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.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back to my roots and building a kayak on a budget

Check out my video here
Moving into our new home has meant change. Mostly good with new remodeling challenges, more space and the joy of living with big trees. The new home also meant returning to a tighter budget.

My family spent 10 years getting our previous house fixed up allowing me more time and money to spend on fishing. Since I spent most of the money from the sale of my aluminum fishing sled, I have to returned to a limited budget until we get through the big house projects.

The challenge reminded me how I started out with my Old Town Otter and seeing how I could make it into a fishing kayak. Because I traded one of my kayaks for some work on the new house, I was in the need of a fourth kayak so we could take friends out on the water. I decided this was the perfect reason to create a video series on building a budget fly fishing kayak. The series would also be a nod to other kayak anglers, like Zoffinger, sharing their tips on fishing kayaks.

My goal was to spend as little as possible to build a quality boat. With three Hobies, including two Pro Anglers, I wanted fellow anglers to realize they don't need to spend a lot of money to get into the sport of kayak fly fishing.

I started by trolling Craigslist for used kayaks. I missed several good deals, got frustrated and decided to look for a deal at one of the sporting good stores. I found several good basic kayaks by Pelican, Old Town, Perception and Future Beach but I couldn't get one at the $200 mark. I finally landed a used one on Craigslist - an older Heritage sit-in with a paddle, seat and skirt for $175. A funny thing was that the person selling it had just purchased a Hobie Mirage Sport.

I now had the subject of the first video and got started with the project. I shot the first video in a couple takes and now have it posted on my YouTube channel, Kayakflyangler.

The next video will focus on modifying the boat by putting on a rod holder, anchor trolley and paddle keeper and whatever else I can get for the $75 I have left in my budget. The final video will be fishing in the kayak and me hopefully landing a fish.

I am looking forward to this adventure and hope my tips will help others expand their fishing horizons. Look for more soon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Here they come - the kings!

This year promises a record run of salmon on the Columbia River. Follow the record sockeye run earlier this summer, more than a million chinook salmon are expected to make the journey inland to spawn and die and hopefully create a new record run.

According reports, the majority of fish are headed for the Hanford reach and Idaho tributaries. Although the Columbia may be experiencing good chinook runs, our neighbors in Alaska are not, at least the late run Kenai salmon.

In preparation for the run, I picked up a new 10-weight fly rod, floating line and a reel (all for less than $150) that I am hoping to test on a strong chinook. And I want to catch it while standing up on the Hobie PA14. I figure I have about three weeks to accomplish this and I hope to a have successful report soon.

Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Out and about and dreaming of Hawaii

This year my spring fishing was severely limited as my family moved from the house we spent 10 years fixing up to a house will are likely to spend 5 years fixing up.

In addition to the move, the house has proved a bigger project than anticipated and so far we have removed wallpaper in nearly every room, painted nearly every room, repaired ceiling tiles and drywall... Ok you get the point.

With the majority of projects completed, we are starting to get out and back to our normal life. Recently, this included meeting a number of people from Maui Visitor's bureau. In a speed-dating style event, I met representatives from Maui as well the neighboring islands.

I had about 5 minutes with each person to learn more about their resort or activity and tell them about what I do. Because I had been to Maui before, I was familiar with the Island. I had even kayak fished off the island, although it was in January and not the best time for kayak fishing.

Most of the folks very curious about kayak fishing but they were unfamiliar with the sport. I told them kayak fishing is an exciting and growing sport and something the more adventurous is going to try, especially in the waters off Maui. And because Hawaii has such a strong fishing tradition, it is a natural fit for those interested in learning about the Hawaiian culture.

What Maui offers, and basically Hawaii in general, was the chance for a great kayak fishing adventure in paradise. I pointed out that the married kayak angler is not going to Hawaii without his or her spouse or children unless they plan to end the relationship. So, it is important that the family is as happy as the angler. All things being equal, he or she will likely only have one or two days of fishing. And, a decent kayak will need to be acquired for those days. This presents a few challenges but certainly it would be worth the effort.

Hopefully I will get the chance to kayak fish Hawaii again. And, of course, I would bring my family. For those interested, check out the video off the shores of Maui. For some classic kayak fishing footage go which has a variety of information. I have also included links to the resorts and Maui Visitors Bureau for wanting more information.

For now it's back to more house projects. Only five more years...


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Yes you can spey cast on a Hobie Pro Angler

Sunshine and the threat of drought do not make an ideal winter day in the Pacific Northwest. But, it was all we had to work with on my latest kayak adventure. The trip was slated for a Sunday in mid January and the clear skies and lack of rain had the Clackamas River running at summer levels in both volume and clarity.

Michael Rischer and I pushed our Hobie Pro Anglers into the clear water and headed downstream in search of winter steelhead. My goal was to see how well the kayak handled in the river and see if I could accomplish my next major goal - spey casting from a kayak.

The first riffle was simple and fast and after floating through a calm stretch at the end of the riffle, we headed into a more complicated chute that caused anxiety in the approach and endorphins at the exit. It may not have been major whitewater, but it did prove the PA could handle some rough water. The next couple river miles proved fairly easy and fun and the PA continued to prove its stability and comfort.

After fishing several stretches I arrived at a long run where I slowed the kayak, dropped the 10 pound pyramid anchor and settled on the edge of a five-foot deep slot. After putting up the Hobie H-bar, I stood up with the 12-foot 7 weight spey rod and started throwing the 550 grain Skagit head and sink tip.

I fell into an easy rhythm and was able to cast so the fly could swing through the run. The fly looked good, the swing looked good, and the water looked good. But not good enough and I was rewarded with no hits or bumps. I worked down the run alternating between resetting the anchor and adjusting the length of my cast. About half way through, Michael pulled in and I had him shoot some video from the shore to offer a better perspective on the spey casting.

I finished the run and it was time to head back to the ramp. We drifted over more great runs and holes but saw no fish in the gin clear water. At one point, the thin water caused me to run aground while Michael threaded a narrow slot perfectly.

The trip proved unproductive for winter steelhead but I am looking forward to coming back for winters when the rain returns and for summer steelhead when the water warms up. Unless the weather changes, I may be fishing for summers earlier than I anticipated.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kayaks - the most versatile boat

In December 2013, I realized that the most versatile boat was not made of metal, wood or fiberglass. No, the most versatile boat was made of plastic (and fiberglass, but mostly plastic).

I started this post because of a recent kayak trip down the Clackamas River in my Hobie Outback. It was the second to last test in determining if I had made the right decision is selling my sled and have my only boats be kayaks.

My boat obsession started with a 12-foot Klamath Fishmaster I picked up for $200. A lifelong fly angler, my fishing exploits changed with the arrival of my son. I knew a different approach was needed and with a limited budget I took a chance with the $200.

I refurbished the boat, sold it, bought another and continued this upgrading process in order to minimize the impact on the household budget. Neither my son, nor my wife, truly enjoyed being in the boats so I made a selfish goal to work my way up to a jet sled. I reached that goal within four years when I got a screaming deal on a 16-foot Ivycraft sled with a 115hp Merc pump and 9.9 hp kicker.

My old Fishmaster
As a fly angler, the sled was the near perfect boat because it could go about anywhere: big rivers, small rivers, lakes and bays. I could fish for salmon, trout, steelhead, crab and sturgeon. The biggest problem was pulling it with my Ford Escape Hybrid.

Although capable, I didn't like using the Escape to pull the boat so I had my fishing buddies pull it. A fair trade - I bought the gas for the boat, they bought the gas for the vehicle. That boat was a joy and I thought I had the perfect boat. Along the way I discovered kayaks and a parallel quest was started. You can read more about the start of that quest in my first blog entry.
My old Ivycraft Sled

In December 2013, I completed the winter steelhead boat test by taking the Hobie Outback down the lower Clackamas River. This little adventure proved that my fishing kayak could now do more that nearly all my other boats combined. I could fish big lakes, small ponds, big rivers, bays, and now small rivers. Of course the Hobie could not power upriver through rapids like my sled, I could pedal upriver and fish holes or runs more that once, unlike my drift boat.

I now had a boat that nearly matched the sled and with one more test, the ocean, the kayak would prove more versatile than my sled. That test is likely to come this summer.

In the meantime, the run down the Clackamas was one of many I expect to do this winter. I still have several ideas to try including using my spey rod while standing up on an anchored Hobie Pro Anger 14. Look for information on that adventure soon.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Columbia River Double

       The Columbia River is truly one of the great rivers of the world. Running through two countries, three states and draining a huge portion of the western United States, it refuses to be fully tamed. The fisheries of this great river have been nearly decimated and only recently have they show significant life. This year more than a million Chinook, or "king" salmon returned to their home waters. And this is only one of the salmonids that return to spawn, die and continue a cycle of life that is nearly as old as the land itself.          As a boy growing up in Heppner, a small town in Eastern Oregon, my brother and I would spend our summers fishing for trout in Willow Creek, the small stream that ran through the tiny farming and ranching town. One day we were fishing near the confluence of Willow and Rea Creek. We could nearly have jumped across either creek but the confluence was deeper and wider that any other area and one of our favorite holes. Using a single action fishing reel and long bamboo rod straight out of a 1920s fishing portrait, my brother drifted a worm through the hole and it exploded. He found a steelhead on the end of the line. This excitement was short lived but the memory has lasted decades.
           A few years later my the family moved to La Grande and I would again have memories of seeing big salmonids plying small streams way up in the Blue Mountains. I didn't fully understand the breadth of their journey until one day I was looking at the map and followed the Columbia inland to the mouth of the Snake, up the Snake to the mouth of the Grande Ronde, up the Grande Ronde and finally to the small streams I fished as a kid. All that way to die.
      This August while dealing with the mechanical and insurance issues surrounding the Escape, I returned to a favorite creek inlet of the Columbia. It was a go-to fly fishing spot for summer steelhead and salmon but in recent years the fishing was slow, the anglers combative and the whole experience was anything but fun. I called my friend Steve a couple days before and we both decided to give it try with the fly rods. The day proved great as I hooked and landed a small Chinook, and landed one of two steelhead I hooked. I was able to get some decent footage on my Drift camera which is included on this post and on my Youtube Channel. Although hooking and catching the fish was exciting, it brought home again the power of these fish and I felt blessed to touch these great creatures.