Saturday, April 26, 2014

Jacked Up

It was a day when there were other things three guys could be doing with their time. also happened to be the only day this spring when the clouds cleared, the sun shone and it seemed fluttering caddis were inevitable.

We had exchanged a few messages through the normal circuitous means (remember when you'd just call somebody?) and each reached a level of green light clearance after each doing that dance and barter thing we all hate to admit we do, but do.

You know what big box stores are good for?   They make excellent park and rides.  6 AM at the parking lot of the Home Depot.  MK and RS stashed waders and rod tubes in my truck and we peeled out and hit the road.  We were jacked up.

No I mean it.  We were jacked up.  The sun made the polarized fishing glasses we going to wear anyway, necessary.  The cool burned off and it actually felt warm outside.  Mid-April with a slight breeze, warming water...I was envisioning trout noses sucking down caddis through most of the 2 hour drive.  The vibe was electric, the stars were aligned...I even had a few fresh dun colored size 18 elk-hair caddis, with insect green dubbing and palmered grizzly hackle, sitting in the box (next to another, not so fresh-but perfectly good, three dozen I already had from previous tying sessions.)

AND, we were going to caddis ground zero.  A river so rife with caddis that it should be called Caddis River.  A stream that first blew my mind back in the late 90's with a disgustingly thick caddis hatch,  on a day just like this one. Exactly like this one. 


The truck wasn't completely in park before RS and MK were hotfooting it to the bridge to see what manner of water we'd been dealt.  It didn't take long to discern that the previous evening's rain had done nothing to cause concern.  If there was a downside it was that the water was TOO clear. 

Now we were at the level that comes after being jacked up.  What's that called?  Really jacked up? 

We wadered up, and were so confident that we tied on caddis the truck.  At least I did.  RS and MK headed upstream and I went down.  I worked over the next pool down from the bridge.  No fish moved for my seductively tied caddis dry, but it was still early.

It was just a matter of time. 

By 11 o'clock the caddis would be pouring off the river. I added a dropper to my caddis and promptly sent 6 trout fleeing downstream.  No matter, it was still early.

I crossed over the bridge and met up with my comrades.  Nobody had caught anything yet.  It seemed a little strange since in addition to a great caddis river, this thing was usually loaded with fish.  After 90 minutes of nothing, we jumped in the truck to work over another beat.  A couple nice solid, but small fish came to my Beadhead PT dropper, but nothing seemed all that interested in the dry.  I lengthened my dropper tippet to 6x and let it marinate in a long slow run that also coughed up a smallish brown. 

We got in the truck and moved again. 

It wasn't early anymore. 

The caddis were not showing.

And then, at around 1:00 in the afternoon at our 4th or 6th stop, I eased downstream to the tail of a riffle and saw a caddis fly by.  Then another and then 4 and then there were caddis on the water.   I saw a trout rise and cast my dry/dropper to the head of the run.  The trout I'd seen rise was joined by another fish in the next seam over.  My caddis pitched and canted in the chop and the trout came up and splashed at it.  Miss.  I brought my fly in and clipped off the dropper.  It was dry fly caddis time.

And that was that.

The trout never showed again. 

The caddis hatch that we had hoped for was happening, but just on this short run and the two fish living here weren't playing ball.  We went downstream and upstream and never found another rising fish. 

I tied on a new dropper and hooked a couple more sub-surface.

We spent the drive home, on this perfect April caddis dry fly day, licking our wounds and creating a number of new sentences.  The only rule of the sentence game seemed to be that you had to say the word "caddis" preceded by your choice of profanity.

Back at the Home Depot parking lot as we unloaded the gear from the back of my truck, a caddis flitted out from under a plastic wader tote.

And I thought of a new sentence.

I've had a few days to think about this trip, this sure thing, this perfect day.  We didn't kill them, we didn't HIT IT, we didn't even come close. 
But...for an evening and a morning, we thought we had it nailed down.  We were sure we had it dialed.  We were amped to be going fishing and nothing could make us not be. 

So yes, we suffered a beatdown...

...but we were jacked up going into it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hatch Patrol

MK and I went out in search of the seasonal caddis hatch on our local waters.
What we found was a spring that hasn't sprung, lethargic fish and no caddis.
We felt like we earned it.
I guess not.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Flock Shooting My Sunday

The weekend outing consisted of me trying to see carp that WERE there but couldn't be seen and casting anyway and taking in a host of bird species (Gulls, Canes, Osprey, Mallards, Teal, Kingfisher etc) and not getting any decent photos of them. 

Pick a target and stay on target. 

I did not.

I flung my flies into schools of fish I couldn't see and took potshots with my camera.

Flock shooting my Sunday.

My best "bird" photo from the weekend...

Moving out

Casting deck, lean bar, stripping bucket...all performed as intended

I just about floated right by.

This is how close they had to be to see them.  And then...


View from the nosegunner's nest

Shot this on the flyby at 20 mph...stab in the dark.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sticking to Poetry

With Jon Johnson gone and with him, all of the cool stickers that I had accumulated over the past few years I decided to send out a few emails to reload my decal stash.

Here is the email I sent to a few select companies whose gear I like:

My old boats gone and with it too,
The cool decals I got from you.

My new boat sits now unadorned,
Looking naked feeling scorned.

If you've a chance with decals to spare,
If you have time and wouldn't care,
If you have stickers one, two or four,
hell if you're willing I'll take more.

Her hull could use a brand new coat,
Please spare some decals for my boat.

And the outcome...


I must say, in 5 years of working here and reading a ton of emails, no one has so creatively and poetically requested stickers from us : ) Of course we will send you some stickers! : ) Thank you for your support and please let me know, whether in prose or email jargon, if I can help with anything else.

Thank you and have a great weekend! 


General Manager
Hatch Outdoors Inc.
1001 Park Center Dr.
Vista, CA 92081


Thanks for sending the best sticker request I’ve seen!  We’d be happy to send out some sticker for your new boat.  We will get those out to you within the next week.

All the best,
Patagonia Customer Service
Description: cid:image001.png@01CF089B.E53CE4C0
 Hello, Thank you for your email, I will be more than happy to send you some RIO decals. If you have not included you mailing information in the request please send it to me. The decals will go out to you the next business day. Happy Fishing ! 



Good evening,

Thank you for your beautiful request of decals with words of rhyme.  I am sending you a link below, as we sell them online.

Best Regards,
Orvis Customer Service


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Winter Steelheading on a Trout Crick

Do you know what the difference is between yesterday's trout fishing and winter steelheading?


The morning unfolded and after baby chickens and cased pork like product was consumed I shot MK a message and asked him about the day.

He said he was going....I said I was going.

We met at the creek and peered into 6-8" of visibility and promptly decided to throw (in MK's vernacular) "Junk".

Quarter down, mend up, swing, strip retrieve, repeat.

On a stream where the best option most days is tied on a size 18 hook, the 4" long marabou string leech I was throwing was indeed looking like "Junk".  MK's pattern of choice was directly out of Kelly Galloup's play book and I am certain that we were both sending 8" fish fleeing in fright.

We worked upstream, leapfrogging to the heads of runs and then fishing back down.

After a numbing two hours, I pitched across a shallow gravel bar, threw a mend and waited for the line to come tight for yet another swing.  The line came tight in a long downstream belly and when I lifted the rod tip to free the fly from the shallow gravel where I assumed it got hung up, the rod bucked, the water frothed and I got a sneak peak at a nice 16"-17" brown before it came unpinned and I stood there looking (and feeling) like a complete stupe.

1 shot.
1 fail.

It's a good thing I have been practicing this sort of think for 24 years and that I spent the entire winter dreaming of this opportunity so that I could be on my "A" game when I finally got the chance.

Or Not.

The temps continued to drop and I wished that I had thrown on the other jacket under my rain jacket.
At least I had the brains to bring the rain jacket.

Because it started to rain.
Cold rain.

I stood, in the cold rain, swinging junk catching nothing and blowing the only shot I had.
Which is just like winter steelheading.

Before it was all over I'd missed 3 more fish, landed a small one and also hooked and landed a decent fish.

The good fish instantly warmed my fingers and my soul.

Just like winter steelheading.

Friday, April 11, 2014


The boat rigging is basically done.
I took the Yamaha into the shop to have the gas line and fuel tank replaced under recall warranty.
The hatch cover and anchor locks have been installed and hydroturf was added to the tongue of the trailer to make it less likely to have my feet slip when I'm shoving off or loading.
I bought a spare trailer tire and mounted it to the trailer and also picked up a 7 pin to 4 pin converter so my truck and trailer can make the electrical connection.  I replaced the old masterlock with a bonafide trailer hitch lock too.  The DNR guy at a local outdoor expo told me that I since my floor can trap combustible gas (not likely) I needed a fire extinguisher on board.  Instead of arguing or splitting hairs I just picked up a 2.5 lb tank and threw it in a bag under the casting deck.

I rewrapped the oars and measured and tightened the Oar-Rights...I was sitting in my boat on the street out in front of the house when I did this last task.  A few cars drove by and had to swing wide around the oars.  I can only imagine what they were thinking/muttering.

I dropped the trailer onto the ball, connected the lights and headed out.
I couldn't help but admire her in the rearview mirror on the way to the ramp.
It's been quite a project getting to this point and it's been a long winter of waiting.

With my 7wt a few spools of tippet and a box of carp flies, I shoved off, started up the Yamaha, eased her up on plane and scooted to the mud flats.  I'll have to check the actual depth but I know I was running in some pretty skinny water.  I almost considered cutting her back to make sure that no new wood was present beneath the surfacebut then I decided...damn the torpedoes.  As my friend RS suggested, "It's time to get some scratches on it..."

The wind was up, the sun was hiding and I didn't care.
I cut the engine and lifted it out of the water so I could see how the oar lock placement and wider beam felt with the sticks in my hand.  It rowed well and I was happy.

Next, I jumped up on the casting deck and shifted my weight around to see how stable it felt.  Again I was pleased.  I dropped my back against the lean bar and drifted.

I swore I saw a fish jump against the reeds on the southeast side of the flat...I was staring hard expecting a duck to pop up when I saw a second fish and then a third.  An osprey was wheeling over head and I was momentarily unsure of what to do next.  Get a pic of the osprey or hightail it over to the fish? I did both.

To make a long story short, the osprey had a fish.  A seagull wanted the fish.  It was pretty cool to watch the dogfight.  The fish rising were carp.  A lot of carp.  I eased the boat into what I will call the "middle of them" and started casting.  The light was bad and the water was too dark to see fish.  It wasn't too dark to see the puffs of mud caused by fish bolting from the boat.  A guide I fish with in the Bahamas tells me that bonefish can feel (with their lateral lines) the pressure of water pushing off the hull of the boat.  As I stood casting and coming up blank It occurred to me that perhaps carp do the same thing.

I raked a few fish casting blind but otherwise got blanked. 

I know it's just a few more days before the wind drops and the sun shines and these carp are going to have to eat my fly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fish Dog?

Thor was getting antsy. 
So was I. 
It was supposed to be a "walk the dog" outing...but I brought a rod.

We did a brisk 1/4 mile stopping when Thor smelled something that I couldn't.
I was feeling impatient about this until he sniffed out some nice wood duck (?) feathers.

I put them in my pocket and was more patient after that.

Good dog.

I unleashed him and started fishing.  I required him to sit when I was casting and I think we almost got to the point that when he heard line being stripped off the reel he dropped his butt in the grass.

When we moved he wanted to get ahead of me but I suggested that he drop back and he did.

Catching was poor, but the fresh spring air and the obedient dog made the fishing great.

I think we're gaining ground.

Thor scores.

Fair is fair...making time for fetch.

Nicely.  Staying put.

Just say the word...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wait or Poach?

On Saturday I remembered that my fishing license had expired and I made a mental note to log on to the DNR website and buy a new one.  Sunday morning on my drive out to the creek I remembered that I'd forgot.  No problem I thought...I bought last season's license in a car, on a county road, near a steelhead river, in my waders, on my phone. 

Except it was a problem.  The DNR website would let me log in but it would NOT let me make the purchase.  The closest license dealer would not open for at least 2 hours. 

(What follows is purely fictional)

The decision was made to fish, sans license, until the shop opened and then get legal.  I don't know if I've ever been stopped by a warden on this creek in the 17 years I've been fishing it...but it still felt a little weird.  I had the stretch all to myself and I landed a few fish but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was Schwarz Angeln*...

*When McSteel was in college studying abroad in Germany, he was looking for opportunities to fish for trout.  As I recall the story, it was very difficult to gain access to trout water and when he inquired he was told that it was near impossible unless he chose to "fish black" i.e. fish under the cover of darkness or covertly.  German Translation: Schwarz Angeln.

Long story short, the shops opened, I got legal and the fishing resumed.  Still, the couple of hours of poaching didn't feel right and even if it was just in my head it cast a pall on my fishing.  I guess the lesson is...Reine Fischerei.

Fish Pure.