Challenges during a fly photo shoot

Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.
Chinook Salmon Comet Flies by Jay Nicholas.

Yep, I’m working on another book, this one with a working title of Authentic Chinook Flies, due for publication by August, I dearly hope.  Fact is, there are unexpected challenges one faces when shooting such photographs, as the photo series below will reveal.

First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
First trial photo: Comet I retrieved from upper jaw of Chinook in Nestucca during 2005. Note that leader fragment is still attached to fly, just as I found it.  Background photo is of Clay Banks Hog line in 2003.
Uh, oh.  Some creature is lurking in the background!
Uh, oh. Some creature is lurking in the background!
Boomer loves to mrs with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell's flies just a tad better than mine.
Boomer loves to mess with my flies, but honestly, he likes Rob Russell’s flies just a tad better than mine.

Oh well, such is the nature of the silliness we deal with in the Nicholas family, and we do love our cats so I took a break to serve morning cat snacks to Boomer and Rollo, his brother, then closed the den door to resume shooting photos for the new book.

I hope this image gives you a smile for the day, and offers a hint of anticipation for the next book too.  Meanwhile, I have a party to go to this weekend with my family and then I just may fish a little.

May your day be bright and this season bring many great grabs.

Jay Nicholas,  June 11, 2015

Rivers Without Salmon – July 8, 2007

Rivers without salmon?

Of late, I was thinking about why I fly fish for salmon.  Amongst all my rationalization, I was trying to convince myself that catching salmon onthe fly was really secondary to the hunt, the pursuit, to time on the water, dawn and dusk in the estuaries, the low clear water of autumn and the gentle river raise that follows a spring freshet.

I just about had myself convinced that all these things were enough, that it didn’t really matter whether I ever caught another salmon in my life.  fter all, I reasoned, I have fished days and weeks on end without so much as a tug.  Why not whole seasons without hooking a king?  I would still have my art to practice, the river sounds and smells.

Then it came to me, and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  I can devote those days and weeks on end as long as I have the genuine hope of hooking a salmon.  I always see salmon, at least every other day or so, sometimes every day.  I may or may not be able to draw the tug, but I have solace knowing that I am fishing among salmon.  My time on the estuaries and rivers is special because I know that salmon live there.  I know that I have a chance to catch a fish.  I can see their wakes, see them rolling, glimpse the  shadow of salmon in pools.

What is it about salmon fishing that I love, if not the salmon?  could I love just the rivers, just the waters?  As much as I love swinging a fly through the water, my ritual would be empty, farcical, if I knew that no salmon were there to see my fly.

Returning season after season to familar places, exploring new pools and tide flats, what joy would that hold if not for the salmon?

None.  None at all.  learning the proper tides to fish, the salmon’s habits, the flies they will take, the lines to fish, how the weather and river flows affect their movements – all of this would be irrelevant.  The anticipation of tying a fly, of planning a trip, of seeking the perfect anchor point – would be pointless if not for salmon beneath the waters.

So after all, it is not enough to feel the power in a good cast, focus on packing flies neatly  in  fly boxes, change lines at the end of a season, dream of a new rod, or be the first (or last) on the water.  None of the joys I feel while salmon fishing matter the slightest without the salmon beneath the surface.

I have been confused for years, thinking that loving the art of fly fishing could sustain me.  The art of the fly. Camaraderie and the weather and the river’s song.

Now I know with certainty, that the salmon are the ingredient that flows through everything else.  Without salmon, the rivers are uninteresting to me.  I acknowledge that this is irrational and unfair to the ecosystem that could still survive without salmon.

But still, rivers without salmon hold no interest to me.


While I was fishing recently… June 8, 2011

Every once in a while ……

Jay Nicholas –  June 8, 2011

Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Great Grabs – October 20, 2010

Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal

Afternoon sun, bright king salmon rolling in the pool, a 300 gr., 30′ shooting head, and my trusty  Burkheimer 7115-4. Remember to keep a low rod angle, folks; this Spey rod makes an awesome delivery system to overhead cast shooting heads for king salmon.  Posted on January 28, 2011.  An enduring memory from my 2010 salmon season.


Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Great Grabs – October 18, 2010

Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal:

Great Grabs – October 18, 2010


Chinook Salmon Binge, November 2010: the truth, the whole truth, and nuthin’ but…..

Winston 12 wt B2x at home in Tillamook.

Chinook Salmon Binge, November 2010:

The truth, the whole truth, and nuthin’ but…..

Do you ever get tired looking at nothing but hero photos?  How about telling the real story about fly fishing for Chinook salmon here in Oregon?  Well, here goes.

Here are a couple of weeks down the drain, seriously.

South to Port Orford in the rain.

Daybreak.  No salmon.


A distraction, walking down the beach.

The boys get ready to run.

Maybe not quite yet.

At day’s end, a long walk back to the truck.

On the river at dawn.

Let’s give this fly a try.

Off the river at dusk.

Dry the waders; hit the sack.

Thank you, Salmon Gods.

Two phones down, one still operational.

Been there. Done that.  North to Tillamook – in the rain.

On the Bay, at dawn.

Hummmm.  Don’t think fly rods are meant to be held there, are they?

Guess it worked out OK anyway.

Yet another night drying tackle.

I see myself in the mirror.

Maybe we shouda tried some of these?

Maybe it’s time to call the game?

Ya think?

By May 2011, I’ll be healed up and ready to go…..


Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Late October 2010 Images

Jay Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal: Late October 2010  Images

It’s October, and we have us some Chinook salmon flies.  Yes we do.

Pasture the Jet sled.  Unleash the Pram.

No fly rod?  No problem.  All one  needs is a fly reel and a little cork to bite-down on.

What discovery will this new day reveal?

Hot.  Thirsty.  No fish.  No grabs.  Focus.

A fancy fly reel left in the grass was still there next morning.

Sea Run Cutthroat – the fish we couldn’t catch when we were trying.

Often, only our shadow is there to share our thoughts.

We do have our favorite flies to fish.

Chum salmon: beautiful ssurprise.

One last cast, maybe.


CF Burkheimer Salmon Fly Rod: 995-4 Single-hand Fly Rod

CF Burkheimer Salmon Fly Rod:  995-4 Single-hand Fly Rod

Kerry Burkheimer builds outstanding Spey fly rods.  But you should know that’s not the full menu  of magic Kerry wields in his modest Fly Rod Shop in Camas.  Kerry just happens to be a master designer and builder of the single-hand fly rod too.  In fact, Kerry was building what he refers to as “superb” one-hand fly rods long before he developed his first signature Spey fly rod with John Hazel’s coaching.

My friendship with Kerry Burkheimer has grown throughout the year and has included the technical aspects involved with fishing his two-hand rods and experiencing the Burkheimer “feel” that took me several steps up from my actual Spey casting ability level.  No kidding.

Kerry Burkheimer tried to educate me about the technical aspects of “lay-ups” in rod building.  Nice try, Kerry.

My closest friends know that I am a salmon nut, purely stated, and so it was natural for me to ask Kerry to build me a single hand salmon rod.  We talked options, rod weights, rod actions, lengths, and so on, and then decided that a 9′ 5″ Deep Loading Action rod would most likely be right for my Chinook fly fishing needs.

Little did I realize just how right this rod would be.

I ordered the Burkheimer 995-4 as much out of friendship, Burkheimer loyalty, and curiosity, as anything else.  I have been fishing several “brands” of the major single-hand fly rods for King salmon in recent years.  Honestly, I liked them all and every fly rod performed well for me.  We are blessed these days with the availability of very good nine and ten weight fly rods in both modest and high-end price range.  I fished Echo, Sage, Winston, Loomis, Thomas & Thomas, and Scott fly rods and had fun with all of them.

But I wanted a Burkie to fish king salmon this fall. Had to have it.  Ordered it.  Waited.  Watched the rod making process, several days running, chatting with Kerry and his rod-crafting artisans.

Mandrills. I saw the mandrills that would form the core of my new salmon rod.

Corks, courtesy of the “cork mafia” in Portugal.

Tattoos.  Lots of tattoos.

Work stations with designs taped to the wall.

Glued handles ready to shape.

Finally, I had my 995-4 in the boat, ready to fish. I cast the rod.  I was surprised at how well I (the rod) cast.  I was on the Alsea with my friend Rob.  He asked if he could give my new Burkie a go, and naturally, I handed him the rod.  Rob didn’t exactly giggle, but he made some sort of unclassifiable sound when he made his first cast.  Then another and another.   He shook his head and went into a rant about Kerry Burkheimer the master rod builder and how he was instantly impressed and would need to order one of these rods for himself, and maybe, just maybe, he would order an 11 or 12 weight rod with a fighting grip half way up the butt section.

Two days later Rob e-mailed to continue his complimentary Burkheimer fly rod rant.  All this made me feel really good, because Rob is head-and-shoulders a better caster than I, and his reaction made me feel like it wasn’t simply my friendship with Kerry that was influencing my evaluation of the rod.

So I fished, and fished, and fished, with the grab here, the pull there, the head-shake before low slack, and the “nuthin’ goin’ on here” days ticking by.  Finally, I hooked a nice Chinook on  Tillamook Bay on a Dry Line in about five feet of water.  Finally!  The trollers stared and wondered what the hey we were doing fly fishing for trout in T-Bay and how odd it was for us to have hooked a King on a fly, and naturally the fish came un-pinned before we could officially release it.  But – – – wow, that was fun.

This Burkheimer 995-4 is responsive, has a deep loading action, which I like and which could probably be described as medium fast; it casts shooting heads and integrated head fly lines like the proverbial rocket.

Might add this: my other 9-wt. fly rods stumble over shooting heads above about 350 gr, but the Burkie makes the cast for me with a modified 250 gr head as easily as with a 400-plus gr head.  This single-hand Burkheimer 995-4 makes the close cast and the long cast.  Now that, I think, is what Kerry means by a “superb” fly rod.

Thanks Kerry.

PS:  This Burkheimer fly rod has brought several  Chinook salmon to hand for release this season.  Oh-my-gosh.  Two hundred yards into the backing.  Good thing I had a friend to free the loop of mono running line from the middle finger of my right hand, or I could have been cut to the bone.


Post Script: Expect me to review my experience fly fishing for Chinook with a Burkheimer 7115-4 two-hand fly rod.  I fish this two-hander casting overhead  in tidewater with shooting heads and integrated-head fly lines.  This 7115-4 fly rod is a beauty and has seen some great days  wrangling flies and Chinook salmon on the water this year.

Koffler 16′ Jet Sled – – – Fly Fisher’s Design

Here is a quick report on my home-equity loan, ummmm, I mean my Koffler Jet Sled.

Same thing, really, but hey, it’s only money, right?  And who knows how many seasons any of us have left under our belts.

Here are the specs, in shorthand. Length: 16′.  Width: 60″.  Flat bottom.  very stable fly fishing platform.  Power plant is a Yamaha 40 hp jet pump (60 hp motor rated as 40 hp at the pump).  Tiller with power tilt/trim, electric start.  Bilge pump and water wash-down hose.  Self draining fish box under front deck.  Battery and water wash-down hose under front deck.  Three portable 3 gal. gas tanks under front deck.  Anchor locker at bow.  Dirks anchor release at bow and starboard stern corner.  Tackle trays along both sides accommodate 10 ft fly rods.  Snap-in carpet in tackle trays.  Fuel filter enclosed under outboard.  Lowrance fish finder/sounder installed in covered panel on Port side under tackle tray.  Sand-blasted diamond plate deck.  Two removable seat/gear boxes.  Two oarlock positions; one allows rowing from seated position on front deck, the other allows oarsman to stand and row just forward of tiller.  Oars stow under starboard side tackle trays.  Koffler galvanized heavy-duty trailer.

Performance specs. A wonderful fly fishing platform for our Oregon bays.  The front deck and main deck are clean and open, if we simply don’t junk it up with too much stuff.  This sled navigates modest rivers easily.  It is NOT a Lower Deschutes river sled.  Perfect for my planned expeditions.  Will be a great lake fishing boat if I ever make time for that.  The Yamaha is quiet and idles down to a very low speed.  No need for a second trolling motor.  The boat goes on plane in the bay and zips plenty fast for my comfort with three guys in the boat and three full gas tanks.

Cost? More than I had hoped to spend.  No discounts for me.  Someone called Bruce Koffler and speculated that they were paying me a lot of cash to promote their sleds and tidewater prams.  No so.  I have not received a single buck or discount in this deal.  Period.

Worth it? Absolutely.  This boat gets me to more places and into more chances to have fun trying to catch a Chinook than I ever could before.  Have I sold my Koffler driftboat or 11′ pram?  Nope.  To each fishing condition and place, there is a perfect boat.  I need them all, I tell my family.  They just laugh and smile.  They know me.  Chris, do you stock pontoon rafts?  I just might need one of those things too.

Bow anchor & rope locker.

Box under Port-side Tackle tray for power controls (running lights, anchor light, bilge pump, water wash-down,  fish finder).

Bow anchor release.

Under Deck gear or fish box (lifejacket locker too).

Oar Storage under Starboard tackle tray.

Starboard quarter anchor release.

Under deck Bilge Pump.

Tackle tray with snap-in/out carpet.

Battery storage & Water wash down hose under bow deck.



Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal – October 5, 2010

Nicholas’ Salmon Fisher’s Journal – October 5, 2010

Our days started early, but we were always late to the game.

Coffee started the days, tackle trays got messy.

Three bucks a day is a bargain for a boat launch, a garbage can, and a clean outhouse.

All critters try to get a meal.

Foiled double-hauls aside, we had great companionship.

We soaked a lot of flies.

Usually, we were fishless, last boat to take out in the evening.

Now and then, though,  – – – – –

I love every minute of every day fly fishing for salmon here in Oregon.