Thursday, February 26, 2015

Back on the water

So far this winter has set records for warm temps and little snow in the Oregon Cascades. Drought is not in the picture so far and there has been no shortage of moisture. However, instead of snow, we have seen a lot of rain and rivers that flow high and muddy or low and clear.

Monty, a new kayaker, joined me on a couple trips this winter. the first on the Willamette during one one of the high and muddy flows. The second on the lower Sandy River during a break between the rains.

Both were learning experiences. The Willamette offered me the chance to learn how to anchor two boats off one anchor. I chose this idea because anchoring a kayak in a big, cold river in winter is one of the most dangerous parts of kayak fishing. Because Monty was new, I wanted to be as safe as possible which meant anchoring my kayak and then having him bring his kayak alongside mine and lash onto it.

The idea proved very effective, although it took a couple tries to get the anchor to stick. When I did finally stick the anchor, we were were both able to relax and enjoy a couple hours on the river before the tide turned. On this trip, sturgeon was the goal and we brought a couple to the boat.

The second trip provided Monty the chance the try the PA 12 in a slow steelhead river. An accomplished steelhead angler from southern Oregon, Monty has great fishing skills and soon was comfortable moving around the river in the kayak as well. I had outfitted both the PA 14 and the 12 with drift-boat style anchor setups and soon we were anchoring up in the river swinging flies and floating bobbers (Monty isn't a fly angler yet).

I fished a couple drifts standing up and spey casting. About half way through the trip, I learned how to slowly drift through the holes using an indicator and weighted fly. I discovered that I could turn the mirage drive around and slow my drift by using the drive in reverse. The system proved very effective and I am anxious to get out again and master the process.

I am working on videos from the trips and hope to post them on the YouTube channel soon. Until then, keep trying new things on the yaks and Go Farther, Catch More.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching others at the Fly Tying Expo

Check out the show by clicking here.
When I started kayak fly fishing, the goal was to expand my fishing opportunities. I have owned a float tube, pontoon boat, numerous skiffs, a drift boat and a river sled. All were fun but each had limits.

As I spent more time in the kayak, it became apparent, that the kayak was the most versatile boat ever made. And likely one of the oldest water craft created by humans. I also discovered that I was blazing some new trails and combining skill sets, while learning from other kayak anglers.

Now I have the opportunity to teach fly anglers what I have learned from my experience on the kayak.

On March 14, I have the pleasure of teaching fly fishing from a kayak at the Northwest Fly Tyer and Fly Fishing Expo in Albany, Oregon. Although I am not being paid, the proceeds from the class help fund the event and help promote the sport of fly fishing.

I am excited to see what questions others anglers have about the sport and hopefully help them discover the fun, excitement and versatility of kayak fly fishing. If I do it right, I will answer most questions, uncover some new quests and make a couple new friends.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My rant about the competitive nature of fishing

I loaded my little Heritage kayak on the Ford Escape and headed for a tiny suburban pond on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. I had checked the stocking schedule and discovered the pond had recently been planted with 500 larger trout that week and I figured it was a perfect quick trip before the game. The pond was barely 5 acres so it was pushing the boating limit but I had fished it a couple times and knew there were some areas difficult to fish from shore even with a spinning rod.

I pulled in the parking lot about 10 a.m. There were already about five or six guys on on the pond. Oh well, not ideal but there certainly was room for the kayak on the far shore where I wouldn't be crowding the bobber and spin dudes. I suited up, dropped in the kayak and started paddling toward the middle of the pond. I saw a guy throw a spinner across the pond, towards a tree hanging in front of me and I knew my day was going to quickly end. It was was cemented when he said "boats are not allowed on the pond."

I challenged him and said I had just checked the regs and and signs and knew it wasn't the case. Of course, he wasn't going to listen to me and I decide I wasn't about to push the issue.

Instead, I paddled back to the shore, loaded my kayak on the Escape and decide to head somewhere else. I was frustrated with the situation because it exemplified an issue facing the fishing community.

Instead of a way to escape the hustle of life, some anglers were treating fishing as a competitive sport. Instead of sharing the space and being courteous, guys are yelling at one another about how they owned the water,  threatening each with fake gun gestures or casting their lines over one another. It was sad. Like most states, Oregon has seen the number of anglers continue to decline with fewer young people taking to the sport and the old guard dying off.

I cannot blame the younger generation. I have a son who would just as soon sit in front of a video screen as in a kayak. Considering the violent nature of today's video games, that is rather telling.

Of course not everyone is an asshole. I have met many wonderful people on the river and I have found most kayak anglers friendly and willing to share ideas. And, I am not above joking with a friend about his fishing skills on a particular day.

Outdoor activities were once an opportunity for generations to bond and enjoy the natural environment. Now fishing and hunting is often a competition for limited resources and some feel it is more important to harvest something than enjoy the experience.

I continue to encourage my son to join me on kayak trips or fly fishing some of my favorite water. And sometimes he does. But I am also very careful about the water I choose. We need to continue to teach our children the value of nature and the essence of life. They should understand that the package of fish or meat was once a living creature and it died so we could nourish our bodies. If we don't, the fishing community may face the same challenges as hunting community and people will be saying angling is cruel while they order the grilled salmon off the menu and wonder why it is so expensive.

OK. I feel better now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chasing fish on Black Friday while I initiate my $250 kayak

While most of the country was chasing deals on Black Friday I was chasing fish.

For a couple years now, Washington state has closed a handful of lakes the week of Thanksgiving and stocked them with larger trout. The lakes and ponds open on Black Friday providing a chance to skip the shopping crowds and catch some fish.

I was looking forward to the day because if offered the chance to catch some nice trout while initiating my $250 fly fishing kayak.

My destination was Kress Lake outside Kalama. There were a couple small lakes close to Portland but because I had never fished Kress, I decided it would be a perfect location to spend a couple hours while testing my latest kayak project.

I woke up a little later than expected and drank my coffee while watching the rain poor down. Oh well, I thought to myself, it was the Northwest and I had everything to stay dry. Besides, the rain may reduce the number of anglers on the water.

I loaded up the kayak and within 90 minutes was on the lake. Within five minutes of launching I was on a nice trout. The next one took about 40 minutes to catch but after that I was hooking into them consistently. I say hooking because I lost several while paddling forward but failing to keep tension on the line because the kayak turned towards the fish while stripping in the line.

This was the primary reason I bought a Hobie. I decided I would try paddling backwards. Within a couple minutes I had the hang of it. For the next hour and a half I hooked and released four fish and was able to keep the line taught during the strike and the fight.

The longer I stayed out, the heavier the rain came down and after half an hour in a constant rain, it was time to head home. I was able to easily haul the 40 pound kayak back to the Escape and toss it on the roof racks before getting out of my drysuit.

Overall the day was great. I learned some new water that was close to home, caught some fish and had a new appreciation for the paddle kayak.

But don't expect to me to give up the Hobies.

Check out the video on Kress Lake (above) or click here for the recap on my $250 kayak.

And if you are thinking about getting into kayak fly fishing, quit thinking about it and get into it. Christmas is here. and spring is right around the corner.

Go Farther. Catch More.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Having fun with the Klamath Country Fly Casters

A nice Williamson River rainbow
October had me down in Klamath Falls, Oregon for a few days with the Klamath Country Fly Casters. This long-established fishing group invited me down to talk about kayak fly fishing.

The instigator was the group's president Dale Zemke. Dale is a kayak fly angler who has roots down south and has fished with the great Jim Sammons, a pioneer in kayak fishing.

Dale contacted me earlier this year and plans were made for a two-day trip that included a talk to the group and some fishing on the Williamson. The Williamson is a storied river and since I had never fished it, I couldn't refuse the offer.

I looked forward to the trip for more than a month and when the day came, I left Portland and drove through the rain more than five hours. On the way I stopped in at Odell Lake to try for some kokanee. The wind and rain made short work of that and I was off the water in a couple hours. As it turned out, I should have launched at Princess Creek on the east side since the wind was much calmer.

I arrived at in time for a fabulous dinner with Dale and his wife, Jack and his wife and John and Lois Krueger of Time Flies Outfitters. The company, food and wine was fabulous.

The next morning I enjoyed a productive day on the Williamson with John and Jack, landing four rainbows over 20 inches including one approaching 8 pounds. As I was watching the water and casting from John's Clackacraft, I kept thinking this would be great in the Pro Angler. I took several videos with the new Drift Ghost POV cams and put together a video - click here or see below.

We finished the day about 2 p.m. and headed back to the house. I was the featured speaker that night so I needed to clean up.

About 50 people showed up for the meeting including 8 to 10 new folks interested in kayak fly fishing. My talk lasted about 45 minutes and I believe most found it entertaining since I received applause at the end and had several people ask me more about the sport.

Having a my Hobie Revo 13 at the front of the room helped. The next day I headed out with the goal of fishing the blue hole on the Williamson. Using the Revo, I soon realized how much I missed my PA.

Because I only had a claw anchor and the side anchor trolley, I decided it would be safer to backtroll through the hole since it was full of downed logs and car-sized boulders. It took me about an hour to settle in and I had one take over the next hour. I left the water about noon anticipating my drive home would be wetter than the drive over.

The entire trip was wonderful and I am already trying to figure out how to get back. I think a spring trip may be in order so I can get into some of those kokanee.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One Willy Big Bass and the First on the AOTY Board

Check out the video here.
Okay, the headline is bad, but the fish was big.

A recent trip on the Willamette River near West Linn Oregon netted a nice smallmouth bass. The trip was a first for me in the kayak in these waters. I have fished them several times for coho in one of my many previous boats but never the kayak. An added bonus for the day was taking nephew Travis out for his first kayak trip in a Hobie.

The weather was great with little wind and warm temperatures. We took out early in order to have time on the kayaks without the powerboats. Since this was expected to be the last weekend of the summer with temps in the 90s, I was certain we would see several boats. 

It took us little time to gear up the kayaks and we were underway by 8 a.m. We crossed the river and I started fishing close to the shore while Travis started snapping photos with his iPhone. 

It didn't take long to get into a bass and I quickly brought in an 8-inch smallmouth. I showed it off to the camera and started back at it. I was trolling a size 6 brown woolly bugger on my 7 weight with a clear sinking tip. Within 30 minutes I was onto a large fish. I fought it for about five minutes before it came up and revealed itself. It was a beautiful 17 inch smallmouth. I landed it, measured it and then turned it loose. I had signed up for the northwest kayak anglers Angler of the Year competition and the bass was the first fish I entered. At 17 inches, the smally should earn me 170 points on the board. 

I caught one more small bass before the boat traffic and the temperatures increased. With the fishing becoming slow, Travis and I explored the river for another couple hours before heading back to the dock. It was a great day and the fishing wasn't bad either.