Monday, October 12, 2009

Three weeks in the wilds

Three weeks in the wilds

I just returned from my epic drive across North America to swing flies for steelhead in some of the most storied rivers in the world. Instead of telling fish stories let me share some learnings…

Losing weight is easy. My diet of bad coffee, granola bars, veggies, and canned soup and crackers while climbing cliffs and wading on bowling balls lost me seven pounds. I look like a skinnier Grizzly Adams now Woohoo! Only 20 more to go….

Soft rods are a joy to cast until the wind starts to blow like a hurricane. I fished runs that I re-named appropriately. These include the mistral pool, the tempest riffle, the big blow hole, the hurricane ledge rock, and the line gets blown back at you run. Enough wind already!

Waterproof camera bags work great unless they have a hole in them.

Longer belly lines are wonderful to cast until you have to perform casts off of your weak side and reach 90 feet while wading up to your chest on unstable rocks.

Riffle-hitched wet flies can out perform anything else if the conditions are right.

Full dress salmon flies are not just for salmon.

Steelhead can see everything in clear water, and small size 6 super low water flies can work.

A good fishing partner is a joy on the river, and a rare thing. Thanks W!

My skills need improvement when it comes to reaching ultimate distance with the fly turning over properly in the wind.

There is no magic bean. Time on the water is the only experience that pays. The short cuts that people are always looking for fall far short when it is time to pay the piper.

Short casts with only 20 feet or less of line out are necessary to cover pocket water and catch fish holding near shore. If I knew this fully when I fished the Deschutes, I would not have been hampered by trying to always cast across the entire river.

Even a difference in a hundred CFS in water flow can result in different holding lies and some runs will hold fish in one water level and others at a different level. The only way to discover this is fish as many runs possible and compare notes.

A wading staff is a necessary tool and not a sign of old age. I cannot believe the hazardous wades I did in years past without the aid of a wading staff. It also doubles as a hiking staff when climbing up and down basalt cliffs.

Don’t be afraid of fishing a run after someone else. Good anglers can sweep a run, but those lacking essential skills may never present a fly to the fish properly.

Watching master anglers hook a fish can be as much fun as catching them yourself.

Changing flies on bumped fish and waiting them out can work quite well.

Being polite and nice is priceless when gaining access from property owners.

Driving over mountain passes in blizzards sucks cheese.

Being from Wisconsin is a ticket for free conversation. I seem to be known as “That guy from Wisconsin.” And yes folks, we have steelhead here too. And, yes, I do know Dave Pinczkowski.

Sleeping at rest stops saves big $$ in the end over campgrounds.

Jet boats with gear anglers blow.

Western canned chili is quite good cold…

17 foot rods are a whole new ballgame. Trying C’s rod was akin to picking up a two-hander for the first time.

It is good to be home.
Steelhead were caught, memories made, equipment destroyed, reels sang, loops formed, friends made, flies chewed up, and a good time was had by all. A big thank you to W who ferried me around after my VW blew its starter. Whitney and Brian, good sharing a campfire. Chris, your puppy is adorable, and that fish you hit was HOT! William, thanks as always. You keep me humble and inspired. Carl, Very good meeting you at last. Ken, thanks for the hospitality and the scotch. May your pipes be always filled!

The 32” wild hen that button-hooked me and then went 150 yards into the backing and was landed in the next run after a death-wade down river was especially memorable.

Thank you steelhead!


  1. Some very sage advice... Plus it sounds like you had a great time! I figure if I learn something on a given trip to the river I can call it a success irregardless of the fish caught. Ditto for the people I meet and the cool things I see. Fish are just the icing...

  2. That and the wilderness and the free flowing rivers. So true.

    The rod was a Loomis 17' deveron. First time with that long a rod. Felt like I was swinging a sledge hammer.;)

  3. Awesome chronicles of your adventure Eric. I only wish I would have been there to enjoy a riverside scotch with you. Sorry I missed you while I was in in MKE last week. You did unfortunately miss what were two of my most memorable steelheading days on the MKE. RF can fill you in. Hope to see you in the Spring.

  4. Mike, Sorry I missed you when you were in town. From all reports, you lit up the river. I was freezing in South Dakota on Thurs.Trip was good, but hard fishing. The western river was back to its difficult and fickle self, which makes the fish we do hook that much more special. Hope to hit the local water if we get some rain soon.
    Thanks for dropping by.

  5. No magic bean? Damn, I got ripped off!

  6. Aye the Scotch was something else. Thanks a billion Ken. Found your rebar Erik and had to chuckle. Hope the new waders are holding up!


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