Fly Fishing Baja with Gary Bulla 2017

Jay Nicholas Baja Dorado by JB

I just returned from a very enjoyable week fishing with Gary Bulla in Baja, La Ventana and Baja Joe’s to be more specific. Gary runs a great show for fly anglers of all skill levels and his panga captains are gentlemen as well as fly fishing mentors.

I put together a short clip of highlights from the week, of course I failed to record some of the hottest action during the week plus, I lost one of my cameras at the end of day 6 of the trip. Oh well, stuff happens don’t it?

I also posted a trip report with more photo images on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.

In short, I did not catch a rooster, but I came close. Really close. I was told that you can’t retrieve too fast for the dorado and roosters, but I now question that advice, as I’m pretty sure I pulled my fly away from both species at crucial moments when they were trying to chomp it.

Again, oh well.

Jay Nicholas with Gui in Baja

On day 6, our guide Fedilito cruised in near a buoy and threw a few ballyhoo to see if there were any dorado about. Well, there were three dorado ready to chase bait and they commenced to crash the surface, throwing water two feet in the air in the process.

This was my first week fishing for dorado and I had never seen fish of this size crashing around chasing bait. My angling companion for the day, Karen, commenced casting as I did. She is an experienced dorado fisher and kept her cool, but I was going nuts casting to the giant fish as it raced around in front of us. Of the three dorado we saw, two were very large and one was modest sized. We both cast and cast, Fedilito threw a few ballyhoo to keep the fish active, and  — oh my gosh — the biggest dorado was chasing my fly straight towards the boat as I was retrieving! I probably only had ten feet of fly line out of my tip-top when the dorado consumed my fly and turned away from the panga.

As usual, I shouted with excitement, just like a kid.

Game on.

I did not capture any of the excitement before hooking this big dorado, but it was much like the action of a few days earlier when I hooked a modest size dorado and managed to record that event on the Go Pro. I am pretty well captivated by the sight of brilliantly hued fish chasing bait and flies around in plain view. This sort of fishing excitement is something I could easily become addicted to. Oh my goodness.

Our panga captain Fedilito was as pleased as I was to have the big fish take the fly. It was a good 200 yards into my backing in a flash and jumping while I turned on the Go Pro. Fedilito cautioned me — grande dorado, no break.  This fish was a real prize to a young panga captain.

Here is the video clip. I hope you enjoy it. Better still, I hope you are able to go fishing down in Baja someday yourself. I never imagined that I would make the trip but thanks to my dear friends Gui and Jim, I decided to accept their invitation to join them and I booked a trip and a flight less than two weeks notice.

Sure glad that I did.

My best to you always. May your fishing and your world be good.

Jay Nicholas — May/June 2017

More Drivel about Hatchery and Wild Salmonids

I found this on my desktop this morning. Almost deleted it. Decided to post it. Imperfect as heck. Here goes.

I usually refrain from saying much when I find people arguing about hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead because the issue is so complex. I believe people should consider the details of each river, fish species,  brood stock hatchery program, predator assemblage, in-river fishery, presence or absence of gill net fishery in the river, the possibility of ocean or estuary interceptions (intentional and unintentional), summer flows, winter flows, river and estuary habitat condition, and on and on. Right or wrong, I believe the most useful conversations occur when people are willing to consider all of these factors and figure out what factors are most affecting the wild steelhead.

I believe that hatchery programs always represent a risk to wild fish. But I’m not at all able to predict whether the risk will translate into a large of small adverse impact to wild fish, but I am pretty skeptical when someone says that the hatchery fish will “benefit” the wild steelhead.

It seems too often that people live in hardened silos where hatchery fish are wicked, benign, or beneficial to wild steelhead. I don’t know any of the details about Washington hatchery programs so I can’t begin to guess what was going on or what the impacts were/are.

I do know quite a bit about Oregon steelhead hatchery programs and I know quite a bit about our Oregon coastal rivers. At least I think I do, but it might be fair to challenge my assumption that I know much of anything these days. I’m sure there is as much that I don’t know as what I do know. It is clear that the coastal river hatchery programs provide fish to harvest. It is clear that wild steelhead in a few rivers (not to be mentioned, but we know where these are) are doing quite well (there are enough to catch (even on swung flies) entirely without the presence of a hatchery program. These rivers also produced wild steelhead during periods when hatchery steelhead were stocked and the fishery operated under a 3-daily and 40 per season regulation.

Metolius trout certainly made a fantastic increase when the hatchery program was ceased. Clackamas wild steelhead do not seem to have made a big run-increase like the biologists thought they would when hatchery summers were removed above the dam. (My friends tell me this Clackamas statement is off-target for various reasons.) Elk river gets a ton of hatchery fish but the number of wild Chinook has been “stable” (with cycles up and down) for over four decades. It is complicated. I have not seen examples where hatchery fish “helped” wild fish.

We focus on land use practices but often ignore the cormorants and seals. The predators are not the only problem but they sure could be a huge problem in some river basins. And then there is the recreational fishery. Hummmm. When some of my friends are hooking and releasing double digits every day – how good can that be for wild fish? We want to have our fun (me too) but if every wild fish is getting handled one or more times, there could indeed be an adverse impact that has nothing to do with competition or interbreeding with hatchery fish.

I do get discouraged with some people put me in the “fly guy” category and make all sorts of assumptions about me. Same goes when people lump “gear guys” in one batch and make assumptions about them. I’ve fished gear more years for winter steelhead than I’ve fished flies. What does that make me?

I guarantee that the people who want our coastal rivers for development or water rights, or whatever are smiling while we anglers are spitting at each other. I think there are places where hatchery fish make sense by tradition or by the nature of the river. I think there are some places where hatchery programs should be reduced or phased out. I do not support an all or nothing mentality. I do support anglers of different perspectives working together to figure out the most significant limiting factors and seeing what can be done to increase survival of hatchery and wild fish, together in the same river or in separate rivers.

Now I’ve gone and done it. Droned on way too long and still not solved the riddle. Point is, no one can solve the riddle without working in a diverse coalition and paying attention to the details. Everyone is an expert these days.

OK, I’m done. Not going to say anything more. Movin’ on.

Jay Nicholas May/June 2017


Ballyhoo Fly (fished in Baja last week)

This is NOT a high quality video, but I think most tyers will be able to get the gist of how to tie this fly. I shot this on a Go Pro camera that insisted on focusing on my shirt instead of on the fly.

The point of this pattern is to imitate the ballyhoo fish shown below in an image I downloaded from the internet at imagearcade. My thanks for this image.


As you can see, these are large baitfish and may easily be 5 – 6″ long, so your flies should be similarly proportioned.


Hook – Gamakatsu 811-s size 2/0 or 3/0
Thread – clear mono or white
Belly – white material such as SF blend, Yak hair, varieties of sea hair
Lateral line – Hint of grey
Back – light olive, mackerel,  or tan
Top of back – (optional) a few strands (perhaps 6?) in black or peacock

I fished flies like this in Baja out of Gary Bulla’s in La Ventana last week and had a great time under difficult fishing conditions of wind and short supply of  baitfish. Several people in our party caught nice roosters but I did not. I did however catch dorado, skipjack and small jacks.

My week was most enjoyable owing to a combination of very nice fishing companions, experienced panga captains,   comfortable accommodations, wholesome meals, and Gary Bulla himself, a gentleman/host who is enthusiastic, experienced, and held in the highest regard by his guests, staff, and panga captains.

I will follow with posts on the adventure and gear as time permits.

My best to you and thanks for all of your good wishes.

Jay Nicholas May 24 2017

Tying a Sardina Fly with Jay and Guy

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 2.00.27 PM

This is the director’s cut of a shorter video posted on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog. Thanks to Guy Allen who has tied and fished this fly to perfection and is always prepared to fish some version of the pattern on his yearly trip to Baja.

So. Last minute, I decided to join Guy and Jim on their adventure to Baja. I had a great time and some blog posts will follow when I get time to write them. For the week we were there, the sardina caught a few fish but the ballyhoo fly was better because there were not very many flat iron herring around. Still this is a pattern one would be foolish to omit from their Baja fly box.

I hope you enjoy the discussion as Guy and I explore the tying and fishing of this great saltwater fly.

Jay Nicholas, spring season 2017

Beyond Fake – Faux Bucktail Clouser

Jay Nicholas Faux Bucktail

Chris Daughters asked me to check out the new Faux Bucktail and shoot a video to introduce this material to consumers. I picked out a few colors and it sat on my bench for over a month, with me looking at and wondering if I really wanted to mess with the stuff. It looks so picture perfect. Each fiber is the exact same length and each fiber has a perfect sharp tip. I could tell that the material would not compress and flare like the natural, and that didn’t make me happy.

Eventually I gathered courage to test drive the material.

My first dozen flies were not entirely satisfactory and I was beginning to doubt the stuff. I should note that I was also trying to tie some odd patterns and not my usual flies, so that probably influenced the outcome of my experiments.

Eventually I let go of the exploratory patterns and settled in to tie my signature bucktail fly, the Clouser Minnow. Although the result is a slimmer fly than I am accustomed to tying, the results are quite pleasing. Plus—I am convinced that my new FAUX Clousers will stand up to chewing by black rockfish far better than natural bucktail clousers have in the past.

Anyway, I invite you to check out this video, the long version of one that I recorded for the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog. See if you like the fly I’ve created and then decide if you want to try the new material or stick with the usual stinky natural bucktails!

Me? I sincerely hope I’m out in a dory sometime in the next few weeks to fish these new found materials.

My best to you

Jay Nicholas – Spring 2017

Short Video on the ECHO OHS Rod

This is a revised post with a slightly different video embedded.

My dear friend Jeremy cut the footage together for this short video that captures a few memories of a day this winter season swinging flies for steelhead the the ECHO OHS (one hand spey) rod. As noted in my review of this rod for the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog, I prefer to fish this rod in classic two-hand style and find that it performs flawlessly and makes monster casts feel effortless when fished with an AIRFLO Skagit Scout head.

The video has been edited a little from the first one I posted in order to 1) correctly name the ECHO rod as the One Hand Spey, and 2) to show a better view of my super powerful D Loops and give a little justice to how far I was casting — trust me, it was AWESOME.

My best to you on this day May 5th, 2017
This revision posted on June 1st, 2017

The Most Perfect Glass Bead Bugger . . .

You will ever fish. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 1.53.09 PM

Yep, that’s right. 

This is the long version of the video on tying this fly complete with much conjecture and rambling. The short version will be posted very soon on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.

I hope you enjoy this extended edit of the video. This is a fly that has caught hatchery and wild rainbow, sea run cutthroat, and summer steelhead on many occasions. Tie and fish it with confidence and vary the color of the glass bead to suit your preferences.


Thank you all for your patience and good wishes.

Jay Nicholas, Spring Season 2017

Conserving Nestucca Basin Fisheries

David Moryc (American Rivers) invited me to talk about the Nestucca River’s fishery values and share a little of my thinking about what might be involved in bringing a community together to make sure the basin continues to produce wild and hatchery salmonids into the future. David told me they were hoping to produce a short video to introduce background information to members of the Nestucca valley and enlist community support.

Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.

David sent me a link to the video produced by North Fork Studios.

I invite you to view the video here and I’ll just call it Oregon Treasures.

PS: I tripped on the sidewalk between my 4-Runner and the front door of my home, fell smack on the sidewalk, and did something bad to my back. Two days ago. I’m recovering but sitting at the computer hurts. Walking hurts. Standing hurts. Everything but laying down and watching Youtube cat videos hurts. Fortunately, Boomer is spending his day napping with me. Very comforting.

Jay Nicholas Boomer Naps


Oh well.

May this day be a good one for you.

Jay Nicholas April 27 2017

Fishing with Jack Harrell in Hebo Lake

Jay Nicholas Hebo Lake Trout Fishing

In the space between glamorous, arduous fisheries for steelhead and chinook, there are occasionally opportunities to fish for hatchery trout in coastal lakes. It was raining cats and dogs at Hebo Lake yesterday, high up on Mt. Hebo far above the Nestucca Valley.

I arrived in Pacific City at about 11:50, barely got changed into my fishing clothes and rain pants, when Jack arrived with his drift boat in tow.

I handed Jack my fly rod out the cabin door, closed my Simms boat bag, and slipped into my boots, throwing my coat over my shoulders as I stepped carefully down my oh-so-slightly rain slickery porch steps.

We were filling out our USFS day-pass up at Hebo Lake by 12:30, and with trout showing all around the lake in the blustery showers,  Jack rowed us out from the boat ramp.

These were not big fish. Not extremely selective fish.But they were nice hatchery fish put into the lake so that people could catch them.

I’ve seen steelhead anglers interviewed for  videos or magazine articles — people stating that they are not interested in catching hatchery steelhead. They only want to catch wild steelhead.


Jack and I shared stories of our childhood. I’m 68 and Jack is north of 70. We both remembered childhood days fishing long hours and catching nothing. We remembered long days graced by a single little trout, or maybe a 12″ hatchery trout. If measured side-by-side with a chrome bright steelhead or salmon, those trout we caught as little boys could easily be dismissed outright.

But yesterday, Jack and I were as delighted as the young boys we were so many years ago. It didn’t matter that we have moved on and managed to catch some larger and wilder fish. Not at all. The wind howled and the rain sheeted through the trees. We were having the time of our life. We changed flies to see if some worked better than others. We fished fast and slow, shallow and deep, large and small, close and far. We felt the thrill of the hunt and laughed when we were able to see the trout cruise up from the depths to grab or refuse our fly. We remembered what it was like to be 12 years old — actually catching trout instead of just trying to catch them.

I am unreservedly grateful for a wonderful afternoon fishing with a great friend—Thank you Jack.

Jay Nicholas, April 23 2017

Looking back, looking forward – April 20, 2017

This is going to be a pretty simple post noting a few recent events and previewing a few things I hope are still to transpire in the next few months.

Our dear friend Andy Landforce, now 100 years young, dropped by for a visit the other night. Yes, he drove himself. Likely a better driver than I am. Anyway, Lisa and I had a great time listening to Andy recounting old fishing stories. I played a few salmon videos on our computer for Andy, and he was thoroughly engrossed with the action. My oh my where does the time go?

On the topic of “depression,”  you might be surprised—or not—to learn how many folks who have reached out to me and said thanks for sharing in one way or another. Here is a note I just received.

“Hey Jay thanks for reaching out, appreciate it. We need to get together sometime and wet a line. I wanted to thank and commend you for opening up about your battles with depression recently. I have been struggling with it for years, but more so lately than ever. It is always something that I find difficult to talk about. It’s all consuming and makes it hard to do much other than sleep. Fishing is the one thing that allows me to escape it. I hope that you are doing well and getting on the water. I’ve been fishing a little this winter. Keep in touch Jay.”

My response.

Where to begin? Thank you for your note. Believe me when I say you (we) are not alone. There are many people (most you would never imagine) who struggle with depression in various forms off and on — people who have reached out to me after one of my blog posts that say, hey, I’m a mess or was a mess, or whatever I said. Point is that all kinds of people are living in the bumpy up and downs of life and things are not always like they may seem on the surface. There is deeper stuff going on in many people’s lives. If there is some solace it might be in knowing that others struggle and do eventually and repeatedly come out the other side, even if for periods punctuated by more down days. Crap, life is complicated and I can’t even spell this morning! Please keep in touch.

So it goes. We are not alone. 

I know that some people stumble into me or a blog post or some dang thing and think that everything is just going great in my life and maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but the point is that the same is true for EVERYONE we meet no matter how lovely their life may seem on the surface of it all.


New topic.

Very soon—I will be launching a Kickstarter Campaign to support publication of my Salmon Fisher’s Journal. Whooo Hooooo! Much excitement to follow. I’ll just say that I’m blessed to be supported by a great team of professionals who have volunteered their time and talent to help me organize and set the Campaign in motion. I’m positive that I could not have done this all by myself. Period.

Without going into details yet, I’ll share the short list of friends who have offered their support—helping me transform my manuscript from a humble soft cover proof to a polished, Smyth Sewn, two volume edition that I’ve dreamed of publishing since I completed the manuscript early in 2016. Here is is only a year later, some interesting water under the bridge, and we’re poised to fund, print, and place this limited edition book—my masterwork—in peoples hands by Thanksgiving 2017!

When this campaign launches, I’ll be reaching out to everyone and asking for support in small and big measure to help me.

For now, I’d like to share the list of friends who have offered their support already, so I can say thank you in advance, because this is an undertaking that is out of the realm of possibility if I had to go it alone. In alphabetical order, and my first cut so forgive me in advance because I’m sure I’ve omitted several people in my haste to compose this list.

Thank you; you all make me smile.

Frank and Nick Amato (Amato Publications), Donald Barnes (Regal Vise), Bruce Berry, Ed Bowles, Doug Brutaco (Aqua Flies), Morten Bundergard (Pro Sportfisher), Kerry Burkheimer (CF Burkheimer Fly Rods), Stan & Debbie Davis, Chris Daughters (The Caddis Fly Angling Shop), Jeff Coffey (Fair Flies), George Cook (SAGE Fly Rods), Trey Combs, Jim Coon, Larry Cullens, Justin Coupe (Rivers of A Lost Coast), Andrew Dickinson (Hatch Fly Reels), Kevin Ferguson, Michael Gorman, Jack Harrell, Jon Harrell (Pacific City Fly Fishing), Troy Haselip (Watershed Fly Shop), Jon Hazelett (Ashland Fly Shop), Jeff Hickman (Fish The Swing), Pat Hoglund (Steelheader’s Journal), Will Johnson (Ashland Fly Shop), Bruce & Joe Koffler (Koffler Boats), Joel LaFollette (Royal Treatment Fly Shop), John Larison, John Leach, Josh Linn, Jeff Mishler, Frank & Jeanne Moore, David Moryc (American Rivers), Eric Neufeld (SIMMS, Winston Fly Rods), Norm Norlander (NORVISE), Ben Paull (OPST), Enrico Puglisi, Jeremy Quinlan, Blake Merwin (Gig Harbor Fly Shop), Todd Moen, Rob Perkin, Tim Rajeff (ECHO, AIRFLO), Guido Rahr, Marlin Roush (RIO Products), Rob Russell, Dick Sagara (Outdoor Products), Greg Senyo, James Shaughnessy (Beulah Fly Rods), Marty & Mia Sheppard (Little Creek Outfitters), Brian Silvey, Randy Stetzer (Burkheimer Fly Rods), Joe Sugura, Matt Supinski,  Todd Tanner, Jim Terborg, Marcos Vergara (Hareline Dubbin), Sam Wilkes.

Uh Oh.  I realize that I’m droning on here.


My dear friend Chris Daughters is back from New Zealand with his family for the summer, and I have not had a chance to drive the stinkin’ hour down to Eugene to visit him yet. Soon, very soon. And besides, he is—as usual—busy as ever.

Jay Nicholas & Jeremy

I had a very good visit with my friend Jeremy Quinlan at Pacific City last week, where we fished and shot video and pondered the meaning of life and steelhead flies.

I’m getting a much needed make-over on my blog from Rob Perkin, who is talented so far beyond my level of understanding and is also crazy enough to dive into working with me. So. Like yesterday I was feeling a little manic (not scary manic, just a little up) and must have sent Rob at least ten text messages and a several emails with content and design ideas for my blog page. Forgive me Rob.

And I’ll close by suggesting that anyone who has followed my adventure of swinging flies for steelhead this winter might find humor in this YouTube video cartoon. It has been viewed over twenty thousand times and should be required for everyone who ever dips their toes into the cold wet waters inhabited by winter steelhead. Maybe summer steelhead waters too. Don’t know if you will be offended or not, but I find this video makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. It sure does.

After viewing this you probably won’t be capable of reading anything else, so I’ll close now and wish you all the very best—even if you fish nymphs and beads to slam the steel.

Jay Nicholas, April 20 2017