Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now this is a Sculpin Pattern

I ran across this sculpin pattern tied by Rich Strolis, and it is awesome. He has a full instructional video, and you can tell what an efficient tyer he is.

Headbanger Sculpin

Friday, December 28, 2012

BC rivers part 2

As winter rolled in we heard lots of concerned locals say that catching steelhead on the swing would be tough. Many people with gear rods were catching them on pink worms and big bead eggs, and a few on spoons. We even set up one of our backup spey rods with a quasi center-pin rig (we never really fished it).

River two was beautiful but we wanted to experience a few different rivers, so we headed to river three

We found a couple guys in a wall tent to give us a shuttle for a couple Tim Horton's Bagel BELT's but they were very confused why we were getting on the water at dawn with such low temps. we were rookies...

Ice flow was still present four hours later at 11 am. There is not a chance a single species of fish in the world would be very aggressive with ice flowing over their heads. This day we saw a ton of steelhead while floating. We saw them in seams, tail-outs, around structure...everywhere. and we caught 1, the smallest steelhead I saw on the entire trip

Baby little BC Hen, barely cracked 26.5 inches

The next day it was even colder. One of the local guides asked us how we were doing. We said not a touch. He responded, "its the cold, eh"

On the end of our third day on river 3, I finally hooked into something serious. It was definitely the best 6-7 seconds of the entire trip. We waited until mid afternoon to get on the river to let the water warm up and avoid the ice flow. It was worth it. I also was trying a variation of the North Umpqua winter steelhead technique: I would cast down at an angle do a huge reach mend give out 6-8 feet of slack and let it sink straight before my fly started to swing. Right in the middle of the swing I got a double tug and 30 feet of line ripped out. The fish porpoised looking like a true 15-20 pounder, then ran right upstream and spit the hook. Ben and I celebrated the take like a landed fish. It was a true aggressive giant in cold ass water. This moment gave us hope.

So we took the next two days off. Its a new rule in BC that only Canadians can fish on weekends on the good rivers!!! 

Any guesses on why?? 

After finding out how that new law got passed I agreed and disagreed, basically it came down to Americans being rude and homesteading on holes for weeks at a time. No joke, weeks! Well we spent two days recovering from the cold and tying patterns for the last two days of steelheading.

Another issue we were having was having to float to far per day, meaning less time to fish and less runs we could fish. So we cut our usual float in half, but had to find an access point. We picked a feeder creek that seemed about half way and it couldn't be that far from the river.

Well it was pretty far and we had to portage all types of structure

How'd this truck get here?

The coolest part of the creek was there were spawning late run COHO everywhere. we watched them chase each other around in the tiny water. We finally made it to the river and actually got to swing 4 or 5 good spots. The first spot I thought I had a snag, and then the snag started swimming. So since we just saw COHO, I thought it must be a spawned out COHO, but as I yanked it to try to get it off it was a large buck, and it came off. Never do that. But we knew that the steelhead were biting. In the next run we fished I hooked a similarly sluggish fish, but I played it out and it was a fresh-ish hen.

So we fished another couple runs till dark and I hooked and landed one more fish. My Big Red Dog of the trip. No monster, but a real nice fish.

My buddy Ben was fishing well, and hard but he was getting unlucky, he deserved one more steelhead, so that night we planned to fish new water, and I made sure he got first swing on each run. It was a tough day. The water had dropped a ton, and fish were not eager. Finally on the last run of the day, on our last day, right before dark Ben hooked into a real hot fish. It took out 50 yards of line, tail-walking the whole way. I was pumped for him, but knew it marked the end of our trip and I was truly sad.

So we left Skeena country and headed south through some absolutely wild weather. rain in 15F weather! It would take a lifetime to truly learn one of these tributaries. We learned how to cast a little better and occasionally hook a steelhead. The trip was very unsatisfying, which is good. If it had gone perfectly and we both had caught twenty steelhead and a couple over twenty pounds, their would be no longing to go back, it would have just been a novelty, like fishing a trophy pond with pellet flies. Since I returned at the beginning of November, I web search BC steelhead, buy new spey gear, tie tube flies, and dream of steelhead. I've even had post steelheading depression. Every time I have gone trout fishing since, I have brought my switch rod, and swung to fish on tailwaters. Ben and I have tried to explain our trip and our struggles to friends and family, but no one gets it. I have shown my girlfriend so man steelheading videos, ensuring she'll never want to do it.

We called our boat the Super 8 (reference to the crappy canadian tire bike) after it got a hole in it on river 3. After we patched it, it held up beautifully, when we laid it to rest, it earned the title Super Duper 8 (not quite a super duper puma)
 5 am in Jasper, AB

Thursday, December 27, 2012

British Columbia: 4 rivers part 1

Upon leaving AK we heard a story from my friend's Ben's boss about breaking down on the Cassiar in Deese Lake, and going to a sketchy repair shop where the owner closed the garage behind them... Well sure enough we got a flat tire in Deese Lake. We visited a mechanic named Charlie, and we were not locked in his garage.

Lower stretches of the Cassiar near Bell 2. Approaching the Nass and Stikine river systems. The beginning of steelhead country, and wet weather.

Cranberry River Blown Out

I had anticipated my first trip steelheading for a year after the first switch rod I bought. The first time I cast a spey rod was without a fly on the Pueblo tailwater. The next fall I caught my first fish on the swing in Pueblo.

I remember a few years ago picking up Fly Fisherman Magazine and skipping any sections regarding spey fishing, Salmon, or Steelhead. I only cared about trout, big trout. Well those sea run fish are big trout, and after I learned to cast (still learning) and realized it was pretty cool, I started to get addicted. It was just like streamer fishing, but less tiring. And the takes are so cool. So when I had the chance to finally go steelheading, I made it happen, and just happened to fish the most famous wild steelhead river system in the world, "The Skeena." Now I search for articles on Spey Fishing.

Base Camp in Smithers, Finally. 1557 miles from Sunrise, AK to Smithers, BC

Task 1: We showed up in Smithers, with no idea where to fish. The Skeena Watershed has many tributaries, and our first two days were used buying gear, licenses, maps, and trying to dig up real information on where we could find steelhead.

Task 2: was trying to find a shuttle. We scouted a couple of the floats and decided a cheap mountain bike would be adequate for running shuttles. So we opted for a Canadian Tire Super 8 for 100 looneys, Boy, was that a mistake! The first float required a 10 mile shuttle. Ben dropped me off at 8 am and came riding back at 9:45. An hour and forty-five minutes to ride 10 miles?? Well 5 minutes into the ride, the right pedal fell off, so Ben rode 1 legged until he found a construction crew that let him use vise grips to put in back on. Two miles later the seat sank, and he did not have a set of allen keys to fix it. Needless to say he was a very unhappy fisherman when he showed up at the boat launch and I had just finished swinging the first run.

First morning on the river. No steelhead this day

Day 1 Our boat with a homemade skid frame was more than adequate. However it was the equivalent of a Volkswagen Beetle (the raft) with a V12 Engine (the oars). Our first day we didn't touch a steelhead, didn't see a steelhead, and only saw one guy hooked up, all day.

Ben hooked into our first ever Steelhead

Day 2 we switched to a smaller river, which felt more familiar, we actually felt like we might be able to find some steelhead.  However on this day it was my turn to run the shuttle. Again it was around 10 miles, but this time it was on a muddy logging road. I hopped on the bike, and the pedal fell off. The threads on the pedal had been completely polished off. So I walked with the bike for half an hour trying to hitch a ride. No one would pull over. So i wedged the pedal back in, used the inside off my foot to hold the pedal in, and biked the next ten miles. During that time my handlebars loosened and slid over, and rotated upside down. That was the last shuttle run on the Super 8. After fishing two runs in the am, we were floating through a big tail-out, and I was standing up looking down into the water and spotted our first pod of steelhead, SO COOL! We got out and fished the tail-out, but to no avail. Ben finally found a piece of water he thought looked excellent, and sure enough he hooked our first steelhead.

On a fly Ben tied the night before! His first BC Steelhead

My first steelhead

Ben than let me swing through the same pool and I hooked my first steelhead. After getting a tug two casts before.

We hooked one more steelhead that day in the inside seam of a Dog leg right on the hang down, but the fish charged upstream and spit the hook. We spent one more day on river number 2  and made some friends, who helped with the shuttle. No more bike.

Day 3, the temperature started to drop and only yielded 1 Steelhead.

Literally the temperatures went from a high of 38F and low of 32F for our first 5 days in Smithers to a high of 31 and a low of 17. Day three on river 2 was the end of fall steelheading and the beginning of winter steelheading. The winter weather in AK and the Yukon caught up to us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Brother's Christmas Present

A balmy 15 degrees on public water

On the swing! 

Christmas has involved fishing in one way or the other for my brother and I for the last three years. This year it involved the whole family. My brother and I bought my mom a new fly box and filled it with all of the patterns we fish, along with a couple of store bought flies. My present to my brother was a new fishing jacket and new versions of two flies I have been working on, and we got my dad a pair of waders. The guy who got us into fly-fishing as youngsters, twenty-two years later has decided that he wants to fish as well.  But the most amazing part is watching my brother fall in love with the sport as I have. He is very fishy, and has caught some serious fish, but just recently has the bug set in. That was my best present... seeing my brother pick fishing on Christmas over skiing over skiing 9 inches of new snow.

Monday, December 24, 2012

AK part 2

Our Home for 3.5 weeks
@ Alaska Raft and Kayak designing a make shift river vessel for B.C.

...and here came winter

Alaska Part 1

On the way to Camp

tying flies for BC

Skilak Lake

Kenai River 'Bows



The Kenai river was not what I expected. I guess in my head I had the Naknek or the Klickitat: something out of a Simms advertisement. But the Kenai with the guidance of two guide friends Ben and Brian was unbelievable. I learned so many ideas and tricks to rigging bead set ups, fish behavior, guiding on a drift boat... Of course western Alaska is the mecca, but the Kenai is where you can arguably find the biggest King Salmon and Wild rainbow trout in the world. And the coolest part, the Kenai is swing-able in many spots. I'll also tell you, if you want to be hardened as a guide work in Alaska. The fish are plentiful, but the work is hard, the expectations are high, the gear is complicated and the hours are long. I have so much respect for those guys.