Katlin and I drove to Pacific City, Oregon for Memorial Day and I got a chance to fly fish for the first time in two of the several rivers that empty into the ocean near there. The drive in along winds along Little Nestucca Road and includes several points where the narrow road funnels across one-lane bridge crossings across the river. At each of these bridges on the way in I had a chance to check out some nice pools that had me chomping at the bit as I formulated an easy way to break it to Katlin once we landed at her folks’ house that I was going to be taking my fly gear back there to get a line wet. The moment arrived and with some support from her Dad, I made my exit and headed back up to scout the bridge crossings a bit more and find a good spot to access the river safely. After a couple stops I found some proper access with decent pools and hiked down below a bridge and along the bank for a short while, posting up in a nice tailout that looked promising. I hadn’t fished drys yet, and was really curious about the presence (or not) of fish, so I tied on a nymph and let it swing through the tailout into a nice pool that formed below. The fish were there and what they lacked in size they made up for in abundance. I caught a small cutthroat on nearly every cast, took in the scenery, and then mosied on back to the house for BBQ and time with the family.
On Sunday I was promised that I’d get a shot at fishing the Kellow Farm in Hebo, Oregon. The farm was about a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying and was on a nice stretch of the Neskowin RIver, above the hatchery but still the possibility of seeing a late Spring Chinook lurking in a big hole that formed just down the driveway from the farmhouse. I had caught a big Coho there two Christmas’ ago in that hole. There weren’t any big fish to be seen, so I waded across the river and upstream a bit, with the plan being to work my way down, through the big hole, and beyond to some water that I hadn’t seen before. There was nothing happening at the big hole, but downstream I found some promising water tight to the bank and switched to a dry fly. The dry was instantly hit on a cast tight to the opposite bank and I quickly caught two healthy rainbows which were much bigger than the cutthroat I’d been hooking the day before. Those two were the perhaps the biggest once around on the small part of the river I fished that day. It felt great landing my first two fish on a dry fly and great practice before I take on the Yakima here once my summer break begins.
On Monday we headed to the beach before the drive home to Seattle. I’ve always had this juvenile dream of driving on a beach and there’s no better than Tierra Del Mar north of Pacific City.
I fished at Rattlesnake twice over this past week. On Sunday I fished from the bank, hooking two on a red spinner and struggling when I tried to fly fish due to wind, minimal room for backcasting, and a generally amateurish level of skill at this part in my fly fishing development. My friend and I then drove up to try the middle fork of the Snoqualmie, only to be greeted by the road closure that has much of the best water off limits to everyone except those prepared to hike in (which I may do here in the next couple weeks). Yesterday I headed back to Rattlesnake with my pontoon ready and had a lot of success in both catching fish and honing my fly fishing skill set. I landed about fourteen trout in the first ninety minutes and then committed to staying until I got to twenty, which took about four more hours as I tried different patterns I’d tied up and took some shore breaks for lunch and for watching the show being put on my a couple ospreys who were diving and catching their own lunches. The fly of the day was a woolly bugger with black maribou, grizzly hackle, olive green dubbing on the body, wine-colored thread, and a brass bead. I posted a picture of it below, slowly unraveling and beaten down by the ten trout who had tried to swallow it. I’ve never had to pluck hooks on artificial presentations that were as deep as these buggers got in the fish. They were all barbless and not that small (size 8), but the bigger fish were nearly swallowing these things. I take it as a good sign as Rattlesnake has been a selective gear, catch and release fishery for most of the past year and these bigger planters are starting to feed voraciously on the natural foods available to them in the lake. I hope that as WDFW continues to regulate this lake with these selective gears rules and continues to periodically stock the lake that we’ll see, if they can sustain it for 3-4 years, really big and colored fish roaming about.
I was invited to fish for halibut by a friend and his girlfriend’s dad and dad’s co-worker. I stayed in Anacortes Thursday night and we checked out at 4am to meet Steve and drive to the launch at Washington Park. There we met Rydell, whose boat we would be taking out and who proved to be an incredible guide. He’d live in or very near to Anacortes all his life. His system for fishing halibut was very dialed in and meticulous. From the choice of waters to the anchor system to the chum-on-the-downrigger. We anchored in about 113 feet of water (shallower than I expected) and Rydell got all the gear in the water promptly after a lesson on rigging the herring and the rational behind using both octopus and herring (rigged to look like the octopus is attacking the herring). Our phone service was alternating between towers in Canada and the US. We hooked two big halibut before 11am. I reeled in a 61lb fish and Perry, about an hour later, a 45lb fish. In checking in with the fish checker we learned that these were the two biggest fish caught at least two of the launches in the area. I’d like to think they were the two biggest fish in the state caught that day.
After being on the water for 12 hours, we docked and Perry and I went to Deception Pass where he and I would stay for a night and he left in the morning. I had three more friends coming up to meet me from Seattle and they arrived close to 11am and we tried fishing for searun cutthroat underneath the Deception Pass Bridge and then loaded up the pontoons to try and fish Pass Lake.
Pass is a flyfishing-only lake that we were undergunned for. The fish were deep and our flys were not. I also fished Cranberry Lake and hooked about three fish and landed none. Trout fishing was finicky but the trip was good recon and I’ll be better prepared next time.
I fished for fours in a downpour today at Rattlesnake Lake. The plan was to hike the shoreline, but once I arrived and the wind was minimal, I assembled my pontoon and headed out about 150 yards from the boat launch. I caught my first trout on a fly. A red beaded, grizzly hackled, brown tailed wooly bugger that I cast and stripped back in. My casting is improving and I learned a lot today. I used that fly all day and landed four on it. I also had my ultralight spinning rod and was getting bites every other cast on a red Mepps spinner. I landed another five on the spinner. The lake was very active with trout, they were jumping all around all afternoon. The water was bright green and not as murky as would be expected with all of the rain. A great day fishing and I’m glad to have made despite the last two days of rain. There was only one other angler on the water and he was catching his share too with a nymph below an indicator.
While I haven’t been able to fish as much as I’d like lately this late winter, I have been catching up on my reading and online media that serves as a source of information and inspiration when I’m stuck in the city. Podcasts have never been something I thought I had time for. But lately on a long drive to Oregon to visit my girlfriend’s family, she suggested we listen to some podcasts that she had been listening to on her commutes. They were mostly popular comedy or investigative reporting shows. This trip led to me searching for fishing-related podcasts and other online streaming interviews and outdoors shows that I may listen to on my own commutes and even while I am at the tying bench. My searches led me to April Vokey’s Anchoredpodcast and I have been steadily getting through her casual and informative interviews with some legends of fly fishing. The interviews range from fascinating and engaging to infuriating (in a productive way) and reflective. I’ve embedded the audio for her interview with Lani Waller below, which was the first one I listened to and a captivating listen as he recalls the story of his life spent fishing and a horrifying near-death experience. His easy-going manner and the masterful storytelling of his fascinating life had me really envious for April’s opportunity to sit and spend time with him. What conveys over the audio is a truly intimate conversation, rich in that feeling you feel when sitting down and listening to an elder who you know has something to teach you about life. I also have to suggest her interview with Seattle-local Dave McCoy who owns Emerald Water Anglers and is a passionate advocate for wild steelhead preservation here in my home state of Washington.
There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.