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.
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.
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.
Simms Fishing Products released this series of instructional videos to help teach the bank angler tactics and tips for keeping yourself alive while fishing in rivers, crossing rivers, and even swimming in rivers all the while suited up in chest waders. It’s a few years old, but the series is still helpful in regards to its content and ability to scare the hell out of you as you imagine yourself bobbing down the river and having to decide if you’re going to go over or under the tree laying across the river ahead (go over).
Two years ago I fished Beaver Lake after WDFW stocked it with, if my memory serves me right, 3000 brood stock rainbow trout and landed one big one. This past Tuesday, Veterans Day, I fished Beaver again. WDFW had stocked it over the last week with 3-5 lb trout and I was on them all morning. It was cold and windy on the lake and twice my anchor was pulled by the wind and I found myself drifting steadily along, anchor swinging or dragging below me. I steadily caught fish from 8am to 1pm and had to keep my limit as I was using bait. These are true football trout and they fought well, peeling line off on multiple runs at times. A couple of the larger ones, with one of my keepers in particular, being responsible for the longest fights I’ve ever had while fishing for trout. I was using 4 lb test mainline strung on an ultralight St. Croix 2-piece and my bottom fishing trout rig. I was fishing from my pontoon and the wind would have been trouble without the anchor system and Minn Kota trolling motor.
I have a love/hate relationship with fishing in urban settings, although I concede that here in Seattle anglers are lucky to have access to excellent opportunities for catching trout, salmon, and steelhead within a half hour drive of the city or even within the city limits. Green Lake is a typical urban recreation and water sport mecca and was stocked with 40000+ trout in October. The 3 mile path around the lake is busy with joggers, strollers, and rollerbladers. The shores are lined with fishermen in their camp chairs and rod holders, and unfortunately the waters yesterday were filled with rowers competing in a regatta. I headed down yesterday afternoon with my ultra-light trout rod, a backpack full of powerbait, and a camp chair. Using my sliding cannonball set-up, I started with a fairly long leader and some rainbow trout nuggets without much success. I figured that there would be long grass on the bottom of the lake and that I needed to get my bait floating above it. In reeling in I noticed that the grass and milfoil that I was bringing in at times was short and not as abundant I I expected. Normally in adjusting my rig I like to change one variable at a time: first I change the leader length to see if that is the issue, then the bait choice, and then I’ll try casting hardware to see if the fish are hitting spoons and spinners on the surface. I changed two variables yesterday and immediately started getting bites. A shorter, 1-1.5 foot leader and sherbet trout nuggets were the key. I pulled in 3 cookie-cutter planters and lost a couple more. I’ve always used barbed, #6 or #8 red Gamakatsu bait hooks but am starting to crimp the barbs as I struggle with getting the hook out of these small fish without bloodshed. I have no interest in eating a stocker trout (or really any fish taken from fresh water) and a barbed hook makes the release difficult. These fish are nearly always hooked in the throat or tongue as they gulp the bait and a barbed hook is redundant if one plans to release them. I also worry about leaving a hook I can’t remove in a fish. The fish will likely live a shortened life with the metal in it and become dangerous food for water fowl or eagles. This worry was confirmed yesterday as I watched a bald eagle come down a hundred yards from where I was fishing and snatch a trout (one I just released?) off the surface of the water.
Faraday Lake is an hour outside of Portland, Oregon and is a small, 26 acre lake formed by a diversion dam on the Clackamas River. The dam has a fish ladder that allows salmon and steelhead to make their way through the lake as they head up the Clackamas. A friend and I fished for stocked trout at Faraday in a mix of sunshine and rain, catching 7 between the two of us in the 12″-14″ range. Our spot actually had some flow two it in the center channel of the lake and would have been prime float fishing if I had brought my centerpin gear. All of our luck with trout came on bait from the bottom and we did manage to spot some coho lazily floating by in the shallower water close to shore.
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.