Paying it forward

A few days before I headed into Ennis, MT for the Fly Fishing Festival, my fishing buddie Annie stopped by Beartooth Fly Fishing just outside of town. She came back to the ranch later that evening with rave reviews of the shop, their personel, and one of the guys’ phone numbers for me to call when I got into town. She’d mentioned I would be passing through and one of the associates she had talked to, Dan Greene, offered to take me fishing on the Madison while I was in town.

After shooting him a brief text explaining who I was, Dan and I meet for a beer to chat and arrange fishing plans. We schedule to meet early the next morning at the shop to float a section of the Madison.

A lovely sunrise greets me on my drive to the shop

A lovely sunrise greets me on my drive to the shop

My alarm beeps at me and after a few sleepy yawns in the pre-sunrise dawn, I pop out of the tent and put on the coffee. After all, there are fish to catch, so I’m not inclined to linger over lost sleep. Twenty minutes later, I am on the road to the shop. I head inside and am greeting by fly fishing mecca (custom rods, flies galore, gear…) and a dozen or so smiling faces; its hardly seven and these people are all fully awake. One of these days I will learn the art of being a morning person. Until then, I will just have to rely on copious amounts of coffee; the fish aren’t going to wait for me to sleep in.

It’s a misty morning, and there is not a fish rising or a bug hatching. I gear up with a few nymphs and load into the boat. I hook into a few fish almost immediately, but they don’t find their way into the net. It’s already turning out to be a great day. While we drift down river, Dan tells me about his passion for fly tying and shares his adventures of extreme skiing in Big Sky and all the bones he’s broken; a tail bone here, a disc there…. nothing too serious. Lol. It amazes me that he is still fully hooked and amped on the coming winter season. An adrenaline-junkie fly fisher, who would’ve thought?

A healthy brown :)

A healthy brown ūüôā

 

 

We put in the anchor at a bridge to wade, and both Dan and I land some nice fish. We hop back into the boat and push off again. Another rainbow downstream, we decide to stop for lunch. Dan made some pretty awesome turkey sandwiches and we sit on the bank and watch other drift boats float by as we eat.

Such a pig, look at that belly!

Never met a fish that had rolls before. What a pig!

While we sit there, I thank Dan for taking his day off and going fishing with me. His reasons are simple and the philosophy behind it makes me smile. A) He’s been fishing new places before and people have offered him advice, fishing tips, and taken him under their wing; he thought it would ¬†be nice to pass along the favor. B) he laughs that another day spent on the water is a good day. You can be sure that this has inspired me to pay it forward next time I happen upon a fisher in uncharted waters.

Not expecting to be floated down the river all day like the queen of the nile, I offer to row the boat after lunch. I’ve never tried it before, mainly because I haven’t fished many rivers where I was on a boat. A few zig-zags down the river and some unavoided rocks, and I finally start to get the hang of it. Rowing a drift boat is seriously fun. A bit of a work out, but made enjoyable by the breath-taking vistas and near proximity to fishing.

What a view!

 

Nice work Dan!

Nice work Dan!

 

It is near dark when we pull into the boach launch, and I smile at a great day spent fishing from dawn til dusk.

Thanks Dan for being such a positive, stoked guy and taking this gal fishin’. You have a friend and fishing buddy whenever you make it out to the West Coast ūüôā Until then I won’t forget to live life large!!

Crashing guides’ day off

I certainly have been fortunate to meet some wonderful people on my journeys. This past week, I enjoyed the fly fishing festival in Ennis, and met some pretty awesome people. After my arrival into town and checking into camp, I decide it’s time for a bit of dinner and a cold one. I meander down to the local watering hole, the Gravel Bar. I recognize quite a few fishing folks who must be in town for the festival; identifiable by the fishing shirts and hats with various fishing logos.

I’m too late for dinner, but an ice cold PBR hits the spot. The vibe is divey with a hint of country. The live music in the background starts peoples’ feet a tappin’ and soon, quite a few people are dancing. Sipping my beer and enjoying the local vibe, I’m content to catch up on emails, listen to the music, and watch the swing dancers swirling and twirling around the room. I walk up to the bar to order another beer and one of the guides comments to me how us “kids” are always on our phones these days.

Reluctantly, I put the phone down and look up to see the commentator is not much older than myself. All the usual pleasantries are exchanged, and am soon I am cracking jokes and sharing fishing stories with Dario, Jordan, and the rest of their motely crew of fishing bums. A small world, it turns out that Dario is originally from Reno, about 20 minutes away from the town where I grew up. Impressed that I’m out here on a solo trout bum mission, they invite me to fish with them the following day. Hmmm,¬†I’m supposed to work the next day, but I’m sure I can manage something.

The gang is headed to a concert in Virginia City, 30 minutes down the road, and invite me to tag along; but its getting late and if I’m going to figure out a way to fish and work tomorrow, ¬†it’ll mean an early morning.

I walk back to camp, and fall instantly asleep. The blaring of my alarm wakes me at 6 am followed soon after by gun shots. Drawn in by the tasty willows, a mama moose and her calf have wandered into camp. The game warden scares the moose off with a few warning shots.

My boss kindly agrees to let me work a halfday, and then finish my hours later in the evening when I’m done fishing. Dario and Jordan to pull up as I close my computer; looking a little tired (hungover), but ready to fish.

On the drive to Wade Lake, I am regaled with tales of the previous evening at the concert. Apparently I missed a pretty good time. Quickly launching the boat, we get ready to head out and fish. The three of us and three dogs. It’s a full boat, but the more, the merrier! As we’re pushing off, Jordan waves to the boat next to us. “Hey man, you missed a good concert last night!” “Dude, I saw you there!” he responds. ¬†Oh man, I did miss a good night!

 

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

 

The water out on the lake is clear and turquoise. I can see the bottom easily in the flat shallow section we will be fishing; I also spot fish cruising. The clearness of the water and the technique of spotting fish from a distance and casting to them bring to mind fishing the flats for tropical fish. The first few casts, and wham, double hook up! Both Jordan and I haul in two nice fish!

 

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The rest of the day the fishing proves to be slow, but guides day off still manages to be a success. After all, when the fishing gets slow, that means it’s time to crack open a beer and enjoy the sunshine. Thanks again dudes, for taking this gal fishin’!

 

Dario and Jordan are guides for Wild West Fly Fishing out of Bozeman. If you’re in the area, take a trip with them, and tell them Gal Gone Fishin’ says hi ūüôā

 

Gals gone fishin’!

I am still behind on keeping y’all updated on my fishing adventures, but I’m going to skip ahead for a bit and tell you about one of my more recent experiences as it has been very uplifting and memorable. ¬†Not to worry though, I’m not skipping anything, simply going out of order.

I recently was lucky enough to meet a fellow fly fishing fanatic who is also a woman. I see photos of women who fly fish quite often these days, but I rarely ever actually see one on the river, much less get to fish with one.  Annie Waltz Kubicka had found my blog and saw that I was going to be in Montana at the same time as her; and as fate would have it, I got to make a wonderful new friend and meet a kindred spirit.

I arrive at the ranch where Annie has been living all summer; this place is gorgeous! Located outside of Twin Bridges the panorama of mountain ranges and wide open spaces boggles the mind. It’s early evening, and the Montana sky is putting on a spectacular display. The scent of delicious food fills the air, Annie cooked me dinner!

We sip delicious cocktails made with homemade raspberry simple syrup and mint as the rest of dinner is prepared. After being on the road and eating lots of cup of noodles and pb&j’s this is a rare treat. She is the head chief during the winter at a steelhead lodge in Washington; as you can imagine, dinner is superb!

Later, her landlord “Fink” a friendly middle-aged cowboy from Ohio, makes us a bonfire. The evening is spent full of laughter, talk about fly fishing, and our steelhead addiction. The next day is designated to work so the day after can be spent fishing. Thundershowers fill the afternoon as I sit in the cabin plugging away at the reports on my computer. Searing flashes of energy jolt down accompanied by booming thunder; I love thunderstorms! I can think of worse places to work from.¬†I grill up burgers for dinner and we enjoy a good glass of bourbon around the bonfire discussing where to fish the next day.

We decide to fish the Beaverhead around Dillion. Annie hooks into three nice browns right away. Man, can she fish! A downward cast to swing a streamer with a nymph trailer seems to be doing the trick. I switch from my dry with a dropper and wham; a big brown chomps the nymph.

Yeah Annie!!!

He's a hog!

He’s a hog!

The rest of the day is spent exploring parts of the river that neither of us have fished before; we are rewarded with lots of fish; they eat dries, nymphs and streamers throughout the day. Just as we are about head back to the car, the fish start to rise more frequently. Neither of us can resist making some casts at these fish. We laugh because it is such a common fishing mentality, ¬†“one more cast….” which never turns out to be just one more; more like 50.

Fishing with a woman is a different experience than fishing with a man. There is no pretense, no sense of competition, just an easy-going sense of camaraderie. One of the things I love about Annie is her independent spirit. Like myself, she often times fishes and travels on her own. She has been doing it for longer than I have and offers me a ton of great advice. It is rare to meet someone who understands the immense happiness and serenity derived from driving to wild and beautiful places by ones’ self.

It was beyond awesome to meet a new friend who can sit and talk about fly fishing for hours; not that I can’t do this with my male friends, but it’s just nice having another gal around who knows her fish talk.

Thanks again Annie for being so darn awesome! I am beyond lucky to count you as a fishing buddy. 

Pinch me, I must be dreaming

Ahhh, back on the road again, exploring new waters and absorbing the grandeur and brilliance of the new places I visit.  Along for the ride with me for a bit is none other than Jordan Romney: guide,  conservationist, fellow fly fishing enthusiast and undoubtedly one of my favorite people to go fishing with.

Jordan with a giant brown

Jordan with a giant brown

I drive through the night and we arrive in the early hours of the morning at a river I had never heard of, and one which I have been sworn into secrecy not to share; the river who’s name we shall not speak. All I can glean through the darkness of the night are steep canyon walls silhouetted against the starry sky and the sound of a river nearby. Its late and the moon has already set; camp is quickly thrown together for a few hours of sleep before the sun rises and it is time to fish.

I awake to the sound of birds and bright light pouring through my tent. I open the flap and am momentarily rendered speechless. It’s as though I have been transported to a different dimension. I know we had headed north but the landscape brings to mind the canyons and shearing rock formations of New Mexico or Arizona. Red earth, steep canyon, a brilliant sunrise and amazing rock formations carved into the canyon meet my gaze and astound my still sleepy thoughts.

The savage desert beauty is still assaulting my senses when it occurs to me that I’m going to be fishing in a desert canyon. Fishing in a desert? Ok, sure, I’m game; there is always a first time for everything. As we grab our gear and head down to the river I’m not sure what to expect. And then I see it; the river.

I feast my eyes upon a plethora of noses slurping bugs off the surface. I am immediately taken aback at the size of these fish!  Then I see the way the fish swing their tails out when they eat and I know not only are these big fish; these are big browns.

Next stop brown town

Next stop brown town!

It turns out these fish are gorging on Tricos, scientific name¬†Tricorythodes, which are a small crawler mayfly. In my experience, Trico hatches are a pain in the ass; trout get picky and the tippet you must use ¬†(6x-7x) can be the difference between landing a fish or breaking it off. Despite the frustration of the Trico hatch (aka the white winged curse), I still catch a fish on a beetle. Ha, take that Tricos’.

The hatch is over by around 10 am, and then the fishing becomes more versatile. While at this river we caught fish on terrestrials (ants, hoppers and beetles), PMD’s (late afternoon hatch), and various nymphs. ¬†Different from fishing most rivers in California, all the fish I caught were good-sized browns. Not a single rainbow to be had. Also not a small fish to be had.

I can’t believe a place like this exists: the abrupt, jutting architecture of the canyon walls, the vivid colors of the landscape ¬†and insane fishing. It’s juxtaposing contrast of cold water and hot dry air along with the astounding scenery is the stuff of fly fishing dreams.

Jordan, thank you for sharing this amazing spot with me; thanks for also putting up with me two energy drinks deep and then exhausted the next day after a crazy long drive. Such a trooper ūüôā

Farewell and it’s been swell

Well, I certainly have dropped the ball lately on blogging my fishing adventures….. but in my defense, I’ve been too busy fishing. Dad and I finished up our trip in Oregon with the Fall River and the headwaters of the Rogue River. We only spent a few hours on the Fall River, but it was beautiful and chalk full of fish; one day soon, I will be back to spend more time here.

The headwaters of the Rogue was a special place. Back in the wilderness near Crater Lake, it’s hard to believe that these waters will draw thousands of steelies further downstream. I have always wanted to fish this river for steelhead. I actually had no idea that the headwaters were such an excellent fishery for wild brooks, bows and browns. Both nymphing and dries caught us abundant fish back in the wild beauty and cold waters of this river.

 

A little brookie

A little brookie Dad caught

Since we were in the area, we checked out Crater Lake; unfortunately a fire near the Deschutes made for a pretty hazy view. Regardless, the grandeur was stunning, and the brilliant blue water reminded me a little bit of the waters of home; Lake Tahoe. I really want to come back here and fish. When we were leaving the park, we saw a guy heading down with some conventional fishing gear. Apparently there are rainbow trout and Kokanee in the lake. Fish were stocked there in the 1850’s and they are trying to return the lake to its natural fishless habitat; so if you do catch a fish here, you are required to keep it. Not a fishing reg you stumble upon every day.¬†I love catching fish amid gorgeous vistas, its one of the many allures of fly fishing. Crater Lake would be a great place to bring lunch, a good camera, fishing gear and spend a day soaking in the scenery.

 

A view from the top of Crater Lake

A view from the top of Crater Lake

Reminds me of home!

Reminds me of home!

 

That evening we make the last campfire of the trip and enjoy a game of cards. I can tell by the content smiles upon our faces that this has been a trip that neither of us will forget; and will take again for years to come. Coming up…. Idaho, Wyoming and Montana!

A picturesque end to a perfect trip.

A picturesque end to a perfect trip.

 

Never a dull moment…

Just as I suspected I might, all these days on the road have made me to lose track of time. I’m not quite sure what day it is, or how many days consecutively I have spent fishing. And I couldn’t be happier.

Days 12-16 Metolious River, OR

This river has been one of the places I have been anxious and ridiculously excited to fish. It is the first river I have fished that has bull trout. We set up camp next to the river; its about mid-day, and as soon as the tent is pitched and site is deemed livable, I grab my rod and rush to the river. For being a spring creek, this river sure does have some power and it’s icy cold. After my time at this river, I will later decide to describe the Metolious as an ice queen with a heart of gold. We have a complicated relationship.

The view from the head of the Metolious River

The head of the Metolious River

As I walk the path of the river in search of a nice deep pool to throw my streamer (courtesy of Fly Fisher’s Place fly shop in Sisters, OR); I am lost in the gorgeous surroundings. Trees and meadows with a hint of snow capped mountains in the background, deep pools surrounded by jutting canyons. Gorgeous.¬†This first day, I am fishing just downstream from Camp Sherman in the riffles, pools and undercuts. ¬†And both Dad and I get skunked. Not what I had in mind.

Wet wading past the gorge, despite the icy cold water.

Wet wading past the gorge, despite the icy cold water.

The next morning, after dreams of catching and fighting a glorious bull trout, we decide to head downriver to 99 bridge. This place looks exactly like where I would catch a nice fiesty bully; a deep, swirling, aquamarine pool. I start hucking a giant double bunny streamer with a ton of split shot to get it down (I will later find that the right tools for the right job would have indeed come in handy), and to my excitement a fish comes and looks at my fly. But I set too soon and miss the fish. The anticipation of catching a bull is giving me twitchy hands.

I continue to huck away with my trusty #5 Red Truck Diesel, giving it a work out with the weighty load at the end, until I hook into something meaty. Myself. Yep, damn. I look at my right arm and see the hook is deeply embedded. I try multiple times to yank it out, to no avail. I did debarb this sucker, but it’s looking like I did a pretty crappy job. This thing is in there good.

Caught one!

Caught one!

I walk up to the car where my dad is switching to a sinking line (smart!), and ask him try the mono trick. It usually never fails. Usually. Down pressure on the bottom of the hook with a hard yank up with the line tends to do the trick when this sort of thing happens. But it doesn’t work this time; and Dad insists on heading to the doctor. It really doesn’t even hurt and I kinda want to just keep fishing, but Dad wins and I drive us to the doctor.

Check out the new piercing.

Check out the new piercing. So trendy!

The doctor tries the same trick a few times with floss and some hemostats, and still it doesn’t come out. Eventually after many attempts at wrenching it out (thank god the area was numbed) he just pushes it through and cuts off the tip… There is a bit a lag time while he sends the nurse to the store for wire cutters, since the hook is too big for normal tools. Had I known we were going to do it that way, I would have just grabbed a bottle of Jameson, taken a big pull and done it myself (not exactly Dad approved). I might have also saved a ginormous bruise.

Is it over? Can I go fishing now?!

Is it over? Can I go fishing now?!

Just a scratch. Back to the river!

Just a scratch. Back to the river!

The next day, we head back to the river and dad catches a few red band rainbows, and I catch none. Now I am pissed. There is no way I am walking away from this river having myself being the only thing I catch. That afternoon, we take a brief intermission from the Metolious and head to the Santiam River. Off the beaten path, this stream has some great fishing. Both dad and I catch red bands into the double digits. Just what I needed to bolster my mood; but I’m not done with the Metolious yet, not by a long shot.

We were hauling 'em in all afternoon on the Santiam!

We were hauling ’em in all afternoon on the Santiam!

After breaking camp the next morning, we head back to the Metolious, at my insistence. I will catch a fish here. The Metolious fishing gods finally smile upon me. After a few casts, I hook up on what looks to be a brown, but upon landing it, turns out to be a white fish. I then go on to land a beautiful red band, and hook into two more. Ahh, finally. Not the bull trout I was lusting after, but there’s always next time.

White fish!

White fish!

Finally!!

Finally!!

The Cascade Lakes Basin

Days 8-9: Crane Prairie Lake, OR

Back on the road again Friday after work, it was a late in the day when we finally arrived at the Crane Prairie Lake Campground. No fishing this evening, the sun had already set. We set up camp amid the incandescent twilight and started a quick dinner for the night.

Sun setting over Crane Prairie Lake

Sun setting over Crane Prairie Lake

Realizing we didn’t have water for dishes; I set off to find the water pump in the campground. Not exactly an easy task, since by this time night had settled in and it was quite dark. After wandering around for a few minutes, I decided it would be easier to ask.

As fate would have it, the next camp I stumbled upon was a lively group playing some texas hold ’em. After a brief exchange and coming to the conclusion they have no idea where the water is since they have an RV, I notice some fishing gear. Score! I sit down for a few rounds of poker and inquire about the fishing. After a few rounds of poker and some serious fishing talk, I realize I am slacking on dishes duty.

The 2 Eric’s, Dave and Chris tell me to come back and bring my pop’s for a few more rounds of poker.¬†Dad, ever the social butterfly and card aficionado is more than happy to oblige. An entertaining evening, even if Dad ¬†did give away my poker strategy.

After a late start the next day on account of the beer and whiskey from the previous evening; we paddle out on our float tubes. Man, what a tough day of fishing. Dad breaks one off, and I get skunked. To top it off, Dad gets a flat tube before we’re ready to call it a day. I resign myself to the fact that there will be no fish for me today.

Patchin' up the tube

Patchin’ up the tube

Days 10-11: East Lake, OR

After deliberating, we decide that it is time to try a different lake the next day; we are going to head further up where it is a bit cooler; East Lake. Great decision. We arrive in time for the chronomid hatch that evening and whoa is it on! I land three gorgeous fish and miss out on a really big guy that breaks me off in the weeds.

First fish of the evening. So stoked!

To frozen to smile all the way, but the fishing is worth it!

Too frozen to smile all the way but the fish are worth it! I may or may not have had an altercation accidentally splashing myself with my fins and was thus pretty soaked

We camp right next to the lake, and I awake the next morning (hangover free) to the lovely sound of copious amounts of fish rising. Oh what a morning. I paddle out in my tube and catch another fish on a parachute adams; all before morning coffee. Dad joins me a bit later after the hatch and catches three good sized fish on a nymph set up. Can’t wait for the evening hatch tonight!

Changing flies from dries to a nymphing set up

Changing flies from dries to a nymphing set up