast clear across the lake..."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Central Sands Rambler

My good friend JG just started adding his insights and wisdom to the blogosphere.
I suggest you take a look and plan on paying attention...


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Closing Time for Steelhead Gods

"I AM A STEELHEAD GOD!"  That's gonna be my new line.

I stood in the river at 2:30 of closing day...my confidence was shot.  I am a self proclaimed steelhead neophyte after over 30 years of chasing them.  I like to tell people that steelhead are like women...I have no idea what they are thinking, that they baffle me, that I don't understand. 

This line, I think, is getting a little old. 

Despite not understanding the fish, I continue to chase, I continue to plot. 683 miles round trip for 6.5 hours of swinging for steel.  McSteel and TP (and later LK) all showed up for the closer. A very fine November day that would have been exceptional if my confidence wasn't shot.  The thing about truly tempered steelheaders is that they accept a beatdown as a natural rhythm.  They know that they have fished well, their flies have swung true.  I feel like I've missed something.  Fell short.

I stood there at 2:30 in the 37 degree water and knew that I wasn't going to connect.  It was text book self fulfilling prophecy.  I was holding a rod that required exactly 1 too many of my hands to operate. A tool that in it's own right makes me feel small and incompetent.   I don't much like feeling this way.

I was fishing with some very fishy cats.  TP is in the confident exploratory stage of his steelhead journey.  He was throwing a 4 weight with unweighted fly and looking for the "right" fish.  And he wasn't being pretentious about it...he was seriously looking for the gamest steelhead in the river.
If his fly swung over a sulker?  Well, screw sulkers.

My "right" fish fell under the category of "any" fish.

McSteel was working hard but I could tell that he was expecting a grab on any swing.  This mindset is actually the ONLY prerequisite to successfully hooking a steelhead.  I wished I shared his conviction.

At about 3:30 I popped the anchor on a double spey and stuck my fly deep into the Primaloft of my jacket.  It was lodged in spot that made me feel like a contortionist when I was working to pull it free.
I followed up that gong show by promptly hanging 4 flies on the bottom, breaking them and retying.  By 4:30 I was done.

Back at the rig, McSteel and I found TP working a fish.  He was swinging through with the kind of intense assurance that McSteel had spent the day fishing with.  LK ambled up and though I don't know him well (in fact had just met him) he exuded a kind of relaxed comfortable demeanor.  He actually said "I knew that I wasn't going to catch a fish today...", but he said it in a way that made me believe that he was cool with it, like it was part of the deal.

I'll confess that I took solace in the small talk that follows a day of fishing.  Here I stood with guys that know how to fish for and catch steelhead and they, like me, were zero for zero on the day.    The only difference between me and them was that they didn't feel like the fishless day was their fault, their shortcoming.

I've decided that I need to change my approach.
So, the next time you see me, if I should blurt out that "I AM A STEELHEAD GOD!!", please understand that I am not a complete dick.  I just want to feel like one of those guys.

TP and McSteel - in the IC.

McSteel metal detecting with conviction

2013 closing time - That's all folks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things that are good...

I have spent the last two nights thinking about things that are good.
Here is a partial list.

Things that are good:
Flying with fly rods
4 Piece Rods
Getting to airport security early enough to show off your pliers and reels
Window seats
The ability to sleep on any flight to anywhere

Rental car upgrades (at no charge)
Waders over work clothes
Empty beaches
Clean and Cheap Mom & Pop Hotels (Near Water)
The right pillow

Falling Tides
Indian Summers
Having (getting) to rinse saltwater off your gear
Beach towns in the "off season"

Reliable local information
Reel squawk (cast)
Reel squawk (fish)
Swinging flies for stripers
Fishing Scandi heads in the Atlantic
Flushing tidal creeks
Stripers...(even small ones)

Samuel Adams Boston Lager
$6.99 large pepperoni pizza at a good pizza joint

Yes sir, all good things.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Run for Summers

The Deschutes was blown by rain.  So came the report from our advanced scouts on the West Coast.  It might clear or we have some alternatives...further communications indicated.

When McSteel and I climbed off the Delta flight in Portland the evening of October 4th, the verdict was still being deliberated using advanced diagnostics, fishing reports, conjecture, and voodoo in the form of a magic 8-ball.

We decided to delay the launch until the morning of the 5th in order to make sure that all of the data could be substantiated by a visual cues.
In other words, we drove to the river and took a look.


We had a plan "B" in place and it was already sounding like the perfect fallback with promising reports of a push of summer-run steelhead in the "Plan B's" lower reaches.  The plan, upon confirming the D was "out", was to launch upstream (on Plan B River) and make a 45 mile float down and intercept the surging fish.  Warm water temps also hinted toward an unheard of dry-fly opportunity for these sea bright fish.

T-Mos, NK, McSteel and I, with a drift boat and a raft in tow, piled into NK's truck and left in the dark.  The early morning drive heading East out of the damp coolness of PDX and into the arid deserts of Eastern Oregon was worth the overnight in town.  If airline travel causes a disconnect between a soul and it's sense of time, distance and place...we were making up for it on our morning commute.

After plenty of gravel pinged off the hull of NK's trailered driftboat, we pulled into a driveway and the rancher who owned the place took our shuttle fee before proudly nodding his head back to the skull and rack of a buck mule deer he had boiling in a pot just outside of his garage.  It seemed the right thing to do to check out his prize and then shoot a little bull with him since we'd be handing him over the keys to our only ride out.  McSteel asked him about the Bighorn Sheep hunter's photos hanging in the garage.  We got a brief history of the relatively recent reintroduction of these critters onto his huge ranch.  McSteel asked the guy if they we decent to eat or if they were just trophy hunts.  The rancher explained that if you gave a dog a Bighorn Sheep steak, as soon as it was done eating, the dog would likely lick it's own ass to get the taste out it's mouth...
A round about way to answer the question...but we got the point.

We dropped off the upper levels (of what I later learned were strata of ancient lava flows) onto a tough steep road that we were told would eventually take us to the river.  I recall the map saying that it was about 10 miles and since it took us close to 45 minutes from start to finish (with a single pullover to tighten the straps on the boat, leave a leak and down a Rainier tallboy)...well, I'll let you extrapolate our average MPH.  Let me put it this way, if you ever figure out where we were, and you get to this road, you'd better not be driving a sedan.

As we unpacked our gear, and loaded the boats, the rancher drove down with four hunters and a couple of canoes.  We ended up launching before they did, and we saw them twice later that day...but after that, in the entire 45 miles of our float, we only saw 2 other people.

I think it's only appropriate, now that the stage is set, to let the images do their job of reducing my typing.   1000 words at a time...

Fly, Flyfishing


Early AM prep

last stop

Gettin' there...

I can't remember the name of this band...but their music is pure.

Raptor 1

Balancing the load

T-Mos and NK, going forth.

Well into our cups on the first night, resident geological expert, T-mos, launched into a 90 minute discourse on the formation of this columnar Basalt...I can now tell you EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about this, tectonic plates, pangea and/or glacial lake Missoula and it's incredible Ice dams.

Kindred spirit

Raptor 2

T-Mos and NK taking in the flora and fauna

Falling light in the canyon

Fresh elk served burrito style.  NK: a magician with a spey rod and a spatula.

McSteel on the McSticks

The only thing close to as beautiful as the backdrop?  NK's loops.

T-Mos Scandi painting.

T snap T

Chasing the white mouse

Another kindred spirit.

quench tracks

Wallflowers - NK and T-Mos

McSteel picking up the only piece of trash we found...1 gallon of clean unopened water...with onlookers

Yawn, scratch...look up.  Good morning.

T-Mos workflow.

McSteel stepping down.

Lunch En Plein Air

The drift boat boys, covering the water.

Why you bring a camera...

T-Mos swinging through


I stepped away from the camp with my camera and a headlamp to shoot some long exposure pics.  When I got back the guys were laughing and talking about...(nevermind).

Elk steaks with chanterelles...I believe that somebody may have ordered a tin cup(s) of famous grouse as well...

Click on the image and look just above the top of the lone tree in the bottom right of the pic.  That would be our camp...just for perspective

Morning climb to take a look around.  My neck was sore all week from looking up at the grandeur.

I snapped this pic just before...

...NK bagged a Quail...Chukar were also present.


NK and T-Mos, making sense of the map

3 of the planet's finest, and me.

If you've made it this far, my hope is that the picture of the beauty and remoteness of this place is clearer.  Truly awe inspiring scenery on a wild waterway.  No motors, cell service, litter or synthetic light.

Regrettably, I am not wise enough with keyboard or pen to capture the beauty and essence of my traveling companions.   Let me say simply that I am fortunate enough to call one of them my brother and more fortunate still, to call all three of them my friends.   Wise, thoughtful, talented, sincere...extraordinary men.

I have decided to single out another common trait that is shared by my friends, NK, McSteel and T-Mos:


If you have never heard of (or read) the harrowing tales of endurance and survival that the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton went through with his team in the Antarctic...it is a lesson in optimism.  Sir Ernest was wise man in that he selected his crews based on their optimism first and their talents second.  And, if you are up for some free advice: I would suggest, if you ever venture forth, to follow his lead.  If you are fortunate enough (as I was) to get the talent along with the optimism...all the better.

Every morning, as we pushed our raft off, McSteel faced down river and proclaimed "Hope springs eternal"...and we pushed on waiting to meet the wall of steelhead we had traveled so far to intercept.  One of the three had already named the run where we would find these anadromous fish the "Interception Run".  And so, each day we pushed on oars and swung our flies.   And each night we discussed the water flows and the clarity and mileage a steelhead can cover...and the next morning we just knew that today would be the day when we would name a run "Interception".

It wasn't until we'd floated 45 miles without a single sign of a single fish, not a grab, not a flash, not a shadow...it wasn't until after we'd loaded up the truck and nested the raft into the drift boat and looked over the maps and drove further downstream and fished the section where we'd heard reports of catching fish earlier in the week...it wasn't until the rain started falling on our fifth day and we'd decided that we weren't going to find steelhead on this trip...it wasn't until then that somebody finally complained.

And I completely understood and even sympathized with whichever of my friends finally broke down and said "My stomach really hurts....from laughing this week.  I mean it really hurts".

And we drove back to our women and our families and our jobs and motors and synthetic lights and email and voicemail and as we drove we were certain of two things.   The first was that we'd never be able to fully explain the trip.  The second was that we would do it again in a minute...and then we discussed where we should go on the next trip.

It was in the airport the next day when I sent my brother a text:

"Chasing after the souls of fish, stumbling into the hearts of men..."

and his text back to me said simply: "Precisely".

And even still, hope springs eternal.