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Anadromous- The Journey Begins Part 2

Posted by Mark Saturday, February 11, 2017 1 comments

Part 2

The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up as the voice of the Old Man hit my ears.

“Hey! Where do you think you’re going sonny?”

I had made it three quarters of the way across the field when he appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I was scanning the surroundings as I rode, keenly aware of any sign of life. He must have walked out of the old barn next to the windmill; his movements disguised by the wind blowing through the tall basin rye grass and old apple trees that grew in the lower part of the field.

In a moment he was in front of me. My heart pounded out of my chest as he blocked the entrance to the gate that would have put me in the clear. He had a pitchfork in one hand and an old six-gun strapped to his side. I was caught.  The situation I found myself in was not great for a 12-year-old kid.  It doesn’t get any more frightening than this. 

He looked me up and down for a minute, not saying a word. My heart continued to race as adrenalin pumped through my veins. The look on his face was threatening and angry, this was not going as I had planned at all.

“You’re little Anders, Lars Hansen's kid aint cha”?   His sudden calm demeanor and softening facial expression took me aback. He suddenly didn’t seem nearly as scary as everyone had always told me he was.

“Yes sir”, I mumbled quickly, barely getting the words out through the lump in my throat.
Then he said something unexpected that caught me off guard.

"You know, it's been 6 years to the day since that big redwood tree took your Poppa out." 

The words hit me like a splash of cold water. I guess the Old Man wasn't much for being subtle. I missed my Dad terribly and had not thought about the day the logging crew foreman came knocking at the door for years. 

When the big company took over the mill Dad lost his job to mechanization and had to go back out into the woods to fall trees to support the family. It was hard, dangerous work and one day, a tree barber chaired on him and he couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. It took two D8's and a loader to move the logs and recover the body out from under the 7ft diameter redwood. 

Then the Old man started slowly speaking again, deep in thought, his eyes looking vacantly into the west.

 "Your dad.......... he was a damn good man, the best.” His voice trailed off choking slightly with emotion. 

Then he regained his composure and said,   "How’s your Mom? You know she is the best cook in the valley by far, her apple pie is amazing!  I can see you aren’t going hungry boy!”

I was put at ease now by the way he talked. I was probably too little to remember him, but something about him seemed familiar. Some things started to come back now. I had faint memories of early mornings hearing my Dad and the Old Man talking quietly on the front porch, arranging gear and food for a day on the river. I could hear the familiar rumble of the ancient Willys jeep the Old man drove idling in the driveway with his pram on the trailer behind it. The memory faded and I answered him.

“Oh, she’s good, she’s working three jobs sometimes, you know trying to keep the farm and all.”

“Your Dad and I, we used to work together at the mill before it changed hands to the Big Guys. We also spent a good bit of time on the Big River fishing over the years. Once you and your sisters were born we never did fish much anymore, he was always working.”

Then he looked me in the eye and said  “I thought you were that blasted Talbot kid, he spooked my mare into the wire fence awhile back and she and her colt ran off. It took me all day to find them again. I was going to let him have it, you know scare the hell out of him”

He looked at me again and raising an eyebrow and grinning a grin he said. “Hey kid, you ever shot a 45 before?”

I was tempted to stay and shoot the big iron but my responsible side told me no.

" I gotta go Mister, my Mom's gonna kill me if I don't do my chores before dark. Then I have homework to do."

"Chores and school are important and you should get home to do that. You respect your Mom son and do what she says, she needs your help now that you are the man of the house." 

 Then the mischievous grin came back. As he was patting the old single action Army Colt he said "But, if you want to shoot this thing, you come around the house tomorrow right after school. I got some other stuff I want to show you that you might like." 


“OK Mister”, I said quickly not thinking to ask his name, and then I jumped on my bike and headed for home as fast as my pedals would go.
 The whole way I home I thought about what had happened. The Old Man actually seemed kind of nice. He didn’t shoot me with rock salt so that was a positive development. The painful memories of the day my Dad was killed swirled around in my head, brought to the surface from the Old Mans remarks. Why did he have to be so harsh? Why did he have to bring that day up?
I went straight to the woodpile when I got home and started bringing in wood for the night.  My sisters were cleaning up the house, doing their own chores, and getting dinner ready as they always did, since Mom never got home till after 6PM.
Kari, my older sister by 3 years was at the stove when I walked by to stock the wood box. 
“ Where have YOU been mister?”  “You haven’t been messing around at the creek again have you?” “You know Mom wants you to come straight home after school”
“What’s this the third degree?” “What’s it to ya, you’re not the boss of me!“  I snapped angrily as I flipped a split piece of madrone into the wood box with a thud.
“Wow, what’s got you in such a huff?” She said with a loud voice.
The whole encounter with the Old Man had me of out of sorts for sure. Without hesitation I told her of my encounter with the Old Man. She listened intently as I described where I was and what the Old Man looked like.
“That’s Walt McLeod, Dad and he worked at the mill together, they used to fish and hunt all the time before Dad died. He has been sort of a recluse since then and when he lost his wife a couple years ago he sort of went off the deep end, some people say he’s plum crazy now!”
“I know he told me he and Dad were friends, he didn’t seem crazy to me, I thought he seemed a bit lonely really. He said today was the day 6 years ago the tree came down on Dad, is that true?”
She went over to the wall calendar and looked at the date. I went over and looked with her. Mom had drawn a small heart on the bottom corner of the calendar, it was her reminder of the day and we both knew why it was there. It confirmed what the Old Man had told me.
We both stood in silence, as we looked at that little heart there on the calendar, both of us lost in the emotion of the moment.
I looked at my sister, “Kari, I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was just kind of upset thinking about Dad and how much I missed him since he’s been gone. I just got mad. It’s hard without him.
“It’s OK Anders, it’s hard for all of us, I don’t know if it will ever be any easier”
Just then Mom rolled into the front drive. She was still driving the Ford truck that was Dad’s pride and joy. The tires crunched on the gravel as the old truck ground to a stop along the side of the house. The door slammed and in a moment she was up the steps and in the door, dropping her bags and collapsing in the big chair in the front room. She was exhausted.
I ran over and gave her a big hug, climbing up in the chair with her and burying my head in her overcoat. The smell of her perfume calmed me instantly. She didn’t even speak she just closed her eyes and hugged me back for a long time.
Then finally she said “Hey honey, how was school today, and more importantly, did you do all of your chores when you got home?”
“Well Mom, it’s kinda like this” I started out sheepishly.
“I did get the wood in for the night and……
Kari burst into the front room and blurted out  “ He was messing around at the creek again and he got caught cutting through Old Man McLeod’s property, about got himself shot!”
“ What a tattle tale, I can’t believe you!” I said jumping out of the chair and running to confront her.
“Well its true” she said with her hand on her hip.
Mom interjected opening her eyes for the first time and said, “What were you doing on Walt’s place Anders?”  “ That man is not right in the head”
She continued, “Ever since Fran died he’s been kind of unpredictable. He tends to hit the bottle a little too much at times. I’m not sure you should be hanging around with him”
“ He’s not so bad Mom, I didn’t know he was friends with Dad.”
 I then filled her in on the conversation we had, and how he said that today was the anniversary of Dad’s death.
“We looked at the calendar and saw you had written a small heart under today’s date,” I said
“Yes, I put one there every year. It helps me to remember the great man that he was.”
She continued, “ You know he loved you all so much.”
“I miss him Mom.” I said trying not to cry.
“So do I honey, so do I,” She said.
“He told me to come over tomorrow and shoot the gun after school, can I go Mom?”
Mrs. Hansen sat in the chair lost in thought. Deep down she knew that Walter was still a good man and that he was just in a rough patch right now. She had lost touch with him after the accident and in fact had not spoken to him at all since then. He had taken the more recent loss of his own wife hard and sort of pulled back from all his friends. She remembered all the times he and his wife had come over to the house, sat down for Sunday dinner after church when the kids were still little. She recalled the great friendship that he and Lars had. Maybe he could use a little friendship from Anders right now…..
“I need to call him and talk to him first” She said after thinking it over.
“Well Call him Mom call Him!”  I said excitedly
She went over to the phone and picked it up, scanning a phone list taped to the wall she went down the list with her finger, stopping at Walters name. Her fingers worked the rotary dial until all the numbers were in. She grabbed the phone and with the long cord dragging behind she went around the corner into the study and closed the door behind her.

I wanted to follow but knew I should not try to listen in. I strained my ears and leaned toward the door.
I heard her say, “ Hello Walter, it’s been a long time”
And then my sister grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away from the door and said 
“Don’t be an eavesdropper, if Mom wanted you to hear she would have stayed in the room”.   
It seemed like forever but finally after 10 minutes or so Mom came out of the room. She had been crying for sure.
“Are you OK Mom,” I asked trying to be of some comfort.
“Yes, I’m fine” She said wiping a tear from her eye.
“That call just brought up a lot of old memories about your Dad”
“ I had forgotten just how much a part of the family Walter and Fran used to be”
“We both have a lot in common you know Anders, we have both lost our spouses and it was so good to speak to him again”
“You can go over there after school as long as you get home for chores, and let’s be clear, there will be no shooting of that pistol!”
“OK Mom”
We sat down for dinner and I wolfed my stew down in a few minutes, knowing full well I had chores and schoolwork left. My little sister Astrid cleared the plates and did the dishes then went back out to the barn where she was tending to a new litter of puppies that had just been born. She was the animal lover of the family and she was actually starting to do a lot of the farm animal feeding and such.  For a nine year old she was pretty tough and she had a good bit of Tomboy in her.
I raced through my chores and got to my schoolwork. I hated math with a passion and it was always the subject that threw me for a loop. I struggled with some figures and finally finished my assignment. Tomorrow could not come fast enough. It was good that Mom had called him, if she trusted him then so could I. The mystery of the Old Man and what I would encounter at the big log house at the end of the lane were the last thoughts before I drifted off to sleep.
I rode to school the long way, riding by the front of the drive that led down the lane to the Old Mans house. I knew his name now but he was still the Old Man to me.  I strained my eyes to see anything interesting down the lane. It was overgrown with rhododendron, oak, maple and madrone. Towering redwoods lined the lane and it looked like a tunnel through the dense foliage. His house was the only house on the road and was completely invisible behind 30 years of neglected trees and shrubs that were once a well manicured front yard.  The Old Man wasn’t much for yard work anymore it seemed.
School was boring as usual, I could barely focus and my teacher again noted it as I filed out of the class. I hopped on my bike slinging my backpack over my shoulder as I mounted the seat. I rode straight to the long lane and looked down again to the end where I knew the house sat. After taking it all in I started down the one lane road. As I drew within a quarter mile of the house the most amazing smells started to hit my nostrils. Alder smoke from a smoker was first to attack my senses.  He must have some early fall Chinook going in the smoker already I thought. Then fir smoke from the wood stove hit my nostrils. The pungent earthy smell of hundreds of years of decaying forest duff rose up through the air.  The afternoon sun broke through the clouds creating a misty fog that wisped upward from the ground as it heated after the fresh rain. This ground cloud chased me down the road, curling behind my bike as I rode toward the house. 

As I rounded the bend in the road that led to the long driveway to the house, a big black lab rose from the driveway entrance and growled half menacingly. He barked once then looked at me.
“Hey boy, watcha doing” I said as confidently as I could.
He cocked his head to the side and then shook off the rain that had collected on his coat as he was sleeping.
He slowly and cautiously came over and I put my hand out for him to smell.  He smelled it and decided I was not a major threat to the property and he started toward the house.  I followed and soon he was jogging slowly beside my bike as I rode.
The smell from the smoker was intense now and my mouth was watering for whatever was in there.  As I got closer I could see the house better. The house was made of log and was fairly large. Various out buildings, shops and barns emerged from the overgrown yard as I drew closer. The big lab lead me to a large covered but open carport attached to a shop. 
I could hear noises coming from behind the open hood of a Willy’s Jeep. As I walked around to the front of the rig he hadn’t even seen me yet. The Old Man was almost entirely inside the engine compartment frantically wrestling with a fuel line that was leaking gas all over
“@##%$% fuel line!  Don’t do this to me now when I’m so close!”
“Hey mister” I said quietly
He turned toward me and raised his head, obviously startled and cracked his head on the open hood of the jeep, which sent him into another cascade of curse words, several I had not yet heard.
“Don’t ever sneak up on a guy like that for crying out loud Kid!”
“You about gave me a heart clutcher!!!” he exclaimed as he rubbed the back of his head with his one free hand.
“Well don’t just stand there looking dumb, go into the work bench and grab me a pair of vise grips and be quick about it, I got a situation here!”
I turned and hurried into the workshop and looked around for a pair of vise grips. Lucky I knew what they were as I could see this was no time for tool identification questions. The shop and bench were cluttered with tools of every kind and shape. Hand chisels and planers crosscut and rip saws, wrenches and paintbrushes. There were welders and band saws, sanders and table saws strewn out across the floor and sawdust was everywhere.  I located the vise grips and was about to head back out to the Old Man when an old photo caught my eye. It was a picture of my Dad and Walt down at the Big River standing in Walt’s pram. Walt was quite a bit younger and I barely recognized my Dad he looked so young. Walt was holding an enormous salmon that looked to be close to 50 lbs. Both of them had what looked like fly rods not the gear rods that most people used in the Big River. I stared at the picture wondering what it must have been like to land that fish on a fly rod.  I must have lingered too long because the Old Man started yelling.
“What’s going on in there, did you get lost?”
“Move kid move, this line aint gonna clamp itself!“
I ran back out to the carport and handed him the vise grips, which he used to quickly clamp the ruptured line stopping the gas from leaking.
“Thanks kid, that’ll hold it until I get the right size line on there” he said as he crawled out from under the hood, still rubbing his head.
“I’m done for the day, I have no interest in fighting this old girl any more today,” he said, obviously beaten.
“It’s a neat old Jeep Mister McLeod” I said admiring the rugged tires and pickup bed still littered with old beer cans and bark from wood cutting.
“Call me Walt would ya, no need for the formalities here kid.”  “Or should I call ya Anders?”
“Anders is fine Walt” It felt funny calling him Walt maybe I would get used to it.
“Your Dad and I spent many a day in this thing over the years. I can’t tell ya how many deer and elk have been in that bed. Lots of salmon, steelhead, ducks and geese have been piled in there as well. Its a game getter, that’s much is sure. Been trying to get it working again the last few years but it needs a lot of work”
“ It was sure good talking to your Ma yesterday” He said
“She really seems to like you Walt, she told me how you used to all be pretty good friends when we were little, how come you never came around anymore after my Dad died?” I asked, thinking I may be probing a little too much.
He got real quiet and didn’t answer me instead he walked into the shop and told me to follow him. Through the maze of shop tools, duck decoys, and half finished projects we went. Endless shelves and cabinets full of canned vegetables and smoked fish lined the back wall. He went into the very rear of the shop and there was an interior door that led into a finished room.
I was not at all prepared for what I was about to see. I entered the room and felt immediately comfortable. A large wood stove was cranking in the corner, the wall lined with elk and deer mounts from successful hunts.  Across the ceiling and on the left side wall and mounted on various racks were fly rods, probably two or three- dozen all with reels and line on them.  Meticulously arranged according to length and size starting from trout rods all the way to salmon.  Paintings of outdoor river and woods scenes adorned the wall and there were framed pictures everywhere. Three Leather chairs and a huge leather couch draped with a Pendleton wool blanket sat arranged around the stove, a huge coffee table made of redwood burl sat in the middle. A desk was set up in the far corner, a tying vice with feathers, fur, materials and various spools of thread lay strewn about across the surface. A wooden gun case with glass front stood on the far wall loaded with lever action and bolt action rifles of every caliber and make. I saw at least three Winchester model 94 30-30’s.  Next to that in a special felt lined glass top case were a good dozen wheel guns and auto loaders of various calibers.
The smell of Hoppes #9 permeated the air near the table where an M1911 45 laid, field stripped and partially cleaned. That smell mixed with the wood smoke and fine leather was wonderful to the senses.


The Old Man went to a desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of some kind of whiskey and poured three fingers into a tin coffee cup and took a long swig.
“There’s pop in that refrigerator back there kid, go grab yourself a Coke if you want” he said taking another drink from the cup
“You have a refrigerator in here?”  “That’s neat!”
I went to the refrigerator and opened it. Inside were several cases of Rainier beer and a half dozen of bottles of Coke. I grabbed one and closed the door, using the mounted opener on the side of the fridge to pop the cap off. Oh man, this is the best garage ever I thought as I took a drink on the chilled Coke.
The Old Man had settled into one of the big leather chairs and had his feet up on the table. He pulled a pipe out of his vest pocket and packed it tight with tobacco. Grabbing a Diamond strike anywhere match off the side table, he flicked it along the underside of the pipe and it flamed to life.  He drew on the pipe long and hard until it was well lit. He puffed contentedly as he fiddled with a fly reel that had been lying on the table.  He was pulling old backing off the reel and the growl of the gear and pawl working in tandem had a certain draw to it.
Grrrrrrrrrr….. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr ……….Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! He was pulling line off in long smooth strokes, smoke rolling out of his pipe that was still clenched between his teeth.
“Hey Kid, have you ever seen a Hardy Perfect before?”


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Anadromous- The Journey Begins

Posted by Mark Saturday, February 4, 2017 3 comments




Hey all,

I am going to try something I have been wanting to do for awhile. I am going to write a historical fiction story of sorts on the pages of my blog and you the reader will get to watch as it unfolds.

I have a rough story line that I will develop as I write but this is basically going to be improvisational writing. Its a risky endeavor and it may be a train wreck I dont know.......

Each new part of the story will be written more or less on the spot. I worked a bit on this first part ahead of time getting my thoughts together and developing the story line but from here on out I will basicaslly write each part fully off the top of my head as I go.

We will see how it goes and I am going to go where it takes me.

The story is based in the State of Jefferson in the late 1950's. This story will follow the life of a young boy as he grows up along the coastal rivers in the redwood wilds and how he meets a reclusive old man who is flyfishing legend.............



Part 1



Anadromous-The Journey Begins
The clock on the wall moved so slowly. The second hand struggled to spin and I swear the minute hand hadn’t moved in 10 minutes. Will this day ever end? The droning voice of the teacher sounded like the parents in the old Peanut cartoons, Waa Waaa Wawaawawa .
Nervously fidgeting with a mechanical pencil, I looked down at my well-worn sneakers and they instantly took me back to the many places they had traveled. Johnson Creek fishing for brook trout, deer hunting with Uncle Merle out on the pine flat behind the old mill, pheasant hunting along the ditch line down in Doolittle Gulch. The many hours of baseball with the gang at the schoolyard ball field, had also taken their toll.  I think I was sliding into second base with them when they were just two days old. I remember Mom was furious with me as she watched me take them off on the front porch, the red clay mud of the base path falling off them as they hit the worn boards at the top of the steps. I saw the rip in the heel where the barb wire fence caught it as I slipped through the wire running to escape the bull in Mr. Freedman’s field. That part of the creek next to his field always had the biggest fish………..
RINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!! The bell signaling the end of class shocked me out of my daydream and I grabbed my backpack and ran for the door.
The teacher grabbed my arm before I could escape the room and said “Maybe you could pay attention a little more tomorrow, you are usually so attentive, and don’t forget the test!”
“Yes Mr. Cooper” I stammered as I walked out the door.
I couldn’t wait to get on my bike and head home. Well, I say home but I wander a lot. After school was always a time of exploration and today was no different. These rides home often took till dark and then I had to endure the wrath of my mother for being late for my chore work.
Today, I took the usual long way home heading straight for the creek to see if the salmon had made it up this high yet.  The air was cooling and the seasons were changing, it should be about time I thought as I pedaled madly away from the school.
It was late October and I had seen the fish on good water years up here by now. This year was a pretty good water year and the creek was flowing at a moderate level. There were some deeper pools that might hold a fish but they would be still be exposed coming over the gravel bars to reach them. A short rain storm earlier in the day had raised the water slightly and was now carrying old and new fallen leaves downstream.
I laid my bike down on the grass and walked the trail downstream towards the Big River still some 20 miles away, searching for signs of the big fall Chinook. I surprised a great blue heron that was fishing the shallow pools and it jumped up in front of me nearly scaring me senseless with its loud squawk and screech. As the squawking faded into the distance, I heard the telltale splash of a fish in shallow water. As I approached the corner riffle a saw it. A 30lb male Chinook, nickel bright and fresh from the ocean fining in water that did not fully cover it. As I approached it, the fish moved slowly into the deeper water under the alders on the far bank. The broad tail of the fish pushed water like a paddle as it moved, then the whole fish disappeared into the lightly tea colored depths.
I sit in amazement and wonder where the fish has been, and how old it was. Where did it go on its ocean voyage? More importantly how can I catch one? I had grown up fishing for trout but had never gone after salmon. I had heard the old timers talk at the local diner about catching these fish in the Big River but no one could ever take me.
Ever since the accident when Dad died, I have had to do most things on my own. I have always been a loner and no one really understood me like he did. Mom is great and loves me dearly; she just doesn’t have the time to take me down to the Big River. She has been working two jobs and sometimes three to support my sisters and me. She is always so tired……..
I sat and watched the pool for a few more minutes. Then three other small fish come into the tiny run. They didn’t look like salmon but were quite bright and appeared to be about 8-10 lbs. Maybe these were the ocean going rainbows the old timers talked about, steelhead I think they called them. They say that these steelhead come into the creek in the fall just like the salmon, usually after a little bit of rain.  I watched one of these smaller fish hold, suspended off the bottom under an old cedar stump that had become exposed on the far bank. The fading sun pierced through a hole in the ferns and lit the fish up in a surreal display, highlighting the dorsal and adipose fins of what I would later learn was a wild costal steelhead. I admired its long sleek and powerful body, its mouth slowly opening and closing.
Then with a flick of the tail it was gone, through the next riffle and into the next pool. I watched the undercurrent ripple to the shore and splash lightly on the gravel. The pool calmed again and I continued to walk down the creek for another hour, not seeing another fish.
It was getting late and I knew I would have to go back and find my bike. The creek bottom was growing dark as the alder, fir and cedars overhanging the creek were blocking the last rays of sun out of the west. I hurried back to my bike and got on it and flew towards home. Mom’s going to kill me I thought, I have 2 hours of chores to do and maybe an hour to do it in, that is if I make it home quick.
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If I cut through the field behind the church I could save some time but the Old Man might be there feeding the horses. Billy Talbot said the Old Man shot rock salt at him the last time he tried to cut through there. The Old Man doesn’t like trespassers………

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Style Points

Posted by Mark Thursday, January 26, 2017 1 comments

K2 leans into the skater with his own swing style


You get style points for trying.........

We've all heard it before.

Have you really embraced your style?

What is your fishing style?

Have you thought about it?

Do you care?


                   Wee skater style

I have been thinking a lot about fishing style, casting style, wading style, tying style, and guiding style.

We all have a unique style to everything we do, fishing is no exception. Everyone does things a little different and that uniqueness is what brings us all together. How boring would the river and many aspects of our lives be if we were all the same?

There is still so much to learn about steelhead and sometimes it takes someone with a little different style or approach to swinging a fly to help you to see things in a new light.

I have the opportunity to watch and fish with many skilled and sometimes not so skilled anglers every year. You know what? I learn from them all!

Everyone has something to offer and I try to be a sponge, always eager to see things from another angle. Sometime the innocence of a new angler helps me to realize that I can over think things too much at times. I may just need to get back to basics and keep it simple.



                         Junk Yard Spey style



Sometimes an expert caster or fisherman helps me to confirm certain aspects of my own game. As I guide or as we fish together,  I watch, taking in every nuance of the cast and swing always gathering info on how I can be the most effective with the time I have on the water. Is there something in this persons technique that I may use? Am I already using it? Do I have anything constructive to share to make that angler better?



You don't have to change your program to fit or copy theirs necessarily, but be open to maybe incorporating certain aspects of that style to better fill your own quiver of fishing knowledge.



Dawn patrol style




I personally have been influenced greatly by others unique style. That influence can often be in an inspirational way as you grow to appreciate the way someone learned and developed in the sport.


                                        Girl Style



I watched a guy I guided sit down in the water on a rock and cast to avoid overhanging limbs in a place that I had always stood. For him that was a way to miss the casting obstacles overhead and cover the pool. He had less power but power was not necessary in this short tail out. He was a great caster and fished the run just fine and in doing so showed me once again that there are many ways to do things.




I saw a guy jump up on an algae covered log to fish a run after I warned him against it. He somehow managed to keep himself upright, fishing from a super precarious position and didn't break his neck. Not where I would have stood but he was fine with it. He even rose a fish from out there on that log.......


Loud reel style


I have watched as skilled anglers fished long belly floating lines and classic flies in the dead of winter, because that's the way they wanted to fish. They were about catching fish on their terms and if it didn't happen they were not fazed. I watched one of those guys fish a long single hand line and heavy classic iron looking for "that one kamikaze fish"........ way cool! You know what, one of those guys showed me a Black Dog on a floating line will work in winter.....if you put one on and fish it!

I have many friends that can tie flies like pros. They all have their own style and each is unique.  A few guys have taken that unique style to another level tying flies in hand. While I may never be able to tie like some of these guys, their style still influences and encourages me.


Classic fly style (Matt Z. spun this one up)





Cowboy/riffle hitched bomber style

I fish with painters, woodworkers,photographers, builders, business men,lawyers, doctors and nurses,ski bums,college grads,drop outs,moms,dads, teenagers, kids, friends brothers, and regular Joe's as well as many more people that I come across every year. Each brings a style to swinging a fly that is unique. This is good for our sport. Variety is the spice of life!

It's not a competition out there people,despite what many would have you believe. We need to learn from one another, embracing the various styles and individualism that define us all. We are ultimately united around our common goal, swinging flies for steelhead in beautiful places and the fleeting chance to touch something truly wild. 

The rivers are getting more crowded every year and now, more than ever, need to help to make a positive impact on each and every person we come in contact with on the river. Interact with people, slow down, watch someone fish now and again rather than rushing around trying to get a spot. You may learn something!

Going forward with that attitude we create a culture where we ultimately are all better stewards of the resource. With the help of those we meet, we all become better anglers, better listeners, better teachers, and better friends.

Embrace your style and rock it proud this year!

Never stop learning, be safe and have a great 2017!




Classic Style
Painting by Judy Waller (see more of her amazing realistic paintings here)

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

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More on Fishing the Comeback Fly

Posted by Mark Saturday, September 10, 2016 1 comments

The Danger Muffin muddler swims lazily through the currents, skittering and skating on its riffle hitched tether.......

I had a few hours to fish alone last night and I jumped at the chance to fish a few runs after being away from the river for a couple weeks. The river was quiet and I found a favorite run unoccupied. It is a run that people drive by daily and never fish. A horrible run to wade for sure and I think that keeps the crowd down. Many see the run from the road and think "hey that looks good!" and often find its a better swimming hole (when they fall) than a fishing spot. I like it that way and have been baptized many a day in there myself.

...............at about 60 feet the fly catches the fast current and turns around squaring up and slowing as it approaches the holding zone to the outside of a midstream rock. Angle and fly speed are critical here as a cast too far down stream never slows the fly down enough in the taking lie. A cast too far up and across stalls the fly too long preventing it from reaching the fast current on the far bank. A very specific spot to fish properly but when you get it right the fly comes through and presents in the most seductive way, no fish in their right mind will refuse it.

This night the old single hander was throwing darts across the river and my angle and timing were perfect. As the fly comes into the 40 ft circle of holding water, I gently pulse the fly, making a slight disturbance as it swings. Woooooosh! A fish comes out of the water, full head and body emerge as it swirls on the fly doing a figure 8 missing the fly completely and disappearing into the gin clear North Umpqua. I let the fly swing into the rock and strip in quickly, thinking I have a player. I send the next cast out at the same length of line replicating the exact drift. The fly comes cleanly through and I just let it slide this time, no movement is put on the fly at all. I turn my head and look away, waiting for the sound and feel of a fish I know is coming. Every nerve is tuned to steelhead frequency! The fly continues through and the fish does not come.

OK....  I strip in and rest the fish for 2 minutes. I wind up the Sharpes and snake roll a cast across the pool,again perfectly catching the far side current putting me on a trajectory to put the fly back into the zone again. This time I twitch the fly again, a little firmer this time, the head of the muddler sputtering water as it digs and plows it's way across the run with this added movement. The fly goes through the zone, almost to the hang down off the rock before the fish again reappears and comes straight up from underneath the fly, jumps clear of his liquid home a full three feet, swaps ends and re-enters the water with high diver precision right back into the boil of water he came out of.

I rest the fish for a minute or so and then send a tight loop cast over to see if I can seal the deal with this obvious player. Fly swings through, I twitch it again in the zone..........nada!

Fine! You want to play, lets play!

I select a size 6 simple purple hair wing fly from my box and put it on. I reel in maybe 20 feet of line and quietly smoke a cigar, a Backwoods Black and Sweet, nervously waiting to throw the pay off pitch. I wait as long as I can, about 3 or four minutes and start in again, well short of the fish. I lengthen 2 feet at a time until I am at the proper length and back in the fishes window. The fly swims through the currents sweeping slowly across the holding water. Then it comes, the softest, trouty pluck, then a light pull and I mean light, I've had smolt pull line harder than this fish did. I leave my rod down and wait.........slowly the line starts to get tight then, ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! The fish finally turns on the fly and races down stream jumping high and running hard. After a short fight I tail a beautiful fish of around 28 inches.

 I have fished the comeback fly with great success over the years. There are no real hard fast rules to doing it but here are a few things that I have learned.

  1. Generally if I raise a fish, I try to rest it for a minute before I recast. 
  2. Don't put a fish down by pounding it with the same fly you rose it with for too many casts. A drift or two then change.
  3. If I end up casting multiple flies I give them a different look every time. Example, rose to a foam waker fly, one or two recasts with the foam then change and recast with a muddler. One or two casts with a muddler, change and recast with a riffled wet of some sort, then follow with a straight wet. Then often back to the first fly whatever it was. Just change up the look, variety gets it done. 
  4. Change size and color. My favorite comeback after a rise to a surface fly is a simple and small black or purple wet fly. 
  5. Riffled hitch a muddler or wet fly as a comeback after a rise to a surface fly.
  6. When coming back with wet flies I often reel in anywhere from ten to 20 feet sometimes more and re-fish the area down to a known holding fish. 
  7. Experiment with all of these, there are no rules we are just trying to out think these fish and show them something that they will crush. Each of the above rules can be bent or broken of course, I've found many of them work for me. Each situation is different and each situation will make you the angler think of the next move in the game. Be thinking a move or two a head of the fish. Its a chess match you know!













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Ten

Posted by Mark Thursday, August 4, 2016 2 comments


TEN



 The Fly





There are years that I hook and land my first fish, there are years that I don't. There are years I lose three or four before I land one.

Not this year..........

I started off with a bang hooking two fish in the very first pool I fished this year, both hooked in a total of about twenty casts. Lost them both, one to an epic tail walking and pool leaving heart attack series of events that left me shaken and shattered. Didn't bother me in the least. The early fish can beat you up and that's fine by me.

Then hook up number three, four and five came and were gone as fast, I was still trying to get my hand on one. No biggie I say and I really can't complain, all five fish were pistol hot and bigger than average. I try and convince myself that I did everything right, fought the fish well, didn't screw anything up. But the thoughts creep in, I shoulda done this, I shoulda done that.

Six, seven and eight danced with me awhile and were gone, all hot fish, all doing what a wild North Umpqua fish does best.......... kicking your butt!

Now again I can't complain, I'm raising fish, I'm hooking fish, it's all good. But.......

I'm really wondering about everything now, rethinking hook choices and styles, lines and leaders even though I know that's not the problem. I have not broken one fish off, all have just come unpinned.

I start thinking about rod angles and fighting techniques that are so ingrained in my brain. Basically I start overthinking it all and begin to question everything I have ever heard or read about fighting and landing a fish. I fight fish pretty hard and pretty quick, I don't mess around. Have I lost my touch? Do I even know what to do? Am I going too easy on these fish? Could I fight them harder and quicker? Am I over playing them in hopes of landing one? Should I let them tire more before I try to get them in? And on and on........

These thoughts and more, they linger in the back of my head, taunting me.  The voices of the fish say "You're getting old, you are loosing your edge" " It's the last hurrah for you"  "You've had your fun on this river for thirty years and now, we the fish are gonna win"  " You don't have the mental game to compete at this level anymore"  "You can't take the pressure"  "Were gonna break you"

And not to be out done, the river currents, ripples and tail outs, chuckle and laugh as they splash off the rocks knowing they are in cahoots with the fish to make my job of landing a fish harder. They say things like " We stand with the fish"  " My flow will give the fish an easy escape" " We will help them leave the pool"  "Your tackle will not stand up to my amazing current speed" "These fish cannot be contained when they work with us"

The rocks, brush and trees all join in and say " We will do what we can to hinder your efforts" " If we can tangle your line, break you off, help the fish in any way we will do it!'' 

As I sit on a riverside rock waiting for a tail out to shade, these thoughts are racing through my brain. I surprise myself by saying out loud STOP!!! 

Man, I think I read about people with voices in their head....... never fish and river voices though. I could be loosing it!

The light fades off the water and I start in at the head of the run, a smooth glassy tail out. I settle into a fine rhythm and  begin covering water, fly skittering across the surface. Just as I am about to strip in for another cast number nine smashes the fly with reckless abandon, quickly showing me how fast a Hardy can spin. The fish jumps twice and comes straight at me and I desperately try to get tight while stripping in line like a madman. Two seconds later, the fish is at the bottom of the tail out cartwheeling around like a circus clown. Line screams off the reel again and the next thing I know the fish is 30 yards above me going upstream, pulling my whole fly line and more with him as he tries to free himself of the hook.

I still have my rod high from the initial mad stripping as this has all happened in about 10 seconds. The voice of the trees that I had heard earlier comes into play as the tip of my rod is somehow wrapped in an alder above my head. The line is jammed on a small twig and I valiantly try to free it without breaking the rod. The fish had slacked the line so badly on the upstream run that he wasn't even pulling on the rod yet, still going upstream dragging a fly line with a belly that had not caught up yet.

By the time I got my rod loose the line was just starting to come tight as the fish continued his freight train run upstream. I think to myself, " I still have a chance at this one." Almost as those thoughts came to mind the fish was off and I was left reeling in the line of shame. The fish-less fly dangles in the current far below me now. What had been so alive and enticing to a steelhead just moments before was now just a lame bit of deer hair spun on a hook.

Stupid fly, stupid fish! Why do I do this anyway?!!! Why do they torment me so?!!!!!

Frustrated to a point I rarely get to, I take stock of everything and realize I can't beat myself up anymore.

It will happen when it happens. "Stick to your guns kid" I say to myself quietly as the summer sun drops below the line of fir and cedar down river.

The sound of the Bougle is deafening in the silence of the aftermath of number 9 as I slowly wind in my fly line.I look at the bright side, which is awfully bright. In a fairly limited time fishing this season I've hooked nine wild steelhead and risen countless others. I'm having great fishing just bad luck landing them, and its mostly the fishes fault I think, way too hot to handle! Good problems to have!

The morning dawned crisp for August and I had a little time to play around on my own. After hitting a few of the usual runs with no luck, I ventured to a seldom fished run. I haven't really seen any fish in the area but I like the water and enjoy fishing it. I chose a small wet fly, natural and orange in color, probably one of the many flies that find their way into my box from friends, clients etc. Not sure if it even has a name......

I was feeling pretty good, and mostly over the bad luck on the landing deal and back to fishing with confidence. The law of averages was on my side now, I have to land one soon. Don't I?


I was comfortably fishing 70 ft line and due to current speed, watching the fly rise to the surface and skate slightly during the last thirty feet of the swing into the bank. It was mid morning and the river was quiet.

An almost imperceptible sip on the surface was all that I saw before the line got tight. A steelhead had eaten the fly on one of those occasions when the fly was just starting to skate. I knew what it was and I knew this one was coming to daddy!  The fish used all the tricks in the book trying to get away, going around rocks, and a stick, and getting into the faster water. I wasn't playing with him. I put the wood to him and had him by the tail in less than 5 minutes.

Number Ten was right at 10 lbs in my estimation. Just a stunner of a fish, solid and bright.

Ten! Oh how I love you number TEN!

Then it was quiet and the river voices stopped, for now........



Ten is seen as a number of completion and perfection in the Bible.

I have a long way to go to perfection or completion in fishing or in my christian life. I walk by faith and not by sight in both. It's not easy in either one but it's good!

Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.




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