Thinking about the guys up North on the S rivers.
Ever since you've been gone I feel like I'm drowning in a river of tears............
Here's hoping the amazing fish of the Sauk, Skagit,Stilly and Sky are not gone forever. I have fished them all and felt privileged to do so when I did.
Clapton absolutely wails on this one.
Thinking about the guys up North on the S rivers.
I had the pleasure of guiding a couple of guys this last week that were truly unique in their approach to winter fish. I spoke with one of the guys, Ken on the phone before the trip and he stated in no uncertain terms that he and his buddy John wanted to fish long belly floating lines and traditional atlantic salmon flies for winter steelhead on the North Umpqua. I said what a long time guide friend told me, and it's true " Fish any way you like.It's your trip and its about YOU, not about me, fish the way that makes you happy."
Ken knew full well in his mind that it was not the most effective way to fish for these fish but he didn't care at all. He made several statements that stuck with me. He said" I'm looking for that one kamikaze,suicide fish that will move to these kind of flies and this line system. I don't care how long it takes, I have time and patience. I know I may not catch a fish with you and that doesn't matter to me. My idea of a successful day may not be the average winter steelheaders idea of a successful day. I am happy to fish good water well and know I left it all on the table when I leave the river"
How cool is that?What a refreshing attitude.....it sure made me check mine. It made me realize once again that this sport has so little to do with the actual hooking of the fish. So many many hours in between for even the best of the best winter steelheaders. It's all about the road trip to get there,the river experiences,friends and memories that you make, and it's all about the hunt. The fish are important of course and why we are there, but our encounters with them are so brief in comparison to the hours we seek them it is almost immeasurable.
How do you fish? Who do you fish for? Are you fishing for yourself or just bragging rights at the bar,office or around the campfire?Do you run with the herd and get caught up in the herd mentality? Do you ever challenge yourself with a harder presentation or method of fishing or do you get a hold of the easiest most effective method and stick to that all the time. Just because a particular method or line or rod system is popular doesn't mean others won't work. How willing are you to fish on your own terms in a way that pleases you?How willing are you to put in the time to learn how to fish a traditional iron on a floating line with a long leader for winter fish? Most are not and will fish in an easier more productive manner. It's definitely not for everyone.
But it was sure fun to watch and be a part of, and it was successful in a fish catching way to boot. The flies they fished were all pieces of art in themselves. Ken ties his flies in hand, yeah without a vice. Unbelievably stunning! John had a ton of flies as well and both guys had many,many flies that would easily go in a shadow box and be displayed on your wall.
These guys get um wet!!!
Ken further challenged himself on this trip to fish with a tool that he does not fish with all that much. He is much more comfortable with a 16 or 17 ft Clan in his hands bombing out long belly's to the far reaches of some distant seam. No, he brought and fished a 10 ft 7wt Echo and a Rio Atlantic salmon line. Try roll casting a Jock Scott on a heavy salmon iron, 70 feet with little back cast room sometime just for fun. It takes a little while to find the button. Ken found the button and cast that thing well everywhere I put him. I think I put him in one spot all day that he could overhand it in. The rest had obstacles on all sides and above as well as behind....such is the nature of the North Umpqua....especially in higher water.
I put Ken through the runs first with the full floater and traditional fly and followed through with John and his two hander and a long belly floater cut back for tips. No short skagit line here. He was a great caster and could fish off both sides well when I put him in a constricted area. He fished a light T-3 tip of 8 or 10 feet and a nice traditional iron as well. After the first couple pools I put them in a glassy little run that is just full of nuggets. Perfect slow current, and a fish rolls just as we step in the water at the head of the run.Ken goes through first and is giddy as a school child at Christmas vacation as he sets his fly up in the seam and gets a deep wet fly swing. He finishes the pool with nary a bump but looks at me as he walks back up and says " Now that was fun!" I knew that he genuinely meant that by the twinkle in his eye.
John steps in and starts to work out some line. It rains, some ducks fly up the river at mach 2.John gets some more line out.Water ouzels dance and dive in the lower part of the run. The line swings lazily through the boulder piles as his Black Dog swims through the seams and current edges made by the submerged rock.We laugh,we tell stories.We watch the water and the line in anticipation of what we all feel could happen at any moment. John continues to swing the Dog through. The swing is slow, very slow, but perfect. And then......the line comes tight to a solid fish and the game is on! A down and dirty fight,like a fistfight in a phone booth. He never ran very far but could not be easily moved either. After a couple of minutes John gets the upper hand and lands a nice buck of 8-9 lbs with just a hint of color, rosy gills and a light stripe. A perfect North Umpqua specimen that did everything he was supposed to do. And he ate a traditional fly.I think after these fish have seen a lot of big nasties, fishing through with one of these beautiful flies with a little soul may have been all this fish needed to see.
We fished hard the rest of the day and told stories and shared our experiences of fish and fishermen. John moved a fish later in the day that he actually got to come back to after a changing to another pattern. The first take was a plucky grab the second a grabby yank that didn't stick.Ken did not touch a fish all day and he was fully aware of that reality when he started. His intensity with getting the right drift in every run did not subside until I shut them down at 6:30 pm after over 10 hours on the water. I will not soon forget the look on his face and the honest "That was fun!" after every pool he fished.Authentic and real joy just for the chance to fish it the way he wanted to on his terms. Inspiring.
He was just thankful to be alive and experiencing this wonderful place we call the North Umpqua. You know what, I was too. I don't ever want to take that place for granted and in a way Ken and John's enthusiasm and respect for the history of our sport renewed my awe and reverence for the early methods,the fish and the river.
Thanks Lads! It was a fine,fine day indeed!
Some cool panorama shots
The Rack at the shack( that ain't even all of them, you should see the wall inside)
Get one Dad!
Getting it done in the sun
The faithful companion guarding the goods
Ken Waiting on his kamikaze fish in a perfect steelheaders driving rain
Greasy tail out
Below are some of the flies they were fishing.....AWESOME! I couldn't let them get away without getting a couple.....they were more than generous! They had boxes and boxes, I was drooling.
I gave all my friends/guides at the guide shack a choice of one of these flies. We will all fish them and land a winter fish on them and then put them in a shadow box on the inside of the cabin wall. These deserve to be fished, and the fish deserve to see a little class every so often.
I had a chance to wet a line and fish a couple times and found this hen. This was the heaviest fish I have held in quite a while. Steve you are right, the 7136 greenie had it's hands full lifting this fish. Can you say bent to the cork? Beyond the cork?That rod was in a full circle. Despite landing obstacles on all sides and above me from tree limbs, fast deep water in front of me,this fish managed to stay pinned and only took around 6 minutes to land. And she jumped and ran quite a bit.Get um in quick people. A massive and perfect female specimen for the North Umpqua.
I recently fished in some very high water and found myself going to lighter tips rather than heavier. Reason being that the normal holding areas of runs I generally fish would require a bike chain to get down in.
Every body thinks you need to get DOWN for winter fish which is true to some extent. It's flow dependent. In lower to medium flows where you can control a deep swing through a run by all means do it. But,some flows will not allow you to get DOWN no matter what you throw. I believe a lot of time is wasted by people casting a line that is not even covering fish for most of the drift. Either too fast a swing, too high in the water column, not covering where the fish is actually holding, or all three.
I started fishing the way inside shallower edges and found lighter was better. No T-14 here. Inside edges and corners are the traveling lanes for these fish.Don't overlook them. A lot of the inside soft dishes can be fished with intermediates, T-3 and T-6 maybe a T-8 here and there.This may be basic to some but I think many people over think, over line(weight wise) and over cast in winter flows.
In really high water conditions last winter,I hooked three fish in a row in a place that is usually 20 feet inside of where I would normally stand. A little bay that usually has little to no flow. I was fishing a T-3 and unweighted fly and letting it swing all the way to the bank. Let's just say I am a believer in lighter tips after that little session. All three fish were in the space of a two car garage. Laying in tight, in very light flow. Big structure that normally could not be fished due to the lack of water speed became a fish holding magnate. I have made this same discovery on other various pieces of water over the years. Knowing where to fish at all water levels is critical. The fish gotta be somewhere, so pay attention to flows and don't overlook the lighter tip approach.
You don't always need 15 ft of T-14 and a 90 ft cast in the winter. I will be putting this method in to practice this week and I bet it works.
PS I will have some Schwinn bike chain in 8, 10, and 12 feet lengths just in case.....Ha!
The weather turned gnarley today on the river. My buddy Tony was fishing up river and upon heading home came across several areas where it looked as if a bomb went off. Areas he had just passed going up river not an hour or so earlier. No real indication that any of it was coming. Sounds like a little micro burst came down and gusted hard in a few spots.Multiple trees down as well as power lines and large limbs. He picked his way around trees and debris and made it home to a house with no power. The wood stove works though and he was soon toasty. Power and all should be back up soon. A new round of storms are set to hit Tuesday. It could be a wild and wet ride for the week. Fishing conditions will be a little touch and go early in the week but should stabilize towards the end of the week. It's spring and this is what happens. Being around after a good bump and drop is the goal of all steelheaders in winter and spring. The water will most likely be going up and down like a heart meter for the rest of the season.
You can't catch a fish sitting on the couch....I've tried. Get out there and brave the elements, you may be surprised what you find,and it will definitely not be boring. While your waiting for the river to drop and are chomping at the bit tie up a couple of Spring Flings.
Tying Brent's Spring Fling from Country Pleasures Flyfishing on Vimeo.
A neat little video that shows some of the water and fish that make Oregon winters bearable. Great music and editing on this one. Nicely done boys.
It's March and the fish are beginning to show in more significant numbers. The next month or so is prime time for catching a winter steelhead on a swinging fly. Water levels are critical to finding fish at this time of year. Knowing when and where to fish are keys to success. The North is not typical step and swing water. It does have some of that type of water but is also full of lots of other hard to read and challenging holding water.
Check out my website by clicking on the pricing/reservations link at the top left of this page. Give me a call or email and join me on the river soon!
I thought this was worth a look.A cool success story from the Wind river drainage in Washington a few years ago. Amazing how quick the steelhead showed back up....the very day they let the river flow free.
Sweet little video!
Behind the bubble curtain: The Underwater World of Coastal Cutthroat Trout from David Saiget on Vimeo.
Catch Magazine is always an excellent visual overload of images that show the fish and places we love to chase them.
The Todd Moen film Steelhead Dreams Part 2 is superb and a must see. Part 1 is a few issues back and is also a must see. His style of filming is pure class. Check it out! Catch Magizine