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Paramount

Posted by Mark Tuesday, June 30, 2015 0 comments



Dave Kalinowski photo


 Paramount-coming before all others in importance.

That's what I always think about hooking the first fish of the year. Its important only in the fact that you want to get it out of the way, get it done, put it behind you. Move on with the year. It stands to affirm that you can still swing and present a fly well and that fish do indeed like to eat a swinging fly. Sometimes I wonder.........

That first fish can sometimes set a precedent or pace for the year or it can be the kiss of death. It can establish new found hope in old patterns that have fallen out of favor. It can be the proving grounds for new patterns and dressings that have been rolling around in your head for months, sometimes years.

I am fishing a lot more traditional flies lately and enjoy the feeling of fishing blind again. After fishing skaters and surface presentations it's good to just let it swing sometimes without working or watching the fly. Fishing skaters has taught me a ton about what my fly does out there in the currents. It has shown me the subtle nuances of different runs and when to mend and when not to mend.  In short,fishing dry flies has made me a better wet fly fisherman.  Now, when fishing a wet. those factors come into play as I know how my wet fly will react to any line manipulation I give to it.

Now to our story............

........The wet fly dropped with a small splash at the end of a downstream angle cast. Landing right in the foam line, it came under tension immediately, the head of the fly came to the top, drawn up by the riffle hitch right behind the eye. The fly arced through the chop for 20 feet, the riffle hitched head cutting a path and leaving a small V wake.Then I saw a smallish, almost imperceptible  rise just to the outside of the fly. A fish had just broken the surface with his nose only, coming up to check the waking bug that caught his eye. I let the fly continue to swing hoping that his interest was not yet piqued. I lost the fly in the wave train of the mid-tail-out. The fading rays of the day casting glare that I couldn't  see through. The fly ripped through the tail-out, accelerated by a line belly that I did not mend out. The fly was now smoking through the last third of the swing.....


The grab comes as a shock to my brain and my gear, the fish eating the fly and turning for the tail and back door in a flash. The Farlex reel payed out line in the highest RPM mode it has. The fish left the pool and headed for the next. I stood my ground and fought the fish as hard as I possibly could. After 45 seconds, I get the fish back into the run. It's a big early fish, over 10 lbs. It swam upstream of me and I saw how beautiful it was. Wild as the river and absolutely silver/white with not a mark on it. Again, I pulled on the fish as hard as I dare and he reluctantly came close. I start to look for a deep place to land him and he has none of it, scurrying from the shallows as soon as his belly touched a rock. Back out the tail in an instant, far into the next run. There is no chasing this fish and again I made a stand. Its land it or break it off. The fish chooses first and he wrapped the line on a rock and severed the leader in a split second. The whole battle might have been 4 minutes.

The first fish is out of the way, it was not a landed fish but I could care less with these early fish. Sometimes you get beat, its OK.

Please be mindful of low flows and high water temps this summer. Get a thermometer and use it. Everyone has their personal limits. Some won't fish if temps are over 65. That's great! Know your own personal limits and also the upper limits that prevent safe fighting and handling of fish. When temps approach 66-68 in the afternoon you  may want to go up Steamboat Creek and have a swim, or snorkle through a favorite run. Landing fish in the upper 60's can be fatal to a fish even with a short fight and good handling skills. Fish in the mornings and be careful in the afternoons. To avoid the high temps of evening fish higher in the river where temps may be a bit cooler. Think about it and do the right thing please. This is paramount for these wild fish while we see these high daytime temps.  Thanks, its gonna take all of us being responsible and setting a good example to limit harm to wild fish.




Good fishing to you all this summer!

Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 RSV)

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Fishing Clean

Posted by Mark Friday, May 22, 2015 0 comments




  Zack fishing clean on the North  Zack Williams Guide site

Ok, I admit the title of this post was stolen........

My buddy Zack Williams did a casting  demo at the Sandy Spey Clave with that title. I wanted desperately to see his presentation but they moved it up an hour and I showed up just as he had finished. You see, Zack knows a few things about casting and fishing clean. He has been at the Big Show in San Francisco the last few years, battling it out with the best casters in the world.

I truly believe he is one to watch in the next few years as he further hones his long distance casting skills. I am excited to watch the progression of a friend as he takes the competition game on full force.


You can't compete on the world stage without proper turn over of the line and leader. In competition this can be the difference between a top 5 finish and being at the bottom of the list. In a fishing situation it can make a huge difference in the number of fish that are able to see and then grab the fly. Zack has taken what he has learned about distance casting and transferred that knowledge to his steelhead fishing. Zack catches fish and he often catches fish a long way from where he stands. He does this primarily by casting precisely, consistently and getting full turn over of the entire fly line, leader, and fly almost every time. Is he perfect? No, of course not but his turn over percentages are high and this translates into more hook ups. Yes its that simple people.

When you see hookups at distances of 150 feet or more you will become a believer in complete turn over. Why cast it to those distances if it ain't gonna fish for the first 40 feet because the line is not straight?


I have thought about this topic many times and Zack got me thinking about it again.

So now ask yourself these questions. Do I get consistent turn over of the fly line, leader and fly every time?  Do I make large mends to straighten line that did not turn over all the way? How do those mends affect the subsequent swing of the fly? Am I missing crucial points in the swing arc because I don't get get full turn over? Am I casting at an angle that allows my fly to swing instantly when it does turn over?

Face it people, steelhead fishing is a numbers game. When I say numbers, I mean numbers of casts and not numbers of fish. Most of us have limited numbers of days or times that we can fish. Learning to consistently turn the whole line over all the way to the fly is crucial to showing the fly to as many steelhead as you possibly can. It's simple math people. When you make hundreds or thousands of casts in a week of fishing, make good ones. The more consistently you get your fly to fish the better off you are.

Rivers that allow for a step and swing approach like the Deschutes, Grand Ronde, Clearwater etc. are rivers that can require long casts. With all the new rods and lines out there, casting far has become easier to some degree. But if you can't turn all your junk over at long distances you may be selling yourself short. You are leaving a lot of potential grabs on the table if only 50-60 percent of your casts are turning over all the way to the fly. Fish hold waaaaaaaay out there on many of these rivers but if you have inconsistent turnover you are not gonna get those grabs.

Practice consistent turn over at the distance that is within your limits. If that's 60-90 feet so be it. You can rest assured that you are covering water well when you have good turn over. You can leave the run knowing that it was worked well. Distance and consistency comes with days on the water. Fish within your limits.

I see a lot of people that can "cast" far but have inconsistent turn over. Generally speaking, a fish is triggered to eat by the consistent speed and placement of the fly as it covers the swing arc. A fish is sitting, watching, waiting, and can usually see the fly long before it gets in front of him. He is tracking speed and swing and is waiting for the fly to get into his grab zone.

A fly that does not turn over in the critical grab zone will not swing right. You are blowing it! A fish that was keyed to pounce is now put off by a fly that does not do what he expected it to do.The angler will either mend to straighten out the line or let the fly go without a mend, Both of these cause a problem with the consistent speed at which the fish was watching the fly. The big mend to straighten out the line moves the fly too much and it may be pulled out of the grab zone at the wrong time. Letting the cast go when the fly and line lands in a pile will then accelerate the fly unnaturally causing the fly to move too fast through the grab zone.

Another thing I see, especially on smaller rivers is proper turn over at short distance. No one talks about this factor. On the river I fish, I  catch fish every year in several spots with barely the leader out. Be mindful of those close fish. They are there and will eat if you give them a chance. Pulling a bunch of line off the reel to start the run misses uncountable fish. Become familiar with casting that leader and small amount of fly line. Its clunky and weird on a short line but can produce fish incredibly close in if done cleanly.

Are there exceptions to all of this stuff? Sure, we have all caught fish on bad casts that were perceived to be either too fast,too slow or where we are sure we have pulled the fly out of the zone with a big mend. Also,there are a number of scenarios where we can purposefully put extra pace on the fly in certain situations to elicit a strike. Conversely there are also times when we will slow the fly down radically with rod and line manipulation. These are particular actions in particular situations, for particular fish.

Another time I break a lot of rules as far as getting tension to the fly quickly is with skaters on the surface but that's another story for another day.

We can't over think this stuff too much because we all know that steelhead can make a liar out of us on any number of occasions if we become to rigid in our thinking.

 The point is, whatever distance you are fishing, fish it as cleanly and consistently as possible!


Fishing clean on the Big River   John Barlow Photo  John Barlow Photo Arts


Thankfully there is one who is always consistent and unchanging despite the inconsistency and sin in my own life. My need for God is great. I fall and He picks me up. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand........

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.


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Good Grabs and Why We Like Them

Posted by Mark Friday, May 1, 2015 0 comments

 Darcy Bacha Photo All Rights Reserved Used With Permission

Think about the best steelhead grabs in you life........

What made them great? Was it who you were with? Was it the way the fish took the fly? Did it come after a long dry spell? Was it on a especially memorable trip or day on the river? Was it in a favorite pool? Was it in a place you didn't expect?


There are many ways a steelhead can eat a fly. I have not seen them all yet I know. They are all good however they come we can all agree, but some are just better than others.

Most of these will be in reference to a dry or waking fly or subsurface wet fly on a dry line

Let's examine a few different types of steelhead grabs and see what exactly makes a good grab and why we love them so much.

Here's just a few I have come up with, no wagering please.....


Short Line Surprise- The grab comes with no warning with 20-30 feet of line out. The fish is on and taking line before you even start to get in the groove of the swing. This one is always a welcome grab due to the early payoff.

Mid Length Meltdown-This is that fish in the heart of the run, sitting in the prime rent district. The fish is well rested and feisty and this grab comes where you expect it to but you are never really ready. Solid grab followed by line burning run. This one is good because you are ready for it.

Long Distance Devastation-You have a ton of line out and the grab comes on a spongy stretched line. You are instantly in your backing and things can get ugly quick if you can't chase him down.We all like these because its always fun to hook and land one from way out there.

Dead Drifted Drilling-A great and rare grab that comes when you toss a dry fly offering upstream and let it drift down a seam or riffle line. The take can be violent or very trouty depending on water speed and structure. These types of takes are great because they are usually very visible. The fish is generally across from you and fairly close and you can often see the entire rise and take.

Tail-out Tug-O War- A grab that comes at the end of the tail-out. You are always surprised at how far down they will hold. Now its time to try and keep them in the pool. I love these because you are always testing your skill and tackle and knots if they leave the pool. A challenge to land them when they do.

Skater Slam-A fly mauling that can occur almost anywhere and often comes without warning. Head and tail out of the water, vicious full body commitment. Very visual, very violent and most often the fight is much the same. A fist fight in a phone booth.

Wet Fly Whack- One of my favorites, wet fly just under the surface, fish hits hard on a tight line, pandemonium ensues. These are great because there is often a visible rise to the fly as the fly is just under the surface. A moving aggressive fish that chases the fly on top or just sub surface is the fish we are looking for.

Deep Swing Swat- Another personal favorite, the slow tightening of line on a deep,slow winter swing followed by a series of monstrous head shakes leading to a hot winter buck that leaves the park. These grabs are often very aggressive once it goes tight due to the weight and water tension of line,sink tip and fly so deeply sunk. These are those hang on to the rod grabs!

"Watch This" Whammo- When you know its gonna happen. You have a player up and you know he's gonna eat. It is a seldom occurrence but can happen and it's cool when you can turn to a buddy and say "watch this" and the fish eats! The more you fish the better you become at reading the fish and knowing when to make this call.

First Cast Ferrari- You take the fly off the hook keeper, pull out enough line to make a cast on a short line and get a hard grab as soon as the fly hits the water and swings two feet. Always takes you by surprise and these fish don't usually disappoint. They are in close and have room to run. The hook sinks quick on a short line with very little stretch and the fish is often just as surprised as you.

Last Cast Crush- This usually comes when you are in a sweet run and you know you are in the zone but timing or fading daylight has you leaving before you can finish the run properly. You know that "Just let me make one more cast" and it happens! These are always cool and serve to show that sometimes you can just feel it before it happens.

Far Off Farming- That far off take that you never can get tight to due to the elasticity and slack that occurs in the line and leader when fishing at long distances. The grab can be feel subdued or very soft at those distances .Sometimes they stick but we all know that "start up the John Deere" feeling when they come off in a tail walking aerial display 100 feet away.

Tight Line Tornado- Similar to the Wet Fly Whack this one is also on a dry line with either a waking fly or wet fly, a great yank followed by a fish  that spends more time in the air than in the water. These are the hard ones to get a hook into as they never let the line get tight with water tension. This is a great grab because the fight is so visual. You can see you quarry and you are working hard to get him to stick. A lot of rod angle things going on trying to get tight to this fish.

Line Wrap Train Wreck- You know this one, Cast after cast you are in the zone, you are not paying particular attention to that loop of line that has wrapped around your reel handle or bottom handle of the rod after the last cast. The fly swings undaunted, the take is heavy as your reel has no line to give, sometimes you can keep them on by freeing your line but most of these end in a quick separation of you and the target species.

Toilet Flush Take Down-Huge boil under the fly, no visual sign of the body of the fish, then the reel is instantly paying out line. Again, this is a very visual grab, the surface disturbance gets our hearts racing immediately no matter who you are. We are left to wonder in those few seconds after the boil, ":did he get it'? The answer comes quick with a reel burning run that scares you.I love those

The Sip and Zip- A barely noticeable surface disturbance,sometimes just the mouth or lips of the fish break the surface to take the fly down. This is a very casual take until the fish feels the sting of metal and bolts from his lie. The casual sippers become active rippers in a heartbeat.

Its getting close to time for some summer fishing, I am looking forward to a great season ahead.

Hope to see you on the river

Mark

Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
24:2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

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A Time For Everything

Posted by Mark Friday, April 10, 2015 0 comments


The end.......and a new beginning.

That time of year has come again. At least on the river I fish. Everyone must come to their own decision on when to quit fishing for winter fish. Each river is different and each angler must take into account several factors like run timing and the presence of spawning fish in the system. Using your best judgement, and taking into account the various indicators please make an informed decision. Do whats best for the fish.

Stay off spawning redds, in fact stay away from them entirely as the area of egg deposit is not always concentrated in the zone that looks most disturbed. Many thousands of eggs can lodge or settle in areas downstream of the main redd. When in doubt stay out!  Be aware of this for trout and all anadromous fish in all seasons.

In addition, many redds will be very visible for a time and then become less easy to see because of dirt and debris that can cover them caused by fluctuating water levels. Just because the redd is not visible anymore or you don't see active spawning doesn't mean the area is safe to walk in.  Be aware of the type of ground you are standing in at all times. When you suspect fish may be spawning in the area, you may want to just wind it up and go play golf.

On a year like this last one, I believe many fish spawned early due to the favorable water temps and flows. The fish that are still coming in are ready to spawn and are going straight to the beds. Again, I cant tell you when to quit fishing, that is up to you. But, think about the effect you might have on potentially thousands of fish just so you can catch one more.

The greatest tragedy that can occur at this time of year is catching a prime hen or buck that spills eggs or milt when you bring him/her in. Don't let it happen to you!


For me, this time of year is a time to recharge my battery, hang with the family, tie some flies and stock up some fly boxes. It is a time of rest, growth and rebirth. It is a time that needs to happen in the cycle of life.

Hope you had a good winter season and summer is just around the corner!

Enjoy your rest and get ready for a new season to come!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

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They Are Where You Find Them........

Posted by Mark Saturday, February 28, 2015 3 comments




Yes, its true, after all these years on the river I still find new runs. Knowing the river at every flow in every season really makes it about a half dozen rivers, maybe more. Fun to try new things, fun to see that this river hasn't come close to giving up all her secrets.  Amazing to think that there are still so many places fish hide that never get touched. I am humbled every time I set foot on her shores.

 The wade out to the newly discovered run was tough, and probably not real smart......

The water is fast and pushy, testing my wading skills to the maximum. Several times I look longingly toward shore not fully sure of the task at hand. Past the point of no return, I am committed now and I stagger on. Water is flowing hard around me waist deep, pulling me and pushing me. My feet slide crazily across shelf rock and thankfully grab hold. I walk the tightrope between control and foolishness. A dangerous chute waits far below me, taunting me, haunting me with the possibilities should I make a mistake. I usually don't get scared much on the river anymore, mostly because I don't put myself in the position to be scared. But, I am scared now and it feels good. Its a healthy and respectful kind of scared. All of the sudden, I feel like a kid again, a major dose of adrenalin spikes through my veins. I spy my path through the current and lunge for the high spot that will put me in a position to cast.  My cleats dig hard as I lean into the small wave train and find purchase in the nick of time.

I have made it! Now what? It doesn't look nearly as good now that I am here. Why oh why do I do this? What I thought would be a slower inside seam races along, really too fast for a good swing. I scan the water looking for tell tale signs of a dish, a piece of structure, a flat spot, anything. I see a flat spot down in the run, near the limit of my cast. It's not much, but if there is a fish anywhere in here he will be there. I start to cast and swing. I am throwing a big upstream mend and pointing the rod straight out in front of me, even a bit upstream to try and slow the fly down a little. Very slowly dropping the rod and following the fly after the mend, really reaching out there. The swings are fast but as I near the flat spot I saw earlier, I find a 20ft wide slot that starts to feel pretty good. Its a narrow swath but the swings are slower. I am maxed on my cast so I start to slip line into the drift trying to reach that flat spot and keep the fly swinging slow.

After several drifts slipping a few feet of line in each time I am at my limit. With the extra line slipping, I am fishing my fly over a hundred feet away from me now. I make one more drift and the fly line catches some puffs in the current and does not respond to the mend that I try to put in. The fly is smoking through the sweet spot, much faster than I like. I hang on and hope and am met with a vicious take, the big buck coming out of the water instantly as my fly was probably cruising at about a foot under the water.  The take came the only place it could have. The little flat spot at the limit of my wading and casting ability. I could never have anticipated how the fish would respond to a fly with that much pace.

He liked it and so did I!

A new fish in a new place, what could be better?

Ezekiel 36:26- And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

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Fish Move!

Posted by Mark Tuesday, February 3, 2015 1 comments




I met up with my buddy Marty on the river the other day and we had a great time fishing and just hanging out. As is always the case when guides get together, we exchange stories and observations of the rivers we fish and how the steelhead behave in our particular waters. We both shared experiences guiding where clients have hooked fish behind other people.  It got me thinking, why are we as steelhead fisherman so adverse to fishing second pass through a favorite run? I mean we all like first shot at a producing run but that isn't always possible. Just because someone has fished through a run first doesn't necessarily mean they fished it well. And even if they fished it perfectly there is a factor that we often forget. Fish Move!

Fish are constantly on the move. Maybe not running hard up the river covering miles but many times they are moving around in a particular run. Fish are lazy and are always searching for a place that they can hold where they can expend the least amount of energy. When they find that temporary spot they may stay for a short time, like as little as a few minutes, to maybe an hour or so. Some will hold for hours or days, even weeks in some conditions. We are looking for the moving aggressive fish not the dour fish down in the trench. I have watched fish come into a holding lie that is a long term parking spot and sit for awhile and then move out within minutes. Why did that fish move from that perfectly good spot? Everything was perfect but he got antsy or something and moved. Steelhead are on a mission and even though they stop in places to rest, their instincts keep them in a state of almost constant movement. These are the fish that are grabby, the ones that are used to moving more, the ones that have no problem moving to eat your fly. These are the fish that move around in a run and are in a taking position when you fish the run. The guy before you fished it well but the fish was not in position or of an attitude to eat a fly.A fish can become aggressive to a fly in an instant if he is in a position to do so.

A number of things will make a fish move around in a run, rising or dropping levels, clarity, water speed, numbers of fish in a run,structure availability or the need to find a mate to name a few. We as fisherman need to realize that this constant movement can work in our favor. We need to fish every run with confidence knowing full well that any swing of the fly through a run may attract a fish that was not in a taking position just minutes before. I see it constantly with the people I fish with. We fish some of the same runs on the same day at different times and we hook fish  behind each other all the time. These are our peers who know the lies and the water as well as anyone.

Bottom line is, it doesn't always matter who got into the run at first light. It's the person that is in the right place at the right time when that fish settles into a taking lie and eats your fly. You could be second person through or the tenth person through.

Fish move, so fish with confidence every time you step into a run. Don't let the fear of someone else fishing the run in front of you get you off your game.

Thanks Marty for hanging out with me. You always inspire me to think about these fish in new ways.

Genesis 1:20- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life........
Tight lines

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Its Better to Have Hooked and Lost..........

Posted by Mark Saturday, January 24, 2015 1 comments








 
...........than to have never hooked at all.

The grab was nothing out of the ordinary. Good solid pull followed by a squealing Hardy. A couple short runs then the fish came straight at me. I reeled to keep tension on the line as the fish moves upstream. "its a big buck" my buddy said to me as we both kind of recognized by the fishes behavior it was probably a boy. I still had not felt the full weight of the fish as it had been a highly erratic fight so far. As the fish moved upstream I put the wood to it and tried to roll him over or change his course. Not happening. My 7wt was bent to the cork and I was pulling as hard as I dared with 12 lb test. That's pretty hard. The fish was not phased in the least and just kind of did what he wanted. Another good line ripping run downstream and then more of the same. As I reeled and pulled, he just sort of swam and meandered his way back upstream. He got even with me and then went around a mid river shelf and sulked on the other side.

The line was over or under or around the shelf in such a way that I lost connection with the fish. I know he's still there but can't get an angle on the line or the fish with the current and structure hampering my efforts. My wise buddy says " Get downstream of him and pull him off backwards" This seemed counter-intuitive to me as it looked like the line was around the front of the rock and the current was keeping it down. The fish was on the far side. But, I was ready to try anything at this point so I slowly walked downstream, getting below the fish a ways and pulling the whole time. Finally, as I got below him I could again feel the throbs of a heavy fish still on the line but still around the rock somehow. I moved a little farther down and the fish came to life, surging and thrashing at the surface, throwing his massive body side to side and raising a ruckus. Still around the rock I staggered through the rocks reeling and pulling hoping to free the fish from its predicament. I stumbled and fell in, putting an arm down and feel the cold North Umpqua water pouring in by the buckets. I wobble to my feet colder and wetter. The fish makes one last thrash on the surface and saws the line off and we part ways. We both see the massive body and tail of a wild winter steelhead bolting for its new found freedom and he is gone.

The chances at these truly huge fish are fleeting. To get them to eat a swinging fly is one thing, to land them is another altogether and always a gamble. Everything must go perfectly and gear and knots must be perfect. That may easily have been the biggest fish I will see this year, maybe for years. I was privileged to encounter it and feel blessed to be near and know a river where these fish swim.

Remember, landing the fish is not always a  possibility. Be thankful for the encounter and be ready for the next one.........

Proverbs 21:13 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

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