Archive for the ‘On the Water Log’ Category

On the Water Log, January 12, 2013

Saturday, January 12th, 2013


I imagine some of you have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while. At first, that was simply to give folks time to read all of the great essays my friends contributed to the Christmas Newsletter. However, since then I have been consumed by a couple of non-fishing-related problems, and I’ve decided to take a break from blogging and guiding for a few weeks. I hope to back in the saddle soon.

On the Water Log, December 9, 2012

Sunday, December 9th, 2012


Like most of the other writers I know–and following in the footsteps of my WWII 82nd Airborne veteran father–I have a pretty foul mouth when it comes to speaking conversationally. But I have tried to avoid it in my blog, on the assumption that people with sensibilities not quite as coarse as mine may read what I write.

However, the actions of the delegates to the UN climate change conference in Qatar–and especially the wretched assemblage of people that represented this country–deserve a lot more than foul language. There were brave and insightful and truthful speakers, of course, but they certainly weren’t speaking for the United States government.

I think a couple lines from Roderick Haig-Brown captures this situation best of all.

“Conservation means fair and honest dealing with the future, usually at some cost to the present. It is a simple morality, with little to offset the glamorous and quick material rewards of the North American deity, Progress.”

He did it without swearing, too.

On the Water Log, November 26, 2012

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Winter Cutthroat Clinic This Saturday


I still have a couple slots open for my Winter Cutthroat Clinic this Saturday, December 1. If you scroll down a few posts, you will find a detailed description of it. But, basically, it’s an on-the-water, comprehensive examination of fly fishing for cutthroat in saltwater during the time between the end of the flying termite hatches in October and the first show of juvenile chum salmon in February. The clinic will take place on Indian and Marrowstone islands, near Port Townsend. It costs $100.

Cutthroat aren’t evenly distributed throughout Puget Sound in winter, but they are usually available in fishable numbers in the South Sound and in Hood Canal and Admiralty Inlet. My friend, Mike Olson, caught the nice fish in the picture above in February of this year. I caught my first 20-plus-incher on a sharply cold December day. They are definitely out there.

On the Water Log, November 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012


I have much more than most people on this planet to be thankful for today–a wonderful wife and family, a truly weird but fascinating dog, work that still absorbs me more than a quarter century after I published my first magazine article, a continuing enchantment with the corner of the world I live in, and the luck that my favorite fish, the coastal cutthroat trout, is doing well in the places I pursue it.

One other aspect of my life that I am grateful for but probably don’t acknowledge often enough is the  community of people who read this blog, attend my clinics, and hire me to take them fishing.

I spend very little time reading internet fly fishing forums, but every so often I hear about a post a friend  has made or a thread on a topic that interests me. And I have obtained useful information on these sites from time to time. But I also often come away from them shaking my head at the nastiness, arrogance,  and, perhaps most of all, the chorus of scolds that seem to characterize these forums.

As a friend of mine says, “You can’t assume someone is a nice guy anymore just because he’s a fly fisherman.”

I don’t know how I came to be so lucky, but not only are just about all of the people I work with nice–they are also friendly and warm and easy-going. Many are very good fly fishers, with years of varied experiences, yet they are modest, often self-effacing. They are eager to learn about new fish or new flies or a new locations.

My wife has commented many times that I nearly always come home after a clinic or trip in a better mood than when I left the house.

I can say the same thing about the readers of the blog and newsletters, most of whom I have never met. Just about all of the comments I receive are positive and they, additionally, often contain valuable information or interesting anecdotes.

So I want to thank all of you today for the part you play in making my life and my work and my sport so  richly rewarding for me.

On the Water Log, November 19, 2012

Monday, November 19th, 2012

It’s Going To Be A While, Folks

After a number of years of living within a few minutes of the West End steelhead rivers, we now live on the leeward, rain shadow side of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s been raining hard here for the last several days. So, even without looking at the USGS river gauges, I know what it’s like out on the Quillayute System and rain forest rivers.

Just for the hell of it, I did check out the gauges. The Calawah is running around 6,000 cfs right now. You have to wade the river to fish one of my favorite Calawah steelhead holes, and to do it safely the flow needs to be below 600 cfs.  The Hoh is at 10,000; I don’t like to wade fish it when it’s much above 2,000. The Queets is ripping along at 20,000 cfs now. That’s the kind of flow that cuts huge Sitka spruce from the river banks and can carve out new channels overnight.

Storms of this intensity even knock out saltwater fishing on my rain shadow beaches. You can often do well on sea-run cutthroat with “normal” levels of winter rain and wind. But when it is as bad as it’s been the last few days, the nearshore becomes turbid and carries lots of wood and debris. When we lived on the beach in Brinnon, one especially bad Pineapple Express deposited a rolling mass of logs and leaves and bark and detritus a dozen feet deep along the bank. It took days for it to break up.

Believe it or not–and contrary to the conventional wisdomw–duck hunting is usually very poor when there’s this much rain and wind. The birds, especially the mallards, head inland and hang out in flooded fields and pastures.

This is a good time to tie up some Orange Herons and Sol Duc Speys and Mr. Glassos.

On the Water Log, November 17, 2012

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

A Sweet Spot

I just came in from splitting wood in the barn. The light was already fading on this blustery, dark November afternoon, and I did it by lantern light. As I worked, hefting the maul, guiding it but letting it fall under its own weight, and organizing the pieces by size, I realized that that dark corner of the barn is one of my favorite places at our new home. I can’t tell you exactly why I always feel so good there, but I imagine it’s a combination of things.

To begin with, there is its aroma–that tangy scent of winter apples from Joe Uhlman’s trees, cut by the  sharper scent of fir firewood. I’m told that draft horses used to live in the barn, and sometimes I think I can detect echoes of their sweet earthy smell, as well.

I also like it that Ruby, our black Lab, nearly always comes outside with me when I split wood. She spends most of her time hanging out in the yard, hoping the kids next door will come by and keeping an eye on the neighbor’s chickens and turkeys and goats and geese. But she checks in with me regularly. About half the time, she grabs a piece of wood or an apple and runs off with it, trying to goad me into chasing her.

The objects we store in barn are also part of it. Eliana’s and my old Kelty packs hang from the wall, as does my compound bow. There is a big bag of duck decoys and a duffel bag full of olive netting that I use in duck blinds. An old Filson fly fishing vest that Dick Wentworth gave me hangs on a nail on the side of a shelf.

There are three or four pairs of waders that leak but that I keep around for inexplicable reasons. The canoe paddles that I refinished last year lean against the wall next to our bicycles. And there are the garden tools I will use next spring to put in our first garden in our new home.

I keep most of my fishing and tying equipment in my writing room. This time of year, I spend a lot of time there, more than any other time of year. I think that’s probably why I like the corner of the barn where I split wood so much–it is a link to the outside world, to the places where I fish and hunt and hike.

But it is also only about twenty paces from the warmth of the wood stove and the smells of the kitchen.

On the Water Log, October 16, 2012

Friday, November 16th, 2012

You Have Five Days Left to Catch a Steelhead!

According to my good friend, Dick Wentworth, Syd Glasso used to say that any steelheader worth his salt has caught a winter steelhead by Thanksgiving.

Obviously, those of us who haven’t taken a winter fish yet don’t have a lot of days, or daylight for that matter, left until next Thursday. But hatchery fish have shown up in the Bogachiel and lower Calawah, so you’ve got a chance. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t look very good for this weekend.

One of the obvious inferences from Glasso’s observation is that there were plenty of wild fish around during the early season back in the 1950s, ’60s and 70s–that is, before the first widespread and sustained introductions of Chambers Creek hatchery steelhead. Similarly, Port Angeles’s Dick Goin says that he and his partner did well on the upper Sol Duc–actually above the current fishing deadline–in early December in the decades after WWII.

We all know that there aren’t a lot of those brawny, colored-up, early-timed wild fish around anymore, and we all know why–incidental (and intentional, of course) over harvest of the natives by anglers targeting the early run of Chambers Creek fish. But every once in a while you do connect with one. I’ve taken my share over the years, including, most recently, a 12-pounder on a Queets tributary the first week of December a few years ago.

I don’t imagine I’ll catch one before Thanksgiving this year, but I am hoping for an early Christmas present.

On the Water Log, November 15, 2012

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We had a really great group for the Winter Cutthroat clinic last Saturday. A couple of people couldn’t make that particular day, so I am going to schedule a repeat of it for December 1. Basically, it is a comprehensive examination of saltwater cutthroat fishing in winter. We cover the different food items the fish eat in winter, the flies and presentations that imitate them, and visit several good winter cutthroat beaches. The clinic costs $100 and participants receive a hand-out booklet. Limited to six.

Speaking of cutthroat, fly fishermen that I know are still doing well on Hood Canal and Admiralty Inlet. Jerry Bamburg has caught a number of nice fish on his version of my fly, Winter Tide. Jeffrey Delia has been taking a lot of fish, including an 18-plus incher recently, on his White Ghost.

On the Water Log, November 13, 2012

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Wild Olympics Video

The Wild Olympics Campaign has a short video on their website . It does a great job of encapsulating all of the reasons why everyone who cares about Olympic Peninsula rivers, wilderness, fish and wildlife should support the campaign. If you look carefully, you can see my black Lab, Ruby, and me in several shots. Incidentally, Ocean Gold Seafoods, the Sportfishing Industry Association, and the Northwest Anglers and Guides Association have recently endorsed Wild Olympics. 

On the Water Log, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I have got to be one of the worst self-promoters on the planet. I will be on Ask About Fly Fishing Radio,, tomorrow night, and I haven’t even mentioned it on this site yet. The show is streamed live on the internet from the above website. It runs from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. It’s entirely question/answer format, and people can email questions in in advance. If you can’t catch the show live, it will be available on the site’s archives.

Meanwhile, it’s really beginning to feel like November. For me, this is the month for duck hunting, fishing for cutthroat and chum in the salt and a late bright Sol Duc or Hoh coho, and for tying Spey flies for the winter steelhead season. I looked in my Spey box today and was surprised to see how many empty slots there are. All I have left from last winter are a couple Sol Ducs and Courtesans, a Sol Duc Dark, a Quillayute and a Black Heron. I’ve got to get busy.

Finally, I was walking Ruby at East Beach this morning, and I saw two salmon jump quite close to shore. i don’t often see fish there. I think they were chum. There was also quite a bit of bait in the water. And way out in the shipping lanes, I saw a Stellar sea lion. It was only the second one I have seen walking a beach. Even at that distance, its massive head and shoulders–and brassy color–are distinctive. When it dove, it’s head disappeared and then there was a long pause before its tail cleared the water. They’re big.

Sky Valley Limited
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