Posts Tagged ‘rainbow’


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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Since early July I’ve been on the water a few hours here and there but not with a fly rod. It’s been about 60 days since I fished for me. When you go on droughts like I do you get a bit anxious and rowdy when the next opportunity rolls around. A lot rides on that first cast…that first take…and that first fish.

The anticipation is almost unbearable. It isn’t until you step out of the boat, wade into the water, and make that first cast that you settle down and remember why there isn’t anything else you would rather do than this.

This past week I finally was able to get back at it. The trip was in the works for a year or so. Fished with Savoy last year about this time. Thought we might try it again this year. I was able to work in two full days…sun up to sun down.

Rolled into camp late Friday night and eased into the program. With cold beer in hand and a camp fire, Savoy and I got caught up and prepped gear for the next day.


By the looks of the campground it was obvious there was going to be a bit of traffic on the water. It’s been like that for years now. I’m not quite sure how the river handles it but it does with great fortitude and determination. Fortunately there is a lot of water to cover and not everyone has patience enough to work a run properly. Leaves enough fish for the rest of us willing to take it to the next level. The fish are usually better all around.

For two days straight Savoy and I worked the runs, seams, ledges, dropoffs, and side channels. We were lucky enough to pull more than our fair share of better than average fish. Much different game than last year. This go around it was more of a sight thing. Great feeling to spot one, match the hatch, and connect. I caught myself several times holding my breathe as I anticipated the take.

60 days is a long time between casts.


Nice spots.


Big head. That guy was no more than 10 feet away in water barely deep enough to cover my knees. Watch where you wade and work near to far.



Dolly Jabba.


Back you go.



What are the odds?


Camp life.


Dinner...bigger the better.


Morning launch.


Heading upstream.


2 o'clock...


Sight fished in 2-1/2 feet of water. Full sun.



Photo credit: Alaska Department of Fish & Game. License check.



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Due to a mix-up at the campground entrance…got a better camping spot out of the deal.

Cut an hour plus hike into one kickass 15 minute bike ride.

Shared a beautiful piece of water with friends.

Got to show one of them for the first time.

Threw a few dries and buggers.

Caught a few.

Watched hundreds and hundreds of salmon swim by my feet.

Stood in the middle of them as they nervously rushed by.

Brought a few home.

Grilled one up the next day.

Makes for a good day wouldn’t you say?







The past couple of weeks have been hectic. Both sides of the family are due in town in a couple of weeks. Been heavy into harvest mode gathering up the necessary fish and game for the summer backyard bbq sessions. The hands and fingers wear the signs of use and abuse.

I’ve been sampling the goods heavily. I feel it is my duty as a good host. Have to be sure that what I’m serving up is worthy of the effort.

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With the right motivation I’m convinced you can accomplish the impossible. This week we hosted G_Smolt and Ratbone on the big local for 3 solid days of fish’n. In less time than it takes to enjoy a bag of Orville Redenbacher, I managed to rustle up a drift boat to get us into the good spots and Jay a motorhome to keep us out of the rain, while G_Smolt and Ratbone tidied up their affairs and jumped on a plane. Game on kids.

Damn those 3 days went by fast. I guess that’s what happens when you’re having a hoot. No need to go into too much detail. We woke up early every morning, downed a pot of coffee, ate a little, got geared up, launched the boat, caught fish, hitchhiked back to the truck, ate a little more, celebrated, and hit the sack. Repeat…two more times.

Some highlights from the trip:

  • G_Smolt and Ratbone are good people. Can’t say enough good things about those guys. Welcome into the circle boys!!
  • Water was unusually high for this time of year but we managed to catch a good number of fish all three days. Word at the takeout was most folks were struggling. Never one to turn my back on someone in need I handed out some advice and other goodies. Karma…it’s what keeps me out of trouble.
  • There really is no bad time to take in the hops and grainy goodness of adult beverages. A must being celebratory beers after a hard day at the office – Midnight Sun 22’s…in whatever flavor floats your boat. Ours happened to be Sockeye Red and Old Whiskers. Most fitting if you ask me.
  • Doesn’t matter what time you go to bed or how much you consumed the night before. Boat launches at sunrise and you’re coming along whether or not you’re ready.
  • Wet wipes are just essential for comfy undershorts.
  • 4 fishers fit neatly in a 3 fisher boat. Just make sure not everyone is leaning to one side of the boat. Jay…get your ass back into the middle…we’re plowing.
  • You catch as many fish as you are willing to work for. Fish are there in the water. Too many incidents to count but we were run up on by other folks just cause we were hooking up. G_Smolt had some dude cast right on top of him and bitch at him for catching too many fish. Huh?!? Seriously?!?
  • Lots of idiots on the water that don’t understand the meaning of etiquette. If the shitter is occupied you don’t come busting in there. Ratbone and Jay almost got hit by a boat that decided they wanted the spot Ratbone was fishing.
  • No sense beating a dead horse. After a while you ain’t fishing…it’s just casting practice.
  • 12 hours a day of fishing just isn’t enough for some folks. G_Smolt…you are the undisputed champ of getting your fish ON! My man doesn’t eat or drink and he doesn’t ever stop. I’m sure if we left him on that gravel bar it wouldn’t have phased him one bit.
  • Ratbone bounces back like a SuperBall. Nothing…not one thing can keep this fella down. Not even a tear in the waders letting in gallons of icy cold river water.
  • Catching fish on the two-hander is the BEST!!! Can’t get enough of it. Managed to hook 3 fish on the swing. Landed the biggest on a homegrown tie from G_Smolt.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been on an extended fishing trip. It felt good to know that tomorrow I was doing this all over again. I was able to let things come to me rather than forcing the issue. Not sure when I’ll be able to do this again but I’m already looking forward to it.

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The Neil Creek Estate is now $20 richer and I’m out one lunch at Charlie’s. Halfway into the trip I caved and threaded onto the end of my leader a bead. That’s right kids…it’s over. I can go into all sorts of philosophical discussions on what eventually unfolded but in the end the decision was mine.

A couple of days earlier I had arranged to meet up with Savoy of Mostly Right, Usually who was in the state on a month and a half fishing safari. A couple of quick emails and a phone call or two and things were set. Jay and I met up with Savoy at the take out. What a relief when we saw Savoy finally. A conversation just prior to this moment had Jay and I on guard. One of us was making it out alive if things went bad. Sorry Jay but you weren’t the one.

With introductions out of the way we made our way to the launch. It started out great. Within the first few hours I had racked up 3 fish, one being a good sized rainbow on a glo bug. Good, considering the handicap.

At this point, I thought all was well. | Photo by J. Kim

Jay hadn’t posted a score yet drifting flesh and glo bugs. He was definitely getting a little twitchy. Savoy on the other hand was hooking into fish after fish. It was obvious he could handle himself on the water and armed with beads and a green balloon, he was catching fish at a steady pace, which didn’t help the situation.

Lost count. | Photo by D. Yi

Jay and I both packed along beads just in case Savoy wasn’t loaded up with the hottest colors. I figured this was his first time and it would be a shame if he went home without hooking a crap load of fish. That right there was my first mistake. I should have asked. A short while into the trip, Savoy pulled out a guide box of beads. If you don’t know what that is let me explain. A guide box is about the size of a small briefcase, clear, with a shit load of compartments stuffed with every color and size bead imaginable in it’s own cozy little spot. It’s what every guide carries on their boat. If you’ve ever seen a display of beads in a fly shop, imagine that with a lid.

Jay and I debated back and forth whether we would string one up. For a while there we held out telling each other if we didn’t hook a fish in this run we were beading on the next. Our luck eventually ran out and that time finally came as we watched Savoy hook into another. We were running a blank on this particular run after working it hard for some time. I’d fish a spot only to have Savoy pick my pocket with a bead.

I remember looking at Jay and mumbling something about a bead not changing the way I’m fishing. I mean come on…I’d fish the bead just like I was fishing this lame ass glo bug. At the same time we both reached into the bottom of our packs and pulled out our case of beads. There was no turning back now. We knew what we were about to do.

Beginning of the end. | Photo by D. Yi

The decision didn’t come easy. I mean, up until that point I had thrown everything. Glo bugs, leeches, buggers, flesh, steak & eggs, poached eggs, scrambled, sunny side up, sunny side down, intruders, sculpins, and some messed up shit I tied up the night before. Oh sure, I caught a few fish but it wasn’t enough. I knew what the fish wanted and it wasn’t what I was serving. I could have easily avoided the spawn and not fished during the next few weeks. What would that have proved? You know what though…facing things head on is the only way you get answers. I got my answer and I’m okay with that. I’ll keep testing the water though…trying to find what else works.

After stringing up that bead…next cast…and BAM…it was on. For the rest of day we pulled out fish from every fishy looking spot. I handled the sticks the whole time and Savoy and Jay…what can I say. I took them through the drift and they hooked one after another.

Nice feesh. | Photo by D. Yi

Warming up. | Photo by D. Yi

Back in the bag of tricks go the beads. Can’t deny their effectiveness and on fish that have honed in on the spawn, it is the only thing that works well. On the day we drifted, there were too many boats to count. You can imagine the number of presentations the fish see on any given day. They grow wise to the game and that is good. Unfortunately for the fish the bead is about as perfect as you can get just short of using the real thing.

Spoke with a lot of people that day and they reported fair success…a dozen or so fish. When one group asked us how we were doing we told them we were having a pretty good day and hooked seven in this run alone. They were amazed. Just goes to show you that the bead isn’t the silver bullet. A little bit of skills goes a long way.

So for now, I will be throwing beads until later in the Fall. I’ll continue to mix it up a bit to see if I can’t find another way. Not much longer and I’ll be able to swing flies again. A few more weeks of the elements and this will bring out the big boys.

Circle of life. | Photo by D. Yi

Savoy my man…it was good fishing with you. If you make it up again next year give me a shout. Plan for a month later the next time and bring the 8 weight. The fish are much bigger later in the fall.

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Other than the two trips taken earlier this spring I haven’t been out fishing much. One reason is that the wife has got me doing some serious landscaping – or should I say torture. I’ve already dug up about 300 square feet of sod, dug 50 feet of ditch, hauled gravel, patio stones, and raked the entire property. Sadly, this is only the beginning.

So when the wife excused me from my chores the other day, I jumped at the chance to hit some water. With 5 weight in tow I set out for some of that good old fashioned trout fishing. You know the kind – delicate dries and tiny nymphs tossed at hungry trout. Fortunately for me I have a lot of choices in relative close proximity to the house. I can hit any one of the local ponds or set out a bit further to fish some flowing waters.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that not much was going on at the local pond. So I hopped back into the truck and headed for another. Same story there. A lot of people but no fish. What gives? By this time last year there were risers everywhere and a well placed Adams or Hare’s Ear guaranteed a fish on every cast. Maybe Fish & Game didn’t get to these lakes yet? Not wanting to go home empty handed I decided to try my luck at one of the urban flows. A bit out of the way but better than heading home to do more landscaping.

Urban flows at first glance are always lacking in my book. I don’t mind casting in any one of the local lakes because there is at least a hint of nature’s beauty. Ducks, loons, and grebes are always nearby. Urban flows on the other hand are always tucked in neighborhoods or industrial districts. They meander their way through town and cross under streets and bike trails. Hence the fact that I seldom fish them.

Although they don’t have the charm of more remote flows, they do have some. Nothing spectacular at street level or whizzing by in a vehicle. They are better appreciated closeup. If you can block out the urban noise you can have a good time. I’ve only fished urban flows a few times in all my years of living in town. The fish are few and far between and not much sport on a 5 weight. I’ve been lucky enough to pluck a few fish out of them but nothing enough to keep me wanting to fish them over and over again.

That is until the other day.

My typical routine when fishing urban flows is to scope things out first. Why waste time fishing when there is no sign of fish? After searching the water for a few minutes something caught my eye about midstream. I left my polarized glasses at home but I could distinctly make out a shape of a fish and then later, red along it’s side. It took me a while to believe what I was seeing. Not only was it a rainbow, but a HUGE one at that. My guess was very high teens low 20s.

I checked around me to see if anyone was watching and made like a madman back to the truck. I tried to be as sneaky as possible so as not to tip anyone off. With fly rod in hand I quickly made my way back to the spot where the rainbow was last seen. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes that I was gone but so too was the fish. So many things flashed in my mind. Maybe I imagined it all…maybe it was just a shadow? Why didn’t I bring my polarized glasses?

I scanned the water again moving in and out through the trees. After desperately looking for 10 minutes I finally saw it again. The fish had moved upstream and was sitting in the shadow of a clump of trees. Still midstream I was able to see it much easier now. The urban flow is barely 15 feet wide where I am at and maybe a few feet deep. The current is steady and you can easily track a fly with your eyes.

Not wanting to spook it, I tied on a tiny midge pattern with a gold bead and wire body to match. A long leader and light tippet promised to have it down on the bottom in no time flat. You can’t really cast here. It is more of a flip or an underhand toss. A dozen casts and I haven’t spooked it, but the fish is ignoring the midge. I can clearly see the gold bead and confirm the fish wants nothing to do with that fly. Thinking maybe the fish wants something bigger I tie on a large gold bead rubber leg stonefly nymph nearly ten times the size of the midge. Two casts later and the fish spooks. Game over.

Feeling like a complete loser I stand back a bit to assess the situation. Why in the hell did I chuck that out there? Standing there I stare blankly into the water. My head naturally begins to scan the water again and downstream about 10 feet away I spot something hugging tight to the far cutbank. Could this be the same fish or is it another HUGE rainbow?

I’m debating now whether to tie back on the midge or chuck the big stone out there. The midge didn’t spook the first fish but it didn’t do anything to entice it either. I decide to stick with the big stone and just pray this one takes.

Not wanting to spook this fish I cast far enough upstream to get the stone to sneak up on the rainbow. I can clearly see the fly land well upstream and drift steadily towards the fish. First cast…nothing. Slightly off course. Second cast…way off course. Third cast…right on target…nothing. By this time I can only see the fish’s mouth and it’s red cheek. Everything outside of that is a blur. The fish is holding steady, but I know I only have a few more casts before this fish spooks too.

Sixth cast…slightly off course but not by much. As the fly drifts nearer I watch as the rainbow pushes forward and slightly to the left. I’m watching both the gold bead and the fish. I see it before I feel it and quickly raise the tip of my fly rod. It’s flexing under the weight of the fish and my reel starts making noise. The fish boils on the surface and turns downstream, reel screaming. I can only watch as it jumps twice. Each time further and further downstream. There is no way I can chase this fish unless I dive into the water. The bank is littered with trees right up to the water. My hesitation is met with slack line and it’s over.

For a moment there, all I can do is watch my slack line wave in the current. Light green fly line waving back and forth in a lazy ‘S’. I’m replaying the whole thing in my head over and over again. I start to reel up line and I start to laugh. First in my head then out loud. WOW…that was insane.

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This latest trip almost didn’t happen. Driving when it’s dark outside is always sketchy. Mix that with highway speeds and a pallet left in the middle of your lane and well…it was close…too damn close.

Prior commitments kept half of the crew home bound. Tuber has been officially grounded until early July [self imposed…a commitment he made to himself he can’t compromise]. Good luck to you but don’t think I won’t torment you with pictures. Jay decided he had too much work and would pass this time. Tuber/Jay…you guys missed out.


Stats on the local showed it holding steady. That brief interruption of winter seemed to have slowed things down a bit. With the flows holding and temperatures on the rise, it made me feel confident more of the residents would be out and about.

Armed with ice cleats this time, the hike didn’t take nearly as long. The pace was furious but it had to be. A late start insisted on it. No talking…just one foot in front of the other – over and over and over again. You would never catch me just hiking around in the woods. Let the destination be some water with a fly rod in my hand and no matter how far…piece of cake.

The plan was to start at The Run. Me and The Run had a thing going the last time and I was sure I had her dialed in. The numbers said holding steady but the looks of the water said otherwise. Water was definitely up. Plan B…work it from the opposite side. After about an hour and a half I quickly got the feeling she wasn’t going to give it up. Is it my delivery? Not like the flowers? Come at you from the wrong side? What? Maybe she liked older guys because she flashed Old Guy a quick look see. While he was messing with his line a big rainbow decided to leisurely swim by. Tease.

Not wanting to stay and wait for her to warm up I decided to take my game to some more receptive water. Why waste my best moves on a lady that won’t dance. I knew of a nice piece of water but it required a crossing. Fishing it from the far bank was out of the question. Even with the water up I decided to cross anyways. I figured early on I was going to have to work for it. It took me a while to figure my way across. Old Guy decided to stay on the other side and play it safe.

This particular stretch just has that feel about it. Good looking water. Tuber and I fished it heavy last time but I don’t think we came at it right. Spilling over a slight drop the stretch is very wide and stays that way all the way to the tailout. The stretch of water is also very long and can comfortably handle two. The depth and speed is consistent. Just fast enough to let the current do all the work once you rocket a cast out there. One mend and settle in…the current will do the rest. The depth is perfect too. You can’t see the bottom and what lies beneath. You are fishing by feel.

Starting out at the very top I fired a couple of casts midway out. My cast just wasn’t grooving right. Working too hard to get one out there. What’s the deal? The night before I switched out the 400gr for the 450gr. The 6126 should be liking it. Some streamside diagnostics and I come to a conclusion – it’s the fly! With a lot of speed around and on the forward stroke I can rip that squirrel out of the water and put it way out there. Not liking the feel of that I decided to switch to a fly with a more slender profile but with all the same triggers. Ohhh…that’s nice.

Three casts later and the tip of my rod dives into the water. A quickly haul back and immediately feel the head shake and panic. I look up to see where Old Guy is. He is waaaay over there. I call him over and see him quickly make his way over. Stuck on the other side all he can do is watch. A few quick runs and I have it in the shallows. A hen shaped like a silver bullet but slightly scarred on the sides, from what I don’t know. I fumble for my camera and am able to take a quick picture before she decides she doesn’t like the attention and leaves.

Silver Bullet

At that point I realize I’m smiling because I can feel it all over. That take was what I’ve been waiting for. It was unmistakable. She hit the swinging fly with everything she had. Right after the mend as the line was settling into the swing and the fly was starting to swim was when she decided to take it down.

I checked the fly and worked my way back up to the top. Stripping line from the reel I start quartering casts lengthening them out until I reach my limit. My cast is grooving now and I start the ritual. Cast…mend…settle into the swing…take a step. Repeat.

I make my way downstream about 5 steps and about half way into the swing my line stands up and the rod tip dives into the water. I set the hook and immediately the fish turns and heads for the other side toward Old Guy. I palm the reel hoping to slow the fish down as I watch running line disappear from the spool. I make my way downstream reeling up as much line as I can putting sideways pressure the whole way. I finally get the upper hand and I slowly work the fish into the shallows. Landing fish is always easier with someone to help. Solo is always tricky especially on bigger fish.

Not wanting to injure the fish and no time to tape I just laid my rod next to her and snapped a quick picture.

Long & Lean

My number must have come up because I would go on to repeat this 4 more times. The fish were scattered throughout and each one hammered the fly on the swing way out there and headed for the horizon at a burning pace. One sizeable fish I wasn’t able to land. The fish and I parted ways as I was easing it in. It was funny. We made eye contact and like that…the fly slipped from the jaws and the fish turned slowly and swam away.

Heavily Spotted

Old Guy managed to capitalize and hauled in his first of the year. Sorry about the picture. Tough when the camera is way over on the other side.

About Time

Not wanting to overstay our welcome we decided to move on and work our way back. With me being on the wrong side I was dreading the crossing. I scoped it out longer than I’ve ever scoped a crossing out before. I could see the bottom but knew from the previous trip it was already waist high with some cfs. It looked a lot deeper and faster standing there on the wrong bank. My backup plan was to walk all the way back to where I had crossed earlier, a good half hour out of the way for sure. That was the safe play. I opted for the other. I made my way to the very top of the crossing and slowly made my way across using the current to help move me along. Safely on the other side I looked back and realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

With the first half of the day going the way that it did I was content to sit back and watch Old Guy work the water. We later sat down for lunch. A short while later I managed to catch a glimpse of Old Guy in the distance, rod high. Packed up and ready to go I caught up with him and asked what that was all about. He told me he had managed to hook and break one off. I wish I would have been there to see his reaction.


This setup is carrying some mojo for sure. The force is strong in this one. I hope I haven’t burned it all up…still a long season ahead.

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