Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Little Flies on the Owyhee

My brother, Kris a.k.a. Feef, has been working non-stop at his new job, and though the company he works for is stationed in Southern California, he currently lives in Las Vegas where there is little fly fishing to be had. 
“I want to hit that Owyhee, Brother!” Feef said to me. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was starving for some dry fly activity. 
“You got it, Brother!” I said, “I have all the gear you will need, so don’t worry about packing anything on the plane.” 
“Thanks, Brother!” Feef said, and the next morning he was in Boise. We wasted no time getting out to the river. 

“They are rising everywhere, Brother!” Feef said with wide eyes. 
“Let’s do it!” I said, breaking Feef away from just staring at the river. I quickly rigged his fly rod first so he could get out to the water, but when it was ready he was still staring at the river. 
“Look at them all... That’s a big one there!” Feef said, pointing. 
“Is that what you want to do? Just stand up here and look at big fish rising, or do you want to go catch them?” I said with a glare. 
“I don’t get to see this all the time, Brother!” 
“Well?” I said, handing him his wading boots, “What are you waiting for?” He took the boots, put them on in a flash, and was down on the water fly fishing while I finished gearing up.

“Brother what are you doing?” I asked, as Feef presented his fly wildly to some rising fish. 
“I know you haven’t fished in a while, but this is pathetic!” 
“They are not taking my fly!” Feef said while keeping his eyes on the rising fish. 
“Well you need to time it, and cast close to it.” I advised. 
“Ok.” Feef said, and went ahead and casted the exact same way he had been casting before. 

“I can’t take this anymore, Brother!” I said, unhooking my fly to make a cast.
“What?!” Feef yelled. 
“You are not timing the fish. You are casting twenty feet in front of it when all you need is three to five feet, and your fly is sinking.” I said, irritated.  
“I just wanted to come out and have a good time fishing with my brother...” Feef said, with his voice trailing off and sounding sad. 
“Cast to the fish.” I said, and he did. The fish took his fly and he set the hook, but the fight was over before it started.  His hook came flying out of the fish’s mouth, and Feef yelled with frustration. It was then when I unhooked my fly and started casting for the fish behind him. 
“That’s how you do it, Brother!” I said, bringing in my first fish of the day.

After I had hooked a few more fish, Feef was frustrated with our current spot and wanted to leave. To be honest, I too was wondering what these fish were keyed in on. I was catching a few, but I was not 100% keyed into what they were eating.  We arrived at another spot, and we couldn’t see any rising fish.
“Come on, let’s go!” Feef said, after he didn’t see a rise. 
“Hold on.” I said, concentrating on the water a little harder.

Polarized sun glasses help with sighting fish like nothing else, but sometimes by tilting your head you can pick up other subtleties that are easily missed.  Sure enough, after a light head tilt I was able to make out the smallest disturbance on the surface of the water. 
“They are here!” I said, and we got out to fish. 
“Let me change up your fly.” I told Feef. On the water was a weird looking fly with a slight green body, almost like a midge with a caddis-green belly. And, now that we were water-level, we could see fish rising everywhere.  I pitched out my fly to a rising fish, and it didn’t hesitate to take it. 
“Got one!” I said. 
“Me too!” Feef said back. 

“It’s a double-up, Brother!” I yelled happily, as we both brought in our fish. I brought out my net and scooped in Feef’s fish, then scooped in my fish so they were both snuggled in the net.

“Let’s get a shot of you holding both fish!” I said, and Feef didn’t hesitate.  Surprisingly enough, he was able to hold both fish for a picture without either one trying to flop away. 

Our fish bolted away, and back to fishing we went. The nice thing about fishing today was that we figured it out. These fish were keyed into this small fly with the green body, and together Feef and I did not let up on the catching. 

“This is what I needed, Brother!” Feef said, bringing in another fish. 
“Well look at him!” I said to Feef, “He’s back!” Feef just smiled, as he brought in his fish quickly, unhooked it, and let it go. 
“Well how about you get a picture of me?” I said after I hooked up. 
“Well, give me your camera!” Feef said hotly, obviously not wanting to take up time from fly fishing. 

“You know... You would still be over there, pissed at the world, not catching any fish if I hadn’t figured out what fly to use.” I reminded him.
“Well, are you going to hold up the fish?” Feef replied, not hearing a word I said. 

I dipped my fish back into the water, and just as it kicked away, Feef was into another fish. 
“Oh, this is a nice one, Brother!” Feef said, “Definitely want a picture with this one!” 
“Nah, I’m too busy...” I said to him, not even looking in his direction.
“That’s messed up, Brother...” Feef complained, but I reeled in my fly to get a good shot of him with his fish.   

“I’m starting to get hungry.” Feef said, and rightfully so; it was just after 2:00 p.m. 
“Let’s catch a few more, because the fish are really on right now.” I suggested, so we stayed. Just as suspected, we both hooked into a fish in no time at all.  

“Okay, one more fish before we go eat something.” Feef said, and he wasn’t kidding.  He hooked into a fish quickly after his statement, and headed in.  

I too caught a fish, and followed him up to the car. 
“Fishing has been good for us!” I said, as we ate lunch. 
“Yeah, but my head hurts.” Feef said with a mouth full of sandwich. “I kind of want to get going.” 
“What?!” I retorted, “has living in Southern California made you soft?”  
“No, I just have a bad headache.” 
“You always find a way to screw up the day!  The fish are biting like crazy, we figured out the fly, it’s a cool 75 degrees out, there is hardly anybody out here... But oh no! Feef wants to go home!” Feef gave me the most pathetically sad look he could manage, even with his headache.   

The fact of the matter was, that we went out there to catch a few fish on camera to make another small video for Father’s Day. That had definitely been accomplished, so leaving early was really no big deal; and Feef had paid for my Oregon fishing license for the day. 
“Ok, Brother, let’s get going.” I said to him, and he was all for it. We both geared down, and when we did I looked back into the river to see many rising fish. The thought of leaving all these rising fish behind seemed like a crime, but the amount of fish we had caught would make a good addition to the Father’s Day video, and that was most important.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Other Brother

It was only a matter of time before my little brother, Bryan, would make his way back to Boise to visit, and when he did I would take him fly fishing, because it’s the only time he gets to go. Despite his lack of knowledge on the subject, Bryan always catches fish when we go out. He is a quick learner and does exactly what I suggest.  I always have a place to take Bryan that will hopefully allow him to catch some fish with little effort, but this time he made the call. 
“I want to go to the place that has the trees in the water.” Bryan said, looking at my Facebook page. 
“That’s Lake Lowell. But I can’t guarantee you will get a fish.” 
“I don’t care, I want to walk and fish around in the trees.” He said, “It looks cool.”  

We arrived at the south side of Lake Lowell and immediately went to look at the water. Bryan was walking just ahead of me when I yelled at him. 
“Stop!” And he halted. 
“There is a bass there.” I said pointing near a cluster of trees. It took Bryan a second before he spotted it, but after seeing the bass we both ran back to the car to gear up. 
“I want that bass, Erik!” Bryan said eagerly, as I tied a small popper onto his line. Armed with my ten foot five weight, Bryan bolted to the trees and flicked his popper into action.

“Do you remember how to cast?” I asked, as he pulled out more line for a longer cast.
“Nope.” He said, and before I could offer any advice he flicked the rod forward sending his popper right into a low hanging branch.
“Hmmm.” Bryan mumbled after his failed attempt.  
“This is going to be a long day.” I said to him, as he plucked his popper out of the branch.

Some quick pointers and Bryan was back in business. The little popper was being hurled in between every stump and shrub, but nothing was interested in it. 
“Let’s change things up a bit.” I said, snipping off the little popper and replacing it with a larger one.  
“Do you know what’s special about this popper?” I asked.
“It’s yellow?” 
“Nope, it’s a Bruce Lee popper!” 
“Oooooo!” Bryan's eyes widened. 

The morning had started off slow, but the Bruce Lee popper brought all kinds of confidence in Bryan’s cast. With every cast, Bryan added commentary by explaining how to fish with the Bruce Lee Popper, with his obviously-practiced Bruce Lee accent.
“First you have to take your popperrrr, and swam it down!” Bryan continued... “And you have to put your hip into it, and then swam it! His popper slammed down near some trees. Bryan looked at me and said, “And that, my friends, is a very hard ting to do...”.   
All was interrupted when a bass came up and slammed the Bruce Lee popper!
“Ooop, ooop!” Bryan yelled, failing to find words in his excitement.

“Same spot, Erik!” Bryan reminded me, after I had just told him not to keep throwing the popper in the same spot. But it had worked.  
“On the Bruce Lee popper and everything!” I said happily, then I got a good look at his bass. One side of its mouth was a bit tore up, meaning that this bass had been caught a few times. 
“Aw, that fish has been caught so many times... you caught the one dumb fish in here.” I said with a laugh. 

I wanted to get a good picture with him and the fish, so I said, “Hold it up so I can see it”, but right at mid-sentence, the fish flopped out of Bryan’s grasp and splashed, unceremoniously, back into the water. 
“Oh, you dropped it!” I yelled. 
“Ohhh.” Bryan whimpered.   

“Time to let him go.” Bryan said, as if he had planned it. We laughed it off and went back to fishing. 
“Get your fly rod.” Bryan said, because I had yet to pull mine out. 
“I wanted to be sure you got a fish first.” I said, before I grabbed my rod to start fishing.

Bryan and I had split up, but we could still easily see each other amongst the trees. Now that I was in the thick of it all I could tell that casting a fly rod was not going to happen. 

Armed with my 4wt. fly rod, I had on a small brown leech that I would slingshot-cast in and around bushes and tree stumps. The wind was starting to pick up, but the trees and bushes acted like a jetty to keep the water calm where we were.  Some movement in the water caught my eye, and I pulled back and let my fly soar in front of the fish’s path. 

I watched my brown bugger swimming in the water and something was following it.  With the shade, it was hard to make out the type of fish, but when I saw the flash of a take, I set the hook on a nice bass. 

“How are you casting in here?” Bryan asked. 
“Ah, Slingshot-cast...” Bryan said, and I showed him how it was done.  

Bryan got into position, and held onto his Bruce Lee popper to take careful aim. 

He let his popper fly, and it splatted down right in a very tight spot that was surrounded by bushes and sticks. Bryan quickly looked at me to see if I had just witnessed his accomplishment. 
“Nice.” I said, giving Bryan the reassurance he was looking for.

With the trees not producing anything, we decided to blow up the float tubes and try the perimeter of the lake. 

Just as suspected, the wind was creating quite the disturbance on the water.  Bryan was not terribly familiar kicking around in a float tube, but he got the hang of it. He switched to a perch pattern, but was getting no love.

I too was not having much luck, so I kicked a bit closer to the bushes, casted further into them, and saw a school of carp.  I quickly presented my brown bugger, but the carp wanted nothing to do with it. I saw that there was a midge hatch coming off the water, so I quickly clipped off the bugger and replaced it with a chironomid. 
Carp are spooky and a poorly presented fly can spook the entire school.  I aimed for the school, thinking that one should take, and started to cast.  After I got my distance down I presented a very delicate cast right in the middle of the school of carp. Oh no, I thought after my fly wrapped around a twig that I had failed to see. The leader wrapped around the twig one entire turn, before the fly hit a larger twig, causing it to recoil and unwrap from the original twig. The fly came loose and fell like a raindrop in the middle of the school of carp. That couldn’t have happened any better, I thought and made one strip before a carp ate my fly.

I had absolutely no control of this carp. As soon as it felt the pressure of the hook set, it bolted and there was no stopping it. 
“I got a carp!” I yelled over to Bryan, “and it’s hooked on a 4wt fly rod!” 
“I don’t know what that means!” Bryan yelled back. 
“I don’t know if I can bring it in.” I said back, as the 4wt arched further than it ever has.  I could feel that the carp was tiring. I may be able to land it yet! 
“It’s coming up!” I yelled happily.
“I can’t see it!” Bryan yelled back, but then its head popped up, tired from the fight.

“Yuck!” Bryan said at first glance at the carp. 
“I’m not sure I want to touch it.” I said.
“Go ahead, Erik, stick your thumb in there!” Bryan said with a laugh.  

“This is gross.” I said, as I picked up the carp, “Look at this gross.” I said to Bryan who was ready with the camera.

The carp slowly swam away after placing it back in the water, and I did my best to scrub the slime off my hands. 
“That will be a fun fish to put on Dad’s father’s day video.” I said, as Bryan turned off the video camera. 
“Yeah.” He said, and with the wind picking up, we decided to end our day on Lake Lowell.  
“Fun day today.” I said.
“Yeah, I just wish I had brought my camera. It looks cool when you are in the trees.” Bryan said, “And let me know when you make the video, I want to see it.” 
“I will!” I said, and we drove home so that I could sterilize my hands after touching the carp. 

Here is Bryan’s portion of the Father’s Day video.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happy Little Bluegill

When my wife, Gracy, is interested in going popper fishing, I do whatever I can to keep her interest peaked. 
“Would you like your own poppers?” I asked.
“Yes.” She said, happily. 
“Would you like them large, medium, or small?” 
“Small.” She said, after some consideration. 
“What color?” 
“Mmmmmm... Purple, with purple sparkles.” 
“You got it!” I said, and with the next batch of flies I made her three purple sparkly poppers. 

Another item on her list was the Orvis purple sling pack. Years back I had showed her the purple sling, and she was not interested in it. I brought her to the 2014 F3T event in Boise, which had a number of lady fly fishers with the purple Orvis sling. 
“I want that pack!” She said in hushed excited tones, but Orvis had discontinued the pack that very year, preventing us from getting any more in the fly shop.  It was not until the 2015 Orvis Rendezvous when I spoke with a gentleman named Tyler Hallquest, who was running the pro shop at the event, about possibly getting one of the purple slings.  It was a shot in the dark, but Tyler came through and found the last purple sling Orvis had in their warehouse and he put my name on it.  The package arrived at the house before I got home from work, and it was no surprise that the Orvis box was already opened with the sling neatly organized for a day of fishing.

The forecast called for a 90 degree day, which can make any beginner hesitant about getting out to fish.  I knew if I got her in the float tube fast, sitting with her legs in the water would be a welcoming comfort, even with waders on. 
“This is nice.” Gracy said, after she sat in her float tube and dipped her legs in the water to kick away.  

The water certainly made the day twenty degrees cooler, and on top of the nice cool water, it was clear. The visibility was at least 10 feet, which made it easy to spot cruising carp from down below. 

“How are you doing over there?” I called out to Gracy, who was fishing near some tall reeds. 
“I’m getting bites, but I keep losing them.” 
“Would you like to switch to a smaller popper?” 
“No, I want to use my purple one.” She said, and continued to fish. 

I soon found out what she was talking about. Little bluegill was all we could find on the edge of the water, and when I finally hooked into one I was not even sure how it got the little popper in its mouth. 

“I need a bass to take my popper!” Gracy scolded the pond after another lost bluegill. 
“Get it way back on those rocks.” I suggested, but Gracy was way ahead of me.  Her popper landed near the edge of a rock, and she made a few pops.
“Whoa!” She yelled, when a bass slammed her popper with no warning. The bass put on quite the show before Gracy brought it in. 
“Check out the eye on that one.” I said, kicking closer to take a picture. She held it up for me to get an eyeball shot. 

“Are they always red?” Gracy asked, after her bass made a splashy get-away. 
“The small mouth bass usually have red or orange eyes. That’s another way you can tell what kind of bass you have.”  I said, and she started to cast again. 
“Hold on, I want to switch your popper.” I said, taking out my box, and selecting the smallest popper I had.  I clipped off her purple popper and Gracy tucked it back in its place while I tied on her new fly, and it was just what the doctor ordered.  On her first cast she hooked into a bluegill that took her fly like it was going out of style.

With a much smaller popper, the bluegill were almost swallowing it. This made it a little harder to get it out of their mouths, but with the numbers of fish we were catching, it was worth the extra effort. 

Gracy dipped her bluegill under the water, and waited until it kicked away to its home. 

I happened to be floating over some little fish, and figured if I didn’t move they wouldn’t spook. 
“Quick, cast your popper over here.” I said, dropping my camera into the water.  Gracy tossed her popper over near me, and when she gave it a pop, it got the attention of a little bass. 

One last jolt, and the bass took the popper.  It was not the biggest bass in the world, but it put up a nice fight.  The little fish was swimming my way as I grabbed Gracy’s line and brought up her fish to unhook it. 

“They like this little popper.” Gracy said, after releasing another fish. 
“I think it’s just because they can fit it in their mouth.” I said back. 
“Are you ready to get going?” I asked, after we had our fill of catching. 
“Yep!” She said, turning her float tube around. 
“Are you having a good time?” I asked.
“Yep!” She replied, with a smile and a thumbs up.

I was sure to stop by the gas station to pick up a cold smoothie for the drive home, along with a few snacks to keep Gracy happy. When she was a kid she used to love going fishing, because it was the only time her parents allowed junk food. I like to think I’m keeping up with her family tradition by supplying the white cheddar popcorn she loves; and the best thing is that I actually like fishing with her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pop it Like It’s Hot

It was nearing the end of the workday when ol’ Terry Kowallis came through the doors. 
“I got a hall pass for tonight, can you sneak out to fish?” Terry asked me, as he started picking out poppers from the tray. 
“I think I can arrange something.” I said, knowing I had nothing planned for the evening. Terry has access to a private bass pond out in Star, ID, so I was going to do whatever it took to go. 
“I’ll swing by your place and pick you up on the way out.” Terry said, as the clock struck 6pm: closing time. 
It was a miracle. It’s always when you are excited to get somewhere when everyone seems to be in your way, or you hit every red light... but not today.  Green, Green, Green all the way home, and there was hardly any traffic at all.  I made it home in record time, and had all of my gear out when Terry came to pick me up.

“Heck, we are just going to a little bass pond. What do you need all this stuff for?” Terry asked, after I had loaded all my gear into his truck. 
“You never know, Terry!” I said. With the pond being in Star, which is only about 20 minutes from my house, we were there in no time at all.

Terry got the boat ready as I put together my fly rod. 
“Go cast off the dock while I rig up my rod.” Terry suggested, and he didn’t have to say it twice. By the time he had his rod rigged with a popper, I had hooked into three bass and was waiting for him to back up the drift boat.

I got behind the sticks first while Terry slammed his popper near the tall reeds. The water was as still as glass, until Terry jerked his popper to life.

WHAM! The bass came out of the water to kill his popper, and Terry set the hook fast. 
“That was my third cast. If a fish hadn't hit that one, I would have thought there was nothing in this pond.” Terry said, bringing in his fish. 

A quick release, and Terry was back at it.  Just as suspected, his popper was hit again, this time with such voracity, that if you didn’t expect it, it would scare you half to death. 

It was finally my turn, and I didn’t waste any time getting my fly where it needed to be. I was armed with my 7wt. so my fly hit hard when it landed.  Slap! Slap! Slap, it hit, but nothing was eating my fly.
“You must have caught them all, Terry.” I said, still fishing like mad.
“Try over there,” Terri pointed, “I know there are is some structure underwater that is always good for a bass.”   

I was long overdue for a bass,especially at a private pond, and nothing took where Terry had suggested.  I flicked out my popper, and it landed a bit off target.  Shoot, I thought, and lifted my rod to pick up my popper when a fish took right at that same moment. 
“Hell, you couldn’t have timed that one better.” Terry said, as I brought in my fish.   

It was non stop catching after that.  Fish after fish we nailed, and all on a popper.  It was Terry's turn, and he hooked into a fish right off the bat. It was a large pumpkinseed fish that was easily the size of his head. 

It was great catching bass after bass, but I really wanted a large bluegill or pumpkinseed.  I casted to all the little pockets of water in search of one, but only bass hit.  The sun was starting to set, which made the water look like ripples of silvery mercury when a fish hit my fly. 

It was definitely starting to get dark, but the bass fishing was only getting better. 

I slammed my fly down, and gave it some hard pops back when a fish ate it.  I set the hook, pulling my fly right out of the fish’s mouth. I quickly got it back out to where I had yanked it away, and the fish was still there.  It hit my fly again, and I yanked it away, again without hooking the fish.

I quickly plopped my fly out for a third time, to the same fish, hoping it would still be there. 
“It already gave you two chances; it probably figured that was enough.” Terry said, as my fly hit the water.  SLAM! The fish hit!
“He isn’t getting away this time, Terry!” I yelled, as I brought in my fish.

“I think we need to be off the pond by sundown.” Terry said, as it got darker yet. 
“How can you have a private bass pond, and not expect people to say late when that’s the best?” I asked. 
“Well, you are up, because I can’t see anymore.” Terry said, reeling in his line.

I didn’t waste any time switching him spots again. It was getting hard to see, but there was just enough moonlight for me to make out the bank.  Terry was rowing to the dock to end the night, as I pitched out my popper into the darkness.  Things had slowed down, which isn’t saying much. I still caught plenty of fish along the way, but after I dropped Terry off so he could get his truck, I oared myself out one last time. 
Give me one last fish, I thought as I casted my popper again and again.  The white reverse lights shined in my eyes as Terry backed up the railer. It was time to go, so I had myself one last cast. I was reeling in my line with every pop, and heard a splashy take. BOOM, a fish was on!

“Is it a big bluegill?” Terry asked from the shore. 
“No, it’s a bass, but I’m not complaining.” I said back, lipping my bass and taking out the popper. I secured my fly rod in the boat and oared back to Terry, who hooked it up to the trailer to take it out. 
“Well thank you for coming along, that was fun.” Terry said, as we got back into his truck. 
“How many fish do you think we caught?" I asked. 
Terry thought about it for a sec',“It would have to be 65-70 at least.” 
“65-70?” I asked, amazed. 
“Math was never my strongest subject.” Terry said. 
“Mine either, 70 it is!” I said with a laugh, as we headed home to end the night on a sobering white lie.