Give us a call at 253-307-3210 I can help you set up some dates or just call Nate at 509-460-9519
Email Nate: Thenomadicangler@Gmail.com
About 15 plus years ago I met Gus Garcia in Ellensburg Washington. We were guiding together on a two boat trip down the Yakima River for trout. That day started off much like every other day of guiding, BS’n clients and bragging about the day before and really hoping the fickle Yakima would be better fishing than windsurfing.
Not more than 500 yards from the put in at Big Horn my stern guest hooks up and the bow dude ( totally appropriate name) turns out of the stand ups and right over backwards into the River. He pops up , thankfully entangled in MY fly line and rod, gasping in surprise. I net the fish, tell him to grab the gun whale and hold on.. About then GUS floats by chuckling “off to a good start eh”. We get the bloke in the boat and calmed down enough to start laughing about it, well WE being his brother in the stern and the two other boats with his family passengers in the area, he was not amused.
So started my friendship with Gus..
A couple days ago we made the same float with different results thankfully as it may been I that went swimming unwillingly. The fishing was not nearly as good but the company way better.
The early morning game is ON, get yours while the temps are hot and the big bug bite hotter.. Terrestrials are just starting and the Caddis and Epeoris are going strong in the evenings depending on which float you do..
Fish one full day and one half day with private lodging:
415$ per person plus tax based on double occ..
Two haves make a whole plus private lodging: Get the best of both worlds fish an evening float on a Caddis and Epeoris hatch stay in private lodging and fish an early morning float throwing the big stones till the late morning.
$350 per person plus tax double occ..
Thanks for subscribing,,, Jeff
Pro Locks and Edge Oar shafts:
Cant say enough about these two combined products. As themselves there really a great addition and serve a purpose for me as a guide on the water so many days a year. The Oar Locks I feel are the best boating addition since the Anchor was invented. They alone produce better rowing stability and maneuverability. The reduced friction and never squeaking are a bonus. Having the connection cable I feel will be an additional safety item by reducing the loss of a paddle. Combined they are the best solution for aging shoulders and for those planning on rowing thousands of oar strokes a year. If I had these when I was 18 and starting off my river rowing career, the pain level today would be far less. It was not that long ago I considered giving up the rowers position due to a torn tendon in my fore arm and chronic shoulder pain. These came along just in time! Best product of the year in my book. Contact: Dan @ Pro Locks
Cheeky Fly Reels;
When they first came onto the market I was skeptical as I am with everything NEW. I have been using these reels for all of my fishing over the last 18 months. Including adventure angling for everything FAST and hard fighting, Roosters and Dorado have been no match. I subjected them to Washington’s largest Chinook run in decades and on northern BC Chinook runs on the Skeena boasting the largest Steelhead and Salmon on the continent. Absolutely zero problems! Next season we will be testing on the bad ass GT of Christmas Island. I think there up to the challenge! Contact: Cheeky Fly Reels or your local fly shop!
Simms sun gloves:
When I opened these up from the package last March I instantly bought another pair thinking they would not possibly last four weeks in Mexico. Here I am into the Yakima Trout season and they still hold up even with the big sticks in hand. A surprisingly great product from Simms fly fishing. I still have the second pair in the package! Contact your local fly shop view at Simms fly fishing.
Iflight Spey line from Rio:
After buying the Skagit Flight heads that are now gathering dust I was very skeptical about these and would have never even looped one on, had it not been for Marlin Roush coming the Bogy House Lodge as a guest last spring. He brought a few prototype products and had these included. I matched one up to my favorite Varsity Spey rod and commenced throwing bombs that dredged the fastest of runs. I was able to fish spots that I passed up before, knowing I could not get deep enough or slow enough to fish properly. The lines cast great too, the taper was not a problem for heavy heads and they produce the quick load I like for fishing tough wades and real sexy steelhead water, so often passed up by most. I feel they are the real deal improvement to Spey fishing steelhead. I am sold for sure and have since loaded a full sort into my everyday pack. In fact not one Spey angler left this season without fishing one as it has become as important as the sink tip itself! Contact your local fly shop view products at Rio fly lines
Thanks for subscribing,
Shortly after winter spring steelhead season I wonder off to do some fun fishing in the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California Sur, or simply East cape as the Rooster aficionado angler calls it. The Yucatan trip to Ascension bay was plagued with high winds and not so enthusiastic tarpon. I did manage a few fish and presented to a couple willing Permit but beyond that our good fortune was limited to the fantastic service at La Pescadora Lodge in Punta Allen.
Jose the head guide is the next level individual that understands more about the areas Permit than the Permit themselves do. I will just have to call a do over on this one, already have my dates on the calendar!
East Cape fished very well for us with the Dorado bite on pretty much daily. The Roosters were far and few in between and really only seen a couple for the short work we offered on them. I fell off the high horse and went trolling a day and did pretty damn well with a few Wahoo, a Marlin that followed us for a mile and Dorado that came running from a hundred yards to crash our baits. Its the damdest thing we could see them leaping from the left or right and attack our trolled offering. It is something that is as exciting as skating a dry over the sweet spot.
I learned more this season than the last five, some real fish catching experience that will be useful for the years to come. Basically why I love going to new places, the learning curve is fundamentally the game.
Back to reality and the trout fishing world on the Yakima River…that will be in the next posting, Yakima River Drakes, the time is now!
Fathers Day special 15% off trips booked by June 15, used anytime! EM jeff@Brazdasflyfishing.com and add “Fathers Day” in subject line… Gift certs available.
Thanks for following, Jeff
PS: new website coming soon…
Saving Wild Steelhead & Sport Fishing
In a nutshell:
The tribes in Washington State own the fishery hands down not going to change that. If we stop all hatchery production the tribes will fish on the remaining wild steelhead even more than they do now. This will lead to closures and the end of public sports fishing. By all of us working together with the newest technology “pit tags and supplemental brood stocking programs” on river systems under the tribal commercial fishery or rivers with poor performing fish passages there is hope for those Wild steelhead runs and the future of Sport fishing.
The future of wild steelhead and salmon lies in the hands of sport fishermen, we simply care for them the most and in turn we are the most un organized of any user group. The introduction of wild gene bank Rivers is a huge step in the right direction and gene banks should be used as such to revitalize poor returning systems within their geographical areas, or to balance the impact from commercial angling. History has proven that commercial angling, habitat blockages and poor hatchery practice will destroy not only wild fish runs but sportfishing as a way of life.
Is there hope for steelhead angling?
From my first self-caught wild steelhead on the Methow river at age 13 on a muddler I had a feeling that wild steelhead would forge my life. Sports fishermen have commonly promoted and preached the virtues of saving wild salmon and steelhead since the early 80’s. Now we (sportsmen/special interest groups) are systematically killing the sport fishing industry/lifestyle, one of the few industries in the US that has an ecologically tiny footprint. Fishermen have rallied to save the wild steelhead of Washington so dear to them, only to propagate their own demise through some special interest groups. Some groups want to see no sport fishing at all and support a total commercial fishing platform.
Problems facing the recovery of wild steelhead and sportfishing:
-The entire wild fish movement is held hostage by a government entity that seems to manage the fishermen and NOT the fish.
-Tribal fishermen whom have the real power and own 50% of the harvestable amount have a co-management position and first position geographically in our rivers, use non selective gill nets; they actually own the fishery by law and everyone else has the privilege to fish.
-The fracturing of the sports fishing community, by special interest groups. They gather donations to form policy and regulation, forcing the hand of the government regulators. There needs to be diplomacy amongst the sports fishermen, WDFW the Washington State Tribes and the special interest groups as a whole to accomplish the goal of wild fish survival and the continuation of sport fishing for them.
-Science used to form commercial quotas, policy or regulation can be downright incorrect or financially supported to prove whatever they want to prove. Some science is purely outdated and taken into present day context.
Steelheading as a culture:
Steelhead fishing is a culture, with a following of highly passionate people whom all pretty much love them more than any other creature on earth. The cult purest steelheader will passionately pursue alternate involvement in their pursuit towards everything steelhead. We all go through these changes in life brought on by our first introduction to the icon of the North West and later the ensuing psychosis of steelhead angling. Preservation of wild steelhead is highly agreed upon; the act of volunteering for riparian habitat projects, stream restoration, river stewards or financial support is common and has positively structured the lives of many people. The act of fly fishing is but one of the many methods pursued by enthusiasts. As a terminal patient to the cult of steelheaders my involvement has covered every aspect of the not so secret society of the steelhead Junkie. In the ‘80’s our biggest fight was for habitat recovery and protection and the support of catch and release. In the 90’s it was logging regulation hidden behind the spotted owl ESA listing. We as a sport fishing community have undergone a transformation from harvesters (the problem) to protectors of our beloved steelhead.
By 1995 after about 10 years the C&R movement has gained momentum and became successful and many habitat issues regulated, thus improving habitat for today. These features have been the sportsmen greatest factor in retaining/recovering wild runs of steelhead in Washington State.
At 35 years of age I had gone through many of the steps within the steelheader’s cult. With a successful but cost prohibited attempt into the manufacturing side of steelhead spey fishing lines, I made a final push over the edge into the life of being a steelhead guide, leaving behind the high pay high stressed lifestyle of big city heavy construction. Since becoming a guide and fishing 200 plus days a year for 15 years coupled with the prior experiences in environmental and regulatory development the school of hard knocks has shined a spotlight light on protecting wild steelhead and those issues at hand, it’s pretty simple really “don’t kill them” they will take care of themselves given the habitat.
The Science and hatcheries:
Science in general is proven opinion with a college degree behind it; some fisheries science can be directed to say what any organization wants it to say. Biologists that are supported by hatcheries, commercial fishing groups, land development groups and conservation organizations can scientifically prove or dis prove what their supporters want them to. Some biologist’s findings are often played out on a political card table in trade for crab quotas or other commercial entities.
Calculating run size is a compounded guess at best. With co-management, quotas are set by mathematical extrapolation and often involve other countries and states having a stake in by-catch:
-Total run size (a guess).
-Escapement: Needed for survival but an arbitrary number pulled from a hat in the 60’s, actually outdated science from commercial fishing control pre –Boldt decision and has never been changed.
-Harvestable number: Another guess at best as commercial anglers support overharvest and escapement is what’s left.
-Sports men get half of harvestable total.
The sportsmen’s half, which even in their harvest years, never amounted to a fair share in any co managed rivers.
Then to top it off the commercials are not on an actual “quota” like a number there on a “day’s quota” with gill nets a day’s quota is simply a guideline not an actual number. Science/biological findings have a big play in all of this and are consistently wrong with use of mathematical extrapolation. With all this grey area in the management of fisheries it’s no wonder that the run sizes are slipping.
The disdain of hatchery systems is nothing new to steelhead fly fishermen. Back in the day we hated them because of the fishing pressure and ethics of the anglers they attracted. We would fish many other locations for our fish en route to the hatchery during summer months and again in November and December. Back then the wild fish numbers as per our catch rate was often greater than the targeted hatchery fish. Even today the numbers of hatchery fish never overwhelm our wild fish catch on both the Olympic Peninsula and Columbia River tributaries. The idea that wild fish are more aggressive towards flies and artificial lures, I know is ultimately true and this in itself is what makes them the most attractive. Simple understanding of natural selection can tell us that. Non-biters made it to the hatchery rack and then spawned by hatchery employees, biters got conked, pretty simple. These being primarily the highly diluted and domesticated Chambers creek hatchery fish, an undersized subspecies have been politically and financially supported by WDFW and Commercial anglers for way too long.
Supplemental Brood Stocking:
Science stating hatchery fish are detrimental to a wild steelhead population has been used as a leverage point by special interest groups in legal battles to remove hatchery programs from rivers where wild fish exist. These groups cite that when a wild and hatchery fish spawn, their offspring exhibits reduced fitness. They state that genes introduced into a wild population from mixed hatchery/wild spawning harm the population to a point that causes its decline.
While data exists proving that domestication of steelhead, in a classic hatchery environment dilutes genes, recent studies have called into question the notion that all hatcheries and hatchery fish are harming the wild populations they interact with. The recent increase in Snake River fall Chinook, and Snake River coho’s recovery from an extinct classification to a modest run of a few thousand has been attributed in part to re-colonization of historic spawning areas by salmon raised in hatcheries ran by the Nez Pierce tribe. These hatcheries are managed to restore wild runs, instead of producing numbers of homogenized and harvestable fish. Instead of being coddled from egg to smolt, to maintain maximum output, the Nez Piece’s hatchery salmon are subject to an upbringing more similar to life in a wild river. In turn, these fish are not removed from the system near the hatchery to limit their interaction with wild fish, they are instead allowed to spawn in river, with the hatchery only taking a small percentage of the return to maintain egg and milt supply for the upcoming year.
Perhaps hatcheries could be used as a tool for speeding up the restoration of our rivers. A shift in the way state hatcheries were run would have to take place. The ultimate goal of the hatchery would need to change from delivering short-term keep-able fish, to adding to total recruitment of wild spanners. If successful bloodstock programs such as the Nez Piece’s and others throughout the North West can be replicated on a larger scale for steelhead, we as anglers, and conservationists, would benefit.
Purely by Accident:
The use of Chambers creek fish being an early returning and hence early spawning steelhead has separated the hatchery genes from infesting the mid and late winter wild stocks, while diluting the early run of wild winter steelhead. It also has provided a catchable steelhead for the tribe and they in turn allowed the later run to escape by reducing their days on the river during February, March and April by 50% and more. I see this as the reasons those months are so much better than the prior.
A blanket statement that hatcheries are bad in my opinion is not true. Take for instance the upper Columbia steelhead tributaries were steelhead run past hundreds of tribal nets, sportfishing boats and numerous hydroelectric dams. The tribs that have good habitat have been wildly successful in the return of “supplemental broodstocks” and “true wild steelhead” since the federal broodstock program started. I think they have set the bar for future recovery of depleted wild steelhead runs in many locations. The heavy use of pit tags has given them priceless information. I can only hope that this form of recovery will be adopted for some of the troubled runs of former fame within the Puget Sound region. This is not just from scientific study although I have seen them in support of such, but my observance from many days on the water in the area.
There is new technology in the operation of hatcheries, from habitat in rearing raceways that are flowing like rivers to exposure to predation. While some of the old ideals still work the best ie: Supplemental Broodstock with indigenous wild fish is not a new concept and will work managed properly. Brood stocking had a bad name in the past from miss use, and on a personal level I have been disgusted with some of the local Puget Sound project’s gone awry under state management ie; Green River enhancement project. This option is where we must be careful and diplomatic with the user groups federally mandated to be in control of fishing rights. We want them to utilize the best hatchery technology available. Remember they (tribes) own it not us and fighting against them is futile, we might as well support what works best.
Some of the special interest groups attacking the idea of hatcheries often also attack other user groups in the sport fishing community. Plying for blanket regulation supporting their style of angling over others is fracturing the sport fishing community/industry. They do this with catch phrases like “refuge” and portray the fishery as “overcrowded.” They often wave around sound science from those outdated and inferior hatcheries systems. Some of their claims are true but are too drastic for statewide application. They roll with this platform and in reality it gains donation dollars allowing them to fight in court gaining more dollars for their cause, all the while the real issue goes un-changed and rivers get closed and stay closed.
Special interest groups have since turned much attention to the systems in Washington State that are healthiest, of which I agree, to “save what’s easiest to save first”. But many of the Olympic Peninsula rivers that are under there regulative scrutiny already have what they ask for, actual refuge water often at fifty percent of the rivers length equating to miles of stream bed unfishable by everyone. Many of these Peninsula area rivers have gear restriction already in place, pre-dating the conservation groups regulatory attempts; the regulation suggestions are again a blanket regulation and some clearly imposed without any knowledge of the gradient/geography within the rivers. This only divides the statewide sportfishing community and pits local municipality, anglers and guides against each other.
A divided fishing community is what led to the fifty percent judge Boldt decision and the mess we have in Washington State right now. The Boldt decision divided the harvestable quota between commercial fishing tribes and Washington state sports fishermen at 50/50. It also divided the management of all wildlife between the state WDFW and the tribes in Washington. The Federal Government will always side on the tribal side of conflicting issues giving them the real power to legislate action.
A divided sport fishing community is in no way a viable solution to increasing wild stocks fact it will most likely lead to poor etiquette on the river and eventually regulation closing fisheries. (WDFW manages people and if people can’t get along they will close it) just as fast as if there were none left to catch.
Anything leading to the closure of fishing is the worst case scenario and I sometimes think that some special interest groups want to close them. Take the Skagit and other Puget Sound rivers for example: their closure has led to increased pressure on healthy stocks elsewhere in the state. It has led to a conservation group study of the Skagit steelhead resulting in privatized angling on public water, which may never lead to it opening. Closures also led to the snowball effect of regulation suggestion by people that didn’t have an interest in the Olympic Peninsula prior to the closing of the Skagit and the Puget Sound rivers.
The suggestion that the sport fishing is having a negative effect on the survival of wild steelhead is counterproductive. In the BIG picture, without a sport fishing industry who would even care if steelhead survived? Some that say we should stop fishing to protect the fish. Without Steelhead fishing we would lose a tradition founded in the great North West and a heritage formed over hundreds of years in family tradition passed from fathers to son’s and beyond. The loss of Steelhead sportfishing would leave the wolf to guard the hen house. Much like some of our European neighbors where commercials are the only people catching their fish, and only the wealthiest get to fish by owning water via privatized fishing. The sports fishing community with their difference in angling style is an easy target by some local and non-local conservation groups. I wish that they would be more careful at what they ask for they may just get it and we will have fished for steelhead for the last time.
That said, I believe conservation groups can help to organize sportfishing and have a hand on the governing better than ever before. In a perfect world, one without commercial angling controlling the fishery, the anti-hatchery special interest groups would be spot on and would have much more relevance in the conservation of wild steelhead as a whole.
Steelhead fishing has been lost in Puget Sound and it started in the early 80”s at the Nisqually and working its way north to the Skagit. Eerily similar the progression of Net Pen Farming, I am no biologist but am a realist and in simple terms, “how could we be so blind to this all these years”. This is totally my opinion and has been thrown away many times by WDFW, special interest groups, and State officials all of whom may be in the money pot there with the aqua culture industry. Although the science exists that the fish farming industry has been very detrimental to wild stocks everywhere in the world Washington has seemed to turn a blind eye.
The Skagit is one of Washington’s gems of a steelhead river and the biggest attraction to the sport, but its closed and no idea of being opened even though escapement numbers are looking better. This in itself is a slap in the face to sports fishermen, how can such a great piece of water that supports numerous bull trout (ESA listed nearly everywhere else in the state) and salmon fisheries be in such dire strait when it comes to steelhead. I know little of the politics involved there, but from the grapevine, it appears to be loved to the extent of privatized fishing/study on public water. I have seen studies done on smolt migration and they seem to disappear in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Probably some answer there the size of a battle ship but kept hidden while we fight over hatcheries or till we all have forgotten about the Puget Sound steelhead.
Until Washington State and its sports fishers make the effort to recognize the value of sports fishing as an industry, a whole industry from manufacturing to services, to tax revenue and visitor spending we stand a slim chance at gaining real effective governmental support. The way of life we all take for granted here in the northwest is under attack from within. Without some real organization and acceptance of other user groups in the community the situation will remain unmanageable.
The steelhead runs from the past can rebound they are tougher than most of us realize; sports fishermen just need to work together as one unified voice campaigning for recovery. I feel starting with restrictive gear openings (barbless no bait) on wild steelhead in rivers of Puget Sound would do the state wild fish populations some good. This would increase the viability of the resource by boosting the local economies and gain recognition of the value we all place on wild steelhead. Without the recognition of value by local communities the steelhead is just another species to go away. The lack of recent turnout at the Occupy Skagit meeting is proof that the fishing community is at a stalemate with the fishing closure and may soon be forgot. We will soon have a chance to voice an opinion at commission meetings about regulation of fisheries. Since license sales are what WDFW really cares about if we take a stand and say we won’t buy any licenses without the Skagit opening they may listen. I know I could go all summer without buying a license, if half the fishing public did that sales would plummet and there would be WDFW panic.
What we do as sportsmen in Washington state has relevance and the next ten years will decide if wild steelhead and public sport fishing for them will survive.
My good friend and guest at the Bogy House this last week caught an impressive sized buck from our local waters.
Bruce has been a steelhead angler for over 50 years and a commercial troller in Alaska just as long. Needless to say he knows how to fish and has caught more salmon and steelhead than most of the sports fishermen in Washington combined.
A fish like this brings hope to our small world of steelhead enthusiasts, knowing that it is still alive and passing the Genetics on to future generations of monster winter steelhead. We often see these beasts but seldom touch them.
I was lucky to have been there when he captured this beauty as his biggest steelhead ever anywhere he has fished. I cant tell you how wonderful it is to even be involved with such an event. This is the second largest steelhead I have ever seen personally. We chose this pic as it is NOT enhanced by wide angle it is NOT long armed it is purely a quality specimen for a quality group of guys.
Thanks for the times Bruce and Tony…Jeff
The low water of January was just a game of mother nature, now its catch up time.
Going through the fast track pace of rain flood freeze and drop in three day intervals is enough to cause a fishing guide to loose it…No forecasts are good enough for the rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula. We have a unique situation that allows huge amounts of rainfall just to keep pace with good flows for fishing, along with a steep mountain range that is constantly receiving snow fall and snow melt compounding the flow into the river. Its a constant on again off again affair with these darn Steelhead!
Having success with high water takes a lot of luck and persistently doing the right thing!
Thanks for subscribing Jeff Brazda…
New April dates available on a cancellation; Arriving April Wed. April 9 fishing 10,11,12 and departing Sunday the 13th…Call for pricing. Thanks Jeff..
Where to begin…
*Spring Steelhead: The Olympic Peninsula started with a bang in January with good to great fishing on odd weeks. The coveted big fish weeks in February have too low of water and results were mixed with super numbers or moderate results. March has a few days of blow out and good fishing on two and three salt steelhead with plenty of jumbos in the mix.
The first part of April fishing on the Hoh was non existent, coming off a good freshet in late March, the Hoh tribe who’s self imposed season ended April 1st, pulled the ceremonial card on a dropping river the very next day and fished five days straight with drift nets and jet boats on the lower Hoh to stop short the escapement goals for the third season in a row. WDFW, WSC, CCA all of them “SILENT” until this Fall when the escapement figures came out. (Maybe think about that when your at the restaurant and you see steelhead offerings, or when these organizations want your donation to increase regulation on sportsmen or worse yet close the rivers). Thankfully we are blessed with 4 other rivers on the Peninsula at this time, which fished well into April, the Hoh never did pick up again before closing the 15th.
Rooster fishing in Baja: Fishing is better than expected, the bait showed up, the dusty Mexican Baja is still dusty. This trip is through Jay Murkowski who manages through tough logistics to get you into the zone of good fishing. However we did not expect to have the window time, but the fishing made up for it.. The only Mafia we seen was the bait mafia and they appeared harmless but did know the value of the sardine. We landed 12 different species this trip worth the price!… Hosted trip in May 2014..
Fun fishing in BC: Did the 20 plus hour drive to the Skeena for the first time to find it not quite ready. Some local rain and low snowpack caused it to stay dirty past the usual July 1 kickoff of historically better conditions. The Kallum was out too which generally is clear due to the lake. We ended up on the Kitimat for five days and found the fishing just OK. We did catch Chinook daily and the local area is beautiful. Upon the drive home the Skeena was just clearing up ( just missed that one). In 2014 I will go back after July 7..
Summertime Trout fishing: The Yakima was is in run-off till June and unpredictable till the 15th. Good numbers of caddis in the canyon and the best ever drake season makes for an awesome late June and July. The summer stone was nearly non existent but the hopper/beetle craze was decent to make up for it. Had some wonderful days on the Methow after July 15 and caught the largest Cutty of my life in the Natches, sorry no pic…
**Fall Steelhead: This was the season of the century for Washington anglers. The Steelhead started off fine in September on the Klickitat River. We managed a couple swing fish a day with a few on the Pin rod or nymph rod early before mid month. However as soon as the 15th rolled around the river began filling with Chinook. We literally could not get away from them. SO we embraced the action and went with it, catching them EVERYWERE. Swinging was the favorite as the Spey rod handles there bull dog action best. With small ups and downs in the ability to CALL the shot it was possible for 20 fish days on great fighting hard hitting Chinook right were we fish steelhead.
With one hiccup of water in early October and the opening of the Methow our Salmon fest was over. Just in time too as the crowds became relentless after the 15th on the Klickitat and we had moved the operation to the Methow. This was the best decision I have ever made in guiding, the Methow was virtually empty of anglers, we seen maybe 2-4 people a day the first couple days, on 17 miles or river, that’s it! The fishing was stellar and we kept silent and caught our share. We could swing fish anyplace we wanted and even the dry game was predictable with good numbers of fish in the river instead of in the Columbia. The locals figured it out and the word started getting around as late in the game the week ends became semi crowded but never unmanageable. Without a doubt the best fall season I have had in countless years based on numbers of caught fish and dodging the pressure.
Bird hunting: Finishing up the Fall steelhead on a freeze out generally put me on the waterfowl right in the thick of the migration. Not so this season, the early birds were gone and even the divers were few. The refuges were full so it was a stalemate flight not much happening. Quail and Pheasant however where very cooperative with lots of opportunity if I could shoot better.. I don’t know if there was a great hatch of Ring-necks or my Lab Jesse is the greatest upland lab in the state as we found Pheasants and quail nearly every day.
Early December I get the call for a Montana Goose hunt, wanting to start were we left off last year with limits of duck and geese in the fields we jump on it. NOT the best decision, the weather was cold already (20′s) at home. Calling for a warm up were off to Great Falls within 12 hrs of getting the report. By the time we reach Helena its 30 below zero NOT what was expected. After an engine breakdown, a short hike to reach cell service and a local tow truck ride by Gates of the Mountain, five hours later were back on the road as every waterfowl in the state is going the opposite direction. We limp into Cascade as the Mighty Missouri river is freezing solid and Ice damming.
What an impressive display of nature, I am thankful to have witnessed the slow but powerful event. We can only shoot over dry ground and there are no birds in the fields just next to the river. We ended up with a couple limits in a couple days selectively shooting over retrievable locations. It was an awesome hunt, way more birds in range than we could shoot due to the ice in the river. Pass shooting over land was cool and once the spot was found easy hunting for minus 25 degrees!
Back home in the Burg the birds were thick as the storm pushed in when we went the other way. By the time I get a hall pass there all wised up and untouchable in my zone. The entire basin is froze over and the stalemated again, I scratch through the end of the year on upland or jump shoots to come a full circle..
Prepping for Spring Steelhead.. Its a viscous cycle
Well all good things change. The steelhead game is improving with leaps and bounds and these bronzed battlers are turning into the zombie apocalypse. In a few weeks the spawning grounds will be infested, in a good way, with the stench of spawning salmon..
The WDFW has announced the opening of the upper Columbia tributaries, primarily the Methow and Wenatchee. With the flows we have it will be a swing game on decent numbers of (federal) wild steelhead. Knowing how the Methow reacts the first month will be a blast especially with the water flow. I think is flowing around 1000 cfs although the graph that is funded by the feds shows differently (no surprise there).
My game will be the dry or the I line right out of the gate with nymphing on the run to keep things wet.. Cant wait to throw one of these:
The whole reason for life as a steelhead fisher is fulfilled every fall when these Icons of the NW will rise again to the dry fly…
Dates open this fall..