Thursday, December 29, 2011

Intermission

We ended the day yesterday going seven for nine.  All chrome.  All native.  All perfect.  The rain's that had been predicted came late in the afternoon and all was well.  I was a little sad that the "low water" start to my winter steelhead season was coming to an end.  It was an amazing month.  We caught fish everyday but one.  Saw more pressure from other anglers than I've ever saw before.  But it needed to end.  The fish needed the break and an opportunity to get up river without so many anglers pursuing them.  Now it will be the plunkers turn for a while. The river has been running a little over 3 feet for weeks.  It's predicted to go to 17 feet in the coming days.  Time to regroup, refill emptied fly boxes, repair and replace damaged sink-tips, make some needed repairs and maintenance of my boat, patch THE DAMNED LEAKS in my waders...again! I'll get a chance to re-acquaint myself with my family, do some bird hunting and dream of the next opportunity that mother nature will give me at such an amazing fishery.  In the past dozen or so years, we've only had three Decembers like it.  Below are a just a few of the images from the past several weeks.  Thanks to everyone who came out with me and shared in this special fishery!

K8 sends one on its way.



This salmon didn't like my little steelhead muddler.


PERFECT!


K8 on the stick's of my little power boat getting the "Crumpster" and I into shooting range of some unsuspecting mallards.  It's ok Mr. Mallard... its just your friend Mr. Fisherman : )


Steelhead and salmon can endure such horrific injuries from seals and sea lions.  This one had a good sized bite taken out of  its back just below the dorsal fin. 

With this storm and subsequent high water, fishable numbers of winter steelhead will begin arriving in the fly water in the coming days and I'm really looking forward to coming home.  The summer fish that have patiently waited for the water flows to come up and stay up so they can move into their tribs will now get their chance.   



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don Roberts

Don Robert's working a favorite run on one of our coastal salmon rivers a few years ago.

I met Don Roberts about a dozen years ago.  Nick Amato got us together back when I was doing a lot of salmon fly fishing out on the ocean.  Nick thought Don and I would hit it off.  He was right.

Since then Don and I have had some great adventures together.  We've chased mostly salmon and steelhead.  All of it on Oregon rivers.  We've fished the North Umpqua, upper Willamette, McKenzie, Deschutes, the lower Umpqua and my south coast Salmon rivers.  For years now, every November,  Don has joined me for a week or so of salmon fishing that Don has come to call the "Annual Salmon Slug Fest".  This year was no different, and as usual, we caught fish, spent hours talking fish politics, fly patterns, spey rods, friendships and life.  We took photo's, shared meals and enjoyed each others company.


Since most years I'm so busy working and guiding, our annual salmon trip always involves at least a few days shared with clients.  Don is always gracious, giving everyone "first water".  He's also very humble about all his accomplishments as a fly fishing author and photographer.  If I didn't tell the clients who join us what Don did for a living, they'd just assume he was my fishing buddy, and a damned good one at that!  He always ends up befriending all my clients and invariably ends up doing things with them, or for them throughout the year.  He's just a great guy! 

My wife and kids look forward to Don's arrival at our home during our adventures.  He always arrives with arm loads of gifts.  When my boy's were little and still into toy's he would always show up with really cool toy's for the boy's.  Air-rifles, fly reels and lines, books, popcorn poppers, model airplanes, clothes, waders, rain jackets etc. etc. etc.  It seemed too, that a number of the gifts, especially from the toy stores would always appear as if they had been previously opened?  My wife and I laughed so hard during one of Don's visits around the holidays when he was on the living room floor with the boys, showing them how one of the toys worked, obviously having a little too much "first hand" experience with this particular toy.  It was almost like the boys had an older brother to play with.  In those days he fondly referred to his "playmates" as the "Finnerty Rugby Team". 

So when Don showed up at the house the other day to join me for a day of swinging flies for early winter steelhead, he of course came with another arm load of "stuff".  In the pile, was a CD with Don's neat, hand-written title "Slugfest 2011".  The disk contained some of the images Don had shot while on a recent trip to the south coast with me and a couple of new clients.  I thought I'd share some of those images.




Don is a staunch advocate for our fish and rivers.  He always has been. Like most of the really great men I've had the privilege to call my friend and spend time on the water with, Don is a gentlemen.  He's an ethical and conscientious sportsman and very much un-interested in any recognition for all that he has done in a lifetime of efforts at protecting our incredible resources.  And I look forward to many years of friendship and what future adventures on and off the water we'll get to share.


Friday, December 16, 2011

K8, "Kade" and the "Crumpster"

from L. to R. "Kade", K8 and "Crumpster"

Every so often I get the privilege to spend some pretty amazing days on steelhead and salmon rivers that I love. Today was one of those days. 

A few years back I received a phone call from Kate Taylor (aka K8).  She explained that she had been given my number by a mutual friend, Harry Lemire.  She said Harry recommended that she get a hold of me if she wanted to fish the Umpqua for winter steelhead.  Since then we've tried to work out schedules to get out on the water.  Today we finally made it happen and we had a GREAT day.

The "Crumpster" (aka Justin Crump, Kate's boyfriend) started us off with a chrome hatchery buck. (above pic) 

Later in the day, K8 hooked up with a gorgeous native.
Kade giving a ride to my lucky "green gremlin".  This 3 month old, female yellow lab pup was a source of delight and laughs for me all day.  What an amazing dog!  She'd spot ducks and geese for me, take long winter naps in the boat under a pile of blankets and was so well behaved, she was amazing!.
We ended the day with each of us getting a fish, (mine was a salmon that ate one of my steelhead muddlers on the swing?) Justin and I burned up some shotgun shells on some mallards along the river and the four of us had a blast! 

You can follow K8 and Crumpsters travels and fishing adventures with each other and their large group of fly fishing friends by visiting K8's great blog "Rogue Angels".  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Steve and Ellen

Fly casting legend Steve Rajeff of G. Loomis rods with one of five fish he got with me recently. 
Steve and Ellen getting ready for another favorite fly run.

Ellen with a chrome native sporting sea lice!

Steve with on of several coho we caught on swung flies.  One pool had tons of coho in it.

Another Coho on the swing.

Another shiny new winter steelhead!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

WOW!

My 7th annual "Salmon Slug Fest" with Don Robert's ended today with an absolutely epic day.  We arrived at "the ranch" about an hour earlier than we should have.  With an hour to wait for good light, I decided to get after them with a new pattern I'm working on.  It's a small ghost shrimp pattern that incorporates...drum roll please...little tiny chem-lights.  I picked them up recently from the folks at Spirit River. One pattern incorporates a pink chem-lite, the other one has a bright green lite.  I chose the green one to start off my day. It was really amazing watching this little green "bug" screaming through the air on each false cast and the eerie glow the fly emitted as it sank into the clear, pre-dawn water.

Dawn broke and the early light increased until I could clearly see the opposite shoreline some 90 feet away as the little glowing shrimp fly began its swing.  Salmon swirled on the surface every where around the fly. A moment later the line came taught and my first fall chinook of the morning tore off into the backing. 

Glowing green chem-lite fly.

Don Robert's with a nice native from early this morning.  He ended the day with more fish hooked than I could honestly say.  It seemed every few minutes for several hours he was into another fish.

So now the day is done.  I'm home, Don is heading back to Prineville and I'm already dreaming about next November and our next week long, annual Salmon Slug Fest.  I can't wait! 




Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

South Coast Salmon / Hatchery Cookie Cutters

Mike Feiger from came all the way from Idaho to experience fall chinook on the fly. He went two for two today on nearly identical hatchery fish. 

Mike's second fish of the day.

Mike Williamson (also from Idaho) landed a gorgeous native that was released and we had one other fish on that came un-pinned before posing for a pic. 

We'll be back after 'um again tomorrow, wish us luck!  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

South Coast Salmon (week two)

Don Robert's and I are back down on the south coast chasing fall chinook on flies.  This is our sixth year together doing the annual "salmon slug fest".  Today we had a slow day with two fish hooked and only one landed.  The fish above measured 37"X22" putting it in the mid-20's.  This year's run has a high percentage of 5 year olds so we should do well on larger fish over the coming days. Stay Tuned!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

South Coast Salmon

I just returned home from four days of salmon fishing on the south coast.  We rose fish to swung flies each day.  Some days more than others. We had weather that ran the spectrum from torrential rains, 80 mph winds, snow and one day it was sunny, calm and in the upper 50's.  Only on Oregon's south coast in November can you get that kind of mix!

                                                           Dan tussles with a monster!

Chris with one of several fish on "Sunny Sunday" with beautiful water color.

BIG MUDDY with some woody debris!

Late Sunday night the winds and rains came with a vengeance!  We fished hard all day Monday in horrible winds and rain.  By Monday afternoon the winds were blowing so hard that a gust grabbed the partially opened drivers side door of my Suburban and folded it forward until it came to a stop near the front fender! leaving the sheet metal bent and contorted in such a horrible way that it would only open just wide enough for me to squeeze through after I made the mistake of closing the door.  Not to worry though, I few well placed whacks with a small sledge hammer and some tactically placed pry's with a crowbar and I've got it workin' good as new....well mostly anyway.  
By Tuesday morning the river was raising inches every hour.  My buddy's bailed on me.  I decided that this was a great opportunity to experiment a bit.  In past trips to Alaska I've always been amazed that in thick glacial till, silvers can still find your fly in water that yielded less than three inches of visibility.  On my local rivers, I've always said that if you wade into the water until the depth is "knee deep" and you can still see your wading boots, you can fish.  I started at first light with that kind of visibility...barely!  An hour later the "grit" in the water increased until visibility decreased to less than a foot.  Leaves, branches, limbs and even small tree's started to drift past. I kept swinging.  When the grab came, I can honestly say that I was STUNNED!  It even took a few moments for me to register what had happened.  I landed the fish in the above picture and kept the hatchery fish for our upcoming Turkey Day Dinner.  Knowing that it had to be a fluke, I stepped back into the run with the same four inch long, chartreuse and bright yellow Clouser, fully expecting that to be my last grab of the day.  I was letting the fly swing into the bank where I had caught salmon in past seasons when high water prevailed, but nothing this muddy.  The current along this edge slows to a crawl and the depth is about mid-thigh with noting but very small coble.  No structure, but a great little channel for upstream racing salmon that have been waiting for this kind of gully washer. I had several obvious "line bumps" over the next half hour so I knew that lots of salmon were on the move and eventually the fly would swing into the maw of another chinook, even still I was astonished when the second salmon of the morning nearly jerked the spey rod from my grasp when it attacked the big-bright Clouser.  By the time the second fish was hooked, visibility was down to 6-9"!!!  By the time this battle ended, the river had risen to a level that it really wasn't even a good idea to stand in it anymore so I called it day.  The point is, I learned a few valuable lessons.  If your worm ain't in the water, ya ain't gonna get bit!  and Salmon can and will eat your flies in some pretty horrible water if you place the fly where the fish are, or are going to be. 

This week Don Robert's and I will be joining forces again for our week long, annual "Salmon Slug Fest" as he's come to call it.  In the ten years or so that we've been taking this annual trip to the south coast, this will be the latest in the month of November that we've done the trip.  Not that this is a concern, because I routinely fish for Fall Chinook on the south coast all the way up until Christmas, but after the weather I just endured, I'm not so sure that I'm ready to cast in 60 mile an hour winds again so soon, but if the water's high and muddy, I'm still fishin'!!...in fact, I'll still be "CATCHIN' UM"!