Monday, December 1, 2014

Calming Quiet

Wow, it's been quiet here, hasn't it? I've been fishing some, although not a lot since winter has begun. The steelhead/salmon bug continues to not bite me but there are a few vibrations coming in from a couple specific avenues. That may change soon, or maybe not. We'll have to see.

I did get in some good carp fishing over the summer that I didn't bother posting. Lack of good pics is not good fodder for motivation to write a post, hence the silence here.

More recently there was a brief and mediocre at best saltwater outing. I'll post something on that in the coming days when the pics are looked through and edited. Severe photoshop will be required to add/enlarge fish in the pics.

In the meantime, happy cyber monday shopping.  Back to Amazon!  I mean back to work!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Photography is Hard

I managed a morning out on the water this past weekend and had a moderately successful time. The fish were all over one of my favorite Columbia river carping locations and the water level is just about perfect right now. There's just enough weeds to attract the fish, but not so many that the fishing becomes impossible.

It has been a few weeks since I've been out in the water, so I found myself, not surprisingly, moving around a little too quickly and excitedly and spooked a good number of fish right off the bat. Fortunately there were plenty of targets. Before long I started running into dust clouds and tails dancing in the water column. After a couple missed fish that caught on to me after a couple of casts, I finally hooked into one from about 15 feet away. It was feeding and I dropped my flies near the dinner plate. When they got close to the bottom, I gave them a quick twitch. The fish picked up his head, flared his gills, and I assumed he'd eaten my flies so I set the hook.

To my surprise he was stuck solidly onto the end of my line and shot off directly out into open water. What seemed like 5-10 minutes later, and was probably about 3 minutes later, he was tired and I got him in close. I took a couple quick photos hoping one was good, and here was the best one.

It's not that great, but it's hard to take a picture of a fish when you're surrounded by weeds, in 2 feet of water, and don't have a net. A quick pull of the fly out of his mouth and he was gone and I was off for the next target. Along the way I stumbled into a couple monsters. Two of them lumbered directly at me and I didn't see them until they were within 20 feet and closing. With the first one I was able to drop my flies from my hand and quickly flick my rod up, which I was trailing behind me. The flies landed a short ways in front of the fish but they sunk too slowly to get to him before he spotted me. 

This is my constant dilemma. I don't like to use heavy flies because they splash too much and spook a lot of fish. On the downside it's much more difficult to correctly time slowly sinking flies, and if you don't have much time to get them to a fish you're totally out of luck. I get stuck in this predicament often. It seems to be a bit of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" sort of thing.

Anyways, I got one shot at a brute. In fact I got about four or five casts at him actively eating, but I just couldn't manage to get it just right. I had to sadly watch him swim away after my many chances when he caught on to me and ambled away.

I managed one more fish on a bit later, but he shot directly into the weeds, then turned into more weeds, and then turned into even more weeds. As I watched him get to at least fifty feet away, all of it through weeds I knew it was over. I held some pressure on the rod, but not a lot in hopes the weeds would slow him down and he wouldn't break off.  It wasn't meant to be though, because he did break off.

By this time the sun was directly overhead and it seemed that the fish were becoming more scarce so I ambled off to another section of the cove I hadn't hit yet. On my way over there I got close to a heavy weed bed and decided I was best off shooting up onto shore and skipping it. I walked about twenty feet before at least thirty fish spooked from under the weeds. It gave me a bit of a chuckle; at least I'd found the fish. I continued on and twenty steps later the same thing happened with another pod of thirty-plus fish. I fished for another hour or two and had a couple of slightly positive targets, but no hookups. Mostly the fish I saw and ran into were cruising around pretty quickly and not feeding.

On the way out I tried to walk back through the weed bed and spook the fish a third time and get it on film. On my way into the weeds I spooked a couple individual fish but nothing big. Once I was fifteen feet or so in I stopped and tried stamping on the ground underwater to spook the fish, but it surprisingly didn't work. Then I tried slapping the water, still no. So I gave up on filming, put the camera away, and took three steps toward shore and fifty fish spooked.  Figures.

All in all it was a good morning out and I'm looking forward to doing it again, hopefully tomorrow. Have a great long weekend!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Long Overdue

Wow, have I been absent and delinquent on my duties here or what? My readership, all five of you, have probably forgotten I exist and gone off to more religiously posted blogs. I offer my sincerest apologies with no excuse to explain my absence.

With that said, let me remind you of the epic annual trip I went on what seems like ages ago, and sort of was ages ago. That would be the annual Bighorn river trip in lovely Montana. In the days preceding the trip, way back in July, the river levels were rising precipitously and were causing some minor anxiety amongst the travelers. High and rising waters would not make the fish uncatchable, but could move them around, spread them out, and kill the dry fly fishing.

In the end, the expectations were about right. We'd never been up there this late in the year so the bug life was a little different and the fish were in new places. It took a few days to figure out, and I really didn't feel like I understood the nymph fishing until the last day unfortunately. But on the flip side, the streamer fishing was a ton of fun and pretty productive, and the dry fly fishing was pretty good in the evenings. In fact toward the end of the week it turned pretty epic with more bugs on the water than I think I've ever seen before.

The first four days involved 14 people spread out in 4 boats probing the waters having a modicum of success throughout the day. In the evenings it was back to the cabins or the campfire to cook up some tasty morsels, drink some (more) beers, and chat about what did and didn't work throughout the day. As usual, this was probably just as much fun as being out on the water all day. It was also a welcome respite from one thing we hadn't considered: how long days are this time of year! Fishing from 8 or 9am until 6, 7, or 8pm is one hell of a long day!

There weren't too many notables from the first half of the trip as long as you ignore the multiple boatside surgeries that were required. And if you ignore that Mike got his wish to have someone "push it through" by hooking himself deeply. Perhaps the most notable was rowing by another one of our boats full of people clamoring to get to the shore and with an angler in the front of the boat with a huge tuft of white streamer action sticking out from the tip of his nose. Fortunately that one didn't require surgery since it didn't get to the barb, but of course Clif, the offender, did not hear the end of it. That's sort of what happens when you hook someone in the front of the boat from the rear of the boat!

For the second half of the week only two of us remained, Mike and myself. The most serious and addicted of the lot of course. Starting the day around 8 or 9am, again in a boat streamer fishing and nymphing. We continued to struggle to find fish with nymphs until the last day. On that day we were fishing an old spot that had been great to us in years past but this year had only yielded a couple fish. After getting frustrated Mike and I sat in the boat and watched a guide with a client docked on a sandbar in the middle of the river pulling out a fish every 10 minutes. As soon as they pushed off we looked at each other, and pulled anchor and shot for that spot. It felt a little dirty, but 2 hrs and about 20 fish apiece later we no longer cared. We had found the one spot in the river where all the 16-18" chunky rainbows were hanging out, and we made the most of it.

As you may expect, we expanded the already long hours, fishing until sundown at 9pm...and then continuing to fish. It's the only real possibility when fish are rising all around you, bugs are swarming everywhere, and you are a hopeless addict. So we fished, and fished, and fished. We fished until we couldn't even see our size 18 black caddis dry flies on the water any longer. Then we fished them a little longer by instinct, just hoping we "knew" where the fly was and setting the hook if there was a rise anywhere in the vicinity and miraculously picked up countless more fish doing so.

After 30 minutes or so of blind fishing you might think we'd call it a day. And you would be wrong. That was the point where I decided to take off my dries and tie on a streamer. Why not? I couldn't see anything so I figured I might as well swing a huge feathery hook through the air, then drag it through a pod of feeding fish. In all honesty, I didn't expect this to work but I couldn't see anything any more and Mike wouldn't let me leave. But on the first cast, fish on! Then on the second on! And on it went. In all, I think the two of us caught at least eight total fish on streamers while casting in and around rising fish. It sort of seems like that should be a sin, but who cares?

The next couple days were more of the same, with the addition of a couple of bears within 40yrds of us, and a new fish species:

That would be a "mooneye." We stumbled upon a pod of these guys on the last night. They will eat anything and have very sharp teeth. Plenty sharp enough to sheer your tippet right off just about every time. On the positive side the clean cut made it easy to thread on the next fly. After loosing four or five rigs we moved down river a little to get away from them despite the novelty of a new weird looking fish, and caught a bunch of rising trout.

We begrudgingly worked our way downriver and put out right at 9pm. We were only off the water this "early" because we had gotten some sour looks from the fly shop the morning after a late takeout. They made sure to tell us that the guy was out 'till 11pm (supposedly) cleaning the boat. Sorry. We have fun with this stuff. Even when some of us are questionable enough to enjoy catching sucker fish.

In all it was yet another awesome trip. The fishing was different than normal and took a few days to get going for us to figure it out. But once we figured it out, I think it was better than I've ever had it, and for this river that is saying something. I just wish I had had more than 8 days to fish. Nothing is ever enough...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Challenges Pending

I head out this afternoon for the annual fishing trip in Montana. Historically we have gone either in March or in late May. The past few years it has been cold, wet, painful, but good fishing. This year we made the decision to give July a try. The only main concern with July is river flows.  We had been once before in late June and experienced record-breaking flows of 15,000+cfs, which resulted in missed boat ramps, people falling in the river, and many fewer fish caught especially by the less experienced anglers.

We've been watching the river flows for a while now and I was really surprised back in June that the flows were WAY below historical norms, exactly when I would expect them to be going up. It gave me some mild concerns and seeing the trend in flow now verifies my concern. Flows have more than doubled in the past couple weeks and are now up to 7000cfs.  

At this level I'm not too concerned. We've fished it successfully in the 6000cfs range before. The trend, however, is a bit worrying. Will it stop at 7000cfs?? Or in the next couple days is it going to jump to 10,000+cfs?? If it does we're going to be in some trouble. We can still catch some fish, but after the year with record breaking flows all the fly shops added a disclaimer to their boat rentals stating that they won't rent boats above 10,000cfs.

I sure hope the flow stabilizes or moves slightly in the other direction.  If not, the next week may be less full of fishing and more full of swimming and world up soccer watching. Let's hope it's all fishing, and lights out fishing to boot.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Travel Day 7: Waterfalls!

It's sort of weird and pathetic that I flew over 5000 miles to see some waterfalls.  For those of you who don't know, Portland has about one million waterfalls, and hiking in the Columbia River Gorge to see waterfalls is a pretty popular weekend activity. So what do I do with one of my weekend days off in Germany? Go for a hike to see waterfalls. Call me uncreative.

I saw some signs for waterfalls and hiking just outside the mountain town I was playing around in and headed that way. It was the same area as the fortress I visited the day before. When I arrived I took a quick look at the map but was instantly confused. There were apparently quite a lot of trails available and the map was zoomed out just a little too much. It might be tough to make out in the picture, but all the little red lines are trails.

Fortunately, though, the waterfalls had their own 10K loop that was very well marked so off I went. the first couple miles were gradually uphill and followed a small creek that stair-stepped it's way down the gentle slope. I stopped a number of times to probe the water with my eyes and see if there were any living things below. I didn't see any but that wasn't surprising because it was probably too small to support fish.

A short mile or two later on I arrived at waterfall number one. It was nothing spectacular but I did find it neat how the cliff seemed to be growing out from edge where the water was. I'm not sure if it was all vegetation or if minerals were actually depositing and creating a solid rock structure outward, but it was really cool to see what appeared to be the opposite of erosion.

Up top of this first waterfall was a small cafe serving coffee, ice cream and a few other novelties.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat by the river for a bit. There were also a couple families having BBQs over fire pits in the area which looked like a great way to spend a sunday. After drinking my coffee it was on to the next site. 

From here the trail went up some steeper hills to the plateaus a few hundred feet above the valley and offered some really excellent views. There were a number of viewpoints along the way and they pretty much all offered a panoramic view of the hills and valleys and farmland below. It was pretty impressive. It was also impressive that I peed off the edge of a hundred plus high foot cliff! Yes, I'm still a child.

Eventually I reached the second waterfall, which I thought was significantly more impressive than the first. There were a few signs around and unfortunately my German isn't good enough to really get a grasp of what they said, but the area sure looked like it had been some sort of old ancient mining area or something. The waterfall actually stemmed from a creek that appeared to be diverted into three different paths that looked like they were man-made aqueducts.

Unfortunately pictures really don't do this place justice.  It was super tranquil and also amazingly impressive and I think it was better to not know the story behind it. That way I was able to ponder and fabricate my own, certainly more impressive story behind the place. Like it was a hidden magical wizard's garden. Or it's where the dwarves entered the mountain to dig up their gold and gems until they dug too deep and awoke the Balrog leading to their demise. Or maybe it's just an amazing natural occurrence where the mineral-saturated water majestically creates it's own aqueduct, builds upon itself year after year, and saturates and feeds the ground around it to spur the growth of colorful wild flowers.

I'm not sure what the truth is because my skills in High School German class were never great and have since lapsed to be even worse, but it was a pretty awesome place. I just wish I had had more time to find more of these places in the area, but I didn't. After this hike and all of what I saw it was off to the airport to head up to Hanover for a few days of work before heading over to the home office in England for a couple more days.

Oh, and happy July-4 today! This is obviously written up and posted a number of days after the fact.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Travel Day 6: Hike and Bad Urach

Finally on day 6 I got out to do some fun stuff out of the city. The job that I gave myself for the past month and a half and always managed to come up with a good excuse not to do was to plan this weekend. I don't find planning trips to be any fun. Some people get a kick out of thinking of all the possibilities of their vacation, I just want to go on that vacation. So I hadn't planned much of anything until the night before, and not much then either. Winging it is the best way to describe my intentions. In general I intended to head toward the somewhat mountainous region nearby and tool around and do a little hiking.

I went out to the airport to pick up a rental car and was off toward Bad Urach, which, by the way, has a very German sound to it, doesn't it? The sort of sound that you're likely to cough up some phlegm trying to pronounce. A quick check in at the hotel and off for a bite to eat.

These little mountain towns are pretty awesome if you ask me. Quaint, cozy, and plenty to do and see.

Wait, that's not quite right.  Maybe this one is a little better:

Better. With some food, beer, and caffeine burning away in my internal engines I headed off to local park that I had seen a sign for that included something about waterfalls. I figured anywhere there are waterfalls there is sure to be hiking trails.  There was also a really cool looking ancient fortress up on top of the hills somewhere in that region and I thought I might be able to find it.

Upon arrival I couldn't really tell where anything was anymore. That's just the way things go in the mountains; once you get close you can no longer see your target. There was a trail nearby and I simply chose one direction randomly and started walking. After not too terribly long there was a much smaller offshoot, and being the adventurous person I am, I took it, and started hiking more directly up the mountainside.

It only took maybe a quarter mile before the trail met up with a larger trail, probably the same one I had been on, with signs for something that sounded like it could be the fortress so I headed that way. Sure enough another quarter mile up the trail and I had arrived at the cool looking fortress that I had seen from the road. And it was just as cool looking up close, and probably moreso. Plenty of rooms to go into and check out, old staircases, dungeons, and all sorts of remnants of another world.

I wandered around in the fortress for a while marveling at how something this old could still be standing....sort of. After I had had enough I hiked out and headed back to home base for some soccer matches and more food and more beer. I won't bore you with any of that, but here are some more pictures I took at the castle:

medieval fire pit

Dungeon entry. Make sure no one locks you in!

Dungeon window.

Looking down from parapet.

The fortress in all its glory.

Cool stone spiral staircase.

View from bottom of spiral staircase.

Large open area behind main walls and up top.

Bad Urach down below. I bet I could hit it from here...

Cool looking red slug I saw on hike out.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Travel Day 5: Photo Fishing

Day five was finally a day off from work. With all the free time available I was able to sleep in to finally catch up on my sleep debt and put jet lag behind me. It was quite nice. And when I eventually got up I headed out for a run to get some exercise at last and work off all the heavy food, large portions, and vast quantities of beer I have been consuming. I found a good park to run through and the park was full of creeks, ponds, and lakes. Of course being the obsessive compulsive angler that I am, I kept my eyes on the bodies of water the whole time trying to spot fishes. I saw quite a few and made a mental note to come back later with a camera.

After the run I got cleaned up and readied myself to head out. I was feeling exceedingly hungry so I found a nice outdoor eatery and got some food. And of course some beer as well. Beer flows like water here.

After I got some food in me and felt rejuvenated with the much needed fuel I headed back to the park I had run around earlier. The first pond/lake I walked by was very picturesque. Hemmed on all sides by cut banks, tall grasses and shrubs and trees around the edges, and a walking trail surrounding it. In the water were a number of visible carp nestled up against the cut bank poking around for food. An old man was there at a viewpoint where I stopped at first to check out the carp in the water. Shortly after I arrived he reached into his bag and pulled out a plastic baggie full of bread and started tossing it into the water in front of me. It was a little weird but I guess a nice thing for him to do.

As soon as the bread started hitting the pond, the water began to churn and things from the abyss below began darting toward me. There were about a million tiny catfish, a handful of carp of various sizes, and another fish I couldn't name that looked like a carp but had a normal looking, non-gummy, fish mouth. Then the ducks started getting involved too.

After a few minutes of amusement here I moved on. There were a good number of lakes, and every one of them had a handful of carps. Some big, mostly pretty small, and one colorful one. I also saw one mirror carp. I took a handful of pictures of them; most of which were feeding carp near the shore. And I must admit that something inside me was yearning to go grab my fly rod and head back out here. There were no signs saying no fishing, but from what I've read in order to fish in Germany you have to take some sort of exam to get a permit. Then in addition, depending on where you're going, there may be local rules and regulations and permits to acquire.  It seemed like way too much effort and confusion so I opted to fish with my camera instead. It was easy.

I'm also pretty sure that had I had my fishing rod, the most effective type of fly would have been anything that makes a slight splash and sits on the top of the water because anytime I would walk up to the water's edge, the fish in the vicinity would swim toward me rather than away from me. They would even sometimes come to the surface and try to suck randomly off the surface presumably hoping for some treats. And pretty quickly and got confirmation of my assumption when I saw a number of people standing on the pond shores tossing food into the water. It would have been like catching fish from a barrel. Fun for a bit but not at all challenging and I'd feel just a tiny bit guilty about it. Nonetheless, it's fun to locate new fish and watch them do their thing.