Tag Archives: fly fishing

Lake Takhlakh Early July

I booked a campsite over 4th of July weekend at Lake Takhlakh back in February. I had visited the lake last year late in the summer and we had a day of monsoon rain and a final clearing of the clouds right when we were packed up and leaving. This time around we camped only the second weekend the site was open for the season and it had been a mild winter with little to no rain over the two weeks leading up to the 4th. As soon as we arrived we set up camp and drove down to the launch to get the pontoon and an inflatable kayak in the water so that we could ferry them across the lake to moor at a spot where we had easier access from our site. As soon as we pulled up to the lake we had a visit from the resident Hoodoo host who cryptically asked us if were camping or day tripping and then, without further inquiry, told us to go look at the lake and that “it’s doubled in size since I first saw it” We had no idea what he was referring too so we went down to the lake and saw a smoke plume rising out of the forest very close to the campsite.

View of the Horseshoe Fire on Mt. Adams over Lake Takhlakh.
View of the Horseshoe Fire on Mt. Adams over Lake Takhlakh.

The fire covered 250 acres and caused much of the surrounding area near Lake Taklakh to be restricted forest, closed to public access. We were very lucky to be on the outside edge of this boundary. Here is a view of the fire from the southern face of Mt. Adams.

Smoke plume rising from Horseshoe Fire  as viewed from high on the slopes of Mount Adams  (photo credit:GPNF)
Smoke plume rising from Horseshoe Fire as viewed from high on the slopes of Mount Adams (photo credit:GPNF)

Below is the map of the restricted area released by the forest service. Lake Takhlakh is just beyond the far northern tip of the restricted area, with the fire located in Horseshoe Meadows in the central portion of the map at the base of Mt. Adams.

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The fire was contained and the smoke plume dissipated after only a couple of hours. There were lots of rumors swirling around camp about whether or not we were safe or able to stay.  The camp host did not have any communication with any fire teams or the forest service and was telling people that they should probably go. I did my best to ease Katlin’s worries and we waited until officially hearing that the fire was being contained. It was burning between two lakes, we would have at least a couple hours notice if we did need to leave, and most importantly, we could stay.

On the northern side of the lake looking east.

So with the boats in the water and camp set up we got into what would become our daily routine of cooking quick meals and taking about 3 trips a day out onto the water. The fishing was best mid-morning or evening, with the bite dying with the brightest sun, close to 2pm each day.

The lake had just been stocked the week prior with some 3000+ rainbow trout. Two hundred of these were big, 4lb brood stock fish that I could see rising and porpoising all over the lake. There were also resident Westslope Cutthroat in the lake that I caught a couple times, using small #0 or #1 bronze Mepps spinners with either blue or red dots on the blades. These spinners were my go-to fishing tactic all weekend. Of the many fish that I did catch, most hit the spinners hard and fought well on my ultralight gear.

I did try fly fishing but it was a tough go. There were a few other fly fishermen on the lake who were having luck with the smaller fish (I caught one on a grizzly-hackled black woolly bugger) but no such luck landing the larger brood stockers that seemed to be jumping all around us. I stuck with the spinners for the most part as they seemed to provide the biggest chance of landing a cutthroat.

One of the few Westslope Cutthroat I caught.
One of the few Westslope Cutthroat I caught.

The fishing was great I would say, given the bite was generally on and I didn’t have to resort to using bait. The view from the water is one of the best in the world as far as I’m concerned. There is a trail that leads around the lake and that has numerous bank access spots as well.

Bank fishing from the day-use beach
Bank fishing from the day-use beach

The black flys and bugs were out in full force and a smoky fire, citronella candles, and well-placed DEET applications helped a little. When I return to Takhlakh again this early in the season I’m bringing an upgraded kitchen tent with a netting that can keep the bugs out. There’s no water at Takhlakh and I’m glad that we brought plenty. We were also happy to have a new toy, the Goal Zero Switch 8 and Nomad 7 backpacking solar charger for our devices that worked well in the clear sun up that high.

View of Mount Adams from the road out of Takhlakh
View of Mount Adams from the road out of Takhlakh

Little Nestucca & Neskowin Rivers

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.

Twenty at Rattlesnake

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.

Deception Pass & San Juan Halibut

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.

Three Pontoons In A Truck

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.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake

Last Casts at Cranberry Lake

Anchored With April Vokey

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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 Anchored podcast 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.

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Offut Lake February 2015

With the weather as nice as it’s been I packed up my pontoon and headed an hour south back to Offut Lake in Tenino, Washington. I just recently purchased my first fly rod and reel and wanted to practice some casting, and perhaps get into one or two of the 900 Eells Springs Hatchery Cutthroat that were stocked in mid-January. While casting the flyrod I had another line in the water fishing from the bottom with bait for some of the rainbow trout that are put in the lake by both WDFW and the stocking program at Offut Lake Resort, who have their own pen at their dock. Thankfully my casting greatly improved over the course of the day as I recalled the large amounts of information gleamed from Youtube videos and got into a rhythm. Biggest challenge is being aware of where both my hands are at all times. I’m hoping that the difficulty added to the learning process by the fact that I was sitting down on the water all day will contribute to marked improvement once I get the chance to practice again while standing. I didn’t get any takes on the fly rod.  All I was doing was casting woolly buggers and letting them sink a bit before stripping them back in jerkily and I wasn’t expecting much this first time actually getting my fly line wet. I did however manage to get three rainbows in the net and missed one on an early hook set with my spinning rod/bottom fishing set-up. I have to say I’m pretty happy with the way that my trout fishing has developed since last spring when I really started going at it again. I’m seriously looking forward to moving beyond the bait and wait game and take my developing skills with fly fishing up into the alpine lakes this summer and eastside rivers this spring.