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Dog Days

Posted by Mark Wednesday, August 31, 2011 4 comments

  Rudy always has to be by my rod.This time it was up on a rock that was 10 ft above the water. I turned around to see him up here watching me fish. Still don't know how he got on this rock. Look at it next time if you know where this is.

 Best fishing dog I know


I just got back from an extended session on the river that included guiding, personal fishing, poker, and some other general tomfoolery that accompanies the Dog Days of August on the river. Overall, fishing was typically tough but consistent and productive if you covered some water. I had action on every session out with some notable risen fish and memorable hookups.I batted a thousand in getting fish for all my clients the days I worked which is always a bonus. It doesn't always work that way.

All of those pale in comparison to the experience my buddy had. Brett has been hanging around the boys on the NU for 5-6 years now and he has definitely been paying attention! His casting and overall fishing prowess has improved dramatically since he first plied these waters. He has been a great student and has gotten a lot of tips from myself as well as a few grizzled veterans that have been fishing here seemingly since time began....you know who you are. Anyway, I want to relate this story because I want to highlight some key elements that make it so awesome.

So, Brett shows up and we fish together the first night. We raise a fish or two( I rose one 8 times that never ate) and have a blast hanging out and fishing together. I then guide for a couple days and don't see him much except at night. He has been hard at it, raising fish but no hookups. He raises a fish in a run at last light and puts it to bed. He tells me later that it was a way above average specimen. He watched as the whole side of the fish slowly came out of the water and missed the fly. It will be rested and ready in the morning and Brett has that fish and only that fish on his mind at dinner.He is present with us but I can tell that he is drifting away to that happy place where big fish hit skating flies and stick. I am right there with him after hearing his story of the first encounter.

Early in the AM he is gone. Gone to do battle with a fish that has captured his mind and full attention. I know the drill. He is rehearsing the whole scenario out in his mind as he drives like Mario Andretti to get to the run before someone blows his chances for a rematch. He arrives at the run to find that at least that part of the battle is won and he is the victor. He makes his way out to the casting station, knowing that now the run is his and he can have first shot at a fish that, if approached properly and carefully will almost certainly eat a fly today. The first time through he fishes a skating fly. As the fly enters into the window where he showed himself the night before, the anticipation,adrenalin and emotion of seeing that fish at any moment are so strong it's almost debilitating. It is hard to explain the feeling of knowing where a big fish is, fishing a surface fly closer and closer to his lie and trying to keep it together and still cast. The sense that something is about to happen is overwhelming.Every drift you are mentally calling the fish to make an appearance. As you get closer, you obsess with cast angle,mending, and swing speed. You wonder if he just may have left the run. Maybe I passed by him already, maybe he's not in the mood today, I'm never gonna get this fish to eat etc etc........and then WHOOSH! There he is! Your knees shake your breath gets shallow and uneven, you start to sweat, your head pounds with the beat of your heart which you are sure is on a PA system blasting over the entire river, announcing to the world that you just rose a fish. But the stillness of the morning is not disturbed in the slightest. You ask yourself," Did I just see what I think I saw?" Was that him?

Brett regains his composure after the fish is raised the first time. OK, he's still in there and he is still BIG! He changes flies to a traditional wet fly and sends it through.He waits like a coiled spring for the tug that never comes.....nothing doing. He changes flies again, a dark muddler of some sort. Same song third verse......nothing happens. A different wet fly nada. Back to a skater.......WHOOOOOOOOSH! but no eat. All told 6 fly changes and back to a purple Muddler.He actually hung up and broke off two flies on the shallow bedrock during this whole scene. He started to loose it, things were falling apart but he got his head back together and kept after it.Now he is pumped with adrenalin,furious that he has to retie a fly,doubting his chances all the more as the minutes tick by. He stays with it.

He shortens up and works his way down to the fish, more or less thinking that this fish just took him to school and it ain't gonna happen. The size 6 Muddler swings lazily across the current going exactly where the rod and the one directing it tell it to. Now this fish has seen an armada of flies come over it's head in the last 15 minutes. Why this fly is any different,who's to say. But it is. With shocking intensity and amazing power and speed, a mid teens buck absolutely hammers the fly going away and it's GAME ON BABY! Brett's 11 ft 7wt switch rod suddenly feels very inadequate as the fish uses every ounce of strength, current and ledge rock to his advantage, leaving little room to counter any of his moves. There is no moving this fish whatsoever in the strong current of this mid river run. If the fish leaves the pool there is no chasing it. They slug it out for a round or two and then with a couple of head shakes and a flip of the tail, the fish does what a fish of this size can and will do. Take you to school. In and out of the ledge rock, a tug of war battle royal ensues. And then just to prove a point and have the last laugh the fish bolts for the back door, wedges the line in the ledge rock, promptly snaps the fly off and leaves Brett a quivering, shaking,hyper-adrenalized shell of his former self.

That's why we fish.

He later told me,that particular fish was easily the most satisfying fish he has ever matched wits with. It all started with a chance encounter.That was then followed by a chess match which was followed by a 15 round tittle fight where only a knock out will win. It's OK if the fish wins
As one of the people that has watched Brett become an amazing caster and fisherman in a very short time I was proud to see that he stuck with this fish. Despite obstacles both mental and physical he played the game that very few can. It was a well planned hunt from start to finish.He kept it together and sealed the deal and got this fish to go. He knew early on in the fight that landing the fish was probably not an option but he still tried.Very admirable buddy, nice job! His success always encourages me.

I never landed a fish in the 3 or 4 days I fished but that fish was in my mind for most of the time I was down there. In fact it still is.

That was a fish we can all share in.....won't you join me?

Brett finding some shade





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Am I The Only One?

Posted by Mark Sunday, August 14, 2011 4 comments

So I had the extreme honor and privilege to guide country great Dierks Bentley last week. What a hoot! He had a few hours to fish before he had a night show at the Douglas County Fair. He wanted a small taste of the goods and he knew that catching a steelhead on the spur of the moment was probably not gonna happen. He didn't care.For him, it was a chance to jump in the old Jeep CJ that he tows behind the tour bus and flee the "scene" for a while. He just wanted to see the river,get in the water and see what all this steelhead talk was about.We met in the early afternoon and it was warm enough so he just wet waded. He was a good caster and he covered some nicely shaded water in the small window of time we had. The fish were not willing but we had a great few hours together in the beauty of the river I love....I think he loves it now too!A super down to earth guy that couldn't have been nicer. Just a regular guy who just happens to be super talented in the music department.

DB cooling his heels and looking for steel

He generously invited my family and I( who were all on the river camping) to the show and took care of all the arrangements. He got us reserved seats down front and we were treated to an absolutely killer show! A great showman and singer he had the rowdy Douglas County crowd whipped into a frenzy in short order.He has a very tight band that was high energy and very animated. They were all having a great time up there and obviously love what they are doing. I was surprised when after the show, he invited us all on the bus where we met the band and just hung out with them for about 45 minutes. We were the only ones on the bus besides the band despite the hundreds of rabid fans still trying to get him to come out. We felt pretty privileged to be there that's for sure. It was just so cool. He gave my kids a tour of their rolling home which was quite impressive. They will never forget it that's for sure. I can't say enough about how humble and mellow Dierks and the whole band were. They made us feel right at home and were in no hurry to see us leave.But, eventually we had to go as they were heading North for another show and were heading out soon. My son wanted to ride in the bunk bed to Lake Chelan. We dragged him off the bus. An amazing night of fun!

 In his element


 Hanging in the bus
 An awesome dude with his two newest fans.


Now to the fishing. As is typical for August it was tougher fishing for sure. I of course was fishing dry lines and dry flies and a muddler or two and couldn't get a sniff for a day and a half. I didn't fish super hard, and was enjoying some time running with the family. It was fun to watch my wife fish and try not to be a guide while I watched her. She is a great fly fisher and I wanted to see her get one.

 Getting cool
 Best
 Watching mom skate a dry
 EAT IT WOULD YA!

 Such sweet water
 More beautiful water
 How nice is that?

 450 fish up at Lee's
 Best seat in the house


 Shoot!

 Debi fished hard in the afternoons and didn't get a sniff. I rose a fish one morning and then got one to go on a dry this morning. Despite heavy pressure on the river, I slipped right in to a spot that is often overlooked. It is a very difficult place to fish but it works and it didn't disappoint today.It was a way cool take. I watched as the fish moved from his lie and slowly circled the fly and then lazily grabbed it of the surface and went back to his lie. It happened so slow I actually let him almost get back to where he was sitting before sticking the hook in him. After a quick tussle,I released a nice buck. A great long weekend and I am feeling very blessed to live where I live and have the family that I do. Making memories can be very fun.

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A Great Exchange

Posted by Mark Thursday, August 4, 2011 4 comments

So, the other night I show up at a favorite run and am gearing up. I am alone in a spot that has access to 3-4 killer runs.The sun has shaded the water and it's GO time. A car rolls in and parks next to me. A fellow fisherman.The guy sees that I am wadering up and he comes over to chat.

" Are you gonna fish XYZ pool?" He politely asks. 

I say " I'm gonna be a minute getting ready,feel free to fish anything you want" and "Hey,thanks for asking"

He says"Well you were here first"

I say "Seriously, go have at it man,there's lots of places to fish."

"Are you sure?" He asks again.

"Yes,I am sure." I say.


Just then a guide friend of mine rolls in with clients and says to me"Hey, did you fish the lower end?"

I say " No, it's all yours, no one has touched it since it shaded." He nods his approval, says "Thanks" and heads down the road to ZYX pool and is gone.

I exchanged a few more pleasantries with the first angler who then went into an upper run and he was gone. I decided to leave him the middle water as well and I got in my car and drove away with a smile on my face.
I felt good about what just went down. I met a cool dude and potential friend in the first angler and the guide was a good friend already yes, but that stuff comes back around so giving him the lower run was a no brainer. I just gave up all freshly shaded unmolested water and really didn't care. I'm serious, I didn't even flinch. I guess I have learned a few things since I was a kid. There was no stress, no competition, no angst. I was confident that I would find a fish somewhere else.....and I did.

Now I mention this incident because as I grow older and hopefully wiser I really don't care near as much as I used to about fishing any one run.I fish the whole river,letting it dictate where I go, not peoples attitudes on the river,good or bad. Having a Plan A-Z is a good thing on this river. You can't be a one trick pony. I don't care how crowded it is, I can always find somewhere to fish. I want to have a good exchange with the people around me.Things go smoother that way. I know the river too well to get mad about not getting every pool I want every time.I almost had to laugh as I thought about talking with the first angler and almost arguing over who could have the water. It reminded me of that cartoon with the those little chipmunks.Remember "After you sir" "Oh no I insist, you first" Oh I couldn't possibly go first, you must go first"

I found my way to another stretch of prime water that was amazingly open. I fished through a series of runs with nary a person in sight, anywhere. I fished a skater with confidence as the water has finally dropped into reasonable shape and I could wade around without swimming. As I got into the "sweet water", just as I was stepping down, I saw and felt the object of my pursuit as it solidly grabbed the swinging skating fly. If I had stayed where I was one more second before stepping down I would have pinned this fish I think. But as I moved down and gave ground to the fish as it ate, I never got a solid hook into him and the fish plucked the fly solidly and was quickly gone. I was OK with that.I rose a fish to a skater and it ate it, I just couldn't seal the deal.

What a great night! It is August, I am fishing a dry line and skater, I am working the kinks out on a new rod and liking it. I am healthy and wealthy in family and friends, fishing the river that I love....what could be better?In addition,I had a very positive exchange with some fellow fisherman out enjoying the resource. Just a perfect night all the way around.

In conclusion I will say this: Please be courteous and respectful out there when you fish. Talk to people, see where they are fishing. Don't crowd or push people around. Also on that note,don't hold water etc.  If you are in a run, FISH IT.! Don't stand around waiting for it to shade etc. It's all about timing get there at the right time and you are golden.

The experience I had mirrors one of the reasons that I love the river. People that fish here are by and large friendly and ethical. The North Umpqua is still a place where history and tradition run deep. Let's all help to keep it that way forever.


There is so much more to this game than the catching!

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