Monday, March 2, 2015

Fish Tales

I got a tip the other day from some duck hunters friends; they saw rising fish just at sunrise on the Boise River.  The way they were explaining these fish was like watching boiling water. 
“They were everywhere, and the first person I thought of was you!” My buddy, Brandon, said to me, excited to tell the story.  That was all I needed to hear!  The next morning I got up before sunrise and headed to the special spot.

With the moon out I thought I would be able to see where I was going before sunrise, but the thick cloud cover kept the light of the moon, and me, at bay.  I did make my way to the water, and waited to see the rising fish. 

Brandon did say he was a bit further downstream, I thought to myself as I quickly made my way further down the river.  I had my phone out, tracking my location on Google Maps, directing myself to the exact point where he said he saw the fish.  

By now the sunrise was peaking over the horizon... anytime now the fish should start rising!

I crouched down near a large bush in the shadows and watched the river.  Ah, a rise!  I brought my fly rod out, ready to make a cast to a steadily rising fish, but nothing happened...

I remained optimistic, steadily watching the water, and sure enough another rise!  The water was not boiling, but a rise is a rise, and I was ready.  This time I creeped out into the water ready to make a cast, but the fish never rose again. 

I know I didn’t spook the fish; I was far enough away yet close enough to make a delicate/accurate cast. 
“Well, where the hell are the fish?” I asked out loud, after the magic moment of time flew by, and only two rises to speak of. Far from boiling water! 

On my way back upstream I slapped on a small streamer and worked the water, but caught nothing.  Well, that’s not true.  I did catch a spectacular sunrise! 

 “Three!” I said to Brandon the next time we met. “Three rises total!” I said, because I did see one more before I left the river. 
“Dude! I swear I saw them.” Brandon said, “Next year, when we go, I’ll bring you with us, and you will see... I see this every year man!” 
“Okay, I’ll go!” I told Brandon. 

So, until next year, I guess! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chasing the Steel

“Well, your stock just went up, my friend!” John Stuckey said to me with a smile, because not only did I honor his 5 a.m. meeting time, I was there just before he arrived, waiting.  
“You know me, Stuckey!” I said back with a smile and a firm hand shake.
“They’re calling for a 19 degree weather day.” Stuckey said, dropping his voice a octave lower, and a bit more serious.  It was true, a 19 degree day was the forecast for the Little Salmon River, but it would take a blizzard to keep us from steelheading. And we would most likely fish in a blizzard just to say we did! This is the kind of crazy mentality steel-headers get, especially guys like myself and Stuckey, who won’t let a little cold keep us from the water. 
“I wouldn’t expect anything less!” I said, and three hours later we were geared up and fishing for steelhead on the Little Salmon River. 

I set up a 7wt. Helios switch rod Ryan Spillers let me borrow with a nymphing outfit, while Stuckey rigged up his 8wt. Helios 2 switch rod for swinging flies. Nymphing is the most effective way to fly fish for steelhead during this time of year, but swinging flies is the more pure way. Because of this I was reluctant to pick a spot to fish when Stuckey offered my choice of water.  It is my belief that anyone who is fishing a more pure way should get first pick as to where they want to fish. Stuckey insisted I pick a spot, and it worked out because I ended up hooking into a rainbow trout!

“I thought your rod was going to break bringing in that fish!” Stuckey said with a laugh. 
“It took my pico-stonefly nymph.” I said back to him. 
“Oh, God!” Stuckey said, “don’t you have any other names to use for your flies?” 
“What are you talking about?” I said laughing, before we left to find a different spot on the river. 

The sun peaking over the ridge helped the temperature rise a degree or two, which warmed us up enough to shed a layer of clothing.  
“This is the spot where Ryan brought me last year, and we both hooked into steelhead.” I said, as we approached a turnoff. 
“Sounds good to me.” Stuckey said, and pulled over.  
Stuckey found a nice spot to swing his flies while I walked further upstream. 

I shimmied my way down the large boulders to the river's edge, which had enough space for me to stand semi-comfortably.  I worked the edge of a large riffle that looked like good holding water for a steelhead, and when I came up empty I readjusted my indicator to allow my flies to go even deeper.  I flicked my flies out and watched my indicator floating downstream, and then it shot underwater!  I set the hook with all the force that an eleven foot 7wt. Helios switch rod has to offer, and felt the glorious tug of a steelhead! 
Normally I’m quiet when bringing in fish, but with all the guys that filed in around me with hardware, I felt the need to put on a show. 
“Oh, there it is!” I yelled, getting some attention from my fellow spincasting anglers. 
“It’s a steelhead! It’s a fighter!” I yelled out again, as they watched. There was no hiding my happiness as I brought the fish in close enough to land.  I reached back for my net... that wasn’t there!  Great, I thought, after I brought all this attention to myself I now have a greater chance of losing the fish.  I brought the steelhead in close, and grabbed its tail to yank it from the river! LANDED, and there are no sunglasses made today that could dim the shine of my smile, as I looked from side to side at everyone watching. 

I told the story of catching the steelhead to Stuckey, who got a real kick out of the scenario.  Together we headed to another promising spot on the river to try our luck. 

We stopped at a nice spot that had deep holding pools for a resting steelhead. On the banks of the Little Salmon River it was nice to be fishing with a switch-rod.  The amount of torque you can apply on the line allows you to perform casts that require no backcasting, yet the ability to send your flies to the other end of the river with a well timed flick. 

Despite my ability to cover the water, there were no fish willing to take my flies in our new spot. 

I walked back up to see how Stuckey was doing. From a distance I could tell that Stuckey really knew how to handle a two-handed switch rod.  Perfectly timed casts sent his flies right on target, and made me realize how much more I need to practice my switch and spey casting. 

Another quick move took us further upstream to some nice holding water.  At first glance both Stuckey and I smiled; this definitely looked like steelhead holding water!  Stuckey fished the top tail-out while I waded downstream. On a long cast out I watched as my indicator went under and I set the hook hard. My rod doubled over, which got Stuckey’s attention. 
“Did you catch Idaho?” Stuckey asked, knowing full well what a snag looked like. 
“Sure did, and it’s not coming loose.” I said, and broke off my flies. 

“I would have lost money on that spot.” Stuckey said as we left the nice looking holding water behind. 
“I can’t imagine there not being a steelhead there.” I said, puzzled. The day was nearly over, but we were not ready to leave.  We stopped and caught zero fish at one last spot. 

The sun hid behind the big eastern hills that created the canyon we stood in, dropping the temperature back down to a chilling number. The wind started ripping through the riverbanks, which aided our decision to leave the water.  
“Hey, Erik, look at this.” Stuckey said, holding up his frozen fly and flicking it a few time to show how solid it was. 
“Well, if that isn’t a sign to end the day, I don’t know what is.” I said, as we geared down and headed back toward Boise. We stopped in Cambridge to have dinner at a small Ma-and-Pa restaurant, which had homemade ice cream! In the end, Stuckey ordered the pie for dessert, while I went with two scoops of ice cream to finish off a nice day of steelheading. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Josh Did it Again!

Local artist, Josh Udisen, acquired inspiration from a fish photo of mine last year and asked if he could create a painting.  Of course I was excited to hear that one of my photos was going be painted, and immediately gave my okay for him to proceed!  

A while later I asked if he would be interested in seeing another picture of mine that was so close to being a great picture, in my mind.  The problem was that the picture I had taken of a grayling I caught up near McCall, ID, had come out blurry!  I was so upset at this when I first saw it! I kept the picture on my computer, because I wasn’t ready to let it go. And good thing I did.  

Josh suggested that I send him the picture, saying that it didn’t matter if it was a little blurry... so I did!  And Josh loved it!  In a short amount of time, he sent me this photo of the finished product that breathed new life into my blurry one! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Picture Perfect

About two feet of snow was being carved away by the flowing water, making Myrtle Creek the perfect picturesque winter stream.  At first I couldn’t wait to step in the water.

I have fished this creek before in the spring, with some success, and couldn’t wait to wet my line. Despite the clouds and snow that surrounded me, the temperature was not bad at all. 

I rigged up to do some euro nymphing and proceeded to work every rock that a small, unsuspecting fish might call home.  As I worked my way upstream, I came across a large undercut snow-shelf that had been carved out by the stream; underneath the shelf there were large icicles that exist only to the person stupid enough to be standing in the water. 

Just ahead was what I was looking for: a deeper hole that fish would hold in during the winter season.  In the winter it is crucial to carefully approach fish because they seem hyper-sensitive and will spook at the slightest disruption, even more than normal.

I crouched down to approach the hole like a heron, each step well thought out to make the least amount of noise possible.  I flicked my flies in the best spot, doing my best to stay out of sight.  

I stayed low while thoroughly working the spot, and was rewarded with nothing!  Desperate to see a fish, I walked through the hole while keeping my eyes peeled... I was now purposefully trying to spook fish, just to see if they were there!  Nothing, not one scurrying fish. Not a good sign. 

More snow-shelves meant more hidden icicles, leading to more pictures. 

Every snow-shelf I came across had icicles of all sizes, no two snow-shelves were the same. 

Some icicles were thick and some were thin, but this next seemed to be upside-down!

As I walked up the stream I half-heartedly fished behind bigger rocks and small runs...just in case. 

Every portion of this river looked picture perfect. The bridge just upstream was my ending point and, as you guessed, I was sure to snap another picture.

I went back to sweeping my flies under large ice and snow-shelves for the home stretch, and in the process I stopped to snap another picture of hidden icicles.  Apparently I like taking pictures of these things.

Catching was nonexistent today, but I still enjoyed every minute in the stream.  Obviously the icicles alone were enough to make me happy, not to mention being surrounded by snow on a stream.  It’s days like this that remind me of how much I love doing what I do.

In the end I took 173 photos of the day on the water, which is a bit extreme, even for me!  I crawled my way onto a large ice shelf that looked thick enough to support me and walked back to the car skunked for the day, not at all feeling as though I had walked away empty-handed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Just This Morning

I going to be honest, I was dragging myself out of bed this morning to meet up with my buddy, Ryan Spillers, to go steelheading on the Boise River.  My hope was to catch a fish before work, which limited my time to just under an hour and a half. My expectations were low, and so was my enthusiasm. 

"Erik!" Ryan yelled over to me as he stepped out of his truck. 
"Ryan!" I yelled back. 
"Ready to catch a steelhead?" He asked, sounding peppy as he gathered his gear. Ryan has been chasing-the-steel in the Boise River a lot this year, and is dialed in to their locations and what the fish may be feeding on. 
"Hell yeah!" I said back to him, finding his can-do attitude uplifting.
"Then let's do it!" He said, and with everything rigged up, we walked to the river. 
"Hold on, I want to get a picture of you coming down the embankment." Ryan said, as he shot down it like a squirrel, then turned with his camera ready.  
"Okay, here I come." I said, as I started to make my way down as naturally as possible.

We got to the river, and Ryan was quick to point out a promising spot. 

We split up and started fishing. For me, waiting for an indicator to go under is boring, and is probably the reason I was dragging my feet to get up this morning. I watched as my indicator floated by again and again while talking to it, and to myself... "Okay, now!" I said, willing my indicator to shoot under to indicate a fish had eaten my fly... but nothing. 
"Now!" I said again after another cast, but the yellow ball of an indicator stared right back at me, lifeless.  This went on for a good hour, and I was losing patience. Which is funny, because I got into fly fishing for my lack of patience.

The day was starting to clear up, which meant time was running out. I shot my line out again and watched my indicator floating downstream, then it jolted under! No matter how long I have been waiting, I am always ready to set the hook, which I did! Boom! Boom! Boom! The tip of my fly rod jolted hard, and my raincloud-mood lifted to a bright sunny day! 
"Ryan!" I yelled, as I started walking towards him. 
"You got one!" He said happily, before taking out his camera to snap a picture of the fight.

"Ryan, this just made my day!" I said, as the ten foot five weight fly rod was doubled over with the weight of a steelhead. 
"I'm glad you got one." Ryan said back, as I wrenched back on the rod to bring up the head of my fish, and slipped it into my net. 
"There we go!" I said, after the steelhead was securely landed. 
"Yeah! That's a nice steely." Ryan added, as I picked up the fish for a picture.

"What did it take?" Ryan asked. 
"You're not going to believe it." I said, as I held up the fly. 
"Ohhhh!!!" Ryan yelled, "it took the Pico Stone!"  
"Yes it did!" I said, laughing. 
The funny thing about the Pico Stone, is that I never liked it well enough make it public. It was an ugly fly that I kept in my fly box for a while, because I felt it needed more work. Whatever reason I decided to use a fly I disliked was similar to the feeling I got that made me not want to go fly fishing this morning.  And in the end, I was glad I did both... It's going to be a good day today! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tom Rosenbauer

"Do you guys like chocolate?" The scruffy voice of Tom Rosenbauer asked us, as we drove him back to his hotel room after a fun dinner.  
"Yeah!" Gracy, my wife, said before I could even think of a reply. Tom sat in the back seat, offering the front to Gracy, as I drove. 
"Well, let me give you something." Tom said, as he opened his backpack and fished something out.
"Here is some chocolate that I made that I would like you to have." Tom said, handing us a bar.  
"You make your own chocolate?" Gracy asked, as she took the bar.  As soon as Gracy had the bar of chocolate fully in her hands, she shot back around looking at me, then the chocolate, with a manic, excited look on her face!  I know this look, this look means, yes, she is excited... but it also means I will never be able to touch or look at this chocolate bar without proper notification and 24 hour observation. Better yet, this was not our chocolate bar, it was 100% hers, and I'd be damned to think otherwise.
"Thank you, Tom." I said.
"What got you into making your own chocolate?" Gracy asked.
"Well, our family loves chocolate..." Tom said happily, "...but my son has a peanut allergy, and just about every chocolate bar made today has a high probability it has been cross contaminated with peanuts. After doing some research on how to make my own chocolate, I discovered a place called Chocolate Alchemy where I could buy high quality cocoa beans in a reasonable bulk-size to make my own chocolate!"
"How long does it take to make?" Gracy asked. 
"About three days." Tom answered, just as we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. The thought of making my own chocolate was intriguing and I wanted to know more, but the next day was the 2nd day of the expo and we needed our sleep for another big one.   

The fly fishing expo ran smoothly both days, and the presenters packed the house.  Both Phil Rowley and Tom Rosenbauer sat patiently waiting for the Hank Patterson presentation to begin. 

Recognizing the two fly fishing celebrities in his audience, Hank took the time to thank both Phil and Tom for opening for him at the show. Hank was kind enough to thank them in front of everyone. 

Six to eight months of planning, over a hundred hours of volunteer time, and constant running around during the show to make sure everything is working right... just for the expo to be over in two short days. It goes by so fast.  

The last dinner with Tom, Phil, and Pete was a good time had by all. The conversations about their experiences fly fishing reminded me how much more I have to experience and learn. 

As we walked out to our vehicles, Tom brought out his backpack to hand out more homemade chocolate. 
"Hey, Phil.  Do you like toasted sesame seeds and chocolate?" Tom asked, handing Phil a bar. 
"I guess so..." Phil replied, not sure what was being offered. 
"Here, Pete." Tom said, handing a bar of chocolate to him. "This one has Vermont maple syrup in it." 
"What is this?" Pete asked, taking the bar. 
"He makes homemade chocolate!" I said. 
"I have started to experiment by adding some flavors together." Tom said, excited to share, "and my son drew the cover that we use...  Take a look at the ingredients." 
The bars were turned over, and we looked at the ingredients list: cocoa beans & organic sugar.
"It doesn't get better than that!" Tom said with a smile, as I brought up my camera to take a picture. 

"Okay, Phil, let's get a picture." I said. Phil raised his chocolate bar and I snapped a shot, but not before Gracy jumped in for a photo-bomb. 

Everyone said goodbye, and once more, Gracy and I were giving Tom a ride back to the hotel. 
"Did you try the chocolate I gave you yesterday?" Tom asked from the back seat. 
"Are you kidding me? There is no way I can get close to that chocolate bar." I replied, looking at Gracy, who was trying to look innocent. 
"Well, here is another one for you." Tom said, pulling out another chocolate bar. "This one has sea-salt! Do you like that?" 
"Yes!" Gracy said, once again taking the bar. 
Tom explained the entire process of making chocolate at home, from roasting the cocoa bean to forming the chocolate bar.  He did his best to describe the rich aroma making chocolate can produce at home, but I bet experiencing it firsthand would be even better. 
Sadly, the night came to an end. Tom reminded me to pick him up at 3 a.m. to catch his plane before he said "good night".  

The car ride home was quick.  I opened the garage door and parked the car, then Gracy opened her door to get out. 
"My chocolate bar!" I said happily, and grabbed it from the middle console.
"HEY, THAT'S MINE!" Gracy howled.
"No it's not. Tom gave it to me, because you took the first bar he gave us." I said, holding the bar away from her clawing hands.
"I decided I wanted the sea-salt one, and you can have the other one!" Gracy pleaded, while becoming more aggressive.
"NO WAY!" I yelled, and made a dash to get out.  I flung the door open and slipped out quickly, but Gracy had anticipated the move and pounced like a chicken on a June-bug!
"Ahhh!" I screeched!
"GIVE ME BACK MY CHOCOLATE!" She demanded, as she held my leg to keep me from escaping!

I felt like Harry Potter trying to keep his Hogwarts acceptance letter away from mean-old Uncle Vernon, as I slipped away. As fast as I was getting to the door to go inside, Gracy was faster: almost teleporting to the door to block my way.  We were at a standoff, Gracy looking like she could stop a train.  In a flash, I reached for the doorknob, leaving myself open for Gracy to lunge for my homemade chocolate bar.  The amount of pressure she put on my hand to release the bar frightened me. The bar is going to break, I thought... so I let it go. 
"Ha! HA!" Gracy gloated holding the chocolate bar, but as she celebrated, I slipped inside the house: the door shut quickly and I locked her out! 
"HEY!!!" I heard her yell from the other side of the door. I stood there for a long moment before unlocking the door and stomping away. When I came back from hanging up my jacket, two chocolate bars sat on the kitchen countertop... Gracy was willing to share, after all.

She took each bar and split them both in half so that we could share the flavors equally. I took the chocolate in my hand and raised it up to take in a deep breath. The rich smell filled my lungs causing me to smile, then I did it again.  The distinct clop sound of chocolate breaking sounded perfect as I took a piece, and let it melt in my mouth. Gracy was just as happy, trying one of her small squares of fine chocolate.
If Tom Rosenbauer were to ask me what I think of his chocolate, I could easily say it offers a deep rich chocolate taste that warms the soul, and would be the perfect remedy after an entanglement with even the fiercest dementor!

Read Tom Rosenbauer's Article About Chocolate
Tom Rosenbauer's Podcast

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter Euro Nymphing

The first fishing trip of the New Year is always a good one!  This year I was joined by Mr. Stillwater himself, Phil Rowley.
"What time do you need to pick up Tom Rosenbauer today?" Phil asked, making sure I was staying on track this afternoon.
"Tom's plane was delayed; he will not join us on the river today." I said back.
"That's great!" Phil said happily.
"What?" I asked with a chuckle. "He's stuck in an airport an extra 7 hours now!  How is that great?"
"Well, no.  That's not what I meant..." Phil said, back-pedaling. "Now we can fish the entire time, and not have to worry about picking up Tom."
"Only thinking of yourself... that's the Phil Rowley I know!" I said jokingly, yet adding to Phil's guilt. 
"Oh, be quiet!  You are just trying to make me feel bad." Phil said, chuckling.
"Are you here yet?" Phil asked.
"I'll be there in just a sec." I said, and pulled into Pete's Erickson's driveway where Phil was waiting, and we quickly made our way to the Boise River.

"Pete said he would join us after he gets off work." Phil reminded me as we grabbed the rest of our gear and headed towards the river.
"This is the path?" Phil asked, as we stood looking down the steep decline. The previous precipitation had muddied up the steep trail and after one step down, Phil's boots started slipping from under him.
"NOPE!" Phil said, turning back to crawl away from the slick trail. I quickly pulled out my camera, just in case Phil slipped.  
"I hate you!" Phil said, as he climbed back to the paved walking path.

We eventually found a path that was not as steep and made our way down to the river.
"Why do you have that backpack?" I asked, as we got into the water.
"It has my cameras in it." Phil replied, setting it down on a small rock island in the middle of the river where he could keep an eye on it and still fish.    

The water was a bit cloudy today due to the fluctuation of flows from the dams upstream. Despite the adjusting water flows working against us, we started to fish. With the rig Pete Erickson taught me, I slapped my flies into the water, and it wasn't long before my orange slinky sprang to life!
"First fish of the year!" I yelled over to Phil, who looked over and offered a few hollers of approval. I netted the fish quickly, and saw that it was not the prettiest white fish in the river, but it was my first fish of the year.  That's worth a picture, I thought, and snapped a shot before dumping my fish back into the water.

Both Phil and I walked to a different section of the river that also looked promising. The small, picture perfect pools and tail-outs where we fished were not providing us with any luck. 

"It's not too bad out here." Phil said.
"Yeah, I was expecting it to be colder." I said, looking at his back pack that held his cameras.
"Are you going to take any pictures?" I asked.
Phil laughed. "I lugged that thing down here only to realize that both batteries in my cameras are dead."
We both had a chuckle about that, but with the way catching was going today, the camera picked a good day to be dead. Pete was almost off work, and we only had two white fish to speak of. As I took a few steps upstream and started fishing the faster water, my slinky stretched out as I led my flies quickly downstream, and I set the hook fast!
"It's a 'bow!" I said happily.
"I hate you." Phil said, as I netted my fish and took a quick picture of the first rainbow of the year.

Together Phil and I headed back up to the parking lot, where we met up with Pete Erickson to fish a different stretch of the Boise River.

"Here, Phil, put on this hat." Pete said, handing Phil an Oregon Ducks hat. 
"Well I like my hat!" Phil complained, putting his hands up to shelter the hat on his head. 
"Well, I'm going to write a blog for Echo, and they would kill me if I sent in pictures with someone else's company's hat." 
"But I like this company, and this company likes me." Phil said, making things difficult for Pete.
"Just..." Pete said, taking the Ducks hat and tossing it at Phil, "Put this on!" 
Phil caught the hat, and said, "Okay, but I'm not taking off my hat." Sure enough, with Phil's hat still on, he placed the Ducks hat right on top. 
"There, that's the best you're going to get!" Phil said with a smile.
"Go Ducks!" Pete said with a smile!

If we thought the river was off-color where Phil and I had fished prior to meeting up with Pete, it was nothing compared to where we were now.  There was a definite stain to the water that was frustrating all three of us, but I stood upstream as the two fishing masters euro-nymphed a promising riffle. 

Finally, Phil's slinky sprang to life, and he set the hook! As his fly rod shot up, a large stick shot towards him. 
"Another damn stick!" Phil yelled, not happy about his catch. 
"The next guy that fishes here will thank us, because we are cleaning out the river for him." Pete said, and he was right.  This had to have been Phil's tenth stick, and Pete and I were easily catching up.  Still, the three of us together can make light of anything, and Phil was happy to hold up what he called 'the biggest stick of the day'. 

"I just want to catch a fish so that I can brag to my friends in Canada that I caught a fish in January." Phil said, as he released his stick.  
The day was fading fast and the temperature was right alongside. It was nearly time for me to get going when I heard yelling from upstream,"Got one!"
It was Phil, and sure enough this time it wasn't a stick! 

I bolted upstream in full sprint where Phil was backing into the slower water, reeling in his fish.  
"It's a brownie!" Pete said with excitement, as I brought out my net to land the fish. 
"You got the big fish of the day, Phil!" I said as I handed him the net, and brought out my camera for a picture.

Phil dipped his fish back into the water, and it slipped from his fingers to return home. 
"Sweet, Man!" Pete said to Phil, as he stood up.  
"I can say I caught a fish in January!" Phil said happily, before we all made our way off the river to end the first day on the water for 2015.