Impressionist Chum

8 10 2010


River Monsters Episode 1: We have a visual!

18 08 2010

So my dad doesn’t fish much, usually if I suggest we go fishing he suggests golf. But lately he has been watching a lot of the show “river monsters” on the discovery channel, and recently he decided we should try sturgeon fishing.

Now, I don’t no jack about sturgeon fishing. I fly fish. Occasionally I’ll throw a spinner, maybe an egg cluster in tidewater for salmon, but sturgeon are totally foreign to me. And my dad probably knows less about them than I do. So naturally when my dad suggested we try sturgeon fishing I said “hey that sounds like a great idea!”

We didn’t go right away though, we talked about it for months, debating the where (which river, type of water, depth, current), the when (time of year, time of day), and the how (what gear, and what the hell do sturgeon eat?). Seeing as how neither of us know anything about sturgeon these discussions were pure guesswork (“well if I were a big sturgeon I’d probably hang out …” ).

But eventually we decided on the particulars-

the river; the big river closest to my dad’s place. Because even though nobody fishes for sturgeon there (and we weren’t totally sure it even had sturgeon), he knows it well and a guy I met on the deschutes one time told me after 5 beers that he caught a 6ft and a 7ft sturgeon on eggs while salmon fishing.

the how; with a 7 foot, 20lb test salmon setup, rigged with a herring for bait and a pyramid sinker to hold it down.

the when; whenever we had time

and the spot; a place on the big river where two tributaries meet it on opposite sides only a few hundred yards apart. We would fish at the mouth of the smaller tributary which was also the downstream one. Displaying a remarkable amount of confidence for a man that has never seen a sturgeon in his life, dad was sure that if sturgeon live in this river that’s where they would hang out.

A few weeks ago we made our first sturgeon trip. We stopped at a gas station on the way to fill up dad’s 13ft wood skiff and buy some blue label herring. After that we were ready to head to the launch, that went smoothly enough and we motored up a mile or so to the spot dad had picked out.

Once we got to the mouth of the trib, things kind of turned into a cluster. Dad doesn’t have an anchor on his boat, so we wanted to motor out into the river, drop the bait, and┬áthen motor back to shore and wait until we hooked the big one. Unfortunately the jetski traffic was pretty thick that day. Even though jetskiers are REALLY annoying, I had no desire to decapitate one of them.

So, we decided we would just have to hold the boat relatively steady in a back eddy near the spot we wanted to fish until we hooked mr sturgeon. This was an exercise in frustration and tangled lines. After 30 minutes or so we began doubting our plans. Not just the lack of an anchor. Did we have the right bait? Is this where sturgeon would hang out? Do you think there are even sturgeon in this river?

The last question was soon answered in the affirmative, a 6 foot sturgeon made a headfirst leap half way out of the water, just 20 feet off dad’s shoulder! It looked a lot like this picture I found on google.


After the required “we’re gonna need a bigger boat jokes” we decided that actually spotting a river monster was an excellent end to our first sturgeon outing and we motored over to the larger tributary where I practiced my spey casting and dad collected agates. On the way home we stopped for beer and mexican food and plotted the next river monster trip.

Somewhere on the west slope of the cascades…

4 05 2010

… is a really sweet campsite. Fished all day on this stream and the only other fishermen I saw were ospreys. Water was pretty cold but a few fat rainbows were eating mayfly nymphs.

What a beautiful skunking!

30 01 2010

Not even a bump. Three side-drifters fished through the water I was swinging and hooked up though.

Hard to get too worked up about it when you’ve spent your day wading through braided channels surrounded by huge moss covered trees, and every time the wind shifts upstream you get a blast of salt air.

The OP is certainly a pretty place

Spent the last hour and a half of daylight scouting out other access points and different streams. This was my first fishing trip to the west end, hopefully it is the first of many.

The year in pictures

21 12 2009

A few of my favorite pics from the past year…

…the southern oregon coast

salmon river estuary at sunset

the view from cascade head

laying out line in my favorite trout run

fish on in a small side channel

the elwha gorge

playing in the salmonberry

the devils staircase


triple falls

the columbia

wachila falls

Why Skagit Casting?

5 12 2009

Most people break spey casting up into three styles; traditional, scandinavian and skagit. Traditional spey casting typically uses longer lines, longer rods, and much longer casting motions. The distances achieved by long belly spey casters is impressive, as is the skill necessary for that kind of casting.

Scandinavian casting involves shorter shooting heads designed to make minimal contact with the water, and a very compact underhand dominated casting stroke. Good scandinavian casters throw impossibly tight loops that look so effortless you’d think there was some CGI going on.

Skagit casting is characterized by short shooting heads and usually a sink tip. These lines are heavier than scandi lines and designed to grip water when casting. It doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to get a fishable cast out with a skagit set up, but casting well takes just as much skill as any other style, done right it’s a thing of beauty.

I’ve dabbled at least briefly in all three styles but, as you may have guessed from the title of the blog, my favorite by far is skagit. It definitely has some advantages that initially lured me in. I can cast heavy sinktips and swing big flies and catch fish even on days when the river is swollen and muddy. Casting in tight quarters is easier, with a short line the d-loop is naturally smaller and when you add in some of the tricks that can be accomplished with a well executed poke, a lot of water opens up. I think my favorite thing about skagit casting however, is the pause.

After completing the anchor stroke, skagit lines need a bit of time to grab the water. Sometimes its just a split second, sometimes it one or two, but I like having that moment within the cast to catch my breath, listen to the gurgle of the water flowing around my legs and prepare to deliver my fly to the heart of the river. It’s like a miniature zen meditation built into every cast.

I don’t go to a river just to catch fish. Sure that’s nice, but the real reason I’m there is to immerse my self in the beauty of a wild ecosystem. Fish are part of that, so are the ospreys building that nest up there, the dipper picking off caddis larva 50 ft downstream, the otter that usually shows up about this time of day to catch dinner but always wants to check out what I’m doing first, and the ten foot of lichen hanging from the tree on the trail to the river.

If I get too caught up in just catching fish I become too impatient and too singularly focused. Trips with no fish (which happens often when I fish for steelhead) become discouraging. When I’m casting skagit, something about it relaxes me, slows down my thoughts and makes me a bit more observant. I notice more of the things that make every trip to a wild river a gift.