Thursday, February 6, 2014

Truckee River Winter Trip


You know your momentum is waning when you have a decent fishing trip with some good-sized trout landed, and it still takes you a month to blog about it.

Case in point:  On a not so recent trip I took back to reno for a friends wedding I managed to get a day for myself to hit the truckee with my friend Tom.  It was pretty cold and overcast and the fishing was slow to say the least.  But we found some players, and true to my past experience with winter fish on this river, all of them were pretty much in the 18-20" range and hefty.



The highlight of my day was seeing Tom hook and land a really nice fish that even performed some aerial acrobatics-- unfortunately it slipped out of his hands before we got a good photo, but I believe it measured above 20 inch mark and is one of the bigger trout he's caught on a fly rod.

The biggest fish of the day for me was a football of a trout that measured out at 22 inches and made me think of those big spotty Alaska rainbows that I've only seen in magazines.  It made me feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.


'til next time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sub-Zero day on the Metolius


The forecast for Camp Sherman said -7 degrees Fahrenheit overnight and 15 degrees during the day-- should I even go?  I knew it was foolish, but this trip had been on the books for several weeks, the car was loaded, and my wife and daughter were out of town giving me full reign on the decision.  Lured by freedom, I made an evening trip to the Metolius with a plan to sleep in the back of my truck (I have a camper shell) so I could wake up and fish in the morning.  I didn't check the current conditions until I was already headed up the mountain:  -17 degrees and dropping.  I've never seen temperatures drop like that-- every 20 minutes meant a degree colder and I spent the night in a pile of sleeping bags throwing a couple of handwarmer packets in the mix to keep my feet warm.  That night the temperature hit an official -22 degrees fahrenheit.

I woke up around 5am with the sensation that my knees and back were burning where the sleeping bag insulation was compressed as I had curled into a survival-mode fetal position fully inside my sleeping bag.  Too cold too sleep, I jumped out and was relieved when the car started without a hitch.  I drove around for a couple of hours staying warm and staring in complete awe at the beauty of the frosty scenery.  It's a popular place but it felt wild and remote and the only other souls out there were a few coyotes that had gotten comfortable with the lack of human presence.  I even spotted one that appeared to be playing, pouncing about and spinning circles until he saw me and trotted casually off.  On most of the roads my tire tracks were the first to mar the virgin snow.


Snow has a different sound when it gets this cold, it's usual crunch is replaced by a squeakiness that only slightly compares to the sound of fine, dry beach sand, that chirps when you run across it.  And the river, being a spring fed, is warmer than the air temps resulting in a beautiful haze of fog that hovers over the water, condensing and freezing on stream-side foliage in an impressive array of crystalline coating.

I went ahead and spent the day trying catch fish without killing myself.  By 11am the temperatures were still several degrees below zero and fishing seemed impossible.  Hiking was made difficult by icy boots and frozen waders.  And these fish want long, drag free drifts which are tough when your reel is frozen and line feeding is made nearly impossible as it freezes to the guides after a single retrieve.  I hooked a single fish which came unbuttoned shortly after.  I mostly didn't care.


Honestly I'm not sure if I would make that trip again--  at least not by myself in those conditions.  But as I admired the snowy peaks on the way back to civilization I was filled with a sense of renewal-- perhaps even more so than if I caught dozens of fish. I knew it was a low probability day and the conditions forced me to relax and focus on the surroundings rather than on the quarry.  And the surroundings were unrivaled by any winter conditions I've yet encountered... though that may be measuring the immeasurable.

Til next time.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: 50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish

First, a big thanks to Stonefly press for giving me the chance to review the book, "50 Best Tailwaters to Fly Fish" by Terry and Wendy Gunn.  This is certainly an ambitious title and I'm sure there are legions of fly fisherman that have an opinion on whether or not the Gunns got their river right.  The book contains a hefty number of renowned tailwaters and I found it great to have a compiled bunch of descriptions for tailwaters we hear about a lot.  At first I tried to read every write-up on every tailwater out there and soon realized how MUCH information is in this book-- so I covered all of the western tailwaters thoroughly, hit a few of the eastern tailwaters and skimmed the rest of the book so that I could get this review done in a timely manner. Here goes.


What This Book Is:
This book is the appetite wetter of all appetite wetters.  Flip through the copious number of quality photos in this book and you'll have an irresistible urge to go drift size twenty flies for twenty-plus inch fish.  The write-up for each tailwater includes flies, rigs, maps, and shops and is authored by a local area guide or angler.  There's even a little write-up describing each author which I thought was great.  The imagery, including the maps, is consistently top notch and the write-ups vary quite a bit which is to be expected.  Most of the tailwaters are in the United States but there are a few canadian tailwaters mentioned as well.

What This Book Is Not:
This book is probably not going to be the sole resource you turn to for any of the waters mentioned in the book.  I think a lot of fly fishing books make the mistake of trying to cover too broad of a subject and I wonder if this book would have benefited from narrowing down the subject a bit (like maybe "50 best tailwaters in the Western US"). That said, this book is a great starting point to understand most of what is required to fish each tailwater mentioned.  From there one could contact the shops mentioned in the book for the rest.

Who Should Buy This Book:
This book is one hell of a stocking stuffer.  Stock this one on your coffee table, cabin, or home library. maybe keep one at work.  This is a book you can snack on one tailwater at a time anytime you need to stoke your urge to trout fish.  It will also give you a good understanding of the tailwater scene here in the US if you want to read through it in a less piecemeal way.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hatch Magazine Photo Contest

If you haven't already, go check out some of the amazing imagery submitted this year for hatch magazine's photography contest:  http://www.hatchmag.com/contest-photos.  If you are so inclined you can sign in and rate them from one to ten which the judges will consider when they choose the winners.  And if you are graciously so inclined then throw your hat in for some carp and rate my photos:


Heck, I even threw in a trout photo for you purists out there.  A pilot peak strain Lahontan Cutthroat:


Cheers

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Late Season Summers

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a new friend out on the lower Deschutes.  We've talked fishing a bit so I know Justin is familiar with the ways of the swung fly -- thus I took it upon myself to open the door to the dark side.  Into the corruption of the dead-drifted fly.

I brought him to the highest probability water I know and had him tie on a time-tested, bead-headed favorite under a big stonefly workhorse.  After watching him cast these flies his two hander and instinctively throw some mends I could see our odds were good.  I threw maybe two dozen casts before looking up in time to see a steelhead go aerial -- attached to the end of Justin's line.  I love the way these fish fight this time of year:


Now I'm always a bit worried with fishing with someone new-- it's uncomfortable when you find out they're not as infected with the angling ailment as you are.  So I'm happy to say Justin is pretty much as bat-shit crazy about fishing as the rest of us (though maybe he's also a little more responsible too).

Sharing this common madness, we fished fairly ceaselessly the rest of the day trying to replicate our first bit of luck.  And while it wasn't a crazy productive day we both managed to beach a steelhead after covering a few miles of water.  Justin's second fish was as crazy as the first -- a rosy-cheeked spotted beauty:


Throughout the day we fell into talking about all things fishing and, once exhausted, we got into sharing a bit of our life's histories and happenings.  Now don't get me wrong, I can enthusiastically talk fish all day-- but when that's as far as it goes I find myself feeling a bit wanting of something more substantive.  Point being, I can't wait to fish with this dude again.


'til next time.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hold Steel.

While the Deschutes has continued to produce some great wild steelhead for me, there has been a chill in the air that has the feel of an impending end to the season.  With that in mind I've been looking through the season's photos and can say without hesitation that it's been a good one.  I also noticed that good, clear photos of steelhead were pretty scarce and and my eye started gravitating towards the high number of botched photos; blurry, splashing, moving fish and moving water.  And I couldn't help but think there's something more honest about these photos and how they portray the scene as it actually was.

I think there are some things that cannot be described by a post-card worthy hero shot.  How often is it wayy more chaotic than that?  Tangled lines, near misses with the net, falling in the water during the chase, and desperately grabbing at a wildly flailing fish as you drop your camera in the mud.

It's what makes it fun.


I'd like to think that some of these shots are the result of an increased awareness about fish mortality.  When I view photos of fish I hope to see water actively dripping off of the fish if it's not already partially submerged in the water.  I also don't like to see photos of fish that are clearly a good distance from the bank.  It makes sense to me that a well played fish that's been kept in the water will have a higher potential to ruin your selfy than one that's been played to death.

But, you know, it could also just be the skill level of the photographer.


But maybe I'm just over-thinking it.  Mostly I just thought these blurry photos looked neat.  Cheers and happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Home Water

Why we so readily adopt geography into our identity is a mystery to me-- but there is something special about being able to call a body of water your home water.  By home water I mean the water you head to without hesitation, and with relative surety as to where you're going to fish, what flies you're going to fish with, and where the fish are going to hold given the current conditions.  Water that you can't help but start missing if you haven't stopped by and said hello in a while. I guess I'd still have to say the Truckee river is my home water despite the years we've spent apart and even despite the fact I've lost much of the finesse and familiarity that make you feel like you've really got it.

I suppose the main reason it still feels like my home water is the fact that it's where I first learned to fly fish and where I was first confronted with the overwhelming depths of this obsession we sometimes call a hobby.  And it was on the Truckee that I learned that some adages hold a bit of truth, such as 10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish.  I wanted so badly to be a ten percenter that I learned more than a few of her plastic-bag ridden stretches to the point where I recognized individual rocks, sunken logs, riffles, bends and even knew the names of a couple of homeless dudes that slept on nearby park benches.  And to some extent it worked-- I caught more than my fair share of fish.

Back when I still brought 'em home
It's been over three years and the people under the bridges have different names, the reno fly shop has long since closed, and one of my favorite lunch-break fishing spots is now in the back of a Wal-mart parking lot.
But on a recent trip back it took mere minutes for me to sink back into a comfort zone with this river.  And I couldn't have timed it better-- it was fall and the fishing was nothing short of great.  It was right in the sweet zone when the nights were getting cold and the browns were more aggressive than normal in anticipation of the spawn.  And I caught more than my fair share of fish:


By noon on the first day I had caught a hefty twenty inch brown (pictured above) a good number of healthy rainbows and was on a high-- in the wise words of Xenie Hall, "...it's like mainlining some sort of drug, man."  I could have gone home happy right then.  But we never do, do we?  I switched locations and a couple of hours later I hooked the biggest fish of the trip on a size #16 baetis pattern.

I was instantly reminded how difficult and chaotic it is to land a large fish on 5x and a small fly.  I've been spoiled by thick tippet and big flies when fishing for carp in the Columbia or steelhead and trout in the Deschutes.  It required a long, stumbling, downriver chase as well as several sketchy trips to the middle of the river to keep my line out of the rocks.  In the end I won and I had a beautiful 26 inch fish in my net.  It wasn't a big-shouldered fatty that I would have loved it to be, but it's length makes it the second biggest fish I've taken in this river-- stoking the fire ever higher:


Another highlight was reconnecting with my carp-killing buddy the second day.  Tom, who recently moved back to the Reno-Tahoe area, had already experienced the frustration that the Truckee river can dish out, and so it was great to see him have a decent day on the water.  Plain and simply we caught a lot of fish.  We didn't see the quality in size I had the previous day but a few decent cutt-bows were held in hand and we reminisced on our near-weekly carp quests last summer.

I can't wait to get back there again and fish with this dude-- no matter where we fish.  Heck maybe next time we'll chase the golden ghost so he can out-fish me with my own flies again (a regular occurrence on the Columbia river):


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dear Klickitat

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of exploring a river that I've somehow managed to ignore in the last 3 years: The Klickitat.  Mostly I haven't wanted to buy a Washington license ($28.00 for a day license!) as well as the thirty dollar discovery pass to park along the water.  Well that, and the fact that the Deschutes has completely and utterly captured my attention.

But as much as I hate to admit it, I think shelling out the bucks for an annual WA license may be in my future...


Why?  Because the Klickitat is magnificent water for the fly angler.  There is abundant pocket water for the nymph and bobber as well as broad tailouts and boulder gardens that beg to be swung with a small spey or switch rod.  So much so, that I can't imagine bringing only one rod to this river.


In addition to exploring new water on a new river I also got to fish with someone that is more dedicated to the swung fly than myself.  Said someone is David Nakamoto-- pictured above with a heavy fish on the line several minutes prior to an early escape.

I definitely enjoy swinging flies but I just don't have the confidence in it's fish catching ability as I do in the dead drifted fly.  Due to this lack of confidence, I also don't have an arsenal of flies that I have faith in.  I've gotten plenty of grabs and pulls but always on a different fly and in different conditions.  So when I open my fly box fully of swinging flies I generally have no idea what to tie on.

But I have to admit it's so much more fun to cast than to lob.  "Lob" being the verb I'd consider synonymous with "cast" when comparing a well executed snap T to the water-loaded wide open loop I'd send out when using a heavy 3-fly rig.


So maybe next time I'll swing flies for 50% of the time instead of 20%.  And maybe next time I'll find a fish willing to eat that fly.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  This was supposed to be about a river not a casting style.  In summary:

Dear Klickitat,

I hope to see you again soon.

Kind regards,

Brian J.