Idylwilde Flies to love at first sound, February 26, 2011

What’s in a fly name?

I’ve discovered that some Idylwilde King salmon and steelhead flies have such cool names that I love ’em at the mere mention of same.  Silly, I know, but it’s just so.

It occurred to me recently that I am just plain awful at naming salmon and steelhead fly patterns.  This recognition slapped me squarely when I was shooting a series of fly tying videos with Chris Daughters down at the Caddis Fly.  These videos featured some of my finest Sea-run Cutthroat, King salmon, and steelhead flies, tied on traditional shank hooks and Pro Tube-Fly tubes.

What’s this fly called, Chris asked, like he always does. In my usual manner, I said, I dunno, how about __________? (Insert some ordinary, non awe-inspiring name here)

Here’s an example. I have a series of summer steelhead and sea-run cutthroat flies that I have been adapting, tying and tuning for decades, literally.  The flies are effective and elegant, in my humble opinion, but what do I call these beauties, this series of great fishing, retro-style flies?  Steelhead Simplicity.  Cutthroat Simplicity.   Boring.  Never thought much about fly names in the past, though.  Now I realize that much appeal and attention is generated by a really exciting name.  The fly has to be good too, but all factors being equal, a great fly with an attention-grabbing name will receive more notice next to a great fly with a ho-hum name.

Same goes for some of my king salmon flies. All are entirely, start to finish, original patterns. Like the fly I call Nicholas’ Chinook Clouser. This was developed after years of on-water testing and was not influenced in the slightest by Bob Clouser or any of the flies he has developed. My Chinook Clouser has an exact count of bucktail fibers and only 3 strands of Smolt Blue Krystal Flash with one strand of Chartreuse Krystal flash, uses 95 Denier Lagartun White X-strong thread, and is tied on a #2 Gamakatsu Big Game hook.

The proportions and composition of my King salmon Clouser prove that it is an original fly pattern and justify the Patent I have applied for recently. When issued, these flies will be marketed at 39.95 each and are well worth the years of R and D that were required to develop the pattern. I have contacted Idylwilde regarding the possibility of offering this fly through their fine establishment. To date, I have not heard back from them. I am not worried, though. The folks at Idylwilde are busy, I know, and when they find my email and take a look at this spectacularly original fly, they will find it well worth the $27.99 surcharge i have requested, per fly, for the privilege of being a middleman for this Chinook-catching creation.

At least I think this is so.

Idylwilde offers some great flies. This is true whether one happens to be fishing for trout, bass, saltwater species or, naturally, salmon and steelhead.  Being as I am both a humble and world-class fly tyer myself (insert laughter here) I buy a fair number of Idylwilde flies.  I buy the little parachutes when I’m going trout fishing; and the big salmon and steelhead Intruders at times.  Why would a fly tyer buy flies from Idyllwild?  Because I’m not quite up to the task of tying little bitty trout flies these days.  Or because I don’t always have quite the right materials to tie that giant steelhead Intruder. Or sometimes, I’ve just plain run out of time the night before I’m gonna go chase King salmon or steelhead.

Beyond the great fly patterns Idylwilde offers, I love the fly names that these crazy, fishing obsessed people at Idylwilde come up with.  A few of their flies have ordinary names, like Idyl’s Bunny Tube, and their steelhead egg selection is a little short on name-glamour, but all in all, they have cornered a lot of really cool, really bad, really hot names for their steelhead and salmon flies.

Soooooooo, I thought I would share some of my favorite Idylwilde fly names with you all.  As usual, my methods of selecting these names for the fly-name-hotness-hall-of-fame are irreplaceable, irredeemable, irrepeatable and irreversible.  On any other day, I might make a completely different list of hotness fly names.

For now, though, here are some of my favorite Idylwilde steelhead and salmon fly names.

The great flies pictured above are not Idylwilde flies, and do not have cool names, but as they are my craftsmanship, I love them dearly all the same.

Today’s favorite Idylwilde salmon and steelhead fly names, listed in alphanumeric orderification.

Favorite Idylwilde Steelhead-Salmon fly names

  • Brass Monkey, Silvey’s
  • Chrome Magnet, Hickman’s
  • Comeback, Morejohn’s
  • Duck Turd, Hartwick’s
  • Fish Taco, Hickman’s
  • Flash Taco Hickman’s
  • Party Boy, Hickman’s
  • Poacher, Silvey’s
  • Pool cleaner, Silvey’s
  • Pumpkin Pie, Morejohn’s
  • Sid Fishes, Hickman’s
  • Trailer Trash, Morrish’s

Favorite Idylwilde Salmon-Steelhead Tube Fly Names

  • Hoser, Hartwidk’s
  • Silveyator, Silvey’s
  • Spot On Prawn, Morejohn’s
  • Tail Light, Silvey’s
  • Tempest, Morejohn’s

Favorite Idylwilde Surface Steelhead & Salmon Fly Names

  • Dragon Gurgler, Quigley’s
  • Five O’clock Shadow, Price’s
  • Mr. Hankey, Hickman’s
  • Mini Hankey, Hickman’s
  • Shade Chaser, Karnopp’s
  • Titanic, Paulson’s

Hope you had fun with these names. Personally, I am creating a list of hot salmon and steelhead fly names, saving them for the future application of some formerly dull fly names I formerly used.  The unveiling will be awesome.


In the meanwhile, good health, good fishing, and much kindness in your days.

Jay Nicholas February 26, 2011

What is a Stinger Hook? February 22, 2011

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary, February 22, 2011.

Not to worry,  fellow fly fishing addicts.  More questions and dictionary-precise glossary-definitions related to the insanity of fly fishing for salmon, steelhead, trout, carp, smallies, Atlantic Salmon, Tarpon, Bluegill, bonefish, boneheads, and Blue Sharks will follow, but not for awhile.  This is the last installment, until the next of blogosphere inquiries  inspires a rant.  Meanwhile, here goes.

    Q:  What do winter steelheaders eat? 

    A:  Following up on the recent post on stomach contents of winter steelhead, one blog reader asked what winter steelhead anglers eat, suggesting that such information not be based on direct examination of guts.  Nice call. Recently, the above digitally photographed food matter was observed near a winter steelhead fly fisher.  This is a bit of a reach to conclude that said angler would actually have eaten this grilled cheese, but hey, it’s possible, and at least as informative as the other answers posed to Blogosphere questions.

    Q:  What is a “Little Joe” pram?

    A:  This is an apparent reference to young Joe Koffler, son of Bruce Koffler, of Koffler (duh) Boats in Eugene Oregon.  Joe has never, in my knowledge, been referred to as Little Joe.  He is however, younger than his dad and they do make great fly fishing prams, so perhaps therefore follows the reference to a Little Joe pram.  Dunno.

    Q:  What is a Stinger?

    A:  The sharp poison-laced thingy protruding from the rear end of a bee, wasp, or similar bug likely to be found in the foot of one’s GoreTex waders each time one slips his or her toes into said waders in the morning before venturing forth to the river.  Also, a stinger is a fly hook that trails on a harness of string, Dacron, Fireline, Superbraid, dental floss, or barbed bite wire, for the express purpose of fooling a salmon or steelhead into thinking that it can get away with simply “nipping” at the tail of a swimming fly thereby getting the salmon or steelhead fly fisher all excited and drooling and such forth without getting an actual hook tangled in afore mentioned fish’s mouth.

    Q:  What does “Peril” refer to regarding steelhead fishing?

    A:  The well-known and oft fished Purple Peril steelhead fly has been around in many derivative forms and does indeed pose a “peril” to any steelhead within view of this fly.  Not that the fish will be caught; just that the fly might make the fish laugh so hard that it flops out of the water and the fly fisher pounces on it.  Also, peril is the condition faced by any human; man, woman, or child, once the steelhead fly fishing bug hits home.

    Q:  What are Plastic bead flies?

    A:  The nasty things you refer to are not flies. Plastic beads do not, under any circumstances, qualify as a fly.  Not even.

    Q:  What does Gape mean?

    A:  To let one’s mouth hang open in wonderment at some of the crazy questions people pose to the Blogosphere.  Also, the term gape refers to the distance, measured in angstroms, between the hook shank and the hook point.  For hook manufacturers like Tiemco, this feature is standardized and replicable between all the various hook models and sizes: as in, one can recognize a size 2 hook in any model, pretty much.  For Gamakatsu hooks, it seems that the hook designers were ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms because a #2 Glo bug Hook placed side by side with a #2 Tarpon hook will leave you scratching your head in wonderment.

    Q:  What is “Real” fly fishing?

    A:  Any fly fishing is “real” fly fishing.  So long as such practice is engaged with string, pole, and any fly, which excludes use of plastic beads, jigs, and pink rubber worms as  fly substitutes.

    Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary, February 22, 2011

Top 10 Best Winter Steelhead Flies …. February 20, 2011

Jay Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary – the Blogospheric rant continues; February 20, 2011.

In case you are new to this blog, the following fly fishing questions are legitimate in the sense that they have really been asked by sincere persons on the path to salmon and steelhead worship, addiction, catching, releasing, scientific study, or passive observation.  The answers to these questions are the truth, the whole truth, and nuthin’ but the truth, unless they are complete fabrications, intended purely to amuse, baffle, or mislead.

The integrity of these questions is above reproach, the veracity of the answers is questionable.

Q:  What flies should one fish to catch big winter steelhead?

  1. These are the same flies one would fish in hopes of catching small winter steelhead.  By the way, don’t hold your breath, these so-called winter steelhead are an imaginary fish.

Q:  What are “strung out” steelhead flies?

  1. Distraught or disheveled steelhead flies.  Also, steelhead flies that were formerly soaked in shrimp oil but have been unable to bathe in the addicting glop for awhile and are suffering withdrawal symptoms are said to be “strung out.”  Also, steelhead flies that have a hook dangling from a string behind the fly.  This dangling hook is reputed to result in hooking and landing 99.9% of the steelhead that come within ten feet of said fly.  This claim is clearly preposterous, but still it sells a zillion strung out flies.  We never learn, do we?

Q:  What are the top 10 Best Chinook salmon flies?

  1. Gold Comet, #4
  2. Clouser Deep Minnow (Chartreuse/white), #4
  3. Gold Comet, #2
  4. Clouser Deep Minnow (Chartreuse/white), #2
  5. Gold Comet, #6
  6. Clouser Deep Minnow (Chartreuse/white), #6
  7. Gold Comet, #1
  8. Clouser Deep Minnow (Chartreuse/white), #1
  9. Gold Comet, #8
  10. Clouser Deep Minnow (Chartreuse/white), #8

Q:  What are the top 10 best steelhead nymphs?

  1. Bead-head rubber-leg Stone Fly, #4
  2. Possie Bugger, #12
  3. Copper John, #12
  4. Flash-back Prince Nymph, #12
  5. Bead-head rubber-leg Stone Fly, #6
  6. Possie Bugger, #14
  7. Copper John, #14
  8. Flash-back Prince Nymph, #14
  9. Bead-head rubber-leg Stone Fly, #8
  10. Pink Glo Bug, #8

Q:  What are the top 10 best summer steelhead flies?

  1. Green Butt Skunk, #6
  2. Muddler, #6
  3. Green Butt Skunk, #4
  4. Muddler, #4
  5. Green Butt Skunk, #8
  6. Muddler, #8
  7. Green Butt Skunk, #2
  8. Muddler, #2
  9. Green Butt Skunk, #10
  10. Muddler, #10

Q:  What are top 10 best winter steelhead flies?

  1. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #2
  2. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #4
  3. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #6
  4. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #1
  5. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #1/0
  6. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #8
  7. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #2/0
  8. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #10
  9. Black, Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #12
  10. Black Rabbit-strip, egg-sucking Leech, #14

Jay Nicholas, February 20, 2011 (in all sincerity)

Burkheimer 7115-4 Fly Rod Review, February 2011

Cf Burkheimer 7115-4 Two-Hand Fly Rod Review, February 2011.

In the traditional CF Burkheimer fashion, this two hand fly rod is designated as a 6-7-8 wt. Spey rod.  At 11’ 5” it is light in hand and powerful beyond what the numbers alone suggest.

I think it appropriate to ramble a bit about how I came to add a Burkheimer 7115-4 fly rod to my Spey rod line-up.   Think Sandy Spey Clave, 2010, and imagine me and my son hanging out with Kerry Burkheimer, his family, and a handful of close fly fishing and rod building friends.  We are sitting on the grass, chatting with folks wandering by to admire a full line of Burkheimer fly rods ranging from 3 and 4 wt. trout rods up to an 18’ Spey rod.

My mind was set on purchasing two fly rods to fish Oregon King salmon.  I wanted a single hand rod and, get this, a two-hand rod adaptable to overhead casting with traditional shooting heads and a variety of weight forward taper and integrated head shooting fly lines; these are the lines I had been most accustomed to fish for Chinook in tidewater reaches of Oregon rivers.

Deciding on the single hand Burkheimer fly rod was pretty straightforward.  I fish traditional shooting head and integrated fly lines in our bays and tidal reaches.  Under normal conditions, fishing from my Pram, Drift Boat, or Jet sled, overhead casting is the ticket; actual Spey casting with tips is not; or I should say, has not been thus far. (I reserve the right to be arbitrary and change my mind on this at any time, thank you very much.)

Kerry makes single hand rods suitable for Chinook and about any imaginable saltwater species, a fact that many Spey rod addicts overlook or ignore.  After casting several rods and discussing options, I settled on a 9’ 5” nine wt single-hand rod with DAL (Deep Loading Action).  A previous review of this rod is at

Next task was to choose a two-hand rod for my Chinook fishing.

Here is what I wanted.

First, a two hand rod under 12’. Fishing a longer rod from a boat is possible but I have found that rods in the 9’ – 12’ range are preferable for my tastes when fighting fish from the boat and when bringing the fish close to release.  Longer rods are OK, but I just feel more comfortable with a 12-footer than a 14’ rod.

Second, and this seems a small thing, I wanted a two hander with a handle proportional to the rod.  Not too long, not too short, just right, as the saying goes.

Third, I wanted a two hand rod capable of loading properly overhead casting fly lines in the under 300 gr. To over 400 gr. shooting heads and integrated fly lines.  I fish Airflo, Rio, and SA fly lines of both types, and many Spey rods require a lot heavier lines than I fish in order to load properly when overhead casting.

Finally, and this was almost a contradiction to condition #3 above, I wanted a Two hand rod with sufficient power in the butt section to allow firm hook setting and the ability to apply reasonable pressure to tire Kings in the 15-30 lb. class, in Oregon bays and tidewater river reaches.

I put my Spey rod wish-list to Kerry and Nate Koenigsknecht.  They pondered.  They looked at each other.  And then they spoke.  Almost simultaneously, the words sprang forth into the spring air of the Spey Clave.  You want a 7115-4.  That’s it.  Yeah, the 7115-4 will be just the rod you’re looking for.

Ok, I said, build me a 7115-4 when you roll-up my 995-4.  How’s that for decisiveness?

I want you to try something first, Nate said, a big mysterious grin on his face.  Common over here and let’s get a Scandi compact to cast on that rod, he said.  Nate selected an Airflo Scandi Compact, strung the rod, and pointed down the trail to the Sandy.

As we trekked riverward, Nate expounded on the 7115-4.  We call this a 6-7-8 rod, he said.  This is not my favorite rod for true Skagit casting, because it has such a stiff butt that it takes a more experienced caster to feel the rod load.  But the relatively light tip makes it perfect for overhead casting shooting heads in the 300 gr. Class, and, you better believe that this is a fantastic dry line two hander for tight quarters like the Siletz, Klickitat, Grand Ronde, and John Day.

Ok.  Fine. I wasn’t looking for a dry-line steelhead Spey rod, but sure, I was willing to make a cast or so, and off across the gravel bar we went.  Well, long story short (as if) Nate was right.  The Burkheimer 7115-4 casts Airflo and Rio Scandi heads with authority.

I hear that my application of the 7115-4 as a two-hand rod to target Chinook salmon has a few of the folks at Kerry’s shop muttering under their breath.

But here’s the situation. This Burkie is really a unique fly fishing tool owing to the combination of a firm butt and responsive (not limp) tip.  This is a formula that many rod makers have flubbed-up.  But this Burkie is a winner.  It is light.  Overhand casting with this rod gives my right shoulder a rest during 4-straight months of casting shooting heads in the bay.  The Butt of the 7115-4 will not flex to the cork and has plenty of power, to fight modest size king salmon in the bay.  Using 12# Maxima Ultra Green leader, and keeping a low rod angle, I feel like I have plenty of power to fight tidewater Kings.

Dry line Spey casting with Scandi Compact heads, Muddlers and damp flies is a pure joy.  And guess what?  I have also found that this rod is a pleasure to fish with t-11 MOW tips and Skagit Compact heads.  I have fished tight quarters and wide-open runs, caught little fish and big fish, and had fun everywhere with the 7115-4.

The key, I think, to fishing Skagit heads with tips on the 7115-4 is to maintain smooth acceleration during development of the “D” loop; accomplish this and the line rockets; pause mid-cast and things will get messy.

The Burkheimer 7115-4 is a specialty two hand rod, and in my opinion, is an extremely versatile Spey rod.

Is the 7115-4 a Switch rod? No.  Let me quote Kerry. Jay, please don’t call my 7115-4 a Switch rod.”

Fly line recommendations for Burkheimer 7115-4 Spey fly rod.

I listened to the line recommendations issued by actual expert casters, then I went fishing to see what felt right to me.  Here is what I found.  Please remember that I am basically a casting hack (full disclosure and all that).  The actual grain wt. window for the 7115-4 is wider than my preferences indicate.  Kerry vouches for this.

Fly Line Favorite Line wt. Next Favorite wt. Tips
Airflo Skagit Compact 480 510 10-12’ MOW T-11
Rio Skagit Flight 475 500 10-12’ MOW T-11
Airflo Scandi Compact 450 480 Airflo/Rio 10-14’ Floating
Rio Steelhead Scandi Not tested Airflo/Rio 10-14’ Floating
SA Skagit Extreme 480 10-12’ MOW T-11
Airflo Skagit Switch 480 510 Airflo Polyleaders; Rio Versi Spey leaders; 10’ MOW T-11
Rio Switch 6/7 Airflo Polyleaders; Rio Versi Spey leaders; 10’ MOW T-11
Airflo Speydicator #6
Shooting heads (30-35’) #10 N/A
Airflo 40+ WF7 WF8 N/A
Rio Outbound WF7 WF8 N/A
SA Streamer Express 300 gr 350 gr N/A

Hope this completely personal review helps anyone interested in this Burkheimer 7115-4.

Jay Nicholas, February, 2011.

Hickman’s Fish Taco …. February 18, 2011

Jay Nicholas’ Fly Fishing Glossary, February 18, 2011

Nah, we ain’t finished with this Blogosphere Q/A dump-fest.  Read on, kind fishing obsessed persons.

Q:  What is a Fish burger?

A:  See Fish Taco, Hickman’s

Q:  What is a Fishwich?

  1. A. See Fish Taco, Hickman’s?

Q:  What is a Fishstick?

  1. A. See Fish Taco, Hickman’s

Q:  What is a Hickman’s Fish Taco?

  1. A fly pattern ostensibly developed by Jeff Hickman.  In actualness, Hickman created this pattern based on sketches and fly pattern description recorded on  a rare 4,000 BC papyrus found in an ancient pyramid near the Nile River.
  2. Note carefully the photograph above with Jeff Hickman holding a fine winter steelhead buck, a so-called Fish Taco dangling from said steelhead’s jaw, and the nose of the true brains in the operation, at the left side of the photo.

Q:  When should one apply Shrimp oil to salmon flies?

  1. This is a dastardly practice and is contrary to the fly fisher’s code of ethics.  Never.  Not in a thousand years.

Q:  When should one apply Shrimp oil to salmon fleas?

  1. Anytime you can get the little buggers to cease their hopping around in order to apply said shrimp oil.

Q:  What are “acceptable” characteristics of steelhead?

  1. Look here.  The average steelhead fly fisher invests 34 grand in tackle and over three years to catch one of these dang fish.  As such, the smallest little fish of any condition that is actually of the steelhead classification of Pacific Salmon has acceptable characteristics to make afore mentioned fly fisher leap for joy.  This includes a spawned out summer steelhead caught in Freeway lakes or a fish that has been recycled from Foster to Waterloo Park twenty-three times already, and is therefore sporting twenty-three spaghetti tags, one to commemorate each ride in the tanker from the fish trap to the Waterloo boat ramp.

What does “Gone Fishing” refer to?

  1. This is the phrase that goes through any supervisor’s mind when an employee of the steelhead or salmon fly-fishing persuasion phones the office and claims that he or she is laying at home ill, stranded by the side of the highway with a bent crankshaft, or recuperating after changing the litter box.  Fishing fever is what the boss is thinking to him or herself during the conversation.

Q:  What are Steelhead Men?

  1. This is an archaic, gender offensive, and socially inappropriate reference to persons who fly fish for steelhead.  Correct contemporary usage requires substitution of steelhead persons, steelhead fishers, steelhead anglers, steelhead men and women, or steelheaders.  A wide range of phrases are available to refer to the poor souls who are steelhead obsessed.  Even though these individuals tend predominantly to be of the male species, a growing cadre of female humans are engaging in the same dangerous practice of fly fishing for steelhead and salmon.

Q:  What is the difference between steelhead and salmon?

  1. Practically speaking, there is no difference.  As far as fly fishers are concerned, both fish kinds are mythical and nearly impossible to catch.  Both require investments of insane amounts of time, energy, cash, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and hanging out with unsavory persons in a vain attempt to learn of secret fly patterns and secret fishing places. Steelhead?  Salmon?  Both salmon and steelhead fishing portend he death of any semblance of a normal life.

Q:  What is a Hot pink steelhead?

  1. A.  This phrase is slang reference to a really vigorous steelhead, as in “wow was that a hot fish! “ The phrase has, as is usual among steelhead fly fishers, been exaggerated time and again, as “smokin’ hot steelhead”, hottie steelhead”, “white hot steelie”, and finally the afore mentioned “hot pink steelhead.”  The derivative is unknown, but may be related with excessive LDS exposure.  Or LSD.  Whatever.

Q:  What constitutes a great day fishing?

  1. Any day fishing is a great day of fishing. But if you are reading this, you knew this already.

Jay Nicholas February 18, 2011

The best fly size for winter steelhead …. February 17, 2011

Jay Nicholas’ Fly fishing glossary, February 16, 2011

Not done yet, hope ya can stand it.  These are real questions transmitted over the etherial flux of the Internet, really.

Q:  What is a “killer” Steelhead fly?

  1. See Top 10 summer steelhead flies; Top 10 winter steelhead flies; Top 10 steelhead nymphs; Top 10 Chinook salmon flies; secret steelhead fly; Hickman’s Fish Taco.

Q:  What is the best size fly for steelhead?

  1. The best winter and summer steelhead hook size is #4, 6, 2, 8, 1.5, 3, 5, 8, 1, 10; in that order; unless in a different order.

Q:  What are the “secret” winter steelhead fly patterns?

A:  This is an elusive concept.  Urban legend holds that actual secret fly patterns exist and that said flies possess supernatural fish-catching properties.  I, personally, have seen several such secret fly patterns.  These most holy holies were shown to me furtively, upon threat of dire consequences should I ever disclose these sacred secret flies to the Blogosphere.  Here is what I saw, held preciously in the hands of wild eyed, unshaven, frizzy haired, Simms under-wader pants-wearing, fly fisher-tyers.  Are you ready to hear the names of secret fly patterns?  Here goes.  Bucktail Royal Coachman.  Burlap.  Green Butt Skunk.  Silver Hilton.  Egg Sucking Leech.  Flame Boss.  So much for secret fly patterns.

Q:  How should one fish a steelhead fly?

  1. Cast said fly, perhaps a secret killer fly pattern, upon the waters to soak and swim.  Simple as that.

Q:  How should one properly fish a fly for Oregon Chinook salmon?

  1. Purchase thirty-three thousand dollars worth of fly fishing tackle, not including SUV, pram, driftboat, jet sled, electric motors, outboards, and fish finder GPS units.  Drive to Eugene, Oregon.  Find nice hotel overlooking Middle fork Willamette, aka “The Town Run.”  Spend one week fishing for hatchery summer steelhead during mornings and evenings.  Spend mid-day holed up in local coffee house blogging about fishing on the coast.  Record fishing action in photos of summer steelhead.  Take photos to expert in use of Adobe Photoshop.  Pay two thousand bucks to creatively morph photos of steelhead and view of Valley River Center Shopping Mall into pastoral coastal estuaries with gleaming king salmon.  Blog some more about the habits of Chinook and how many you catch and what flies you use, making creative use of imagery borrowed from people who fish in Alaska and a variety of untrue factoids.  Upon completion of blog binge, go to Montana and fish #32 Griffith Gnats for seven-pound rainbows.  Repeat formerly described actions.

Q:  Where is the best steelhead and salmon fishing in Oregon?

  1. As if we would ever give up the best fishing locations to the  the Blogosphere.  As if we actually knew where the best places to fish for steelhead and salmon are.  As if?  Hah!

Jay Nicholas, February 17, 2011

Winter Steelhead Off the Beaten Path, February 16, 2011

Not satisfied with catching truck-loads of winter steelhead on swimming flies, some stubborn individuals insist on forging into waters where the likelihood of catching an actual fish is even slimmer than usual.

So be it.

A thousand casts. No one really counts.  Days gone by with nary a pull.  A pull.  Another pull.  Then a grab.  Solid.  A big steelhead swirls, shows a tail, and swims free.  Step down, cast again.  Step down, cast again.  And again.  Another pull, and another, before the fly hangs down.  Step down.  A quick pull and a steelhead is  on solidly.  Solidly enough – for several minutes, and swims free.

Finally, one of eleven almost winter steelhead comes to the beach.  One fish is sweet.  The days in sun and rain, calm and storm, are well repaid by one simple, complicated fish.

Thank you, Salmon Gods.

Jay Nicholas, February 16, 2011

What’s wrong with fly fishing for steelhead and salmon?

What’s wrong with fly fishing for steelhead and salmon?

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing  Glossary – Random Questions and Answers from the Blogosphere

February 14, 2011

Blogosphere questions asked and answered in sincere oddness.

Q:  What are the problems with fly fishing for steelhead and salmon?

  1. These are too numerous to list here.  Squandering of life’s savings, college fund, mortgage payment, and food allowance.  Driving with the check engine light on for 6 months because we are spending all our cash on gas to go fishing.  Missed anniversaries, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals, weddings, and such.  Loss of gainful employment.  Loss of friends who get too nosy about where we are fishing or the killer flies we have invented.  Loss of tolerance, love, and affection by all but a handful of similarly afflicted souls.

Q:  What can you tell me about steelhead?

A:  Not a darn useful thing you wouldn’t be better off learning yourself.

Q:  What is the best fly hook for steelhead flies?

  1. A fly hook that is properly temperamental.  See foul hook.

Q:  What is a Foul Hook?

  1. This term refers to a fly hook constructed of metal that is tempered too little or too much.  The former mentioned fly hook would bend easily when lodged in the mouth of the steelhead that a fly fisher has tried valiantly to engage over a period of approximately three years.  This bending, or unbending as the case in fact exists, results in said too-little-tempered fly hook becoming straight and the afore mentioned steelhead swimming away laughing its fish ass off at the antics of the distraught fly fisher.  An overly tempered foul hook will promptly snap off at the hook bend when said fly hook is engaged in the mouth of any fish over a length of about 4”, again resulting in a highly distraught fly angler sputtering in inconsolable disbelief.

Q:  Why capitalize Chinook?

  1. Because everyone else, virtually, is already doin’ it and spell checkers are difficult to overdrive. Also because it irritates the bejeepers out of one of my very best friends, that’s why.  See?

Q:  Should one capitalize steelhead?

  1. Nope.

Q:  What is a fly fishing box?

A:  The corner that many fly fishers paint themselves into as a consequence of making up stories about 1) laying home in bed sick when they were actually on the river fishing where they ran into their boss in another boat.  This situation is routinely mitigated by the fact that the first noted fisher’s boss had also called in sick on that very same day and both agree to not bust each other – ever.  See also “gone fishing.”  Also, the stereotypical image of a fly fisher based on persons having watched A River Runs Through It sometime in their life.  Such persons think that all us fly fishing nut cases fit into some sort of Robert Redford, Brad Pitt-ish persona with fly lines loop-de-looping overhead and the sun glinting on the water with legendary trout lurking around monstrous bone-crunching rapids. See also “what are steelhead men?”

Q:  What is a Fly fishing line?

  1. Formerly, string tied to a fish pole.  Currently, fly fishing line is the same string re-packaged, labeled as fly fishing line, sold at 1,000 % mark-up,.  Also, a fly fishing line is an outright lie, fabricated for any of a multitude of purposes, such as misleading one’s associates regarding how many steelhead one has caught recently, where said steelhead were caught, how large said steelhead were, what fly said steelhead were caught on, how many grabs one had, and such forth.

Q:  What constitutes heavy fly fishing?

  1. Micro Brew fly fishing; contrast to Coors Light fly fishing.  Also, emotionally committed fly fishing, depressing fly fishing, serious commitment to fly fishing, as opposed to just playing around, and finally, heavy fly fishing is an analog to Deep Ecology.

Why are hatchery steelhead bad …. February 13, 2011

Why are hatchery steelhead bad?

Nicholas’ Fly Fishing  Glossary – Random Questions and Answers from the Blogosphere

February 13, 2011

Still the questions stream across the Blogosphere; questions that cry out for answers.  Serious questions.  Odd questions.  I offer these answers in the spirit of serious oddness.  My answers are accurate and unbiased, based on extensive Internet research and therefore above reproach.  Take this wisdom and venture forth onto the waters, fly rod in hand, relishing in your new-found knowledge of all things piscatorial.  Brace yourself, more wisdom will follow in the next several days.  (JN)

Q. Why are hatchery steelhead bad?

  1. Hatchery steelhead are not bad; they are not good; they just are.  True, a hatchery steelhead may, on account of its genetic heritage or childhood environment, be, shall we say, “other abled” with respect to its ability to survive and produce successive generations of steelhead in uncontrolled environments (rivers).  Any individual hatchery steelhead may come from a “questionable” family heritage, but as individuals, hatchery fish should be judged on the basis of each fish’s behavior because let’ face it folks, some hatchery fish,  like little acorns, fall far from the oak tree.  Indeed, some hatchery fish may behave poorly seeking approval mean-spirited fish, or may seem, sadly, bound to repeat the sins of their parents.  Some hatchery fish may lack manners, having never been taught such. Some hatchery fish may “act out” as a consequence of insecurity.  Some hatchery fish may become pellet abusers, perhaps in an ill-fated attempt to self medicate for biochemical imbalances or perhaps because pellets are all they can find to sustain themselves.  This is the sad reality; but who among us is immune to these frailties?

Q:  Why are wild steelhead good?

  1. Wild fish are not good, without exception and any possibility of reservation.  Consider this conundrum.  Some wild steelhead are born from hatchery steelhead parents.  Some wild steelhead stray far from home, flaunting the sensibility of spawning in their natal river.  Some wild steelhead are indeed wild, yet are established far from their native range, and have displaced native fishes from their homes without guilt or regret. Let us not condemn nor praise each steelhead merely because we call it hatchery or wild; on the accident of its birth.  Rather, let us judge each steelhead as it stands (swims) before us in the here and now.  Dump the abstractions.  Should you or I be condemned or praised because an ancestor committed acts of great depravity  or bravery?  Certainly not.  Look this steelhead critter in the eye.  Ask, how would Jesus judge this fish? Ask if you or I could have behaved better, made more of our lives, if we had been born from the egg that hatched this fish.  See, it isn’t so difficult; judge carefully, lest ye be judged.  Listen to the fish.  Listen to your heart. let each steelhead, be it buck or hen, live and strive (in the evolutionary sense, via natural selection) to become the best fish it can be.

Q:  What is “bad” salmon?

  1. Like steelhead, there is no such thing as bad salmon, generally speaking.    That said, any salmon abandoned to marinate in warm, diesel-infused, bacteria infested bilge water, could indeed become bad salmon by the end of the day.

Q:  Why do we fish?

  1. Because we must.  And also because we are not smart enough to play golf.  Speaking of golf, now there’s a sensible outdoors adventure.  One can dependably schedule a golf game by making an appointment, not worrying if the golf course will be too high too low, if there will be enough golf balls to make the game worthwhile, whether twenty golf pros will slip their golf carts into the course half an hour ahead of their Tee-time and plug up all the golf holes.  Golfers can hire a caddy to carry their clubs and an umbrella.  The Country club is always close by, with mixed drinks, pale yellow cardigans, and shiny new golf balls available to purchase.  Golfers can put cute little knit hats on each of their golf clubs.  Golfers don’t need to worry whether or not their favorite golf shoes will be outlawed.  I bet no golfer ever cracked a tail-bone when they slipped on the green; crushed the tip of a thousand-buck putter in the rear window of their SUV, or returned home to an empty house because their family forgot what said golf player looked like during golf season.

Jay Nicholas, February 13, 2011

What Do Winter Steelhead Eat? February 7, 2011

Nicholas’ Salmon Journal, February 7, 2011

Sorry so sorry I am way behind promised deep scientific studies on the feeding habits of winter steelhead.  Near as I can tell, winter steelhead do not eat much.  The things they do eat are silly.  I have friends who have reported stomach contents of roughly a hundred winter steelhead.  Non Kelts.  Kelts do not count.  Sometimes they will eat burgers and fries.  So no, post-spawning steelhead do not count.

Maybe wild fish eat a lot of food like junk or junk like food but as I almost never catch any winter steelhead anyway, maybe they do not eat anything either.  That would make sense because if they ate Bunny Tube leeches and Intruder style flies as part of their normal diet then well I would catch many many winter steelhead but I do not so they must not either the former anyway you know what I mean right?

So of these hundred or so steelhead bellies my actual fish catching friends have reported on were included roughly 10% with anything whatsoever in their guts besides guts.  Among the non guts items were bird feathers (2 fish); grey cruddy looking styrofoam (3 fish); rubber fake eggs or maybe fake rubber eggs (1 fish); half a ghost shrimp (1 fish); a dab of cured salmon eggs (1 fish); and gammarid amphipods (3 fish).

Not one steelhead fly was found in any steelhead stomach.  Not one.

Therefore, ladies and gents, we could perhaps up our catch rates considerably by tying flies that look like feathers, styrofoam, and # 14 Scuds.

There is no reason to doubt people who have reported summer steelhead with bellies full of fresh salmon eggs that floated free from spawning Chinook that were working their redds, snails, caddis pupae, stonefly nymphs, headless smolts, sticks, rocks, and beer nuts.

I believe all these stories.  I really do.  You should too.

Jay Nicholas, February 07, 2011