If you love the geeking out over data aspect of fly fishing you need to check out the Fly Fishing Research site. Lots of fun data to pour through like this chart of “How Hangdown Fly Depth Varies with Sink Tip”. Come on! This is a research at it’s finest. Never has a chart been so interesting to me.
I’m still here. I have just been working weekends to put a little extra scratch aside, but this last weekend I got down to the McKenzie for a dearly needed trip. I was going to leave early for the Deschutes, but I heard the White River had completely blown it out. I also wasn’t able to get my fishing buddy to go which makes the drive that much longer. But when I got there the water was crystal clear (check the video below) and around noon all variety of bugs started to move around. The sure fire Chuck’s Caddis Variant brought lots of beautiful wild fish to hand along with Biot Parachute Adams and a few orange Stimulator’s thrown in for good measure. With no wind you could watch the fish rise to your fly like you were looking through glass. The hard part was not pulling the fly away before they even had time to annihilate it. Only one month left of trout season then it’s off to land that massive steelhead on the Salmonberry.
In the middle of last week I found out that Alex had taken off to Montana. He doesn’t like to ask me to go on his trips anymore. He knows I’ve used up all my vacation days for the year and that I’d just get jealous and want to quit. On this particular trip he ended up exploring the rivers near Missoula, like the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Rock Creek. He is not one to write a lot, so we will just let his awesome photos do the talking.
After throwing a spey line ten hours with the guide I thought I would head to the upper McKenzie for some 3 weight action. A Parachute Adams with a natural color Mercury Pheasant Tail off the bend of the hook was the ticket. The fish would explode out of the water for the Pheasant Tail. Unfortunately I had only tied two and when the second one was gone the fishing slowed to a crawl.
Can you spot the fish?
Can you spot the forceps that I dropped in the river and couldn’t find/reach*? I took a photo to remind myself to check next time I go back. Hopefully the water will be lower, or I will take a snorkel mask so I can spot them easier through all the sticks.
These are the size of fish I was getting to hand. The largest fish of the day is the one that broke off my last Pheasant Tail. Next time I will head back with my small arsenal of newly tied Pheasant Tails!
* hint: the forceps are in the upper right. If you can’t spot the fish in the other image up top you may want to take up tennis.
“Blessings upon all that contention, and love quietness, and virtue, and Angling” Isaac Walton
“I have never lost a little fish – Yes, I’m free to say. It was always the biggest fish I caught that got away.” Eugene Field
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Mclean
5 a.m. and the alarm goes off. I have been lying awake in my tent for the last hour waiting for it. I throw my gear into a bag and out of the tent and go check to see if Alex is up. Of course he is. He’s been lying awake also. We throw everything in the car and head over to the boat dock at the mouth of the Deschutes to meet up with our guide, Jeff Hickman, from Larimer Outfitters. I had been reading a lot about him and his mad skills and was hoping to glean some of his experience. Alex and I only get a chance to go on a guided trip once a year, or maybe twice if we are lucky, so we always look forward to them.
The boat ride up the river was insane. I have come down rivers on drift boats a few times, but to shoot up the mighty Deschutes with her millions of hidden boulders and huge rapids was something else.
We finally stopped at a beautiful spot and got the spey primer from Jeff. Little did I know how much I actually sucked at spey casting. Almost everything I thought I was doing right ended up being wrong. Jeff showed me why I was only really fishing for maybe 20% of my float. And the worst part is that old habits are the hardest to break.
He did manage to get our drifts into good enough shape with the floating line that I got a strong bump from a steelhead. Just a few seconds later Alex got one on the line just above me. Jeff really wanted us to have a double, but my fish just would not come back for another take. Alex’s fish came off after a roll, so Jeff took him down river and put a skater on. On one of his first casts a fish came up and slammed at the fly. It slammed that fly five times before it committed and Alex had a really nice hatchery fish on.
I had a few more bumps and Alex did also, but the day started to slow. We tried a few more spots up the river, but nothing. The clouds broke up and the sun came out, so we stopped to have grilled brats, ceasar salad and potato salad. Delicious! I even downed a Total Domination IPA to try and smooth out my cast, which by this point had gone to hell. The skagit head with the sink tip is not my friend.
We kept on fishing through the afternoon and all of us were getting tired of not finding any fish. The wind picked up and the sink tip seemed to be getting harder to throw with every cast. I was getting really annoyed with myself. Then Jeff took the rod from my hand and told me “Calm down. Look around you. Look where you are. Look at those birds gliding around the cliffs. Look at the light on the water.” When I regained some calmness he handed me back the rod. I tried to just relax (which can be really hard for me) and put all the spey casting pieces together. After another ten minuets of casting I got a nice 7 or 8 pounder on the line. The fish however came in with absolutley no fight until it was right next to me. Then it decided to go between my legs and roll like crazy. Needless to say it came off. Damn.
I cast back into the same bucket for another ten or fifteen minutes trying to remain calm. And Wohhoooo!!! I found a fighter! Jeff let out a mighty howl that echoed off the canyon walls. The line was screaming off the reel. I was trying to spot the fish way down the river where my line was and then saw a jump in the middle of the river up from me. “Reel!!! Reel!!” I heard Jeff yell at me. “Faster!”After what seemed like an eternity I got the fish close enough for Jeff to grab it. And there it was, my first steelhead to hand.
This is what happens when you are reeling at warp speed.