It was definitely a class four rapid and we were a little puckered.It was big and kind of intimidating at first to look at but we all told each other it was no biggie and hiked back up to the boats. You always get a little nervous running anything for the first time. That nervous fear is a good thing, it keeps you on your toes and alert that's for sure. The fact that we were FAR from anyone else that could help if something went drastically wrong always throws a new twist on things.However,we knew the line and staring at it too long is never a good thing, You start to over think things, second guess yourself. Usually, like in life your first impression of what you see is what you want to do. Tim and I in the big pontoon were up first.We jumped in the big boat with Tim on the sticks and headed for the bony upper section of the tail out before the drop. He made the first couple moves nicely and missed the rocks and the keeper. He pulled towards river left and the mid river tongue and dropped in perfectly. The river roared it's disapproval as we passed the point of no return. Now it was a matter of keeping the boat straight and hitting the standing waves pointing forward and we were home free. The standing waves were bigger than we had initially guessed now that we were in them. With all the technical stuff behind us we breathed a little easier. Tim handled the craft expertly and we rambled through the mid way point of the rapid.The big boat, loaded with our whole camp easily punched through the huge rollers with me on the front thoroughly enjoying myself now. Wave after wave crested over the boat drenching us in a chilling shower of water. We rodeo-ed our way through the final set of rollers and spun lazily out into the calm eddy below the rapid. Dave was on our tail and he was hitting the top of the rapid as we turned to watch him come through. He was in a much smaller pontoon but, with many years on the river he negotiated his way easily through the same line we had just taken. His little boat was swallowed up by the standing waves but he was having a ball. We had made it and slapped some high fives all around. We scouted and ran a fairly intense and potentially dangerous rapid we had never seen before and it went perfect. We were stoked!
Drawing from a new batch of adrenalin, we continued on to Anchor camp a bit further down river. We fished, we rowed. We marveled at our surroundings. The word beautiful does not do this river,forest and the snow capped peaks and glaciers justice. We camped at Anchor and enjoyed the time hanging out and getting into the rhythm of the river and the almost overwhelming amount of day light this far North. You could fish till 10 or later if you wanted. Dinner never seemed to be done until midnight, a few hours in the rack and you were jolted awake by the realization that you only had a few more days on the river and you wanted to soak up every last second you could. You can sleep later...this was about exploring and pushing the limits of fishing endurance.Oh yeah,and fun with good friends.
As we made our way down the river the next day we started to hook fish a lot more consistently. We stopped and fished anything and everything that looked good as we floated. We decided to make a push for the lower end knowing that we would find more fish as we went. We had a couple days left and we wanted to spend them in one spot and not be messing around with moving camp. We bolted for Victoria, just below the Totems camp on river right. The Totems are a group that has been fishing the river for many years and they have, or should I say had a semi-permanent camp there. The camp has since moved down river a ways and is now on river left. Anyway, not knowing that we ended up camping in a little spot below the early river right Totems affectionately known as A-Hole, because it is kind of a junk camp. No trees to hang food,small,etc. But right out in front of us was Victoria,another famous run where uncounted thousands of fish had been hooked over the years. We had a couple days to make some magic happen and we weren't gonna let a sub standard camp get in the way.
We fished that night and actually rose a couple fish on skaters. The next morning we got up early and ate some breakfast and drank a french press or two as the sun started to hit the highest peaks around us. We packed a full french press in the boat and rowed across to the river left side of Victoria to begin the day. An unbelievable run to fish and we were first in. There was a huge log washed up on the shore and two of us sat on the log and drank coffee while one of us fished. "Take a number" we called it. The first guy steps in and has hooked a fish in less than five minutes. He either lands it or looses it and moves to the back of the log and drinks coffee and watches. This incredible rotation that first morning in Victoria lasted for a couple hours with each of us hooking 3 or 4 fish.We could have all spread out and fished but we were having such a ball watching and cheering for the other guy we didn't care."Hey, you'll be up in about 10 minutes chill out". We would yell at the guys on the bank when we were fishing.And so it went. I don't think I even landed a fish that morning. I hooked one fish in close that seriously scared me with how hard and fast it pulled. I watched helplessly as my kite string melted from my spool in an amazing display of tackle roasting runs. This fish was deep in my backing and showing no signs of stopping. Clear on the other side of the river and 100 yards away. I try and put the binder one her and she jumps clean out of the water 4ft and throws the hook. I have never seen kite string like I have seen on the Dean. What you hear people say about the strength, speed and power of these awe inspiring fish believe it. It's no bull. These fish will smoke your reel like you will never see anywhere else. Just pure bulldog power with greyhound speed and porpoise like acrobatics. Ya ever seen flipper? Spinning,twisting, tail dancing and sky walking.These fish never fail to impress.
So, as we are sitting there enjoying some of the most awesome 2 or 3 hours of fishing any of us has ever encountered, we hear a noise across the river in camp. A loud noise, a growling noise. The sound of our aluminum dry box being knocked off it's legs. It was closed of course but old blackie is trying to peel it open as best as he can. We listen to the ruckus for about 10 minutes, just fishing away. I ain't going over there just yet. The shot gun is in camp and none of us is in a big hurry to see what happened. After about 20 minutes, we row slowly over to the camp and survey the damage. The bear has indeed whacked the legs right off the dry box and tackled it like a linebacker. He did not however gain access to the goodies inside. We had actually found a small tree to hang the one remaining cooler with any food and the other was empty and the lid was closed. The bear sank his teeth into it in several places and twisted it into some amazing shapes. The power of a bears jaws are self evident when you see what he can do with the hard plastic of a cooler lid. A young male bear was reported to be on the prowl and no doubt this was him. We heard a story about a few weeks earlier when a lady was sleeping on a cot in the middle of the day in the shade and a young black bear came up and bit her right on the butt..........
Billy Pate partnered with legendary Florida Keys guide George Hommel in 1967 to create one of the first destination angling companies in the U.S., Worldwide Anglers, which they sold in 1995 to Bass Pro Shops. In 1976, Pate got together with Tibor Reels' Ted Juracsik to design the first readily available anti-reverse tarpon reel, a reel that later went on to help catch 225 world records. He was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2003.
Billy also had a house on the North Umpqua and was passionate about steelhead as well. I have seen him on the river over the years and always stopped to watch him fish when I did.
Legend doesn't adequately describe people like Billy. He will be missed.
Here is a video of Billy casting and he talks about where he learned how to cast. That "little stream in Oregon" is the North Umpqua.
As the helicopter crests the last peak and we drop into the Dean river drainage for our first look, we all exchanged glances of wide eyed amazement. We are flying just West of Kalone Peak and look down at the smaller tributary that is Kalone Creek which drains into the Dean from the upper glaciers. We spiral down into an amazing river valley that takes our breath away. As we get close to the river,the pilot stands the bird up on it's nose in a move called the hammer head, and we are now going 75 or 80mph looking straight down out of the front windshield at the river that would be our home for the next 10 days. We swoop past Kalone Creek and Swan run,now flying below tree top level. We make the corner above Eagle and the pilot brings the machine into land on river right. Some one is in Eagle so we opt for the little camp just above there called Cliff.
As we get closer to in my opinion a sketchy LZ, I ask him" Your gonna land there?" pointing to what amounts to a pile of rocks. He calmly says "Yes, no worries" He shimmies the bird in and lands with the rotor spinning a mere 2 or three feet from an alder tree. "Plenty of clearance for today,I may have to do a little trimming soon though " he laughs. To me it looks like 6 inches of clearance and I am not convinced he isn't going to do that little trimming right then. The tail rotor is out over the water. He expertly jostles the aircraft around to make sure he is stable on the basketball sized boulders along the river bank. He seems convinced it's solid,me, not so much! He shuts it down and says "Welcome to the Dean boys!"
We unload the helicopter in a haze, not believing we are actually on one of the most storied steelhead rivers of all time. We move quickly to limit the time we have to pay for the bird. We get everything offloaded in a pile and he hops back in and fires it up and is in the air in a couple of minutes heading down river to pick someone else up and bring them out.
As the helicopter goes out of sight downriver and the noise slowly fades away, we are left with the sound of the river lapping on the rocks and the wind in the leaves. We were so very alone now.A feeling of reverent fear, and a healthy respect for the river and the wilderness we now find ourselves in settles over the three of us. As we realize we are now way past the point of no return we wrestle with all of the thoughts that have been in our minds for so many months.So many questions lie before us. What's the river and rapids going to be like? Grizzlies....really? Do we have what it takes to do this. Did we bring enough food?Are these guys gonna save my ass if things go bad.What happens if someone breaks a leg or gets seriously hurt out here, no one is gonna hear you scream if you do.Where's the whiskey?
We push the fear of the unknown aside and let the excitement of the moment sink in.We are in DEEP,WAY DEEP and we are loving the feel of being way out of our comfort zone. Other than stories and pictures from a few books we have absolutely no idea what to expect now that we are here.We are all experienced outdoors men and boats men but everything we learned in the past was just a warm up for this trip. All of us grew up in the woods hunting and fishing since we were little, this trip will put all that experience to the test. This isn't a sissy trip. You want to have some good buddies with you that know what's up. You want a crew that can keep their heads and save your life if that becomes necessary. Everybody must be operating at full capacity, alert and tuned into anything and everything that could happen. Believe me, stuff happens to even the most prepared and we were no exception as we would learn toward the end of the trip.
I have heard of horror stories of people that did this trip with people that were not up to the task, not prepared or experienced enough.You end up babysitting,doing all the camp chores yourself and not fishing as much because you are tending to someone else all the time. It puts everyone involved at risk a little to have someone who can't carry their own weight..A weak link on a trip like this could be more than a mere inconvenience, it could cost you everything.
I knew full well that I would not want to be here with anybody but the guys I was with
"I sure hope we have everything" one of us mutters as we start to set up camp.
We get a nice camp set up and settle in for the night. The Dean is a place where you want to hang your food, especially with 10 days worth, so we don't mess around. I like to eat and ain't given any away to Yogi. We rigged a sweet series of pulleys that gave us a mechanical advantage and allowed 1 guy to hoist a 100 lb cooler into the upper reaches of a tree with minimal effort.The short barreled high capacity street sweeper shotgun loaded with buckshot and slugs hangs on the center pole of the tent for easy access if need be. Small comfort if you actually had to face a charging bear for real but it does help one sleep a little easier.
We are fishing in the morning and then we can decide weather we want to stay a couple days up high or blow doors down river. The scenery upriver is spectacular and uncrowded.The fishing can be good but always gets better as you get down farther on the river.
We awake to a frosty morning, a little fresh snow on Kalone Peak. Chilly for early August. The sun comes out and we start fishing right out in front of camp. Tim hooks the first fish and it leaves the building almost immediately. He chases it down through a fast chute and I manage to tail it for him a hundred or so yards from where he hooked it. A fine buck of around 12 lbs, perfect in every way with just a hint of rose on the gill plate and along the side. We admired the fish, for a few seconds, noticing how the body lines were unlike any we had ever seen. Chunky, solid shoulders, hit like Mike Tyson and went absolutely bonkers after it was hooked and was just an amazing specimen. We slapped a high five and now we had some idea about the fish that lived here. There would be more.
I think we stayed only one night at the camp at Cliff . Giants had opened up so we moved down there in that first afternoon and settled in again to see what it had to offer. We hooked a few fish but we were hungry to move and see the river,so we did the next morning.In subsequent years we would end up having some out of control days there at Giants, days that I will never,ever see again in my lifetime, but that's another story for another day.
We got up early and packed up camp for a day of exploration of the unknown. We had a 14ft Sotar pontoon that held the majority of our camp and two of us and a smaller 10ft pontoon that carried one. We fished our way down river hitting Eagle and Lower Eagle and Boulder Hole, leapfrogging our way down. We were starting to hook fish now and it was getting fun. Tim and I would come around a corner and see our buddy Dave tied into one. We would watch and jump below and hook a fish or two as he was coming to pass us. We were giddy. We were just straining to see what was around the next corner. What killer run is coming next? It was hard to stay still in the boat. I was twitching like a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers.
A totally new river, and we were unfamiliar with everything about it but we did know steelhead and they liked to live in the same kind of places, go figure.
We did find a few salmon and they tested our tackle to the max. Anyone who tells you that the chinook aren't bright up above the canyon is putting you on. We found plenty of big,hot, bright fish as far up as Shannon's. They like the swinging flies we used for steelhead just fine. If you haven't had the rod bending pull of a strong chinook you are missing out. To see a fish of 30+ lbs take to the air attached to a fly rod that is in your hand is something that cannot fully be explained. I landed one that was in the mid 40lb range that just tore me up.
We rolled into Nimpo Lake tattered from the road. We grabbed a room and were asleep before our heads hit the pillows. A few hours sleep was all we could manage as we were awakened by the early morning sun and our renewed desire to get to Bella Coola. We ate a quick breakfast at the little cafe and hit the road, all of us chomping at the bit.
We drove through some beautiful country, stunning really is a better word. The plateau that we had been driving across soon gave way to a more mountainous terrain as we came into the Eastern edge of Tweedsmere Provincial Park. Then comes "The Hill", a steep gnarly down grade of many miles that drops like a rock to the valley floor. You definitely don't want to loose your brakes on this one! A jaw dropping ride ensues downward through a series of switchbacks with sheer rock cliffs on the up hill side and no guard rail and certain death off of the downhill side. Oh yeah, the road is not paved and rock slides and washouts are the norm. This road into Bella Coola is closed in the winter and everything must come in by air. Better stock up!
As we drive down from the top, the terrain and vegetation change from a dry almost high desert look to the much greener,lush vegetation of the coastal rain forest. Pine trees and scrub oak are replaced by cedar,fir,hemlock,alder and cottonwood. We make it to the bottom after a slow easy ride down. We are now in the land of big trees and soaring, snow covered mountain peaks all around. Crystal clear rivers and creeks flow out of every little drainage as we head to the idyllic little town of Hagensborg. This is where the airport is and where we would catch our heli-flight to heaven.
We arrived at the airport and laid out our gear for the ride. A 14ft pontoon and a 9ft pontoon would be our transportation once we hit the river.All the food in coolers with dry ice and block ice. The menu would include food like rib eye steaks, ahi steaks, cheese stuffed tortellini pasta and much more. We were living right! We met the heli pilot and made all the arrangements,including things like giving them numbers to loved ones if we never made it back alive. We loaded the bird and climbed in for a ride we would never forget.
As we lifted off from the airport and followed the glacial white Bella Coola river up and away, we slowly gained altitude and started the climb up over the 7 or so passes we needed to cross to put us in the Upper Dean river below Kalone Creek. As we flew, it was really hard to wrap my mind around the country we were in.
The heli ride in is always a highlight of the trip.If cruising along at 80-100 mph just feet off the ground doesn't get you pumped to catch some steelhead, nothing will!
See for yourself.
We never landed at any time on the way in. But,as you will see in the pics, the pilot made sure we had a real good look at the ground as we crawled our way up and over these passes. Too fun man!
Check out the entire area here-Satellite Map of Dean River and surrounding areas
More to come in this series. Up next, some actual fishing stories! Stay tuned
Getting there is half the fun!
I have been meaning to share some of my experiences on the Dean River here and I guess now is the time.
In the next few posts I will give details on the once in a lifetime trip that I have now done 6 times. Words fail to describe even half of what you see, hear, feel and experience on this legendary river.I will do my best to do it justice.
I finally got the opportunity to go to the Dean for the first time in 2000. After much talk and preparation we were off on a fine summer day in late July. I had been working in Bellingham Washington at the time so my buddies from Bend drove up and grabbed me and we headed for the boarder a short distance away. This was before 911 so the crossing was pretty simple. We registered the high capacity shotgun we carried for a bear deterrent and made our way North towards Cache Creek to spend the night. We drove along the fabled waters of the Thompson, and the sight of that amazing river spurred on dreams and images of some of the biggest and strongest steelhead anywhere. We rumbled past Spences Bridge, a little town with legendary steelhead provenance.We drooled at the long gravel bars and runs that screamed "prime holding water" The magnitude of the river and the length of some of the runs we saw gave a new meaning to the words swing and step. This is where I could see the use of a 16-17 ft rod would be a no brainier. A 100 ft cast would be the norm not the exception. Slicing off huge pieces of pie is the only way you would ever even begin to cover these waters.You could be in some of these runs for hours....even splitting them up with a buddy or two. It was staggeringly,beautiful, intimidating and awesome all at the same time!.We all vowed we would fish her waters one day. It still hasn't happened for me but hope springs eternal. But I digress.
Right now,we had other destinations on the agenda.....
As we drove,the Dean river slowly reeled us in, and the anticipation grew mile by mile. We were on an adventure of epic proportions and we all sensed it. This 1st trip, as we would learn later, would define who we were as fisherman, boatmen, and friends. The bond between the three of us from that original trip is forever and inseparable. Burned into the window of my mind permanently.
The odometer is clicking off the miles like a castanet player with a Red Bull adiction.We talked incessantly about all we had read and heard about the river and fish. We discussed the stories of people that we knew that had been there in the past.We reviewed The Dean River Journal until the pages were dog eared and stained from road trip junk food. We messed with fly boxes,tied leaders, spun the handles of our favorite reels and pulled the line off to hear the drag. We were drunk with the anticipation of what was before us. We were beyond a kid at Christmas. We were grown men with the capacity to imagine and dream of far more than any kid could. We had no idea that even our wildest imagination would not prepare us for what was to come. And trust me I have a great imagination
The miles continue to fly by and we rolled into Cache Creek and it was still daylight. Everyone was feeling so pumped that we couldn't stop and we kept on rolling into the early darkness. Up the Caribou Highway past places like Clinton,Chasm,70 Mile House, 93 Mile House, Exiter, and 108 Mile Ranch. Past the huge Lac la Hache to 150 Mile House and a big left turn heading West towards Williams Lake on Hwy 20....the Chilcotin-Bella Coola Hwy. We blew through Williams Lake high on anticipatory steelhead induced adrenalin and caffeine and headed up the hill bound for the unforgiving Chilcotin Plateau.
Up on top is the home of the legendary Gang Ranch.Once the world's largest and still among the major beef suppliers in BC. "The Gang" dates from the 1860s and covers nearly all terrain south of the Chilcotin River and east of Taseko Lake and the Fraser River, and skirting the Bridge River Country to its south. The vast terrain of the Gang Ranch is more wilderness than pasture, It is a mix of natural plateau and alpine meadowland and vast forests and swamps. The Gang verges up into the foothill area of the northeastern flank of the Coast Mountains as they approach the Fraser River from the west, meeting the Fraser between the Gang Ranch's main house and the town of Lillooet.
Similar ranching conditions are found from the Burns Lake and Smithers area in northwestern Interior BC all the way south to the US border, including the famous Douglas Lake Ranch south of Kamloops, but the Gang is by far the largest, and the most wild in character.
After rolling across the endless plateau in the dark, over dozens of cattle guards it started to get late, or should I say early.The candle started to flicker in the drivers seat and we started to realize we should probably stop and get a little rest. We were way ahead of schedule as it was.We weren't planning on being this far at all, we just went with it. When the lure of a new adventure is in front of you, you don't shut it down if you have a willing drivers butt in the seat. We were all veterans of many road trips and driving was a necessity to get to the places we loved. 12-15 hours in the saddle was nothing new.
I think it was around Alexis Lake that we stopped at a little bar/motel and inquired about a room. High on the plateau, surrounded by an Indian Reservation and some hard core locals,we were smack dab in the middle of nowhere and the locals were not looking real friendly at 1:00 am in the morning. We were all toasted. We had thousands in gear in the truck and the thought of leaving it in a less than favorable situation was not an option. It was not just the monetary loss of the gear we feared it was the thought of losing something that could not be replaced before the 8 day float.We were in deep, too deep to turn back now for a replacement on anything. We had permits and helicopter reservations and we could not be late or delayed on anything or the trip would be a bust. A small window of opportunity exists to make the trip up and if disaster strikes you better figure it out quick or no fishing. Still, we asked the bar tender/inn keeper if he had a room. He in fact did. We asked if our stuff would be OK outside for the night in the truck. He looked at us kind of sideways and said very unconvincingly " It'll prolly be alright fella's"
We couldn't get back in the truck fast enough! Rejuvenated by the cold,clear and crisp high plateau air and a full thermos of coffee, we cranked the tunes and blew that pop stand leaving a vapor trail behind Big Red, the double cab Ford diesel that would deliver us to the object of our desire...the Dean River. On through the night we flew. We were all fading fast and things on the road and in our heads are started to get hazy. Driving along in an almost dream state, no one is talking now. The tires and engine hum in harmony, the yellow lines in the middle of the road flash by in a blur. We're starting to push the limits of safety a little. A bit father and we can all rest at Nimpo lake. My buddy Dave at the helm is wrestling with himself and the onset of extreme fatigue. I was riding shotgun and started to drift off a little myself. A serious no-no and a rule of ours on all trips....the co-pilot can never sleep. I opened the window and suck in a few mouthfuls of that sweet BC night air. I am back and alert for a time. I crank the tunes and Blues Traveler re-energizes us for another 20 or 30 miles. A half hour later I am fighting sleep again and soon I feel I must be dreaming. In my dream,a herd of horses has materialized in the middle of the road, shrouded by the mist of a nearby creek. They are so hard to see, are they really there? ..........it is then I realize I am fully awake and there is A HERD OF HORSE"S IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!!!!! HEY DAVE!!!
Dave who was probably almost in the same dreamy state as I snaps to attention and anchors the brakes as the truck careens toward the group of a dozen or so 1500 lb animals. We get closer, tires squeal, I squeal, Dave yells something inaudible. Tim who was in the back seat sleeping has found himself upright and alert in an instant. He yells.The truck is still hurtling down the road at break neck speed and approaching the point of no return. We wait for the impact that never comes.The truck tracks down the center line of the road and miraculously splits the herd.The horses move slowly to the sides as the truck screams by inches away and they disappear just as they appeared in the wispy mists of the chilly Chilcotin pre-dawn. WOA!
Stunned that we are not A) in the ditch rolled over and dead and B) we don't have a 1 1/2 ton horse in our laps and are dead.We drive on in silence. For a second, time stops.None of us knowing for sure if what just happened was real or not.No one says a word for a minute or so. The hair on my neck was standing straight up and my heart was visibly pounding and moving the front of my shirt. The air is thick with the realization that we could have all very easily died just then. As that realization hits we all start to stammer and laugh and yell and scream at the fact that we were all very much alive. It felt good too! We opened the windows and yelled into the night. We laugh nervously as we replay the near disaster in our heads. Things like "I thought we were gonna roll!" "I thought we were in the ditch for sure!" "That big black one was about an inch off the front bumper!" "I could have petted that Chestnut on the way by'! and "Nice driving Mario!"
Isn't it funny how a brush with death always makes you feel alive in a way that you may not have felt just 10 minutes ago?We would later learn that these were wild horses and they pretty much run free all over up there......thus the numerous cattle guards. They seemed to be pretty comfortable on the road and probably dodged cars for a living!
I think we just had the pleasure of being jolted to fully alert status by the Chilcotin Alarm Clock.
We didn't need anything else to keep us awake as we motored on towards Nimpo Lake.
To be continued......
I have been thinking the last few days about some fishing and equipment related things. An interesting post on a popular fishing site got me thinking even more. The post was talking about which fly equipment you would never part with. I thought about it awhile and couldn't come up with anything that I could not easily give up or do without.Now I do have some Hardy reels that I love and a quiver of rods that I have grown fond of, but nothing that I couldn't part with if it came down to it.
However the memories of times spent learning,exploring and gaining the river and fish knowledge that I now have is irreplaceable. The time spent with other like minded people and friends I have met on the river over the years is something I cherish above any equipment I possess.I could easily go back to one single hand rod and a half dozen flies stuck on my hat as long as I had the company of a good friend or two to share it with. I would probably catch just as many fish too. As I grow older I am learning ways to challenge myself more and to fish in a way that pleases me. That may mean fishing a dry fly on a single handed rod almost exclusively for steelhead in the summer and fall. Swinging a soft hackle,streamers or leech for trout when everyone is catching way more on nymphs or dries. Basically, being in control of the method I want to fish instead of letting the fish numbers and others ideas of "success"control how I fish. It took me a while to get here believe me.
I had a great lesson in it recently when I guided a couple of guys who were all about doing it their way with methods that were definitely not mainstream in approach. What transpired was a great day on the water and more lessons learned. Lessons that had very little to do with the actual act of fishing and more with the way they chose to live their lives on and off the water.Words like character,tradition, integrity, humility come to mind when I think of those guys. To these guys, fishing was a way of life, a life choice, something that can't be separated from who you are at your very core, a lifestyle, something so much deeper than just "sport". As I fished with these guys I realized that we were brothers from different mothers and all cared deeply about what we do on the river.We were kindred spirits in our approach to these amazing fish. As we fished, the things left unsaid in the silence of the river were things that we all heard clearly in that same small voice. It was the things we just knew. They could not be voiced, only experienced in the setting we were in, at that particular time.
Now I had only a day with these boys but it could have been a week. The conversations flowed as if we had known each other for years. We had common ground, unmistakable common ground and that was and will be a lasting connection.That's a connection you don't find every day. Sometimes those connections take years with some people,sometimes they never happen.Those are the days that I remember. Those are the days I look to repeat every time I go out.
It's not about me. When I make it about me I cheat myself of opportunities to learn from others. Others that may have insight that I don't have. Others that may have far more to offer me than fishing tips, they may have life tips so be listening.
The older I get the more fishing has become about so much more than catching fish. It is about relationships, perseverance, tradition, history and giving credit to those that came before you,learning from mentors and becoming a mentor, passing down values and ideas that your Daddy gave you.....being a man. Being confident in your skills and not wavered by what the other guy is doing or catching. Not having numbers of fish be the judge of a successful day on the water.
Equipment is nice and is necessary to fish, but I don't ever want to have the success or failure of a day be measured because I didn't have the perfect rod/line combination or the latest reel. We need to get away fro the "Oh, if I would have had my other 7136 with the custom short belly line and that trick poly leader with the latest rock star fly I would have caught every fish in the ditch" mentality and just go fishing! We have too many choices and in many ways we have made fishing too complicated.We all have too much equipment, no one reading this could possibly tell me I am wrong,and I think it can take away from the experience of fishing.
Skagit, Scandi, short, mid and long belly, switch, indicator and nymph lines. Floating, intermediate and sinking shooting heads. Regressive, progressive, fast recovery,slow recovery,full flexing, quick tip rods in every length know to man for every situation imaginable. Click pawl, disk drag reels, palming rim etc.A marketing goldmine and we all bought into it, myself included. It will never stop.This equipment whirlwind, and always having the latest and greatest should not be what defines our reality of a great day on the water. We can do very well with so much less.....in our daily life as well as in the fishing world.
So try it sometime this summer,leave all your fancy gear at home, put your shorts on, grab an old single hand rod and a handful of flies and a good friend and go fishing! You will be guaranteed to have a ball. It's very liberating as well. The fish could care less if you have a $100 rod in your hand or a $1000 rod. We should care a little less as well.
Remember, the best things in life aren't things!
So................are you building friendships out there or getting ready to start a fly shop?
Davie is the man! Cool fly and instructional video. A fly that would work equally well for steelhead in the PNW.
A recent Oregonian article on the struggles the Sandy river and it's wild fish face:
By Ken Anderson, Jad Donaldson, Jeff Hickman, Tom Larimer, Mia Pringle, Marty Sheppard, Marcy Stone and Cullen Wisenhunt
As fishing guides who have made our living on the Sandy River for a combined 53 years, we know that wild salmon and steelhead -- not hatchery fish -- are the backbone of our industry. The state of Oregon tells us these wild fish are protected by law, and we've built the foundations of our businesses around them. For decades we have been able to count on these fish because they are incredibly resilient, but the continued presence of an excessive hatchery program on the Sandy River jeopardizes wild fish, our businesses, our families' welfare and the long-term sustainability of our fishery.
Oregon communities and businesses no longer take Sandy River salmon and steelhead for granted. Instead, companies like PG&E, along with the city of Portland and a coalition of environmental groups have supported the recovery of wild fish by investing $100 million dollars to remove both Sandy River dams and restore its habitat. But with numbers of wild fish lower today than ever before, shouldn't the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife join this effort and provide these threatened fish with the best chance of recovery?
When the Sandy hatchery opened more than 50 years ago, its goal was to keep fish in the river and the fishery going, despite the dams and habitat loss that wreaked havoc on wild salmon and steelhead. In that era, the firm belief was that by raising fish in a tank we could keep wild runs going. But today, 40 years of science indicates just the opposite -- fish raised in artificial conditions do not survive like their wild counterparts, and when they do survive, they reduce the number of wild fish at all life stages.
The hatchery program on the Sandy is a confusing and dangerous relic of thankfully departed times, and we have 40 years of data carefully documenting the decline of wild fish on the river. From a historic run numbering 20,000 wild winter steelhead, we currently have a pitiful 670 fish. These wild Sandy steelhead, as well as the four remaining species of salmon, have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act for more than 10 years. On the river, the hatchery program detracts more from our guiding business than it provides. Our customers return with us to fish the Sandy for the excellent experience we give them: hooking and releasing powerful wild fish.
If ODFW does not give these wild fish the same chance to recover, as our larger community has already initiated, Oregonians are headed for the kind of widespread fishery closures that would devastate the businesses that sustain our Northwest communities and families. To save our industry, our fishery and these wild fish, join with us to oppose the continued excessive hatchery programs on the Sandy River.
Ken Anderson, Jad Donaldson, Jeff Hickman, Tom Larimer, Mia Pringle, Marty Sheppard, Marcy Stone and Cullen Wisenhunt are Sandy River fishing guides.
Some excellent additional articles and info about the plight of the Sandy river HERE
The article on Scapoose Creek and it's health wild run is especially intriguing. Even though that area was extensively logged, wild fish are thriving. It has never had a hatchery program at all and the wild fish populations are far greater than the Sandy watershed which is huge by comparison.
Get involved and make your voice heard, lets all pitch in to keep the Sandy River it's wild fishery healthy and viable for our kids.
I love David's simple instruction and very relaxed stroke. Makes it look so easy.Good stuff! Check out both these videos!
Here is another great video from David that I posted a while back but it is so good I will post it again. I consider myself a pretty good single hand caster but I learned a ton watching this.This guys instruction has made me take a good hard look at some of my casting flaws. The way he explains the double haul and how he hauls his line is very different from the way most of us were taught or learned on our own.It makes complete sense.
This little video has made me a better single hand caster for sure.If you follow a few of these tips it will make you a better caster as well.Probably the most helpful and instructional short video I have seen on the subject. It makes total sense and works well when put into practice.Getting the rod tip to travel in an elliptical path is the key to keeping the stroke smooth and non jerky. The elliptical path is kind of another way to incorporate "rod drift" into the stroke.A way to keep constant tension on the line to get maximum load before forward delivery.A really, really good video!
Time to get the single hander out and study up folks, summer steel are right around the corner!
I know many have seen it but I'm putting it up again because it's just so darn cool. By far the best selection of spey rods,lines,fly tying materials anywhere.His customer service is above and beyond and something that you just don't find ANYWHERE anymore. He will let you demo rods,reels, lines and about anything else you can think off. He will mail them to your door, how cool is that?If he doesn't have it he will find it and get it for you for sure. The man is dedicated to the sport and truly cares about his customers, he's not just out to sell you something.If you need anything in the world of spey, give Poppy a jingle....you won't be sorry.
I was in a pinch once and needed a part fast for an upcoming trip.He sent me the part,a retaining screw for a Hardy Bougle reel,before I had even had a chance to pay him. It was on my doorstep 2 days later. He doesn't sweat the small stuff he aims to please.....yes I paid him.In this day and age who sends you something before it's even paid for.....no one. The part wasn't expensive but that is beside the point. He cared enough to get it to me fast, he knew he would get paid.It's the little things like that that make him unique in the fishing retail world.
Check out his store here Red Shed
Poppy's Red Shed from Henry Harrison on Vimeo.
I found this poster on The Quiet Pool blog(thanks Shane) and think it is timely and important to put out here as well.This is a problem I see all to often on the North Umpqua at this time of year. Some friends and I have thought about trying to get a proposal together that would close the river to fishing above the confluence of Steamboat Creek to the dam. It would be good to see this area closed around the middle of to end of March to protect the upriver fish. I think it would be a good idea.
If you see anyone above Steamboat fishing shallow gravel and paired up/staging fish the next couple weeks please ask them nicely to stop. Use the time to educate them as to why what they are doing is harmful to fish. Those fish need to be left alone to get it done.
This of course would also apply to any obvious gravel and spawning areas in the lower river as well. Use your heads out there and be aware where you are and where you walk.
The next generation of wild steelhead depend on it.