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Posts Tagged ‘Trout’

Photo by Tuber

I always look forward to getting back to this spot every year. I’ve never pulled a big fish or a lot of fish out of this stretch. What draws me back each year is the good vibes I get when I’m walking up and down the banks.

It’s just a nice stretch of water that puts a big smile on my face everytime I see it.

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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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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.

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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.

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Nice spots.

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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.

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Dolly Jabba.

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Back you go.

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What are the odds?

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Camp life.

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Dinner...bigger the better.

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Morning launch.

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Heading upstream.

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2 o'clock...

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

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

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Fumble.

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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?

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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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Around the corner

Late summer 2004 | Photo by D. Yi

Pulling into the middle of August and the salmon are beginning to spawn. The activity is light at this point with the kings kicking things off first, but any day now the sockeye are going to drop and all hell will break loose. At the height of the spawn there are loose eggs everywhere and you can find them stacked in every place imaginable.

In the midst of the drop, the rainbows and dollies go crazy snatching up any loose egg not secured in the river bottom. The buffet line is huge and more than enough to go around. At this point, the fish have one thing on their mind and that is to stuff themselves full of egg chow.

Although in the past I’ve never fished anything but a bead, I imagine throwing anything but would be futile at best. At least that is what folks have been telling me.

Fish on every cast ain’t a myth and at times, like last year for example, it can get a little stale.

Fell for the bead | Photo by T. Satake.

I’m still holding firm to my commitment of not using beads. Now it’s put up or shut up time. I’m planning to fish throughout the spawn when I can and am coming armed with what I hope will pull those fish away from the bead.

We’ll see how this goes down.

The positive side of all this is that I carry much less gear than I used to. No more multiple boxes of beads, along with split shot, rubber bands, toothpicks, and indicators. I used to rattle when I walked. Now I just carry a box of streamers, a few sink tips, hand tied leaders, and tippet. I gotta say it’s kind of nice!

Folks around town are stocking up on beads and the chit chat is centered around when the big drop is going to happen. At the fly shops it is non-stop talk about bead size, bead color, and where to throw a bead.

And then there were two. Collectively the crew decided to pull beads out of the bag of tricks. I seem to recall some bold statements by a few members. It seems as though a few of us have decided to use again. In the face of adversity it was just too much to handle.

No doubt about it...these things work well...too well. | Photo by D. Yi

Story goes that some rather large trout in a small stream up North refused every offering. It’s not surprising since the salmon are spawning and are keying in on eggs. Why they were carrying beads in the first place surprises me. In the end these boys decided to rig up beads and proceeded to hook one fish after another. These boys will go nameless until I can get the story straight from the fisher’s mouth.

Jay on the other hand is fishing this weekend and without hesitation said he was going to throw beads. Damn fool…after all that talk.

Well Tuber…looks like it is just you and me.

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