Archive for the ‘Trout’ Category

On the Water Log, May 13, 2012

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

My First Trout and My Mom

I’m working on a piece about cooking trout for tomorrow or Tuesday. But today’s Mother’s Day, and that got me thinking about the first trout that I ever caught. My mother cooked it for me and my brother and our friend, Steve Mortz. It happened more than 50 years ago.

I was extraordinarily lucky and grew up within walking distance of two trout ponds. They were less than a mile from our house, across the county road, over a rolling pasture that usually had Holsteins, around the edge of a swampy creek bottom, and then up and over a railroad embankment.

I don’t know exactly how old I was, certainly less than 10. We all had cane poles then, with old-style cork bobbers and cotton line, and we carried a coffee can of worms that we had dug in the heavy loam behind our house.

We fished the larger pond of the two ponds. It had a dock. We basically just sat on the dock and watched our red and yellow bobbers and talked. (more…)

On the Water Log, May 10, 2012

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Weird Weather, a Beautiful Boat, and a Really Cool Cutthroat . . .  continued


photo by David Christian

Boy, I really love cutthroat trout. All salmonids are magnificent fish, and each species displays a range of life histories, size ranges and, at times, strikingly different appearances. But none come close to the diversity of cutthroat. On the Olympic Peninsula alone, we have the silvery sea-runs of Hood Canal and the dark cutts of the Dickey, 10-plus-pound crescenti cutthroat and 10-inch adults in beaver ponds, yellow-bellied late summer Bogachiel fish and “blue-backs” like the bright 17-incher I caught in the upper Calawah last April.


Fly Rods and Guitars I

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

                                                          The Ginger Quill and the UP Brookie

We almost stayed in Marquette. My wife and I had driven north from her aunt’s home in Milwaukee, up the west shore of Lake Michigan and crossed into Michigan’ s Upper Peninsula at Menominee. We continued north, climbing into the upper reaches of the Escanaba River, one of the UP’s largest, and over the hump into the Lake Superior Basin. From there, it was a short downhill drive, past jackpine and tamarack swamps and glacial outcrops, to Marquette.

The idea was to check out Northern Michigan University, to see if we wanted to move there and finish our degrees. I was 21 and my wife was 20. We had spent the last six months working in factories in the lower peninsula, saving money for school.

Everything we owned was in the back seat and trunk of our old black Comet. There were books and clothes and my wife’s grandmother’s blue and white Currier and Ives china and the new Dansk pots and pans we got for wedding presents. My wife’s tennis racket and riding helmet were there. I had more than my share of stuff. There was my first fly rod and reel, a glass, 6-weight South Bend and red Cortland reel. I also had my 20 gauge, and the sweet little Martin D-18, for which I’d recently traded away my white Stratocaster.

Straddling it all somehow was our year-old black and white English Setter, Leo. It’s probably weird and certainly deeply revealing that I owned a purebred bird dog  before I owned a car.


Fly Rods and Guitars II

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011


I think it’s sort of funny that a lot of people think I am rabidly opposed to nymphing. In reality, I have immense respect for the fly fishers who take steelhead on nymphs the way Bill McMillan described the technique in Dry Line Steelhead. Moreover, I spent an awful lot of time learning how to nymph for trout when I lived in Colorado. The thing I don’t like is fishing nymphs with a bobber–or indicator, as they like to call bobbers these days. I never saw a bobber back when I fished the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork regularly.

We moved to Colorado because I had had it with playing in bars and clubs. I wanted to be around rivers and trout and to work on the outdoor writing I had begun in the Keys. My partner still wanted to perform. Denver gave us both the opportunity to do what we wanted. I got a job teaching finger style guitar at the Denver Folklore Center and a private music school. My partner got into a group.

I had a great time in Colorado and became a better fly fisherman. My teaching schedule was up to me, and I more or less adopted the calendar of the University of Denver, which was across the street from our apartment. I taught about three months, then took a week or so off. I had a lot of students, sometimes as many as 60 a week during the winter.


Equinox Cutthroat

Monday, September 14th, 2009

                           . . . random observations on the many ways to pursue cutthroat on the Olympic Peninsula in autumn.


The Olympic Peninsula is rich with estuaries. They range from sprawling bays such as Dungeness to the snag-strewn coastal pools at Kalaloch. There are low gradient rivers like the Hoquiam, where tidewater pushes far upriver, and tea-colored creeks that corkscrew through salt marsh flats.

My all time favorite estuary is one of the latter. It rises on low forested hills but quickly drops to a virtually impenetrable freshwater marsh. The last half-mile or so sidles through saltmarsh before braiding across oyster bars and driftwood into Hood Canal.

Before the salmon restoration folks replaced three culverts with a $600,000 bridge, you could hardly tell that the creek existed from the road. It flowed, mysteriously and darkly, within earshot of 18 wheelers and SUVs. It was a virtual refugia for cutthroat and coho, little green herons and green-winged teal, otters and mink, even a bear. It was a secret estuary.  (more…)

Five Ways to Look at a Beaver Pond

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

                (with apologies to Wallace Stevens)


I would jam my wading staff into the black muck and sedges at the edge of the beaver pond in late October. The staff–a worn, gray, five-foot limb with a curve at the top like a shepard’s crook–would ride out the winter there. It would endure everything the Olympic Peninsula winter threw at it–rain squalls from Hood Canal, the high water that overflowed the dam in November and December, hurricane force winds, snow and hard freezes. And for five years, the staff was in the exact same spot I had put it in October when I returned for opening day the following June.

I hadn’t expected to find the staff when I returned that first June. I had forgotten all about it. But there it was, crooked, the color of campfire ash, and only canted slightly out of the vertical position I had left it in seven months before. (more…)

Bergman Reconsidered

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

When I was a kid, I lived about a mile from a cluster of ponds and small lakes. Most of them contained  warm water fish–large-mouthed bass, bluegill and sunfish, carp and alligator gar. But the two smallest were feed by springs and remained cold and clear throughout the summer. We called them ”The Trout Ponds.”

I caught my first trout in the larger pond. It was a rainbow, about a foot long. I was with my brother, Scott, and a friend. We had hiked from our house, across a pasture and  marsh, and then clambered over a railroad grade to the pond. With our cane poles and Irish Setter, we probably looked like the cover of a Norman Rockwell painting. We fished off a short dock, with golfball-sized gobs of nightcrawlers.  (more…)

The Elwha Report

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

The Olympic Peninsula has more than a dozen major rivers and countless creeks, but the Elwha River provides by far the best fly fishing for resident rainbow trout. Many fly fishers, myself included, believe it offers the finest rainbow fly fishing in western Washington. It is also the best river on the peninsula to “match the hatch”–that is, try to tempt trout with flies that actually imitate what they are eating at the time you’re on the river.

The Elwha has been written about quite a bit lately, and many anglers from outside the peninsula and newcomers have fished it for the first time in recent years.

Last year, I heard a lot of complaints when the river wasn’t fishable until weeks after the June 1 opener. However, the Elwha is the peninsula’s third largest watershed–and has a significant glacial component to its flow–and it isn’t usually at its best until it drops and clears and warms up a bit. This is typically sometime in mid- to late July. Many of the newer Elwha anglers simply fished it for the first time during the years of light snow packs that preceeded last year, and came to the, reasonable, conclusion that fishing it in June was normal.  (more…)

October Caddis on the Olympic Peninsula

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

In his classic book, Caddisflies, Gary La Fontaine had this to say about the Dicosmoecus genus of caddisfly:

“The question for fly fishermen seeking big trout is: ‘Which insects provide the best opportunity for catching such fish? My list would be: Giant Orange Sedge (Dicosmoecus sp.), Salmon fly (Pteronarcys californica, a stonefly), and the Michigan Mayfly (Hexagenia limbata). Dicosmoecus is the most important–and the contest is not even close.” (more…)

Curt Reed on the Elwha

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

It is only about a 10 minute drive from Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters in Port Angeles to the middle Elwha River. From the first day it drops into shape after the June opener until the middle and upper river close at the end of October, Curt Reed fishes it nearly every evening after he finishes his day at the shop. Curt is that rare creature–a fly fisher who ties beautiful, elegant flies and is also an excellent caster, and who knows how to fish. He routinely takes fish to 14-plus-inches on the Elwha–which is a big fish on the river–and last week he caught one that measured more than 16. (more…)

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