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SkagitMaster - New Water Media

About a guy who likes to fish

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Before I ever made my first cast with a two-hander I saw pictures of this place. Since then I’ve seen a lot of pictures of folks walking the banks, casting flies, and being lucky enough to hook into a ghost or two.

My timing’s a little off but I thought since I was in the neighborhood I would stop by and take a quick look.

Makes me wish it was winter and I was waist deep in it.

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Back in December I picked up on Speypages that Ed Ward was working with Jeff Mishler on a new film project. This looks to be a teaser for the upcoming film project. I lifted this from Simms.

simmsfishing.com

“Skagit Master” Trailer

Discover the secrets of Skagit Casting and the man driving its evolution. Visit Skagitmaster.com beginning August 2009 to purchase “Skagit Master–Featuring Ed Ward”.

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Found out today from Alaska’s News Source – KTUU, that Fish & Game believe they’ve rid Cheney Lake of pike and are planning to restock the lake with rainbow trout.

ktuu.com

ktuu.com

Can’t wait to relive the good ol’ days. Brother is coming up in July.

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Put a few hundred miles on the rig this past trip. An exploratory outing to try to find a few more good pieces of water to add to the others cause you can never have too many.

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A little rain and snow to keep things interesting.

First piece of water turned out to be a lemon. With the low cfs there wasn’t much fishable water. It took less than an hour to swing through all of it. I figured it was time to move on when my magic fly from the last trip and the trip before that got hung up and I ended up having to break it off. Damn it…I loved that fly.

After eyeballing a few more runs and never taking another cast, I decided to move to a completely different area. Things just didn’t feel right. I’ve learned over the years that you have to learn the habits of the river and the fish that swim within it. There are places that are only productive under very particular circumstances and one has to be mindful of things like the weather, snowpack, clarity, discharge, pressure, fish habits, angle of the sun, etc… Things other than what you have tied to the end of the leader matter more. Best fly in the world won’t catch fish if there are no fish around to catch.

Another hour or so behind the wheel found me staring into a sweet piece of water to apply the down and across. For a moment there I thought I had it all to myself. Upon closer examination I made out two figures off in the distance at the head of the run. It looked like they were high sticking indicators.

I watched them as I made my way down to the river’s edge. They never made any attempts to move down the run. It looked like they were working their way up. Sweet! Maybe I’d have the run all to myself. Even after they spotted me they never made a move to work the water down below.

I strongly believe in courtesy and it goes a long way when fishing with others. So I politely asked if they minded me dropping below them. They said they didn’t so I did.

With the rod tucked under my arm I looked over the piece of water as I dug into my pack for my fly box. The run had a very distinct feature at the head which I won’t disclose for reasons you’ll know in a minute. Scattered throughout I could make out a spot or two that I figured could hide a fish or two or three or four.

Working from near to far I worked the head around trying my best to fish the fly around those fishy looking spots. Not more than 5 casts into things the line snapped tight against my finger and pulled the loop out from under it and I ended up slapping the running line against my hand during the hook set. Ouch!!! Short while into it the hooked pulled free. Only thing I saw was a big roll and a big tail before the line went limp.

Hell yeah!!! THAT SHIT WAS AWESOME!!!

I didn’t notice until sometime later when my heart rate and the breathing mellowed out that my hand hurt like a sum-a-ma-bitch. Back of the hand just below the pinky a nice little welt running the full width of my hand was there as a sharp reminder of what just went down.

So I backed up to the starting line and began working it again. It didn’t happen until a little bit after the first and a little further downstream. Nothing super violent like the last take, just a steady hanging up of the fly on something. I waited for some movement before letting the loop slide through my fingers. It took a lot of control on my part to have confidence that when the line came tight and I pulled back the fish would be there.

I waited…the fish was there.

This one I had on longer than the first. A heavy fish that put a serious bend in the 7wt and peeled some line off the reel. I was able to gain some line only to have the fish take it back and then some. Once again the fish came off after a strong head shake, turn, and a roll. Damn…I’m beginning to hate that roll.

Confidence was high at this point despite the two mishaps. I reeled in some line, checked the fly, and began swimming the fly from right bank to left bank again. I worked the entire run. For the next couple of hours I made several passes with a handful of different flies.

Nothing.

Confidence had dipped a bit but I was still hopeful. Due back home in a few hours I decided to make one last run at it. Another fly change and back to the top. By this time my casting had become progressively better. Working from river left I was able to throw in mostly Snap T, a healthy bit of Perry Poke, and a Cackhanded Double Spey or two. That brought a big grin to my face from ear to ear.

The next fish happened a dozen casts in just a few feet shy of the fly resting just below me. I had waded out to above my knee hoping to slow the fly down in a little seam directly below me. The take was solid with no need to set the hook. I waited for that dreaded roll and it happened but the fish stayed on. I could tell the fish wasn’t very big and was able to land it without too much trouble.

I struggled with taking the picture and it must have shown. Not easy when you are in a foot or two of water and keeping the fish’s best interest in mind. One of the guys hollered and asked if I needed help.

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Much better picture than the one I tried to take.

Checking the time I figured I had time to work the rest of the way through. The next tug happened at a strange spot. There was a section three quarters of the way down that started shallow on the far bank and stayed that way for some distance. I never figured that a fish would be resting anywhere in there. It seemed too shallow and too swift. I fired my casts into that water and didn’t bother to throw a big mend in there. I figured it would gain enough depth as the fly swung around. There was a rock making a disturbance on the surface. It wasn’t visible but you could tell it was there.

To my surprise, hiding there, in front of the rock was the fish of the trip. As the fly passed some distance in front of the rock, I felt something chewing on the fly. I let the loop slide through my fingers and waited for the line to come tight to the reel. I didn’t pull back immediately and waited for a steady tug-tug-tug and a bit of line to come off the reel. That’s when I pulled back and felt the weight of the fish.

I was lucky to land the fish. It nearly kicked my ass and when I finally got a hold of the leader and laid my rod on the ice to tail it, the fish broke free and nearly took my rod with it. With the leader in my hand the second time I finally was able to get a firm grip. Once again those kind fellas came over to give me a hand.

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Very grateful those two fishers were kind enough to let me fish the run and for lending me a hand. The only picture of that fish before it went back into the water. No measurements. Afterwards I thanked them for the assistance and kindly gave up the run to them. Just returning the favor.

That right there made the long drive home that much easier. Felt good to finally get a proper fish on the 7136 Z. Still playing that one back in my head.

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Just picked this up on Spey Pages from Riveraddict. If you don’t know who that is you better do some homework. It sounds like he has teamed up with Mishler to develop a new skagit casting video.

I think that most everybody on here knows by now that I am the “Skagit Crusader”. Now that I am at an age where I have more fishing days behind me than I have to look forward to, I am becoming much more aware of my own personal mortality. Add to this my passion for fishing and Skagit casting… I have put in enough time fishing, and in such a variety of circumstances and venues, as to only reinforce my feeling and belief that the Skagit approach is not just a justifiably distinct methodology of its own, but that it is also one of the most versatile ways for utilizing a fly rod. This circumstance has spurred me to start the undertaking of a project that has lingered in the back of my mind for some time now… a Skagit casting video. I have teamed up with Jeff Mishler, who shot Dec’s video, and we are hoping to make this gig a little different than the standard “how to”. Of course, with some of the actual instructional bits, there’s just no getting around the “usual” do-this-then-do-that approach. But, we want to incorporate as much actual-on-river examples as possible. The steelheading aspect we pretty much have established our agenda.

 Read the rest here.

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You always hear folks saying that if you want it bad enough it will happen. Not true. I wanted it bad. It just didn’t happen.

The days leading up to the trip I was physically and mentally exhausted. I usually don’t sleep much the day before a trip. This time was different. It takes me a while to settle in to a new place and constantly worrying about the weather and the river conditions sort of wore me out. 4AM came quickly and the hour plus drive to meet the guide gave me a lot of time to think about the day ahead.

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A tank full of gas and enough coffee to keep you in between the lines.

I tried not to set my expectations too high. This was steelheading in the PNW and from what I’ve learned the game isn’t so easy on a swung fly. Somehow though I convinced myself I was going to get at least one steelhead to hand. That right there may have been the kiss of death. I was probably pushing my luck. I just wanted one. I figured if I worked hard enough it would happen.

We met the guide at a local coffee shop before sunrise and on the drive up to the first run talked about the day ahead. The river conditions were good he said. The rains had brought the river level up a bit and added some color to the river.

We finally got our first look at the river as the morning light filled the valley. It was a medium sized flow cutting it’s way down the gorge. This early in the morning you couldn’t make out the texture of the river but you could see it’s various runs. I could make out pools, rock gardens, and bars. I was anxious for the truck to stop.

The game plan had changed a bit and before we started our float, our guide suggested we fish a productive run just upstream. It was a good opportunity to run my brother through the paces. It had been a number of years since he last fished and the first time ever with the two-hander.

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First run. Brian coaching my brother from the sidelines.

After a quick breakdown of the run, my brother and the guide setup at the top and I made my way to the middle. November in the PNW is like early September back in Alaska. Cool and crisp in the morning. Just cold enough to warrant fleece under the shell and to see your own breath. The landscape, the river, and the atmosphere though are much different than back home but carries with it some familiar aspects.

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Looking down.

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Looking up.

After a short moment of “taking it all in” I finally stepped into the water and began to strip line off the reel. I waded in up to my ankles and started to make progressively longer casts until the fly was just hitting short of the other side. River left is my preferred side at the moment. I like the Snap T because the anchor placement is almost automatic and I can get a decent cast most of the time.

The 7wt was loaded up with a 510 Compact Skagit and 11′ of T-11. At the business end was this.

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Starter fly.

The fly carried with it a lot of expectations. A lot to ask of a fly I know. Only thing left was to make the casts and take the steps.

I’m sure the guide started me up away from the bucket cause he knows how giddy a newbie can be and he didn’t want me blowing it on the lame warm up casts. I was on the inside of a soft bend that opened up into a wide pool. The near side dropped moderately fast and the far side was broken up by a small downed tree forming a seam along the cutbank. The depth looked consistent across the whole run. You could tell from the surface that there were a few nice sized rocks below that could hide a steelhead or two.

Cast after cast…step after step…I fired that fly to the far bank, mended, and settled into the swing. I felt at any moment it could happen. At this point I must have made three dozen casts. Then, at the sweet spot of the 37th swing I felt it…three deliberate taps. Instead of waiting for the fish to commit and burying the rod low and to the bank, I got anxious and effed up the whole thing.

I knew my chances were few and far between. For rookies it’s one or two opportunities. I just wasted one of them on a premature hookset. I stood there for what seemed like forever playing that moment in my mind over and over again. The guide came over a bit later and told me to take 5 steps upstream and work the fly through again. Sometimes he said you can get the fish to come back.

So I did just what he said. Composed myself, took 5 giant steps upstream, and started down and across. I can’t tell you how much I wanted a second chance. I knew if that fish came back I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I would have fed that fish 5 feet of slack and hammered that fly in the corner. That second chance never came. I finished out the run a little disappointed but the day was early…still plenty of water left.

With so much water left, I figured one of us was walking away a winner. Unfortunately for us, the rest of the day just turned into a beatdown of epic proportions. We worked run after run, making casts, taking steps, mending, rod high, rod low, changing flies, eating on the float, and taking one beating after another.

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My brother...making the casts...taking the steps.

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Off to another run.

We fished it all…the wide long run that by the end had you waist deep and tucked up tight to the trees with branches poking you in the back, the inside bend that had us tip toeing along a 4 foot ledge with chain link rip rap armor just waiting to gobble up a D-loop that went too far behind, and the all too familiar exposed bar with a soft inside seam and good looking structure from tip to tail.

After 8+ hours of hoping…that last cast, that last mend, and that last swing was the toughest by far. If it weren’t for the fading light I know I would have kept grinding it out. I felt like I had failed and the disappointment ran deep. I started second guessing things…I should have changed fly color after that first teaser, I should have changed flies more often, I should have taken another pass through with another fly, I should have…I should have…I should have.

It didn’t sink in until a few days later. I finally came to grips with the outcome. I fished my ass off and well…shit like this happens. Going in I knew one or two opportunities. I got one. That works for me.

I wanted so bad to bring a steelhead to hand the only way deemed proper by fellas much wiser than me and who’ve taken multiple beatdowns to just get an opportunity at one more steelhead on the swinging fly. If anything, it’s made it worse. I can’t stop thinking about the next time.

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Last look.

In the end it wasn’t meant to be. Not my time I suppose. I know if I keep paying my dues it will happen.

I want to thank my brother for grinding it out with me. Can’t think of a better person to share the water with. Also, big thanks to Brian Styskal for showing two rookies the ropes and Tom Larimer for all the advice. It was great meeting you guys.

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