Far too much time has passed since I’ve had an easy going afternoon with Chris. Just back to Eugene with his family from New Zealand, Chris invited me for a float to check out his home waters on the McKenzie yesterday. We floated. He rowed, shared a half sandwich, and I fished wet flies from about 1 – 5.
Chris made about five casts with a dry fly, hooking about five trout. I managed to catch a few fish too, mostly cutthroat, with a few rainbow and many hatchery steelhead smolts in the mix—entirely on wet flies.
I drove home at day’s end and promptly fell asleep watching YouTube instructional videos on Macro Photography.
Up this morning at 3 AM, I tied a few flies that might tempt a fish or so on the coast soon.
I wish everyone good health and eager fish to tug on your lines.
This is a place and time largely overlooked by most Oregon estuary fly anglers. Being a curious angler at heart, I often wander about with fly rod in hand, looking for spring Chinook, early summer steelhead, late winter steelhead, and whatever might be legal to fish for like starry flounder and surf perch.
I’ve learned that there can be a lot going on in these late winter/early spring months—or very little. Seals are chasing fish of some sort. Cormorants are working fish of some sort. I have found juvenile chinook (hatchery fish about 6″ long) wild and hatchery steelhead smolts, feeder coho (14″ – 18″), cutthroat (9″-18″), adult summer steelhead, spring Chinook, Winter steelhead kelts, late run winter steelhead, and shiner perch. And bullheads. I have hunches about starry flounder but have not caught one over about 6″ yet. I have had sturgeon roll within a dozen feet of my boat—fish so big that I nearly fell over backwards in my surprise.Spring chinook roll in two feet of water, and will sometimes grab a fly if I plopped it in front of their face within seconds of their show.
Of course most days find me without a tug at the end of my line, but an occasional yank yields great surprises. I’ve learned, for example, that immature chinook, steelhead, and coho venture into our estuaries and the lower reaches of coastal rivers during late winter and early spring. The hours and days I have fished the estuary in the off season, with virtually no one around me, has been a wonderful time to reflect on past seasons and dream about the season about to unfold. It is a time to discover new sandbars, learn how the incoming and outgoing tides swirl and eddy around shallows, find new buckets, and anticipate the days when schools of chinook (not just the rare few) might suddenly appear within my casting range.
May your days on the water be abundant and full of discovery.
Finally, my shot at an albacore came on August 26th, venturing offshore in the dory Last Cast with mentors Kevin and Ed. Thank you gentlemen for this wonderful opportunity. We headed down the ramp at 0600 across a treacherously soft sand beach, and launched farther south on the beach than was our habit of late. Benefiting from a long series of gentle swells, Ed and I held the dory steady while Kevin parked the Jeep, ran back and jumped in.
A brief period of gathering tuna boats just north of Haystack Rock ensued, and then with Fly Guy, Benny Beaver, and a few others, we headed west for the tuna grounds.
By 0830 we put out flies overboard to troll, with no signs of tuna to entice us yet. Five minutes into the game, my rod went down with a hefty tuna pulling at the other end of my line. My first tuna pull of this season, I was pretty delighted, and more so when the fish materialized into a fish in the 25 – 27 pound class (called so by Ed, so more reliable than any estimate I would have made).
Next up, Ed was into the fight, followed by Kevin, and then, magically, my rod went down again, as if we had planned on taking turns. All but one of the albacore on this date were over twenty pounds, with Kevin landing an honest thirty pounder after an extended battle. Very few fish were on the surface today, but Fly Guy had live bait aboard and managed to chum up a feeding frenzy while hooking up on the cast and strip.
Our fish were all on the trolled fly, but a ton of fun to be sure. We are still hoping for the cast and strip encounter if we get out again, but for now, this is great.
Ok, that’s about it. Can’t wait to head west again and hunt tuna. Big swells for a week but maybe by labor Day Weekend.
Meanwhile, Rob Russell reminded me I have last minute assignment on our book Modern Steelhead Flies scheduled for release by StackPole late this year! I’m on it Rob!
Nearly unbelievable that Frank and I just met in person, although it seems like we have been friends for years; decades even. Our rapport was immediate and genuine, the sort of thing you can just feel. Better late than …… or so I hear.
Frank joined me on a smoky Sunday morning, unusual for the coast, and we fished with Capt. John Harrell of Pacific City Fly Fishing. The ocean was a little rough (ha ha) but manageable. Johnny found a patch of relatively calmer water with a big school of bass under the dory, spread as shallow as the feet to as deep as fifty feet. We fished Clousers featured in Sea Flies, and yes, the catching was quite entertaining, with many doubles to keep us jockeying for position.
After two hours of fast paced black rockfish action, we pulled crab pots, headed to shore, hitting the beach by 9.
Frank treated me to scones and coffee from the Grateful Bread, we enjoyed our treats on the deck at my family cabin in Woods, and we talked like we had been fishing together our whole lives. Jack Harrell called and told me the fish were filleted and bagged, the crab cooked and cleaned, all on ice in our coolers. So we headed over there to load up and then made the arduous five minute return drive to the cabin where Frank interviewed me about my book publishing binge. There was plenty to laugh about, future collaborations to ponder, and great plans made involving fishing, writing, and publishing.
Frank headed home about noon, and I took a walk down to the estuary. Hummm, a salmon rolled. Back to the cabin I walked, hooked up my boat, and grabbed three salmon rods. Four hours later, on a modest incoming tide, I got grabbed as I lifted my fly to re-cast. I was sure I had a thirty pounder on, that salmon flashed so brightly and pulled so hard. I called Jack and he drove over to share in the action. Small town that’s for sure. Jack – Ive got a big one on. How big? Big. Unless it is only twelve. You know me, Jack, my fish are always bigger in the water.
Jack arrived just as I netted the sub-20 pound king, shaking with the adrenaline rush.
Met on shore by three vets with the Healing Waters Project, I offered a dozen flies for them to fish and the salmon for their dinner, part of the traditional Pacific City hospitality. Their plan was to fish the following day in an event sponsored by Royal Treatment Fly Fishing and friend Joel Lafollette.
What a day. Time for a quick coffee and hit the road for home and family.
My best to everyone who reads this – Jay Nicholas, August 26, 2015
I was on the ocean with Jeffrey and Joe, guided offshore Pacific City by Capt. John Harrell in the dory Gold Comet. The forecast was for winds to pick up by 9 AM, and there were five to six ft swells to carefully consider as we launched at 6:45.
John ran out roughly north of Haystack Rock and immediately located a big school of black rockfish suspended mid-depth in about forty feet of water. This was the first dory fly fishing experience for both Joe and Jeffrey: both were surprised and displayed big smiles within the first five minutes with fly rod in hand, nice heavy black rockfish pulling on the other end of their lines.
Capt. John put us on fish constantly for the next two hours, and the action was pretty much non-stop. The ocean was a tad on the rough side and we all took turns stumbling around in the boat while fighting fish.
Jeffrey fished an ECHO PRIME, Joe fished an ECHO BASE; both 8 wt rods, with SA 450 gr Streamer Express fast sinking fly lines. Their flies were of course expertly tied me, # 2 pink & white Clousers. Bass were layered anywhere from ten feet under the dory to 40 or 50 ft down.
I chose a different approach, and deploying a Hatch Tropical 400 gr fast sinking fly line, fished by hand, straight off the fly reel. This was a continuation of my previous day’s test fishing with a 30 ft salvaged chunk fly of line. Today, I had a full fly line on a (loose) reel, allowing me to reach fish that were laying deeper than when I had only fished the thirty-footer.
My technique was no-nonsense efficiency. I stripped about fifty feet of line from the reel, laid it in the tackle tray, and lowered my fly overboard to swim though the feeding bass. When I felt my line under tension, indicating that my fly was down, I proceeded to put my Clouser in motion, with short 6 inch strips and distinct pauses between.
I found myself most comfortable leaning against the side of the dory, back near the stern, and leaning over the side with my hand a foot or so above the water’s surface, working the fly and waiting to feel a grab. I discovered that somewhat it was tricky to achieve a secure hook set by hand, compared to fishing with a rod. The rod allows one to move more line quickly, but when hand-lining, I found it necessary to quickly and decisively raise my arm to get a positive hook set.
Feel the grab? Man-oh-man did I feel the grab. I had so darn much fun and thoroughly enjoyed the two hours we fished over the bass. Capt. John had his hands full with Jeffrey, Joe, and me constantly fighting fish, hauling our fish into the dory, destined for the fish box, and occasionally helping untangle our lines.
Considerable teasing was directed my way, with commentary noting that the guy with such an extensive supply of fly rods seemed to have forgotten to bring one.
John smiled noted that I was doing a fair job of holding my own in the catching department, and wondering if this might become a technique known as Jaykara fishing. Catchy term contrasting Tenkara fishing (using a rod but no reel) to my fishing a line with no rod.
Think I like it.
Now that I think of it, the first fish I ever caught were in the Bosphorus, near Istanbul, Turkey, when I was six years old. Now I’m 66 and find that hand lining is just as much fun, just as exciting, as it was six decades ago.
May sound repetitious, but it’s true: another great day out on the ocean fly fishing. Thanks gentlemen.
Looking forward to the next opportunity to get out and see what the ocean delivers to the finely tuned fly rod and reel – and to the hand-liner.
This is just a note and link to the Oregon fly fishing Blog, where you will be able to see more photos from yesterday’s dory trip with Chris Daughters and Capt. John Harrell of Pacific City Fly Fishing.
Yes we had a great day. No silvers, and the bass were modestly cooperative. A week ago, the silvers were almost easy on the Bucktail and the bass were practically climbing in the dory, but yesterday we had to work to earn the fish tacos. The crab pots, however, were full, and Chris was able to feed his family, and a few others by day’s end.
You never know the joys and challenges life will bring. I have been blessed with all good news lately, but realize that many of my friends face all manner of heartache on a daily basis. This may seem like an odd way to introduce a short post on a wonderful day I spent with an old friend – but while our day was very good, the same was not for everyone, and I just needed to say that.
So my day began with breakfast at the Grateful Bread with Jack and john Harrell; we talked fishing and great plans for the season just unfolding, and I headed back to the cabin to mess with tackle, flies, book promotion and the like. Steve showed up about 9 Am, we visited a little, and then we loaded the boat and headed up to Town Lake. Five minutes after leaving the cabin we were on the lake, and in short order we were catching hatchery trout. Several trout. Ok, maybe more than several. It took Steve about five minutes to get accustomed to the subtle aspects of the bite and spit tactics, but he got it figured out and was soon showing those trout who the boss was.
The best flies we fished were barbless Jigged nymphs like the Bead Head gold Ribbed hares Ear. There were other good nymphs too, and our flies were out fishing the power bait anglers in the vicinity, who noted that we were getting bit on about every cast. The fish were so fast on the take that we only hooked some 20% of our takes, so it was a real challenge and a lot of fun.
I rowed Steve around the lake looking for summer steelhead, found several, and one bit a size 14 chironomid nymph that he expertly placed about 6 ft in front of the 8 lb fish. Sure enough, as the fly sank, the steelhead moved towards it and then coasted to a halt. He’s got it, i whispered, pull back now! He did and the fight was on.
in mid afternoon, we went to lunch, and then wafered up to head up the Nestucca for a little Spey Casting instruction session. Well, apparently, I am a poor teacher, but Steve managed to chuck his fly out into the drift, and pretty soon he was fast to wild hen with sea lice at the base of her anal fin. The fish had been hooked as a smelt because its maxillary bone was injured by an old scar, but the fish was a pleasant surprise on a sunny afternoon when we should only have been casting, not catching. I got a small bright wild male that came to a Micro Intruder and our afternoon was perfect in more ways than we would have asked.
Steve was fishing an ECHO Tim Rajeff Two Hand seven wt rod, I fished an ECHO Dec Hogan II seven wt rod. I fished an Airflo Skagit Intermediate Head and felt it was perfect. Steve fished a long piece of plasticized string he found in his backyard in Corvallis, and I’m pretty sure that his casting would be better if he just had a line tuned to the rod. But being a manly man, he top-handed his casts, whipping the rod furiously about his head, and caught as many fish as I did, so we were both happy and he is now convinced that “found” string is the next phenom in the Spey Fishing World. He’s probably right.
I was camera-less that day, selling old cameras and waiting for new ones to arrive, but we had our phones so we got a few shots of our fish before releasing them carefully. I hope these photos do not offend anyone, because the fish were momentarily head above water, but I’m quite confident that the fish were fine, being in cold water and only briefly up-periscope so to speak.
Photos taken with cameras can be confusing. The untrained observer might think that Steve’s chromer is larger than mine, but I assure you that his fish weighed perhaps seven or eight pounds, while mine was easily twelve pounds. Steve’s camera was set on “make your buddy’s fish look smaller” feature, and wow it really worked.
We were both thrilled to have had our flies grabbed that sunny afternoon, and lucky too, because I fished alone the same place next day with no grabs to show for my effort. Now I’m wandering around Pacific City looking for rubberized string to put on my Spey rod.
And good reading too, because I have my very own set of nine books wherever I go, so if I can’t sleep and tying flies is too taxing, I can pick up one of my own masterpieces and ponder the next stage in shameless self promotion.
And if shameless self promotion wasn’t rampant enough already, this photo featuring SIMMS sweater, shirt, waders, boots lanyard, nippers, boots, and wading staff could just about put anyone over the edge, ya think? Too bad the ECHO DH II rod and Hardy Marquis fly reel are submerged and not easily visible, loaded with AIRFLO Skagit Intermediate head, RIO iMOW tip (no brand loyalty here) and OPST LAZER line!
So, Ben, and Eric, and Red, and George let me rest for a while, will ya?
Really folks, I’m just poking fun at all us gearheadsl.
I am grateful for this day, and hopeful for the days that will follow, whatever they may bring.
Let’s make this short on blah blah blah, shall we? I had three fantastic days fishing in my friend’s dory boats out of Pacific City, Oregon last week. Days one and two were fishing with Jack and Capt John Harrell. Day three I fished with Ed Bowles and Rob Perkin. Two days in a 1972 fiberglass Harvey dory, one day in a mid 1970s Paul Hanneman wood dory.
Each day we put into the ocean from the beach, we were greeted within minutes by Pacific black sea bass busting the surface. Day one the fish were principally taking crab spawn, but on days two and three they were also chasing big anchovies, and that made them even more susceptible to surface poppers.
This short video is just a hint at how much fun we had these three days.
John will be ready to book charters very soon and he can be contacted via Pacificcityflyfishing.com to discuss rates and dates.
We had lingcod action too, plus blacks and blues subsurface on Clousers. I’ll share more of our adventure on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog next week too, and am struggling to learn how to edit these darn videos in the process.
The flies we fished included Poppers and Gurglers; versions of these are shown in my book Sea Flies, available with all of my other books on Amazon. These books are potentially available at your local Fly Shop too, and I can also ship a signed, personalized copy to anyone who contacts me directly as well.
Yep. I was Matt Stephens’ guest fishing upriver yesterday, my birthday eve and Matt’s birthday, swinging for winter steelhead on the Nestucca River. Wonderful day, fun with a great guy, we found a few willing fish, I fell down twice but didn’t get hurt or soaked, and the grab on the swing is soooooooo nice when it comes.
One kelt grabbed a fly on a short cast, with only the Flow Tip and ten feet of the Switch head out of the guides; and one hen intercepted a fly swinging deep in a tail out on a very long cast; and one fish climbed on in fast water at the transition zone where the fast flow met the slow. Matt caught the big hen, all were released, and we were pleased as heck to have had the day together fishing beautiful water and finding grabby steelhead.
Today I celebrate 66 years on the planet, with my family and friends. May each of you find something good today and every day. Thanks to everyone for their good wishes and support.
Feisty kelt hammered a fly in close than ran into the rapids, seeming like a twenty pounder!
Matt Stephens, birthday boy.
Matt’s nice hen up for a quick photo and back into the water.