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 🙂

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

The Mccloud River

Days 3-5

After a day of working on Monday, the car gets packed up and pops and I head on out to our next location, the lower Mccoud river. The drive is stunning; thickly forested mountains and  Mt. Shasta surging majestically upwards into a blue bird sky. The road around Mccloud Lake impresses, the water a bright emerald green. While a bit of a rough ride (I hear this road is notorious for doling out flats), the way down the canyon to AH-DI-NA campground is scenic and full of wildlife. In fact, as we’re driving into this deep ravine, Dad mentions this is Bigfoot country. After a sideways glance, I realize he’s serious. Oh man.

Lake Mccloud

Lake Mccloud

Its early evening when we arrive at our query. My Dad, ever the friendly guy, goes up and chats to our   neighbors, the only other people staying at the campground. Yet another funny coincidence; he had just talked to the guy earlier in the morning at the Ted Fay Fly Shop in Dunsmuir. It turns out Mike has been fishing this river for years, and is taking his son Ben on his first fly fishing trip. Gotta love that, taking a kid fishing! I also spot some wet suits in the back ground by their tent, it turns out these guys surf too. Bonus points! We wish them good evening and tight lines, then head out to the river.

Tight lines!

Tight lines!

The wading is tough and slippery (dad and I will both end up going for a “swim”), but there is a ton of pocket water and plenty of fish to make it worth it. While waiting for the dries to start popping, we high stick some nymphs. BAM!! I hook the first fish of the evening in some fast water. I look at the bend in my favorite rod, a Red Truck Diesel #5, and I know this fish has some heft to it. I wrangle in a gorgeous 18″ wild rainbow. I am entranced; this river is not only gorgeous but also full of strong, spirited fish.

Fish on!

Fish on! This beauty was camera shy and bolted  as soon I removed the #10 PT flashback from his snout.

The late evenings turn out to be the most product time to fish; that PMD emerger I learned to tie at the Upper Sac turns out to be quite the hot fly. Fish are slurping this fly like a little kid pops skittles! The only downside to this river is that at times it can be difficult to cast. I caught a few trees, in and out of the stream.

Whoops. Glad Dad got a picture of this instead of all the fish I was catching.

Whoops. Thanks for getting a picture of this Dad.

Until next time...

Until next time…

As we pack up the last day, I’m sad to be leaving, but I know I’ll be back. I’m glad we stopped at a few rivers in Northern California before we headed up to Oregon. I can’t wait to head back and fish these rivers for years to come.

We made it!

We made it!

We take pit stop in Klamath Falls for a couple of days, I take care of work (sigh) and Dad gets to hang out with an old college buddy and play some golf at the Running Y. Coming up next? Perhaps the Williamson River for the hex hatch, or up to the Cascade Lakes Basin to use the float tubes that have been blocking the rear view in my car. Or the upper Deschutes, the Crooked River, the Metolius River…. They’re all on the list, and I can’t wait to fish them all.

Sunset over Klamath Lake

Sunset over Klamath Lake

A long-anticipated journey

Summer is in full swing, and after much long deliberation, I’ve decided to fish my way from California to Montana. I’ll be gone fishin’ for the rest of the summer and perhaps well into the fall. I set out with no particular time frame or route in mind. Like Bilbo Baggins, I intend to go wherever the adventure takes me.

Irresponsible? Perhaps a little bit. But hey, you only live once. What about my job you ask? I’ll still be able to telecommute part-time for my current job so I won’t be completely off the grid while I’m on my adventures (not to mention I’ll be able to afford fishing gear, gas and food….in that order). Many of my friends have no idea why I would want to go galavanting across the country by myself; fishing away the summer. But then again, many of my friends don’t fly fish; those that do just wish that they could come with me.

A scenic drive

A scenic drive

Days 1-3; July 13, 2013:

My Dad is traveling with me for the Oregon leg of my trip; double the gear but also double the fun. Most of the morning is spent getting last minute items and cramming my beloved Subaru full of fishing rods, fly-tying materials, enough flies to open a fly shop, float tubes and camping gear. Who needs to see out the back window anyways?

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

Windmills line the mountain outside of Burney

About 5 hours into the drive, I realize I didn’t bring a net. “Hey Dad, did you bring your net?” Uh oh. Dad realizes he didn’t bring his net, not a huge deal….except for the fact that his net is attached to the back of his vest (loaded with all of his favorite flies, and other beloved fishing gear). He’ll have to make due with his hip pack for a few days until it can be FedEx’d up to meet us. The next day on the river, I notice him reaching out of habit for tools normally found on his vest; but alas he grips at empty space. Poor guy!

Fish these size were so fun to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. I want one!!!

Fish these size were lively to catch on a #2-3 graphite rod my Dad built. Slow action and fun to cast. I want one!!!

We make camp at Castle Crag, our site is right on the Upper Sacramento River. Ironically, our neighbors are the Peninsula Fly Fishing Club. It’s always easy to identify fellow fly anglers, the gear tends to give us away. Fishing stories are exchanged and it turns out the president of the club has just moved to Truckee. What a small world it is!

While Dad continues to chat away with these folks I decide to hit the river.  It’s dusk, the perfect time for fishing. The fish are hungry and I’m catching 10″-16″ wild and planted ‘bows every few casts. The next day more fish are caught, I learn how to tie  PMD emerger and pops teaches me how to skate a caddis. A sublime start to what promises to be a spectacular journey.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

On the road again. Mt. Shasta in the background.

Fly fishing: the next generation

Getting out on the river lately has been difficult due to work related inconveniences, i.e. too much of it. So I have had a LOT of time at my desk to reflect upon recent fishing experiences. I keep coming back to the Fishmas Eve fundraiser. During the event, TRTU president Stefan McLeod announced that the organization had reached the $10K fundraising milestone, which is no small feat considering the state of the economy over the last 8 years. Currently, TRTU is is planning on allocating these funds, along with other sources of funding for a $500K restoration project on the Little Truckee River.

A worthy cause, as the current topography of this river offers a very limited amount of areas for fish to rest; creating a high pressure fishing environment and stressed out, spooky fish. As of late, I have heard too many stories about fish being landed with broken mandibles and fungus from being over handled on this stretch of river. The restoration project will allow for greater stretches of the river to be hospitable for fish, creating a better habitat and less pressured fishing areas.

The Truckee chapter of Trout Unlimited is a group of industry experts that decided it was finally time to establish a “REAL” conservation group based out of Truckee, CA. Their inspiring initiative to pass on the watershed to the next generation in BETTER condition than it came to this one, pretty much sums up the bright future that TRTU is creating.

Fun fact: the board members’ of TRTU average an age of 29! It’s not everyday that you find a group of young individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to make a huge difference for the local watershed.  Time is a major factor in making it all work, and at such a young age, time is in high demand. Along with working on their careers or starting their own businesses AND having a life: Stefan McLeod, David Lass, Morgan Hargrave, Matt Hargrave, Jordan Romney, Matthew Heron, Brian Slusser, Morgan Thalken (VP), George Walker, Dan LeCount, Jason Renfro and John Jewett have diligently donated their time, expertise and hard work to making it happen.

It’s far from easy; being a new chapter, there are no prior board members or Presidents to ask questions and show them the ropes. “…at times, it feels like wandering around a dark room searching for the light switch…. BUT, we always seem to find that light switch and get the job done.”  That is an understatement, these guys are killing it! Bravo!

People tend to have the impression that fly fishing is a pursuit for old men; these “young guns” illustrate an entirely different picture. All hale the next generation of fly fishers who are passionate, outdoor-loving conservationists’ with a vision for the future.

When Stefan took the time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions I had about TRTU (thanks again!!!) , he mentioned the following on what everyone can do to help out. I implore you to heed his advice.

“Volunteering is crucial…. We urge people to visit our FB page and our website at www.tahoetroutbum.org to keep up on the events we have planned and scheduled for the year. As far as helping goes, just being a steward of the river is a must. Practice proper etiquette, leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, practice catch and release, and as always…. Take a kid fishing!”

The next TRTU event is June 28, 2013, I encourage everyone to attend. Come meet the people who are volunteering their time to make the Truckee watershed a better place to fish and enjoy for generations to come. You’re in for a great time and sure to learn something new. Oh and did I mention they will be raffling off a lifetime CA fishing license at the BBQ?! Awesome.

CALifetimeLicense

Click here to buy a raffle ticket now!

Tahoe Trout Bummin’

At lower inlet of the LT

Last week, I spent another week of fishing in and around Truckee, CA. Returning here feels instinctual; a calling I can’t resist; like a steelhead returning to the waters it was born in. Through the week, the days blurred into a looping sequence of casts, stunning scenery, and meditation with one constant; significant hatches but no fish rising to the surface to slurp. The holes across the street from my childhood home are usually obliging and generously offer up at least one fish, usually more. Not this trip, the river found me wanting and I walked away from the Truckee River with my rod unbent but never-the-less, still grinning.

Aside from the fishing, I was in town for a local Trout Unlimited event I’d heard talked about with intense enthusiasm from many fishing buddies. The trout bum acclaimed Fishmas Eve: a fundraiser, raffle and shindig to mark the opening day of the Truckee River (the Truckee River is now a open to fishing year round, but this event marks the original opening day). It did not disappoint! A crisp twenty bought as much pizza and beer you could eat/guzzle, and a raffle ticket. I’d struck gold, trout bum gold that is. Beer, pizza,  a bunch of fellow fishing fanatics to talk all things fish with AND a raffle table loaded with rad fishing gear? Yup, make that platinum actually. The local guides, shops and reps had donated items from flies, stickers and apparel to rods, waders, line and even a few guide trips. Pretty much like the title describes, Christmas for a fly fishing enthusiast. I must have been on the “nice” list this year because I scored a buff, hat and dog collar for Marl’s!

Later, all of the hardcore Tahoe Trout Bums assemble after the fundraiser for some camping and midnight streamer fishing all while enjoying  TTB’s beer of choice, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Ahhh the good life. The next morning, everyone goes fishing; I love being able to wake up, throw on waders and walk 20 ft and start fishing.  I hooked into one of the biggest brown’s I have ever caught (she was a fighter, still brings a smile to my face)…. only to have it break off when it was almost ready to land. Why you ask? Because my drag was set waaay too tight. What is this? Amateur hour?! I learned from my Dad eons ago, always check your drag and back it off at the end of fishing to keep your reel in optimal condition. Gah, I know I’ll never make that mistake again. Ever. No matter how much beer I drink the night before.

Trout Unlimited Truckee Chapter #103’s efforts for the conservation of the local watershed is extraordinary. President Stefan McLeod and board members volunteer their time to organize spectacular events like Fishmas Eve so that all who visit these waters can enjoy the world class fishing. Thank you guys for all of your continued hard work!!! Stay tuned for a sequel article and learn more about Truckee TU. Additional information at www.tahoetroutbum.org

Tahoe Trout Bum

Click here to get your own bumper stickers, hats and t-shirts!

The old boy’s club

It’s been a fantastic week; I visited one of my favorite places in the world, Truckee, CA. Born and raised there, it never fails to impress and astound me how much that place still feels like home, no matter how long I’ve been kept away. Familiar faces and sights take me on a walk down memory lane. Running the same stretch of river that I ran for so many years growing up; FISHING places I have since I was old enough to cast a rod; trout bummin’ with my dad and walking past that spot where I fell wading and snapped the tip of his rod. So many special memories! It just made me think, fishing isn’t just about the act of fishing, it’s also about the people you fish with.

I made a trip out to Pyramid Lake, NV while I was there with my pops and his long time fishing buddy Bob Djako. Another long time friend and former neighbor Mike Posten also met us out there. I love going fishing with my dad and his friends. Not only do I get awesome tips on casting and fishing techniques, but I also get to be an honorary member of the “old boy’s club” or as I like to call it, “the old farts’ club.”  Trust me, I use this phrase as a term of endearment. My sides were sore from laughing so much the next day. Crap, these guys love to make fun of each other; but the jokes and heckling are like the hooks we fish with, barbless. You can tell that these guys have been fishing together for a very long time, since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, as I like to say. The group fishing next to us thanked us for the entertainment as they packed up, mentioning that fishing next to us all day was better than seeing a live comedy show. ( The fishing wasn’t to shabby either, check out the photos!!)

All joking aside, it is a marvelous thing to witness such a great group of friends. I have a hypothesis that the people who fly fish are generally, pretty dang spectacular. Haven’t met a bad apple yet to disprove this hypothesis. Personally when I’m fly fishing, I feel that in those perfect moments, I am exactly the person I want to be. I’m convinced fishing makes me a better person, cliche as it may sound. The fly fishing community is exceptional; filled with unique and extraordinary characters. The individuals I’ve met personally are terrific and tremendously enjoyable to spend time with, on and off the water. So cheers to all you fly fishers’ out there! Thanks for being so magnificent!

I’m on a boat!

Well, I definetly got my fishing fix for the week. I took my first float down the lower section of the Yuba river. Not only did I get to check out a new section of the Yuba, but I also had my first drift boat experience. Kick ass! I loved how much water we covered but didn’t neglect wading; stopping a few places to hop out and get wet.

The weather was spectacular, if a bit windy at moments, but that just allowed for some Belgan casting practice. A bonus for that day was hooking my first fish of the year on a dry fly (a PMD). Yewwww, it’s sexy watching a fish explode on a dry fly!

Jeff caught two nice rainbows and Jordan was an incredibly skilled skipper; also super patient… the wind combined with my bouts of general spaziness made for a few epic tangles!

A whole day spent fishing, taking in the sunshine (I’ve got a super hot forearm burn to prove it!), and hanging out with some pretty awesome dudes. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Its safe to say that life is always good, when you’re on a boat.