Girls, Girls, Girls (& Beer)

Elvis aficionados notwithstanding, I probably should add one more “girls” to that title as that’s how many hens I brought to hand over two days on the Deschutes with Chris O’Donnell last week. These (all but one) wild girls were a comely 6 – 9 pounds and full of ass-kicking life.Deschutes Aug13

Likely the largest steelie broke off as it bolted upstream skillfully wrapping mono ’round a submerged boulder. Nothing like seeing a fish jump 90 degrees off your rod tip. “Huh?” or “Wow.” is about all that can be said at that point.

In all we landed four, with yet another slipping the hook within inches of the net (it was so close to hand some more relaxed than me would say that was the fifth), and of course that oh-shit brute who jumped an upstream bullet train with fly and most of the mono in tow. Good times.

The steelhead gods were smiling upon us this time as chances were pretty high if she grabbed, we got her.

It was a fantastic time to be on the Deschutes around Maupin. It seems August typically gets ignored by those steelheading by accepted lore about when fish are in a system. Lucky for me there was nary another steelhead angler on the water all the way down to Beaver Tail, and not many of those pesky rafters either. On the first day we saw only one other guide boat, and on the second only John Hazel himself (with fish-on as we passed him while bombing for Ledges) at daybreak. To quote Chris- “August is money!”.

boneyardAfter such a productive couple of days fishing, it made meeting family members at the Bend Brewfest that much festier. While many of the local craft brew offerings were solid, precious few were truly outstanding. After tasting most of the over 60 beers offered, we couldn’t find any we’d put down a Pliny for (so sorry, dear Oregonians). But many worth mentioning, including Worthy’s Lights Out Stout, Breakside’s IPA, Fort George’s 3-Way IPA, Ninkasi’s Tricerahops Double IPA, and the best of the bunch- Boneyard’s RPM IPA. Yeah, we kinda favored the IPA’s.

We found tasting early at the event was key to productive “evaluation”, as when it got dark it seems more of the raucous contingent would arrive generally reducing our mobility. That, and the later we drank the more we tended to like pretty much everything.

Many younger tasters patiently lined up for the Rhubarbarian cider at Two Towns Ciderhouse‘s tent, which made me worry deeply about this country’s future. Although at least they didn’t back up our beer lines.

Absolutely two thumbs up to the town of Bend (and the awesomely patient local volunteers) for putting on the event. Like the steelies we love, we’ll be back next year.

Packing Pains

P1010491

I both hate and love packing for a fishing trip.

I love it because of the anticipation. In this case, I’m starting to organize for my trip to the Deschutes. I’m making my list and checking it twice, as they say. But it’s really a frickin tedious pain.

I usually try to make my fishing trips more than just about fishing, and this one is no different. After a few days floating the Deschutes near Maupin, family members are joining me later in the week for the Bend Brewfest, which should be a blast.

But that means packing for two trips- one fishing trip, and one getaway weekend type trip. It’s alot to think about, from clothing, sunglasses, hip and boat bags, wading staff, fly boxes, etc., etc. to beerfest garb (ie a funky hat and t-shirts that look good in spilt beer). The damn packing list is going on and on. And I have every opportunity to add even more to the list the longer I think about it.

For instance, I’m contemplating bringing a 5 wt just in case after a long day of chasing steelhead I still have the energy to cast to caddis feeding trout in the evenings around Maupin. I’m perhaps optimistically assuming I’ll wanna do that instead of drinking beer and having a nice meal to cap the day (to the extent that’s possible in Maupin). That means another rod, reel, different leaders / tippet and a box of dry flies. Keep in mind that’s in addition to packing my spey rod and its entourage of gear.

To add further challenge to this particular trip, central Oregon has probably one of the widest diurnal temperature ranges in the country. It can be 105 at midday and 45 degrees at night. I’d rather not pack layers for a trip to the interior of an oven, but it’s unavoidable if I want to be comfortable doing any sort of serious beer tasting at night.

One trick I’ve stumbled into is to go through the myriad fishing accessories I own. We’re talking socks, hemos, buffs, sunglasses, eyeglasses, tippet, sink tips (both MOW and Polyleader), water bottles, packs, dry bags and on and on. I keep all that crap in one big box, some of it sub-sorted in ziplock bags. Everything I’ve ever bought on purpose or on some half-bored whim in a Miami Bass Pro is in that box, so going through it all kinda creates its own packing list.

Last night I started picking my way through that box and found stuff I had completely forgot about. I dug out some older Orvis travel waders I plan to use on this trip because they are summer weight and take less room in the suitcase than my heftier waders. I’ve been having some troubles with sore toes after several wading days so have gone a size up in boots. But I thought my older smaller sized pair of boots would work with the lighter weight waders and a light sock. It turns out the toe box was still too tight to risk it, so those older boots were up on eBay before I hit the sack.

Combing through my gear storage box a couple of weeks in advance of my trip not only allows me to pack more smartly, but it helps me figure out what I’m missing. Generally I also sleep better once I’ve been through that box. As a double-check, I also refer to packing lists I’ve seen in magazines and online.

One thing I won’t do is pack an additional suitcase. I’ll check one large roll-away, and carry-on a travel rod tube and a backpack. I’m either getting everything I need for this trip into that trio of luggage items, or I’m brewfesting in my waders.

The Constant Angler

calendarI’ve often thought about putting together an “ideal” personal fishing calendar. The goal would be a seasonal reference guide for any month of the year as I plan a next trip. Given the fish I most enjoy chasing, at this point I think I could almost nail down an entire dream year of fishing.

For me, the Fall is reserved for the start of the steelhead season on the Deschutes. There’s something just plain magical about swinging a skater on a spey rod while wet wading in high desert paradise. I just can’t get happier.

Although on second thought, what could make fishing the stunning Deschutes even better? Uh, how about throwing in a local craft brewfest to enjoy after a few hot days of floating the runs around Maupin? Now there’s a killer Oregon roadtrip.

In between more local Fall steelheading weekends on the Trinity or the Yuba, I’ll surely make the quick drive over the Antioch Bridge into Delta country for some Striper action with a favorite guide, Jerry Neuburger. I can get up early, fish for 6 hours with Jerry and be back home working my honey-do list by 2 pm. Hopping over to the Delta is about as close as I’m gonna get to that idyllic notion of living near a trout stream in Montana or a flat in the Bahamas. It’s the hometown fishery for those of us living in the shadow of Mount Diablo and I’ll take it.

Once Winter arrives, this year I’m hoping to better explore the American around Sacramento. I’m told it fished very well last season, and at a 90 minute drive from my home in the East Bay, I’ve no excuse not to put more time on that water.

If I can break-out for a few more days in January or February, I’ll check off a bucket list trip by pointing the 4 Runner north toward Arcata to see what coastal steelhead water I can experience for the first time (or maybe I’ll finally get my butt all the way up to the Rogue this season).

Last year in mid March we did an extended weekend in Portland. It’s such an easy flight out of Oakland on Southwest. My wife was happy to explore the downtown area while I made the relatively short drive west to Tillamook for an early morning meet up with Chris O’Donnell. It was a weekend of classic winter steelheading during the day (including the constant drizzle), and awesome food and drink at night back in the city. The wife and I both enjoyed that trip so much that we’ve agreed to make it a yearly event.

Then of course each Spring we plan our annual tropical vacation to shake off those winter blues. For me, that means Bonefish and Tarpon. In years past we’ve hit Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas and other parts of the Caribbean for that trip. Belize might be next up. It’s our annual family vacation, so it can’t be all about fishing 24×7. But typically I’ve been able to book enough time on the water to land some pretty nice saltwater specimens. As much as I love steelheading, there’s just nothing like bonefishing. It sure doesn’t hurt that the family is always up for a good tropical beach getaway (I just need to make sure there’s a flat or two nearby).

In late Spring I really enjoy getting out the Bass poppers and heading back to the Delta or to a private lake like Kelsey. When the top-water bite is on, bass fishing is just too much fun to be legal.

So that’s what I got. Pretty much the Fall through the Spring months would be locked and loaded on my ideal fishing calendar. But to be honest, I’m kinda blanked on the mid summer period (aside from the occasional local surf excursions).

Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge trout hound. Although, I would like to one day tick off another bucket list trip by spending a couple of weeks or longer bumping around the great trout waters of Idaho and/or Montana. My guess is that trip will likely be postponed until I’m retired some time off. Given my limited time otherwise, it’s just not a priority right now.

Furthermore, I’d trade my rare-as-plutonium Sure-Dry Hip Pack for a day fishing in BC or Alaska during the summer. But unless I win the lottery, I doubt I’ll ever have the coin for the float plane taxis. And even if I did stumble into the cash, it would be a once in a lifetime trip, not an annual pilgrimage (unfortunately I dropped out of brain surgeon’s school).

So, I’ve typically spent most of June and July tuning up my casting at the Oakland or San Francisco ponds. Or, as I’ve been doing this month- just giving it a rest in anticipation of starting up again this Fall.

In retrospect, perhaps a calendar with down time is not such a bad thing. I’m often told by those very close to me that not everything in life needs to revolve around fishing.

This Fall I’m gonna ponder that deeply after I’ve checked my calendar and I’m out on the water where I’m supposed to be, waiting for that first great grab of a brand new year.

S.O.

Dam Good Bye

Believe it or not, there are 1,400 dams of size in California, many of them blocking vital native steelhead runs. Fortunately, there will be at least one less in the not too distant future.

San Clemente Dam in Carmel Valley

San Clemente Dam in Carmel Valley

The San Jose Mercury News reported last week that the San Clemente Dam in the Carmel Valley will begin to be removed. Standing in the woods of Big Sur, the dam had become a silt-clogged, rust and concrete fish blockade for decades. Further, it posed grave danger to downstream communities in the event of an earthquake.

California American Water, the San Diego company that owned the dam, opted for the cheapest alternative- to repair rather than tear-down the dam. Thankfully the National Marine Fisheries Service threatened to deny issuing the necessary permits for the repair work, pushing instead for a complete removal of the dilapidated structure. A compromise was reached whereby the removal will be funded through a combination of funds from Cal Am’s ratepayers, from state water and parks bonds, and from various private donors including Nature Conservancy. According to the Merc, this will be California’s largest dam removal project ever.

While I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, clearly this story daylights the need for tighter law around the financial requirements of dam owners. The accountants among you will know that public companies complying with GAAP must record amortized “asset retirement obligation” expenses associated with their major assets. Essentially the standard requires a portion of the cost to remove and/or clean-up an asset be recorded as the asset is used.

I would support legislation requiring a variant of this concept whereby dam owners would be required to build restricted escrow accounts funded with the necessary cash for eventual dam decommissioning. California needs to ensure the funds will be there for the other 1,399 dams that will inevitably reach the state of the San Clemente (if they haven’t already).

You can read a copy of the full news article here.

S.O.

Workin’ The Surf

I went out with one of our favorite guides, Loren Elliott last weekend for a session in the surf on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. If you’re looking for a new way to challenge and expand your skills, I suggest you check this out.

Loren Elliott

Loren Elliott

We started to fish at the beginning of an incoming. Our quarry were Striper and  Barred Surfperch. Before descending to the beach Loren gave me the rundown on reading the water- where the buckets were, how the water was channeling in and out of them, and where we were likely to find fish cruising for a meal.

For Striper, I came armed with a new custom two-hander built by Wayne Hofer of Diablo Valley Fly Fishers using Beulah’s 9/10 Surf blank. Loren recommended Rio’s Outbound WF12F 510 grain line for this rod and that turned out to be spot on. We attached a weighted 1/0 chartreuse and white clouser to about 4 feet of fluorocarbon tippet and that thing just launched with a well-timed overhead cast. Loren also gave me a tip about false casting an overhead, which I hadn’t tried before. The technique definitely helped better load the rod for a longer huck.

After a couple of hours of casting, the line began to feel super slippery through my fingers resulting in several premature releases (yep, it can happen while fishing too). Loren confirmed the skin on our fingers starts to get spongy with prolonged saltwater exposure. He  recommended pinning down the line on the butt section as well, essentially doubling the line control points. This turned out to be a simple but key tip for control and was not a grip I would normally use when spey casting.

For the Surfperch, I brought a standard 6 wt loaded with Rio 250 grain DC Striper line. I had some success in the Santa Barbara area in the past with this set up fishing on Santa Claus beach just up the freeway from The Artful Angler. While not a hefty fish by any means, if you’re lucky enough to get into a school of them, you can hook-up on almost every cast. I’ve had good Surfperch success with Jay Murakoshi‘s “Orange Roughy“, so I tied that on the end of about 6 feet of fluoro.

Unlike last summer in Santa Barbara where I negotiated the surf in swim trunks and bare feet, Loren and I were fully decked out in waders and multiple layers including waterproof spray shirts. I had my inexpensive but (so far) effective bootfoot waders purchased recently from a leading catalog retailer. Bootfoots are just the ticket for the sand, a much better option than stocking foots. I also really like the convenience of bootfoots when I hit the local casting ponds for spey practice as they’re easy on & off over my street clothes. Too bad the higher quality manufacturers have walked away from making these types of waders, as I suspect my catalog company cheapies won’t last long before a leak or a tear.

Loren told me he rarely trout fishes any longer as he finds chasing saltwater species and steelhead up north in the winter to be the biggest thrills for his limited available time. By the end of our session I could see why. Reading the water, finessing the surf, and maintaining control of your line in that hyper-variable environment are truly hard-earned skills to be proud of.

As the smaller Striper tend not to venture beyond the relative safety of the bay, typically what gets pulled out of the surf is large and in-charge. Hooking a 25+ pound fish in 4 feet of roiling whitewater has got to be a total kick. These can be extremely muscular fish to play.

While we didn’t set any records, it was a day of tremendous learning for me. For those of us on the west coast with our great access to miles of shoreline, it’s no wonder interest in the surf is growing quickly among the adventurous in many of our local fly fishing clubs. The season lasts until water temps drop in September, so now’s the time to grab your bootfoots, sinking line, and stripping basket and get out there !

S.O.

PS- If you want to view a video that shows the pure joy of a boy fly fishing, check out Mikey Wier‘s video of Loren when he was just 13 years old.

Here We Go

I wanted to start a blog to write about fly fishing and perhaps create an online place for like minded anglers to share stories, tips and information. Perhaps more as we get going.

Trinity Anglers sounded like a good name for such a site and was chosen in honor of a favorite steelhead water.

Please check out the Protect page for links to some of the organizations I personally support (and hope you will too). Remember, no fish = no fishing  = game over.

Thanks for reading.