Thursday, October 27, 2011


Three years in the making. This was the weekend where we finally came through and landed kings on the swing. However, we would have to wait and fish our butts off to reach that moment in time.

Our first day consisted of swinging flies in the rain, upriver. Wet and cold we were wishing, watching, and hoping that something would tug at the end of our lines and awake us from our tired stupor. Whispers of steelhead in the river only added to our frustration. Our resolve was put to the test as absolutely nothing happened. We took to doing some exploration to find some new water for later in the season.

Early the next morning, we decided that our best chances to fulfill our goal was to head back to the DSR. We took position in a side channel where we had luck two weekends prior. Almost immediately, Adam was into a fresh steelhead. I struggled in the low light to get a clear picture, but I captured a grin of satisfaction in between a thick fall beard. It was the first of the year and my flash emanated off its fresh silver sides.

A few hours later, and a ways downstream, Adam repeated the feat, landing a male steelhead in some super fast water. Both fish fell to Senyo sculpin tubes in orange and pink with violent takes on the swing. I happened to be strolling through a wooded trail, when I captured the take. In between a tall series of sycamores sporting their best fall colors, Adam played a slab of chrome, landing it mid river.

The moment arrived several hours later. Three years of early fall trips, sleep deprivation, a hundred or so cans of red bull, and all that gas money boiled down to being in the right spot at the right time. I decided to fish a small pocket of water near an island in the middle of the river. I simply plopped my fly into the rapids, let them pull my fly and t-11 into the hole before leading the rig into the slow stuff. A hard tug ensued and I set low and hard downstream. A violent symphony of water ensued as my first king head shaked and rolled out of the hole and into the current. Downstream, I beached her on a bed of leaves to admire her spots contrasting sharply with the fall foliage. In the skinny water, she powered away and continued her journey upstream to meet her maker. 

The last hour of the day was surreal. We happened upon a hole that had a fair amount of kings along its bottom. They were obviously awaiting the cover of darkness to make the remaining trip upstream. Being close to the lake, they were fresh enough for some fun. Six hookups followed, many ending downstream where tippet broke and hooks came loose. In the middle of the raucous, I subdued a large male sporting a coat of late run bronze. I couldn't believe that three years of effort boiled down to one hour of mayhem. It was worth it.

Adam and I didn't want to leave the fish behind, but we had no choice, and no watch. The gates closed at 6:30 and light was fading fast. We didn't know how to get out. Nonetheless, I decided to take one more cast. I hooked up with another large male before a headshake sent the fly back into my chest. We knew time was of the essence. We found the trail, made the hike out only to be scolded for our lateness. We arrived panting in the parking lot at 6:31. Wet and muddy, we threw our rods in the Jeep and hopped on in. The employees followed us out.

It is always surprising when the effort put into a singular fish is rewarded. Dispositions tend to shift wildly as frustration gives way to utter bliss. A normally long six hour drive back to work the next morning, suddenly goes by in a breeze. The memory of the fish keeps you afloat for the work week, until the next time your on the water and find yourself in that moment. Fishermen strive for that, yearn for it, and often do crazy things to achieve it.

If you want it, why not go and get it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Into the Realm of Possibility

I heard it so many times before. Whenever I mentioned heading north to catch king salmon on the fly, friends, family, and strangers all had similar stories of fishing for them. They said, "all you have to do, is get it close to their face and set the hook". I usually smiled and nodded my head in agreement, but deep down inside, my stomach was tied in a knot. That isn't fishing, and never will be.

I knew that Kings can be caught on fly, legally, and thus it became a goal of sorts to accomplish that feat. I wasn't interested in catching spawning salmon that are snapping at flies hanging in front of their face out of pure anger. I wanted to catch one on the swing using spey/skagit gear.  On our third year of heading north (once or twice a year) we finally had some luck. We swallowed our pride and bought tickets for the DSR. Forty five dollars to fish the first two river miles of the Salmon River and have a chance at fresh fish. Fish that haven't gone through a gauntlet of tarpon hooks, sinkers,  and heavy monofilament. With that goal in mind, we were still wary of our past attempts and failures. Would a Great Lakes king truly go out of its way to slam a large streamer on the swing? Could it be done?

Our first time at the DSR, we admittedly had no idea where to go to swing flies. It is a lot of water to cover so we decided to fish upstream and work our way down. Big mistake. We also thought it would be a utopia of sorts full of "sportsmen" all legally catching salmon. We were wrong. However, the morning started off well. On my second swing, an unseen force crushed a black intruder that instantaneously broke off on my hook set. I didn't think that could happen. Upstream in a super fast section of water, I hooked up again. The large head of a male came to the surface and thrashed violently back and forth before breaking me off on some structure a backing run downstream. What the hell was going on? We wondered out loud if it was truly happening.

It wasn't until later that we witnessed the event first hand. Adam was probing a section of whitewater, swinging a pink and orange Senyo's tube sculpin through various pockets, when a fresh king shattered three years of questioning and doubt. Moving several feet, the fish inhaled the offering and began a blitz downstream, it's back protruding from the water column revealing an adipose the size of my palm. Adam worked it into an eddy and there it was, at our feet. Fresh. Pure. Untouched. No sign of the fly, it was engulfed. As if realizing our admiration, the fish made one last run, opening its cavernous mouth, and shook free of the hook.

In that moment, our confidence sky rocketed and we entered a new realm of possibility.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chose your own (mis)adventure.

The tarpon have moved in thick over the past month. Most bays are chock full of small fry and, therefore, the predators of small fry.

Noticing that you can tease the tarpon into a frenzy by dragging tiny bonefish flies around for them to chase, but barely get a second glance from a 2\0 chartreuse toad, I went to the bench last night in anticipation of this morning.

I came up with some very thin minnow flies with a trailing mink tail. They're about 2" long with the body made of floating foam underneath pearlescent body tubing. A few white rubber legs and the mink tail make up the rest of the fly. Plastic toad eyes finish it off. The goal was to create something with some action in the water that didn't sink like a stone due to the huge hook.

This morning, the fly produced 6 eats and jumps, with numerous other follows and boils. For some reason, I could not find purchase for the hooks. I was getting frustrated.
On what I was thinking was one of the last casts before breakfast, a nice fish took and I finally got a solid hookset. As the tarpon went ballistic, a local dude from across the bay saw the commotion and got into his boat to come investigate.

He asked me if I was going to keep the fish. I said no. He asked me if he could have the fish. I said no.

I landed the fish as my girlfriend snapped a few photos. Soon, I released the fish, as promised.
Walking back to the car with my girlfriend, she asked me if I ever felt bad after refusing to give a fish to someone who asked. This dude had been trawling the bay for the morning and came away with what looked like two or three tiny barjacks for his effort. That 40 lb. fish would have been huge for him, and presumably his family.

Once, I gave a tarpon to a person who asked, and I regretted it for quite some time. They're more valuable as a game fish, but there is absolutely no game fishing industry here to speak of. Tarpon are the most plentiful fish in this area, but there are very few fish over 70-80 lbs. Presumably, the fish here are migratory juveniles.

I will admit that I did feel bad about turning the guy down.

What would you do? Every once in a while give a fish to someone who politely asks for it to feed himself or his family, or resolutely hold fast to catch and release no matter what?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skinny Water Bones

Skinny Water Bones is a short highlight video of our third week in the Caribbean. Week three consisted of our time sleeping on the beaches of a small island and stalking bonefish on foot in some super skinny water.

Enjoy, and let that fire grow high.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Easy Canvas Prints

Upon arrival home from the Caribbean, we had a lot of pictures to sort through. One of my favorites, was of my brother and I sharing a moment over a bonefish. My mother had kindly saved a coupon to order one of those awesome canvas prints for my birthday. Naturally, I chose the picture of my brother and I. When it arrived, I was blown away at the quality of the images replication. From afar, it looks like a blown up photograph but upon closer inspection it has the look and feel of a fine painting. A bonus, the image is three dimensional and wraps around the canvas.

About a month later, I was contacted by Easy Canvas Prints, with an offer for a review of sorts on TRIW. Since I already knew of the quality offered, I accepted. It also helped, that my father's birthday was around the corner, and I had an idea. A little over a year ago, I landed the largest carp I have ever hooked, while my father was present. The only words I could utter, were "dad, I've got a big fish". The canvas print became a chance to forever immortalize that moment between my father and I.

As the name suggests, the entire process is incredibly easy. One simply uploads the photo of their choice, chooses the correct size (lots to choose from!), as well as the thickness and style of the wrap around effect. If you are unsure of the style you would like, the ordering process allows you to see what the projected product will look like and even places it to scale against a backdrop of furniture. Less than a week later, I was handing the finished (ready to mount) product to a proud father.

In a sport where catch and release is paramount, canvas prints offer a fine opportunity for preserving those fine moments on the water, without breaking the bank. Easy Canvas Prints is a perfect way to put your photos to canvas. Check them out!

Check out these awesome canvas photos!

Photos to Canvas

As a bonus deal, if you "like" them on Facebook you have an opportunity for free shipping and 50% off your next offer.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Morning on the Primordial Coast

The world was upside down. Gazing upward, I peered into the deep blue of a starless pre-dawn sky, seeing for empty light years. Below it was the twinkling surface of the lapping caribbean sea.

My eyes adjusted as the sun's rays crested and reflected over the hillside to spread down the slope behind me. The deepest blue began to fade towards light. The silence was broken by an unseen splash. And then another.

Waiting for daybreak.

Like clockwork, the tarpon awoke. The lightening sky allowed the silhouetting of baitfish. It was breakfast time.

We had to act fast before they became too keyed-in. After twenty minutes of refusals on dark patterns we switched it up as dawn officially broke. Wayne's first cast with a slimmed-down white fly was a sure thing.

Wayne's First Tarpon.

The fish took Wayne into his backing on its first run. This was his first hookup with a tarpon. Five minutes of tutorials and the backing knot has been regained, only to slip back into the water during the tug of war.

An unnerving and loud SNAP echoed off of the stone wall behind us. The backing knot had failed. Ninety feet of fluorescent orange fly line was claimed by Poseidon.

Surrounded by fish.

With our tails between our legs, I rigged up my 10wt. We still had 30 minutes before we had to leave to make work on time.

I casted into a boiling mass of feeding fish and was rewarded with an acrobatic display of leaps and cartwheels.

Good Morning.

Time was running thin.

As pterodactyl-like frigates soared overhead, I fought and subdued the fish in the fresh morning light, and let her go on her way after a quick picture.

We gathered our gear and headed to work, reflecting on the ability to catch a tarpon before heading to our day jobs.