Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fly Fishing With Hank Patterson

Fly Fishing with Travis, AKA Hank Patterson, turned out to be quite the adventure.  Before I could load my gear in his car he had promised we would catch 50 fish today and that he had the secret spot.  If you wonder what it is like fishing with Travis, it is even more funny than watching a Hank Patterson video.  For instance, as he slurped up a cup of fruit cocktail, the sounds that protruded were that of a Shop-Vac sucking up water from a bucket.  And with every glug of sweet nectar he would announce out loud, “mmmm, delicious fruit”.  I don’t think there was a dull moment the whole trip.

We headed to the Middle Fork of the Boise that flows into Arrowrock Reservoir.  The drive was bumpy with blind corners and hairpin turns; a big reason why most avoid the middle fork.  I, for one, only head up there a few times a year for fear that my car will rattle apart due to the 15-mile washboard road.

When we arrived at our spot, we stood looking over the water.  I pulled out my phone to take a picture right as Travis was pointing to where the fish would be.

I managed to take another shot before we headed in.

As you walk the river there are stone fly nymphs and shucks on every rock.  We did see a few golden stones flying around that I pointed out to Travis. I was naming the flies I could see hatching, “Look there are midges.  Caddis, the caddis are hatching!  Golden stones, check-em out.  The Yellow Sallys are everywhere”.  Travis didn’t miss a beat yelling back, “House fly, the common house fly! I just saw one!”

It wasn’t long before we were both catching fish; I had crossed the water and was able to get this shot of Travis landing a fish.

Sadly the fish got off the line before I could get a picture of it; however, Travis was happy to show me the size of the one that got away.

We had moved to another spot, and almost right after we got into the water, another vehicle stopped right where we were fishing, and a guy approached us.  I couldn’t see who it was because the pine trees were blocking my view.  The man asked, “Would it be okay if I took some pictures of you guys?” Well, I’ll be, it was the Statesman’s local outdoor writer and photographer Roger Philips.  “Is that Erik?” 
“It’s Me!” I yelled back. 

It’s always nice to see Roger.  Sometime a picture of me will end up in the paper if I’m lucky; my mom loves it when that happens.  Before he took the cap off of his camera I said “Did you see that I am fishing with, none other than, world renown fly fishing expert and guide Hank Patterson?”  
Rogers face lit up, “Really!” 
Though Travis was 40 feet away, after a hop skip and a jump, Roger was face to face with him with his camera drawn. 
I had instantly become a lowly fly fisher as the Hank Patterson glamour photo shoot took place. 

I know!  I will catch a fish!  Wouldn’t that be a great picture for Roger, to come out and actually get a fish on camera?  I got into position and made a few casts, nothing. Come on fish! I quickly got into a better casting position and presented my fly.  I watched as it quickly moved on top of the water, but not as quickly as the fish that darted up to eat it.  BOOM, fish on! I brought the fish onto my hands, and yelled “Roger, do you want a picture of a fish?” 
I held out the fish for him to see.  Roger looked away from Travis for a second, held up his thumb, and said “good job, Erik” and went back to his conversation.

I looked down at my pitiful 9-inch fish, took the fly out of its mouth, and watched it, like my ego, drift down into the shadows of nothing.

Fly fishing was still good; we had moved from our previous spot, up passed where the north fork of the Boise connects with the middle fork.  Once more we both proceeded to nail fish.  Travis got his fly caught in a shrub on a back cast, and I was quick to get a picture.

I also had limited casting space, so I started single-hand-spey casting to avoid any entanglements.  Over the years I have almost perfected this cast, and do it without thinking.  I was not aware of the theatrics of it until Travis got my attention by over mimicking my loops by flailing his arms creating loops and spirals with his rod tip and line.  I definitely found the humor in it all, and couldn’t help but laugh.  I asked Travis “ Do you want to learn the cast?”  “I don’t need it,” said the guy getting his fly out of the shrub.
It was time to head out, and with Travis and I both not wanting to run into a snake, we took the long way back to the car.  Normally snakes are not a big issue for me; however, Travis seems to have had a rattlesnake sighting on every portion of the river, and was not shy about telling me about it.  We managed to get back to the car, and after a successful day of fishing, we headed home.

The adventure was not over yet.  On our way home Travis’s rear driver side tire blew out. We managed to barely make it to a small turn out on the road, and parked the car.

We must have fixed that tire in less than five minutes.  As I snapped a picture, I said, “This is going to be great for my blog.” Immediately recognizing how insensitive that sounded, I looked up at Travis who was smiling at the comment.  Lucky for me his sense of humor is further advanced than mine, making this the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Poor Mans Amazon

My wife and I went to Salt Lake to visit some friends this past weekend, which was nice and all; however, the main attraction had to be the Amazon exhibit at The Living Planet Aquarium featuring the PEACOCK BASS!!!  Naturally I wouldn’t shut up about the thing, and my friends and wife were becoming noticeably annoyed at how I always managed to bring every conversation back to the peacock bass.

My attention from the peacock bass was distracted for a moment when I was told there was a mall with a small stream that held fish? Well naturally the questions came flowing out. What kind of fish are they? Can you fly fish for them? Can you feed them? Is there a natural hatch that happens in the mall, and if so do people get upset about the bugs?  The quick answers I got were "trout", "no", "I don’t think so," and "shut up”. 

It was a man-made stream that flowed through the mall, with brown and rainbow trout. Though I was not able to feed them food or a fly, I did find this awesome fish printed shirt that I picked up for myself… and it was on sale!

Okay.  Back to the peacock bass.  We arrived at The Living Planet Aquarium, and I did not head straight for the Amazon exhibit.  Instead we looked at the other exhibits first; I just wanted to show my wife and friends how well-behaved I could be even though there was a peacock bass in the building.  They were not buying it.

FINALLY, we arrived at the Amazon exhibit, where there were some cool fish.

For instance, this four-eyed fish has both a set of eyes for on top of the water and below.

A Pacu (more commonly caught by anglers fishing for Golden Dorado) had straight teeth like a human.

The elusive Arowana, or the water monkey, nicknamed that because of how they can leap high out of the water to grab small animals and insects in low hanging branches.  Anglers who have the chance to fish for arowana mention that when they are eating off the surface they make a unique popping noise that is distinctive to the arowana feeding. I want to catch one with a pico spider some day.

Last but certainly not least, the illustrious peacock bass, named for the eye on its tail representing the eye on the feather of a peacock.

I watched it as it stayed motionless, looking up.  Perhaps it was waiting for someone to present a popper, or a Spillers Diver, or perhaps a large baitfish pattern, or a Dali Llama… and maybe I could be the one to do it? A small part of me knew that the aquarium would PROBABLY frown upon it. Someday I will get the opportunity… someday. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why I Should Never be a Fly Fishing Teacher

John, the owner of Anglers Fly Shop and my boss, teaches beginning fly fishing classes at the local universities.  Every semester the class has the opportunity to fish on a local river, and I, along with others, volunteer to help John by budding up with his students on the water.  This year we had the opportunity to take the students on a private bass pond outside of Caldwell, ID.

With the truck and drift boat filled with float tubes and gear, John and I headed out to meet the students and take them to the pond.  After each student had their waders on and rod rigged up, we kicked out on the pond and started to fish.  I was paired up with two of John’s students.

Almost immediately I had hooked into some fish, but every one of them shook me off.  What was I doing wrong?  I’ll tell you.  I was setting the hook as if I had 6X tippet on.  My years of delicate dry fly fishing was not paying off right now.  After shaking my head I plopped my popper right under a perfect ledge.  Pop! Pop! WAM!!!  This time I was ready!  I had wrenched back my fly rod so hard my fins came out of the water, and this time… FISH ON!

I proceeded to hammer fish after fish; they would explode into action, jumping and tail-walking while I brought them in. I was having a blast, so much that I had completely forgotten that I was there to help John’s students.  A familiar voice hollered at me from across the pond, it was John. “ERIK, shouldn’t you be helping your students?” I looked back at him and realized that I had no idea where my students were. I kicked over to the nearest float tuber, and recognized him because of his colorful glasses.  He had yet to catch a fish, so I helped him into position and explained the technique for catching a bass.  After a few casts, he was hooked up and brought in his fish.  

I explained that if he extended his arm toward the camera, his fish would look a little bigger.  That is something that just isn't taught in the classroom.

With his first bass under his belt I kicked off to my other student, who was actually fighting her first fish.  The fish was fighting hard and I knew it would be a beast.  

With both hands on the rod, she was doing everything she could to bring in this fish. As it surfaced I was able to grab its lip, revealing her first fish. 

With both of my students having each caught a fish, I proceeded to fish.  I always say that if you don’t catch the brush sometimes when bass fishing, then you are not throwing close enough to the bank.  Well, that is all fine and dandy until you loose your popper!  I was in a panic looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  I now felt lost like the popper.  I rooted around in my bass flies looking for another top water fly to use, when low and behold, I came across a Spillers Diver.  This was the very diver Ryan had tied for the fly tying video.  YES! I’m Back!

Every Spillers Diver we sell at Anglers is de-barbed because the bass just inhale it! 
Needless to say I proceeded to nail fish after fish, after fish; it was almost a sin.  I had come across another student who was also doing well.

And for those of you who are thinking of me as selfish at this point, I did find my students and help them each catch another fish… Then I neglected them for the rest of the evening.

I was the last person to come in from fishing and trust me, I would have stayed longer, but a small part of my conscience was reminding me that I was there for the students and ultimately there to help John. Together we all reminisced about the day, and shared stories of the fish we caught.  After hearing how my student did compared to myself, I felt guilty and in retrospect, I should have helped them more... perhaps a third time.  Why do I love to fish so much? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Indian Creek Reservoir

I bet that thousands of people drive by Indian Creek Reservoir every day and don’t know what it is.

It is the small reservoir that marks the halfway point between Boise and Mountain Home, and over time anglers have written it off as a bad fishery.  We got a tip earlier in the day that it was fishing well right now and, knowing ourselves well enough to determine that we would have trouble sleeping if we didn’t check it out, we took off after work.

Ryan Spillers is my top choice to fly fish with in any given place or situation. He fully understands that fishing can be phenomenal or a bust and is 100% okay with whatever the outcome.  It is also nice that he has been fly fishing practically his whole life, and together there is very little we can’t figure out.  

Float tubes were pumped, flippers were on, and rods were rigged with our favorite top water bass fly. I had to use one of the Pink Poppers from the shop, while Ryan went with his own pattern, the Spillers Diver.

I hit the water first, heading to the rock bluff on the west side of the reservoir; however, before I could reach my destination I had my popper in the water and was carelessly kicking and releasing line when SPLASH, my popper was hit!  Immediately I set the hook, bringing in a ten-inch largemouth that put up the fight of its life!
Off in the distance I could hear the echoes of whooping and hollering as Ryan proceeded to nail one fish after another.  We met up with each other in the middle of the reservoir where the plant life was sticking out of the water creating a perfect habitat for bass. And it wasn’t even fair. No matter where we placed our flies they were massacred by the nearest bass.
The Lab Rat version of the Spillers Diver
The fishing was so good we decided to play a game… CAN THEY CATCH IT?  We casted our fly as far as we could, stuck our fly rods in our armpits and, with both hands, retrieved our flies as fast as we could.  Bass were flying out of the water after my rocketing popper and, believe it or not, they caught it!

Ryan Spillers bringing in his 50,000th bass

We stayed until we couldn’t see any longer and the temperature had noticeably dropped. Cold and dark, we headed out to the nearby gas station and picked up some delicious hot chocolate for the drive home.

The video below is fly fishing Indian Creek Reservoir with my wife, Gracy.