Friday, May 30, 2008

Video Vignette #1..."Whaddya talkin' about?"

Garbled by the underwater mic, Junior gets uppity 'cause Killer K disses his Date, who promptly shows her dipleasure by bolting back to the well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Back in the Saddle

...Back from the Anniversary RoadTrip, 4 days and 1200 miles through OR and WA with the Wife ridin' shotgun in the rental.

We stopped in and saw a few friends old and new, stopped off at some places from memory lane both near and far, and in general, had a pretty damn good time. The Wife was rather disturbed at both the extent and the egregiousness of the Clearcutting in both states, but other than that, the sightseeing was pretty cool. If you haven't done it already, drive 101 from Tillamook to Olympia, and be sure to hit all the little stuff on the side-roads, too.

Anyone? We bet that Bacon could name this bay in his sleep.

Breakfast of Champions, v2.1.

The Needles.

The Cheeseburger that took 2 days to eat.

We were thinkin' about writing more on this trip, but we decided to keep it between us and the Wife. A little privacy, a little intimacy...after all, it ain't YOUR anniversary, right?

Now we be back in the groove...Salty dollies are in.

June will be sweet, fishas.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Last Good Cast

Tuesday marked the closing of the door on the SE AK steel season - not that it's over and done with, but a lot of flows have some serious spawning activity showing. Dim the lights, play Bolero, and close the door, people. You wouldn't want some fool walkin' in on you gettin' your groove on, so don't harass our finny friends.

Tuesday also marked the day that the Home Team got a whole slew of new players. Trying to play the game with 4 or 5 bears around is always good for some excitement, and their tremendous offerings to the Roman deity Sterculius make walking a bit of a...well, crapshoot.

At any rate, Killer K and Junior were in the hunt, throwin' and flowin' in the thick of the game. K picked up a sexy little hen in a tiny little well in the middle of nowhere, then poked another on his first cast into the horn o' plenty.

Junior was having a tough go of the day, but after several scale samples he managed to eke out a win at the Money Pit. Switching setups faster than a Vegas showgirl at a convention, Junior put together the right combination to please the big fish of the day, a mid-teens girl that just couldn't resist his dimples...or his 6" of swingin' string.

We had a slow start, content to watch the boys comb the river, happy to hang out in the trees and drink warm beer in a cool place. After a few holes we got into it, and managed to go 3 for 3 in our last game of the year.

The Last Good Cast

Anniversary RoadTrip leaves in a few to WA and OR to check things out, hang out with the wife, learn to dress and speak properly again.

Back in late May. Mojo rechargin' as we speak.'re next.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who needs Coffee when you have Bears?

An entertaining trip yesterday, to say the least.

Junior picked us up in the yacht at 8 sharp, all set for the quick boatride up the coast to a small stream that is rumored to have the odd fish visit in the spring. 30 minutes of pounding into the north wind and trying to keep saltwater out of our coffee left us a little less than amused as we hit the beach, but at least it was low tide and we only had to carry the raft about a quarter mile. What a way to start the day.

As we made our way into the woods to get upstream, Junior noted that his gun was unloaded, but that it didn't really matter because the bears were still up high, not in the meadows yet. But, being the safety-conscious guy that he is, he fed 5 and threw it back on his shoulder. 6.9 seconds later, as if on cue, the bear came loping out of the muskeg about 100 feet ahead of us on trail left, headed right for us. Brandishing the Winston BIIx tube, we pointed out our morning visitor to Junior, who slapped the gat up to port arms. At this point, about 40-50 feet from us, the bear abruptly veered off and hauled ass across the trail directly in front of us, making for higher ground that had fewer bipeds. Apparently, the green Winston tube did the trick.

If you are in need of a wakeup, and lattes or energy drinks just aren't doing the trick, may we humbly suggest one serving of Coastal Brown Bear. Nothing gets the blood flowing like a good dose of adrenaline brought on by the reminder that there are things in the woods that sit higher on the local food chain than you.

After a few nervous laughs, a "Dude!" or two, and a few gratuitous high-fives, we made our very alert way upstream. We were greeted by the sight of a swollen, rapidly browning-out river. Apparently, the uptick on the hydrology graphs actually translate to something happening in the real world...

We made an effort to get some fish-love on the way upstream, but we were denied by the rising and dimming waters. Defeated, broken, we made our way downstream to look for a fish that we could call a friend.

We found one, late in the game, and only after gomering off two good takes in now-flooding conditions.

Water was cresting over dips in the all-too-low meadow banks, and the incoming tide was backing up the river something fierce. With wading becoming a semi-amusing source of unwanted excitement, we decided to throw in the towel. On the way back out, we had another big - not as in "gee, that one is a little bigger than the last one" big, but BIG - bear feeding his way towards us on the clam flat. We did our best to look tough, but it wasn't necessary...he got one whiff of Junior's aftershave and was outta there like a big, furry bat outta hell.

With only a few days left before the trip Outside, we're thinkin' the fish might win the series. Difficult conditions and tough away-games have stripped us of home-field advantage all year, but when the water drops, we're gonna put on the rally-waders and give it another try or two. We still need a word with fish management, though - Beavers, ok. Moose? hmmm...alright. But subbing bears in mid-game?

That's just playin' dirty.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

End Game

6 days left in our spring steelhead season.

There will be fish around for another few weeks, but we are gonna roadtrip for a week to celebrate our 13th year of together-ness and our 7th year of marriage to the Wife.

A plane flight is in order, with the fine Emerald City as the destination. Base camp will be the parental fortress high in the cliffs of West Seattle, and our trusty steed will be an economy model from Alamo.

From there it is off to the Carver Mandolin shop in beautiful downtown Vancouver, WA...coincidentally, the home of our homies at Rajeff Sports, who are also going to get a visit. On to Astoria for the night, then the plan is to take 3 days and drive the loop back to OlyWa, checkin' out the sights as we go. We spent a lot of time in that country, so it will be fun to share it with the other half.

There might be some steelhead around when we get back, but We ain't holding our breath on that one. The plan is to burn it at both ends until we get on the plane next Wednesday, use up all the mojo, then recharge for dolly season.

After the back-wrenching pirate trip on Sunday, it was imperative that we leave the RedNeck Ride at home, and take the official Pirate Ship out for a ride... a little tougher on the wallet, but much easier on the spine.

Monday and Tuesday were high-water, fish-filled events. If we weren't nursing a hangover and about to go do this all again, we would probably wax poetic about nature and ponder our place in the cycle of our anadromous friends, then revel in the complete and total awesomenality of it all. As it is, we're short on time, so enjoy.

Us: 5, 6
Fish: at least 12 more than us...and the Beaver (sub for Moose)

The Home team is kicking our asses, but we don't really mind. We're sorta dumb that way.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Now we know why Pirates say "Aaaaargh"

We took a jet-powered ride yesterday, across the namesake of the Pirates Association to a big bay with a few streams flowing into it.

We have wanted to go there for awhile, but the Weather always seems to get in the way of a good time on the Canal. 10 miles of open water and a southern exposure all the way to Hawaii, this isn't a place that a fella can just waltz around in a 16ft flat-bottomed boat. You gotta sneak in, sneak home, and never let the Weather know you are there.

At any rate, the "there" part went pretty smooth. Little lumpy, but the tide was going the right way and the swell was just long enough to surf the RedNeck Ride to a few extra mph, making for a quick trip.

Upstream to the booty...

On the way back, Fanz assumed captain's duties of the pirate ship, while we held down the bow. 30 minutes of ass-pounding, bone-jarring fun, then back into the lee of the little islands on the mainland.

8 minutes into eternity. Not sure, but this is probably when we pulled the muscle that connects our spine to the rest of us.

Sometimes, you have to suffer to get the booty.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reality Check

Did the multi-river, multi-species thingy yesterday, with mixed results.

Started off ridin' shotgun with the Fanz, searching like a junkie for a little taste of yesterday's fin. What we found was H2O that was a mere 3½° above freezing. Not really what we were looking for, y'know? We like the thrill of the chase and all, but when the other team is so chilly that signs of torpor are obvious, maybe it's time to call the game for the day.

We did find a few robust rainbows that, despite the near-freezing temperatures, were all too happy to chase our offerings out of their holes and attack anything that drifted their way. Pretty fish, these nates, but not enough game for the 8wt.

Afternoon's adventure was a tag-along with Junior on his first trip with clients in 2 years. We were gonna be there for moral support in case he wasn't up to speed after his hiatus, but even before the plane ride it was obvious that he hadn't lost his chops.

Diggler and Junior..."Which way is the river, again?"

After the drop-off, we boogied upstream to leave the lower section of the flow to the clients. The signs were a little off for chrome, but we knew in our heart of hearts that they were here. They had to be.

Another near-freezing river, another day of lethargic fish. To make matters worse, last week's 19+ foot midnight tides surely sent some fish bolting way upstream, cleaning out the lower holes on every flood and leaving them barren come morning. So much for the excitement...

And that's when we bumped into Bullwinkle.

Coming around a corner, staring into the glare of a soft inside seam, we heard a snort. Not Good. Turning towards the source of the snort, we had our gun partway to the shoulder when we realized that the big brown thing that was just 12 or 13 yards away a moment ago was now flat-out haulin' ass upstream, and was, in fact, an obligate herbivore and therefore had no interest in consuming us. Apparently, that did not mean that it wouldn't kick our ass, because after doin' the 40 in about 3 flat - Through the river, mind you - the moose stopped to see what was chasing it. Upon seeing the relatively small, goretex-clad figure that had caused it such distress, the ears went back and its nape-hair stood up, and it started back towards us with a purpose.

After this shot, we decided that the camera might be a liability. This sucker was coming at us like Sean Penn at some rude paparazzi...

After some frantic yelling and not a little waving and jumping about, we convinced the moose that we were indeed nuts and not to be messed with. Bullwinkle sauntered off upstream into the alders, and after a decent interval we followed. Around the next bend was a pinch-point, a narrow spot where the sides of the canyon are steep and barren. Not seeing the moose, and reasoning that if it didn't get past this then it was somewhere very close and probably right now eyeing us with the intent of restoring its dignity and moose-y honor, we decided to end this little sojourn and mosey our way downstream, fishless but unstomped.

Junior's clients were of the "ok, I got my fish, now let's just check out the scenery" sort, so he was on easy street for the last half of the trip. After checking out the random moose photos, they agreed that maybe the estuary was a much better place to be, and that they were perfectly content sitting around and munching on bagels and smoked salmon. An hour of idle chatter and a few bagels later, Diggler arrived in a company chariot to ferry us all back to warmth and beer. Giggling about the moose story, he told us that he knew there was one down low in this particular valley, but he didn't really want to say anything in front of the clients and get them all nervous about the trip.

Fish: 3
Us: 1
Moose: 1 (substitute for home team)

The series is about even for the year, but we're gonna have to talk to the fish about their choice for substitute players. Ballers are ok, but the enforcer moose is gonna keep us on our toes all spring.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Places you haven't been #241

"Does your Corned Beef come out of a can?"

What a way to start. Corned beef hash ("we make ours from scratch", the waiter curtly informed us), 2 eggs sunny-side-up for the good luck liquid chicken, and enough coffee to make a fella twitch. Today was a play day - No Clients, no worries, no curfew.

A steep dive into a small slough after a long flight, and we were in an isolated end of the world. More bears than folks, if you know what we mean. We tied up the plane and hit the trail, lookin' for love of the finny sort.

What we got was lots of fin, with just a little love thrown in as an afterthought. Dozens and dozens of fish turned up their noses at our offerings, scores gave us the full on "2 Fins Down" for each and every color and profile change we went through. We sorta cracked the code at one pool, only to Gomer off a fish after not checking our leader for nicks after a particularly toothy fight.


Things got better a little further down. In one particular hole, we managed to go 2 for 4 with a few other nips n' chasers on a new color iteration of the moneybug.

The Fanz was busy kickin' out the jams in the lowholes. The home team had some new players, ballers fresh in from the Salt League, and they were game for a tussle or two...or 18. Home team had the advantage, with slippery rocks, 2 sets of rapids and one downed tree, but we didn't come this far to slink home without leaving it all on the field, Jack. A solid 3 hours, many fish on and many fish gone, and it was once again time to make a run for the plane. After a few fish hooked and one landed in the lowholes, Diggler made a late showing on the jog back to the plane, artfully plucking some chrome from in front of rootwad.

An exciting yet uneventful takeoff followed by a long flight in which all of us consumed our now-remembered lunches, there was plenty of time to reflect on what had just happened. Long stares out the windscreen, replaying the day's highs and lows, looking for the pattern that may or may not exist...

...Happy knowing that even though only some came to play with us, there were many more there just to watch the game.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Is This Thing On?

Testing, Testing...


Just in case you missed it, Spring has officially arrived in the Alexander Archipelago.

Balmy 40° temps and a 900ft snow-level aside, the first finny friends of spring arrived early last week to check out their new digs. With average to good numbers of these piscine partygoers showing up in various local flows, all signs point to this developing into a hell of a soirée.

We checked out some of the action yesterday at a mainland stream, catching a ride with Junior, who has migrated back to his Alaska home for a summer of guiding. After a few years in some hellhole called WallaWalla, Junior came to his senses and crawled back, begging forgiveness and asking to have his fishing superpowers restored...

As you can see, it only works on dark fish for now. Give him a week, and he will be back to normal.

The girls always did like to play with us...truth be told, we don't mind playin' with the girls.

Some days, bucky, you don't wanna eat the pink squiggly thing.

Taking a break for a few days...we have clients today, and the Fanz arrives tomorrow. By Wednesday, Dog willing, we'll be back in the saddle again and gettin' our chrome on.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Major Honker

Diggler's call came at 10:17am.

"Still wanna go fishin'?"

Now, we DID drink a few beers last night...and we vaguely remember, over the 3rd half-rack, hatching plans to jump on a river at first light. Something about a weather window, maybe only having the morning until the SE wind blew up...hmmm.

But still, what kind of question is that? Duh.

Out of bed, into fishin' togs and out the door in exactly14 minutes, and we didn't forget a damn thing. Must be some kind of new record. That only left us about 20 minutes to get a latte and some chicken wings and get our ass to the airport, but we work well under pressure.

Some days the fish stay pinned under the most improbable conditions, like...oh, having one swim over a waterfall, then landing it in the plunge pool on the far side of a logjam. Today, with just spiffy, clean gravel, Diggler managed to lose everything he hooked today. 2 on, 2 gone, one of which was pretty damn tidy. We managed to bat .500 in the next pool down, landing 1 nice fish and gettin' Gomer'd by another little buck that swam back downstream to eat the bug that just passed him. How we lost a fish that wanted it that bad...makes a fella wonder.

The one that didn't get away.

This particular flow has a quirky bend in it, a loooong hole (by SE AK standards) that sorta curves tighter and tighter, ending in a logjam that leads the flattened flow back around to the other direction. Imagine a 250ft continuous inside bend, and you will have a good idea of what we are describing. This run just screams out for the swung fly, and today we obliged. About halfway down, we got a hell of a yank. Not just a garden variety, run-of-the-mill tug, but a full-on smash, and the next thing that happened was about 3 feet of fish clearing the water a few times and flashes of backing spinning into the river.

The rest of the fight was pretty good, but the epic leaps and run after the first pull left us numb and dazed to the ensuing battle. A few minutes later we cradled the big boy in the shallows.

We DID leave one thing home...the official Neil Creek Measuring Device. No tape? No prob. This kid stretched out to about 2 inches past the first guide of the trusty 8110, which puts it right around 37 inches...give or take an inch.

Major Honker.

After a few photos, we slipped him back into the slow flow, no revival needed. Major Honker wanted back into his river and could do it just fine, thank you.

A few more casts, and it was time for the long run back to the lake to meet the plane. Final Tally...Us-2, Fish-4.

Looks like we need a rematch.