So in the past few months I have just returned to the East Coast. I have been met with something I wasn’t expecting. I left New Jersey five years ago to move out west and start a different life. I moved away from here to get sober and chase anadromous fish. To most fishermen and lots of people it is some kind of taboo to be sober. Like I’m crazy or something for not drinking. I don’t like New Jersey for a few reasons. One there are policemen around every corner here. I drove across country and saw very few on the highway. I got to New Jersey and there was one almost every mile! So at some point or another you are bound to get pulled over out here and charged with something even if it is a license plate light out!
So it was nice to be out west and not feel like you had to worry about being pulled over all the time. The other reason is because there are no Steelhead here and they are seriously my one true love as far as fly fishing goes. The thing I have encountered though is a group of fly fishermen and tyers who have welcomed me back with open arms. It is hard to describe how nice it is to meet people and have them smile and be cool to you.
I have visited my old haunt the South branch a few times now and it is nice to go back to some old places and feel at home. The river is what really does that for me. Even if it is a small brook, there is something about the water. The birds and the fish when you can find them in the winter can make for a great day in the outdoors. My whole life has been about getting out there no matter where it is! Even here in New Jersey, which most people who are not from here think is a concrete jungle, there are outdoor activitiesin abundance here. Hunting white tail alone is a pleasure I have long missed and New Jersey has a nice white tail population and a chance for a decent buck with a bow or gun.
Fly fishing has its small pleasures here and once the opening day hordes dissipate you can find some nice days in your favorite get away areas. Mind you there are still a lot of numb nuts out there too. It has been a pleasure to meet the fine people that fly fish here. They have all been very helpful and to have run into some of my old punk friends who now fly fish has been just mind blowing. This crew of people is pretty tight knit and I’m super happy they have been so damn cool to me.
It has not been an easy deal moving back here to live with family due to the fact I wasn’t able to find work out west. I know I’m not alone in that boat though. Lately it seems the country and the world has been pretty messed up and the one thing that has kept me going is my fly fishing and tying. Heck how many of us would be in the loony bin if we didnt have a hobby like fly tying in the winter?! Im pretty sure I would be in the white jacket….. heck half of you think I’m nuts anyway. Could you imagine what I’d be like with out fly tying? Ok don’t answer that I don’t really want to know what you think!
I have just recently joined the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild. This is a group that has been around since 1993. They are trying to promote fly tying and save the heritage of the Catskill dry fly. This is a very old form of dry fly that originated in the Catskll mountains in upstate NY.http://www.flyfishingnetwork.com/CatskillFlyGuild/welcome.html. They have been a good group of people so far and I’m excited to be a part of the group. Now I need to get my dry fly skills back up to date.
I will soon be headed to the Salmon river to chase some steelhead. This will be a first time chasing fresh water steelhead that never go into the ocean. I’m interested to see how they act to swung flies. I started fishing the Deschutes River five years ago and got to see the use of two handed fly Rods and all their uses. I was fishing a single hand for some time and after two trips to the Deschutes wearing myself out and seeing guys out fish and out cast me I decided to take up Spey casting. I will tell you if you nymph for steelhead you are going to catch more fish then if you swing for them. Some people call it an elitist pursuit and yes there are plenty of people guys who swing flies who act like the king of the river. However for me it has been about the challenge of catching one on the swing rather then hooking numbers of fish. We all seem to have some giant dream of catching thousands of fish in a day which is fine but I would like you to think more about the fish then the numbers! Our sport is under attack like the rest of the country. Budget cuts seem to be our governments answer to all our problems rather then looking at how to create jobs. If you don’t think this is going to hit home at some point you are not paying attention.http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-National-Fish-Hactheries/. This is happening in the south at the moment and these areas need these hatcheries to help the fishing lifestyle and economy exist down there. I think we should all take some time to sign this petition because this could happen on your doorstep as well. It is happening there so why couldn’t it happen here or in the west?? Wake up people! Some people out west want hatcheries closed for other reasons. It might be a good idea out there but it will take time and things need to be restructured not closed. The fishing world has many battles ahead of it so lets stick up for one another out here and stop fighting amongst ourselves.
So I would like to thank a few people for being so cool on my return home. John Collins http://www.myflies.com/Bio-john-collins.aspx John has been super cool to talk with and he is just an all around good fly fisherman concerned for the fish. Check out his flies. He has some deadly patterns most likely ones you have never seen. János Czifra of http://doublehaulflyfishing.blogspot.com/ for posting me on his blog and being a cool punk bro. We will catch fish soon if it ever stops raining! Michael McAuliffe of Rise form studios for taking me back out on the river and getting me familiar with the insect life here again and helping me! Last but not least my new fishing friend Jessica Lettich for taking intrest in my tying and helping me find some new water to fish!
This will be the last of my posts here on the scandalous fly brothers ,Last November we lost a scandalous brother and it just doesnt seem to be the same to me ,so Im going to start a new blog. I have a new name and will reveal it to you all soon ,So thank you for following along here on this page and I hope you all will like the new blog. I will be letting you all know when the blog is ready!
Thanks Again ,
I have been promising for months to do a gear review on some products I’ve gotten to test out. This way I will be thanking the companies ,that have let me use their products. I will be honest about the products and not lie to you and say they are the best in the world and you should buy them right now or some mumbo jumbo like that. I will also not review a product I don’t like ,though there are some companies out there producing some serious garbage so buyer beware. One of these products I had to buy out right and Im not sponsored by this company in any way but want to give them a shout out! There is also two small fly companies I want to say a big thank you to!
So to start in the spring I got a chance to test out William Joseph waders their wst waders http://www.williamjoseph.net/products/product_14.aspx They were still in the testing phaze on this wader when I got them and have upgraded these waders since I got them. They added a pocket in the front pouch, good for storing all the little things we like to take with us on the river and there are two smaller pockets on the front one for keys or your cell phone or what ever fishing nic nack you decide to put in there. The waders fit differently from what you might be use here. These waders have an inflatable life vest inside them. This feature alone is worth its weight in gold . The life vest makes the upper part of the wader feel a bit more bulky but the fact that you could be wading somewhere and fall in and be able to inflate a vest sure made me feel a lot better about wading in some crazy spots.They also dont get in the way when you row a boat which I think is a nice feature for guides ,who take their life jackets on and off . Life jackets are still required when using these waders. The inflatable bladder is just an added safety precaution. I received these waders and heard two different stories about people in waders one that lived and one that died. The first was about a guy who had slipped in the Deschutes and got sucked across stream his waders had filled with water and he was hanging onto the edge of a cliff embankment.He got lucky and someone heard him yelling for help ,the guy who saved him said the man had hypothermia when they got him out.If he had the wst waders on he might have been able to get out of the jam before it started. The second story was about a guide on the snake river whose boat got hit by a floating log he and his clients got tossed into the river.His clients had their life vests on and just made it out. The guide didnt have his life vest on he had been helping his clients at the time the boat got hit . The last they saw of the guide was of him floating next to his boat .Your waders fill with water when you get tossed into the drink and act like an anchor.Trust me you dont want to be in that situation! http://flyfishingbrothers.wordpress.com/2010/06/read that if you want my first hand account , this is how I ended up with the waders in the first place .So thank you William joseph for coming up with these waders ,I think they will save a life one of these days and I’m giving them a big thumbs up ! I’ll be testing some more of their gear so expect a few more post from me about there stuff in the future.Thanks Willy J
Next is Irideus fly boxes ,most of you might have seen a post or two from these guys on facebook or maybe ebay .http://www.irideus.com/flybox.html The guy who own this company is a true die hard fisherman and loves the outdoors I have used three of these boxes the Melot which is a waterproof box that will hold a ton of flies .the box snaps close very easily and I have all of my wet flies on one side and all my skaters on the other side. The second is the tribute tube fly box ,this box is the best tube fly box hands down it closes and locks easily and holds your hooks and tubes and i have never used all my flies in it in one day thumbs up on this box ,the third is a new box for trout flies and they hit the money maker on this one http://www.irideus.com/rise.html it is compact and has a tough shell the inside has enough room in it for a whole days fishing for trout I have two one for dries and one for nymphs. This box is so impressive for a trout fisherman.The leaf in the middle makes thees boxes easy to separate your flies.The best things about these boxes they are water proof and they don’t cost much. Irideus is the working mans fly company.
Now we come to Korkers I just bought a pair of these boots last fall and have beat on them like crazy .I got the predator boots with the rubber soles ,they are not removable I adde simms star cleats to the bottom of the boots .I have to tell youIim so impressed with these boots .I got the non removeavble soles because i figure everything is going to switch over to rubber anyway . I got the best cleats I could .I will tell you now they things work great !!! the boa system laces are so noce you are in and out of the boots in seconds once you learn how to use them ,which is pretty darn easy ,the outside of these boots are seriously tough .I caught on some barbwire in that was caught in the ground and it only scratched the boot.my out boots would have been torn in half ! They support you ankles well and for some reason i can feel the rocks and boulders better as i wade in these .I would suggest these boots to anyone. This year they are calling the same boot the Kling on boot it has an upgraded lace system and the front of the boot was made even tougher . One thing about these boots they did seem to be sized small i take an eleven in most wading boots and had to go up to a size 12. Check them out !
Now for the little fly company’s most of you who read my blog know I,m friends with Aileen from MK flies .This past year I had a boat accident and lost a lot of gear ,including my trout fly boxes and two rods and reels . I was pretty bummed to lose two rods and reels and my fly boxes .My friend Scandalous Steve was so cool to give me an older 4wt rod which is just a sweet rod ,that i caught a super brown on when we were fishing and Aileen comes along and gives me a enough flies to fish with and fill a box. I have not met nicer people then this in my whole entire life ! They have given me a bit of faith in man kind.So I wanted to give them a shout out and tell you to check them out Aileen ties sweet trout flies of all kinds and Steve is a master Rod builder his skills are super impressive and I have seen lots of custom rods and this guy is one of the best I have seen out there.http://mkflies.com/and http://www.scandaloussticks.com/2010/10/04/custom-fly-rods/So there you go my first product review hope you like it and I hope i didn’t sell out to bad here .Im just trying to give a little thanks back to the people who supported me and also talk about the products I was impressed with.
This past week a good friend of mine passed away due to lung cancer. His name was Rich Schaaff. I only knew Rich for about ten months. I met Rich through Facebook. I’m not sure where but one of his photos was posted somewhere and I commented on it, then sent him a message asking if it was from the cover of a book. He replied back you have a good eye but it isn’t the cover. It was a picture of the Trask River here in Oregon. I asked Rich where he lived and found out he was only a half hour from my house. We ended up going fishing one morning on the East Fork of the Lewis River in Washington. I knew from the start I had met a die hard fly fisherman. I also found out he was from the east coast like me and had moved here to get away from the insane pace on the east coast. Rich showed what kind of guy he was pretty much right off the bat. He had been shooting photos while we were fishing and I didn’t even know. So about a week later he called me, said he had something for me. It was a framed picture of me in black and white casting in the rain. I was taken back and so I tied him up a couple flies. Rich liked to talk fly fishing and he liked things that were what we call old school or from the history of fly fishing which made us connect pretty well cause I love all things fly fishing and was brought up on fiberglass fly rods. He introduced me the the http://www.thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com/ which is a cool web site run by Cameron Mortenson and it is about all things unique in fly fishing. We kept in touch and then one day Rich posted a pic of a fly from a guy named Rocky Maley and told me to check them out. Well needless to say Rockie’s flys are second to none. Something was coming together but I had no clue what was it was. Soon after our meeting Rich and I went fishing again and I met another crazy steelhead guy named Brett Bates who is an interesting character and who seems to have a knack for finding steelhead wherever he goes. All at the same time I got to meet Rocky at the Ashland fly tyers show with Rich. This was a meeting of the minds so to speak of the young and the older who all had the same love of one thing and that was Fly fishing .
Rich and I were talking one night at his house and we both had this thing about trout fishing . I’m from the east coast and so was Rich and we had been around some of the same areas at one time or another and we both liked to talk about trout. Rich liked Robert Traver author of Trout Madness and Anatomy of a Fisherman. I like Bergman and the one thing I noticed about Rich was that every time I mentioned brown trout his eyes would light up. I had heard high tale of a secret place in the west that held large browns and asked Rich if he was interested in going. Well it was on right then and there. He was like hell yeah and three weeks later we were in the car on the way there where we met Steve Vance and Rockey Maley. (This is Rocky’s website: http://www.steelheadjunkies.com/)
Now for me this was a strange deal because I usually fish alone and try to avoid crowds. Rich was the kind of guy who liked to bring people together. I have been on a few fishing trips with other people and needless to say they never seem to turn out well. Broken down cars, trailers, boats with little motors, crazy druken people fighting -you name it! So I have always been a bit apprehensive about going on trips with a lot of people. You add one bad attitude in the mix and everything falls to pieces.
Well here is this guy Rich who if you had met him was just like this is going to be great, we are going to have the best time of our lives! So we drive for hours and I mean hours to get to the River X . When we get there it is a different world all together. Rich and I were speechless at first then it was “will you look at this!” Well we fished the first day and Rich and I didnt catch a thing. Rocky and Steve on the other hand were catching fish. Eventually we end up calling it a day. Rich was the guy who would say tomorrow is our day man! He just had a positive attitude.
Rich was after pictures of fish on this trip and I was determined to get them for him. We went to another section of river and we ran into something I was not prepared for. I was working up river casting to a spot were I had seen a snout pop out of the water. When not more then three feet in front of me a Brown trout larger then my inseam rose in front of me.
This is the thing trout fisherman dream of. I had never seen a brown this large before in the wild. I almost pissed my waders I was so nervous. It was like when you have had a dream and it is right in front of you. I was in the dream though and it was real! I cast to the fish which was up stream from me and on my second cast he went for my small nymph but missed it. Steve and Rich had gone down stream and all of a sudden I heard the car take off. I was in the middle of the river shaking in my boots knowing they hadn’t seen this action. I slowly backed out of the river, got to the bank and went after them in the car. Lucky they stopped because they were looking for me. When I caught up to them all I could get out of my mouth was ” big fish .” Well they came back with me and I told them not to come up on the river fast cause I didn’t want them to spook the fish. Rich snuck through the brush with his camera. He was right above the fish and watching me cast to the fish. This is what he shot:
Rich caught the fish chasing my fly pictures don’t show the size of the fish due to the water. The thing is Rich caught the images. I never hooked that fish and after the last shot he went deep into the pool. We came back the next day and the fish was there but real spooky. I tried for him again but gave up and went to another pool where I got lucky and landed a good 30 ” brown. Rich decided he wanted to take a shot at the pool with the big fish. Rich was very determined. We were all saying to use an emerger due to the fact it was early in the year. Rich had on a madam x fly in grey probably like a size 16 and he was determined to hook one on a dry. He worked the pool from a lot of different angles and I sat at the head of the pool and watched. I caught another small brown in a stretch above Rich and he stopped to photograph it. Then he went back to casting . We all wanted Rich to catch a fish at this point. Rich kept working the seam where the fish had dropped into and we thought it was holding in. It had to be a half hour after I caught the smaller brown when all of a sudden the beast rose from the depth and grabbed Rich’s fly. The battle was on and it was serious. This fish took Rich down stream and he fought it. I got down below him with the net but this fish was having none of it and went back up into the pool. Rich hung on and followed the fish it then went down stream agian and held there for a bit. I tried to sneak in and land the fish but it saw me and went back up stream. This happened two more times! The last time the fish decided to descend to the depths and hold. I could see its tail and it sat there and then with three hard pumps it swished and then the leader snapped! I was in awe and heart broken at the same time. We just sat there for a bit.
It was amazing to see how good Rich was as a fisherman as well as a photographer. His photos are amazing to say the least and his heart was always in the right place. He was willing to show you how he took pictures and always have kind words. Rich and I talked about that fish a bunch of times and swore we were going back to get him! Often as friends do we get into tifts with one another and to me the true sign of a friend is when you can admit to one another you were both wrong and to move on. Rich and I had and argument over something pretty small looking back at it now and I made a point of making sure we settled it ’cause I didn’t want to fight with my friend. So he suggested we get together and go fish. We did and settled the situation and I’m glad we did. It shows the true sign of being real humans and real men when you can forgive and forget. Rich looked at me and said this has been a stressful week and it had been the same for me. It was good to clear the air. So we got in his truck and went to the Lake X (Rich would strike me down if I told you the name of this place). It was a great drive and when we got there I was amazed at the beauty of the lake and the landscape around it. If you look at Rich’s landscape photos there are tons of pictures of the lake. He loved it there! (http://www.eastforkfly.com/) Well for the longest time Rich kept talking about the hex hatch on this lake. I’d never seen a hex hatch being from the east coast. The way these guys make it sound out here the(http://www.troutnut.com/fullsize/picture-im_regspec/2367 ) Hexigena are the size of bats flying and dang if they aren’t! No wonder the trout get so big. Ah hello Mr. Trout what will you be having tonight? A hex big mac thank you!
The thing about the hatch is that it doesnt really take off unless it is warm and we were in a high mountain lake so you really have to time it just right and hope it gets warm enough. It was slow going at first and I had brought my new fiberglass rod to test it out and see how it cast. It is only a 4wt rod so it is pretty light and it makes it a bit more difficult to make longer cast on the lake in a boat. I was there to mess with it and make Rich happy. Rich loved the lake and would talk about it all the time and we would all kind of yeah yeah him about it cause he would always talk about the lake. Well it was slow at first and nothing was biting except every once in awhile you see a splash here or there. I would see these funny things in the water, something that looked like a nymph skin but wasn’t sure. Until Rich pointed out that they were Hex shucks. They look like somebody shredded the skin off your finger they are that big! Then one flew by- “what was that Rich a helicopter?” It was starting to nearly get dusk when the first fish hit! BAM Oh dam it is taking out line. “Rich this is a nice fish ,” Rich was all excited,yelling “hang on to it, let me get my camera out.” Well I fought the fish and landed it. Rich was like a little kid in the back of the boat he was so happy I caught a trout on his lake. The fish didn’t care one way or the other and wriggled out of my hands and started flopping around in the boat. We were laughing our asses off in the boat trying to get the fish and get it back in the water. Well we kept fishing and Rich caught a nice fish. Then I hooked into a pig of a rainbow and the fight was on! Rich was so happy he just kept looking at me on the ride home going “I told you didn’t I!” It was a great little trip and I am so glad Rich showed me the lake he loved so much. I’m happy he showed me because we had a great time and that is what Rich was all about! Having a great time!
That was the last time I saw Rich. He quit his job about a week or two later and had decided to pursue photography full time. He and his wife bought a camper for his truck and he was excited to use it. He told me he was going to Yellowstone with his wife Julie. They went away for about two weeks and when Rich returned he told me a story about not feeling well on the trip. About a month after that he called me and told me he had lung cancer.
I have been writing this for about three weeks now, it hasn’t been easy. I know his whole family is heart broken and miss him dearly. I can only say I think I was blessed to have met him. He gave me another view on life. I’m sad that he is gone, but not sad for having known him. I hope to be more like Rich as I get older with a smile on my face and living happily in the end no matter what. Rich was a comedian even when I last talked to him he was joking with me. We go through life with a lot of complaints or at least I hear them often from people, including myself. Times are real tough these days. I certainly can attest to that. Though I’m waking up every day and thankful to be here today! I wanted to post this in remembrance of a friend, but also so you will think about yourself today. If you are going through life unhappy you need to stop and look at yourself and ask why you are unhappy. You could have a million reasons but trust me it could get worse. You only live once,which is a serious statement if you stop and think about it. I for one will try to keep my friends laugh in my head and his good cheer in my heart.
Rich left this world with something for you to look at so please got to his website. If you are having a bad day just look at one of his photos and let it take you to another place. What Rich saw was the beauty in the world that God created. As we fly fisherman like to call it our church. The church is so big and it is everywhere. Rich just like to capture it for a second to give you a life time of enjoyment. Each moment of each day has something special in it even if your working in a muddy field or working in an office somewhere. You merely need to look for the positive even in the darkest hours.
I will miss my friend but be able to always take him with me. So get out there and make your Reel scream cause you only live once.
Well here is this guy Rich who if you had met him was just like this is going to be great ,we are going to have the best time of our lives ! So we drive for hours and I mean hours to get to the River X
To fly fish or not to fly fish, that seems to be the question! I was a bait fisherman for most of my younger years. We use to fill the freezer with fish. I have never been a huge fish eater but my parents loved to eat fish. It just seemed that there was always way more then the family could eat.
Being that I didn’t like to eat fish it started to make no sense keeping so many. My father had been a fly fisherman and tier in his younger years. He had introduced me to it and I had always been fascinated with the flies. I went to college and stopped fishing till I got out. It was like the outdoors called me back. I started hunting again as well.
I liked to be challenged more now though at that point so I took up bow hunting and at the same time my sister gave me a book on fly tying. Something all clicked at that time. I started to learn to tie and got pretty good at it. Then I built my own rod at a shop. Everything was about doing it myself to challenge myself. The next part was learning to really fly fish. I had no one to teach me, hell no one I knew fly fished, you mentioned it and guys would snicker and laugh.
I was determined to catch fish this way and I read everything I could get my hands on. It wasn’t easy trying to figure things out. There was so much to learn-from casting to line control to figuring out what the fish were eating. It was all very interesting and just made me work harder at it. It took time but I started catching fish here and there.
Then comes getting good at fly tying and this is no easy feat. There are about a million different ways to tie and about a million different flys and types of flys for all manner of fish. This just made it even more interesting.
Now when it comes to trout I’ll say this, if you know what your doing you can out fish a bait fisherman at times, but if you want to fill your freezer to catch something to eat you might want to go with bait or a lure. Fly fishing is about the challenge of catching a fish on something you made out of fur, feather and hook. You need to present the fly to the fish to make it think it is food. This is the artful part of fly fishing. This takes practice and lots of it.
Now for me it has always been about fsihing and being out there in the outdoors. I like to hunt big fish, for others it is about how many they can catch. So to get to my point; to Fly fish or not?
I think a lot of us have taken the fun out of fishing. It seems to have become some test or game of who is better then who. One guy nymph fishes, another dry fly another bait fishes or uses lures. Disrespect between sides has become common place instead of just being respectful. On more then one occasion I have been low holed by both bait fisherman and fly fisherman. Not everyone knows what low holing is. It is basiclly when you cut in front of a guy working through a run. Fly fisherman have their own set of rules as well. You aren’t fly fishing if you are using an indicator or just plain nymphing. Or you are called an elitist because you have that view that only dry fly fishing is fly fishing.
I have heard it all from every different direction. I for one would like to say each to his own! I can remember using a spinning rod with 4 pound test on trying to match wits with a six pound bass and not break off. If I landed one of those fish the satisfaction was what counted. More then once I lost the battle. Every step of my journey to become a fly fisherman has been just that steps. What happens when we as anglers create the look of we are better then you because we dont bait fish? We drive people away from the sport or make oneside hate the other more. I don’t know how many times a bait boat has swamped me with his boat just because I had a fly rod in my hand. Now I just wave most of the time. There are times I have had to yell which has never been fun. It is a respect thing out there. Often I wonder why there is so much disrespect but I have seen it from every type of angler.
So as a fly fisherman how do I set the example? This is no easy feat either. All I can say is I’ll keep trying my best. I’m not a perfect person here either. So when you’re out there fishing think back to where it started; when it was fun and not some contest? Try to think of what is was about in the first place which was to get away for awhile and spend some time in nature . Stop for a second when you’re in the middle of the run or the drift and appreciate what you have been given which is more then that one fish. you have been given a planet with some of the most amazing things to see. Fishing in it is just the benefit of living a good life! So if you are up for the challenge try fly fishing or bait fish or use lures however you like but try to enjoy life and what you have been given and show a little respect for the guy next to you.
So I went away for the forth of July weekend to my friend Steve Vance’s house. This last winter I met Steve on Facebook. We got to talking and found out we had been on the Metolious River at the same time last year. He had a picture of a huge Bull trout on his page. Well the funny thing was I was on the other bank watching him fight this beast and had no idea it was him.
That was it, we started talking about fishing and both seemed to have the same views on the Fly Fishing world today. It also sounded like we fished the same way alot of the time. Well I hadn’t caught a bull trout and I wanted to so Steve and I made plans to fish as soon as possible. We talked alot over the next few months and Steve told me he was a rod builder. I’d built two rods of my own and have always dreamed of doing this as a business or at least as a side business.
March rolled around and Steve came down to my place. It was March 9th and Steve showed up with something for me that was just mind blowing. In the time we had been talking he had built me a spey rod. Not just your ordinary spey rod but a super nice spey rod. It was a 12′ 8wt. The blank had been made as a test blank by a top secret blank maker. There isnt a 12′ 8wt on the market today, I might be the only one with one. It has fine metallic green wraps on a green blank. I was in shock to say the least. The rod was beautiful and I wanted to fish it right away. I wasn’t quite sure what Skagit head to buy for so we went for the 570.
Steve had been waiting for some cork to arrive but it didn’t come in time so he had to go with the standard spey handle offered in most rod building catalog. We went to the Metolious River to test it out on some Bull trout. Well mid morning I hooked into one about three pounds, not huge for a bull trout but a nice trout in my book! The rod cast sharp but crisp and made nice loops. I was concerned that the handle was too big so I sent it back with Steve and he turned it down on the lathe then sent it back to me. I was like a kid in the candy store I tell you, when I got it back I ran out and went out for early summer steelhead. Well this time I hooked a fiffteen pound hen. The rod fought the fish well and now with the handle turned down it really felt sick in my hands. This Rod had Scandalous written all over it !Now I’ve run into this other guy named Rich Schaaff of East Fork Fly Photography. We had been talking back and forth on Facebook about his photos and we found out we were both from the east coast and he only lived about a half hour away from me. Well we got to talking about fishing for Browns and that was it we were going out to get some. I called Steve and said he should meet this guy cause he seemed pretty cool and he really liked to fly fish. Well we all got together on the River X and went fishing for a couple of days. In the mean time I knew Steve had some nice rods and I knew he knew how to fish for browns because he had pictures of them everywhere! Well this charater takes us to this River X and he is out fishing and he is catching one after the other. I was having a tough couple days trying to settle in. Then we went for a drive and I kind of broke away from the guys cause I saw a piece of water I really liked. I sat there for a bit and then started casting to a spot that looked like it would hold fish, when not five feet in front of me the largest brown I’ve ever seen and I’m not joking when I say 36″, brown rises up and takes a bug and drops back to the bottom. I almost crapped in my waders! I was frozen with joy and excitment and fear all at once.
Well I missed that fish twice that day and I can’t tell you how much the adrenalin was rolling that day. So the next day we came back but the fish had moved on. But Steve had spotted a fish and caught a nice one just before he spotted it. So he said come up here and try and catch this one but use this rod. I have to tell you it was this weird looking short yellow rod Steve said it is designed just for this river. It is 5′ 6″ and it was a 4wt. I was skeptical but said ok I’ll try it. I cast really nice for a short little rod! I was impressed and I saw this nice brown that Steve pointed out. Well on the third cast I hooked this beast on a size 22 (I’m not telling ). Well holy hell this fish was huge and it was bending the rod like a willow, but the rod held like a champ. This fish took me down river, wrapped me around a rock and how the tippet didnt break was beyond me. Steve went into the river grabbed the leader and the fish went up river like a rocket with me in tow. Ha ha I can still feel the rush! Then he went under some moss and the rod just sat there and bounced like nothing I had seen before. The tip of the rod danced with the fishes every move we got the moss free and down river he went again. We landed him after only a few minutes. I was blown away by this rod. Our friend Rocky gave it a name. He called it the pygmy rod because it was so short, yet so powerful. It is a fiberglass rod and the action of this rod will make you feel every movement of the fish. It is amazing. So now I was on the hunt for fiberglass. I wanted something of my own and I found a blank after searching long and hard. It was a three piece lamaglass 4wt. I ordered the parts for her and then I found a special thread that my father had given me from when he use to build rods and it was a match for this rod. That made it have even more meaning so I went to see Steve on the fourth of July weekend. We got to work on this thing and he went to town wrapping this rod. Well wow you want to see a craftsman at work. This guy was just doing this without even measuring the wraps but each one was perfect. Again I was impressed! When the wraps were finally all on we got it ready for epoxy and it was like the magic hour. Steve and I had talked about the wraps and what was going to happen when we put on the epoxy but what happened before my eyes was just down right awesome. This is the final product of two friends working toward a goal!
Steve Vance was seven years old when he started learning to make rods. He is Twenty six years old now. You tell me what you think because every rod this guy has shown me has had nothing but class and a lot of thought put into them. You can contact him @ stephenvance001@gmail
The next night was much the same. We fished at whiskey dick till dark but the fish seemed off the bite or they were just full from eating so much. The next morning came and it had rained so we waited for the sun which came out and dried our things. We loaded the boat and I kept saying I think we are still too heavy.
Now I want to say something here because this is important. If you even think that the boat is over loaded this is the time to get rid of things you might not need. This could be coolers, this could be clothes, anything weighing down the boat. You should know the weight capacity of your boat. This should have been taken care of the first day, but if you feel it is too heavy get rid of things you can live without !!!!!!!! If you feel like you are littering trust me someone else will put it to good use at some point.
We got the boat ready and started rowing, it was lighter but she still wasnt moving right. We came around the bend to the whitehorse and you can pull over to check it out before you go through. This is a class IV rapid so it is a good idea to check this thing out.
Things you should do before you go over the rapids, take off your waders, make sure you have a whistle. Wear a life vest! Have through ropes ready in the boat. Look for loose items in the boat. Stash loose gear in dry bags. Secure your bags and make sure not to have too much weight in the rear of the boat, try to balance the boat out. This helps a drift boat maneuver. Do not exceed the weight capacity of the boat.
At this point in the journey you have the option to walk around the rapids, if that inner voice is telling you something isn’t right you should listen! This will also help lighten the boat. This helps the oars man maneuver through the rapids. It is better to be safe then sorry!
The next thing is to help the oars man by staying in your seat, never stand up even if you are going to hit something, this is a fatal mistake. It is the one thing that the oarsman can’t control and that is you the passenger. If you do stand up you will set the boat off balance. If you hit you have the chance of bumping off. If you don’t then is the time to make decisions.
So here is what happened to me and some friends. We headed out behind another friend who hit the line but wasn’t over weight. At the top of white horse you have to go through a channel which sweeps to the left toward rocks they call the knuckles. We were over loaded! As we went through the channel the sweep caught the rear of the boat. We had the line picked out fine and were on a good track, but the weight of the boat caught, which took the rear of the boat into the knuckle. This pushed us toward the rocks below the knuckle they call the can opener. I corrected the boat as much as possible in the rapids but was headed for the can opener. Just before we hit the old man in the front stood up and had a push stick and tried to push us off the rock. This was the worst thing he could have done. As soon as he stood up the boat tipped and swung us up on the can opener, throwing me from the boat.
I was shot out and driven back at the boat, which was laid up on the rock and the other passenger was on top of the boat. I slammed into the side of the boat and was sucked under the boat and down under into the rapids.
This is where it got really crazy! I hadn’t thought about it and had my waders on. This was a huge mistake. I had not respected the river enough to even think about what could happen. The waders filled instantly. Moments are lost here for me from the time I went under the boat and then surfaced again. I know I was under then in a wall of water and then came out somehow by the grace of God, to tell you the story. God you say? Let me tell you if you don’t think there is one take a ride through the whitehorse and you will know! When I came up I caught my breath and was taken down again. Something snapped in my head and said fight! That is all I remember and I started swimming. I came up again and laid backward and stuck my feet forward then rolled and swam toward shore and rolled over on my back again some how I made it to shore. My waders were filled to the top !
I got lucky very lucky, I shouldn’t be typing this to you all now. I am typing this to hopefully make you think twice about what you are doing when you are out fishing. I’ve been in boats all my life and this one time, when I got lax about safety something happened. We got lucky no one died and some people where there to help us out. We were in the middle of nowhere out there.
Some of you out there will make fun of me for crashing. I’m going to say this I learned from this. Go prepared, be ready for anything, because out there it could happen. Two way radios or even a tracking device could save you. One of the guys was washed down stream pretty far. He didn’t have a whistle with him so we didn’t know if he was ok till much later. Personally I would never do this in a wooden boat again. If we had been in a raft or a cataraft we would have most likely just bumped off the rock. Think before you act and remember to listen to your oars men. As a passenger you endanger everyone on the boat if you don’t listen. This was one of the scariest moments of my life. If you think you are stronger then the water I’ve got news for you. Mother Nature has all the control out there and the river could take you at anytime. Even experienced guides die out there as well so think before you act.
So this month I’m going to talk about my adventure on the Dechutes and being prepared for an accident ! The trip started out with the great expectations of the salmon fly hatch. I have a custom nymph designed to look like a salmon fly nymph (petronarcy californica ) http://www.worleybuggerflyco.com/insectidentifa/salmon_fly.htm. Which people here in the Northwest get very excited about when they start to hatch. It is the sign of summer starting to most fishermen and it is the sign of a great trout bite. So I tied up an awful lot of them in the early season before the hatch. My one friend called me and asked if I was going to go for the trip and I said sure .
I called a few days before and my friend said the other half owner of the boat wanted to go. This is where things start to get interesting. I go with it though. So I’m a laid off cabinetmaker and I had alot of time to prepare for the trip. I tied up to the last minute because the friend I usually go with said he had everthing covered and to just bring my sleeping bag and tent. I was cool with that .
Well they came and picked me up and off we headed for the great big Dechutes River where the largest hatch of salmon flys on the West coast happens. We went to Mecca flats where everyone was saying the hatch had come off already and when we got there it did seem like the bugs had taken off or moved on through. It started raining about a half hour after we got there and that put all the bugs and the fish down. The first night it rained hard and in the morning the sky was overcast and grey and the wind was blowing .
Now when we floated the first day the other half owner of the boat, who had brought everything and the kitchen sink to camp with him, and wanted to eat eggs and bacon and potatoes and it took till 11:30 to just get going. I’m a fisherman and when I camp I go pretty light I could bring coffee and freezed dried food and cliff bars. These guys want steaks and pork chops, eggs and bacon. Do any of you see where this is headed ?
So my fishing time became limited, mind you I’ll eat in the dark if I have to and can cook over a small bunsen burner if I have to. Well the first day I manged one fish and missed a few on the top water. Then we set up camp and it was windy but I decided to fish above camp anyway, I hooked a huge sucker about five pounds. I thought I was latched into a huge trout till he finally came to the surface. Ever tried to move a a five pound rock with a five weight rod? Well that is how a sucker feels when they fight you! I kept fishing and my friend had come up when a fish hit and hit hard. My reel was screaming. I was thinking oh man this is going to be a nice fish well I reeled him in a little ,and then bam! off and running. I was impressed, then the fish broke top water below me but I still couldn’t make out what it was. Reeled in some more and then bam! off and running. Now I was really impressed and thinking cool I have a nice one on as it broke top water again. Well this time I got him in closer and could tell it was wearing out slowly bringing him in and low an behold it was a huge white fish! Now who would have thought a white fish could fight that hard ? To boot I had hooked it in the fin does anyone know how these fish get hooked in the oddest places ?
Well that night it rained again and it came down hard like buckets, I don’t know when it finally stopped but it got real strange being in your tent listening to the rain come down like that. The morning came and it took awhile for things to dry out, so that made for another slow morning. We fished islands for most of the day and I hooked a few on the top water but nothing to really write about. When you are fishing these huge stimulator patterns on the top you get a lot of hit and misses. They grab it spit it or you react to soon. I was working a seam at the bottom of one island and accidentally dropped one of my flies in the water. There it went floating down the seam and wouldn’t you know it GULP fly gone. I was just like you have to be kidding me. Sometimes you wonder how these bugs ever make it to breed .
Well we made it to our next camp site. It was nice. It had a few pine trees growing in it large enough for shade. Well we started unpacking gear and we all got out of the sun, hung up our waders and were chilling out. My one friend went over to do something by his waders when I heard something like a maraca. It went something like shink shink shink shink. I looked up and half said what was thaaaaa! ? and saw the rattler not two feet away from my friend with his tail up and his head in the strike pose. I yelled look out and he kind of jumped and ran. There right in the middle of our gear was a three foot rattler. Talk about a close call! My friend was quick to action and tried to remove the snake from camp by lifting it with a stick .and took it about two hundred yards from camp. Well I was still uneasy with that and not five minutes later he was back in camp. Well these guys were like ok Mr you’re gone! I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
That night the trout went off and the water came to life outside our camp. This time though it wasn’t for salmon fly’s – a huge hatch of drakes and caddis seemed to come off all at once. The guys were trying everything. I just sat back and watched for awhile and went down to my friend and said hey try this elk hair caddis. He tied it on and Bam! he was into fish. For that matter it was his first fish on a dry fly. I had been helping him to learn to cast which he had never done before so it was cool to see him get into his first bunch of fish on the dry! Late that night two others who were to join the group caught up to us.
The next morning was much the same as the last few a long slow start. By now im starting to get tired of the weather as it has rained on and off for days. The sun would come out and then go away. We started out and headed for our next camp well I decided to switch over to my nymph and throw on a trailer fly of a drake nymph. The sun came out and the bugs went nuts! We got into fish at every stop we made that day, Nymphs, Dry, you name it. The trout were hungry! Bugs you hear about the salmon fly hatch, alot of people say “oh it wasnt big last year” or “I just missed it”. Well we were well into it and it was unreal. When you looked into the sky it was like the scene from Apocalypse Now with the helicopter battalion coming into the beach except this time it was millions of stone flys just heading up river! It is a sight to behold if you are a fly fisherman. That night we camped at Whiskey Dick camp ground. There is great anticipation when you are at the Whiskey,why you ask? because the next day would be the white Horse rapids ! A class IV to V rapid !
Stay tuned for my next post it is going to be a wild ride !
So , for those of you who are going to read this and don’t chase steelhead,I’m going to discribe what it like to be a steelheader.No not the kind that pays a guide to go and then catches a fish cause he was told to cast over to that spot ,because the guide knows where the fish is.
I’m going to call myself a Steelheader ,and those other guys are steelheaders to, but there is a difference here, that I want to explain . Somewhere back in time, I got into flyfishing for trout . I’ve been a fisherman all of my life . My father got me involved in this but mostly bait fished ,though he would fly fish and tye bugs when I was little . He use to take me to a fly shop when I was five. Now we use to trout fish alot and I’ve caught alot of trout on all sorts of things from flies to lures, and the like so I’m no purest that is for sure !
So at one point I really got into the challenge of fly fishing .I haven’t learned everything and that is what I love about it .The underwater world haunts me . So one day I hear about steelhead,and that is the end of my days being a normal fisherman. I lived in Virginia and met this young lady whose parents lived out here .This is a case of destiny ,so she moved back out west . So I fly out to see her and that was the end of me wanting to live on the eastcoast .We had gone for a walk along a river and I spotted steelhead in a pod laying in a pool .Well that was it I was moving out west .I worked for five years to get out here .
I got here and that was the beginning of a tourture I wouldn’t wish on many of you. I started fishing for steelhead and had only seen eastcoast tactics, nymphing . Well that wasnt working so well for me , though I know it works . I tried everything at first but to no avail . Then came the day I finally went to fish the Dechutes mind you I’m doing all this on my own with no help! The Dechutes River is intimidating to say the least ,when you first look at her .I was out there with my single hand rod and these guys were across the river with two handers, I fought the wind all day and watch those guys cast all day out where I wanted to be .That was it I was getting a two hander. Now this is a deverse world, and I’ll get into that in another post .
So this all started out on a local river close to my home. I’d go there find a nice run fish it through get a grab or a tug on my fly from a fish . Now for some guys getting a grab or a tug is all it takes .This river however has haunted me and kind of driven me crazy. My last three times there I’ve had something happen .First it was the begining of winter steelhead and I was there and, fish were in! I was fishing a run that I’d gotten hits in, a few times before .When this happens it can really start to play games with your head. I got to the end of this run and, bam a grab and a hard one and a let go and then bam another grab and a let go . This can send shockwaves up a steelheaders back for months . Then the last time I was there I was in the same run but up at the top of the run which I rarely fish because it is real hard to cast there but there are boulders there and I know fish hang there because I’d gotten tugged there before . So here I am working the run and get a what Ill call a pull and a let go .Now this time Im starting to get discourged . I head home wondering if these are ghost fish or figments of my imagination .
Well, I’ve visit a few rivers since that last pull and have been avoiding the river because of this curse, it seems to have over me . Now heres where being a real steelheader comes in .I dont care if you fish with crank baits If you chase these fish like I do your a steelheader .I’ve gone to lengths and hiked miles to find these fish .I’ve gone over maps trying to find ways to get to these place .Why because I dont own a boat (yet ).I have been paying my dues, for the last five years so to speak .
The other morning I decided to make a long hike into a run, this isn’t a very hard hike in, but really sucks coming back out. Especially with waders and wading boots on .I got up at 5am and made breakfast and got my gear in the truck and left the house around 7 .I wasn’t in a rush because I knew this was going to take some time to get to the run .I parked my car and got my gear on .The hike was on, it is a wonderful hike through a rainforest .Ferns everywhere, giant spruce, and fir as far as you can see .It is like another world which makes the hike in enjoyable .I got to the run and it is a typical Northwest day rainy and overcast .This is the best kind of weater for steelheading . I started at the top of the run and started making my way down .Two handed spey casting is a joy ,but at times you can start to feel like you are just making pretty casts to ghosts in the river. Something felt different to me that morning .If you steelhead fish as much as I do, you sense something .Its like it is in the air, or the trees, or the river itself . Cast after cast I was working the run steering the head of my skagit line to hold it in the strike zone as long as I can. Then the cast and the drift and there are some places you say,” if I was a steelhead I’d be right here.” Well, bang, I get a tug and a let go. I’m mad now and with speed I shoot the line back out and drift it to where I got the tug, give the rod two pumps and, bam, another tug, but this time the fish grabs and I lift the rod , fish on baby .
Now the battle begins , each fish is different when you hook them ,some just run ,some slam the fly others seem to just nibble at it .When you set the hook though they either run down river ,and i do mean run ,like a football feild faster then any running back you’ve ever seen . Some just thrash and hold out in the middle of the river and bulldog you shaking their heads and rolling and doing whatever they can to get away . I set the hook and know instantly this is a big fish .I pull back on the rod and it doesnt run far but just pulls on the rod hard ,then a short burst run .The rod is pumping in my hands and I can feel the weight of a large fish .I just hold on and she hangs out in the middle of the river shaking her head .With each shake my heart pumps back just as hard and im praying she doesnt snap the leader .I start reeling in . I see it its big alright and she sees me ! Off she runs into the long deep pool ,this fish is all power . I keep hanging on palming the rim of my reel to control the amount of pressure I have against the leader .The whole time im waiting for her to burst off like a bullet .She decides its time to go up river ,i reverse the rod to the oppisite side to turn her she just powers up stream but the rod and leader hold ,now im reeling and she decides it time to power out to the middle of the river .Im praying now for the leader to hold .
There is a moment of heart break that can happen ,and everyfishermaen has had it happen when your into a fish and the leader just snaps ,your heart drops to the bottom of your toes .This doesn’t happen this time though and I finally land her on the beach. She is big, bigger then any I’ve landed yet. She is chrome brite and beautiful. She has come so far to make it back here. It has taken her years and she has just given me the fight of a life time for any fishermen to remember .I unhook her ease her back into the water and thank her for her time, and send her on her way .
This to me is being a steelheader !
So I got to go on this amazing fishing trip with my friends Rich Schaaff of EASTFORKFLY PHOTOGRAPHY, Rocky Maley and “Scandalous” Steve Vance. Now I’m a crazy steelhead nut as some of you know, but as of late they have been giving me the “fin”. So I decided to go trout fishing so I could atleast get a fish to bite .
Ha good luck on that Mr. Nutto. I got to our destination, and I had been stressed out. This trip took some planning and the four of us had never really hung out. I’m kind of a lone fisherman most of the time . So this was kind of stressful .It all came togeather though . So Rocky had set up camp in this area where there was a long stretch of slow moving water.
We fished there for the first day Steve, and Rocky were indicator nymphing , both were catching fish . Fish surfacing all around us, I couldn’t touch a fish with my line let alone cast, for some reason that day ,and Steve was calling me a newbie all day. The wind was blowing and knocking my line out of the air. I must have tied fifty blood knots that first day .I was just having One of those days.
So later that evening we were up river and casting to rising trout ,and I got all tangled up .That was it, at that point for me. The line was wrapped all around me, and Steve was across river just laughing ,I just threw my rod on the bank in fustration .I told Steve I was done for the day .I headed down river to cross it in the shallows .Only to see Rich hooked up with a large fish which then broke him off .This just made my mood worse at the time ,and i kept on walking down the river, I felt bad for Rich .
Rocky to the rescue ! So I come around the corner and heres Rocky hooked up ,and he has a nice one on .Now Rocky was on a cliff above the water. So I can tell its a Nice fish .So I run over to help him out and yell to Rich,” Rocky has a nice one on.” Rich has been dying to catch a photo of a nice trout for months now. So I help land the fish, and Rich gets his shots and Rocky is happier then my dad eating pie at thanksgiving !
Now my mood has changed I say to myself this is what its all about, being here with your friends .So I just say the hell with catching the fish .We all head back to camp which is a great night of laughter and will be a whole other post .(look for kung foo kangaroo)
The next day we start out fish another area ,and this time we find fish. The water is slow moving again, I’m not impressed, but I fish anyway. Same thing browns rising and not taking so I say, ”Hey steve you know of any place with moving water we could fish.” Well he takes me to an area with some boulders that isn’t more then twenty feet across .Now this is my kind of trout water .
So I start working up a small run and I’m blind casting. Hitting pockets and seams ,I see a snout of a trout come up in a seam and start getting in postion to cast ,when out of no where five feet in front of me a Brown comes off the bottom and sucks in a bug .Not just a brown mind you a monster from neptunes depths! Easily 36″ and he is feeding .Now I dont get to fish over trout to much anymore, and Im from the eastcoast where you have to go to hell and hunt for a fish like this .I about crap my waders people. So I start casting, on my second cast he goes after my 265 trailer nymph and I miss .My heart is trembling, so is the rest of me, I continue to cast and the hear the guys start the car, and start to take off. I’m like what the heck are they doing .So I back out of the pool, and chase them down, when I get to them all I can say is big fish ! So they follow me back .Rich sticks his head over the bushes and all I hear is ” holy crap !” So he postions himself for pictures and I continue to cast .The whole time the fish is still Feeding .I’m in the zone, but not that Zen zone they talk about so much, the zone of how do i catch this fish . So i try to change flies ,my hands are trembling, but some how I manage to get the bugs on. I make about four casts and bam he comes up after my fly, grabs the fly at the last second it’s head even comes out of the water .I miss! OHHHHHHHH .I should have just let him take the fly down . At this point the fish must have finally seen me it vanishes.I’m so jazzed after that , I have to stop fishing ,the rush I’m having at the time was like none I’ve ever had .
The next day Rocky, Steve,and I come back to the pool and the fish is there, but it is very edgy now and moves off to the otherside of the pool . I cast to him for about a half hour, and Steve fishes above me in another area .Steve hooks up and he is into a good 26″ fish .Now steve fishes this little rod We call it the( pygme )cause it is so short a 5′ 6″ 4wt and it is bent over like a willow but it fishes little tippet well and it cast to pocket water in tight areas like a dream . So we land this fish and she is a beauty .Ill post some pictures soon .
Steve looks at me and says,” There is a bigger one up there man and I want you to catch it”, so having no luck with this fish I’ve been casting to ,I decide its time to work on a new fish .Well Steve shows me the spot, and this fish moves next to this boulder .
Now this is where the Buddhist end of this comes in.There is a teaching about living in the moment .You don’t focus on the past, or the future, just in the here and now . Most of us don’t live life in the now, and I had this great insight after this teaching about Buddhism, Zen and the art of flyfishing in the moment . In the time frame of landing that fish for Steve, and then fishing for this fish ,I was really in the moment for once, in such a long time .I mean there was nothing else! No worries, no problems, it didn’t matter if I hooked the fish . It was all about being their with my friends, and having a good time to tell the story for later .
Well I hook this fish on the pygme rod a battle insues that is just crazy .When I hooked the fish it was like a moment of being out of my body and watching myself.The fish took me down stream,and the rod was bent over double, the fish is huge . I’m just holding onto the rod , this is on 7x tippet ,with a size 22 midge .I’m crapping my waders here people .He bulldogs down, trys to break me off, and Steve is yelling get into the river. So Im chest deep and the fish hooks me up on a boulder, and some moss . I’m really crapping my waders.Steve jumps into action and some how gets the line out of the moss and the fish takes me up river back to the boulder where I hooked him .The rod is flexing, bouncing, and it is the only way this tippet isn’t snapping . So he runs to the otherside of the boulder, and gets me into the moss on that Boulder. Steve to the rescue again! The fish breaks away from the boulder, and heads down stream again .I’m just doing what I can to hold on at this point, we are wearing him down .It takes about three tries and we finally net him a 30″ brown. Best trout of my life ! Thanks Steve, Rich, and Rocky for the time of my life