The Damn counts did not lie this year or any year for that matter...2016 had a huge hole in the form of few "A" run upper Columbia and Snake river/ Tribs Steelhead. If you fish the Clearwater or Salmon or Grande Ronde you will work hard for Steelhead tugs this year. Predictions were made back in June as the lack of one salt Steelhead never crossed the fish counter windows of all Columbia and Snake river damns. Look up the DART web site and keep track and know what your in for by staying current.
So most of the Steelhead GRA landed this year were ass kicking and bigger then normal "B" run fish! Yahoo! We had a client, Treg almost get spooled by a nice fish on our specialty...a skated dry fly! We had several first time anglers get the tug and the grip and grin with some very healthy fish.
Over all it was a solid year with minimal damage and happy clients that some caught and some did not...but ALL learned, laughed and became true Steelheaders. Thanks mostly to my wonderful host the Grande Ronde river! Also a big Thanks to Dec Hogan , Gus Julian ( Muddy Puddles) Lori Ann Murphy, Greg Colby and Karla!!
I really can't believe how quickly July just went by! Well, hello August here we go...the local beaches are seeing great surface action on both high and low tide cycles. Mostly resident Coho that are around 3 to 5 lbs. The nice thing is how aggressive they are to the surface presentation. Poppers that resemble bait fish about 3 to 4 inches long are doing the trick. Retrieve them fast and short as you strip, and if one starts to boil or follow ...strip faster! Pt. No Pt., North Twin spits, Eglon are all seeing these fish right now. And with any luck within the next few weeks we start to see the ocean run Coho.
Also it's Hopper season on the Yakima. Washingtons Blue ribbon trout stream. I am working through out the summer doing day floats for 2 guests. I work and float the Cle elum sections and this makes it a easy days commute from Seattle.
Tight lines and Good times
Rick got some really nice sized Bone fish , and a Huge jack, but more important that the entire trip went without a hitch.
This is my 21st year taking people into the Yucatan and for the complete package its hard to beat Excalak . The flats , back lagoons , between the worlds second largest reef and the lodge are all super fishy places to fish each day.
The program is to fly into Cancun Sat. night , Sunday, Van down 5 hours to the end of the Mexican border to Excalak , a small sleepy fishing village on the Belize border. Fish Monday to Friday , drive back to the airport on Sat. and now with the direct flights from Seattle to Cancun , we can fly out on the 5 pm flight and be home before midnight on Saturday and have Sunday to get it together for your week ahead.
The cute little hotel offers a great restaurant , Bar and very comfortable suites. WiFi is also available here. Food is local and fresh , staff are amazing with Ed at the wheel .
The guided days are from 8 am to 4 ish each day and most days you can order any fishing situation you desire. Like ...Permit in the morning and Bones in the afternoon ? The fish are Snook , resident Tarpon , Bones over 5 lbs , Permit , Jacks , Cuda , Snapper and other odd species. Fishing can be done by walk and wade or from the boat , taking turns on the bow sight casting to fish targets all day ! I like to book the group and then request my guides for the week according to individuals needs and abilities . Its the kind of trip you book again and again . I am headed out to the O.P. for steelhead season and I am excited...but can not wait to return next November and again in February ! Tight lines and good times
Things have started to change in the PNW for anglers and wild fish. No longer on the O.P. in WA state are you allowed to harvest a wild steelhead. Other changes include no bait , no barbs and in a very small section of the upper Hoh river , no fishing from your boat. To me as a guide and a wild fish advocate I am very excited to finally see the changes made into law. This might help recover the dwindling runs of wild Steelhead on our beloved Olympic peninsula rivers. It is a very good start , but , we really need the native tribes on board as well...no more netting the last of these majestic icons of the PNW . We all need to be involved in a comprehensive plan to protect wild fish , wild people , and at the same time work towards a mutual goal...healthier runs of all fish on the O.P. !
If sportsmen are going to have a future catching wild fish in the PNW we HAVE to work hand in hand with the native peoples. My idea is to create a new treaty with our friends to enhance our fisheries and other natural resources that can be sustainable for future generations. In other words show them the benefits of tourism , heritage tours , wildlife tours , fishing charters , cultural classes and maybe even small scale casinos ? Trying to do something that highlights their culture and traditions without long term destruction of the natural resources .
As I write this its mid January 2016 and I feel that for me personally this might be the last year guiding the O.P. for wild winter Steelhead ...just wrestling my own demons that haunt me when land a big native fish , and then well...when I don't . My enthusiasm has not faded for wild places and wild faces , but now I see too many faces and not enough wild places .
I am always looking up river river around the next corner for the perfect run...lets make 2016 a year of conservation and exploration !
Another fall season on the Ronde has come to a close. October is over, and winter is settling in. As the water temperature drops, the steelhead slow down and the floating line fishing tapers off. Through the cold months the fish will still take a deep swung fly, but to me, the surface oriented fall fishing is what makes the Grande Ronde magical. And we had some awesome surface fishing this season! The warm weather stayed with us until about the end of October and kept fish aggressively chasing waked or skated flies almost the entire month. We got to see some heart-pounding steelhead antics: high cartwheeling jumps, fast runs into the backing and one feisty steelie who attacked a waking fly more than a dozen times in six casts.
Thank you to everyone who came down and fished with us this season, I had some great guys and gals in my boat! I got to enjoy watching several friends old and new land their first steelhead, their first on a surface fly, or better yet, both at the same time. I love seeing the excitement those first few fish give a new steelheader. Every time another one darts out of my hands and disappears back into the river, I stand up and realize I just had as much fun as the angler who landed the fish.
I also want to thank Dec Hogan, Lori Ann Murphy, and Pat Gaydos for helping make our 3 day trips an awesome experience. Dec has a true gift as a casting instructor. Every year I'm amazed how much I learn observing him during these trips. Lori Ann is the most experienced, authentic fly fishing character you'll meet, and a hell of a lot of fun to fish and guide with. Pat rows our big heavy gear boat, sets up our big, heavy camp every day, and does it all with a huge contagious grin on his face. He's also one of my favorite people to fish with on a day off. Declan, LA, and Patty, thanks a bunch!
See you on the water, hopefully this winter- Gus
In the 1980s we, a small group of fly fisherman from LaGrande failed to stop the state and Feds from constructing and dumping hatchery made Steelhead into the Grande ronde river and its tribs. The effect was instant as 1.2 million mutant hatchery, genetically inferior Steelhead smolts were set loose to make their way to the pacific ocean some 300 miles away.
The goal was to hope that 10 percent would return as adults and the rest well...they would be destroyed by natural causes , Dams and a percent would stray into other systems that did not have hatcheries , like the John Day river.( A side note: the John Day has no hatcheries and has the biggest return of wild Steelhead in the lower 48 states around 25 thousand return to this amazing system). When you start to compare other totals of wild Steelhead this is a huge run of fish ! The Hoh gets under 5 thousand wild fish a year , we are fishing about 2 to 5 percent of historically robust runs. Makes you stop and think ? A great case study right here in our NW backyard...Hatchery VS. Wild and Nets in the rivers , Dams etc...
As most Biologists agreed, there are many unknowns...what about strays , the impact on the runs of wild fish as smolts trying to survive while dumping millions of factory smolts on top of them...food source and habitat...genetics. Hatcheries have created a genetically inferior fish that has spread its mutant seeds all over the PNW rivers... bad for wild fish...No shit!
As a fly fishing guide since 1990, this is going to affect me and friends directly in terms of making a living . So the answer , no more wild Steelhead can be kept in any drainage. Also single barbless for all , no bait , re-address the needs and economics of the Native fisheries , and educate the anglers just getting into the sport to be river stewards . Also increase guide fees / general licenses and limit the number of guides on a given river . Increase out of state guides fees and limit how many can guide in WA. Need an example... Look at B.C. taking control of their rivers and resource.
Bill McMillian told me 20 years ago that we all need to stop angling for at least 10 years and let mother nature take over...I think I might need to start booking more Bass trips !
Pictured . I leased a huge ranch on the lower John day river for 10 years as I was a permitted guide for almost 20 years . The largest run of wild Steelhead in the lower 48 states !
November is usually a wet month here in the PNW and this year was'nt much different. While the rivers on the O.P. had record numbers of salmon mostly Coho returning for the big dance, the river levels had us fishing from the trees. When the rivers were in shape the fishing was amazing with fresh salmon for all !
My thing as far as being a guide is all about sea run fish . I spend most of my efforts fly fishing and guiding for Steelhead and SRC (sea run Cutthroat). I think they are just so special , their life cycles , environments they live and die in , the mind blowing power and sky high leaps . Not to mention the beauty of these fish, and the freedom and quality of life they represent for us all ! Without quality waters and clean environments we might as well take up golfing and sneaking a cast to those pond bass on hole 4. Thats not the case if you live anywhere in the PNW...and if you live by the largest city north of San Frisco , the options to throw a fly are endless. ( Yes...I have played a round of golf just to make a few casts )
Seattle , more importantly where i live, Kitsap county host miles of beaches. With the basic understanding of tides and flies, this offers fly anglers a unique fishery year round . With not much equipment , 6/7 wt rod and some waders, and a few flies ...your ready to start casting off the beach for SRC. A good idea is to grab a map and locate public beaches and access .Then, I like doing this drive by style of fishing off the beach. Fish hard and move around the beach for a half hour if nothing is going on ...no fish jumping no bait being pushed or too much shit in the water (grass etc) I will move and drive to another beach. This way you will find a beach that hold SRC and you then can start to focus on that area and start to understand feeding times witch are directly connected to the tides and seasons.
I have been guiding for over two decades and have found those beaches...and the SRC are just getting bigger and more of them ! Its a single barbless , catch and release fishery thats open year around in Puget sound. So the next time the rivers are in the trees and things are looking like you can't go fish...think again and hit the beach !
This is so frustrating...I have been casting flies at juvenile tarpon for over two and a half hours. Nothing...not a single look, sniff towards the multitudes of Tarpon flies we have put right across there wheelhouse. Between myself, Rick my buddy from Everett Wa and our guide Aberisto about twenty five different flies, different colors and sizes have been thrown at the fish rolling around the boat and cruising the shallow flat we have been parked on for most of the morning. We are in a Tarpon trance, time seems to not have passed, sun beating own on us, we are changing flies, lines and retrieves as fast as we get rejected time and time again. WTF...Rick yells out...he clears the bow and asks for lunch. Feeling the primal instinct to hunt I jump up on the vacant skiffs bow and begin one more cast, but this time I have come to the conclusion that the tarpon might eat considering the location, size and lack of interest of all "classic tarpon flies" my little crab fly.
After exactly five casts at several small schools of cruising fish, my fly gets a follow. I watch the Tarpon following inhale and spit the fly all faster than i can react or maybe its just that I am still in some kind of state of disbelief it just ate my crab. Lunch goes on hold, and as I cast to more fish I am followed and eaten again , this time if feel the hard and slight tug on the fly but can,t drive my point into the rock hard lower jaw of this fish. The boat erupts in a single cheer...Holy shit he ate it". Barely able to cast from shaking hands and knees I manage to deliver a 30ft cast that falls to the right side of two nice fish , the later fish sees the crab and in classic form follows , opens its mouth and terns away , fly in the side of his mouth, two huge leaps into the air and we part ways... crab fly sailing past my right ear and spraying a comet tail of misty salt water on my neck. It does'nt matter that I can barely stand or speak, I am off the bow and Rick is casting a small crab the guide had tied on while I was cracking the code...
This week of flats style fishing was not only a fun and productive week for the entire group but I got a special visit from an amazing friend Lori Ann Murphy. L.A. came up from El Pescador lodge that she manages just down the way from our little town of Excalak Mexico. A great couple of days and she was back at the helm in San Pedro, Belize.
I love this sleepy small town of Excalak and the amazing people that call it home. laid back, friendly, and still undiscovered as a Great flats destination in the Yucatan. The biggest Bones I have caught are here, Permit, Jacks, Cuda and Tarpon all can be cast to each and every day while you enjoy the warmth of the tropics and the solitude Chetumal bay. I host trips here in Nov. and Feb. March each season, 2400.00 is everything but airfare to and from Cancun.
With the some of the driest weather the N.W. has had in some time, i find myself searching for the cure...
The Grande ronde is on my list with flows all month pushing just above normal. Winter fish are going to holp up in the slow deep buckets of most every run from Troy to the mouth. Put your warm fleece on and a good hat as you venture out into the cold and unforgiving waters of any winter river.
My best technique is to use a type 4 ten foot tip with a short tippet of 10lbs, short for me means about 30 inches. Tie on a Purple Intruder with a little flash in it and start the Steelhead two step. Just like most dry side rivers in N.W. the temps drop during the night and regain there warmth about mid day, and thats when you will find me knee deep in my favorite run.
The other rivers on the east side, Methow, Klickitat, the Umatilla and the upper John Day. (from Service creek up) Its the same techniques , Buckets with tips and a purple spey fly...I will add that the "takes" can be very soft depending on water temps. Temps of 36, 37, are just on the edge of good fishing. Check your river temps and watch your step. I find in the winter the water can warm on a decent day by 5 to 8 degrees and that will make the difference. Its also why I am not much in a hurry in the early part of the day. If waters are too low fish a smaller fly. This of course is completely different on the west side of the Mountains where we see a much more constant water temps and air temperatures on a daily bases. The rivers on the O.P. for example move from 42 to 45 degrees on an average winter day. Rain also warms water temps as well...making for some amazing grabs ! I still fish tips but I fish the entire run while on the O.P. and lots of times with a bright Orange, Pink or Red Spey style fly. Just a little food for thought for this 2014 season. Tight lines
The last week I spent floating and fishing the Olympic Peninsulas rivers. The
rivers where mostly too low and clear to be effective . My first thoughts were to check the Queets river, as it is the largest with some color. mainly looking to see if the Salmon creek factory run had started.
As we made our way from the Outhouse parking area just shy of the Salmon river bridge we noticed about eight cars and trucks parked there as well. After the half mile walk to the river we discovered no one had caught a fish thus far.
Crossing the Queets is not recommended , but I am a big fella with some practice so across the river i went. Swinging my fly from the north shore of the river across from the salmon river confluence I felt something good would come of it. I swung the fly of choice, a large spey style Winters Hope in honor of my old friend Bill McMillan and the arrival of the winter. After moving through two huge runs and not a pluck I crossed the tailout of the second run and headed back to the salmon river confluence. I passed several anglers chucking guts and jigs , some fly guys showed up as well but nothing happening for anyone. I was there with my fellow spey bums Rick and Greg and as we made or way back to the truck , seeing a small herd of Elk, bald eagles, and bleached out bones of what was left from a good run of salmon we never spoke until we were at the truck..." Hoh river...yea I think there is enough daylight left". We fished down from G and L shake on the lower Hoh with no results.
later that night around the fire we drank and laughed until our faces hurt. The next morning with some help from Advil ,and drinking a lot of water we made our way to the Bogichield river. Just down from the hatchery and swung again for hours without a grab. Only seeing a few boats who also were having the same results we decided to head back home for the Seahawks game and watch the win over the Giants. It is the trip for me that means the most, time with friends in beautiful places, and feeling the rivers currents tug at your waders , the sounds of the river, and the thought of all the people elsewhere shopping , parking , eating mall food...I would rather be Christmas Steelheading
No matter the number of fish !