Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween in steelhead country...

If March weather is "in like a lion, out like a lamb," I think it's safe to say this October is the opposite of March. Our fall steelhead season kicked off with an indian summer and temps in the 80s until just a few weeks ago. Water temps were warm and the fish were grabby as ever. After guiding the first few weeks of the season down on the Klickitat, we made our move up to the Methow, a tributary of the upper Columbia. The fishing has been nothing shy of insane. 

I've guided a lot of swingers thus far and I've been pleasantly surprised with the amount of action we've had on the swung fly. The Met offers amazing pocket-water fishing with tons of ledgy, rocky buckets scattered throughout its runs. While most look upon this as bobber water, the Methow fish respond well to the swing and picking apart these pockets with a switch or light spey rod has been very productive. Before the temps dropped we had several days of great dry fly fishing as well. Nothing is better than watching a wild steelhead come up for a skated dry!

The weather and temps have grown cooler here lately, but the fishing continues to be excellent. With some snow showers last week and a lot of recent rain, many dry side rivers have swollen to near blow-out stage. It's looking like things should be in prime form here in the next few days. Watch the graphs and get on it... you shouldn't miss this one! Looks like I'll be available on the Methow this Saturday if she stays in shape. If anyone would like some info about booking a trip please call me at 509-460-9519 or drop me a line via email at 

I hope you enjoy a few photos from the last couple days. More updates soon...happy Halloween!

A happy son and proud father, what a day!

Braz swingalingin "location x"

Adam W. and another big wild hen

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Colors

This time of year is my favorite to be outside. We've got some epic fall colors going on and the fishing is pretty dang good too. The warm september days can have many of our steelhead rivers fairly busy, especially on the weekends. Come mid-October, many anglers shift gears and get started with bird-hunting or chasing deer around the woods, leaving many stretches of water completely vacant.

We're shifting gears here getting ready to start our season on another Columbia River tributary, The Methow. I haven't had much chance to post from down on the Klickitat, but here's a handful of photos from the last couple days. I hope you enjoy and there's a lot more to come soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Remembering the Forgotten Coast...

It wasn't until four days into our honeymoon that I truly realized I might actually get some fishing in on this trip. My wife and I enjoyed the first few days in Orlando, but the hustle-bustle of trying to cover as much as possible at both Disney and Universal Studios really took my mind away from thinking about any sort of fishing. As much fun as it was, we both agreed we were ready to move on and start the next part of the trip.

On day four we rented a car and left Orlando in the dust as we headed for the Gulf Coast. We were traveling based on the advice of a good friend of ours and long-time guest at Bristol Bay Lodge who grew up in the Panama City area. This last August, our discussion at the dinner table one evening quickly turned into a planning session as I discussed my interest in the culture down south and desire to experience Redfish on the fly.

It took about four hours of driving for us to see the coast for the first time. I gotta admit, the drive was about as boring as it gets. Out West, most long drives are made interesting with mountains and views that stir the question: "What lies beyond that ridge?" This drive was flat as a pancake with a wall of trees on either side of the road. Needless to say, we were relieved when the highway finally broke out into the open next to the Gulf.

For another 120 miles, the road wound in and out of bays and over rivers and creeks. Small towns were scattered here and there, typically consisting of nothing more than a few houses, a seafood market, oyster bar, and a convenience store. We were finally feeling isolated, and it felt great.

The Gibson Inn, virtually unchanged since 1907
We pulled into Apalachicola late in the afternoon and checked into our hotel. Back in the 1800s, Apalachicola was one of the largest cotton-exporting ports in the world, rivaling New Orleans for the amount of cotton and other goods exported to Europe. Walking past the shops and restaurants of this quaint little town, one can't help but notice- things really haven't changed much in the last 150 years.

Apalachicola is world-famous for its oysters, so naturally I had to find a spot to see what all the fuss is about. We settled on a place about a block away from our hotel called "Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar". I'd never had a raw oyster and didn't plan on trying it at any point in the near future. Upon opening the door were greeted by a couple guys shucking oysters and invited to have a seat at the bar. We ordered a drink and they asked us what we would like for food. Upon requesting baked oysters, the two made eye contact and each gave me a look I'll never forget. I felt about an inch tall, and then admitted I'd never had a raw oyster.

With no lack of gentlemanly southern charisma, the two young guys took it upon themselves to teach us everything there is to know about how to eat a raw Apalachicola oyster. I couldn't believe how amazing these things tasted with a little horseradish and fresh lemon squeezed over the top- it was like candy! And paired with a couple ice-cold Coronas... oh man. We even got Janessa to try a couple and got the nod of approval. She doesn't care much for seafood but enjoyed the heck out of the fresh oysters she tried. We chatted with the two locals about the oysters, where they come from, and what it was like to grow up in Apalachicola.

Our conversation quickly turned to fishing and more specifically- Redfish. Neither of the two had ever done any fly fishing but grew up targeting Reds on light spin tackle. They gave me a couple pointers on where I should fish the next morning but I got the vibe that they were being pretty tight-lipped. We shook hands with the two and headed out to another bar nearby, where we enjoyed dinner, drinks, and live jazz- what a place.

We awoke early the next morning, packed the car and headed down the road in the dark. We pulled the car over next to a shallow bay right at sun-up and my heart started racing as I watched fish moving through the shallows. I was literally shaking as I struggled to rig my 8 weight fast enough. Janessa was next to me with the camera and we took off towards the bay. The bay felt like bath-water as I waded out up to my knees. There were small baitfish darting all over the place and I started casting excitedly. There were larger fish jumping around as well, I thought surely they were Reds feeding. I waded all around casting, stripping, changing flies, and so on for nearly two hours without so much as a grab of any kind. I knew we had to get back on the road, so we headed back to the car. I fought the disappointment of not hooking up on a fish by focusing on my wife's excitement from the hermit crabs she chased all over the place.

Sunrise on the Gulf Coast
Later that afternoon we arrived in Panama City and caught up with our friends from the lodge. I was ecstatic after hearing that Bill had set us up for a day on the water with a guide he fishes with at least once a week. The next morning we shook hands with our guide on the dock at 7 AM. Matt Smith grew up chasing the full gamut of saltwater species across the area. A very calm, cool, and collected individual, he began sharing his vast knowledge of the fishery as we idled away from the dock. 

Overcast but still paradise...
We stopped on our first flat about twenty minutes from the dock. Matt made us well aware of the tough conditions due to all the recent rainfall and poor light. We poled around for a couple hours checking bays and creek mouths but the conditions were just too difficult to be able to spot fish. Matt suggested we motor across the bay to a little honey-hole he had where a irrigation canal comes into the bay. We both agreed this would be a good option, and we made the switch.

The Man at work...
Later in the fall and winter, a wide variety of species come into the canal seeking the warmer water. According to Matt it was a bit early in the fall for this, but my first cast proved there were some fish around and I hooked up on a small Ladyfish. A few casts later I landed another of the same size. Matt had mentioned the possibility of finding a tarpon in this area but emphasized that it was a very rare situation. Sure enough, within just a few minutes of casting into the deep, tea-colored water we saw a tarpon roll. My heart started pounding when the fish rolled again and Matt mentioned the fish was actively feeding and oughta be catchable. It wasn't a huge fish, we put it between 20 and 30 pounds, but I had never seen a tarpon, let alone hooked one. About ten casts later I was stripping my fly through the zone when a shape emerged from the dark water. The size of the flash assured me it was the tarpon we were looking for, but I panicked. Instead of allowing the fish to inhale the fly, I set the hook as soon as I felt contact and watched the fly pull from the fish's mouth. I bowed my head with disappointment and said a few choice words as Matt and Janessa laughed hysterically. We threw to that fish for another hour or so with no luck- my only shot was farmed and I had no one to blame but myself!

It began to rain pretty hard and Matt checked the radar on his phone. He noticed an area that he scouted out the day before was free and clear of any precipitation, so we decided to make the run down the bay. We kept our fingers crossed that we would get a little break in the overcast skies, and sure enough the sun poked through as soon as we stopped at our next flat. I climbed up onto the front platform and knew this would be it. All I wanted was one fish, I would have been content with one shot, but to hook and land one would be sweet.

Making the move and chasing the sun...
I calmed my nerves and focused my eyes on finding fish. We began seeing mullet darting in and out of the grass and Matt was quick to point out how to distinguish these from redfish. A few minutes later, Matt mentioned he had a fish spotted. The fish was about fifty feet away and about 10 o'clock off the bow. I started casting and dropped my fly about eight feet in front of the fish. "Led him a bit too far." The fish turned about six feet in front of the fly and continued feeding away from the boat. I stripped in and we continued our search. A few minutes later we found another fish, this one moving the same direction very quickly. I dropped the fly down but it landed behind the fish. A quick pickup and I had the fly back in the water but this time it landed directly on top of the fish. Spooked, the fish sped off at about a hundred miles an hour, never to be seen again! Matt was reassuring and told me not to beat myself up about it- it was a tough shot.

Looking hard...
He continued poling us down the flat and within a minute or two he yelled there was a fish behind me. I turned and saw a nice red sitting fairly close to the boat. Sometimes these shots within the 30' range are the most difficult, because many saltwater lines don't load the rod until the caster has at least 30'-40' of line out. Needless to say, I think I got lucky with this one and the fly landed about 3' in front of the fish. Although I could see everything, Matt instructed me when to strip and when to leave the fly, he was as excited as I was! A couple quick strips got the fish's attention, and it darted over to investigate the offering. I left the fly alone after another slow strip and the fish inhaled it. A hard strip buried the fly into the fish's mouth and it made a long run away from the boat! We hooped and hollered with excitement and I couldn't believe I was into my first red. We landed the fish and took photos, then shook hands after the release. I thanked Matt up and down for getting me into my first redfish, it was a memory I'll never forget.

Hooked up!
After that we made Janessa climb into position on the platform. The sun continued to shine in and out of the clouds, making it difficult for her to see anything. She turned a few reds and almost had one eat but Matt and I got a bit excited and she pulled the fly out of the zone at the last second. Mostly due to me yelling in her ear! As that happened Matt told me to look behind me. As I turned around I noticed a monster fish spooking off the flat with no chance for a shot. That fish was huge, and it will haunt me for a long time!

Janessa and I switched places again and the afternoon continued. The light grew a bit tougher but we were still seeing some fish. I got several more shots and had two fish eat but I was a bit trigger-happy and missed both opportunities! Matt told us to look up the flat at the dolphins that had entered the shallows. We watched a school of six dolphins chase mullet up and down the flat, then they turned and came directly at the boat. Janessa's goal for the trip was to see dolphins up close, and the view she got was priceless as they swam within 10 feet of the bow. After the excitement was over, the three of us agreed on our happiness with the way the day had turned out. The sunlight faded behind the clouds but it didn't matter, we were content with calling it a wonderful day and headed back to the dock.

Chasing crabs is good entertainment!
The rest of our Florida trip was amazing but didn't involve any more fishing. Looking back, Janessa and I wish we had more time to fish, but that always seems to be the case. We both agreed this was a good scouting trip for redfishing adventures to come. If anyone has any interest in hunting reds on the fly, send me an email at

I am  putting together a hosted trip down there for next year but I'd like to make it happen this winter if we can get some folks on board. In comparison to some of the other areas now famous for redfishing, the Forgotten Coast is nearly void of any angling pressure. It offers complete solitude and the opportunity to sight-cast to these fish in what is normally gin-clear water. We had about the toughest conditions imaginable with poor lighting and less than 3' of visibility and still got lots of shots at nice fish.

We have to give a big shout-out and thank-you to Matt Smith of Panama City Inshore Looking forward to fishing with you again, hopefully this winter!

My first Red...

Speckled Trout add to the abundance of species...