Monday, December 31, 2012

Todd's first winter steelhead for 2012-13

Several years ago I met a man named Todd Hirano.  Todd found me via the internet and was extraordinarily enthusiastic about bringing steelhead to the surface.  In fact, if I recall correctly, Todd even fished surface flies during the winter months back then. 

Since then we've become good friends and have fished together for steelhead on several of our favorite rivers. 

Todd still loves to make what is already daunting and make it a bit more so.  He's a superb spey caster, but like me, prefers to spey cast with a single hander.  Its just a lot more fun when you hook up.  He also prefers, in fact insists on fishing a floating line.  Can't blame him there.  I hate fishing tips, but I need a grab a little more frequently, so I fish my tips in the winter.  Todd persists in all but the worst conditions all winter long with a dry line.  Did I mention he's also friends with Bill McMillian and uses Bill's technique for using floating lines in the winter with "big iron" hooks and longer leaders to get his fly down. 

This morning I got the following report from Todd;


12/30/12, I was on my favorite small water using my latest glass rod, a vintage Sage SFL 789. I pulled the butt cap off and found that my ghetto lower grip I made out of a broken glass fly rod I found on the Siletz fit good in this rod. This rod casts beautifully with either the 7 or 8wt Ambush lines and I prefer it without the lower grip, but on one run where I fish river right and need more power in my “cackhand” casts, I put the lower grip in. Anyway, I was fishing one of the larger pools on the stream and I figured with the lowering level, fish should be laying in there. I went through with a MOAL since the upper part of the pool is snaggy and I didn't want to lose a Winter's Hope that I would normally be using.  I didn't get any grabs so I went back up and took my pruning saw and trimmed the bank side brush to make my casting easier. I re-rigged with one of my simple blue/black marabou intruders and went through again. I got down to the deepest part of the pool and as the fly came across, my line came tight and this muscular buck went nuts. I enjoyed every moment of the battle as I kept praying against losing the fish but, I got him on shore and got some pics and a measurement - a gorgeous 32" buck. My first winter fish to hand for the season.
Sorry for the long winded story, can't help getting excited about these fish.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Kenzie's Elk!

My duck hunting partner, Charlie (you see him here all the time with his amazing dog, Jema) took his "little girl" McKenzie (aka Kenzie) Elk hunting yesterday.  She was lucky enough to draw one of the juvenile tags that allowed them to hunt not far from where we were chasing bears this fall here in Cottage Grove.  Kenzie harvested this monsterous cow elk, her first!  Congrat's Kenzie!!!  Thank goodness you shoot straighter than your Pa!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

My oldest son, Kyle and my hunting partner Charlie with his dog, Jema and the birds from yesterday's hunt in the valley.

The rain's continue to come down as I write this.  We've received over two inches at my home in Cottage Grove since last night. My salmon trip for tomorrow on the S. Coast is cancelled.  They've received over three inches of rain!

We had an amazing duck and goose hunt yesterday.  Kyle and Charlie each shot a limit of ducks and geese.  We had huge flocks of teal and widgeon come into the dekes.  A few mallards came in and tons of pintails flew by as only pintails can do.

With all the rain, if it weren't for my duck and goose hunts I'd have little work this fall.  There are steelhead in the river, but the high, muddy waters make it impossible to fly fish for them.  Maybe in a week or so if the rains stop.  If they don't, I guess I'll just keep working on the duck and goose hunts! 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fall Chinook and December Ducks

Norm Primc in a December downpour fighting a fly eatin' fall chinook.

Ya Buddy!  Around the stumps, through the woods, rain and 50 mph winds!

Charlie and Gema checking out a "bull sprig".
Gema made her 53'rd retrieve so far this season while hunting with Charlie and I earlier today!

Rivers remain too high for steelhead fishing so ducks, geese and late running fall chinook are getting my full attention these past weeks.  I've still got some dates for chasing fall chinook on the fly and as long as rivers are blown, I'm gonna keep chootin' up the birds! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A valley full of geese

I spent the morning in the southern Willamette valley yesterday huntin' ducks and geese.  Chuck and Gema couldn't make it. The boys had to work or had finals.  So I had to go it alone.  Not a ton of ducks flying.  Had some teal and shoveler's come into the dekes and ended the morning with six ducks.  But in the past few days a lot of geese have shown up.  The dike going out to my pit blinds were just littered with goose poop.  A bunch of geese were on my pond as I was setting out the dekes. 

Later in the morning when the geese lifted off the refuge and started flying to their fields to feed I estimated at one point that there were probably 20,000 cacklers in the air above me.  I focused my efforts on the big geese, Western Canada geese that really wanted into my pond.  Who am I to deny them?

When geese WANT to come into a particular area, you pretty much got to try to screw it up and I wasn't going to try and screw it up! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clear Cure Goo

For years fly tiers have used epoxy heads on baitfish patterns.  These epoxy heads allow the tier to create more realistic looking patterns and completely secure prismatic-style eyes under the coating of epoxy.  5-minute epoxy had been the epoxy of choice for as long as I've been creating my own epoxy head flies.  A quick trip to the local hardware store for the two part, clear glue and you were ready to get messy!

My friend, Bill Nelson of Eugene built this custom "turner" for me years ago.  He bought the motor at a local Goodwill store for a couple of bucks.  The motor is a used "B-B-Q rotisserie" motor.  Bill simply built a base and attached the motor. Then he built a board to attach clothes pins to and attached that to the shaft on the rotisserie motor.  The motor has a simple "on-off" switch.  I would tie up a batch of flies I wanted epoxy heads on.  Then I'd mix up a small batch of epoxy, apply it to the head of the fly and slip the hook in one of the clothes pins, turn the motor on and it would slowly rotate, allowing the even dispersal of the epoxy to create a cool looking head.  Because the epoxy would harden in just a few minutes, multiple batches would have to be mixed and applied to a couple of flies at a time.  Big mess!  Big pain in the Butt!  All necessary back in the day if you wanted to tie your own epoxy head flies.

Then my buddy, and fly tier extraordinaire Tony Torrence introduced me to a fairly new product called "Clear Cure Goo".  He was creating some really amazing epoxy style heads with the stuff.  He explained that it was so much faster, easier and less mess with the "goo" than with epoxy, it was amazing stuff to work with. 

So a few months back, I made a trip to the Caddis Fly Shop in Eugene and Lou fixed me up with a kit that included two tubes of the "goo" as well as the ultra-violet light source required to harden the goo.

This fall I've been tying ton's of epoxy style head flies for my fall chinook season and I've really taken a shine to the new "goo".  For a great video on how to use this product, check out this You-Tube video Tony and the nice folks at the Caddis Fly Shop just posted on their blog

Then a few weeks back, a client (or one of my boys) shot at a cripple in the decoys and a few stray pellets hit a decoy.  Pretty quick the decoy was listing to the side like a ship struck by a torpedo.  In the past when this has happened, I've simply taken the decoy out of service for the remainder of the season with the intention of plugging the holes in the off season.  Never happens of course.  But the intent is always there.

The it occurred to me!  How quick and easy it would be to patch the pellet holes with the new "goo".  Hell, the applicator was perfectly suited to the task and the ultra-violet light hardens the goo in a matter of seconds.  What could be easier!  I could just patch decoys that get hit as the season goes on and put 'um right back out in the pond to continue bamboozling innocent little feathered creatures! PERFECT!  Genius really, EVIL Genius, but Genius none the less.

Be sure to drain any water out of the decoy first. Then insert the tip of the applicator in the hole(s) and squeeze a drop into the hole.  Repeat as necessary. 

Once the holes have the "goo" in them, hit 'um with the light for a few seconds to harden the goo.

 In this case, the pellets passed through the other side of the decoy, requiring entrance and exit "wounds" to be repaired.  It took me less than a minute to repair this particular decoy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall Chinook

I spent a great day yesterday with Clay and Henry Snaza.
We ended the day 3 for 1.  Chinook are just darned tough to land.  They love to eat flies, but they never play well with you after they do!

These are a few of the patterns we served up for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  Switching patterns often during the day until you start getting hook-ups allows me to fish with more confidence.  Some days the fish will take a fly so softly, other day's its like a thunder clap.  Yesterday, the fish would just stop the fly, or lightly tap it.

Perfect sized hatchery fish for the grill!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Hunter with one of six birds he got the day before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is such a great day!  Aside from the cullinary carnage that I engage in every year, its the true "kick-off" for the new Winter Steelhead season.  The storms this week caused the cancellation of multiple days of fall chinook on the fly.  I'll pick it back up again on Saturday.  As flows recede and rivers come back into shape they'll have Steelhead in them and I'm as excited about that as the ducks and geese that have arrived in the valley.

This hunting season so far has brought many blessings to my family, friends and clients.  My freezer is full of Elk, Deer, Bear, Ducks and Geese and even a few salmon.  Lots to be thankful for!

I'll spend my "turkey day" at home with my bride and all my boys.  We've got ducks from Hunter's shoot on the menu.  Venison from my muzzle loader deer I harvested this past week with Josh.  Elk from the boy's juvenile season in August and of course turkey with all the fixin's.  Lots to be thankful for!

Thanks to all of you who I get to share the outdoors with!  My life is made rich beyond words because of you and all the Lord has made for us in this world. 

I hope your Thanksgiving is safe and that your surrounded by family and friends!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How could I possibly live anywhere else?

Yesterday, one of my guides and I had the day to ourselves. We both had muzzle loader tags for deer and decided to go try and fill them. 

Throughout the day, we came upon sights like these.  Josh and I both grew up in this mountain country and we've never lost our appreciation of how special a place we live and call "home".

It's big country, steep and rugged, indescribably beautiful. Breath-taking really.  You stand on the edge of these canyons and its makes you feel REALLY SMALL!

I just couldn't live anywhere else in the world.  I ended the day harvesting my deer.  I spent most of today cutting and wrapping and getting my venison in the freezer.  Over the coming months the deer will feed my family, and I'll look forward to spending another day in my "office".  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Inside a Salmon Guides Fly Box

Ever wanted to look into a salmon fly fishing guides fly boxes?
Here's your chance!

Over the years guiding clients on fall salmon trips I've come to form some pretty strong opinions about fly design and patterns that chinooks eat.  No doubt the best designed fly won't get ate, if it ain't presented properly, but if you present the fly the way you should, the patterns in this box will catch fall chinook.

Obviously Clousers occupy the vast majority of real estate in my Bugger Beast Box.  ALL of my salmon flies have an "eye" of one kind or another.  Two themes to take note of.  I'm also pretty partial to my Coastal Bucktail series.  They're exceedingly similar to Trey Comb's Sea habit series.  Other standard types of patterns that occupy space in my salmon boxes are various shrimp patterns as well as comet type flies. 

As for the success enjoyed by the "comet" type patterns, just take a look at Dungeness "crab larvae" (one of pacific salmon's favorite food sources) and you'll understand why they eat comet's!

This year, my friends at Spirit River hooked me up with some of their latest UV dyed materials.

This is the same box of flies, lit up by my little UV light source.

This is a clouser I put together using Sprit River's UV dyed bucktail.

This is the same fly with a UV light source. Pretty cool huh?

This is a pink and white clouser tied with the UV materials and lit up with a UV light source.

Not sure yet how the salmon are going to respond to the new UV materials.  As yet, I've only used them on one trip for coho on the lower Umpqua and darned few coho were around that day so I'm not even close to making a call about the UV material.  In the next few weeks all of my time on the water will be chasing chinook so I'll let you all know if the UV died materials make a difference.

Also, for anyone hankerin' to try their hand at this amazing fishery, I have a last minute opening for the 24th and/or the 25th of November. Call me or shoot me an e-mail if your interested.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The "Beast" lives!

Late last fall, I was coming back into town from an evening hunt.  I came out of the woods at dark and by the time I got just out of city limits it was totally dark.  I first saw the movement at the edge of my headlight beam. It started out slowly, moving from the left shoulder of the road, crossing directly in front of the Suburban as I threw out the anchor to avoid hitting the biggest bear I've ever seen.  It was a MONSTER!

Our average sized adult black bears go about 180 pounds.  Good ones are 200 to 250 pounds.  300 pound bears are monsters and anything above that is probably exagerated.  I know, I know, there are 400 pound black bears harvested...but they are exceedingly rare. 

This bear, I was sure was pushing that 400 pound mark.

This past week while hunting a favorite bear area I came across this pile of bear spore.  Obviously this bruin is decent sized and still spending some time cleaning up the last of this summers black berry crop. 

So a few months ago I heard a rumor that a local youth had harvested this 400 pound bear late last season.  I never saw the bear in question after the harvest, but the sources were knowledgable and reliable, so I assumed the lad had found my MONSTER that had crossed in front of my vehicle last fall.  

Figuring the big bears genes had to have been passed on, this season I decided to spend a little more time hunting bears in this same area.  After all, there are TONS of bears in this area and sooner or later I'd find a decent sized one if I put in my time.  Maybe even find another Monster.  It's a tough area to get into unless your willing to spend some time walkin'...uphill...both ways! so it doesn't get a lot of pressure, an added bonus is that its so very close to home.  I could walk there if I wanted. 

About two weeks ago, while hunting the area with my oldest son, we came across a pile of very fresh bear skat that for all the world looked like a pile of horse manure.  It was so fresh, that it still contained warmth!  We both knew that this was no ordinary bear.  The critter that left this pile was a Beast!

A couple a recently tore up stumps from the "Beast".

Opening morning of Deer muzzle loader season found Josh Farnesworth and I prowling the woods with our muzzle loaders.   I told Josh the area we were going into held tons of bears, including at least one very large black bear.  We passed one spur road that a week ago contained seven piles of fresh bear skat in its 200 yard length.  We parted ways with plans to meet back up in a few hours after each of us had checked a few clear cuts that have been holding good numbers of deer.  

At the appointed time, I arrived at our meeting location and found Josh waiting for me.  As I approached Josh, he told me in a very serious tone that he could no longer hunt this area with me.  Confused, I asked "did you get your deer".  Josh shook his head from side to side, pointing at the ground and mumbling somthing about not knowing what left "that pile", but it was either Sasquatch or the biggest bear he's ever seen or heard of! 

I looked to the ground where Josh pointed and found the proof-positive evidence that the BEAST LIVES! 
Without intending on making the more refined viewers sqeamish, I want to point out that the yellow chunks in this world record sized pile of bear poo isn't corn, its huge chunks of yellow apples!

In the coming weeks I've got fall chinook on the fly trips booked on the south coast and duck/goose hunts booked in the Willamette Valley, but you can bet, every minute I'm not chasing chinook or birds, I'll be spending in the woods near my home, carting my favorite .54 cal. muzzle loader, topped off with a 110 grains of Pyrodex pushing a 425 grain buffalo bullet and looking for my next encounter with the BEAST! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today's Duck and Goose Hunt

I just ended my week with mid-west outdoor writer, Ron Peach.  We had a great time, shared tons of great outdoor stories and I learned a lot from Ron's expertise as a waterfowl hunter.

Ron climbing into one of my pit blinds in the Willamette Valley.

Down in the blind, my hunters all but disappear.

Ron doubled on Cacklers.

Ron's heavy load of Willamette Valley Mallard's and Cack's

Sunrise in the blind.

Cacklers are only about the size of a mallard.

One of the things I learned this week while hunting with Ron was the value of using the drake mallard call with a duck whistle.  It was amazing how the birds responded to this call!

Thanks again Ron for a great week!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bucket List Grouse

Yesterday, I spent the day east of Cottage Grove in the Cascades.  Ron Peach had dreamed of one day shooting a grouse.   We worked hard, but ended the day with nine birds flushed.  Four birds presented shots to Ron.  All of the shots were VERY challenging and Ron was succesful in harvesting his first ever Blue and Ruffed Grouse.

Ron Peach with his Blue Grouse.

Ron's first grouse, a gorgeous Ruffed Grouse.

Ron had so much fun chasing these challenging birds that he wants to do it again today.  He also want's to see his first Black Bear, so today we're heading for the coast to find some more grouse, a bear and maybe even shoot a few ducks.  Wish us Luck!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Umpqua cast-n-blast with Ron Peach

The lower Umpqua yesterday evening.

Yesterday, I spent the first of four days hunting and fishing with mid-west outdoor writer Ron Peach.  He came all the way out to Oregon from Kansas to hunt ducks, geese and grouse and to try his hand at fall salmon.  We spent an amazing fall day on the lower Umpqua.  We hooked and lost a coho or two and Ron ended up with a limit of mallards.

A few moments after this photo was taken Ron got his 7th mallard, another gorgeous drake!

Ron writes primarily about waterfowl hunting at various locations around the mid-west and east coast.  Check out this story;

Today we're heading for the high country.  I'm taking Ron up into the Cascades to find some Blue and Ruffed Grouse and maybe even a fall Black Bear.  Tomorrow we're back after fall salmon down on the coast and then Wednesday we're back to chasing ducks and geese.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Hunt

Hunter (aka "Bug") and I spent the morning on my duck shoot.
We had birds working most of the morning.  Teal, Pintail and Mallards gave Bug a nice bag.
Bug with a nice drake mallard.
Cacks are back!

For the first time since the season started, we saw huge flocks of Cacklers.  The smallest of all the Canadian goose subspecies,  these birds have a real hi-pitched squeaking type of "honk".  They fly in large flocks, sometimes in the thousands of birds and they are about the size of a mallard.  The grass seed farmers in the areas I hunt endure huge losses in their crops every winter because of the Cacklers.

Swan in the dekes.

An immature swan landed in the dekes and spent a long time feeding amongst them.  I enjoy seeing the wide variety of water fowl that makes the Willamette valley its home during the winter migration.

For my family and friends, Halloween has always been a great day to spend afield.  In years past we've had great days chasing coho and chinook on the Umpqua.  Deer and Bear hunts in the cascades or coast range and on wet rainy days like this years Halloween, spending the day in a duck blind with one of your son's is pretty hard to beat!

Thursday, October 18, 2012