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 🙂

 

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 🙂

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.

 

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.