Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Swing

After a month hiatus from fishing, and my longest break from blogging since this thing started, I started to yearn for some water again. To be honest, good reports and a picture message of a blinding slab of chrome from Adam, reinvigorated my soul, and I suddenly found myself excited and even at the vice. I think the first trip north of the fall finally hit me, when I stepped out of the car at my parents house, and took in a deep breath of fall air. It smelled so good. The drive went by in a blur and even though we got there a little late, the half hour walk through the woods down to the bottom of the DSR put a huge smile on my face. I was back. 

If you would've told me that Adam and I would have meadow run on the lower DSR basically to ourselves on a Saturday and Sunday in mid-September, I never would have believed you. If you told me again, I still wouldn't believe. If you pleaded a third time, maybe I would have considered heading down that way to check it out. Seriously, I think the low flows scared away most people from fishing it, or they simply couldn't line fish the way they could at certain choke points throughout the river. We settled on the lower half of the run to the tailout, that was ideal for a nice slow swing, and fresh pods of fish moving through.

A friend once told me, after I lamented about how much I sucked at spey casting, "that I just needed to fish more". He was right. There is nothing like dialing in a two handed rod and getting in a rhythm. After that, I could focus on the all important swing, and my presentation to the fish. The fish were ultra spooky in the low flows so I settled on a intermediate tip with about six feet of tippet with a variety of small wet flies. On day one, white was the ticket. The best presentation was almost directly across stream, followed by a large mend and a raised rod. The raised rod kept me in contact with the flies as the set up sank. As the current caught the fly and leader, I could lower the tip of the rod and settle into a deep slow swing. After that, I kept the rod tip slightly in front of the swing to keep any tension off the fly and make it swim. After that, I had to have the patience to not set on every bump due to the amount of fish in the water. You had to wait for a bump, a pull, and finally a head shake. Setting low and hard at a downstream angle always resulted in the fly being in the corner of the fish's mouth. Of course, every now and then, there would just be an all out grab. I was able to land three fish on the day but fought over three times that many, losing most downstream or from simply shaking the hook free. 

From the early morning until we left the water, fresh pods of fish were constantly moving through. It was so cool to watch them running in shallow water on the lower part of the river. Upstream, swinging through the runs, you could always tell when a fresh pod was moving through. They moved so much water. The final fish came in the fastest and deepest run fished all day. With an intermediate tip and weightless fly, it required so much set up. As my leader and fly settled into that deep swing, I felt connected, and I had a feeling this was going to be the cast. Boom, fish on! I was pumped to say the least and ready for another day on the river. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Good Old Days - three of many

On our first trip back in The Good Old Days, Adam landed both the first tarpon and the first bonefish he ever cast at.  That might have never happened before anywhere on Earth, or maybe it has.  
Either way, it was awesome.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Roll Away Your Stone

Early fall on the tributaries of the Great Lakes can be a hot topic amongst anglers. This is especially true when it concerns fishing for King Salmon. As soon as the salmon start their migration upriver to spawn and die, their attitudes and behavior completely change from a feeding machine to a breeding machine. They no longer eat anything which results in debate. Do King Salmon actually take flies and lures? Due to this question, you can break tributary anglers into three main groups. In one group, you have anglers that simply don't believe that it is worth fishing for kings because they do not eat flies and thus it is not sporting. On the other side of the spectrum, are groups of anglers that are simply there to harvest fish, or just have a fun time fishing. Often, they completely disregard the entire argument and do not care if the fish took their lure or fly. People in this group vary from outright snagging fish, lining fish, or walking a tight rope between groups two and three. The third group of people have probably been through stages one or two at some point and come to realize the conditions that can induce fish to take lures and flies. Often, they have seen first hand fish go out of their way to take their offering.

Count us as former members of group one and currently residing in group three. Our first few years on the tributaries fishing for steelhead found us encountering plenty of salmon. Soon we ended up joining the masses during Salmon season to try and catch one. That first year was a true eye opener for us to all the types of anglers that reside in the three groups above, especially group two. We took to calling Salmon season the "circus" and it still is. By our third year, we basically realized that our current strategy of attempting to legally catch a fish was not working.

We worked our way downriver eventually settling on the DSR, that you have to pay to fish. Here you can find the easiest way to catch a salmon. Fresh and confused, the salmon are just entering the river from the estuary and are willing to take a fly. The first time we saw this happen, we were swinging large streamers through a fast run with a slate bottom. The salmon moved and tracked the fly for several feet before inhaling it. Several more hookups and we caught the salmon bug. By the time we figured it out, it was late in the season and we benefited from the hormonal aggression of fresh salmon in the lower river. This year, we ventured down a different path.

That path led us downriver to see the DSR during the peak of the salmon run. With really low flows thanks to the hottest summer on record and a prolonged drought, the salmon were super spooky. The heavy skagit lines and big nasties scared everything in sight, no matter how properly presented. We ended up using lighter scandi and skagit lines with intermediate heads/versileaders attached to long pieces of tippet. Instead of big nasties, we started tying more traditional wet flies in some pretty small sizes. Turns out, a salmon will eat these as well. Using this strategy it is not a numbers game. You can swing flies all day and not receive a hook up, but when you do, it will surely make up for all the time casting. You are looking for that one fish in the pod that is a little overly aggressive and curious. Every pod has one and thanks to fishing downriver, they are willing to take. Our strategy paid off this past weekend and we learned a lot in the process.

Over the past five years, we have become conditioned to fishing up on the tributaries. We are used to the crowds and the oddball behavior one can see and experience, even from guides. Rather than go into any crazy stories (of which we have dozens) I am simply going to ask you all to roll away your stone. Salmon do take flies in certain conditions and it can be a rewarding experience. During all our tributary trips, past, present, and future, we will stick to that rewarding experience. By doing so, you can be sure you're looking at something real, rather than wondering if what you're looking at was actually "caught" or not.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


As often happens early in the Fall season, trips up north are last second decisions based on current conditions and reports. Adam's encouraging trip mid-week combined with crazy posts of massive numbers of king salmon on the move, forced us to make the trip. We couldn't have asked for a better weekend of weather and fishing. We caught the tail end of the run and fished the DSR looking for fresh fish willing to take flies on the swing. We caught some, lost more, and were able to get a ton of pictures.

When I returned, I couldn't wait to put up the pictures on the big screen. I literally had some of the best photo opportunities of my life. What I found was a big disappointment. I unknowingly had the Iso settings on my camera affixed around 6400. Pictures that looked crisp and sharp on the LCD were super grainy and noisy. In the coming days, you'll see some of those pictures and read about our experiences during a pretty epic run of fish.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Big Push

After reading some promising reports of a big push of fish my friend Jake decided to make a day trip up to the Salmon River. He pitched me an invite and the rest became history…

I decided to use my 5wt Eagle Claw Featherlight Switch figuring it had at least a chance at landing a fish with the river flowing at roughly 200cfs. I rigged up with a 425gr Skagit head with a 10’ clear intermediate tip and went to work in the tailout of a large pool. Pods of fresh fish were moving through constantly all morning, the water level was so low in some spots that a fish or two would beach itself while powering through a riffle. As I repetitively swung the tailout I began to daydream of mudding carp and how much less casting was involved.

The first fish of the day belonged to Jake, soon after its release I connected to my one and only fish of the day. I managed to land the fish in under five minutes with the low water contributing immensely. Oddly enough after fishing the river for years it was my first ever Salmon River Chinook, Haha! I was so pleased I took the rest of the day off. As for my friend Jake, he puts salmon up on the same pedestal that I do carp…so he fished hard all day long and was rewarded, landing three more fish.  

It's not a carp...but I cracked a smile anyway

Black and pink marabou spey...FTW 

One is good enough for me...I spent the rest of the day taking pictures and dreaming of carp.

Salmon Essentials...
A box of big-nasties' and a Red Bull.


See you on the river...