Sunday, August 21, 2011

We call it riding the gravy train

Northwest psychedelic band Pink Salmon is wrapping up its biennial Pacific tour this year in the Puget Sound area. You must catch this show before the end of this tour as Pink Salmon will not return until 2013. While rival band, Pink Floyd, only has three surviving original members, Pink Salmon has 7 million members who are all intent on running up the local rivers only to commit mass suicide in an effort to procreate.

When it comes to Pink Floyd, I've often asked myself, "By the way, which one's Pink?" Meanwhile, every member of Pink Salmon is called Pink!

There is no doubt that Pink Floyd's music is superior. But the advantage with Pink Salmon is that after you enjoy the show, you can take them home and throw them on the grill.

I caught up with Pink near Golden Gardens Park in Seattle.

 Pink Salmon fan, Scotty, poses with Pink down near Redondo Beach: 
In order to have the ultimate Pink Salmon experience, I suggest the following: 
1. When you get Pink in the boat, tell it, "The band is just fantastic. That is really what I think. I'll see you on the dark side of the moon."  
2. Dispatch of  Pink as humanely as possible and then cut its gills to let it bleed.  Watch out for greedy seals.  
3. Put Pink on ice immediately and fillet it later. 

Here's a marinade that works for me: 2 teaspoons butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, one table spoon soy sauce, plus ginger or garlic.  
Place the fillet, skin down, on tin foil. Throw it on the grill covered. Cook until done. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Crane Prairie Reservoir 2011

I just returned from my new favorite place. Surrounded by evergreen forests and old volcanoes, Central Oregon's Crane Prairie Reservoir is a stillwater fisherman's dream.

Although the fishing was rather slow during my visit, the size of the fish made up for the fishless hours.
My first stop upon arriving to Sunriver, Oregon was one of the local fly shops. I wanted to get some 3x and 4x tippet, but most of all I wanted to find out more about what I was getting into. The day before my departure, I called this fly shop to see what time they closed. The gentlemen on the line assured me that someone would be around until 6:30.  When I got to Sunriver at 5:45, I got thoroughly lost, so I called for directions. Sunriver is a confusing place to get around.  When I called a second time, the guy in the fly shop seemed rather impatient. When I arrived at 6:05, I met one of the most well-known and successful guides in the area.  Unfortunately, the $70 I spent did not seem to bring him out of his impatient mood. He seemed anxious to close the shop and annoyed with my dumb questions.

Here's what I learned.  In this guide's opinion, the most productive and consistent areas to catch fish are in the old river channels that run throughout the reservoir, fish on Crane Prairie rarely rise to dry flies, and the fishing has been very slow this year. He told me that he had only gotten 14 bites that day. On a good day, he expects 40 to 60 bites.

I left the shop with low expectations and tentative plans to fish Wickiup Reservoir or Davis Lake instead. I spent one evening at Wickiup, but never made it to Davis.  Once I caught a couple of big fish, I just couldn't leave those Cranebows alone.

Day 1: Fished hard all day and didn't even get a strike. I tried chironomids, bloodworms, leeches, damsel nymphs, and caddis pupae.  I probably tried a dozen different patterns in a dozen different places. Nada.  I fished for a couple of hours at Wickiup before dark, and all I got was a whitefish.  As I waited for my buddy, Kevin, to arrive that evening, I made plans to fish for bass in Davis, explore more of Wickiup, and perhaps hit the Lower Deschutes River on the way home.

Day 2: Kevin arrived around midnight. We stayed up until about 2 and then slept late the following morning.  We were on the water by noon and spent most of the day fishing around Rocky Point. Kevin was hooking fish immediately. He hooked two small rainbows and then finally landed the biggest rainbow of his life, a 3 1/2 pounder. This fish had missed several months of Weight Watchers meetings. It was one of the most obese fish I have ever seen. I waited until we had released it to say anything because I didn't want to hurt the poor fish's feelings.  Here's Kev's overweight fish:
Kev caught this fine fish on a Ruby Leech, a pattern by Brian Chan.

While Kev was hooking more fish than anyone I had seen in the 2 days I had been there, I just couldn't seem to connect. I was seeing my indicator go down as if I were getting strikes, but every time I set the hook, there just wasn't anything there. Finally, I hooked my first fish of the day in the Quinn River channel. 

The fish above weighed around 5lbs. but it didn't put up much of a fight.  Nevertheless, the fishing seemed to be improving, so Kev and I decided to stick around Crane Prairie the next day.  Boy, I'm glad we did.

At the end of the day, a couple of guys in another boat offered to show us the the Cultus River channel. As we followed these guys through a timber field, suddenly we high centered on an old snag that was just beneath the surface.  I've high centered my boat a couple of times on rivers, but never on a lake.  It took us about 5 or 10 minutes to finally spin and rock the boat off the snag. Thank goodness there was no damage to the boat! Nothing makes me more nervous than to be high centered in a boat. Finally, we found the Cultus channel and made plans to return there the following day.

Day 3 was much warmer and dead calm. Fishing can be tough here when the lake is completely flat. Fortunately for me, I have my new shooting line. Consequently, I was able to fire casts to the opposite side of the Cultus Channel.

Within a few minutes of our anchoring, my bobber took a dive. I set the hook like Left Kreh.  Immediately, a huge fish cleared the water by 3 feet.  According to Kev, it jumped 5 or 6 times, but I can barely remember. I do know that the fish went into my backing and fought like mad. When Kev finally netted the fish, I knew that this was a special occasion for me. It weighed in at 9 lbs. on the scale on my net, the second largest trout I have ever caught.

This fish will put me in a good mood for a while. A few photos later, we released it.

I caught this fish on a Snow Cone made with old VHS tape and a silver wire rib, size 12 with an extended hook shank.

At this point in the day, I was so excited that I could hardly stand it. I know my motor mouth almost drove Kevin crazy.  I felt like I had just drunk about a dozen cups of coffee!

Not long after that, I landed a 6 lb. rainbow. Another great fighter, this fish slipped out of my hands before we could get a picture.

By the way, each large fish you land at Crane Prairie is a minor miracle. The old river channels are all lined with standing timber.  It's quite easy for the fish to wrap your line around several trees and escape.

After catching a 9 lb. rainbow from Crane Prairie, I decided to put off fishing Wickiup and Davis for another trip. Wild horses couldn't have dragged me away.

Although we didn't catch any more big fish on day 3, I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of beautiful brookies.

Day 4: Kev fished with me for about 90 minutes on day 4 and then headed back to California. I returned to the Cultus River channel with high expectations. The water temperature was getting to be just right for the fish to move into the channels. My hopes were high when a school of about 12 brookies swam right by my boat followed by serveral larger rainbows.  I was able to catch a couple of 16 inchers, a brookie and a rainbow, but that was it. As the wind picked up, I watched the surface temperature drop 4 degrees. My theory is that the fish scattered once the wind picked up.

Nothing could kill my buzz from the previous day, however, so I returned to camp a satisfied man, enjoyed my final evening in the campground with a delicious steak, and packed up the following morning.  Now I'm plotting my return to Crane Prairie.

Although the fishing was sort of slow, I couldn't have enjoyed my trip to Crane Prairie more. I caught the fish of a lifetime, and one of my best friends was there to share the experience with me. Moreover, I returned home to a wonderful family. There's nothing like hearing, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" when you walk through the door.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

On my first fishing trip with my dad he paddled me around a small lake in a canoe as I asked a million questions. He had the patience of Job. Since then we've enjoyed many days on the water together. We've had good fishing and bad fishing, but we've always had great fellowship.  I remember the time I realized that my dad was not omnipotent. We were going night fishing on the Tennessee River and there were thunderstorms in the forecast. I said, "Daddy, did you read the forecast? It's supposed to storm. What are we going to do?" He calmly explained that we would go fishing and hope for the best, but that he could do nothing to change the weather.

On another occasion I remember how excited I was to go fishing with my dad and a guide on Lake Okeechobee. The only problem was that we went there during the hottest part of August. The fishing was horrible, but I did manage to get a glimpse of a very large elderly woman sunbathing nude on the deck of a houseboat.

Now that I'm 42 years old, I realize how much energy my dad must have had to keep up with us. On Saturday mornings the old man would saddle seven or more horses so that the whole family could go riding. I'm not sure I could do that, but then again, I've managed to have only 2 kids and 1 wife so far!

With seven kids and countless grandchildren, I would say that there is not much my dad hasn't seen. All things considered, he's done a darn good job with us.  

My grandfather used to tell me, "Salute your father, Jim." So this is my Father's Day salute. Thanks for being a great daddy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Has anybody seen the bridge?

Last Wednesday morning started off like one of those dreams I often have in which I am supposed to take an exam, but I'm not sure when the exam starts, where it is located, or whether I've been to class all year. In my dream, I find myself anxiously looking for the registrar's office so that I can pick up another copy of my schedule. In other dreams, I'm supposed to play in a baseball game, but I can't find my uniform. In my worst nightmares, I'm trying to go fishing but I just can't get my gear together or get to the lake.

Wednesday morning I had plans to fish with Scotty, but I overslept and couldn't find my cell phone. I was late dropping my son off at school and I had to wait for the Elysian to open so that I could pick up my phone.  Also, I had to pick up new decals for the license numbers on my boat.

The good news is I managed all those tasks without having a heart attack, and Scotty and I were fishing Lake Washington by 11:30.  Within a few casts I hooked and lost a fish on the Articulated Zoo Cougar, Kelly Galloup's fly pattern.  On the next cast I got bit again but came unbuttoned. On the third cast to same spot, I hooked and landed this beautiful smallmouth:

I was particularly thrilled with this fish because I caught it on weightless, buoyant fly on a fast sinking fly line. The fly line would quickly sink deeper than the fly so that when I stripped the fly, it would dive like a crankbait.

A couple of hours later, we landed three more keepers while fishing along some bridge abutments. I thought we took pictures of Scotty's fish, but this is the only other photo he sent me:

It was great to see Scotty finally catch a couple of smallmouth this year. Like Ichiro, just when you write him off, he responds by hitting a couple of singles!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kiss and Tell

I had the pleasure of fishing with my original fishing buddy, my dad, over Memorial Day weekend. I chose Moses Lake as our destination this year. We launched at Peninsula Park on Saturday morning and started hunting smallmouth along rocky flats.  I tied on a Murdich Minnow and began stripping it along the surface. Before my fly had a chance to even sink, a 3 lb. smallie pounced on it from above.

Later on we visited a flat near a bridge. There another 3 lb. smallie ate my Murdich Minnow although by this time the fly was water logged.

A little while later, I landed the 4 pounder in the picture at the top. Here's another shot of that lovely fish:
The Murdich Minnow lives up to its reputation.
Last year my dad outfished me 12 to 1 on the Columbia River using a senko rigged wacky style. This year the fish wanted the fly. Finally, the old man picked up a nice fish on a senko rigged weedless with no weight.
On Saturday afternoon we visited a private lake to fish for largemouth. Unfortunately, the bite slowed down significantly. I hooked and lost a couple of fish, but my dad caught the only sizeable largemouth of the day on a spinner bait.
By Sunday morning, the fishing was slower than ever. We managed one tiny smallmouth in about 5 hours of fishing. When the Murdich Minnow failed to produce, I went through my arsenal. I tried the Meatwhistle, a chenille worm, the T & A Rainbow, the Swimmy Jimmy, and the Holshlag Hackle Fly. I tried floating, intermediate, and fast sinking lines.  No love.
This is the second year in a row that my dad and I have fished on Memorial Day weekend. For two years in a row, we seemed to have hit the post spawn lull. The result has been slow fishing for smaller fish.
I can't wait to get back to Moses Lake to hunt some of the huge carp and bass that live there.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Self Portrait with Bass

Yesterday I spent a few hours bass fishing on a local lake. I pitched my Meatwhistle near a dock and let it sink to the bottom. I saw my line tighten and I set the hook with a grunt like Bill Dance.  The result was this beauty:


Friday, May 13, 2011

Lake Washington Smallie

Yesterday Scotty and I hit Lake Washington in the afternoon after school.  It's great to know that trophy bass live within a few miles of my house. The trick will be finding and catching them in this huge lake. The current plan is to focus our efforts along the east side of Mercer Island.

I started off throwing an Articulated Zoo Cougar, a Kelly Galloup pattern, on a fast sinking line . I love the way this fly wiggles and I think the yellow coloration could imitate a perch. No luck on the Zoo Cougar.

Next, I tied an olive Meat Whistle onto my floating line as we explored some shallow flats. The result was my first smallie of the year.  Here's another shot of the fish pictured above:
This fish put me in a good mood!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Flies for the Coffeepot

 Squirrel Strip Leech

Stillwater fisherman like to spend more than one day on any given body of water because of the time needed to find the fish and match the hatch. On large lakes, hatches can be very specific to certain locations. You might spend all day trying unsuccessfully to match a damsel hatch in one bay while the fish out in the main channel are chowing down on bloodworms. I like to have at least two days to fish any given lake.

On our most recent trip to Coffeepot, Scott and I headed straight for the bay that has always held the most fish for us. This bay, we'll refer to it as "Starbucks Bay,"  is the most protected piece of water on the shallowest part of the lake. Thus, it warms up early and tends to hold huge numbers of fish. On our two previous successful trips, we caught the vast majority of our fish in this bay, especially on a trip just after spring turnover.  While water temps on the main lake were around 38 degrees, this bay had water up to 42 or 43 degrees.

Scott and I fished Starbucks Bay for the better part of a day and a half on this recent excursion. Results were disappointing. We managed a few fish on black leech patterns, but these fish were in spawning mode. Finally, we set out to find new water. As we headed towards another bay, Scott spotted birds feeding on chironomids as they hatched from a flat that averaged 14' in depth. Sure enough, when we arrived to the flat, we could see bugs hatching everywhere.

The VHS-mid

I immediately started hooking fish on a VHS-mid, a chironimid pupa that uses old VHS tape for the body material. This fly goes by several names, but my name for it will be the VHS-mid.  Although the fish were feeding on chrome colored bugs, this fly was successful for us over three days.

After catching a few fish, we were able to identify the pupae the fish were feeding on, a size 16 chromie with black rib. This was the fly of choice for matching these bugs:


Unfortunately, the tiny hooks used in this pattern tend to straighten quite easily.  Nevertheless, this fly pattern is a fish magnet, and I've caught fish to 8 lbs. on it in British Columbia.

Finally, our before and after-hatch fly was the mohair leech. I've been carrying this pattern around for years. It was great to see it finally perform.

Mohair Leech

At times, fishing was fast. Often we had doubles, and more than once one of us helped the other to net a fish only to turn around and find a fish on the other line.

"Scotty, I haven't seen your bobber for a while." 
"Nor have I, James."
"I guess you better set the hook, Scotty."
Fish on. 

The best part of the trip came when Scott and I ditched our bobbers and started to fish naked. It's such a thrill to see some slight movement in your fly line and then set the hook into a 4 lb. rainbow.  No bobber to interfere with landing the fish, and best of all, no need to reset your bobber to 14' after landing a fish. Free yourself of the bobber and your mind will follow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good trips, bad trips, you know I've had my share

My first trip to Coffeepot Lake was magical. Must have been around 2006. Scotty and I had a good day fishing from the drift boat at the Northeast end of the lake. That afternoon, we met Bill and his dog, Scout. Bill was an unemployed heavy machine operator from Spokane. He was spending a few weeks camped at Coffeepot. He told us about the fantastic chironomid hatches at the Southwest end of the lake and vowed to tow us down there the next day. Given that Coffeepot is about 3 miles long and can become extremely windy, we were grateful for the tow.
We had a blast getting to know Bill and fishing with him over the next two days. The weather was gorgeous, bugs were plentiful, and we caught many good fish.

Our second trip to Coffeepot was not so wonderful. We arrived late on a Friday night. As we set up camp in the dark, the extremely drunk guys in the next campsite decided to drop in on us. These were the obnoxious and inebriated, uninvited guests that would never leave--my least favorite part about camping in public campgrounds. 

On the next day, the lake just seemed to be in a funk. Soon the heat gave way to high winds, and we were back in camp with time to kill. Too hot to be in a tent, too windy to be outside. Plus a neighbor was running his loud generator all afternoon. The combination of hot winds and generator noise made staying in camp like flying in a open airplane over the desert with no wind shield.

Trip #3 to Coffeepot was a cherry. We hauled all our gear to the other end of the lake and camped in an unimproved site. The lake had just turned over, the water was murky, and it took about a day for us to figure out the fishing. We caught most of our fish from a bay where the water was just a few degrees warmer than the rest of the lake. I learned that following turnover, the fish suspend in the top 3 to 4 feet of the water column. Once we figured this out, the fishing was fast.  Our good friend, Andy Towell, professional photographer, took many beautiful photos on this trip. To see his work, check out: Andy Towell's Coffeepot Gallery

Last week's spring break on Coffeepot may have been the best yet. My boat stayed anchored reasonably well in the wind, the chironomid hatches were good, and the campground was nearly empty. On our last day we drove into Odessa to get more firewood. The nice ladies at the local supermarket told us where we could find some pallets for free. We loaded up the back of the truck and returned for a warm evening by the fire.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Brief Visit to the Upper Columbia River

Last week Scotty and I made the trek to Northport, WA to fish the Upper Columbia. We had a great morning fishing with Doug Lochner of Northport. Doug is a tournament bass fisherman who knows his stuff. He showed us some beautiful runs along the East side of the river. The Upper Columbia was flowing at half the volume of the normal summer flows. Nevertheless, I opted not to launch my boat. Even at winter flows, I was nervous about going out there with my little motor. Part of me wished I had tried while another part of me reminds me that I'm usually right when I'm in doubt about something that might not be safe.

That morning on the Columbia I managed to land a healthy 4-pound rainbow on a cone-head Bow River bugger and Doug got a 17" cutthroat. At the end of the morning, Scotty and I decided to head to our old favorite, Coffeepot Lake. The forecast for the desert was considerably warmer and we were looking for hatches and sunshine.

We had a wonderful evening camping at Steve Bird's place up near the border. Steve is still down in California for the winter, but he will be guiding the UC again this summer. Meanwhile, check out his blog at If you like what you see, order his book: Upper Columbia Flyfisher. Steve's approach to fishing, writing, and guiding is as unique as any I have seen. Moreover, he is invested in the future of the Upper Columbia rainbow fishery.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

She's my little rock & roll: The T & A Rainbow

Recently I ordered the DVD, "Articulated Streamers with Kelly Galloup," from Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn Fly Shop. These are my first attempts at the T & A Rainbow. I'm looking forward to fishing these flies this spring for northern pike and bass. I've just finished a couple of Articulated Zoo Cougars as well. Once I've mastered the Zoo Cougars, I plan to move on to the Swimmy Jimmy. I wish I had less time to tie flies and more time to fish.

Photos by Scott Krashan.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surviving the January Jones

I would like to encourage everyone to check out Steve Bird's new blog at columbiatrout. Not only is Steve a fantastic guide and a great friend, but he is leader in efforts to preserve the trophy rainbow trout population on the Upper Columbia River. As per Steve's instructions, I'm going to send an e-mail to Gary Douvia today. 
Scotty and I finally got over to the East side of the Cascades for some winter stillwater fishing.  As we descended into Cle Elum on a Saturday morning, we heard a grinding sound coming from the rear of my truck. I thought, "Dammit, the bearings on the trailer are locking up!" We stopped by the Shell Station on the way out of town. After about two hours of trying to locate the problem (The problem was not the trailer), we gave up and headed to Bridgeport, WA to fish Rufus Woods Reservoir. We tried to ignore the ugly grinding sound coming from my truck and focus on the fishing to come.
Well, we gave it the old college try at Rufus Woods stripping streamers all afternoon. Scotty picked up one small rainbow on his blue and white Barr Bou Face streamer. I spent the day trying to get a fish on one of my new booby flies. Naturally, I got skunked (but at least I got to mention my boobies).
The next day we decided to give Omak Lake a try. I've been hearing great things about Omak Lake lately, and although Lahontan Cutthroat fight like perch, I was excited to give it a try. The record cutthroat for this lake is 15lbs.
At Omak Lake, my nervous condition due to the sound of my truck was overcome by my anxiety about where to launch the boat. We saw lots of signs saying that this or that beach was closed to all but tribal members. Finally, we found a beach with no signs. By the time I could get the boat deep enough into the lake to launch, all four tires on my truck were in the drink. The day was cold but gorgeous.

We only saw two other people the whole day. Scotty landed two or three small cutthroat, and, naturally, I got skunked. Those cutties didn't fight much, but they splashed a little. Omak Lake is quite beautiful, and I can't wait to return for some sight fishing.
I dropped my truck off at the mechanics the following week. To make a long story short, I had to spend about $2,500 to have them replace the rear differential.