Crazy trip. 4 days, 12 hours each way, I was in Ashton for like 5 minutes, I met Miss Idaho, had a talk with the Henry's Fork Foundation, went to Lava Hot Springs, shot an amazing scene of amazingness (photoshoot involving yoga poses while looking like a Samurai swordsmen-complicated). Stayed at a boutique hipster hotel. went back to Ashton for like 5 more minutes, went fishing, it was too hot out. Went to "bubbleland", caught a brown on my first cast, size 4 mocha pats, took a bunch of landscape pics, decided more fishing was needed, crossed a foot bridge to get to a pool, 2nd cast, bigger brown, slipped, fell in, said fuck it, landed fish from sitting in water position, took some more pics, realized IPhone in pant pocket. Oh shit. directions to wedding in Shelley Idaho on phone. Ok, think...3 hours till wedding, 1 hour drive away, 2 hours to canvass town. should be ok. Drove around Shelley for 2 hours, no dice, went to the Stop-n-go mini mart/gas station, met Karma(best name ever), the amazing clerk who asked everyone who came thru the door for help, finally got the directions, the power of Vonbeardly. Missed the wedding, made the reception, had a good story. Lost all the photo's. Drove home. Fun.
In 2006 I decided I needed a change of scenery, I took a job guiding in the Wood-Tickchick State Park in the Northern part of the Bristol Bay watershed. The 1.6 million acre park became my home for 5 summers. I know a lot of people have "wax'd poetic" about fly fishing in Alaska, which I get, it's amazing after all. But, my experiences range from the highest of high's to the lowest of lows. This story fits somewhere in the middle, I get asked a lot about guiding in AK and I've helped several people get jobs and whatnot, but whenever I get asked about guiding in Alaska this is what I really think about:
Getting my ass kicked
Its simple, whatever you think it is, it is not. Its sink or swim. Fast. The new guy gets hazed. They don't trust you. So first they give you all the shitty jobs. I expected this and smiled, which only made it worse. They want you to break, so they find ways to test you. Keep in mind, these are just my co-workers, let the alone the other lodges. Which, it turns out is really what this is all about, people paying thousands of dollars a day to catch the biggest fish they can. Its competitive. Like really competitive. The float planes are racing each other to get to the rivers first and get the best spots. Everybody wants the same thing, and people are willing to pay top dollar to get it. I digress, that's another story for another time, back to me, rookie AK guide getting picked on. You get the picture. So how did I overcome? How did I go from rookie to head guide in 2 years? I worked harder. About a month into my first season in Alaska I figured it out. I would go to the river and out work everybody. Everyday. In Alaska, I hate to say this, but yes, if catch the most, biggest, and baddest rainbows on that river, on that day, you will do well. Just remember that tomorrow you gotta do it again..and again...and again. This part is all decided nightly by the clients, they discuss the day over dinner, and the lodge hears all of it. I didn't win every day, but I held my own every day, and I did catch the largest fish of the week more often than not. They started to respect me, but I had to earn it. So that's the secret. Go out there and work your ass off. Tight Lines.
More Specifically the Teanaway, Box canyon, Cooper, among others that offer anglers a great opportunity to get off the beaten path in the upper Yakima watershed. Here's the catch, you don't need me show you the way. Lot of talk these days about BLM permits to guide such places and who in the past may have been breaking the law for years and lying about it. Hmmmm... But, the past is the past, so let's focus on now. Here's the deal: In my humblest of opinion I do not believe these waters need to be guided. Sure, as an angler I love these places, as a guide I feel myself and other guides should not guide these waters. Small intimate waters do not need guys like me pounding the hell out of it. You don't need a guide, go explore, its super easy, trust me. Put on a little ant or beetle pattern in red and black and go have some fun. Use any attractor pattern you have, a stimulator, a royal wulff, anything will do. The point is you don't need a guide! One of the greatest experiences an angler can have is doing exactly this, going out and finding your way. figuring it all out. The sense of accomplishment you will get is something a guide will never give you. Go have some fun..your welcome.
After a few years of hard abuse I finally snapped a Recretec frame! I noticed after a guide trip that the rear section of my frame looked funny. Further inspection revealed that I had in fact cracked the frame. Luckily I spotted it and no damage occurred to the raft. Over time water can get into the frame and rust it out from the inside, plus if you leave the frame out in sub freezing temperatures the water can freeze and crack the frame as well. I sent the frame to a local welder and a few days and few dollars later I was ready to put in back together.
I first needed to clean the frame parts of dirt and rust, then I used a rubberized coating to seal the area and the underside of the frame where it comes in contact with the raft. I also needed to do some maintenance on the standing platforms, the wood can delaminate over time. I used a urethane water based finish to seal the edges of the wood and the rivet holes. Let me show you...
Some of the best experiences I've ever had on the Yakima involve the Green Drakes. Seeing the smartest, biggest and baddest fish on the river lose their minds over this bug is something all anglers should experience. The fish that never eats on top, the big smart ones that sit on the bottom in heavier flows and give you the fin repeatedly. They lose all sense of fear and feed recklessly, rising in fast lanes that you might not fish if you didn't see that toad levitate off the bottom and go airborne. That's a sight to hold on too.
The hatch itself can be difficult to accurately predict, the best approach is to stay on the water as much as possible and keep looking for nymphs via the old school method: turning over rocks or using a seine. One of the Largest of all the mayflies, a size 10 parachute on the surface can keep you laughing and giggling all day. Keep in mind, this hatch is strongest above the Cle Elum river confluence, and in the Cle Elum river proper. The grey and brown Drakes also make an appearance, can be amazing, has a larger range then the Green's, but doesn't seem to hold the fish's (and angler's) attention as much.
The Green Drake must taste better...
A lot of talk about water temps lately so lets break it down. First we have to understand that oxygen density in water varies do to water temperature. The colder the water the more oxygen the water carries. Moving water, like in a river, will also carry more oxygen then not moving water as well. During the heat of summer, fish will often hide on the bottom of fast moving water. Conversely, in the winter, fish will often live in slow deep pools. Food sources will always factor into this as well, calorie intake vs energy expelled. The point here is that multiple factors will determine where fish live and where fish feed. In the Winter, the water is cold(high oxygen density), making it easy for fish to conserve energy. In the Summer, as the temps increase (lower oxygen density), fish will have to expel much more energy to survive, but nature provides ample food sources during the summer for fish to sustain them as they expel energy. To a point. Ideal trout temperatures: 45 - 65 degrees with the low 50's being ideal. Keep in mind, hatch timing is also dependent on water temps. Many factors determine these things, but they do go hand in hand.
Now lets take this knowledge and apply it to our current situation: Super low snow-pack, Hot dry summer forecast. If we continue to fish when the water temps go above 65 degrees the idea of catch & release go's out the window. Over 70 degrees and the survival rate plummets even faster. Lactic Acids build up as you fight your fish, severely limiting a fishes chances of survival.
What will happen? Will they shut down the rivers? Will we have a major fish kill off no matter what we do? I don't have the answers. But I do know that over 65 degrees and I'm done. Not worth it. Your going to hear a lot of guides/flyshops say 70 degrees. I call bullshit. Why push it? Money? Pride? whatever. If your a guide, and this go's for any guide anywhere: first and foremost your a steward of the river you work on and pushing the limits for a buck is wrong. In this case, dead fish wrong.
In the Fall of 2006 after I returned from 3 months in Alaska I went on an extended road trip to Idaho and Utah. Most of my time was spent exploring the Henry's Fork and the surrounding watersheds. Somehow we decided to go to Utah for a few weeks and fish the Green and the Provo. This part gets hazy, because somewhere along my travels in Utah we met the Thingamabobber guys. The following Spring I found myself working on the Yakima and I got a random package that contained 2 of the very first Thingamabobbers ever made. I showed them to 2 of my guide buddy's and their reaction is something I will never forget: hysterical laughter followed by that will NEVER work. Regardless, they agreed to "try it, no promises". That night I received 2 phone calls saying virtually the same thing: wow! how to we get more. Several phone calls to Utah later, we had the first dealership in Washington set up. We sold 1000's and 1000's of these things. Fly shops would call asking how to get them, I would give them the details and within a year you couldn't go to a fly shop without seeing them. It was a different time. Seems like we had more fun, at least it does in my memory.
Thingamabobber changed the game, today we have several versions of the original. For me, I still use the original 3/4 inch Thingamabobber with 2 wraps. Sure, I could do some fancy slip bobber attachment but I don't have time for all that. The bigger sizes can hold more weight but the castability go's out the window. The other versions seem to miss something else as well: weight effects sensitivity. Thingamabobber's are lighter in physical weight.
The original, and still the best strike indica....bobber on the market today. Tight lines!
Doesn't exist. Everything is a compromise. I'm sure the cool kids in the skiffs will argue, but skiffs are made for flat, windy tailwaters, and they excel in that environment, but now lets take your skiff to the Washington coast and see how that go's. You would never do that, you would take your raft. And that's my point, with so many different environmental combinations in the western U.S. alone, no one river boat can be perfect for all conditions.
I think most people know me as a raft guy, I think for me it has more to do with where I fish. One of many benefits of fishing a raft in the often dewatered upper stretches of the Yakima is silence. After irrigation season ends, the upper Yakima can be insanely low. If you fish the upper Yakima in the Fall in a driftboat, expect to get out and push every third run and definitely expect a few more dings in your chine. A raft is really the best often for those conditions. You banging your drift boat through every run isn't going to help the fish count. During Summer, when the river is high, I take my hardboat down side-channels that are dry in the spring. Again, different conditions. No matter what boat you choose, always be safe out there! Tight lines
River Fly Fishing Explained
Learning how to fly fish can be a daunting undertaking. Going from zero to successful fly fisher takes time and effort. Most people often think that "fly fishing" is "fly casting". The truth is someone like myself can teach anyone to cast 20 to 30 feet in under 30 minutes. What I really need you to do is get a good drift and present the fly in the proper manner, and that my friends takes a little more time for most people to grasp. I can teach anyone the movements, the proper technique till your blue in the face, but getting a person to mentally understand it is a battle guides face day in and day out. Everything that go's into getting that "drag free drift" or the "perfect swing" is more than this blog will allow as I could write page after page explaining the art of mending. Say for the sake of argument that I have a magic fly that "is the best fly eva!". After all, it is the magic fly. Now if put the magic fly on your line and your presentation: getting the fish the eat your fly is terrible, magic fly or not, your chance for success is pretty low. Conversely, if I have a fly that looks pretty close to the hatch, looks similar, is the right size and color, AND MY PRESENTATION IS GOOD, the odds of you/me catching that fish go up dramatically. Which brings us to the next part, landing the fish! get the net.......]:<
Technically yes! However, the common sense answer is no! According to WDFW biologists the Yakima river hosts a brown trout population that consists of .0001% of the total trout population. What that means to you and me is a 1 in a 1000 chance of catching a brown trout in the Yakima river. But the real question is how did they get there, and that question doesn't have any easy answers. Over the years, private ponds and public lakes in the watershed that had brown trout in them have flooded and released fish into the river system. In 2010 I caught this brown on the Yakima river below ringer. The only brown I have ever seen from the Yakima river...
UPDATE: fall of 2015 we landed this Brown Trout in the Upper Yakima. Due to extremely low water conditions, probably migrated down from the upper Cle Elum river watershed..mystery....