Sunday, May 25, 2014

Western Rivers Conservancy Outing

Jim Cox, with the Western Rivers Conservancy, invited me to fish with him and his crew on the Owyhee River; but before we headed out, we had to stop and grab lunch for the day.  Abe, Craig, Jimmy, Maurice, Jim, and myself were in the grocery store looking for sandwiches when Jimmy broke away and headed straight for the bananas.  

After a few minutes, I notices that Jimmy was still hovering around the bananas, picking up a bundle and breaking them apart to select only the best one of the bunch.  
“What are you doing?” I asked, as Jimmy pulled apart another bundle, selecting one particular banana and placing it carefully in his basket with the other prized bananas. 
“I love bananas!” Jimmy said, “They have to look like this.” He held out a banana that was slightly on the green side, then went on to explain what he looks for in each banana.  

Abe, who had walked over said, “I like it when the banana is all brown.  That is when they taste the best.” He said.  Jimmy’s face scrunched up like he ate something sour and he turned his bananas away from Abe’s view, as if to shield them with the thought that they could turn brown.  Craig joined us and, on his arrival, Jimmy’s eyed got huge, as if he just remembered something extremely important.  Then he grabbed his prized bananas, and threw them back in the banana bin.  
“Now what’s wrong?” I asked, as Jimmy now treated his bananas like they were infected. 
“Are we going to be on a boat?” Jimmy asked Craig.
“No, we are wading today.” Craig confirmed. 
“Oh, thank God!” Jimmy said with a sigh, and grabbed his bananas again. 
“Am I missing something?” I asked.
“Bananas are extremely bad luck on a boat.” Jimmy told me, in a most concerned manner.  He went on to explain the banana folklore, as I listened in disbelief.  Jimmy owns Patrick’s Fly Shop in Seattle, Wa, so he has been around.  Jimmy said that he was almost kicked off a captain’s boat for bringing a banana onboard. 
“Dreadful, dreadful bad luck!” Jimmy finished, as we all paid and headed out to the Owyhee River. 

With six of us, we decided to split up along the river.  We left Jimmy, Craig, and Abe to fish the first spot we came to.  They geared up, watching fish rising along their stretch of river while Jim, Maurice and I headed upstream. 
“Oh, this is going to be good!” Jim said, as we looked at the stretch of river we were about to fish.  Sure enough we could see rising trout, and after 15 different rises took place we stopped counting and got to the river.  Jim went a bit downstream while Maurice and I fished near the vehicles. 
“Erik, I love your pico spider!” Jim yelled out of eyesight.  Just around a bush, we could hear Jim bringing in his fish. 

I pointed out some fish to Maurice then headed a little upstream to fish, as he insisted.  A suspended midge was the fly to have this morning, and it was not long at all before I had hooked my first fish. 

Laughter from Jim echoed from around the bend as he brought in another fish in no time at all.  I too was picking off fish with the suspended midge, while Jim had switched to a simple Bumble Butt

Maurice was casting towards a fish when another fish rose right downstream from me. 
“Maurice!” I yelled over to him, and pointing at the water where a fish just rose.  
“It looked like it took a caddis.” I said over to him.  After switching his fly to a CDC caddis, he inched closer and presented his fly.  Right on cue, the fish Maurice was after came up quickly. With a sudden splash, Maurice set the hook!

Maurice's reel came screaming to life as the fish made its first run.  Every attempt to land it failed because of a sudden burst of energy coming from the fish.  Maurice’s arm was starting to tire.  We were now on our fourth attempt, and Maurice’s rod was doubled over as the fish got near.  I reached out with the net, and the fish turned to run again, but not fast enough. 
“That’s a nice fish!” Maurice said, as his fish flopped around in my net.  After the fish calmed down a bit, he held it up for this nice picture.

We immediately went back to fishing, and more echos of laughter came from around the bend.  Jim was putting on a clinic just downstream from us, catching fish after fish.  Time flew by fast, and soon it was lunch time.  We got out of the river just in time to meet up with the rest of the crew. 

I was happy to hear that Craig, Abe, and Jimmy had all been successful at their spot.  Abe told us about the great morning he had, while munching on an entire bundle of radishes.  Jimmy sat near the car with what looked like an a buffet; to my surprise, the only thing missing were his bananas. 

After lunch we drove upstream, and this time I got to fish with Jimmy, Abe, and Craig.  The new spot was a bit more stagnate, but that didn’t stop the fish from rising.  PMDs were hatching all around, but these fish were taking midges.  

I notified Craig on what fly I used, because the fish here were being snobby.   As soon as he switched he caught the fish that was rising in front of him. 

The fish exploded into action, jumping and thrashing.  It was no surprise that upon netted it, it was a rainbow trout.
“Well not bad, Craig.  It’s not that often you get a rainbow trout here.” I said to him, before he held it up for a picture.  

Craig’s fish darted away, and he went back to fishing.  Jimmy was way upstream.  His bright shirt, hat, and sunglasses made him very visible from a distance.  Abe, however, was just downstream from me, so I headed over to see how he was doing.  Slightly hunched over, Abe was stalking a trout that was feeing on PMDs.

The fish was sitting in a weird location: behind a rock that created a slightly swift current, making it tricky to get your fly down its feeding lane.  Abe was persistent, casting until the fly hit the exact spot he needed it to.  I stood back and watched as the fish’s mouth came up, taking Abe’s fly.  Abe’s rod shot up, indication the fish was on! 

Abe had full control of the fish and it seemed to come in easy, as he lifted his rod and slipped his net under his fish. 

“That was a nice cast you had to make.” I said as he dipped his fish back into the water.  
“The fly definitely had to land in the right spot.” Abe said, as I slipped the camera under water and took a picture of his fish before it kicked away.  

By the time I made it upstream to fish with Jimmy, it was almost time to get going.  Jim’s crew was staying at a cabin on the Owyhee Reservoir and their ride was meeting them at 5p.m.  
“How did you do?” I asked Jimmy, who was walking towards me on the bank. 
“It was good up there.” He said, pointing to a riffle in the stream.  “But did you hear that lady?” Jimmy asked, looking upset. 
“A lady?” I asked.
“Yeah, she wouldn’t shut-the-hell-up!” Jimmy said, annoyed.  In his best old-lady-smoker’s voice, Jimmy did his impression. 
“The fish are over there! You need to cast further! I need sun lotion!” Jimmy took a breath, “I can see fish swimming over here! Maybe you need to change your fly!  I bet I could get them with a worm!” Jimmy finally finished venting. “She wouldn't stop!” he said. 
“Well sorry you had to put up with that.” I said, but laughing in the process.  We looked back over the water to see both Craig and Abe fishing. 
“I don’t think, Abe is wading deep enough.” Jimmy said smiling, as Abe looked to be at his max waders depth, casting to a fish.  

We all finished up and drove to the five o’clock checkpoint.  We said our goodbyes as the guys geared down to head to their cabin. This time Jimmy didn’t forget his bananas.  As I headed back towards the river, I was still geared up. It looked like I going to be able to do something I hadn't done in a long time: fish alone. 

I stopped at a spot that I had never fished before and flicked out a Pico spider to start things off.  Just as suspected, a fish came up and nailed the fly.  I brought it in quick and let it go before I flicked the Pico back out and caught another fish!

I moved further down the channel, searching with the Pico.  The water was a bit more shallow here, and the shrubbery was surrounding me.  I spooked one fish out of a hole, because I was more worried about the yellow-jacket that was swarming my head.   It finally flew away, and I switched my fly to the bumble butt.  Just upstream, a fish made a mistake and gave away its position by rising to something on the surface.  I locked on the spot and moved in to make a cast.  The bumble butt slapped down on the water, SMACK! Before I had time to react, the fish had hit!  I set the hook fast and brought in a nice brown trout.  

After my fish took off, the channel opened to the main stream.  The stream dotted with rising fish everywhere and I switched to a PMD.  Looking up all I could think of was the guys I just dropped off.  If they could only see this, I thought, as countless fish were rising all around.  After a few attempts with a PMD, I switched to a PMD emerger, and it was all over.  Every fish I casted to I caught on the little emerger. It was the fly of the night!   

As much as I thought of Jim’s crew, I couldn't help but be slightly happy I didn’t have to share my fish.  Stingy, I know! 

 It wasn’t even fair; I caught so many fish in such a small amount of time I almost felt bad.  It was getting late, and I had already been on the water for over twelve hours.  One more fish, I told myself, and found one that was rising nearby.  Like clock work, it took my fly with no hesitation, but immediately came unbuttoned. 
“Damn!” I yelled, knowing full well that fish didn’t count. To my astonishment, the same fish came right back, and started feeding again.  I pitched out my fly, and it ate it again! I set the hook, and felt two good shakes before my fly came out of its mouth!  
“Noooo!”  Why is the last fish, always a pain in the ass?  

I watched as the fish circled back around and, once more, started feeding.  My buddy, Terri Kowallas came to mind, “The fish already gave you two chances.  How many more do you need?” Is what Terri would say, but as the fish rose I figured, why not?  I presented my fly, and like it had no memory, the fish ate it again.  This time it was a solid hook up!  The fish fought to get away, but I moved downstream with it and netted it fast. 

The fish slowly swam away, as if it had been through the routine many times.  I stood up thinking, last fish with my last cast; not a bad way to end the day.  I waded back to the bank, and just when I was about to step out, I looked upstream to see many more fish rising. 

“Wow!” I said, looking at all the rising fish.  I went to unhook my fly from the rod, then I stopped.  It has already been such a phenomenal day of catching fish, I thought as I unhooked my fly and clipped it off my line.  These fish are so pressured anymore that watching them eat freely made me smile.  I hooked my fly on my vest, and reeled in my line.  I stepped out of the water, looked back at the feeding fish and said, “Your welcome, fish...” And geared down to head home.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trout Unlimited Casting Competition

Oh no! I thought, after waking up to torrential rain beating the ground the morning of the casting competition.  I wasn’t so worried for myself, but for all of the volunteers that were at Eagle Island State Park setting up the casting course.  There was no sight of the rain letting up any time soon. And it was no surprise that Darren Strong, who was running the event, called to ask if I could swing by his house to pick up some dry clothes that his wife set out for him.  And wouldn’t you know it, the very minute I pulled into the park, the rain stopped.  I found Darren walking around in his waders, and he had little time to change before everyone gathered around to start the competition.  

Anglers sponsored a gold team that included Pete Erickson, Todd Packer, and myself.  John, who created the team, was pleased to announce that our fourth person was none-other-than local celebrity, Travis Swartz/Hank Patterson.   

“Are you trying to make us lose?” I retorted to John, dropping my hands and snorting like a little kid who was told to go to bed early; but the team was complete, and together we made our way out to the first obstacles of the course.  Somehow, simply on the walk out, Travis had managed to get his fly line all tangled up in his fly rod, a sure indication that it was going to be a long day.

The water holes were a great place to start, with each offering their own challenges: roll casting, casting under an obstacle, off-hand casting, float tube casting, and the bone fish hole.

Most of them we accomplished with little complication.  That is, until we got to the bone fish hole: this hole consists of two four-foot rings, one set out at 55 feet, and the other set out at 70 feet.  It took me four tries to hit the target, which I wasn’t very happy with.  Pete stepped up and with a beautiful cast, hit the targets, achieving a score of 2, which is the best score possible

Todd was up next, and with a few casts he put his indicator yarn in the hoops. Next was Travis’s turn. 

Each hole had a par and a maximum limit, therefore you only had so many chances to hit your targets in your allotted time limit.  Travis approached the hole and started to peal off his line. 
“I’m going to get a better score than Erik!” Travis said, glaring at me, “That’s my only goal right now.”  His distance was set, and the clock started after he lifted his rod tip to make the first cast.  In one attempt he nailed the first target at 55 feet, then looked at me smugly.  The snobby look quickly faded as he attempted to hit the target that was 70 feet away, and his indicator yarn fell about 10 feet short.

Twelve casts was the limit on this particular hole, and Travis was burning through them: 3, 4, 5, 6!  
“Come on!” Travis yelled at his line, as it once again fell short of its target. 
“Just try and hit the target!” I yelled over to him, offering up some needed advice.  
“30 seconds...” The judge announced, which sparked panic in Travis as he now held the rod with both hands.  Forgetting technique and relying on sheer power, he attempted the cast again and again.  

“Get out there, damn it!” He yelled, as his indicator kept getting closer to where he was standing and further from the target. 9, 10, 11, 12. 
“You’re done.” The judge announced, but Travis kept casting his fly rod like a mad man chopping wood with an ax.  13, 14, 15, 16, 17! During Travis’s frantic casting attempt, the spool on the rod he was using flew off, which was the only thing that convinced him to stop. Thankfully the highest score you can get is a 12 and, as if he was fooling anyone, Travis blamed his inability to hit the 70 foot target on the spool coming apart.

"I think that was a lot further than 70 feet.” Travis said as we walked to the next part of the course that was set up on land.  Casting on grass is much different than casting on water, and competition casting is a lot different than fishing.  I discovered that when I helped set up the casting course on the first annual Ted Trueblood casting competition.  Three years of practicing my casting has made me a better fly fisher and a stronger competitor on the course.  I went first on every hole, and knocked some of them dead!  However, we were nearing the standing loop hole where you need to send your fly line thought a three foot hoop.  Accomplishing this is no sweat, but this year they changed the hole, making it so you have to also send your cast through the hoop backwards.  

This was the hole I worried about the most, as I hadn’t practiced it enough.  I situated myself to cast and pulled my line off the ground, indicating to the judge to start the timer.  I easily sent my line through the hoop, and turned around for the second portion of the hole: backcasting into the hoop.  2, 3, 4, attempts had failed, and I was stressing out. 
“Calm down.” Pete suggested, as he saw the frustration in my face.  Travis chimed in as well, “It’s about time you fail at something!”
I stood quietly, then made another attempt: 5, 6.  I took a deep breath. 
“30 seconds.” The judge announce.  The highest score you can get is a 12, and if you run out of time you automatically score a 12.  7 missed, and by now I was pissed.  
“I'm taking pictures of all this frustration!” Travis said happily, but I was not about to let my frustration take control.  
“Ten seconds.” The judge said.  
I have two shots left, I guessed, before the time runs out and I get slapped with a score of 12.  Calm, I said to myself, as I sharply picked up the line.  I kept my rod tip high to tighten my loop and, with a powerful haul, I sent the line shooting behind me, right through the hoop!

“He got it!” The judge yelled, “Just in time!” 
“Nice job!” Pete said, as I stepped off the casting platform.  You can’t score eights if you want to place in this tournament, I thought frustratedly.  
It was now Pete’s turn, and after easily sending the fly line through the hoop forwards, he turned around and crouched down, changing his technique and finishing the hole in 4 attempts.  

Sure, I was a little upset at my number of attempts, but that didn’t come close to Todd’s way of dealing with his inaccuracy.  Once again the forward cast through the hoop was no problem, but the back cast brought out the best in Todd. 
“This is $%&@*#! STUPID!” Todd yelled, as he missed and missed the target. 
“Why the &*#$ would anyone need to make this cast?!” Todd yelled, after the judge yelled 12 and his turn was up. 

Travis did no better, hitting the forward cast and failing at the backward cast.  He even went as far as adopting Pete’s technique of kneeling down, along with adding his own twist of placing his hood over his head.  In the end, nothing helped him.

Our combined score was not low enough to place in the top three.  In fact, we finished in fourth, just a few casts away from placing.  The gold division of the casting competition was over and the silver teams gathered to cast.  Initial Point Family Medicine sponsored the silver team I was on, and together Andy Anderegg, Evan Williams, Todd Packer, and myself made up the team, accompanied by my wife, Gracy, who was the official score card holder.  

The horn blew to start the competition, and Andy came up to me and said, “Remember what you told me last year when I asked for advice on casting the competition?” He said, getting his rod ready. 
“No.” I replied.  
“You said to, 'do what you do'.” 
We both laughed at that while Gracy rolled her eyes. 
“I don’t remember saying that, but it does sound like something I would say.”  

Together we took on the course, and each of us was doing pretty well.  Andy nailed the roll casting hole, getting the lowest possible score.

Todd picked up a low score when casting under an obstacle.  His Helios 2 was treating him well this time around, saving grumpy Todd from rearing his ugly head. 

This was Evan’s first time casting in a competition.  He picked up techniques quickly, watching us cast first at every hole.  

The wind had picked up significantly when we arrived at the bone fish hole.  I was up first, and started to cast.  The wind was now blowing so hard, my hat threatened to blow off my head.  I had no problem hitting the close target, but the target that was furthest away seemed to give me trouble.  I stood waiting for the wind to die down, if only for a second, so that I could hit the target. 
“What’s my time?” I asked the judge, who looked down at the stopwatch. 
“One minute thirty seconds.” He said, as I stood there.  I could at least wait one more minute for the wind to die down, and the minute went by fast. 
“30 seconds!” The judge announced.  The wind was blowing hard, and I had no choice but to cast.  A few more failed attempts were frustrating me, before I decided to send a powerful cast out to the left of the target.  The wind brought the indicator down fast, just inside the target.  
“It’s in!” The judge yelled out in the water.  I was not happy with a score of seven on that hole, but luckily my teammates casted better than I did, bringing our total numbers down.

The wind was not letting up, and our scores were starting to climb. The two foot rings did us all in.  There was just no accuracy with the wind blowing the way it was. 

We were the first team to complete the course and, after the wind had picked up, I feared that those last holes had bumped our team from placing in the silver division. After all the scores were finally in, our team finished in third place!  We were all happy with how we casted, myself especially, after discovering that my score was the second best of all the contestants who participated.  

Despite how good or bad we did, all the money raised was for the South Fork of the Boise River.  The recent fire out there torched the cottonwood trees, and a second planting of trees was now affordable, thanks to both volunteers and competitors who participated in the event. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Fly Fisherman

The Fly Fisherman by Erik Moncada

If you ask me there is no bad time to fish.
I’ll go if it’s hot, cold, rain, or snow, whatever Mother Nature can dish.

I have flies from A to Zebra-midge stuffed in my box,
And the security around them is that of Fort Knox.

The urge to fish hits as hard as a bag of cement.
And it will happen at the worst of times, which is pure torment!

Like when driving long distance I come across a lake, river, or stream,
And my face lights up like a kid getting ice cream.

Ooh, look! A perfect run along the riverbank amongst the trees,
It’s a good thing I keep a spare rod in the back for just such emergencies.

While regular people are posting pictures of themselves at play,
I’m posting pictures of the catch of the day.

My goal is to catch rainbows and browns, heck every type of trout,
And I’m sure I’ll get every one, I have no doubt.

I will hike over eight miles and do whatever it takes!
Just to get the golden trout high up in the alpine lakes.

I’ll fish in waters that are rough, tough, chill, and still,
In countries like England, New Zealand, Belize, and Brazil.

I’ll be sure to have every type of fly because I take no chances.
And the number of fish I catch definitely enhances.

There is no length I won’t reach to help better my odds.
That includes getting down on one knee and praying to the fishing gods.

I buy the most fashionable gear, which includes my trim hat,
I might as well look good; doesn’t everybody do that?

Polarized glasses, waders, and fly rods; I only get the best!
And this white casting shirt will look good with my vest.

Whether I’m fishing for white fish, trout, or yellow perch,
I will look good for the fish like I’m going to church.

I care for the river, the rocks, and for anything that will rise.
I even have respect for the smallest may flies.

Fish have feelings too you know, to treat them badly would be unfair,
Which is why every time I go fishing I always style my hair.

Sure there are weeds to pull and a yard of grass to mow,
I’ll get to that after I watch this advanced still-water fly fishing show.

My favorite is fishing with spin casters standing on the shore,
And they get really jealous when I’m bringing in more.

Getting looks from kids and adults is normal I suppose,
“What are you using for bait?”  Is the question they pose.

A hopper with a copper dropper, size 18 with a little bead head,
Followed by the look of uncertainty, having no clue what I just said.

But they play it off with a smile and a thankful nod,
Maybe they will learn from this experience, and get a fly rod.

I’ll continue to fish ‘til I’m old and gray,
And when the day comes when I pass away,

Think of me when you’re skunked on the river and feeling outdone,
Know if I were there, I would have caught one.