Quick Trip 1-22-2023

Not a bad outing last Sunday. On the water between 10 AM and 2 PM. Weather was in the 40’s and with no wind and a bit of sun was quite pleasant. Fishing was decent and even managed 2 fish on dry flies during a little black winter stonefly hatch as well as catching a few on wet flies using manipulation tactics. I was not expecting the fish to be so active! Did use the nymph rig a bit and managed to break a 3rd rod out of the last 4 trips! That shit is getting old! Another reason I am slowly getting away from nymphing and utilizing more and more traditional tenkara methods even when it is not nearly as productive. The longer I do this the more I find satisfaction in how I catch a fish, not so much as how many. Winter nymphing is no doubt highly productive but it is also monotonous, the rigs are irritating and I just don’t get much joy out of it anymore. There is no surprise in catching a trout with euro nymphing techniques. I am also finding that my preferred techniques still work in winter. I just don’t feel the need to catch every trout in the river anymore. I will probably expand on that topic in writing at another time.

My friend Mike working through a run.
Always something interesting on the dry lake bed.
The perpetrator that broke my new rod.
Happy to catch fish like this any day.
Lake run beauty looking like a steelhead.

Pond Monsters

The “Weigh Station Pond” is very small puddle of water in Cottage Grove Oregon that sits a short walking path away from a truck weigh station. It also happens to be about a 1 minute walk from my office at the water treatment plant along the Row River. It is so heavily stocked at times that ODF&W has said it has more trout per gallon of water than any other body of water in Oregon. On average year it is stocked weekly with around 700lbs of trout in the 10 to 14″ range. For reasons unbeknownst to me this season they have only stocked it twice. Both times with 70 trout ranging from 6 to 12 lbs.

I’m Jeremy Wade and you’re watching…..

It was also unannounced this year with no stocking schedule posted and the trout delivery truck can only access the pond through my work property. The 1st time they dropped these pigs off myself and my co-worker had the whole place to ourselves for several days. I was a great opportunity to try and catch a 10 lb trout on a fixed line/tenkara rod. Even better was the opportunity to catch these toads on our lunch breaks.

Likely the largest trout I’ve landed. Growing up in Alaska Ive caught trout that went 30” but didn’t have the chub these tubby bastards had.

I typically don’t fish this pond much. It is generally a cesspool for the outdoor worlds bottom feeders. A frequent sight of poaching, littering, snagging and general disregard for the area. Even though i have been a dedicated fly fisher for over 30 years Ive never become a pretentious prick about it. I will fish other methods, I don’t care how anybody fishes as long as we all follow the regs and pack out our trash. I don’t shed a tear when somebody bonks a trout on the head if its legal and I am not offended by the sight bait on a hook. That being said I do occasionally stroll down here on lunch breaks when I need to get out of the office and stretch my legs. I mostly just walk but on occasion will bring a tenkara rod I keep in a locker in my office.

Oddly not in Mary Orvis Marburys book of favorite flies

While my preference these days is generally smaller mountain streams, wild native trout and traditional Japanese tenkara methods I am also a human being, a fisherman. Whether wild or grown in a swimming pool the sight of 70 gigantic rainbows swimming around within casting range gets my blood pumping and consumes all focus! As somebody who fishes without a reel my window of opportunity to catch these porkers is limited. They only stay close to the bank for the 1st 24 hours or so before they acclimate and angling pressure forces them to the center of the pond. The stars aligned and I showed with my “big fish” rod, the Dragontail Hellbender, and a box of my dirty little secret “flies”. I have found nothing a hatchery trout likes more than a small piece of squirmy wormy material superglued to a hook. Sitting just below the surface or on a slow sink the long tenkara rod allows tiny little movements and undulations to the worm. It paid off! Fighting these fish was not quite the epic Ahab vs the white whale battle I had invisioned but it was still a rush watching them inhale my “flies” and began thrashing about. With no current, nowhere to go and the soft fleshy bodies built by a lifetime in a pen eating food pellets I was able to land these fish fairly quickly. The hellbender had no issue turning and controlling them. Releasing these fish seems odd. Its a put and take fishery, generally if they aren’t caught they don’t last more than 2 weeks or so before dying off. A few weeks after the stocking you can walk around and spot the big belly up floaters out in the pond. While I do enjoy eating fish Ive just been releasing trout for so long that I don’t put any thought into it. Plus, while I am sure its safe I wouldn’t eat anything that came out of that pond. Just personal preference!

Cedar Creek Fire 2022

9-9-22. The date that effectively ended trout season on my favorite stream right as things were heating up. Pun fully intended. The Cedar Creek fire had been growing for awhile yet the area I frequented the most over the summer was largely unaffected. Wind direction was blowing the smoke away and a few days prior to 9-9-22 I enjoyed an amazing day of fishing under bluebird skies.

So I figured this day would be similar. Forecast was calling for 100 degree temps in town and I was excited to escape into the mountains for a bit of wet wading and shade along the stream. I checked all the news outlets/road reports and forest service reports that morning and now closures or warnings were in effect. I contacted my buddy Mike and he was game to head up and give it a go. As the sun started coming up I instantly noticed the huge black cloud of smoke stretching across the sky, its origins right in the direction we were heading. We checked all sources again, still so no closures etc so off we went.

As we got closer it was starting to seem like a pretty stupid idea. The smoke was starting to build, ash was beginning to fall like snow and the sky was turning that sickly orange color. Maybe its because the new normal in Oregon is for the state to burn to the ground every summer but what should have been giant red flags didn’t detour us from continuing.

When we got out of the car at our jumping off point I was immediately struck by how cold it was. At this time of day on a 100 degree day it should have already been in the high 70’s or 80’s but due to the heavy smoke layer it was in the low 50’s. Expecting hot temps I was in lightweight pants, river shoes and luckily had a thin hoody in the car. Once again, I was feeling like this was a really dumb idea buuuuut we were here so onward we went.

We split up and started bushwacking and boulder hopping up stream. The fishing was good with little wild native trout hitting unweighted wet flies in all the places you would expect them to. For about an hour I got locked into the trance of picking apart the pockets and working my way up stream.

An hour was all it took and I was getting pretty damn cold. At this point it was just dumping ash, it was getting uncomfortable to breath and I needed a warm up break. Mike was aways upstream but I figured he’d come to his senses soon enough as well. Upon arriving back at the car I found the note from the forest service. “Evacuate ASAP”. I instantly felt like a selfish asshole. Embarrassed that while this giant fire was raging towards peoples homes my dumb ass just had to go fishing and now very busy people with minimal resources were having to track down idiots like me to get us off the mountain. Luckily Mike was not far behind. Right as he returned to the car the Forest Service drove up, looking none to impressed and urged us to GTFO right now. We apologized and hurriedly packed up and floored down the mountain.

The area was closed immediately, and the nearest towns evacuated that day. Luckily no homes nor lives were lost in the blaze. It raged on and grew rapidly, keeping that area closed well into October. Upon returning after it reopened it was eye opening to see the burn areas and how incredibly close Mike and I were. It was an experience I wont soon forget and valuable lesson learned. It can be easy to be selfish and excited about fishing when you are passionate, but that passion should not cloud your judgment to the degree it did that day.

Moral of the story, enjoy your fishing. Just don’t be a dick about it.

1st outing of 2023

Other than a few trips to the stocked pond by my work I recently (Jan 13th) had my first day on the water to kick the new year off. Temps have been mild compared to last year with daily highs topping 50 degrees.

Dark and stormy

I have not been on the water much this winter. A combination of high, blown out conditions and my general lack of enthusiasm to go drag the bottom with heavy nymph rigs has kept my looking for other ways to combat cabin fever.

1st wild native trout of 2023

Last summer from a fishing standpoint was pretty fantastic. I really got to hone in on traditional tenkara techniques utilizing unweighted flies and subtle manipulations. What a fun and rewarding way to fish. The downside is now I dont really want to fish anyway else. So when I have been out on the water this winter ive kept my rigs simple. Straight level lines, no sighter and one soft hackle wet fly with a small bead head when needed. My goal is to keep the rigs light enough to cast and capable of responding well to manipulations. I know I could catch a lot more fish with other methods but I think after 30+ years of fly fishing/tenkara ive finally reached a point where how I catch fish is more important than how many. Its very satisfying to me to fish in this manner.

Vanishing waterfall

The fishing was fairly slow on the day with 2 trout landed, one lost in about 4 hrs of fishing. Not a bad start and not bad for winter in Oregon. Looking forward to what other adventures will present themselves soon.

Fish #2

Also hoping to get back to regular posting on the blog and utilizing it more as a trip journal as well. I got off to a good start with regular writing last year but life, divorce, other obligations had other plans for me. Back on track now though and I still appreciate the few people that actually read these posts!

Jumping the gun

Just when we thought it was safe to get back in the water! After 2 weekends in a row of mid 60’s, blue skies and eager trout I thought we were in the clear. I thought the dark , wet and grey days of another pacific northwest winter were behind us! As is so often the case mother nature had other ideas. 12 to 18″ of snow in the mountains, inches of rain in the valleys and a return to temps in the high 30’s and low 40’s.

My friend Jim working a set of small pockets.

My friend Jim and I had plans to fish some small tributary streams on Sunday and weather be damned that is what we did. Water temps had dropped off sharply and the fish went back into their sluggish, uninterested winter mode. We spent the day exploring several gorgeous little mountain streams and by the time we declared it was just to damn cold I had brought in 1 tiny rainbow and 2 whitefish. Not a total skunk and we found a few areas that will be worth returning to when it warms up.

Oregon isn’t shy with the scenery.
Hard to beat if you enjoy fishing small secluded streams.
Fantastic pockets and plunge pools .
Ended the day with this chunky little whitefish.

Out of Hibernation

These are the fish that become great memories.

It has been awhile since I’ve written a little something for the blog. As the late winter set in this year I settled into a sort of general malaise which typically snuffs out any sparks of creativity. It was an exceptionally long winter this year. I lost both grandparents and my mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, my wife lost her grandmother as well as dealing her with her own fathers rapidly declining health. This all came on the backs of what seem to be universally agreed upon as the worst fucking 2 years of our generation.

These local rainbows are stunningly beautiful. Bright, thick and healthy and eager. Everything you could want in a trout.

However it has not been all gloom and doom. Last fall I made the decision to start reclaiming my health after a long “career” as a super heavyweight competitive powerlifter. At 41 years old I was nearing 370 lbs in bodyweight at 6’7″ tall. It’s no secret that big people don’t live as long. I was on multiple blood pressure meds and my all of blood work was awful. High risk for everything. As I write this I am down 90 lbs, off all medication and my last blood work panel was all back in range. I am very proud of what I accomplished in powerlifting, holding multiple state, national and world records but that chapter had to close.

A small cutthroat trout that fell to a swung soft hackle.

It is not like I didn’t fish through this time period. I actually made it out a lot. Almost weekly. The fishing was pretty slow and very repetitious. Winter here for me means fishing the larger reservoir rivers around, dragging bottom with heavy flies in shit weather and once in awhile you may get lucky and drag a fly into a trouts a mouth. I don’t hate this kind of fishing. The monotonous rhythm of lob, drift, lob drift can be pretty meditative. It’s almost peaceful. Standing in a drained reservoir in a driving wind and rain, frozen to your core and not catching fish is a great opportunity to catalog all the wrong turns you’ve taken to lead you there. Needless to say after several months of that action I was dying to cast a light line and a small fly to eager and active trout.

First wild, native rainbow of the spring season.

Slowly but surely the weather, and my mood began to improve. 30 degree days turned to 50, the nymphs started getting lighter and the last 2 times I’ve been out I’ve actually been able to fish unweighted flies on very light lines. Not quite dry fly time but it sure feels close! While tenkara rods do an amazing job nymphing they also do an amazing job at tenkara! Traditional tankara, casting unweighted flies on long rods with light lines is just the bees knees for me. It’s engaging, its active, its beautiful. The trout seem to like it as well.

My wife was going to donate this Baggalinni brand purse. I claimed it and now it makes an outstanding short trip tackle bag!
A random crappie from the Lunchtime Pond near my work.

I also acquired a few new rods over the winter. The Riverworks ZX4, the dragon tail firefox and the Diawa L LL45M. Each rod very different but so far all three have been amazing. I plan on doing a little write up soon on the Riverworks and likely the other 2 at some point. I am not a gear reviewer but there is very little info available on tenkara rods and Id like to offer my perspective to anybody interested in these rods. The ZX4 is a real gem. Ive been effectively fishing it with #1.5 level line which has been a revelation. The lightness of that line and the almost 100% lack of line drape is incredible. It can be a full blown mother fucker to cast but on the ZX4 it’s remarkable easy as long as the wind isn’t to bad.

Happily cleaning and drying rods after a successful outing.

After 30 years of fly fishing I still get as excited as a kid at Christmas for spring fishing. Oregon is magical in the spring and it has been rejuvenating to finally emerge from the long cold grey grasp of winter.

My most effective spring fly so far. A simple bead head futsu kebari with hot orange tail.
When life gets rough I like to think it could be worse. I could have been born a hatchery trout.
The humble whitefish. Proof you are getting deep enough.

I hope you all are getting out as often as you can and are really savoring the season. We only get so many springs in our lives so lets make them count!

Flowers and Flies

I am always looking for new and creative ways to photograph both flowers and flies/kebari. I spent a mellow Sunday afternoon with a new bouquet of flowers, some random flies and a macro lens. I keep a small fish bowl on my tying desk where I toss the one off and experimental patterns that don’t have a home in any of the boxes yet. Every so often I’ll dump it out and see if anything looks promising. That’s the issue with being a passionate and experimental fly tyer. I tie way more flies than I need or could ever use but I enjoy it so much that it has really become sort of hobby unto itself. A non tying friend doesn’t seem to mind as he frequently gets fistfuls of these “extras”. Thanks for looking.

2-18-22 Trip Report

After 5 consecutive fishless outings the stars aligned and a few nice trout found there way into my net. Friday presented some pretty challenging conditions I had to adapt to. The river I was fishing was as low and clear as I have ever seen it. It is usually at a decent flow in the winter with enough turbidity to allow the angler to get pretty close to holding water but not so turbid as to make flies difficult to see.

I spent the first several hours exploring and covering water that is usually productive with no luck. Some of the usual runs were so shallow that they were clearly void of fish. This fishery in the winter is largely made up of lake run fish that come up from the reservoir. When flows get challenging they just vacate and head back to the safety of the reservoir. This makes the system very hit or miss. They seem to be around in large numbers or none at all with very few in between days. The behavior and even the appearance of these trout remind me of steelhead. Chrome bright with a hint of blush and minimal spotting. The occasional colorful fish shows up but they mostly resemble their sea run counterparts.

Killer bug after half a dozen chunky fish

So after several fishless hours I changed tactics. Fishing with the Tenkarabum TB40 I set up 13′ of 8lb kastking flourokote line, a roughly 16″ sighter of orange and white and 5′ of 6x to the dropper and another 18′ to the point fly. The dropper varied throughout the day from a selection of small bead head nymphs and the point fly stayed a killer bug. Until today I had never caught anything on a killer bug and had no confidence in the fly. However you can hardly research tenkara without seeing its constant praise and hearing about the magic of shetland spindrift oyster color yarn. It was pretty much my only pattern without a bead and in the low clear water I wanted to pair something less flashy with the bead heads. The result was that every single fish hooked and/or landed on the day fell victim to the killer bug. I’m starting to believe the hype.

A colorful fish to impatient to pose for a proper photo

Occasionally I will find pods of smaller trout on this river and brought along my brand new dragontail foxfire fiberglass rod to try if I the opportunity presented itself. At one point the action slowed down and I presumed I’d pretty much had all the success I would have so I took the rig off the tb40 and put it on the foxifre. I was surprised that while far from optimal the little glass rod could cast this 20′ long set up. I was surprised again when a 17″ trout nailed my killer bug. Now this rod is designed for small streams, short lines and smaller fish but I was very impressed with how it handled the big rainbow. With the rod flexing all the way to the handle I put the pressure on and never felt like the rod was in any danger of breaking. I like to land fish quickly and not screw around letting themselves over exert. I’d rather loose a fish then spend to long trying to land it. With the foxfire I brought the fish to net quickly. It was a blast feeling the flex of that rod though! I’ll do a write-up on the foxfire once I am able to use it under “normal” small stream circumstances more.

Fat fish little rod. The dragontail foxfire had no problem with this fine specimen.

So all told a wonderful outing. It’s always satisfying to put in the work, figure out the solution and have success especially after such a long fishless spell. Winter has been tough in more ways than one this year and I am eager for the spring days to arrive. This day was enough to help keep the spirits up and the optimism flowing.

Could pass for a steelhead
Canadian Geese

The skunk is following me

Expectations were high going into Sundays fishing adventure and rightfully so. Weather had been gorgeous all week and Sundays high temp was a forecasted 65 degrees. The increase in temps and perfect river levels would surely get the trout hungry and active. After 3 consecutive fishless outings the streak would end on super bowl Sunday. Not a doubt in my mind.

WRONG. Not even the slightest nibble. Absolutely zero indication that any fish around was even half tempted to take my fly. Not for lack of trying on my part. We hiked, climbed and scrambled 7 1/2 miles around a remote stretch of river that had been very productive in the past. Had the entire place to ourselves and conditions were perfect. Through process of elimination the only logical conclusion is that I am not a very good angler. It’s been so long I dont think I can even remember what a trout looked like.

If my friend Tim that had joined me hadn’t hooked in to one that threw the hook I’d start to wonder if trout ever even existed at all or if they were a figment of my imagination. Well they are very much real and I am very much not catching them lately. While these extended periods of inactivity can cause the flood gates of self doubt to open they are also more likely to get me to return to the river as opposed to the easy days. One of the things that I love so much about fishing is the endless amount to learn. You can always refine techniques, be more efficient, more educated about fish behaviors throughout the seasons.

So for now I will be patient. The days of productive fishing will return and until then I’ll keep venturing out. I like to fish the entire year and while winter is not nearly as productive (or enjoyable) I still prefer a few hours on the water over any other hobby or activity. Cold feet and all. No day out is a day wasted even when it stinks like skunk.

Hobbies Combined

When it comes to photography I am never trying to capture a scene exactly how it was. I like to create these images in a way that I want to remember them. I have a very colorful imagination and my memories are often vivid. I want to remember how I felt at these places. I process these to reflect my interpretation of the day, not so much as it was but how I want it to stay in my mind.

I think tenkara and photography pair together well. I’ve found since starting tenkara that the majority of the time I am much more unhurried and relaxed on the water. It’s a very mellow way to fish and as such I find that I spend more time just hiking around, taking the odd photo and mostly just enjoying the fact that I am outdoors. I’ll still have days that are all business and I fish hard but they are seeming to be the exception.

I spent around 8 years where I really didn’t fish much at all. Maybe a half dozen times a year max, much often less. That time was spent pursuing landscape photography when I had the chance to get outside for awhile. I had traded my fly rods for cameras but I still found myself in the same places. Creeks, rivers, streams. The ocean as often as possible. I just love being around water.

Eventually I just sort of fizzled out. I felt like I had pretty much accomplished all I wanted to do and no longer felt the creative drive I once did. I’ve amassed a pretty huge body of work and I am very proud of a lot of it. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea but it brought me significant joy as an artistic outlet for a long time.

So these days I still pursue it but only if I am out doing other things like fishing or hiking. I also don’t shlep around all the gear and equipment anymore. I am much more likely to just bring the iPhone instead of a dedicated camera body although I sometimes still do. I learned over time that the camera gear makes very little difference when images are displayed at web sizes. All the images in this post are a mix. From iPhone to point and shoots to high resolution full frame dslrs.

I am now lucky to have several hobbies that I am passionate about and can combine together. If the weather isn’t conducive to fishing or if it is slow I can always fall back on photography and still enjoy the quality time in the mountains. I can look forward to days where the fishing is good and I get a few keepers in the portfolio. Another plus side is tenkara gear is a hell of a lot cheaper than camera equipment!