Post-it-Note Fly

Every once in a while a truly inspired fly pattern is developed.  The Parachute Adams, the Elk Hair Caddis, the San Juan Worm.  Ok maybe not the last one but here’s a pattern Charlie Robinton developed late last night that should be added to every fly box in the country:

Hook: Size 10 Daiichi 1170

Thread: Yellow 6/0

Body: Pink post-it-note strip cut “feathered”

Antennae: Pink Post-it-Note

Tying Aid: 1 fifth Tequila (Reposado works well) and limes

To tie this fly start by drinking the bottle of tequila.  Now that your mind is nice and focused find some post-it-notes.  Cut a strip off the bottom of the note 1/2 inch wide.  Careful, don’t cut yourself, those scissors are sharp and the paper won’t stop moving.  Now figure out how your vice works and put a hook in it.  No, don’t put the hook in your finger, put it in the vice.  Right.  Wrap some yellow thread on the hook.  Now, find the strip of post it note and make a bunch of cuts most of the way through the strip along its length.  If you think that’s complicated now try doing it after step 1.  Got that done?  Cool.  Tie one end of the strip onto the hook close to the bend and advance the thread forward.  Wrap the post-it forward so the little tabs you made stick out but point backwards.  Think cactus-meets-caddis.  Tie it off when you get to the front.  Add a couple antennae made from two little pieces of post-it.  Throw a few half hitches over the eye.  Now go reward yourself with a beer or six!

A Guide Laments – Issue #2

This doesn’t look so bad I know, but keep reading…

So we know it is a part of our job, a job we have chosen to dabble our foot in or more like plug our nose and jump in the abyss with both feet. This isn’t so much a complaint as much as a plead, to several entities out there, some in our world and almost completely capable of our control and others not so much, or maybe they are one and the same, who knows!

First the ones I think we have control of. If as an angler you hear your fly hit your rod, please stop casting! I understand that when the fly is small and of the dry fly sorts, the sound of it striking the rod tip may not be as audible as a 3 split shot rig with 2 heavy flies. So there is some considerations here.

Secondly, though, when you notice your fly has struck the rod and IS stuck to it, PLEASE don’t think that with 3 seconds of high speed gyration that it will magically come undone, in fact it doesn’t. Image above was the residual effects of just this sort of remedy for an errant cast, an HOUR after the client had tried to untangle it, with utmost delicacy I will add. Don’t take this as complete sarcasm, there is a degree of admiration here for the fortitude shown in their effort. However, this is what we would label simply as a “start over!”

A quick snip or two, a few lightning fast double surgeons and maybe just one improved clinch this time and voi la, we are fishing again!!

Lastly, can someone, Einstein maybe, just explain to me the physics or maybe more simply the nature of how a line with only one open end on it can manage to create such a debacle? That is really all I ask, this and that my daughter live a full, happy and healthy life.

While on the water, these little fiascos ignite nervous laughter from all parties, we guides sweat them a bit because we know that if they show up early in the day, more are sure to come and here are some of the common reasons why:

1. Wind always comes up later in the day

2. Long days with few fish make for more frantic casters

3. Wives outfishing their husbands, sometime the other way around but not usually

4. Desperation on guides part to get that one big fish of the day and salvage a tip

5. Similar to what many significant others are accused of in malfunctioning relationships, guides fall victim as well… WE KNOW WE CAN CHANGE THEM, MAKE THEM BETTER PEOPLE

6. Picking up the rig with too much slack line, guide watches in slow-mo as theee ennntttirrrree ssseett–uuupp hhhiiittsss ttheeeee rrodddd…

7. Person in front or back makes concerted and admirable effort to cast over opposite shoulder, afternoon wind kicking up, tired and so on…

8. Stopping for lunch…it does give us a bit of time to recollect our composure and start anew but…the inevitability of it all!

9. Certainly the only one we like to see and that is the missed hook set on a fish immediately followed by another forward cast…

In the end, we love it or we wouldn’t keep doing it. However, the end of the day can send some into a deep and dark place where the only remedy, the only solace is the sunlight on their face, “late rent” notice stuck to their door and the need to get out and change another angler for the better, because we CAN!!!

Probably the worst of it all, way more so than any of the above mentioned tidbits is that we can almost always see it coming, way before it happens. It’s as though we can see the future and yet can’t do anything to stop it. Aside from acts or gestures that would land us in the drink or jail or both.

Really though, thank you to all who hire guides, we DO love ya! For those who don’t or can’t handle the afore mentioned menialities of the sport and profession, they are likely short for our world anyway so chalk up your $400 or so bucks to helping them find a new job sooner rather than later.

2nd Installment: Steelhead Inspired Wine

There seems to be a theme here, many fly anglers have their hands in the wine making business as we will continue to show over the coming months.

This month, Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards located in the infamous Dundee region of Oregon gets the nod. Don Lange, owner and winemaker, swung for steel with my dad on the Deschutes awhile back and happens to also produce one of my favorite wines with bottles adorned with traditional Atlantic Salmon flies.

Next time at the grocery store, swing by and pick up the Pinot Noir or the Pinot Gris Reserve and look a bit more closely at who you are following down through Wagenblast as it may just be Don!

Fly Anglers and their Dogs

Marty Sheppard with his old pal Wrangle on the John Day.

A new photo contest from our good friend Greg Thomas at Anglers Tonic hopes to exploit the bond between man and canine in their mutual enjoyment of fly fishing. Not just any photo contest either, here is some insight into what you might get a shot at:

“I just launched my Fishing Dog Photo Contest, which should be a lot of fun. Who knows what images I might see. Grand prize is a Loop OPTI spey rod and matching Speedrunner reel. Worth what? About $1,200 retail. I threw this rod the other day and it launches. Other prizes are coming from Hatch, Yellowdog, Bug Slinger, Smith, fishpond, RO drift boats, and Deneki. If you’d like to be included in this contest with prize donation just let me know.”

RA Beattie with Hucho on the Hoh River.

Having grown up with a black lab as my dad’s co-pilot in the boat, I have plenty of experience with dogs, that like water, being in or near it when a fish is on or being landed, holy crap! We used to have to chain our labs head to the bottom of the boat, literally 2 inches from the bottom. We only found this out after simply putting his leash around the seat, he nearly hung himself going after a winter steelhead we had to chase down a run on an Oregon coastal stream.

Dylan Rose of Skate the Fly and Fisher after licking the dolly!

My other favorite is when the dog things larger fish are out to get them and the growling and play fighting begins, try stopping a nearly 100 pound male black lab, from attacking your fish as you beach it, keeping the line taught on a spey rod and you can’t even get to your fish.

At any rate, some of my fondest memories of fishing growing up involved in one way or another a dog. Dog Bless ’em!

Pat Jenkins of Recycled Waders and Macey with some winter chrome on the Skagit.

Check out Anglers Tonic for more details.

Excerpt from an angling mother.

This morning my mom, Susan, sent me the following email:

“The Powder is roaring, irrigation water being let out of Philips reservoir. Just as I started casting to some slow water along the bank, thunder started rolling very close by. I cast a few more times, caught some 6-8 inchers and then the storm broke right over head. Too close to ignore, too far to make it back to my car so I retreated to a postage stamp sized island and hunkered down in some tall grass and a couple of spindly bushes. The lightning lit up the already perfectly light sky in broad zig zag flashes, immediately followed by cracking, roaring thunder. It sounded like I was sitting underneath the Blue Angels as the thunder went crashing from one side of the valley to the other. And for minutes at a time. Longest chest shaking thunder I have ever sat under. The rain came down like a monsoon and then hail the size of marbles and then more rain. There was so much lightening that the thunder overlapped itself. I was drenched in no time. My old trusty Cabella’s raincoat failed me. I was a bit nervous about the lightning and put my rod horizontal in the grass away from me. I turned to look out at the main flow of the river and whoa, fish feeding like maniacs. Right in the middle of the main current. Jumping clear out of the water. The storm must have pushed a lot of bugs into the water because the trout were going crazy. Then I went crazy: there were some NICE fish. BIG fish. Oooh, it took all the restraint I could muster to sit the storm out. Took about 40 minutes of agonizing patience but finally I waded out to the middle, skated a little gray fly below me and hook up! One of the biggest trout I have caught on the Powder. I laughed aloud. Spend a freezing hour catching about a dozen of these lovelies. What a spot. I only left because I was numb from my neck down. My legs and feet tingled as they warmed up in the car with the heater on full blast. I was cold. I was ecstatic. I am still high. You should of been there…………..”

I know you all wish you were there too; I sure do.

Susan (Mom) releases a Powder River rainbow.

Film: Lost World of Mr. Hardy

For many here in the PNW, I think this movie will be of considerable interest. Spey angling steelheaders, and others too, adore the craftsmanship and “sounds” that come from our Hardy reels, particularly with fish on! Anglers with an affinity for bamboo, this will also be insightful and for everyone who relishes what fly fishing is today. Many thanks to Hardy for the innovations in rod and reel making, fly tying and culture that has put the excitement of the sport in most of us.

A documentary by Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier, “the movie explores the history of Fly Fishing through the Hardy Brothers company and other fantastic British fishing tackle craftsmen.” It has just finished most or all of its screenings in England and won the Best of the Fest Award for this years films and has received some high accolades from industry professionals in Europe.

To see a clip or buy your copy, see the link below. I am looking forward to watching the entire film and likely partaking in a beverage or two from the region as well. Nicely done fine sirs.

Click here –> A Truffle Pig Film

Urban Fly-Fish Guiding

My wife works for a big financial firm and when we go to holiday events with her co-workers, I dress up and look every bit a part of their regular social and work environments. Nearly anyway, minus the sandals, cracked and smelly feet, dirt under my finger and toe nails and gash on my face from latest spey cast gone askew with 2/0 hook.

As we begin to have a few drinks and gather around to chat, the obvious and inevitable question comes up, “What do you do for work?” The reaction to what comes from my mouth ranges about as far as you can imagine.

“That is AWESOME!”

“What is fly fishing?”

“No, I mean now, not what you did in Colorado.”

“Can you do that here?!!” “Can you stay busy and make any money?”

“What would you guide for here, there aren’t any trout streams are there?”

“Do you have a card?”

“Have you seen ‘A River Runs Around It?” No, I haven’t!

“So is that just on the weekends?”

“I thought they only fly fished in Montana?!!!”

“You must eat a lot of fish!”

“How do you keep the insects on the line when casting?”

“I fly fished once, in Montana, 20 years ago….” or “I have fly fished for 20 years, a day a year anyway.”

“Where do you take people? ‘We go everywhere, Puget Sound is one of our favorites.’ You can fly fish in saltwater!!?? What lives out there?”

I think you get the point, not a job those in the 7th largest city in the U.S. can really even conceive of having. And to be totally honest, sometimes I wonder why or how in the hell I came to do this. There is so little that is similar about this to what I did in Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states with one exception, every direction you look there is water beckoning to be fished, maybe more so here and there in lies the start of the problem. There, in the Rockies, it was EASY in nearly every way. Here it is a bitch in nearly every way, allow me to point out how.

1. Guiding in the Rockies meant having to basically only know trout, that is it. Maybe a few different rivers, launch points and a little navigation and real rowing in a few select locations.

2. Longest drive I ever had was about 40 minutes from the shop to the river for a day trip.

2a. No traffic, not the stand still on 4 lane freeways we have here anyway.

3. Meet at a luxurious 7-8 am usually at the shop.

4. Back from a full day by about 6pm at the latest.

5. In the bar drinking again by 7 at the latest.

5a. Could leave car at fly shop over night and just walk down in the morning to meet next day’s clients.

6. If drove after drinking, knew town marshall by first name and typically had a few drinks with him the night before in the same bar.

7. Went to bed each night KNOWING we were catching fish the next day.

7a. Most likely big fish too!

8. Sleep well knowing the above!

Here in Seattle anyway, we need to know a bit more. There are way too many great fly angling opps in our area to pass up by simply guiding one river. Besides that, when your home river is blown out (or closed!!), which happens here frequently, how do you pay the mortgage? So here are a few of the things we as guides in this urban world need to be great at in order to be successful:

Pre 1. Washington did not win the big resident trout mega lottery, we have a ton of small fish, it is why Sage makes the 000wt.

1. Which way traffic is worst and at what times and how that coincides with where we want to take clients.

2. Must be proficient in all facets of local saltwater, spey casting and anadromous fish, mostly steelhead, resident trout in more than a handful of streams and creeks, tailwaters, freestone and spring creeks. All entomology associated with each, deep familiarization with all equipment coming out that is applicable to each.

2a. Did we mention Pike, Muskee, Bass and Carp? All are here and just waiting to be guided on a fly rod.

3. In the steelhead world, know all launch points on a dozen rivers, which ones fish at what time of year and at what flow.

4. Saltwater, must know at least 30 different beaches to begin to be successful all year in all weather conditions. Knowing which beaches are out of wind, which ones are blown out due to nearby creek flowing in and each of these 30, at least, at every tide level from -4 to +11.

5. In the trout world around here you can live like many by the whims of the Yakima River, one of our only trout managed rivers in the state and certainly the most well known. The Yak still has a dozen float options on it to know well. Wild rainbows here are very fickle so you better know your bugs or it will be a slow one!

5a. Guiding creeks, know at least 20 different ones within 2 hours of Seattle. All access points, options for when someone is there when you arrive.

5b. The what to do when someone is there I have to laugh at because while in destination fisheries, you have more people focused on fishing while there but it will never compare to having nearly 3 million, or more, within 2 hours and 1-2 percent of them focused on fishing. Most of them NOT fly anglers either so not only do you have nothing in common with them, they hate you much of the time. 1 for guiding but secondly for fly fishing. When was the last time you had a person walk over to you with a rock in their hand and say, “You need to get the hell out of here, this isn’t a fly fishing river, go somewhere else, NOW!”

6. The nitty gritty. The 3 things you NEVER talk about with clients — Religion, Money and Politics. Well, here you better be capable of it because most are going to bring it up at some point in the 4 hours you spend in the car with them that day. Yes, 4 hours sometimes of window time, not 15 minutes where you barely even get names of each other before you are on the water.

7. The tough shit. Get ready for months of swallowing your pride as you come up with reasons as to why your clients didn’t catch fish in either the salt or one of the dozen steelhead rivers in the area. This happens often in both so good night sleep the night before only happens with some help from alcohol or Tylenol PM, both if you are winter steelheading.

7a. Winter steelheading from Seattle, you either head north, south or west and that can change on a days notice. Up at 3am, get client by 3:30-4am, be on water by 6:30am with shuttle done, stand beside them in 35 degree water, in leaky waders with sleet or sheets of rain at least coming at you, always head on too. Then the long car ride back either sneaking sips of whisky from a flask between oncoming headlights that look like a cops or speeding excessively to get back and end the horribly uncomfortable silence…

7b. Wondering why you are the only boat on a stretch of river where there should be 30. It is the upper Hoh or other O.P. watershed and the water is just on the drop from the latest flood levels it reached a couple days ago. Come around a corner and, OH S–T, is that a log across the river? Not just any log but a virtual old growth tree, can you say portage of an aluminum drift boat with only 2 of you, and he is 70+ years old? This is only a bi monthly worry…

7c. Wear equipment you bought from the rep who tells you that some guy who guides 3 months a year in a low-pro glass boat in Montana tested these and said they were the bomb!

8. Our regulations book is the size of a small city phone book, 146 pages long this year! So on top of knowing all the above, you better know what is open, when, for what, where those boundaries are for everything. Get a lawyer.

9. Driving in downtown Seattle. Pick up at the Four Season’s, great, can you navigate the myriad of one way streets, bus only lanes and turn your SUV and boat trailer around in their barely limo sized pull through?

10. Did you check the ferry schedule last night? Each season brings a new first boat time at each dock, not checking may leave you sleeping for an hour in line waiting for the first one, clients love that especially when you get them up at 3:30 am!

11. Do this for 20 days a month and keep a girlfriend.

11a. It is now illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving here, blue tooth acceptable but how often are we using that?

12. Maintain yourself, boat, car, house, animal if you have one, squeeze in a concert and a couple nights out with buddies when you think you can handle the repercussions the following day.

13. Care. Care that your client each day still has the best time possible on day 23 of the above in a single month.

I know we aren’t the only ones who do this in urban environs, this is more of a nod to those who live in Miami, L.A., San Fran, New York, Portland (wait, Oregon doesn’t count as they have steelhead), Denver (doesn’t count either, you have half a dozen trophy trout waters open all year within 40 minutes of town), Boston, New Orleans and the rest of our brothers here in Seattle who love the lifestyle and can hack it, smiling.

I did my tour on the 3/day-2/night guide trip circuit where you are the guide, the chef, the doctor, entertainer, oars person, naturalist, geologist and geographer all in one. I used to complain about how hard that was, little did I know. When I get the chance to go back and do these trips in Colorado, MT, Oregon and elsewhere, I relish this time as it feels like a vacation…

Anyone want a job?

The Ten Thousand Sounds of the River

Fishing creeks lately has gotten me reminiscing about the good old days when I first began fly fishing.  I would spend hours exploring tiny little watersheds near my grandparents’ summer cabin near Lake Tahoe, CA.  It didn’t matter whether the fish were four inches or four pounds.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching each and every one rise to my skated elk hair caddis.  The only difference is that now I release all of my fish, while back then I can’t deny that a few ended up on the frying pan 😉

I wrote this poem a few years ago while waiting for summer days like the ones we have been experiencing here in Washington lately.  One of my favorite things about fly fishing is that it allows me an excuse to slow down, enjoy the little things that we so often pass by and really feel alive.

The Ten Thousand Sounds of the River

The ten thousand little sounds of the river
dance fluidly through the stillness
I dance along with them,
wading in the mist beneath sleepy mountains.
The sun yawns and stretches
his arms open wide
and twinkling fingers cast a waking spell
over the drowsy valley.
Several hungry rainbows have gathered
in a pool to feed on mayflies.
In the dance I am invisible,
as minute as a tiny baetis nymph,
as sinuous as the playful water.
The trout sip their meals
finning lazily beneath the surface .
With a slight wave of my fly rod
I shoot a serpentine loop out over the water.
The line unfurls, whispering to the river
and settles the fly on the surface film.
I count my heartbeats:
One hundred and eleven…
My world is a bubble under an endless sky
with an infinitesimal dry fly at the center.
The ten thousand sounds envelop me
and my heart palpitates softly with the rhythm.
A swirling shadow rises beneath the fly
breaking the playful cadence.
With elegant swiftness I strike.
The rod arcs sharply
finding a life of its own.
The surprised trout streaks for deep sanctuary.
Line flies off my reel.
My bubble shatters,
pierced by the triumphant sound
of a stripping drag.
I hold on
palming the spool
keeping pressure
fighting back.
Gaining first inch by inch,
then feet and yards.
The trout explodes to the surface
cartwheeling into the air.
A circus acrobat
dressed in sparkling jewels.
The trout makes another hard run
stretching me to my utter limits.
Tired and reluctant she submits,
drifting in to land delicately
in my waiting net.
I remove the hook with care
and hold her up in the light.
she is a treasure surviving the vigor of time
her colors reflect the joy of the sun
and the sadness of the moon.
All the hues that fill the day
shine from her vibrant skin
resonating inside me
with life, love and health.
Gently I send her back to her home
and watch a sacred gem swim away free.
I breathe deeply and let out a long sigh.
My heart beats softly once again
and the ten thousand sounds of the river
rise up from the valley
vibrating in the sierra sun.

-Charlie Robinton

1st Annual Bug Launcher – successful!

A couple weeks ago, my dad, Mike McCoy hosted a small, by invitation only, fly casting games/competition down at his house on the North Umpqua River.

About 20 people showed up which was perfect as this was a “test run” if you will for next year. This year there were 12 stations each with 3 different targets and all with their own challenges. Some stations were on dry land, others on water, some had long targets nearing 80 feet while others were short but studded with over hanging branches and grass or requiring curve casts to get around other obstacles. The longer targets were riddled with backcast obstacles such as steep hills with tall grass and berry bushes or for later competitors, there is always that lovely afternoon crosswind.

Now I consider myself a pretty good angler and caster but this course was tough. The winning score was a 98, meaning their fly touched the ground that many times on what would be a 36 par course if you hit every target on the first presentation. I didn’t win but did get my best score of 104 on my first time through. I think my cockiness helped that along because on later efforts, over-thought and impatience got the better of me! If you know me, this should surprise you.

Each participant was asked to donate to the whatever amount they were comfortable with, all donations were handed over to the Native Fish Society for their conservation efforts. Recycled Waders, Native Fish Society, Temple Fork Outfitters and the Caddis Fly Angling Shop in Eugene all donated raffle prizes so everyone went home with something. Dad gladly provided a BBQ lunch and beverages for everyone as well.

So for next year there will likely be some changes and the word will get out much sooner so reservations will likely be necessary. Here is what we are looking at changing/adding to the scenario:

Teams of 3 will be assembled and assigned “Tee Times” about 20 minutes apart with a shotgun start, teams starting at various different stations at same time.

Several Spey/Two Handed stations will be added.

5 presentations max at each station, if missed on 5th, score is 6 for that target.

Winner will have donation from event to conservation organization of their choice given in their name.

On Water targets, where applicable, if yarn goes in grass and can be dropped into target, credit for one stroke given and on last station, if you can raise a fish to your yarn in 5 casts, “hole in one” for the last target.

This an industry professional event and a great time to just hang out with each other and also give a ration of s–t to those who invariably will stumble along the way. Great opportunity to also raise some money for a good cause, have fun, leave the fish alone for a few moments and enjoy each others company.

Look forward to seeing some of you there next year. Please contact me or my dad with any questions.

A river in Alaska that is not a salmon trip!

Landed in Fairbanks on the 16th of July, drank beer and packed gear into dry bags, rod tubes, action packers, etc. Busted out of dodge the 17th NE of Fairbanks towards Circle, AK to put the FV Pike into the Yukon River and head downstream towards the Porcupine River. 3 guys, 1 Labrador and gear stuffed into an 18ft John boat (see picture). Got blown off the river after 2 hours of wind & chop, set up camp and waited til morning.

Made it to the Pork and began fishing as far as 50 river miles up the Pork for 2 nights – pike were not where we expected but present in large pods.

Drank through 1.5 cases of beer (all the cooler could hold with food & ice) Motored back down to Fort Yukon where we paid $6/gal gasoline and $3/20oz Gatorade (liquor store was closed until 5pm) – headed to the Christian River without beer or ice! Came out after fishing the Christian River and set up camp on the Yukon (see sunset picture). Next day headed downstream towards some other Clearwater sloughs/creeks. All the pike were concentrated at the mouth or within the first ¼ mile of the mouth. Fished the tribs for 4 more nights. Using mostly Puglisi style flies, some poppers/sliders/gurglers; bonfires nightly; lived on 2 boxes of wine & 2 fifths of JD + s’mores. Saw great horned owls, gray owls, eagles, loons, wolf tracks, 1 lousy moose, 0 caribou, 1 black bear, lots of griz tracks, 1 fox, kingfishers, sandhill cranes, etc, etc, etc.

Caught sheefish – only carnivorous species of whitefish – at creek mouths too. Had to use 300gr sink tip with Puglisi or large clouser. Supposedly they are the tarpon of the north, but other than their looks the come right to the top and roll over is nothing like I imagine a tarpon of the south to be!

Came away with no cuts from pike teeth, no giardia from drinking filtered creek/slough water, 1 broken 6wt on a small 20” pike, and a few good fish pictures.