Jun 30, 2015

Fishing in the U.P.

Carp'n on the Flats of Lake Michigan

Although my trip was centered around smallmouth bass on the fly, when in Rome, (Michigan) one must spend some quality time pursuing freshwater bonefish, (Carp).

Back to Bassin'

If you know anything about me you know I chase Bass! I've spent half a lifetime pursuing these freshwater pugnacious species in any body of water from farm ponds to great lakes, from creeks to rivers and every puddle in between. It's in my blood and I make no apologies for it!

In the last few years while living in trout country I've slowly slipped away from the bronze family. Trout angling has been good for me. It has broadened my skills and allowed me to build a solid respect for the coldwater species.

On a cold winter day while sifting through the hundreds of Columbia River bass photos obtained throughout the years of guiding and fishing the big water an overwhelming need to get back to the bronze kind had finally surfaced. I felt this day coming long ago. It was just a matter of time until the right opportunity surfaced.

Good Company, Good Times
I found that opportunity in an email. Schultz Outfitters' newsletter hit my inbox and while scanning the highlights there it was, the SO annual Upper Peninsula (U.P.)  Smallmouth trip and by the time I called Schultzy there was one spot remaining. You know that spot was meant for me!

I've always wanted to fish in the U.P. I don't know why I never did. I've fished all around it into Ontario and the great lakes but for some reason the U.P. was never a destination. I think the reason is, in that region, there is so much water that it takes a lifetime to explore.


The trip was everything you look for in a group event. Great fishing, scenery, lodging, guides, friends and food. Plenty of everything and best of all plenty of smallmouth. Early one morning I watched a black bear swim across the river right outside the lodge that overlooks the river. Plenty of wildlife and of course plenty of mosquitoes too! Bring your deet!

Like Topwater?

About 99% of the fishing is topwater divers, poppers and assorted foam bugs fished from drift boats with non stop casting to every undercut, tree root, boulder and grass line looking for that classic bass attack. I've got to tell you there is nothing that stirs the adrenaline like watching the water move when your bug hits the surface.

No shortage of quality fish

Equipment

My Sage Bass II Series of rods did the bulk of the work for me. The Largemouth size handles the big hair bugs with ease and the shorter length really helps the accuracy of putting those big bugs under the trees. My Smallmouth size was pure magic with the popping bugs and foam critters. I also used a Sage Method 890-4 for some of the subsurface minnow work. This rod can really deliver the distance. Reels are not a huge deal in this game. Once hooked up you need to be concerned with pulling the fish away from entanglement and not worry about getting it on the reel. The line of choice throughout the group is the S/A Mastery Textured Titan Taper. The Titan has a powerful head for big bug delivery and also has a long rear taper to make easy work of picking up a lot of line for a the next cast. To explain better, most presentations involve hitting a target and after settling, making 1-2 moves before recasting to a new spot. The long taper of this line all but eliminates the need to strip back to a casting point common with short head lines.
20" Brute

The fish here are quality. Sure you could find more trophies in the big lakes but they couldn't match the experience of these river dwellers. A 20" or over here will get strong recognition. I was fortunate to catch one of the two caught this week. Too many to count 19's" came to hand and I didn't hear a single complaint about too many dinks.

About that Carp photo at the start of this article...

Release!
As if a great week of smallie fishing with a great crew of anglers and guides in a great lodge with great food and drink and yada, yada, yada wasn't enough...the next stop just a couple hours away is the flats of lake Michigan. I've always wanted to wade in this great lake and hunt these submarine size monsters. It was everything I'd ever dreamed about. The first thing I kept marveling over is the fact that I am wading in Lake Michigan with miles of flats one can walk with crystal clear water all around. Next was learning to spot the fish which is in fact the easy part. Just look for giant dark shadows that are moving. Bring out your best cast, these critters are smart. I had many refusals before I played it cool enough to have one commit. Be sure to have a good disc drag reel. My old Nautilus FW (which I can proudly say has caught more fish than most fly reels will ever see) was just fine for the bass we were hauling in but I was a bit concerned when I locked the drag down as tight as it would go and this fish was still running deep into backing until I only had maybe 20 yards to spare when I finally got it to turn. It is my advice that if you find yourself in the great lakes region don't pass up this opportunity and if you have it penciled in on your bucket list go ahead and ink it. You won't be disappointed.

A Giant THANK YOU goes out to my friends out Schultz Outfitters. These guys eat sleep and live all the great fly fishing in this area of the country. Also want to thank the guides from Tight Lines Fly Fishing Company. These guys know their water, know their fish and work hard to ensure you a great day of fishing. And a special Thanks to Schultzy for sharing a little bit of his Great Lakes carp wisdom.

This trip won't be forgotten anytime soon and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again.


BassProGreg



Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

Review: Sage Bass II Series Rods


Jun 29, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports (June 29th)

Fishing Report
Sweeet Release!
Some like it hot, hot, hot… A heat wave plagues our region.  Rivers are scary low, bathwater warm and summer is just starting.  The Columbia was reported to be 76 degrees in the backwaters and hovering around 70 all the way down to Astoria in the main channel.

Water temp at the Dalles Dam:

Water temp at Bonneville Dam: 

Water temp at Astoria:

The Deschutes was at 74 degrees on Friday, over 74 on Saturday, but the worst part is that it only cooled down to 69.5 on Saturday night.  http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/station/flowplot/hydroPlot.php?id=MODO3&pe=TW&v=1435429823

American Shad are starting to stall out a bit.  We will probably not hit 2 million fish this year, and the fish are still reported to be pretty deep and hard to find, but anglers have reported that up near Rufus, the fish are in shallower water and easier to catch. 

Carp fishing is really the best thing going when the water temps are this warm.  Find them tailing early in the day, and they have been on the bite pretty consistently throughout the day.  “The Hook” is a good spot near Hood River, Government Cove near Cascade Locks, and in Ashes Lake near Stevenson have great places with lots of fish stacked up.  I like really any bonefish fly, but dark and drab colors seem to work better.   

Rainbow Trout fishing on the Deschutes River has been good, but I would highly recommend not fishing the lower river (below Sherar’s Falls), as water temps on the lower end of the river have been far too warm for the ensured survival of fish (74 on Friday).  I went on Tuesday evening (June 23) and the water was nearing 70.  I saw several trout sitting in shallow water that appeared to be struggling.  They were not moving out of the way as I walked near them.  I could have reached down and picked up a fat 16” trout that would not move as I waded.  I will not be returning to the Deschutes below Maupin until this heat wave has waned.  Again, water temps over 70 are fatal to trout, steelhead and salmon, especially over long periods of time.  This is not only bad for the adult fish, the juvenile fish from the last two years’ record salmon runs are in jeopardy. 

Chinook fishing has been decent below Bonneville Dam.  Numbers are great for summer fish.  Summer Chinook are traditionally headed for the uppermost tributaries of the Columbia, Snake and Salmon Rivers, but we can catch them as they go through the area.  Check the Regulations before you go out bank fishing for salmon around here as many areas are closed to fishing right now. 

The Sockeye Salmon run is approaching record numbers, but the odds are stacked against you as sockeye are definitely not into taking flies.  Sockeye are headed for the uppermost reaches of the Columbia River Basin.

Summer steelhead numbers are starting to pick up, however, water temps and levels are not looking good.  There are not a lot of rivers that have fish, low water temps and enough flow to fish… The Cowlitz River has been flowing around 3000 cfs (typically 6000), but water temps on the Cowlitz have been topping out in the low 60s in the lower reaches of the river…  The Klickitat River is very low (835 cfs), but still fishable (typically 1500 cfs).  The water temp was 67 degrees on Friday and the clarity was not terrible.  It tends to muddy up in hot water, but the clarity cycles up and down during the day.  I would not hesitate to fish it this week, but try to get out in the mornings as temps might push over seventy in the afternoons this week. 

The Hood River actually bumped up from under 300 cfs to over 440 as the heat wave started really melting the little bit of glacier that we have left to feed the river.  It is very muddy as of Sunday morning (June 28), but you can get some trout fishing in if you really want to.  It’s the same story here too; try to get your fishing done in the morning before water temperatures reach their maximum in the late afternoon.  The trout are not picky in the river.  They will eat just about any well-presented fly, dry or wet.  You just have to get it in front of them.  Clarity should be better early in the day.  The East Fork Hood River is open for trout fishing, as well as the main branch of the river.  The West Fork Hood River is always closed to fishing, except for the 100 yards or so between the confluence of the East Fork and Punchbowl Falls

Smallmouth Bass have been hitting topwater poppers on the Columbia River and John Day River. There are lots of fish to be caught, but moving around is key.  They are either in the area or not and you might have to try multiple spots before you find fish.  Try stripping a big baitfish pattern really quickly over rocky areas for the best chance at catching a big one. 

Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout fishing should be great this week in the evenings as the Hexagenia Mayfly hatch is primed to get going.  Bigger lakes have better hatches.  Timothy Lake has a great hatch.  Merrill Lake in Washington is well-known for the Hex hatch.  Goose Lake near Trout Lake, WA should also be a solid choice.  The bugs hatch at night, so showing up at the lake at 7:00 pm or 4:00 am is not a bad idea. 

Eagle Creek near Bonneville Dam is a great place to spend the day fishing for cutthroat trout.  Much like the Hood River, the fish are small and hungry, but the scenery is beautiful, and the water is cold.  It is a little bit easier to wade than the Hood, but you are in a canyon and there are not many spots to get on or off the trail down to the river.  Once you are on the creek, it is fairly easy to get around.  


As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office.  


"Fly Fish the World with Us"


Jun 27, 2015

Airflo Super-DRI Switch Float - Now in Stock!

Power Up your Switch Rod
In the two plus years I have been plying trout waters with switch / micro spey rods one thing came quite clear, we needed a specialized two hand trout line! After expressing my need to several industry professionals I finally not only found someone to listen but also learned that others had reached the same conclusion. Thanks to line wizards Tim Rajeff and Tom Larimer we now have a set of trout spey lines that will benefit us all for years to come. Dry line or sinking tip these fully integrated lines have established the new standard on trout rivers across the nation while enabling modern trout anglers to easily gain the benefits of two hand angling.

Finally...a taper formulated for switch and small spey rods with the same feeling and performance you'd expect from Airflo's family of spey products.



After years of splicing, welding, and testing "Franken-Lines", Tom Larimer and the Airflo Design Team have produced the best weight-forward, integrated switch line available today. The Super-DRI Switch is an ideal match for light switch and small spey rods, designed for anglers tossing surface patterns or swinging soft hackles and small streamers.

Based loosely on the popular Rage Shooting Head, the Super-DRI Switch has a compact weight-forward head designed specifically to compliment today's lighter two-handers, making loading the rod incredibly easy.

The innovative front taper is capable of turning over a variety of leader and fly combinations, and is also able to accommodate light sink tips. Perhaps the most important feature is the seamless joint between head and running line, making it easy to strip flies all the way to your feet. For easy rigging, each line is packaged with an Airflo 10' Floating PolyLeader.

Available in line weights 3-6, and grain weights ranging from 210-390.

Compliment your Airflo Switch Float with the ALL NEW Airflo Streamer Switch line designed especially for Sink Tip use. 

Switch Streamer - Designed for real sink tips!

An evolutionary step from our popular Skagit Switch design, the Super-DRI Streamer Switch features an aggressive front taper with a shorter, heavier head designed to make tip tossing a dream. Specifically designed to easily load modern switch and short spey rods, the Streamer Switch will help anglers of any level of skill or experience cast more efficiently and effectively.

 

The Airflo Switch Streamer is a complete head and line integrated together and includes a 10' Fast sinking replaceable Polyleader. Just add tippet and fly and your switch rod is ready. 


Specs - Short heavy head for turning over sink tips

Line Size Color Head Weight Head Length Sink Rate Total Length
WF4 Pale Mint/Orange 300 18ft Float 85ft
WF4.5 Pale Mint/Orange 330 18.5ft Float 85ft
WF5 Pale Mint/Orange 360 18.5ft Float 85ft
WF5.5 Pale Mint/Orange 390 20ft Float 85ft
WF6 Pale Mint/Orange 420 20ft Float 85ft


Get more information about Trout Spey Lines - No Perfect Answer!

Get more Trout Spey Buzz from Trout Spey Chronicles

Jun 25, 2015

R. L. Winston Tour

Travis Duddles - Montana Trout Stream

You may have heard the term “It’s a Winston” or “It has that Winston feel” stated like it is something really special. Trust me there is something to this feel! Many anglers put these rods above all others, but why? Winston rods are not always the most powerful, lightest or cutting edge technology so why are they put on such a pedestal? The most common response is it has the Winston feel. Winston just has a feel that is hard to find in other rods. Comfortable and smooth! On a recent trip to Montana I discovered where that feel comes from and so much more!

It all started several months ago when Eric Neufeld our Winston sales representative and good friend called to invite me to the Winston Confluence. The Winston Confluence was something Winston put together to bring a few select sales reps and dealers together in Twin Bridges Montana. This is the home of R. L. Winston Rod Company. The plan was to bring all of us together, give us a inside tour of Winston that they never do. Yes they do tours, but this would be a special one. Winston wanted to let us see all steps of production, even the processes that were top secret! They also wanted to show us the direction they are heading and get all of our feedback good or bad. So after hearing the plan I was quick to say "I'm in!"

I flew into Bozeman, Montana where I met up with Adam and Jeff from Winston along with a couple of other dealers and sales reps from around the country and Canada. We all hopped in Adam’s and Jeff’s trucks heading towards Twin Bridges Montana. It didn’t take long to realize this was going to be fun group of guys and was going to be a great trip. After a hour and half drive we were in the small town of Twin Bridges, a classic little Montana farm town. Our lodging for the next few days was a small apartment building provided to us by 4 Rivers Fly Shop. This apartment building is where they house their clients during the guiding season.

The next morning we walked down the street to the R. L. Winston factory. The Winston factory is in a steel building on the edge of town, not quite as big as I thought it would be. When we walked through the front door into the small entry way slash show room we were greeted by Adam. Adam is the person you generally get when you call Winston. Adam was busy answering the phones as usual. While we waited I took the chance to scan through the complete line up of Winston rods displayed in the front entry. I scanned the rods every once in a while seeing a model that I had not cast or fished yet, which now sparked my interest to fish that rod. With most of my fishing being with two handed rods for Steelhead, I realized I have never fished the Boron III LS 9’ 5 weight. That would change later that day.

Lew Stoner
After a quick breakfast Jeff and Adam were ready to take us on our tour. It started in the Winston museum with the history of how Winston got started. Do you know who R. L. Winston is? There is no R. L. Winston, there were actually two original founders Robert Winther and Lew Stoner. R. L. Winston is a combination of their names; R for Robert, L for Lew, Win for Winther, Ston for Stoner. Put it together and you get R. L. Winston. Adam tells us how every year a few old timers come by and talk about meeting and visiting with Mr. Winston and that they knew him personally. Now we know there was never a Mr. Winston at R. L. Winston.

The Museum was amazing, but the best was about to begin. Annette Mclean who is the rod designer at Winston appeared to take us on our factory tour. We stepped through the door where the entire Winston rod staff was waiting to greet us. It did not take long to tell that these people love working at the R.L Winston factory. Most were smiling ear to ear. From there we went from station to station to see all the steps it takes to build a Winston fly rod. There is so much attention to detail and quality at the Winston factory and that is the difference that makes a Winston fly rod different from the rest. One such example of the attention to detail is the inscription “Barb” has personally been hand inscribing the Winston rods for 15 years. Yes, all of them are hand inscribed!

At this point on the tour I can’t tell you much about what we saw. Let’s just say we got to see lots of cool stuff behind closed doors. Annette talked to us a lot about the design of a Winston rod, the tapers and the materials. I have to say Annette has an amazing amount of knowledge when it comes to rod design and the cool part is she is so humble about it. Annette even let us cast some prototypes that are in the works, can’t tell you anymore, but I can tell you that they are always looking for the next best rod!

Reel Seats
As we all gathered at the end of the tour it all made sense now why Winston fly rods can be in short supply at times. As dealers we tend to get upset when we cannot get a rod for a customer, we need it now but with Winston's attention to detail and quality it takes a little more time to produce a rod. All Winston Employees take great pride and respect in the rods they build and their commitment to the company brings forth a feeling in the Winston factory that resembles family. I guess we have to remember the next time a Winston is on backorder that if you want this type of quality sometimes you just have to wait. We all left that afternoon excited, wanting a new Winston fly rod.

We went back to the lodge and geared up for a couple hours of fishing on the Ruby River. Eric asked “what rod I would like to fish?”. I quickly replied “the BIII LS 9’ 5 Wt.” Once we grabbed our gear we raced to the Ruby, we only had a few hours until we return to the Winston factory for a BBQ.


After a 20 minute drive we ended up at one of Adam and Jeff’s favorite spot on the Ruby River. Eric, Jeff and I headed up river and on the first run I handed the rod to Eric to let him have first cast. Rigged with a dry dropper set up he quickly caught a nice brown trout. It was my turn, I made a few cast, I quickly forgot about fishing. Casting the LS on a small river like this was a dream, it is so smooth, loads easy, very nice! Ok! Snap out of it, time to catch a fish. We worked our way up to the next run, first cast I hooked and landed a nice rainbow. With its deeper flex the LS plays fish very nice also.
Brownie

Eric and I quickly forgot all about the streamer rod we brought with us and took turns casting and catching fish with the LS. This continued for about 2 hours, many cast, many fish, but most of all the enjoyment of casting the LS. The LS was the perfect rod for this size river with plenty of power for the hopper dropper set up yet still very capable of a delicate presentation.

Our time was up and it was time to head back to the Winston factory for a BBQ. When we showed up burgers were all ready grilling. Some of the staff had stayed late to make dinner for us and the gentleman cooking even raided his own freezer supplying the elk burger for our dinner that night. It was an enjoyable evening, great company, great food and cold beer.

After dinner Jeff brought us all back to our lodging where we had a round table about Winston rods. We discussed the pros and cons of Winston rods. What is needed? What trends we see coming and so on. After the discussion was all over Jeff presented to the four of us authorized dealers with a very special, very limited custom R. L. Winston Boron IIIx rod that does not exist on the market, the “Silver Label”. This rod was your standard Boron IIIx, but dressed and finished completely different from your traditional Winston. We were all stunned we did not expect this, it was a very special surprise. Remember this does not exist so don’t ask you cannot get one. In fact we were warned if any of us sold one of these we would be banned from getting personal rods from Winston for life!

The next day we were greeted by guides from the 4 Rivers Fly Shop, this was our last day of fishing before heading back home. Eric and I were off to the Jefferson with our guide Joe Willauer. Joe said that we would be fishing a lot of streamers that day on the Jeff, searching for those big hogs that live in its waters. He had us start off though with nymphs below and indicator where I got to break my Silver Label in on a few nice trout.

We then shifted over to some bigger 6 weight rods and started chucking streamers. The day started off a little slow with streamers, but quickly improved. We caught several nice 14 to 18 browns and rainbows by the end of the day. We both had fish on over 20 inches, but they were never landed. That is why you fish the Jefferson though, not for quantity, but for the chance to land a real pig, maybe even over 30 inches!!! Not that day, but I will fish it again, next time I will have my 11’ 4 weight Winston MicroSpey with me though. That is my favorite streamer rod, no sore shoulder when I am done.

It was sad to see the trip come to an end. The next day we all headed home, back to our families and work. I left this trip with a much more appreciation of Winston and their fly rods. I have always fished Winston’s and enjoyed them but now I really understand that extra mile put into the attention to detail to every Winston fly rod. That gives you that much better of feeling when you pick your rod up. Speaking of that I am going to grab my Winston and go catch a few big Crane Prairie rainbows!







Travis Duddles
Owner and CEO | Gorge Fly Shop
541.386.6977






"Fly Fish the World with Us"


Jun 15, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports (June 15th & 22nd)

Fishing Report June 15th
There are plenty of anglers wondering if there are fish in the Deschutes yet…  There are always steelhead in all of our river every day of the year.  It is a numbers game though.  As the summer progresses, numbers increase and so do the chances of hooking up.  I have heard of summer fish being caught on all of the local rivers so far including the Deschutes, but anglers are either spending many, many hours searching for them or getting really lucky. 


We really, really have to watch the water temperatures now.  Salmon have been washing up dead in the Willamette due to water temperatures above 75 degrees IN JUNE… 


This is very bad news and a foreshadowing of things to come.  The Deschutes hit 72 degrees two weeks ago and we haven’t even got to the hottest part of the year.  It has been topping out around 68 or 69 every day this last week, and the Columbia has been at 67 degrees for a week or two.  Fish mortality is inevitable with sustained water temps above 70. 

Enough of the doom and gloom, on to the report:

American Shad are still moving in the Columbia River right now.  Reports are that the fish are deep (up to 30’), making them more difficult to catch on the fly than in years past when they ran in shallower water.  Guides have been telling me that it is because of the warmer water in the river.  Numbers never really jumped either.  In a year when everything is early, the Shad are either late or not going to show in big numbers.  We were at 2.1 million at this point last year and 1.1 million this year. 

Carp fishing is a great option right now.  The fish are spawning in a lot of areas, but in places where they are not, fishing is steady.  If fish are chasing each other or sitting still in super shallow water in groups, they are most likely spawning.  It will be very difficult to get them to eat.  They are finicky, so finding fish that are actively feeding is going to be the best way to get a fish.  They act in a similar way to bonefish, so look for “nervous water” in muddy, shallow areas and get a Crazy Charlie in front of them.

Rainbow Trout fishing on the Deschutes River has been really, really good for the last 30 minutes of daylight or so.  The caddis hatch has been super.  Caddis hatch in big numbers during low and warm water events, so it should be good for most of the summer.  Just watch the water temps and PLEASE DO NOT FISH when the water is at or above 70 degrees.  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/or/nwis/uv?site_no=14103000

Chinook fishing has been decent below Bonneville Dam, but not smoking hot.  Numbers are great so far for summer fish.  Summer Chinook are traditionally headed for the uppermost tributaries of the Columbia, Snake and Salmon Rivers, but we can catch them as they go through the area.  Check the Regulations before you go out bank fishing for salmon around here as many areas are closed to fishing right now. 

Sockeye Salmon numbers are great, but the odds are stacked against you as sockeye are definitely not into taking flies. 

Summer steelhead numbers are starting to pick up.  While numbers are low for this time of year, we are not overly concerned about steelhead numbers through the dam at this point.  August is when the bulk of the summer fish come through, so early numbers don’t mean a whole lot.   Every local river has fish in it right now, but not very many.  The Klickitat River has been tough, but guys are picking up a fish here and there.  Very few reports coming from the Deschutes, but I have seen proof of fish caught there.  The Kalama River and Cowlitz River are both good options right now as fish tend to push into the lowermost Columbia tributaries before the Gorge Tributaries.  Upstream Tributaries like the Methow, Grande Ronde and Clearwater tend to get their fish much later. 

The Hood River is no different. We won’t see many steelhead until later in the summer.  The smaller a river is, the more likely it is that the fish will be later.  We usually don’t see the bulk of the summer steelhead enter the system until the fall rains come in September or October.  Fish trickle in all throughout the year, but again, steelheading is a numbers game and trying to find one of the dozen or two fish in a forty mile river is not the type of odds that I would bet on. 

The East Fork Hood River is open for trout fishing, as well as the main branch of the river.  It is a nice place to spend a day chasing small, wild, hungry trout.  I would get out there now as the river is a good color and it is going to get too low to fish really soon.  Standard dry flies like the Parachute Adams, Stimulator or Elk Hair Caddis work just fine.  It requires a lot of walking (boulder hopping) to cover enough water to have a really productive day, but there is little pressure and beautiful scenery.  HWY 35 offers most of the access all the way up to Forest Service Road 44, where the river gets a bit too small to fish above that area.  The West Fork Hood River is always closed to fishing, except for the 100 yards or so between the confluence of the East Fork and Punchbowl Falls

Smallmouth Bass have been hitting topwater poppers on the Columbia River and John Day River. There are lots of fish to be caught, but moving around is key.  They are either in the area or not and you might have to try multiple spots before you find fish.  Try stripping a big baitfish pattern really quickly over rocky areas for the best chance at catching a big one. 

Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout fishing has been great in the high mountain lakes.  There are literally hundreds of lakes within a two hour drive of here.  There are varying species, populations and sizes of trout in the lakes.  Get out a map of the area and pick a lake…

Eagle Creek near Bonneville Dam is a great place to spend the day fishing for cutthroat trout.  Much like the Hood River, the fish are small and hungry, but the scenery is beautiful, and the water is cold.  It is a little bit easier to wade than the Hood, but you are in a canyon and there are not many spots to get on or off the trail down to the river.  Once you are on the creek, it is fairly easy to get around.  

As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office.  



Fish. ON!

Fishing Report June 15th

It is full-on summer in the Gorge, so it is time to get out and enjoy the vast amount of recreation opportunities in the region.  Shad are the fish of the week here on the Columbia, while trout fishing in high mountain lakes is fabulous and smallmouth bass are eating topwater poppers just about everywhere they can be found.  Always check the regulations before going somewhere unfamiliar, or just check to get a refresher on the rules.

WASHINGTON:

OREGON:

There is a little redundancy in the report, mostly because not a lot has changed as far as opportunities and conditions go.

I got out once last week and hit a western river looking for steelhead.  Ryan is new to the area and was looking for his first hot summer fish.  We found one and it was a dandy.  I watched it crush a black muddler minnow near the surface and then fought as hard as any fish.  The look on Ryan’s face will show you how happy an angler can be after landing his first super hot summer steelhead. 

American Shad are still running thick on the Columbia River right now.  The majority of the action happens below Bonneville Dam, near Beacon Rock, near Cascade Locks and upstream near Rufus.  If you can find them you can catch them.  They are hard fighting fish that readily take flies and are tons of fun on a 5 or 6wt fly rod.

Carp fishing has been gaining popularity here in the area and there are finally a few anglers (besides Gabe) that have been getting out consistently.  These big fish can be found in the Columbia, but fishing is tough when its been windy on the “Big C”.  Wind kicks up silt and colors the water up, making it tough to fish.  If the Columbia is murky, then try any of the small sloughs next to the highway.  Any pond between Bingen and Lyle most likely has a productive carp fishery and easy access.  Generally, fishing mid-day is good as fish move into the flats and “tail” in the mud for food.  The fish can be easily found in shallow water and have not been moving out until late in the evening. 

Rainbow Trout on the Deschutes River is not as productive as it was during “the hatch” but fishing can be consistent for anglers nonetheless.  Anglers must be willing to change flies early and often and do some searching for fish.  Small mayfly nymphs are most likely to work during the day, while having a box full of caddis emergers and dries is a must for the evening hatch. 

Chinook fishing has really shut slowed down in the local rivers, but fish are still moving past us in the big river.  There are rumors of the big “June Hogs” have been circulating though the area from the big boat guys fishing the big river. 

The Cowlitz River has been kicking out some summer steelhead, and is probably the most consistent producer in the Northwest for steelhead through the summer.  Large rivers that have a dam on them should be in better shape than free-flowing rivers this summer as drought conditions strangle the river basins and flows decrease.  Hopefully, the reservoirs on these big rivers have enough water stored to keep flows up and temp down during the rest of our hot summer.  

The Klickitat River is open for summer steelhead, rainbow trout and Chinook salmon.  The action has been pretty good for June.  Typically, the water is high and dirty this time of year and it makes steelhead fishing tough.  The water colored up a lot this past week, but is still fishable.  Reports are visibility varies from one to two feet during the day.  It cycles daily, and depending on how hot it is, certain parts of the river will clear up before others.  Trout fishing can be very good in June, but there are not a lot of guys that are trout fishing…  Meanwhile, there are tons of smolts in the lower river and it is making for tough fishing conditions when a smolt hits your fly several times on every cast.

The Hood River is very, very low and has colored up this last week.  There are fresh steelhead in the Hood River year round, but angler effort has been nearly non-existent lately due to water conditions.  With low and dirty conditions; skating a dry fly for steelhead could be productive as fish should be sitting in shallower water (they don’t have a choice).  Typically, the summer run steelhead move into the river in better numbers in the fall when water levels (hopefully) start to increase.

The East Fork Hood River is open for trout fishing.  The access is plentiful along HWY 35, but it is a tough wade due to steep gradient and huge boulder fields.  The trout are small and sparsely distributed, but they are hungry and rewarding due to the amount of effort it takes to get around all of the boulders.  It is catch and release only and no bait is allowed. 

Smallmouth Bass have been hitting topwater poppers early and late in the day on the Columbia River and John Day River. There are lots of fish to be caught, but moving around is key.  They are either in the area or not and you might have to try multiple spots before you find fish. 

Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout have been eating flying ants in the high elevation lakes.  The fishing has been really incredible in the past few weeks and should be good for the next few weeks, even though the ant hatch is waning.  The big trout tend to gorge on them later in the day when the bugs start flying heavily.  Damselfly nymphs and callibaetis are also working well, along with smaller chironomids.  Damselflies, Callibaetis and Chironomids will be the primary food source for most of June until the Hexagenia hatch happens at the end of the month.  Timothy, Clear, Trillium, Laurence and Lost Lakes are all great Oregon Lakes, while Merrill and Goose Lakes are great choices for Washington anglers.


As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office. 

"Fly Fish the World with Us"



Jun 10, 2015

Outcast Commander vs. Outcast Pac800

Outcast OSG Commander

Frame-less vs. Frame! Do I need a frameless boat?

With the recent resurgence of frameless personal watercraft like the Outcast Commander, Stealth Pro and Fish Cat Scout, many anglers are wondering what the advantages are of a frameless boat compared to a more traditional framed pontoon boat like the Outcast PAC 800. I recently took a trip down the river with an old friend so we could test out the capabilities of each type of boat.

Outcast OSG Commander:

I spent the day rowing and fishing in the Commander. I took it down a small, technical river and then later kicked around a local lake. Why Frameless? I chose the Commander with a specific purpose in mind. There are a couple of rivers that a motivated angler could get a boat into some great water without having to commit to using a traditional boat ramp… I can think of three of four places where dragging a boat in would give me a nice option for a short float that people with drift boats wouldn’t consider going. At 35 pounds, the Commander is easy to manage and handles technical whitewater well.
Got to be motivated to get here!

What I like about the Commander:

It’s quick and easy to set up. It takes about ten minutes to get it from packed in an Outcast Kayak Bag to completely ready to go. I like that I can keep a small collapsible cooler, small dry bag with extra clothing and my fishing gear all behind the seat. There are convenient webbing loops along the seam where the floor meets the tube to tie your gear down. Remember to always “rig to flip” and tie all your gear in.

The boat handles really well. It is very easy to get moving and can handle very technical water with ease. It has a low, narrow profile which makes it easy to get through little chutes and between rocks. I don’t want to mess with class IV whitewater in general, but feel confident that my boat will get through the class II water that we have around here with ease, especially in the summer when the water is low.

One reason I like these frameless boats is that an angler can pull onto a gravel bar and just stand up and fish. The boat does not get away from you as you are standing within it. It is light enough that it does not pull on you much when you are working your way through a spot with the boat holding in the current against your legs. This makes it easy to quickly fish small buckets ad move on to the next spot.

The ability to mount accessories is wonderful. The Stealth Pro and Commander both have two pads that can hold a cargo pocket or a rod holder. It is an easy way to keep your rod and fishing supplies available for quick and easy access.

The ugly:

Effective but different than standard oar lock systems
There are a few things that I don’t like about the frameless boats, all very minor. The first is that the oars and oarlocks. You cannot ship them (pull them in) or feather them (twist the blades as you stroke). As someone who has rowed thousands of miles, my rowing habits (good and bad) are already formed and I don’t like having to change my stroke just for this boat. All of the frameless boats on the market have the same features, and I don’t see them changing it at all. It is really just a minor inconvenience, but it is something I wish were different. I do understand that it would significantly raise the price of the boats to develop a new system.

Another feature that I dislike is the pocket; more specifically, the placement of the “frameless cargo pocket”. There are two pads that are glued onto the boat that accessories (like the pocket or rod holders) can be mounted to. The Stealth Pro comes with one pocket, while it is an accessory for the Scout and the Commander. The pocket is long enough that it gets in the way of the oar on the Commander, but only when you are trying to stow the oar.

The Stealth Pro has the ability to move the pad into three positions. After talking with Greg about his Stealth Pro, he told me that the pocket only gets in the way when the pad is moved into the “forward” position. I have not spent any time in the Scout, but I would imagine that it is a concern also because it is in a fixed position similar to the Commander.

PAC 800

This is a more of a traditional single man pontoon boat. The pontoons are beefy 16” diameter and they have a good rocker. The rocker is the curve on the bottom boat. A bigger rocker reduces the amount of surface area on the water and makes it move faster along with easier navigation. The urethane bladders are a superior material that provides peace of mind (more on that shortly).

Get to places previously unreachable

What I like:

This is a solid boat that is easy to navigate along with sturdy construction that is unlikely to fail. The storage capacity is great. I would feel comfortable with enough gear for a light overnight float. The platform on the back is great for latching and securing gear. It is easy to navigate and sits high in the water. A bigger profile means that it draws less water than smaller boats. More surface area is harder makes it easier to float.

Another benefit is that you sit higher in the water, so your butt is less likely to constantly be wet. This few inches can give you a better vantage point for scouting rapids and spotting fish too.

There is far more versatility with rigging options on a pontoon boat. An anchor is no big deal on a framed boat, while it is possible, but not as convenient on a frameless boat. There are more surfaces and bars to attach straps and gear to, so taking more gear down the river is easier to rig and easier to secure. I would feel comfortable taking enough gear for an over-night excursion on a PAC 800.

The Ugly:

Framed boats are heavier than frameless boats (Stealth Pro and Commander - 35#, PAC 800 - 52#). That is why frameless boats were developed in the first place. There is also more weight to get moving, so you are using more energy for rowing in the first place.

Outcast Wheel System
Another point is that you have slightly less accessibility with a pontoon boat. An angler is more limited where he can take it. Even with the Outcast Wheel System there are places that the PAC 800 would be difficult to get to that would be easy for a frameless boat. The Commander can squeeze through tighter slots and rapids than the PAC800. Chris and I are both extremely accomplished oarsmen and he got the PAC 800 stuck in the middle of a rapid where my Commander fit through just fine.

A boat that sits higher in the water is also more susceptible to being blown around in the wind. The PAC 800 is no exception; windy conditions make it more difficult to row. I once took a pontoon boat out on a lake without the oars (just fins) and ended up having to leave it on the other side of the lake and walk way too far when the wind started blowing so hard I could not kick against it any longer. I had to come back and get it early the next morning.

So do I need a frameless boat?

Storage solution - Outcast Boat Hoist
Well that is up to you. A PAC 800 or PAC 900 are both solid choices, as well as either the Stealth Pro and Commander. I choose these four boats because they have urethane bladders. There are tons of choices out there, but a urethane bladder is the key to a high quality boat. Urethane is much more puncture and tear resistant than Vinyl (as seen in many alternative boats). Urethane also lasts longer and can take a higher psi. Someone asked me if the single bladder on the outer part of the Commander is an issue. Absolutely not! There is only one bladder because the chances of it failing are so poor that it is not an issue. Cheaper alternatives have multiple bladders because there is a greater chance of a failure.

Who is a frameless boat better for?

  • Anglers that use questionable or non-traditional access points.
  • Anglers that want quick set-up if they have to break down the boat
  • Anglers that bring minimal gear
  • Anglers looking for a low-profile, lightweight boat

Who is a pontoon boat better for?

  • Anglers that tend to use more traditional access points. 
  • Anglers that carry a lot of gear
  • Anglers that do overnight or multiple-day floats. 
  • Anglers with a truck/ or a trailer to leave the boat rigged up OR
  • Anglers that can take a few extra minutes to set up and take down

A boat is a big purchase for any angler. It opens up so much more water and opportunity, plus it is just darn fun to run a river. Rowing and navigating is another skill to master that increases your fishing prowess. Learning how the currents come together and being able to float over fish and structure can only give you insight on how to be a better angler.

We are always happy to help you make tough decisions with your precious fishing gear. Please give us a call if you ever have any questions.






Andrew Perrault
Gorge Fly Shop | Product Specialist
541.386.6977






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"Fly Fish the World with Us"


Jun 9, 2015

Why I fish Hatch Fly Reels

Hatch Finatic 9+

There are few investments made by steelhead anglers more critical to their success than a good reel. A good reel can make or break your trip and will definitely increase your hook-up to landed ratio.

I read a review or “shoot out” the other day that had 19 criteria points for what a good reel is. Overall a good review, too good if you ask me. I don’t need a dissertation on the merits of a good fishing reel, I just need to know one thing, does it work? Can I stop a big fish with it? Will it hold up under every day use year over year? I’m willing to pay for quality but I expect a little bling to go with it, ie, it’s got to be pretty. I’ve fished a lot of reels over the years and my favorite are made in the USA by Hatch Outdoors.

My first Hatch Fly Reel
I ran into my first Hatch at a fly fishing show, it was love at first sight. As a young angler I couldn’t get past price but I had a different set of priorities as a twenty five year old. Fast forward another five years and I finally get my first Hatch, it’s a 9+ Pulse. This is still my go to reel and easily the most used of the many I have in service.

Today I’m 44 years old and a full time fishing guide. I make it a policy to only provide the best equipment for my clients and you will find Hatch Reels available in my boat every day. Before the guys at Hatch were “Hatch”, they wanted to build a better reel based on drag, durability and design. They nailed it.

Finatic
Let’s start with the drag, after all this is a reel we’re talking about. I could go on and on about the sealed drag, the stacked discs, resistant to heat issues, pound for pound fish stopping power, or the low start up inertia. I don’t care about the technical stuff although it does sound awesome, it’s just words. For me a drag’s about smooth reliable resistance. I recently fought a seal lice infested Spring Chinook in 200,000 cfs of Columbia river, and believe me my old Hatch Pulse put the wood to him! Lots of reels claim smooth fish stopping power and out of the box maybe they’re telling the truth. Over time things wear out, need maintenance, fail. The big fails for me are surging, free spooling/loss of drag, and total lock up.



That leads us to durability. Hatch reels require no maintenance, that’s right, NO MAINTENANCE! I’m not going to lie to you, after fishing reels every single day over a number of years and tough conditions even all reels may need a little warranty work. My favorite thing about Hatch reels is that I have never had one fail. I have sent reels back because they were no longer working as well as I expect them to. The good news is I can send them in for repair at my leisure because they still function.
Oregon Steel

Let’s talk about customer service. For the record, I’ve sent lots of reels back to their respective manufacturers over the years. The service I’ve received has been a deal breaker for several otherwise decent reels. Sending your high dollar stuff back to the manufacturer is never a good time. What I don’t want to hear is something along the lines of “never seen that happen before”, or “we’re pretty backed up right now but we’ll do the best we can”. Here’s what you get from Hatch, “send it in, we’ll fix it and overnight it back to you”. Yeah, that’s it…I’m good with that. No excuses just fix it and be quick about it.

Design. Like I said, I’m not a real technical guy but I have pretty high standards. The current version of the Hatch reel is the Finatic, prior to that it was the Monsoon, and before that the Pulse. It’s the same reel inside but it’s gotten lighter and prettier. The spools and reels are all interchangeable and there are two spool options, large and mid. As a Spey guy I will note one thing that’s pretty relevant regarding design and Hatch; Hatch reels are consistently heavier than most of their competition. While on the surface this may sound like a disadvantage, it’s not. Fishing a Spey Rod requires a heavy reel, it acts like a counterweight in both casting and holding the rod it the swing position. The other silent advantage is the precise machining of the Hatch reels. Thin diameter running lines are en vogue and for good reason and aside from a fully caged reel none of the competition can keep the running line inside the reel; that’s a problem.

For me it’s easy to be Hatch guy. Without lots of words, form, fit and function or as the Hatch guys say “drag, durability and design”. Nailed it!


Sam Sickles | Steelhead Outfitters
www.steelheadoutfitters.com
541.400.0855


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Jun 8, 2015

Columbia Gorge Fishing Reports (June 8th)

June 6, 2015
Fish Boy Gabe has Mastered Carp Angling
Most of the streams in both Oregon and Washington are open now for general season trout fishing, so exploring the high mountain streams is an option.  The opportunities for fishing are vast in the gorge right now.  From Shad to Carp to Bass, the Columbia is fishing great.  Local tributaries have kicked out a few early steelhead, and there is still a chance for catching a Chinook Salmon or two, but make sure to check the regulations before you head out the door.

WASHINGTON:


John and I did an opening day float on the Klickitat on Monday.  I managed to get one fish to eat early in the day and I lost him at my feet after a quick battle.  It was the first opening day fish I have hooked in the Klick in three or four years now. 

There are thousands of hungry steelhead smolt in the river right now and keeping them off the line is difficult.  There are certain flies and colors that they like and dislike more than others, but its pretty tough to deal with them if you are in the thick of a smolt school.  There was a run where I just had to sit down and wait for John to stop because the smolt were hitting my fly on every cast from the second it hit the water to the second I recast it. 

American Shad are running thick on the Columbia River right now.  The majority of the action happens below Bonneville Dam, near Beacon Rock, near Cascade Locks and upstream near Rufus.  If you can find them you can catch them.  They are hard fighting fish that readily take flies and are tons of fun on a 5 or 6wt fly rod.

Fishboy Gabe has been catching carp on the fly with some consistency lately.  They are in shallow on the Columbia and the impoundments near the highway 84 and feeding late into the evening.  Carp often stop tailing in the shallows in the mid afternoon, making evening fishing hard, but they have been feeding heavily lately all day from sunrise to sunset.

Rainbow Trout on the Deschutes River are still a great option for anglers.  The fishing has not been red hot, but there have been some great days and some bad days out there.  Small dark caddis have been hatching later in the day, while nymphing with a #20 flashback pheasant tail has been the most consistent during the day.  If you get out super early, a spent caddis will work before the sun comes up.  Swinging a soft hackle on a micro spey has been good and streamer fishing has been good in the mornings. 

Remember that there is NO FISHING FROM A BOAT ON THE DESCHUTES and also, fishing on the Warm Springs Reservation is highly regulated, so check the regulations before you start fishing on the wrong side… Some sections require a permit and others are prohibited all together. 

Spring Chinook have really shut down in a lot of places.  The Klickitat River has been a bright spot in the area for Chinook.  Anglers have been able to catch a fish or two a day with plugs or drifting bait through the deep holes.  The river below Bonneville Dam has been opened the past few days and rumors of the big “June Hogs” have been circulating though the area. 

The Cowlitz River has been kicking out some summer steelhead already, and is probably the most consistent producer of fish in the Northwest for steelhead through the summer. 

The Klickitat River opened for summer steelhead and Chinook salmon on Monday, June 1.  The action has been good for June.  Typically, the water is high and dirty this time of year and it makes steelhead fishing tough.  With low water conditions, it feels more like fall out there.  There are steelhead in the river, but we are a few months away from consistent fishing. 

Smallmouth Bass have been hitting topwater late in the day on the Columbia River and John Day River. Look for structure near deeper water, but the fish may be in shallow late and early in the day.  There are big fish around, it just takes some searching.

Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brown and Brook Trout have been eating flying ants in the high elevation lakes.  They tend to gorge on them later in the day when the bugs start flying heavily.  Damselfly nymphs and callibaetis are also working well, along with smaller chironomids.  Timothy, Clear, Trillium, Laurence and Lost Lakes are all great Oregon Lakes, while Merrill and Goose Lakes are great choices for Washington anglers.


As always, we are happy to talk fishing any time.  Give us a call if you have any specific questions on local rivers, gear, and tactics, or if you just want some encouragement to get out of the office.  


"Fly Fish the World with Us"



  © 'and' Steelhead.com Mike Prine 2009-2014

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