Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Please deregulate!

It's not all that often that I agree with the political right in this country, but in one instance I am requesting some deregulation.  Please, please, please cut down on the fishing regulations in Oregon!  I downloaded the regulations booklet a few weeks ago to check out what all the rules are, mainly regarding sea runs and steelhead seasons.  I have high-speed cable internet, like pretty much everyone these days, and it took more than a couple seconds to download the regulation pdf.

In all, the booklet is a 112 page encyclopedia.  Sure, some of that is cute pictures and announcements for various parks, fishing days, as well as a few ads.  But the bulk of it is actually dense rules and regulations. 

There are nine separate "zones" in Oregon and each has it's own rules.  Each river within each zone has all it's own rules and regulations too.  I understand the need for some special regulations regarding some sea run fisheries and the need for coastal and mountain fishing regulation differences, but can't we please make this just a little simpler??  The regulations as written are mainly the same for all the rivers but they are still broken down river by river because a few here and there don't follow the general rule.  It's just unnecessarily annoying if you ask me.

Here's what I propose.  All rivers more than XX miles (make XX whatever you want, 20, 50, etc.) from the coast are open to catch and release fishing year round.  Then you can add on whatever rules you want beyond that.  Am I not the most reasonable man in America?

Monday, September 20, 2010

To release or not to release?

After my recent success with a couple steelhead in town I was talking with another friend of mine who suggested keeping one at some point to try it out in my frying pan.  I thought it sounded like a good idea so I went to the interwebs to tell me when, where, and how I could catch and keep a steelhead without going to jail or losing my fishing license.  And after more than a few minutes of leafing through the regulations novel (which warrants another post at a later date) I finally figured that, yes, I could catch and keep a steelhead this time of year where I have been fishing.  I also saw this nice notice right beside the regulations for the Willamette river:

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, mmmm, mercury and PCBs.

Then again it doesn't tell me what "High" means.  So referring to page 18 tells me how fast I will die if I decide to eat some of these tasty fish.
Hmmm, I'm not sure it's worth the health risk.  Of course, PCBs are also quite tasty and nutritious.

"All persons should reduce or avoid eating..."  or what?  This one is even more frightening.  If I do eat some of the fat and ingest these lovely PCBs, dioxins, or pesticides what happens?  Instant death, or a small increase in the likelihood of getting cancer or having failing kidneys or something of that ilk?

I think I'll just continue my normal catch and release fishing.  Not because I'm a self-righteous prig but because it's not worth the potential side effects.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

...and of course the squirrels

After some success in town on Friday after work, I decided to go back to the same spot on Sunday afternoon in hopes of landing some more trout, a carp, or perhaps get another chance at a steelhead.  I rode my bike with my gear on my back downtown and parked my bike near the spot I fished Friday.  I locked the bike to a fence and walked down to the river below.

It was a nice sunny and warm 80 degree day so I opted to leave the waders on the shore.  I pulled off my shoes and rigged up my rod.  After losing a nice steelhead two days ago on a poorly tied fly on 6x I decided it was probably a good idea to take my 5x tippet section off and change out to 4x.  There weren't any bugs coming off the water today so I figured dredging the bottom with nymphs was my best bet.  I tied a size 12 Mega Prince on the 4x and dropped a caddis nymph off the back on 5x.

I stepped into the cool but not cold water and started tossing my flies into the seam upstream of where I was, and watching the indicator flow down n to the slower water below me.  I worked the seam for 20 minutes and got no action.  At least it was a beautiful day to be out on the water and to enjoy the weather.

Not having any action, I moved out a few feet and found a nice big and stable rock to stand on to keep my shorts dry.  I started throwing my flies to the next seam farther out. And just like Friday the whole time I was snagging caddis pods and having to clean off my flies.  It was annoying, but at least every time I snagged one it gave me the momentary hope that I had a fish on the line.  Of course when I set the hook each time there would be nothing there.

Finally, when I set the hook after my indicator dove there was some solid resistance, and after a second or two I felt the telltale wiggles of a fish on the end of the line.  And the fact that it was stationary for a few moments told me it was a nice fish.  I pulled and he stayed still.  I pulled some more and I still remained where he was.  He took a couple of nice runs and pulled 10-20 yards of line off my reel and came up twice for some aerial acrobatics.  As a sidenote, I sort of wished my reel was the clicking sort so I could hear that glorious whir, but it's not.  After he took a few runs I was able to pull him into the slow moving water surrounding me.  I got him close with my net out, but when he saw me he took off again.

After another ten minutes of fighting me out in the swift current he came back into the slow water and I got my net ready again.  He looked ready to be netted so I got ready, stretched my rod out behind me and stuck the net in front and that's when I realized my leader was about two feet longer than my reach.  I could pull the fish up to the front of the net, but I could pull him in.  He gained some strength and took another run but was pretty tired out so it didn't take too long to get him back. I managed to pull him in close then quickly took a step toward him to net him.  It wasn't pretty, but I got my net on him.  He was actually considerably longer than the net, but he went in nonetheless.

Then he decided he wasn't done.  One big flop an he was right back out of my net.  He turned and took off and that's when he threw the hook.  It sucked and there were a couple fishermen across the river watching me from where they had just docked their boat.  I tried to play it off as though it was an intentional quick release.

I shook it off, took a short break to rest my arm, then shortened my leader to avoid another fiasco and got right back to it.  I walked out to my rock, stood atop it and started throwing my line out into the current.  And it wasn't too much later that I had another wiggle on the end of the line when I set the hook.  We were on again!

This time I was determined to get some images of the fish before I landed him just in case.  After he took his first big run and seemed to be somewhat stationary I quickly pulled my camera out of my vest and slipped my hand through the wrist strap.  Now I was ready to get a picture if he got in close enough or came up to splash on the surface.  It took a good 10-15 minutes before I even got a glimpse of him.  He was gracious enough to let me pull him up to the surface out in the current to snap a couple quick pics.

I breathed a sigh of relief because I at least had evidence that I had a nice fish on the line, now it was time to try to successfully land and release him.  Eventually I pulled him into the shallow still water and easily pulled him in netting distance.  I plunged my net into the water below him and picked him right up.  He flopped a little but remained in the net.  I hurried back to the shore to pull the fly and snapped a quick image of him, with my hand in the picture for perspective.
Then back to the water he went.  A couple quick back and forth agitations to get water moving through his gills and he slipped out from my hands back into the currents.  I stood up with a smile on my face, and a group of three guys on the other side of the river gave me some cheers.  They had watched most of it while hanging out chatting.  I gave them a thumbs up and went and sat on the bank with a smile on my face and a tired arm.

I know literally nothing about steelhead other than they are big rainbows that go out to live part of their lives at sea.  I don't know how you're supposed to catch them:  where, with what, etc.  But I managed to finally officially catch one.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Now that the water has come down out here in Oregon (it came down quite some time ago), it occurred to me that I had taken a short drive out to the Siuslaw river west of town a few months back.  The river looked like a fun river to fish with all kinds of pools and runs.  There was plenty of great structure all over the river to hold fish and keep me entertained.  The downside at the time was that the water was HIGH and FLOWING.  The rivers in Oregon, I have come to find out, are quite different from the rivers I'm used to in Colorado.  Out here everything is built upon old lava flows, so the river beds are solid rock that has been warped and worn by the water over years.  Apparently what that results in is flat shallow areas that instantly drop off to 3 foot deep pools, which makes the wading a little frightening.  And when water is high it's even worse.  One wrong step and down river you go!

But back when I took my trip out there in high water I did try fishing for a while.  I probably spent about two hours tossing a variety of nymphs into the water in different spots to no avail.  I also couldn't walk around much due to the crazy drop-offs even in the grass.

Now, however, the water has come down nicely and I can walk all over the river, although still cautiously.

There was on curiosity, which I also noticed last time out.  There are crawfish all over the river bed.  They probably aren't crawfish because they're in a cold water stream and they are bright red (before being cooked).  I thought it was odd because I had never seen it before.

I didn't see any fish coming to the surface, but in a small stream I figured my old reliable dry dropper was the best bet.  I tied on a stimulator and a P-tail dropper and started throwing.  I got quite a few hit in all kinds of places.  The deeper, slow moving pools produced.
Quite a few of the faster moving runs with seams to slower moving waters produced too.

In all I think I may have caught anywhere from 30-50 fish.  I should bring along a little counter next time I go out.  Most of the fish were pretty small, but quite a few of them were fairly decent.  Nothing was bigger than 12inches though, sadly.  :o(

I tried getting some video of me catching fish, but every time I set up the camera to record, I got skunked.  I will keep trying and eventually I will succeed!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learn from your mistakes

I've been meaning to hit up the river that runs through town and that I ride my bike along every day on my way to work.  There are a number of shelves, riffles, runs, and deeps that look like interesting places to drop a line into.  Last week I went for a jog farther south along the river where I don't go on my ride to work, and I saw a spot that I really liked.  There was a small island separated from the main bank by some still water along and for some reason I always like these sorts of places.  It's probably because I know I will not be surrounded by trees, which is pretty common out here on the banks in Oregon.  I vowed to fish this spot soonish.

Last Friday I took my fishing gear to work with me and headed out after work to the river.  I biked with my gear on my back down to the spot I had scoped out earlier in the week.  I had my waders and boots so I put them on, even though the water was probably warm enough to wet-wade.  I moved downstream to the bottom of the island, stowed my empty backpack on the shore under a tree and moved down below a long shelf.  The shelf poured water into some deeper, slower moving areas I figured held some fish.  I put on a big Possie Bugger and my classic go to, a pheasant tail dropper and started throwing them a few feet up from where the shelf dropped off.

Instantly, I started catching things.  Unfortunately, "things" weren't fish.  I began pulling up caddis larva pods on about half my casts.  The problem was my Possie Bugger was just too heavy and sunk too fast for the slow moving water.  However, I was too lazy as I often am to change my top fly, because that means cutting and retying two knots instead of one.  In retrospect, I suppose it's not that big of a deal but I pretty much always avoid changing my top fly until absolutely necessary.
And after another 30min or so of pulling these pods off my hooks I gave up and took the possie bugger off and changed it to a beadhead caddis larva.  I managed to pull one small guy out of this area, but gave up on it after about an hour and decided to move up stream.
But when I looked to shore my backpack was no longer where I put it.  There had been a couple young kids in the trails down on the river bank in that area earlier and I hadn't kept a good eye on my bag.  I figured it wasn't a huge loss since all there was was an empty rod tube, a bag, and my shoes.  I walked over to shore cussing at the stupid kids for stealing my stuff and causing me a bit of an inconvenience.  In hopes that they pulled the bag up into the brush out of sight to root through it, I walked up the bank to the trail and looked around.  Sure enough not 30 feet down the trail my bag was lying there.  Everything was as I had left it, just displaced a ways so I grabbed everything and vowed to keep it in better sight from now on.

I took my stuff a little farther up river where there was a nice seam between some faster moving water and still water, that was at least a couple feet deep.  I tossed my bags aside, removed some of the weights I had on, and fished the slower moving portion of the water.  I caught one or two smaller fish that wiggled off the hook when I pulled them out of the water, which was fine.  I also caught a decent sized rainbow and things were looking up!
Then things turned a little odd.  There was a bit of a small baetis hatch going on so I put on a size 20 baetis emerger and continued fishing the slow moving water.  Only a couple casts later I got a nice strong bite.  My indicator took a dive and I set the hook.  It didn't take long to realize I had hooked a nice fish.  When he refused to go where I pulled it was obvious that the fish was bigger than any I had caught so far.  I fought him for a few minutes and then he began splashing on the surface, which gave me a clue to how big he was.  Nice fish was all I could think!  Then again, the way he was fighting was not like a normal trout.  It was sort of a lazy fight, and when I pulled him in close enough to get a good look I realized why.  It was a nice 20" carp.  I know some people craze over them, but carp just don't have a real fight for their size if you ask me.  At least not compared to trout or bass or, for that matter, most other fish.  It's ok, send the hate mail.

I landed the carp and shot a quick pic and moved on with my life.  Although I did have to laugh some at the experience and surprise of catching a carp here.  It wasn't what I had expected, and I was a little surprised that he bit on the little emerger I had just tied on.  It was hooked to the front of his sucker in a way that was not a snag.

I kept fishing the area and got no more bites in the slow moving water so I started moving my casts out farther and farther.  The sun was getting low on the horizon but there was still ample time.  Within another dozen casts, I got another strong bite.  The fish fought in a lazy manner, just like the previous catch.  I figured there was no way I caught the same fish twice in just a couple minutes, so there must be a pod of carp feeding in the area.  He even gave a splashy top-water fight occasionally.

But then I managed to get him in sight, which was when I realized it wasn't a carp.  It was a total shocker, but I had a 24" steelhead on the end of my line.  Perhaps a little back story is important here.  I moved to Oregon in February and have not targeted steelhead because I know pretty much nothing about them other than that they are just big rainbows that apparently live in the west and east coast rivers.  I had assumed you had to target them like fishing big streamers through deep pools, but that is not so.  Apparently any idiot can catch a steelhead.

Except I didn't manage to catch him.  After a 10 min fight I got him in close to my net for the third time and he ran for the third time.  Unfortunately this time the pull on my rod let go and my line shot back behind me.  My bottom fly, the emerger, had pulled off.

My first mistake was that I was too lazy to change my leader, which was a 5x, and I always like to go a size smaller for the tippet to my dropper so as to only lose one fly in case of  snag.  Catching a big steelhead on 6x (that would be 3.7lb test for non-fly people) is probably not advisable.  But the big mistake was when I had tied my dropper on, the knot slipped as I snugged it down.  Generally that means you didn't tie a great knot and if you pull it will keep slipping.  At the time I gave it a gentle tug and said "eh, good enough."  Well, Mr. Steelhead, the first steelhead and biggest trout I've ever hooked, told me it was not good enough.

Live and learn.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Fishing outing number two in Missouri consisted of going back to Casey's and getting another styrofoam of worms, and driving out to another local pond.  The pond was rimmed on one half by cattails and at the other end was a nice dock from which to fish.  It was a little smaller than yesterday's, but clear.  It looked to be a decent place for a couple bass.  There was space for them to hide among the cattails and there were also a few overhanging trees for shade.

We stepped out onto the dock and quickly noticed that there were some wasps buzzing around.  And before long we realized there were more coming from beneath our feet.  I thought it was a good idea to take a 5 gallon bucket that was lying around, fill it up with water, and pour it all over the deck where the wasps were.  When the wasps swarmed up from under the deck it no longer seemed like a great idea.  Laura, Kyle, Isaac and I all vacated the dock at a run.  Fortunately one of the guys who works on the farm drove by on an ATV and went to get some wasp killer.  He came back and sprayed the pests good and dead.  A few continued to come back from foraging throughout the day and were promptly stepped on.

That's about all I can really say about the day's fishing.  I got totally skunked.  I tried weedless worms in and around the cattails, under the trees, I tried some spinners, and a few other things.  I even resorted toward the end of the day to trying to catch some bluegills on worms.

Laura and Kyle caught a few decent sized bluegills that we kept for hors duevres before lunch.  Dad caught an occasional 6" bass.  I think Isaac was skunked and Grandpa I believe pulled in a few bluegill too.  We took our treasure back to the skinning area at the grandparents for some photos and more work than it was worth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blood and Guts

Disclaimer:  The faint of heart maybe shouldn't read this post.  Blood and guts ensue....

At the catfish pond from my previous post I managed a surprising and fun catch.  I was fishing earthworms on the bottom of the pond.  A normal catfish take is usually a simple rod tip bend and the fish then runs and pulls consistently.  Well, I had a take just like this in the middle of the day but after a few seconds it was obvious that it was not a fish on the end of the line.  Everyone who fishes knows what a fish on the line feels like.  There are the tell-tale wiggles of the rod in your hand as the fish tries to swim against the pull of the hook in it's mouth.  When there is no wiggle, there is no fish.  And I had no wiggle.

Generally when there is no wiggle you have caught a snag, and the pressure it takes to pull the line in tells you exactly how big a snag you caught.  As I reeled in this snag I could tell it was bigger than any snag I had ever caught before (that could be reeled in).  I had a 12 lb test line on my rod so I could pull very hard, and I did.  Still no wiggles.  Just a constant pressure against my pull.

It wasn't until I got the end of my line most of the way to shore that I could see the hazy outline of a big circular object beginning to surface.  And soon enough we could all tell it was a big snapping turtle!  Fortunately we had a big dip net with us because there is pretty much no other way to get a snapping turtle of this size out of an overgrown pond without risking the loss of your fingers.  We also didn't want to leave it in the pond because it could easily clean out a significant portion of the fish population, which is absolutely unacceptable!

We hauled this monster of the deep onto the bank and tried to figure out how to kill it.  If you've ever tried to kill a snapper before you know it's not an easy task.  If you haven't, I will tell you:  it's not an easy task.  We had only a flimsy filet knife which won't do the job.  Fortunately there was an old fence that had seen better days nearby.  Vern found a loose, rusty steel fence post.  We tried to coax the turtle's head out to bite at sticks while Vern tried to stab him in the head.  A turtle's head is apparently very very hard and we did 0 damage.  While a couple of us were still trying to coax his head out or thinking of what else to try, out of nowhere, Vern drives the fence post right through the turtle's shell.

I think it hit everyone by surprise.  It was pretty sad to see the turtle continue to struggle for life for the next 2 hours (which was amazing at the same time), but it also felt good to be the savior of many of the fish in that pond.  It is acceptable to actively kill one to save the many?  Does anyone care that we killed a turtle?

On the plus side I think that sets a record for me for heaviest live animal caught with a fishing pole.  The turtle, RIP, weighed in at about 13lbs.

Go ahead and send the hate mail.  I'm ready.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Super secret catfish hole

I took a trip back to Pilot Grove Missouri this labor day weekend to visit family, and of course I managed to sneak in some fishing.  After convincing my brother, both brothers in law, and my dad to get out Saturday afternoon and calling up an uncle to talk about where to fish, we decided on a local pond that is secluded out in the middle of a soybean field and that hopefully hadn't been fished in some time.  Just as every good fishing trip begins we grabbed a shovel and an old folgers coffee tin and went out to the garden.

And when we didn't find but a single worm in ten holes we gave up and went to the bait shop/gas station to get some fat and juicy night crawlers (not to mention some beers).  Armed with everything we needed to waste away the cool and breezy afternoon we hopped into Vern's pickup and my dad's wagon and drove into town.  We had a short walk down an old railroad track with a green canopy of treetops, then a couple hundred yards through a thick soybean field to get to the secret hole.
We each grabbed a pole, skewered a juicy squirmy worm with a hook and chucked them out into the water.  I don't think it took more than a couple minutes before I had the first bite, which reminded me how much fun it is to fish for catfish, and how easy.  Just sit on the bank beside your rod, beer in hand, and wait for the rod to bend.  Once it bends reel in the fish.  The action picked up immediately and everyone started pulling in fish every few minutes.
Sorry, Vern, I didn't get any pictures of you with a fish so you didn't make my blog.  In all I would guess we caught 50 or 60 fish if you count all the bluegills that Matt was pulling out of the preschool fishing area (He named it himself).

All in all it was a great fishing outing.  We tanked 15 or 20 beers, everyone caught some fish, and I think everyone got a slight sunburn from sitting in the afternoon sun on a nice cool and sunny late summer day.

Don't tell anyone about the secret hole!

Record catch!

It's the second time I've caught this toad, but this time he was a little bigger than previously.  Topping off at a whopping 145lbs I'm it's a hell of a catch!

In all seriousness, I was lucky that this was a size 20 fly and wasn't too hard to pull out.  On the other hand I was unfortunate that I forgot to put my forceps back in my vest after taking them out a few weeks ago, so I hadn't crimped my barb like I usually do.

Well, mark it down in the record books....for a second time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When a 50 fish day is not

After some acceptable luck last weekend on the Willamette North Fork I decided to give it another go this weekend.  In order to mix it up I drove to the same spot I've hit the last two trips, I tried driving farther up along the forest road I have been parking on.  Unfortunately it went uphill away from the river rather than along it.  But after a few minutes of highly entertaining rally racing in the dirt I went back out to the main road and moved upstream a ways.  Finally I reached a nice big pullout and pulled over to check it out.  About fifty feet down below was a nice mix of pocket water, slowly moving stream, and riffles that looked as good or better than any other terrain I've seen on this river so far so I pulled out my gear.

With my waders on, my rod ready to go and my car locked I stumbled my way down the steep embankment to the river.  I walked downstream to a spot just below a nice section of pocket water with some deep runs and huge rocks that I figured would all hold fish.  There a few fish rising quite regularly so I tied on a baetis and midge double dry (I saw both flying around but mostly midges).  I got some action almost immediately but I could tell the fish were small because most of them completely missed the fly.  Not to mention some of them would jump up out of the water doing so.  But a fish is a fish at the beginning of any day so I was happy to have some instant action.  If only I could can that and carry it with me or sell it.

I continued to have success in that section of water.  It didn't really matter, in fact was quite amusing, that half the fish I caught I yanked out of the water with what I thought was a gentle hook-set.  There was little fight, but lots of fun.  I moved up from hole to hole and the moving was very very slow, which is unlike me. There were just too many sardines to pull out of the water.

In fact I fished one particular run, which was actually three separate runs and a couple deep holes behind some huge boulders, for the better part of an hour or two.  I did manage to pull one nice fish out of the area, the only reasonable fish of the day.

All in all I would estimate that I had 40 fish in hand and yanked well over 50 out of the water.  Some came off the hook after being thrown 30 feet behind me on the hook set, and some wiggled off as I pulled them up out of the water.  I know some people say you have to touch the fish to count it, but if it's small I count it if I have it up out of the water wriggling in front of me.  Then again I don't usually count.

What I do know is that a 50 fish day is not always a 50 fish day.  Like when some of them are this big....