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Arrrrgh!!!!!

That’s not what came out of my mouth after I blew it on the hookset but you get the idea. By my count I wasn’t quite to my thousandth cast which may explain why I fumbled this one. It wasn’t supposed to happen that soon. Fish of a thousand casts right?

The morning produced nothing for Jay and me, so when we came back in the afternoon I was feeling anxious knowing that in a few hours we had to start making our way back home. Earlier we had worked a sweet piece of water with all the elements for a happy ending. Deep…but not too deep. Fast…but not too fast. Choppy…but not too choppy.

Just right if you know what I mean.

I remember calling it as we walked along the snowy bank that one of use was going to hook up on this stretch. What I should have said is that one of us was going to bring a fish to hand. In hindsight I jinxed it from the start.

First pass through this long stretch, from tip to tail, produced nothing. Not a bump, a tug or a grab. No need to get discouraged. By my count I was at about cast 420 of 1000. No sweat. Just keep grooving those casts out there. No need to get too excited until we get around cast 999. Until then just sit back and enjoy the nature around you.

Before the second pass I decided to change flies to something a bit more flashy. The sun had been out all day and the water seemed to be getting a bit dirty. I figured the fish needed a little help locating the goods. I worked my way down about halfway to around cast 447 when it happened.

At that sweet spot just down and across, the bastard fish grabbed a hold of my fly and tugged back firmly twice. Hindsight once again…I suspect this is when the fish decided to take my fly down and once it felt some resistance or the Owner Sz 2 began to shake it’s head. Only being at 447 of 1000, I was obviously in La La Land, enjoying the flora and fauna around me and thinking to myself how bright the sun is and how the wind has picked up and is now coming upriver and how I should probably avoid the double spey and go with a Snap T and on the next pass I should go with something completely different or stay with this fly because the sun is still out.

La La Land is right because once I felt the tug I hauled back immediately (damn fast twitch muscles), felt the weight of the fish, watched it roll on the surface and saw the fat skagit head go limp.

Seriously!?!? WTF! Arrrrgh!!!!!!!

I should have paid better attention. I should have let that bastard fish turn and take the fly back to it’s hidey hole. I should have waited for the reel to start clicking a bit. I should have…

My only takeaway from the trip was a banged up knee after jumping off some shore ice, stumbling on the landing and going down on my right knee onto the rocks to save me from going swimming. That’s not entirely true. I did takeaway that the fish don’t give a crap what cast you’re on. I need to be ready at all times. Only throw it out there if I’m ready to set the hook. Not at first though…wait until that bastard turns with it.

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Putting the Z-Axis switch to work. This little guy was enticed by a homemade sculpin pattern on the 6110. Skagit short 375 and 8 feet of T-8 were the ticket.

That 6110 has some meat down low. I’m thinking it could easily handle a bit more. I got caught up in one spot where the branches of every tree were in the way. In that case 20 feet of skagit head seemed a bit much. A chopped up 17 footer or so in the upper 300’s or low 400’s might just be the ticket. Who knows maybe shorter and heavier.

Time to check the classified section of the forums and see what I can dig up.

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Days between fish ain’t so bad when the only reason you haven’t tailed one is because you just haven’t been out. Alaskans routinely go through this…it’s called winter. Yeah it sucks but the reason is clear. You accept it and move on.

There is a whole new level of suck when you’ve been out there and things aren’t really turning out the way you expected. Several trips in and not a tug or a pull or one tailed. Didn’t help that the wind was always blowing in the wrong direction and strong enough to knock down trees. Seriously. One trip I heard a tree across the river snap and come crashing to the ground. From now on I am listening to those “winter storm warnings”.

A lot goes through your mind as fishless day adds to fishless day. You begin to wonder if it’s going to happen. You keep telling yourself that it’s just a matter of time and to keep making the casts and taking the steps. You wonder if you didn’t make a mistake by not fishing the usual spots and instead opting to explore new water. You begin to second guess your new fly theory and wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just go back to what worked before. You think to yourself are the fish even here? Maybe they’re over there or over there? Maybe I should have run through one more time? Is five feet of 10# enough? Should I go shorter…longer? Do I have the right sinktip on?

A lot of questions and not a lot of answers.

Then on the last trip of the season it all falls into place. A person who shall go unnamed had started things rolling by getting three solid grabs. Two were teasers to get his attention. The third was solid and would have been the fisher’s first of the year if it weren’t for him fumbling his new clicker reel. Cold fingers make it tough to pinch the running line between your fingers during the hookset. Add to this a reel with just enough “drag” to keep it from free-spooling and a newbie in the clicker reel plus big fish department and you end up with tug tug…ZZZT…ZZZT…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! It was tragic and made him think real long and hard about switching that Hardy clicker for the Nautilus in his pack.

So when someone in your group hooks up on the first fish of day it sets off something within the rest of the group. You focus a bit more and you pay attention to each little pull, bump, and nudge. You just know that any minute now it’s going to happen to you. My first fish picked up the fly and just ran with it. I had gained enough line to bring the back of the head to the reel when the fish just seemed to let go. I blame it on a weak hookset. I don’t think the hook ever really got settled in.

The next fish came a bit later. The hookup was aggressive. Quick set and the fish made two big jumps. A few long runs and I was able to tail my first fish of the year. My new super, secret fly pinned right in the corner.

I know the photo is a bit blurry. The guy behind the camera helped tail the fish and the water was super cold. As for all that wind this Spring. It was without a doubt the worst wind I’ve ever fished in.  Hands and face hurt like a mudderfukker. One of the guys in the crew suggested this.

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Picked this up used just recently. A lot of good press on this stick. Folks say it is more an 8 than a 7. I’m hoping that is the case. I got a 600 compact skagit that hasn’t gotten a lot of airtime. I’m thinking it will handle it just fine.

The plan is to string this up for kings. I know it isn’t the “right” stick to go after kings but I figure I won’t feel so bad if this thing explodes on me if and when I get lucky enough to tie into one. I suppose I could have picked up a 9wt. Another time perhaps. For now the 7130 fits nicely. A good backup for my primary 7wt and a loaner for my brother when he visits.

The water I plan to fish isn’t all that big and the fish aren’t HUGE. The big kings are tough no matter what weight rod you are using. I’ve caught a few on the ol’ singlehanders…8wts, 9wts, and 10wts. Exploded a 9wt trying to keep a king from turning back into the current. Should be fun.

The VT2 7130 seems like it has some meat down low. No sense worrying about it now…I’ll just figure out what to do when the time comes.

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Stumbled on this tonight. Looks to be a new show with Steve Apple from Rollcast Productions. You remember Steve…Fishizzle and Hustle & Fish. This episode he fishes with Tom Larimer of Larimer Outfitters on the Deschutes.

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dloop

Tuber and I have been at this two-hander thing for little over two years now. Since early 2007 to be more precise. We both started out picking up more rod than we needed for the waters we fished. Back then we didn’t know better but we didn’t care. We had to get out there and see what it was all about.

We both came at it from different angles. I stumbled upon two-handers on the internet and he was lucky enough to have two buddies who were a year ahead. Now it consumes us and we can’t stop talking about it.

We are probably the only two people who have ever thrown a two-hander on the Anchor, Bird, and Ship. I know I am probably the only person who has worked the two-hander at the peak of sockeye season in Southcentral. Not exactly the proper stage but it’s water and it was what we had to work with. If you’ve ever fished those waters you know it doesn’t take much more than a nine footer to cover every inch of water and then some. To say the two-hander was overkill would be an understatement. The Anchor was probably the worst place to apply the art. Most of the time we just flipped the tip. Bird and Ship weren’t much better but at least you could stretch one out there once and a while when the tide was in. We usually ended up fishing water others wouldn’t or couldn’t.

We got some stares and some funny looks for sure. Thirteen feet of rod and fly line thick enough to winch a jeep out of the mud flats is strange if you didn’t know any better. It was fun and we felt like pioneers.

Lucky for us we’ve been able to find some proper water to apply the down and across. Like the stretch of water we go back to every spring and the new piece I discovered this year. And the old water that’s new water because we can now look at things from an entirely different angle.

This two-hander business has changed everything. I find myself fishing the single-hander and throwing spey casts about half the time now. It’s opened up new water and has made those tough spots easier to fish. Now it seems as though there is no piece of water we can’t fish.

At first we knew very few people who ever used a two-hander on the waters we fished. We never saw another person swinging the big stick. Now it seems more and more folks are toting along a two-hander. There aren’t many but it’s growing. I’ve never actually seen someone outside of our crew making the casts and taking the steps. It’s equivalent to a big foot sighting I suppose. I’ve seen a few pictures but have yet to run into someone on the water working the two-hander.

I think that is cool.

A little over two years into it and I’ve managed to collect a few things. A lot of it is gear but a big chunk has been knowledge and experience. I started out barely chucking the head of a Rio Skagit 450, a 10 foot cheater, and a 10 foot T-14 tip on a Sage 7136 Z. I now know why the 450 wasn’t cutting it for me on the 7136 and what it takes to chuck a giant bunny leech (if you don’t know yet I’ll give you a clue – short, fat and more grains per foot). Now I’ve got the 7136 loaded with Airflo Ridge, Compact Skagits heavy enough to launch a dead chicken, and a shit ton of zip lock bags of custom made sinktips. I’ve also managed to pick up two more sticks more appropriate for the waters I fish. The 6126 Z helps bring some smaller water in to play and makes tangling with the everyday fish that much more fun. A new addition, the 6110 Z, makes brushy bank channels and brushy freestones where trout like to hide accessible and a blast for swinging sculpins and leeches.

A few thousand casts later and I can now make the cast more often to get me fishing. I know a little more about how to fish a swinging fly and not just leave it up to chance.  What keeps me truck’n along is  looking for more pieces of water and opportunities close to home to swing up more rainbows, more steelhead and that first king on the two-hander.

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