Friday, October 28, 2011

View from Soldier Mountain Lookout

I drove up to the top of Soldier Mountain yesterday.  Soldier Mountain is at the west end of Fall River Valley.  There is a fire lookout at the top.  You can drive to within about 1/2 a mile of the top.  Here are some pictures of Fall River.  You can really see the whole valley from up there - what a view!
You can see upper Fall River, Spring Creek, the Tule River, and Big Lake clearly.

Soldier Mountain Lookout

Friday, June 3, 2011

Video of brown trout eating a dry

Dax and I shot some video last night - check out this brown rising to eat a dry!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fall River Diorama

Dax's Fall River Diorama - Notice the wind blowing the guide's hat off!

The wind has been relentless the past few weeks up here on Fall River.  Highs are in the mid-50s and lows are in the mid-30s.  I can't wait for it to get hot!  We have good hatches of mayflies right now on Hat Creek and Fall River.  When the wind lets up a little the fish rise pretty well.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Solving the Spey Casting Equation

A good Spey caster must watch his D-Loop and Anchor. (Gino Bernero, caster)

Had a great spey lesson yesterday with one of my regular guys, Jim. He needed a tune-up prior to an Atlantic Salmon trip to Russia. We have been doing spey lessons for several years now together. Each year, Jim gets a little better. He is one of these guys that is very athletic and very coachable. He casts well with both hands. He's right handed. But his left is a little better. From my perspective, he is the perfect student. Each time we meet I try to introduce new concepts and ideas. Here's an overview of how things have evolved....

For the last couple of years, I have been really stressing the importance of visual cues, seeing the components of your cast unfold as you set it up and deliver. From the casters perspective, you can see everything happen and therefore adjust as necessary. There are also things that you hear and feel during a spey cast. I refer to it as the "look, listen, and feel" method, as it relates to sustained anchor casting (double spey/snap-t type casts). See it happen, hear the good and bad sounds, and if it feels good, it probably was. I have heard for years from guys like Mike McCune and Scott O'Donnell to "be a watcher". It is the single most critical thing a spey caster can do. It is also the single most thing that is overlooked and hardest to convince my clients to do. The "look, listen, feel" is in sequence of importance. If you know what to look for, you can successfully self-diagnose and fix and casting problems that arise just by what you see. There are good and bad sounds that reinforce what you see. A blown anchor, for example, can make sounds like "whoosh or crack". You should see and hear it simultaneously.

Your first visual cue is your anchor placement. Your fly should be about a rod length off of your casting side. The end of your floating line is your visual. Once you lift and set your anchor, you should see where it lands every time. For Skagit lines, the connection between the floating portion and sink-tip should be right in front of you at the completion of your anchor stroke. For floating lines, the same rule applies except you may have a versa-leader or regular mono leader connection. It is critical that your anchor placement be accurate and consistent. It is like addressing a golf ball. It has to be in the same part of your stance every time.

Once your anchor is right, initiate your D-Loop Stroke, make your D-Loop and let it rip. But, as your D-Loop forms, you must be able to see how much anchor stick you have left prior to the forward cast. More on that later. Sustained anchor casts start with an anchor and end with an anchor. You need to see it from start to finish. Your anchor is your point of reference. Without it, you are casting blind. I believe that to become a good caster, you must be tuned in to this concept. When I watch people cast, I know as soon as I see the D-Loop and remaining anchor what the result will be. As a caster, you must train yourself to do the same. It is no different than single hand casters watching their back cast. Just as single handers see the back cast straighten out, a spey caster must see the anchor pull straight as the D-Loop comes tight. By seeing a fault, you can make the proper adjustment on the next cast.

This brings up another concept that I came up with: The Casting Equation. Again, this concept relates mostly, but not entirely, to sustained anchor casting. The Casting Equation is: "The height of the D-Loop Stroke + the speed of the D-Loop Stroke = the amount of energy in the D-Loop and the amount of anchor stick left (or remaining) prior to the forward cast."

You have to solve that equation every cast. To do so, you have to be aware by using the "look, listen, feel" approach. You have to figure out how much remaining anchor stick is required to perform a good cast. More so, you have to know how much D-Loop height and speed it takes to relieve the proper amount of anchor prior to the forward cast. How much is it? It varies, really.

Let's back up a little. When you make, for example, a Double Spey, and the anchor stroke is complete, most of the spey line is laying (anchored) on the water in front of you, parallel to the bank and river. As you make your D-Loop Stroke, you are gradually peeling line off the water, gradually relieving anchor. Your goal is to relieve just enough anchor stick so that your forward cast "plucks" your leader off the water. As the D-Loop forms, it does two things: it pulls your line, leader (or sink-tip), and fly straight, inline with your target, and it creates load. If your D-Loop doesn't have enough energy to pull your line straight (inline with your target) you will be left with what Simon calls a Bloody-L. If you have too much speed and energy (or height) your anchor will prematurely break loose (we call it a blown anchor) and all energy will be lost, the result will be a poor, piled cast with ugly sounds. So, figuring out how much speed and height is needed to pull your leader straight, inline with your target so that your forward cast can pluck your fly out of the water is key. This all goes back to the casting equation. Too much height and speed on your D-Stroke relieves too much, too low and slow leaves you with too much anchor and a Bloody-L and no energy. Spey casting is about happy mediums. You have to find it.

So, back to the question, how much anchor stick do I need prior to the forward cast? With sink-tips, you need about 10 feet of sink-tip anchored to "hold the load". It might be 8 or 12, depending of the size of your fly. But, on average, 10 feet. This is easily seen because of the color contrast between the floating portion and sink-tip. As your D-loop reaches it's potential and pulls tight, you should be able to see it. For floating lines, on average, your entire leader (12-20') should be your remaining anchor stick. Some experimentation is required to figure out what the optimal anchor is depending on how your are rigged. Once you have figured that out, you have solved the equation. You have to continue to solve it as you fish through a run. This is where your powers of observation come into play. Casting in ankle deep water is different from casting is waist deep water. As you wade deeper, you have to adjust the speed and/or height of your stroke to get the same anchor result because now your 13' rod essentially gets shorter as you wade deeper. As you wade deeper, you are fighting more line stick. Since speed and height regulate how line stick is relieved, speed and/or height must be increased.

A concept that arose during my casting lesson with Jim yesterday was what I coined, "anchor range". It all started when he was casting with too much anchor. As he ramped up the height and speed of his D-Stroke, his anchor relief became greater until he finally blew his anchor. We found his "anchor range". By his powers of observation, Jim was able to stay within his "anchor range", and narrow his window of range by fine tuning the amount of speed and height of his D-Stroke, effectively solving the casting equation and executing consistently good casts.

Now, this all works as long as the timing is right between the formation of your D-Loop and forward cast. If you pause for a milli-second, your D-Loop will sag, fall to the water, and create line stick. So, make sure that as soon as your D-Loop is reached it's potential, you are initiating your forward cast. This can easily be controlled watching your D-Loop form and simultaneously watching your anchor pull straight and inline with your target prior to your forward cast.

So remember, "look, listen, feel" and solve the casting equation. Use your powers of observation and you will become a better caster. I guarantee it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Accidental Steelhead (originally published, partially, in Cal Fly Fisher)

I caught my first ever steelhead on the Columbia River just above The Dalles Dam. I know that sounds odd, considering it’s the second largest river in the continental United States. I was bass fishing with my childhood friend, Keith Griswold. The Griswold’s were a huntin’ and fishin’ family. If it swam, ran, or flew, the Griswolds chased them down.

Keith and I fished together a lot. We had a few spinning outfits that we’d equiped to catch bass, trout, or anything that would eat a worm, spinner, or plastic bait. The day we encountered that steelhead we were throwing white plastic jigs for smallmouth. As we landed it, Keith looked at me and said, “It’s a steelhead. We’d better get home quick!” So we bonked it, ran up to the truck, and jammed home. Then he informed me that it was out of season and therefore illegal. Some how that just made it more fun.

Trout season is the hard on the steelheader. Transitioning from winter steelhead to trout season is a difficult adjustment. I get somewhat of a steelhead hangover. I find myself thinking of ways to steelhead fish for trout. I love streamer fishing for trout and will often do it with a two-handed rod, a skagit line, and a sink-tip. In certain rivers, steelhead are present during the peak of trout season. The Deschutes and McKenzie in Oregon and the Lower Sacramento and Klamath are good examples. There are also rivers in our area that get lake run rainbows and browns. They’re a migratory fish, like the ones that live in Lake Shasta that run up the Pit, McCleod, and Upper Sacramento. That almost counts. It somehow does in the Great Lakes. The point is, for the steelheader who needs that fix, there are ways to get it, easier ways than the “steelhead while bass fishing approach”.

First of all, select a river that has migratory fish. The Pit, having countless damns and reservoirs, offers a number of opportunities. I have had success fishing the Pit above certain “lakes” using steelhead streamer tactics. The Upper Sac above Lake Shasta is a player. I floated the Upper Sac a few years ago with some buddies. They suggested I set up a nymph rig to fish from the boat. Instead I rigged a 10ft 7wt with a Teeny 200 and stripped 4 inch bunny leeches from the back of the raft. They were fighting me for the rod by lunch. We hooked several large rainbows that appeared to come out of the lake recently.

Trout that live in lakes migrate up rivers for different reasons. The two main reasons are spawning and seeking out cooler water. Figuring out when that occurs is key. We know that rainbows, steelhead included, spawn in the spring. Sometime between late winter and early summer, depending on the river and its water conditions. We know that brown trout spawn in the fall. Anglers target browns on the McCloud at that time. Of course that’s actually during steelhead season, so it’s almost a mute point. Also, as lakes warm up, trout will migrate up inlets seeking out cooler water. The Williamson in Oregon is a classic example. Williamson fish leave the warm shallows of Klamath Lake seeking the spring fed waters of the Williamson and it’s tributaries. Of course timing is everything. Because there are a number of factors that influence fish to move, figuring out when and where is key and may take time.

Next, use the proper equipment. When targeting migratory trout, sea-run or lake run, you have to be prepared for them. Most migratory fish are more aggressive meat eaters than their resident brothers. The fish we hooked that day on the Upper Sac ate large brown bunny leaches tied to a short heavy leader and sinking line. Trout that spend a lot of time in a lake are used to eating baitfish, leeches and crayfish. So, your streamer box and some 8lb Maxima are all you need. For a rod, a 6wt single hander, a light spey, or switch rod will work great. There are a number of light two-handers available today in 4 and 5wt. Depending on the water type, you may want a versa-tip line, a shooting head or clear intermediate. That’s it. Pick a fly and fish it. Within reason, it doesn’t matter. Close your eyes, reach into your streamer box, and grab one. As one of my guide friends said, “they know what to do with it”.

As far as fishing tactics, in steelhead type water, a traditional down and across swing can be effective. An extra mend or two or twitch while it’s swinging can entice a strike. Fishing a retrieve is necessary in slower water or from a boat. Like steelhead fishing, when you get grabbed, let them take it. If you strike, most likely you’ll pull it out of their mouth or break them off. Wait for the weight, they say, than lift the rod. Also, cover water. They‘ve got to be there, and they’ve got to be in the mood. When streamer fishing, we are targeting aggressive fish. If they want it, they’ll eat it. They can see your fly coming from a mile away. You’ll have more success covering water than camping out in one spot.

Last, you need to look like a steelheader. This is important. You want to look tough, utilitarian, confident, and somewhat carefree, all at once. Here’s what you do. Don’t wear your pink Tarpon Wear shirt. A concert shirt, a hoody, or western shirt is best. I learned that from Griswold. Leave your vest in the truck. Just take one fly box, a spool of tippet and your scissor/forceps and shove them down the front of your waders. I am always impressed at the sheer weight of the vests guys bring. Is the area we are fishing so remote that you need enough equipment to set up a spike camp and open a fly shop? Less is more. Definitely leave the trout net. We are targeting big fish here, Lee. (I blame Lee Perkins for any Barney-like habits or behavior including but not limited to the automatic upstream mend, the overstuffed fishing vest and undersized trout net. I can only assume these habits were taught in some Orvis trout school in the mid 80’s.) Also, leave the Indiana Jones hat in the truck. You should have retired it with The Last Crusade. Try a trucker style hat. They offer great ventilation and accommodate a large head. If you really want to look hard-core, you’ll need some kind of tobacco product on hand. Cigars are pretty cool. The short, conical shaped ones (Backwood’s brand) are perfect. They make you look sophisticated yet rugged, kind of like Clint Eastwood. Or try a dip. A big chew in your bottom lip says, “don’t mess with me I’m fishing”. That works for some. The Marboro man look is also an option. Chain-smoking cigarettes won’t impress your wife but the bait guys might accept you as their friend. Often they know where the fish are.

So, as we begin trout season, remember, there are ways to get your steelhead fix. You can target migratory rainbows in our local waters using steelhead tactics. Or, while trout fishing on rivers like the Lower Sacramento or Klamath, you might actually encounter the accidental steelhead.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kiene's Fly Shop Annual Fly Fishing Expo

Andrew Harris will be attending Kiene's Annual Fly Fishing Expo on Saturday April 23rd.  This is a great event with lots of familiar faces, food, fly tiers, and of course the friendly staff of Kiene's Fly Shop.  Andrew will be available to chat about summer trout fishing or any other venues.  He will also be doing a presentation on Fall River.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Confluence Outfitters Trout Preview 2011

Are you ready for trout season? We are....

We at Confluence Outfitters are very excited about our upcoming season. Andrew Harris, Gino Bernero, Dax Messett, and Jon Hazlett are available and ready to take you fishing!

As many of you know, we are not working for the "lodge" this season. If you are staying at the "lodge", that's great, but call us directly for bookings. Our independence allows us to provide you with a higher level of service and a better fishing experience. We understand and appreciate that your time away from the office is sacred. We look forward to getting you on the water!

You may already know that we have secured exclusive access and accommodations on the Fall River and Hat Creek in Northern California. Check out our website for more info on lodging, rates, and specials.

Hat Creek Retreat

Fall River Retreat

Within striking distance are the Pit and McCloud rivers, both productive and scenic freestone rivers. There are several other smaller creeks and stillwater opportunities in the vicinity. The diversity of the Intermountain Region rivals any trout fishing venues in the lower 48. Walk-wade, raft, jon boat, and even jet boat trips are available on our local waters. Here’s a summary of our big four:

The Fall River

The Fall River is one of the finest spring creeks in the West. It shares many of the traits that make the Henry´s Fork, Hat Creek, and Silver Creek famous: predictable hatches, crystal clear water, steady flows and water temperature, sight fishing opportunities, and large trout that feed on small bugs. However, the access to Fall River is very restricted. It is only fished from boats, specifically flat-bottomed prams fitted with electric motors and/or small gas engines. Fishing from the boat allows anglers to make deadly downstream drifts to visibly feeding fish.

Hat Creek

Hat Creek is one of the most famous spring creeks in the West. The 3.5 miles between Powerhouse #2 and Lake Britton include classic spring creek flatwater and long riffles. The riffles at Powerhouse #2 and the lower end of the creek provide an excellent on-stream classroom for beginner fly fishers. Conversely, the flatwater in between the riffles is some of the most challenging water to fish anywhere in North America. The depth of the water makes wading difficult in many areas, calling for long casts. Fish are spooky and feed very selectively. Getting a fish to rise to your fly here is a great accomplishment.

The Pit River

The Pit River below Lake Britton dam has the highest catch rate and most consistent fishing of all the streams in northern California. Thirty miles of river provide endless opportunities to get away from other anglers. There are parts of the river right alongside a paved road as well as portions that require a strenuous hike to access. No matter where you choose to fish, you are likely to be rewarded with strong, wild rainbow trout pulling on the end of your line. The Pit fishes best from April through mid-July and again from mid-September through December. Mid-summer can be excellent, too, especially if the weather is not overly hot. Dry fly fishing is good mid-day early and late in the season and is excellent on summer evenings. Most of the time we fish with nymphs on the Pit. This river is an excellent place to learn various nymphing techniques, including indicator and indicatorless techniques.

The McCloud River

The McCloud River is perhaps the most scenic of all the rivers in Northern California. The lush riparian vegetation and milky-green water give the river a unique character. The color of the water comes from the glacial flour, or dust, high on Mt. Shasta. The glacial waters seep into the ground and emerge in a series of springs near the town of McCloud. These springs form the Upper McCloud, which flows into McCloud Reservoir. The river below the reservoir is one of California's finest trout streams.

To book a trip, contact our Office Manager Marisa Compton at 1-888-481-1650. You can also book online at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Steelhead Story: The last 6 months

Here is a look at some good times we and our clients had over these past 6 months of the steelhead season. We thank all of the committed anglers who joined us over this past steelhead season, and we'll see you on the Rogue for summer steelhead starting in late July.

For you passionate speycasters who can't wait that long, we will also be at the famous Sandy River Speyclave on May 13,14,&15. Some of the most renound spey casters and steelheaders in the world will be giving on the water seminars on spey casting and fishing for steelhead, including our own Jonny Hazlett on Sunday at 10:30. Stop by the Sage booth and have a beer, demo all of their rods, reels, and Rio lines. Oh, and you can also catch a steelhead or chinook there too! This superb event is free to all spey casters and we hope to see you there.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fall River

We are getting ready for the upcoming season on Fall River. Here is a little taste of what to look forward to this year. We are living on Fall River, and have the best access throughout the entire Fall River system.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Confluence Casting Clinic Vol. 1: The Snap T-River Left by Jon Hazlett

Here is Jonny doing a quick lesson on the river right snap T spey cast.

Confluence will be doing on water spey clinics throughout the year on the Rogue, Trinity, and other superb steelhead rivers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gino and Jon

Here are some great photos of my fellow Confluence guides Gino Bernero and Jon Hazlett.  There is a little matching game you can play with the sand images.  Enjoy!
Fall River Valley
Fall River
Guess which one is which!

Trinity River Spey Clinic

Trip Report: Tasmania 2002

By Andrew Harris
Here is a reprint of an article I wrote for the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club's newsletter during the last week of my stay in Tasmania. If you are thinking about fishing Tassie, I'd be glad to help you plan your trip.
I am now in the final week of my month-long stay in Tasmania, the island state just south of mainland Australia.  I decided to come here after talking to a friend and several fishing clients who had been here.  They told me how they had stalked large brown trout in shallow, crystal-clear lakes and streams.  Sight-fishing is my favorite aspect of fly fishing, so I was intrigued.

I arrived in Tasmania with a single major misconception: I imagined that it would be warm here.  After all, it is part of Australia, and February in the southern hemisphere should be the equivalent of August at home in California.  I pictured myself blissfully wet-wading in my shorts and t-shirt under a hot sun.  In three weeks I've only witnessed three days where I felt comfortable wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Wet-wading is almost entirely out of the question.  Most days I'm wearing thermal underwear and pants underneath my waders, and I've frequently wished for an additional layer!

The weather is not necessarily cold, it's just extremely volatile.  I've seen everything between 90 degrees and calm to 40 degrees and 40 knot winds.  The wind here is a fact of life.  This is Gore-Tex "WindStopper" country.  Not only is the wind frequently strong, but the direction of the wind greatly affects fishing strategy.  Northerlies bring warm air off the mainland; southerlies bring freezing air up from Antarctica.  Much attention is paid to the weather forecasts.  It's a far cry from summer in Northern California, where some years it seems like we hardly see a cloud between June and October.

The ever-changing weather has brought a number of perfect polaroiding days.  "Polaroiding" is the Aussie word for sight-fishing.  Polaroiding heaven lies in the heart of Tasmania, in an area referred to as the "Western Lakes."  The area includes over 3,000 lakes, interconnected by small streams.  In the winter the lakes and streams rise and flow together, allowing the wild brown trout to distribute themselves thoroughly.  Most of the lakes are shallow; some have significant weed growth.  All of them have big fish.  The average brown out of the Western Lakes would be between two and three pounds (Aussies measure fish in pounds, not inches!).  My best so far is seven pounds, and I have sighted fish up to ten pounds.

The best part about polaroiding the Western Lakes: the fish prefer dry flies!  Their preference for dries probably stems from the prolific hatches of mayflies, caddis, midges, and the presence of many beetles, cicadas, and other terrestrials.  The mayflies are the big hatch, though.  They have a mayfly very similar to our callibaetis.  The Tasmanian version is slightly larger (commonly a size 12 or even 10), a little darker in color, and they look very fat and healthy, if you can imagine a fat and healthy mayfly!  The locals call them highland duns.  Fish call them lunch.  My best fly has been a Quiggly-style mayfly cripple, size 12, with black possum tail for the wing.

To get a mental image of the Western Lakes, think of the High Sierra above the treeline, but much flatter and with more soil and scrub.  Where we'd have marmots in California, Tasmania has wallabies.  Wallabies are small kangaroos.  There are also wombats and Tasmanian devils around.  I've seen a few dead devils alongside the road.  They look like a black, medium-sized dog/pig hybrid with bad teeth.  Walking through the scrub is very difficult.  There are few proper trails like we have at home.  There are many lakes that you can drive to, and thousands more within reach of a day hike or overnight trip.

The fishing is slow and deliberate.  On the deeper lakes you search the edges; on shallow lakes you can wade right out.  Keeping the sun to your back, you walk slowly, searching for any sign of a fish.  Much like stalking bonefish on the saltwater flats, many times the fish sees you first and spooks.  But then you see one in front of you, and the game begins.  You have to strike a delicate balance between casting so close that you spook the fish and casting so far away that the fish won't move to your fly.  If the fish refuses your fly it's often best to switch before casting again.  Sometimes a fish will seemingly entertain you for ten minutes or so even though he knows you're there and won't eat anything you throw at him!  But many times, once you've made the right cast with the right fly, the fish will rise slowly and confidently and take your fly.  If you don't jump the gun and set the hook too soon, you're hooked into a beautiful wild brown.  Most of them will jump several times and pull line off your reel.  They are amazingly strong.

Some of the fattest, most beautiful fish I’ve seen in Tasmania have come from the rivers.  Although the rivers generally have a low gradient here, many of them are quite large.  Most of them are weedy, clear, and relatively flat, much like our western spring creeks.  The Tasmanian browns have a quirky tendency to eat insects flying above the surface of the water.  There are copious dragonflies, damselflies, and mayfly spinners hovering over the water, and at times there are multiple fish launching out of the water after them.  It’s quite a sight to see a five pound brown launch himself three feet into the air and land six feet from where he started!

I arrived in Tasmania with high expectations, and the fishing here has met or exceeded all of them.  Don't come to Tasmania to catch a lot of trout.  Come here for a chance to spot and cast to a large, wild brown.  And for Pete's sake, bring some warm clothes!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sage Spey Clinic on the Rogue with George Cook and The Ashland Fly Shop

Havin a good time on the Rogue spey style.

Will Johnson, the owner of The Ashland Fly Shop, rounded up 10 hungry Spey casters for a great class on the Upper Rogue.
George Cook, our NW Sage Rep, brought his "A Game" of instruction and humor. His knowledge of Spey casting, the history of it, and NW original cast, like the Snap-T, is unparalled.
I started the day with Spey basics. Then introduced the switch cast and single spey.
George did the Snap-T family of casts next. "You are the spey quarterback and you need to know when to audible", he says. You have to come to the Sandy River Spey Clave in May to hear the rest!

This is a spey rod and I am not afraid to use it!
George introduced the Double Spey before lunch. After the lunch coma, we switched to river right and reviewed all previous casts.
As the wind and rain moved in, Dax Messett (our celebrity guide guest) and I had a friendly casting competition. Without disclosing too much detail, let's just say it ended in a draw.
I did a quick Snake Roll demo next.
As the monsoon overtook us, we played a little game I like, the "what did I do wrong? game. I demonstrated some bad casting maneuvers and had the students indentify faults.
That didn't last too long (due to epic wetness and wind) and we called it a day.
Young Matt and I watching his D-Loop and Anchor. Important!
For more info on our upcoming classes and clinics, check out our website
Come see George and I at the Sandy Spey Clave in May. We'll be in the Sage booth as well as doing river demos.
Hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to tie a bead fly

Here is the secret formula for tying a bead fly. No thread, vice, or tying material is needed...since it isn't actually a fly.

1. Stick some toothpicks in an apple

2. Swipe some nail polish off of your chick

3. Shove some beads in the toothpicks

4. Paint with secret polish color

5. Let need to whip finish, since it isn't a fly

6. Remove beads and toothpics. Eat apple.

7. Throw the bead on your leader under a bobber with some split shot, stick something in the hole to hold it in place 4 inches above a bare hook...maybe triple it up if you want the old chain link fence or something like that. Motor up runs in your "driftboat". Side drift, set the hook often...sometimes they even get hooked in the mouth vicinity.

8. Continue pounding run until the fish stop "eating" your bare hook under the bead "fly". Continue sidedrifting down to the next good run and set the hook might snag one on the way downriver. Ask people in every other boat you see "how many they got" and feel good about yourself. The number of fish you hook will overpower the guilt that is billowing inside of your angling soul as you continue masquerading as a fly angler.

9. By the way, this method is don't get caught!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Klamathon Spey Del Fuego

We had another stellar Spey clinic on the Klamath last weekend. Craig Nielson of Shasta Trout organized our second Klamathon Lodge Spey weekend with the help of Jeff Putnam and Chris King. We had eight tough dudes who stuck it out during some challenging high water conditions. Our hosts and lodge owners John and Robin kept us well fed and entertained all weekend.

We had a great time with our dudes. How can you not have fun with guys like Murph, Dave Med, Gene, Bob, Steve, and Larry? They cast their asses off for two days in high water and at times mach winds. I didnt' see anyone fall in or hear anyone complain. Only saw one rod break and one fly stuck in a jacket. Now that's a solid group!

Pictured is Chris King giving his talk on the rules of spey casting. Some rules can be broken and some can't, he says. If you don't believe him, just ask him! Chris did tell us that he is always right! (That was an inside joke.)

Our guys were super into it and asked a bunch of great questions. We did our best to answer them and gave our persectives. Made for some lively discussion.

Charles Gehr of Fly Water Travel gave a cool presentation on Spey Destinations Saturdays night. Murph is the only guys who fell asleep during it. 7/8 isn't bad.

Med's wife made the instructors custom Buffs. We rocked them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bugs of the Trinity River

I just spent a day on the Trinity with my brother-in-law Clint Mackey, host of Eagle Canyon Trophy Trout Lakes.  I was on a mission to photograph some of the big bugs that hatch this time of year.  Check out these photos!


Green Drake
Green Drake

Skwala stonefly

Bald Eagle (haven't seen a fish go for one of these yet)

And yes, there are still some steelhead around!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trip Report: Los Roques, Venezuela

by Andrew Harris
In January 2005 my dad and I decided to take a vacation somewhere warm.  He wanted to do some scuba diving and I wanted to catch some bonefish.  We talked over the options with Brian Gies at Flywater Travel in Ashland, Oregon.  We ultimately decided to go to Los Roques, Venezuela.  It turned out to be a great decision.

We left Sacramento at on March 12, 2004.  After flying to Dallas, then Fort Lauderdale, we arrived in Caracas, Venezuela at .  Our transfer agent, Tony, met us at the airport and took us to our hotel.  The Caracas airport isn’t actually in Caracas.  It’s about 30 minutes away.  Given the recent political unrest in Caracas, we were glad not to be in the middle of it.  Tony picked us up the next morning and took us back to the airport, where we caught a flight to Los Roques.  As far as I could tell, my dad and I were the only norteamericanos on the flight.  There were some people from the Netherlands and Italy, but most people headed to Los Roques were Venezuelans on holiday.  After a quick 40 minute flight we landed at the airport at El Gran Roque, our island home for the next six days.  We were promptly greeted by Ramon, an employee of Sight Cast Outfitters.  Ramon showed us to our hotel (a five minute walk down the road).  Except for a few golf carts, there are no vehicles on El Gran Roque.  You can walk everywhere.

Ramon introduced me to my guide, who helped me rig up my rods and hustled me aboard the boat.  We drove almost 30 minutes to our first destination.  This would be one of our longest boat rides – most destinations are 15 to 25 minutes from the lodge.  We hopped out on a nice flat that surrounded a small island.  Many of the places we fished were similar: narrow flats sandwiched between the beach and the reef.  This particular flat was anywhere from 50 to 200 yards wide.  We stalked the flat, moving counter-clockwise around the island.  Within 20 minutes I spotted my first bonefish.  Throughout the rest of the trip, it would be rare to go more than 20-30 minutes without seeing a bonefish. 

Saturday, March 13, 2004
            Arrived in El Gran Roque around .  We were greeted by Ramon Paz, one of Cris Yrazabal’s employees.  He showed us to our room at Vistalmar Lodge.  Tari, my guide for the day, quickly found me to help me organize my gear, and to hurry.  We strung up my 8wt and 9wt and jumped in the boat with Ramon and William, the boat driver.  It was strange to be in a boat with three guys wearing identical Sight Cast Outfitter logo t-shirts.
            We drove about 30 minutes to our first spot.  Tari jumped out with me and we started stalking.  We were fishing the relatively narrow flats on the margins of a mangrove island.  Most of the spots we fished today were similar.  Intermittent (nearly constant) cloud cover made fish spotting muy dificile.  I spotted the first two bones, but they were close-in and spooked before I could cast.  Tari felt that this flat had already been fished, and his suspicions were confirmed when we saw another boat pull out.  We left and went to an island with a fishing village.  Apparently they weren’t fishing for bones, because bonefish were in abundance.  I saw something I had never seen before – bonefish trying to steal minnows from the beaks of pelicans.  My first hook-up came on a cast that landed one foot from the head of a pelican.  The 5 lb macabi, which looked like it was kissing the pelican, attacked my grey and white clouser minnow (meenow).  The fish ran over 100 yeards, tangling itself in 3 different anchor ropes.  Tari dove in to release the line from an anchor.  I landed the stocky fish, which turned out to be hooked in the side.
            We saw some tailing bones, but I cast to them, spooking unseen fish closer in.  We moved to another island, where I ate lunch and enjoyed a ½ hour siesta in a hammock.
            Tare woke me, saying he had spotted some fish.  We futilely chased more pelican-kissers, then found some tailing bones.  Unfortunately, some clueless Italiano turistas were blocking my backcast.  When they moved out of the way, they moved into the water, spooking the fish.
            Prior to that I landed a fish in a small bay, again on the clouser.  We changed flies 3 times.  This fish was hooked in the left eye.  Pobrecito macabi!
            I had all the “First Day” maladies.  Line tangling – over & over again.  Bad casting.  Trouble determining when the fish had eaten the fly.  These fish don’t simply charge the fly and turn as soon as they’ve sucked it down, like in Ascension Bay.  I also had the jitters, feeling under pressure to fool these 5 lb plus bones.  There were some hogs!
            After being foiled by the Italianos, we rounded the corner of the island and came out into a big, shallow bay.  I immediately spotted a tailing bone and spooked it with a bad cast.  I would have dozens of opportunities to cast to tailing and cruising bones in the next two hours.  We changed flies many times, and I finally landed a 7 lb bone on an olive bitter.
            I learned 3 more new things from Tari.  Tired of casting with the wind blowing into my right shoulder, I suggested we walk to the other side of the flat and come back, so I could cast more easily.  He said it wouldn’t work because we’d kick up mud, which would be carried by the current towards the fish.
            He also said sometimes, when the bones are eating minnows, you can see the bones more easily because the minnows move away from the bones, creating a clear spot around the fish.  30 minutes later I saw a case-in-point.  In the Bahamas, Florida, and Mexico, I had never seen bones so accustomed to eating minnows.
            Also, when a bonefish is chasing your fly and it stops, don’t move.  They’re more sensitive to sounds and vibrations when they’ve stopped.  Wait until the fish starts moving again to re-cast.

Sunday, March 14, 2004
            My alarm went off at .  A little too soon, but I had slept well.  I rigged my 10wt with wire & a barracuda fly, and added 10 lb tippet to the 8wt and 9wt.  After breakfast, Ramon introduced me to Ericario and Jesus, my guide and boat driver, respectively.  I would hear only 2 English words the rest of the day.  “Fish” and “strip.”
            The tide was high.  Our first spot was the narrow shallow edge of an island.  More pelican-kissers.  I tangled my line on my first cast, then draped the next one over the pelican’s back.  Luckily, the fly went over without snagging the bird.  And then a bonefish ate it.  He shook the fly on his 2nd run.  15 minutes later I landed a 4 lb bone on a long cast.  My guide was pleased.
            The Los Roques bones are well-fed.  They are short, stocky fish, and very strong.  Even the barracudas are fat.  Plenty to eat – the bonefish could definitely be picky.  Our next flat was loaded with cruising bones that would not eat my fly.  I must have had 2 dozen casts with 6 refusals.
            There are so many fish here that it’s easy to become complacent.  If you botch one cast, no worries.  There will be another fish.  Probably soon.  I had a couple fishless trudges of 45-60 minutes, but I always knew I would see another fish.  This feeling of faith and confidence is in stark contrast to my past bone-fishing experiences.  On my other trips, whenever I saw a fish, there was an intense pressure to hook it, for fear that I would not see another bonefish the entire trip.
            I quickly realized why Cris refers to Ericario as his best guide.  He knows how to position the angler so that the wind does not make casting difficult.  Yesterday, I fought the wind constantly.  There was only one spot today where the wind was on my right.  It was the spot where I hooked and immediately broke off a 20 lb plus tarpon.  Ericario rigged my 10wt rod with a black tarpon fly and carried it as we fished bones on a large inside flat.  Battling near-constant cloud cover, we hooked several more bones, including one around 8 lb that I broke off on the hookset.  Then we came to a dirty brown cove that was thigh deep.  Ericario handed me the canya diaz.  Pelicans were diving, and E. said his clients caught 3 tarpon here yesterday.  I started blind casting, but had no luck.  I thought I saw a tarpon against the mangroves, but it was 3 casts away.  We moved in closer and E. spotted one.  After a few casts (blind as far as I was concerned), a large wake appeared behind my fly and I felt a large tug.  I gave it the mean tarpon strip-strike, but the 20 lb test mono failed.  I was so excited about wade-fishing for tarpon that I wasn’t even bummed that I botched.  I’d fished tarpon before, but always from boats.  This was rad.  We spotted another one the same size.  After a few targeted casts, the big fish chased and swirled on the fly, but didn’t eat it.  My heart stopped.  We waited 20 minutes, but the fish never came back.  We polished off the day with 2 more bones.
            One noteworthy observance is the make-up of the fish population on the flats.  There are the usual boxfish, needles, snappers, and barracudas.  But I have yet tot see a shark or a ray, and I have only seen a handful of crabs.  But everywhere there are minnows.  I asked my friend Glenn before the trip, “What’s the worst thing to forget?”  Polarized sunglasses, maybe even an extra pair, he said.  Wrong answer.  The worst thing to forget is clouser minnows in grey & white.  My guide looked at my box full of beautiful crabs and shrimp in despair after I lost the last one.
            So now I tie flies…

Monday, March 15, 2004
            We started at this morning.  I hopped in the boat and we drove all of 100 yards and Jesus dropped anchor.  Ericario handed me the 10wt, newly rigged with 40 lb test and one of the 3 tarpon flies I made last night.  Since I forgot to bring tarpon hooks, I had to destroy some of my other tarpon flies to get hooks.  I probed the depths near the pelicans for 15 minutes.  I was about to ask if it was ever possible to see the tarpon when I saw 2 tarpon roll, both about 30 lbs.  Over the next hour we would see dozens of tarpon from 10 lbs to 100 lbs, but none that would eat my fly.  I practiced weaving my casts between flying and swimming pelicans.  I saw two of the biggest bones ever chasing one pelican.
            The sky was clear most of the morning, but I was beginning to wonder if the wind always blows here.  Since my arrival the wind had been in the 10-20mph range.  Today it was 15-20.  Not a big deal for a good caster.  If you approach from the right direction, the wind can help lengthen the cast and disguise the impact of the fly.  It doesn’t do much for accuracy, though.
            Accuracy would be the name of the game today.  Ericario and Jesus took me to the pancakes, very small islands that only rise above the surface at low tide.  Some had small mangroves, most did not.  Another new kind of water for me.
            The bones on the pancakes are very spooky, selective, and frequently move quickly.  We switched to 8 lb test tippet and to a mini-puff.  We fished about 10 pancakes.  They ranged in size from 100 to 500 yards in length.  Some had stupid fish, most had tough fish.  One had no fish.  Most provided at least a few good opportunities.  We fished 2 pancakes that were so loaded with bones I couldn’t believe my eyes.  One of them was fruitless, but the other, the last of the day, was very productive.  I hooked the 2nd 10# bonefish of my life.  It was in a school of maybe 50, happily tailing in 10” of water.  I didn’t see it, I was merely trying to pick one fish off the near edge of the school.  I sent my cast 10’ too far, landing it in the middle of the now-spooked school.  Their panic subsided quickly, and I hooked a strong fish.  It ran 100 yards, turned, and the line went totally slack.  I reeled in the backing then stripped in the fly line.  A very large barracuda had taken notice of the school, and many of the fish were coming toward us, out of the deep water to escape the predator.  One was a very large bone with a white scar on his back, probably from a past encounter with a barracuda.  As I continued to strip in my line, I realized that this was the fish I thought I had lost.  It ran off again, about 200 yards this time.  After several minutes my leader succumbed to the coral.  Not unlike my previous experience with a 10 lb bone in Florida.  Lesson learned.  Never stop reeling!
            I finished the day with about 10 hookups, not bad for the pancakes with a 20 mph wind.  I’m down to 2 fingers on my right hand that don’t have serious line cuts.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
            Line cuts are worse – can barely write.
            Another epic day of fishing.  After 45 fruitless minutes of tarpon flailing, we drove across the pond.  We found a beach where a huge school of jacks were in a feeding frenzy.  I caught 2, one of which E. kept for food.  When the tide receded to E.’s satisfaction, we headed to the pancakes.
            I saw 2 rays.  Still no sharks and few crabs.  I ended up with 9 bones hooked.  I only landed 3-4.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
            Line cuts on 3 fingers.  Down to the pinky.  Writing is painful.
            Today I confirmed my suspicions that Los Roques is a “windy place.”  I can’t imagine the wind is any worse in Tierra del Fuego.  Thanks to good guiding by Ericario, I was always in position to cast with the wind, and I had perhaps my best day of saltwater fly fishing ever!  I also realized the value of the nine weight rod.  I brought 3 rods on this trip.  An 8 wt for bonefish, a 10wt for tarpon, and my new 9wt for permit.  Except for my first day, I’ve used the 9wt for the bones.
            After a jarring, wet boat ride, we arrived in a small lagoon, sheltered from the wind.  The water was a murky brown, and baby tarpon were rolling against the mangroves.  After 45 minutes and many fly changes, I hooked and landed a 5 lb tarpon.  I never realized how big the eyes of a small tarpon can be.  They don’t really grow into their eyes until they reach about 20 lbs.
            The tarpon became less active and we left after another half hour.  For the first time I fished bones from the front of the boat.  Jesus set us up on a long drift along the shoreline, and I hustled to cast to spotted fish as the boat overtook them.  I landed one nice bone, but the wind was pushing us very fast, so we left.
            Jesus took us to the area where I hooked the tarpon 3 days ago.  E. & I hopped out and walked to the entrance of the lagoon.  The water was deep, up to our waists in some areas.  I missed a good opportunity in one corner of the bay.  We trudged over to the other side, near the tarpon cove.  We spotted some more bones, and I hooked one after making several casts.  It felt very strong, and turned out to be about 8 lb, the biggest bonefish of the trip.  We then headed into the tarpon cover, and E. handed me the 10wt, rigged with 40 lb test tippet.  I had to cast backwards due to the direction of the wind, and E. wanted it close to the mangroves.  I had not made many casts when a wake appeared behind my fly.  E. had stressed the importance of strip-striking to drive the hook home, and not lifting the rod.  Since my index and middle fingers had deep line cuts, I switched the line to my ring finger, just in time for the grab.  The fish was overtaking the fly as he ate it, and it was hard to keep tension.  I stripped hard until I caught up with the fish.  E. yelled “Mas, mas!” so I gave the fish a couple more big strips.  Finally the 10 kg tarpon jumped, and we were both relieved when the hook held.  After a few minutes and a few more jumps, we got the beautiful fish to hand.  I took a couple great photos of E. with the fish.  He was very happy to land one – his clients before me had broken theirs off, 3 in one day.
            We made a few more casts into the tarpon cove, then switched to bones.  E. found a school in deeper water.  I couldn’t see them, but I caught 6 more bones before lunchtime.
            We met some of the other guides and guests for a magnificent fresh seafood lunch.  Raw oysters, lobster, and potatoes.  Afterwards we returned to the same spot.  The school was still there.  E. and I traded guide stories while I reeled in 7 more bonefish.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
            We headed out to the outer reef, a new spot for me.  Cris & my dad went along today.  We found the flats to be very deep.  Cris explained that the high winds had blown a lot of water into the archipelago.  I hooked 2 fish in the first spot.  Cris saw a permit and made a couple casts, but without luck.
            We moved on to another island with wadeable flats.  E. and I walked a couple minutes before we spotted a school of 5 large permit.  I’ve never seen a guide change flies so fast!  E. tied on a crab fly and cut the leader back to about 20 lb test.  Unlike my last permit opportunity in Mexico, I didn’t panic.  My first cast was good, and my 2nd cast was perfect.  The lead fish in the school looked at the fly and chased it, but wouldn’t eat.  The school swam off into the deep.  We waited 15 minutes, but they never returned.
            We saw no bones on that flat.  We moved on to another small island.  I hooked one more, then we moved on to the airport flats on El Gran Roque.  There were many large bones around.  They were very picky, and with the wind and waves we didn’t always see them soon enough.  I broke off several, including one at least 8 lbs.  We had no more grabs after I broke off my last clouser minnow.
            We called it a day after lunch; I was exhausted!

Trip Report: Belize Mothership Trip

Last year my fishing client Mike Bobbitt called me up and asked me if I would like to join him, his father John, and his brother Sean on a fly fishing trip to Belize. It would be a mothership trip departing from Belize City. Nine days of fly fishing. I asked for more details and did some research. The price was right, I had frequent flyer miles to cover the flight, and the company was good, so I decided to go for it!

On June 6th, 2004 we arrived in Belize City mid-afternoon after two remarkably short flights. Martin, owner and captain of the mothership Meca (named for Martin's wife), picked us up at the airport and drove us all of 15 minutes to the pier. Dean, our other guide, helped us load our bags into one of the skiffs and drove us out to the Meca. After an hour in Belize we were on our way out to our first anchorage, near Long Key.
We spent the first afternoon organizing our gear. I strung up my four Sage Rods: an 890 XP, 990 Xi2, 1090 RPLXi, and a demo 1290 Xi2. Carol, the third and final member of the Meca's crew, cooked us a wonderful dinner, and we hit the sack.

The next day we headed out to a shipping channel to dredge for tarpon. Dredging with a 12 weight fly rod and a fast sinking line is not fun. The guides seemed to believe in it, though. When the sun got high enough we moved out to an area where we could sight-fish for tarpon. Martin explained that the tarpon would be moving along a long sandy beach as they migrated south. Seeing the fish was not a problem. Unfortunately, we had near-gale-force winds that were driving large waves into the beach. Nevertheless, Martin saw a tarpon within a few minutes. Mike cast to it and immediately hooked up on the 80lb fish! The fish ran and jumped several times, but ultimately broke off when Mike ran out of backing. I felt really bad because he was using my rod. Be warned - a Ross Canyon Big Game 5 reel cannot hold enough backing to play fish this size!

That first hook-up was just a taste of what was to come in the next three days. We worked hard to spot fish and make good casts, but I averaged 2 hook-ups a day on tarpon ranging from 40 to 90 lbs. I jumped four of them. One broke me off on its third jump, and the rest through the hook on the first jump. There were also permit flats in the area, and Sean managed to hook one, but he broke it off.

On the afternoon of our third day we moved to Robinson Key, an area known for its excellent permit fishing. Day four was the worst day in terms of weather conditions. Lots of wind and no sun. The only way to spot permit in that kind of weather is if they're tailing. And few of them were. The next two days were even more frustrating because we had excellent conditions but very few fish to cast to. By the time we left Robinson Key, I think I had about 8 opportunities, including 4 times when I'm pretty sure the fish saw my fly. Mike landed a 5 lb permit, and we all hooked up on jacks.

After three days of total permit frustration, we moved to an area called Heusner. I liked this area the best. There were grassy flats where tarpon and permit would hang out, plus mangrove areas where you could cast to baby tarpon and snook. We even got a shot at some nice bonefish. Conditions were challenging, with light winds and no sun. I jumped a few baby tarpon and landed a 10 lb mangrove snapper.

For our last full day we moved back to Long Key. We got into a bunch of bonefish in the evening on very shallow flats. Belize bones are mostly 1-3 lbs, but they still pull hard and are a lot of fun to catch. We hit the sandy tarpon flat again. John hooked a big fish that jumped 7 times before throwing the hook.

On the morning of our last day we fished some bonefish flats close to the airport. The bonefishing was slow, but Martin and Dean found some baby tarpon. I finally landed a tarpon about 10 lbs. Mike and Sean hooked up, too. It was a great way to end the trip.