Thursday, November 12, 2015

Surf Fly Fishing For Chinook Salmon

Sounds like some whacked out hoax.....It was, but my wife Nikki and I were there to experience it. I can honestly admit that it was the most insane fly fishing moment ever in my life, and I can tell it was Nikki's too.
This fish was hooked about 10 feet away from the shoreline, and it took me way into the backing.
We were about to leave for the day from a rivermouth spot (don't ask where - this is social media time and too many people see these posts and can crowd up an already too crowded fishery), and a man came up to me and said he kept on seeing fish surfing in the waves way down the beach from the river mouth. I was inquisitive, and decided to go check it out, but it seemed far-fetched.
Fish were zooming around all over as you can see with the surface disturbance a few feet off the beach.
When I got there, there was not much happening, and I was feeling like he saw something that was probably a thing of the past. Just when I was about to give up, I saw a tail slash out in the froth of the surf, and then some bumpy nervous water with fish surging about. I gained interest again. I noticed the fish were trying to get up the river, but they were taking a path along where the surf met the sand because there was a trough of water that was up to two to three feet deep, while sandbars that were inches deep created barriers to get into the river. In essence the river was cutting along the shoreline before it went out to sea, but the rivermouth was too shallow for the fish to actually be able to enter the river. The fish were sitting off the rivermouth in the shallow channel down the beach eating the last baitfish before making the entry to their natal waters on the next high tide. All of this was going on with several seals nearby looking for easy pickings.
Not your typical looking place to be fishing for Chinook Salmon.....
 I positioned myself into several different angles to the spot and stripped and swung my Clouser Minnow into the nervous water as it would periodically come by me. Nothing was happening, and it was annoying seeing it all go down, and not being able to feel one of these fish on the end of my line. I was watching my baitfish fly come through perfectly, and there were no fish chomping it down. I then looked into my fly box and put on a heavy dressed Clouser that I would consider the higher water or cloudier water version. I assumed that maybe they were not seeing the smaller ones I was fishing with in the surf with all of the froth, chop, and suspended sand. It turns out that that theory seemed to be the case because the first cast resulted in a 43" beast of a salmon. It gave me a battle I have not felt before on any fish so far in my angling experience.
This mean Chinook Salmon just tore me up for a very long time in the surf zone.
After that, I hooked another one on the next cast in the next batch of nervous water swimming by me. That fish was any bit as large, but I broke it off landing it in the surf after a long battle, and that the fish totally beat me up. It starting turning into a totally insane fishing session, where you would see a bunch of fish moving by and displacing water, and you would cast across and in front of it, and we would hook up with a salmon at will more or less. Nikki hooked up many times after I called it quits for the day, and I was super stoked watching her fighting mean vigorous salmon all on her own with no other anglers around. Then Nikki got into a fish that more or less took her for a ride with the backing seen several times. She had it in close only to have it rip off 100 yards plus of line and backing again. After she finally got the fish to budge and she pulled it back all the way to landing mode. The fish was almost broken of its will, and Nikki was forcing it into the last few feet of water before the sand meets the ocean, and then she yelled in frustration as the the hook pulled free. I could have reached down and tailed it for a second or two, but I was holding our nicest camera, and it isn't waterproof. Too much multitasking trying to hold a camera above the water and tailing a huge Chinook. It's better for the fish that it got away without a closer look, but not for Nikki being able to check out her catch up close and personal.
Fighting Chinook Salmon in the surf is without a doubt the most intense way to experience their power.
After that we couldn't muster up any more physical energy to think of tussling with another Chinook; so we watched the most beautiful sunset on a November day that was calm and warm. Life is good......
This fish really whooped me hard with a long battle with several long runs into the backing.
Oh yeah, and one thing of advice for anyone ever getting to experience this sort of a thing. You should probably have a 12wt for this, and I say this because normal heavy Chinook Salmon fly fishing gear of 9wt or 10wt rods is not enough for what these fish did to us while we tried to fight them in the surf. It is too painful in a good way.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Orvis Portland - Down The Hatch Film Festival

Coming November 12th at Orvis Portland
Join us on Thursday, November 12th for the Down the Hatch Film Festival! We will have free food and refreshments starting at 6pm, followed by some of the best fly fishing films around the world. You will also be automatically entered to win a $100 Orvis gift card. We look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Short Summer Steelhead Video - Fall PDX Steelheading 2015

I attempt to make the blog educational when possible, and this video is a great example of a method of how to possibly work a steelhead spot. In this case it is the fall and the water was as low as it gets, but cold and nice for a probable steelhead bite. Fall is the time of the year around the Pacific Northwest when steelhead really like to play. Anywhere you have summer steelhead, and holding water like tailouts, heads of pools, or run that are a few feet deep or less, you can try this method out.

The first thing I like to do in the example of the river in this video is to skate a dry fly, and I do it because the fish may come up and eat it, and often they boil after it even if they don't chomp it. On other rivers I skate dries, but it may be more "spot" specific, and much of that is my confidence in the "specific spot" I am fishing. I tell people when they are choosing steelhead flies, "You can't get steelhead on surface skaters, unless you fish with a surface skaters." Reality is that some rivers are better for steelhead dry fly fishing than others.

In this video I have a cast that lands near the right bank far into the tailout, and when it lands a steelhead boils and then splashes water at the fly. I cast several more enticing presentations into the same area of the spot, but the fish never commits to the fly, nor does it even show itself after the first time it gave its location up.

The next thing I do is reel up the line to short again, and I put on a subsurface purple wet fly. A few swings into the spot, and the line tightens up with a feisty small steelhead on which the click and pawl reel screams with some radical line peeling runs. After the fish was landed I went back out to the same exact rock and stood there stripping line exactly where that first fish ate my fly. I then started working through the tailout like the first fish never even touched my fly. I knew the fish that boiled on the dry fly was farther back in the tailout, and the first fish was likely a "bonus fish". As I worked my swings farther down the into the tailout, my fly landed near the bank where the fish boiled and splashed my dry earlier. As the fly swung off the bank, my line tightened up with a head shaking life to it. There was a fish right where it revealed itself with the dry fly earlier.

The fish tore me up, and make some serious runs all over the shallow wide pool. It was a real hoot fighting this fish, and seeing it light up my reel several times. Woo Hoo!

Two fish in one tailout is not bad; especially considering the summer steelhead run of 2015 is the lowest count on record. What I also noticed were the fish counts at Willamette falls went from approximately 30-90 fish per day for a few weeks, and that meant fish were coming into several rivers. Even though the fish counts were not high, if you take several weeks of fish adding up, with little angling pressure, the equation starts to add up to enough fish around to have fun with. It just shows what steelheading can be like when nobody is pressuring the fish, and it is fall. A low fish run with light fishing pressure can offer some good sessions. Fall is in the air; so get out there and go fishing!!

Click on Video to Watch
(Suggestion - viewing is much better on full HD and full screen mode)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Montana Trip - Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge Trip July 18th through July 25th

On July 18th, I flew into Boseman, Montana to host a trip for Orvis at Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge. The trip to the lodge was from July 18th through July 25th, and we fished the 19th to the 24th. We did everything from drift the Yellowstone River to wading spots in Yellowstone National Park, and the fishing was generally awesome. The lodge is top notch first of all! The place is totally beautiful with stunning views every which way you look, and the lodge looks amazing inside and outside. The staff is accommodating as can be, and they make you feel at home right when you show up with their warm hospitality. The food was outstanding, and the chefs have some serious culinary talents. You will never go hungry the entire time you are there because the servers make sure you always have enough to eat. I joked with the staff at Hubbard's and said, "I know your real goal is to fatten us up for the bears to eat." The guides at Hubbard's are really top notch, and they work very hard, but while making sure you are having a fun comfortable experience out there. Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge gets a big THUMBS UP!!

Below is a video from the time I spent at Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge:

Below is a photo essay of the time I had a Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge: 
rigging up the rods before launching.....
Stunning scenery everywhere....
Pounding the banks is the name of the game....
Ken and Lamont throwing towards the banks of the Yellowstone River
Kathie and Jay checking out some awe inspiring scenery before pulling into the lunch spot
Lunchtime in the shade of the riparian zone...
I noticed this bird sitting in the Juniper near our lunch spot
Jonathan on tight to a trophy brown
Buttery Brown....
Jim and Brian drifting casting and drifting....
Working the water for Yellowstone's feisty trout
Rewarded literally 100 yards above the "take out" ramp on Day 1
Day 2 Launch point.....
Adam shoving the boat in.....
Jay and Kathie drifting down....
Adam and Jonathan deciding on what offerings to put on.....
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Fish on!
Jonathan showing a nice Yellowstone River Brown Trout
Yellowstone River Rainbow Trout
Soda Butte Creek
Cutty coming in for a landing....
Mom and Bambi on the bank of the Yellowstone...
The historic and famous arch at Yellowstone
Lamar River - A little off color when we arrived, but it was in shape a little while later.
Buffalo in the Lamar Valley
Soda Butte Creek with lots of buffalo
Adam and Jonathan working a pool on Soda Butte for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
Fish were rising hard on PMD's when we started fishing Soda Butte Creek
Soda Butte Creek has some awesome Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout
This fish ate a dry fly in less than 4" of water....
Another fine cookie cutter on Soda Butte
off you go.....
We saw lots of beautiful rainbows during the afternoon showers we experienced.
Bones are everywhere in Yellowstone National Park. This was from a buffalo. Connective tissues still intact.
Jonathan fishing a nice run at Soda Butte Creek
Swallow neighborhood....
Elk in the sage....
Yellowstone vastness.....
Drew making his way to the Lamar River
The group getting ready to fish after hiking to the river....
Jay and Drew probing the water to see what the hot fly is....
Crystals sticking out of some rock
Where's the sheep?
Grazing on the steep slopes...
Post fishing chill time.....
The talented chefs preparing the outstanding food....
People are getting served some serious goodness....
Daisy knows where her favorite spot is.....
Some seriously fine cuisine and lots of it!
The view of the Paradise Valley never gets old. I could stare at that view every day!
Rocky Mountain inspiration....
Evening grizzly watch in a probable location a few miles from the lodge. We saw several this evening!
Some shed antlers by the banks of the Lamar River where we decided to have lunch...
A Lamar River Cutbow Trout
My super comfortable room. It is what a lodge room should look and feel like!
Cactus in Yellowstone National Park near the Lamar River
Lunch was perfectly timed on day 5. We ate, & then a big shower came through right after. Nice work with the umbrellas !
Pronghorn at the boat ramp after we took out on Day 5.
The lobby in the main lodge.....
The Office and Fly Shop.....
The patio area of the main lodge
The Office and Fly Shop from the main parking area
The Main Lodge Building from the patio side
There is a large lake with big trout, and boats are available to use.
The view across the Tom Miner Valley
Driving up the Tom Miner Valley
Tom Miner Creek
A little baby bird was just prancing around for a little bit.
Tom Miner Creek had some beautiful flowers on the banks.
Spots like this Tom Miner Creek hold feisty trout.
Drew and Adam were really fantastic fishing guides and great people.
Boats are docked up at the lake available for use...
The views are stunning at Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge...
View of the main loge from the lakeside....
Grizzle scat at Tom Miner Creek. Watch out and be noisy!!
Underwater bear cub tracks, and the bank had a wet mud trail through the grass.....
More flowers at Tom Miner Creek
Soda Butte Cutties will hide just about anywhere. This fish was holding in inches of water off to the side of the main flow.
Admiring a fine Soda Butte Cutthroat Trout
A buffalo decided to have lunch with us.....We were there first, as he calmly wandered in, laid down, and chilled. He grazed and we ate our lunch.