There are Cutties and Salmon off the beaches, Chrome in the Puget Sounds rivers, Chrome in the East Side/upper Columbia Tribs, great hatches on the Yakima with big trout eating, Creeks that are going off! If you are not fishing this weekend you best take a long look inward fore some self evaluation.
Catch Magazine issue #18 went live today and included along with a number of other visually stunning pieces is a photo essay on the Puget Sound by none other than our illustrious owner, head guide and good buddy Dave McCoy. There are some sweet shots in here Dave! I love the one on the front cover because it has me in it! Kudos to Dave for his awesome photos and for recognizing that including a picture of me will get you published in any magazine. (Lucas may have played some small part as well).
Check it out here:
Big, heavy lead eye flies, thirty foot sections of T-14 that are impossible to cast, 10-12 wt fast action rods, choppy water, heavy wind and deep, rocky, current swept environments that will test your skills and eat your tackle. To say that this fishery is a challenge would be an understatement. In fact, tell most any angler that you are targeting lings on a fly rod and all you will get is a look of bewilderment. I have heard all sorts of responses from “those fish come to the surface for a fly?!?”, to “you f*king out of your mind boy?”. However there are a few in the know who will grin and nod, knowing full well what you are getting yourself into. Good luck getting more than that out of them.
So why fly fish for lingcod? The answer is simple.
Lingcod are biters, period.
From the moment it is born a baby lingcod is a cold blooded killing machine, eating anything and everything it can get its jaws around. And even if it can’t, you can bet it will try! Recently I had a customer come into Outdoor Emporium and tell me a story from opening day of ling season. He hooked a keeper size ling and had just gotten it close to the boat. He was about to net it when out of nowhere a lingcod twice the size inhaled the smaller ling, refusing to let go. The larger fish was so stubborn that the angler was able to net it and remove the smaller one from its mouth. He weighed and released it, a whopping 32lbs, while the “bait” at a modest 27″ was taken home and made into another kind of meal!
A story like this is enough to spark my intrigue. Hear enough of them (there are many) and it is hard to imagine why anyone would shrug off a chance to pursue these fish with a fly.
Never seen a lingcod? Picture a sculpin. Yeah, like the ones you have in your fly box but never fish because they are “too big,” for trout. Now imagine that sculpin is over two feet long and has a mouth the size of a volleyball filled with razor sharp teeth. Word of advice, if you manage to catch one, don’t put your fingers in its mouth to remove the hook!
Lingcod are not selective, and they are definitely not shy. They will eat just about any big nasty fly that you can put in front of them, but therein lies the challenge. As in all aspects of fly fishing, presentation is the key to success.
Imagine drifting over a piece of structure 20-50 feet below the boat and trying to hurl an 8″ fly attatched to 40lb test and a 30 foot piece of tungsten core line, then give it time to sink to the bottom and work it in front of a fish before the current carries you away from the zone. Now factor in wind, which is almost always working against you, omnipresent chop rocking the boat and the feeling in the back of your mind that at some point those extra large lead eyes you lashed to that 5/0 jig hook are going to find themselves imbedded in the back of your skull.
Cold blooded killers.
I said it once and I’ll say it again! This is why we are here.
It is a beautiful evening on Seattle’s Elliott bay. Across the glass calm water the city skyline is glowing red and orange in reflection of the sunset. I’ve mapped the structure, made the cast, set the drift and counted my fly down. All without giving myself a bunny fur lobotomy!
I know I’m down. I can feel my fly scrubbing against rocks every so often as I work it in with short strips. I feel a jolt, then big, heavy head shakes. I set the hook hard and hold on to the line. My drag is cranked down to the max and the rod is doubled, tip digging into the water as the fish dives for sanctuary impossibly peeling line of my reel. The fight is on and this fish is no slouch! I crank hard and hold my ground, knowing that giving even an inch will allow the angry and panicked ling to find sanctuary in some dark hole.
The brute strength of these fish is impressive. They will test rods and reels designed for much larger and more gloried game fish. Chasing them, especially the larger specimens is as addictive as tying the flies needed for pursuing them. As I feel the fish surge and pull with all of its might I know for sure that we are both firmly hooked!
Some people would wet their pants to see a 20″ trout rise slowly to slurp their meticulously tied size 20 blue wing olive from a glass calm surface, some get tingles from the sight of a tailing bone inching ever closer to their carefully presented shrimp puff and there are a select few who revel in the thought of that moment between sky and earth when their line is swinging across the current, interrupted by a big tug and a chrome rocket shooting out of the water. I will not turn my nose up at any one of these experiences, and I will openly welcome anything new that comes my way.
Contrary to what many would like you to believe, fly fishing is not a purist sport and can’t be defined by any one moment, feeling or pursuit. There are no rules, only limitations that challenge us to hone our skills and refine our technique. The further we push the envelope, the more we learn about the sport and ourselves. Get out there and give fly fishing for lings a try. When you are connected to the Puget Sound’s baddest fish then you can by all means ask yourself if you are “really” fly fishing.
I thought that I might share something that I noticed this while walking to the PCC store near my house. If you’re an angler or a bowhunter and you’re looking for a deal this might be worth checking out seeing as they’ve got their “fishing tackel and archory” stuff flying out the door with “close out priceing.”
I guess you can’t spell check a handwritten poster…
Click the link to view the new video:
This is a simple tube fly utilizing the ProTubes flexitube. I like this fly design because it generates a lot of movement in the water, it is easy to tie and it can be tied in multiple sizes/weights/colors.
Using UV polar chenille as a hackle on the interior of the fly causes it to glow from the inside, giving it a translucent effect that is very natural and appealing.
This is really more of a chassis for a fly than a pattern itself. Substitutions can be made on almost all of the materials (saddle or schlappen instead of polar chenille, eztaz instead of dubbing, guinea or mallard v.s. schalappen etc.) Tie some of your own and be creative! The fish love ’em all!
We have always felt one of the most important elements of fly fish guiding is not only knowledge of your sport and the necessary attributes to attain such a position but also to be very adept at capturing everything surrounding it on film. Our staff excels in this department and over the next few weeks we are going to… highlight all of us.
Our first is Chris Ringlee, born and raised right here in western Washington, enjoy. Read more about Chris here:
These days, being a fly fishing guide is not as much about a long beard with left-over pizza, a giant chew in your cheek and a dog who will stay in your car all day while you are on the river.
No, no! Yes, you might be able to still slide by with that in the outskirts of Montana or places where guides are the norm and grow like “weed” in northern California.
An above average guide these days needs to know the ins and outs of Social Media, blogging and how each post is intertwined with Tweeting and FB’ing while upkeeping the reports page on the “so last year” website’s reports page. This is just the tip of the iceberg as now the guides leading much of the industry also should be toting high-end DSLR cameras and actually know what to do with them, and also be knowledgeable with regards to equipment and trends related to such across the region if not the country, in fly fishing that is.
Not easy to find and more and more, any Tom, Dick and Harry can buy a domain from Go Daddy for $9.99 a year on the new year end special and with the cheap software out there be up and running with “Guide Service” in a matter of a week.
So be it, it is the American way but for those looking out for themselves and their hard earned buck, do some due diligence on who you are spending $400-$500 a day with and make sure they are what they say they are.
Dig deep, ask questions and don’t fall for the bait and switch. Make sure they are going to live up to what they say they are going to because nothing ticks me off more than listening to people talk about how they fell for something they read on a website only to get railroaded into something else.
So today, we are trying to be more diligent about blogging by having our ENTIRE staff blog more than once every 6 months. The idea here is that we wear our knowledge, stewarship and respect for those fish and their homes we depend on on our shirt sleeves and offer up a broad perspective on our fisheries, the state they are actually in and what is being done about taking better care of them.
So, hopefully after this point, you will see some new perspectives on fly fishing in our world other than just mine!! Read on and don’t hesitate to give each of us the amount of grief you feel necessary, we are thick skinned, at least on here and willing to listen as good guides should!
As the summer season prepares to bid us adieu and in our case it seems quite hastily, I reflect upon all the memorable days on the water, good and bad. Thankfully there are rarely bad ones and even the few of those are really only bad in my mind, clients were very happy even when the fish didn’t get the email/fax/me screaming at them.
On some of those days, and for you other guides (especially winter steelhead guides) or even anglers who have promised the world to someone, or expected it and it just never materialized, there is always a point in the day where instruction gets old, the 6 pack of Guiness/PBR/Olympia/Fat Tire is gone, all safe conversational topics have been covered
Fish are rising but person can’t set the hook or get a fly to them or fish have vacated the river, one of the two anyway and the silence could easily be break your hand if you punched it, yeah, that thick and the “Why do fish jump?” quip was pulled from the bag long ago. No need to remind them, again!
10 years ago or more, myself and another shop employee were working at the Telluride Angler during off season, a deathly position there, that time of year as water is in perfect shape and all tourists are gone. So not only do you not get to talk about fishing with anyone, you don’t get to fish either. Thumbing through a catalog, Dan found these and we ordered one or two for the shop as jokes. It was AWESOME! At first we stuck it on the manequin out front of the shop on main street and since it has a remote control, we could let it go from clear inside the shop and watch everyone’s reactions. We sold over 700 of those in just under 2 months!!
I kept one with me on the Gunnison for awhile for just those moments, you know, these guys had booked the Salmonfly Hatch a year in advance are currently in the process of missing it by 3 days. Pissed they are but tension was well relieved when I started complaining that I didn’t feel well…and had to let it all go.
Here is the greatest thing about this…wait, there is way more than just one great thing, according to the packaging there are now 15 different emanations documented here. So the 16th best thing to keep it real is just turn it on around people with cell phones because they randomly set it off without warning!
My daughter LOVES it, wanted to take it to school for show and tell. I was about half way to school with her when mom threatened a number of things, we were both disappointed!
Take this for what it is, potty humor, if you really dig it though, there is a great book my daughter found, she is almost 5 by the way, here are the links to both:
I understand this isn’t for everyone, good guides will know who they can use it on and who they can’t. For those who know me, this post will come as no surprise and for those who don’t, I would be able to tell if it wasn’t appropriate, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still do it just once though!!
Happy fall fishing everyone.
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.