Friday, July 21, 2017

Three New Streams, Almost Four...

It is getting harder to find streams where I haven't yet caught trout in areas that I normally pass through, but I was able to make a little bit of a diversion on the way to help with the hikes at Girls Camp this year and explore the Ahtanum watershed west of Yakima. It's been on my radar for a while, just finally making it out that way. And it is a good way west from Yakima.

Driving west from Tampico along the beautiful North Fork Ahtanum Creek with very little unposted access, I made it to the Ahtanum State Forest where both the North and Middle Forks are accessible from gravel roads that follow them. First stop was the North Fork, which appeared to still be running a bit high from the unusually heavy snows last winter, but still a small and easily wadeable stream. Starting with an EHC dry and small prince dropper, I quickly lost the dropper as the dry was all that was needed on this stream. First hole, my leader loop fell off the fly line. Quick repairs, and immediate fish by dropping the fly into the hole below.
Beautiful cutthroat
Started upstream, and found plenty of fish to keep me happy. The stream drops quite fast where I was, and most fish were found in the larger holes, though some in pocket water. All cutthroat, none of great size, but all beautiful; maybe a dozen to hand and twice that many missed. Often I could watch the slow rise up to the fly, and several times I made use of the strip set to keep from tossing the smallish fish into the brush along the bank when setting the hook. A very nice hour or so spent at this pretty little stream.
Another nice N Fork cutt
But there was still the Middle Fork to visit before continuing on to camp. I first stopped not too far above the split from the North Fork, and after spooking several approaching the stream, I found this beautiful rainbow/cutt hybrid, the largest fish of the day.
Biggest of the day from the Middle Fork
A few more smallish fish, but then lots of white water upstream as this fork was also dropping very quickly on its way down the mountain. I decided to try several miles farther upstream, above a section closed to fishing to protect bull trout, and found a few more fish in the now much smaller stream, but also lots more mosquitoes. So after a couple more to hand, it was off to camp for a few days.
Fun to fish dries!
One stop along the way back was the Ahtanum Mission, one of the earliest missions in Washington, established in 1852. In addition to a little history, I was hoping to find access to the main Ahtanum Creek from the Mission park, but barbed wire and No Trespassing signs blocked the way to the stream I could hear flowing through the nearby brush. Two new streams brought my total to 135 streams in Washington where I have caught trout.
A stop for a little history
On my way back from camp on Friday, I took another little detour to try to check Wenas Creek and the North Fork of Wenas Creek off my list. I started up the road heading to N Fork Wenas Creek, but found it to have been filled with basalt rubble (probably replaced a rutted mudhole, but after 1/4 mile driving on large, sharp rocks reminiscent of a railroad grade but rougher, and no end in sight ahead as far as I could see, I decided to turn around before I tore open a tire. Back to a public access, that might get me to the North Fork just above where it was joined by the South Fork. Access was not going to be easy. Through tall grass just screaming rattlesnake, then into a steep sided wash that ended up being blocked by a fallen tree. Just enough room to marine-crawl under the tree and continue down the wash.
First barrier, with just enough room to crawl under
I came to an abandoned channel full of water, but was turned back when it became deep, sucking mud overgrown with brush. Out of the channel, through another grassy meadow, to a wall of alder lining the creek.
Alder thicket after I had made my path through

Carefully bending down trunks to open a path, I finally found myself on the edge of a very tiny stream. Starting with a renegade, I dropped the fly into a couple likely holes with deep water, and found saw no movement at all. At the third hole, I dropped the fly into the little stream of fast water and immediately had a hit. Returning the fly to the same location, and a gentle hook set brought this little guy to hand.
Yes, that is the whole stream in the background; twenty minutes of bushwacking for three minutes of fishing and one baby fish. But it is totally worth it!
Twenty minutes or so to bushwack the last thirty yards to the stream, but I got my fish. I was hoping this would be the North Fork, but GPS data on my camera when I returned home showed my location to be 100 yards or so downstream of where the forks join. I don't think upstream was very accessible from where I dropped in, so I'll have to return someday and brave the rough road.

Next stop was a public access further downstream, where I found the stream still tiny, but with some very large, deep holes, and a few smallish fish. Several to hand in 20 minutes or so, then time to turn for home.
Further down, the holes were bigger, the fish weren't!
Three new streams, now giving me a total of 136 streams. Hoping I won't wait so long to pick up a few more.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Great start to July!

Lawn mowed, yard and garage mostly in order, so I gave the old what-to-do meter a spin, and it came up Go Fishing again! So I did, picking up the #8 on the way out of town.
Surprised me again by stopping on Go Fishing!
 On the water by 8:30, immediate action in the shallow riffles like normal, but almost all the action was slashing at my strike indicator. Caught a couple, tried a caddis and dropper, but nothing in about a dozen casts, so back to the double CGPPN. Not so many fish in the first run, but most of those to hand were 9" to 11", good for this river.
Typical early morning rainbow
Fishing was a little "slow" compared to my last couple visits - I only had 18 in the entire first run (compared to a couple dozen without moving my feet), but there were plenty to be found.
Gotta love that face
As usual, many in the shallow riffles rather than the deeper runs. Ended up with 56 in the 1/4 mile from the entry point, then dropped in to the run below my access point. Found another 23 downstream. I love this stream!

If you ever wonder why I only fish the caddis green psycho prince nymph on this stream, here is the reason why. I pulled a couple small sticks from the bottom, which were covered in caddis cases.
Caddis cases are abundant
Give one of these things a little squeeze from the bottom, and its occupant will poke its head out.
Look what's hiding inside...
Let's compare this abundant food source to the CGPPN....
Don't tie on anything else here (unless they are actively feeding on dries...)
Yup, a pretty striking resemblance. I had discovered through experience that this fly killed them here compared to even a normal prince nymph. One day I opened up one of the cases and discovered why it was so effective. Never leave home without a good supply!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Creek

Since Dad is no longer able to negotiate the slippery, angled basalt boulders that line the bottom of our beautiful little creek, Rob and I decided to pay a visit so we could let Dad know if there were still fish there (spoiler alert - there are). Tom was unable to accompany us (something about a graduation party at his house this afternoon - we told Elisabeth he would for sure be back by 3:30, since it started at 4:00, but she wanted help or something like that) and kindly loaned us The Beast to negotiate the somewhat rough road to our Shang-ri-la. 

We rigged up our renegades and dropped into the stream. It always seems to run the same level, no matter the time of year, although the dead plant material trapped in the trees several feet up is a testament that it sometimes floods with an incredible volume of water for the small size of the stream. The floods of last winter have cleared things out somewhat and seem to have cleaned up the silt that seemed to have been accumulating in places. We immediately found fish. Many of them. Beautiful, wild redband rainbows, ranging from 6 to 10 inches in length. We may have found a couple that pushed 11 inches. 

We stopped counting at a couple dozen. In one hole, we landed 20. At another small run, Rob and I alternated catching up to about 13, then I snagged in the grass (unintentionally) and was able to pull some grass out of the way (intentionally), opening up the top of the channel to Rob, who pulled another 5 or 6 out of the now accessible run. We found fish throughout, and while most were concentrated in the normal deeper runs, we consistently pulled some out of small pockets in the stretches where it runs shallow. That was good to see, as it has been years since we consistently saw fish in these areas.

The grass is still problematic, limiting access to some water, but there was still plenty of room to fish. I don't think it will ever be cleared out to the way it used to be years ago.
I discovered that when fishing with Rob since his ski accident, you need to try to convince him to use 0x tippet all the time, no matter the size of the fly or the fish. When he breaks off a fly, he plays the "no depth perception" card and asks you to stop fishing and tie his fly on for him. Which you do, because he is technically disabled, and once his fly is back on, he promptly starts casting again. So you never get to take advantage of his loss. When you break off your fly, he keeps right on fishing and catches 3 or 4 while you are out of the water. The only solution is to use a wire leader strong enough to pull down a small tree when he gets caught in it...
We spent a few hours enjoying serenity and solitude. In a couple deep holes I couldn't resist tying on a nymph and running it under an indicator to see if I could find a "big one". The fish I found were the same size, and Rob would continue catching two or three or four with the Renegade to my one with the nymph. I don't know why I ever tie on anything else here. We finally climbed out and returned to Wenatchee about 3:10 (we could have had Tom back in time!) and reported our findings to Dad, who wistfully wondered aloud if he could make it to fish just a couple holes. Maybe we will find a way to get him there one more time...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fighting Rainbow Club

Met Rob and Tom at the private fishing pond near Ellensburg. It was going to be a day to fish with Dad, but he wasn't well enough to join us. This little farm pond is a membership that Rob has joined, planted with good sized trout. I ended up bringing 6 to the net, all 18" to 20" healthy rainbows except for one brown about 15" to 16". Tom and Rob had a number of strikes, but not so many fish to hand. They also neglected the #8 at McDs, which I ate even though I had already eaten breakfast. One of the sacrifices you make to ensure a good day of fishing.
Hard fighting rainbow at the FRC

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ascension Bay - Days 3 - 6

March 8 - 11, 2017

OK, a really late catch up post, but the incompleteness was bothering me. Finishing out the week in Ascension Bay, we continued to have challenging weather (windy, cloudy), but still found a good number of fish, though it tended to be spotty, with most of the action coming in spurts.

Wednesday, I fished with Tom in Santa Rosa. True to form, within minutes Tom spotted the first bonefish without the help of the guide and promptly landed the first bonefish of the day.

Always kiss the fish
Proud catcher of bonefish
Then things slowed down. No more good opportunities for some time. Later in the morning, I hopped out with a guide to walk a lagoon, while Tom stayed in the boat to prowl the adjacent lagoon. After 30 to 45 minutes of not seeing a fish (but enjoying the warm water), we encountered a comedero (a.k.a., dining room). The water ahead was a little deeper and slightly turbid from the silt stirred up by the feeding bonefish (they stir up the mud to get at the shrimp), and though I could only see an occasional flash, the guide knew better and started directing me to cast ahead, to the side, at an angle. And nearly every other cast found a bonefish. I was fishing a fly of my own creation, and they loved it. They were nearly swallowing it, and the 11th fish did - completely! It could not even be seen, so we cut it off. Luckily, I had tied one more, and promptly tied it on and caught a few more before the cafeteria emptied.
Swallowing the fly

Nice bonefish

My own creation
Tom cast to a few in the other lagoon, but saw limited action. After lunch, we encountered a couple large Tarpon (3 to 4 ft?), which immediately distracted the guides. Tom had a number of opportunities casting to them as we followed them around the lagoon, and even a couple of strikes, but was unable to get a hook into one. The hour and a half in the comedero made my day today.

Thursday, I was back with Hollis, fishing in the south end of the bay. The morning was very difficult, windy with lots of broken clouds hampering visibility. In one of the lagoons, Hollis had a couple chances to cast to some fish, but barely given they were backhand casts into a strong, gusty wind. When I was up, we chased one school across and out of a lagoon, without a good casting opportunity. So things were pretty slow.

After lunch continued slow. The guides relocated and took to a submerged cenote (blue hole) where we again found little action. As we drifted along this inlet, we encountered another comedero. The guides really don't like fishing these, because it is more or less blind casting, but on a day with strong winds and poor lighting (and fisherman with limited abilities), they must have decided it was OK. We parked the boat and for a couple hours had fairly continuous action for small bonefish, lady fish, and jack crevalles. No size, but the action was great. Hollis had a great time and learned the tradition of kissing the fish.
Hollis in action

Pucker up!
On the way back, we stopped to see the frigate birds that swarm a couple small islands at Isla Culebra. They bring tourists here to see the birds, which only hang around the few small islands, not the big one.

Male frigate bird looking for some action
Frigate birds flocking the small islands
Tom and Rob spent the day in Santa Rosa, and had some good action for large bones. They will have to add more if they choose to share, but here is one nice one that Rob landed.

Friday, I was back with Tom. The weather was supposed to be pretty good, and we told the guides we wanted to go to the Blue Hole, a large cenote offshore where Rob in the past had caught a wide variety of fish including sharks. Instead, they took us to the middle of the bay looking for permit (to be fair, I'm sure they were locations where there were cenotes you couldn't see in the deeper water since they used their GPS to try several locations. But they played the I don't understand card when we tried to talk to them. Saw a shark, but not much else, and after an hour or two casting blind into the deeper water, we relocated to a lagoon in the south of the bay. Still less than ideal weather with clouds continually moving through and ruining the visibility by blocking the sun, we entered a lagoon with lots of huecos (holes) in the mud where bonefish had been feeding, but found the bonefish had pretty much left for other parts (something that makes bonefishing more of a hunt sometimes). I found a couple small schools while walking and caught a couple, Tom didn't find much of anything from the boat.
Tom poleing through the lagoon
Later in the afternoon, we made a quick trip into Santa Rosa, where we found a little more action. At the entrance to one lagoon we had some quick and wild action. One bonefish ran through some small mangroves, and the guide had to hop out and pull the line clear, after which the fish was landed. I had a nice big bone hit the fly dry as soon as it hit the water in front of it. And we found a few more to keep it interesting before heading home.
Nice size bonefish
Hunting bones
Saturday, I was again fishing with Tom as we fished our way up the inlet at the north of the bay to where we would meet the vehicles to take us to the airport. Finally, a clear day without wind, on the day we were leaving! That is fishing. We decided to go to the tarpon channels, where some of the guides had done well earlier in the week. These channels are narrow, shallow channels that wind their way through an expanse of mangroves, the size of a small creek back home. They slowly pole the boat (and sometimes pull the boat) up the channels, looking for the "baby" tarpon that feed here. Short, quick casts. The guides getting mad at you for casting in the mangroves, casting on top of the fish, not stripping fast enough, etc. But finally Tom was rewarded with a nice tarpon at a wide spot in one of the channels. A little later, I also hooked one "dry" in a part of the canal no wider than the boat. We were squeezed between mangroves, and my cast went over an overhanging branch above the water. Flipping the line to try and get it off caused the fly dangling at the surface of the water to dance around, which enticed one of the formerly uninterested tarpon to hit. I briefly fought the small tarpon at the front of the boat, thought about just lifting in up and in (it was literally at the boat) but was worried the guides would yell at me for not keeping my tip down towards the water (the way you fight tarpon). Before the guide could get up front, the fish was off. But exciting nonetheless. We left the channels and cast to some snook and bonefish before meeting the rest of the group at the vehicles. A nice end to a great week of fishing.
Fighting the tarpon

First tarpon

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ascension Bay, Day 2

March 7, 2017

Tuesday morning at breakfast the group was full of energy and ready to go again, as if the challenges of the previous day never happened. Fisherman are an optimistic lot. The wind was blowing strongly, with clouds on the horizon, but no immediate threat of rain.

As is typical of a day fishing here, we gathered our things and headed to the boats right after breakfast, preparing for the Masaje Maya (Mayan Massage). What is that, you wonder? When you head south across the opening of Ascension Bay, you cross five miles of open water that gets a little choppy with the wind that nearly always blows from the east. Add the swells that make it through the reef, and you have a fun ride. Imagine riding a slowly gyrating mechanical bull. Add to that every 10 to 20 seconds something like sitting on a chair that drops abruptly 3 to 6 inches onto an unyielding concrete surface with a bone-jarring thud. Then every 30 to 60 seconds, somebody throw a cup or two of water in your face while the other two are happening. By the time you get across the bay, you are totally relaxed and ready to fish!

The wind was a little less today (but still stronger than we would like), so Rob and Rick went south across the bay. Tom and Hollis went north again. It was a tough day again, but only because of the wind and clouds, which make it difficult to find the fish. Rob and Rick were fishing the flats for bonefish. Before lunch, Rob found one walking and missed a couple others. Rick fished from the boat, and did not encounter anything.
Rob walking the flats with the guide
My guide with the boat (the fisherman in the boat stands in the front)
 After lunch, it was more of the same for a while, Rob taking a turn in the boat, when the guides spotted signs of a school of bonefish feeding. In the next hour or so, we caught about 20 bonefish between the two of us. The remainder of the day was slow again, but that one hour made the day. 
Rob is much happier after catching a few bonefish
 Meanwhile, Tom and Hollis headed further north into some tarpon canals. Tom had a tarpon on for a couple jumps, after which it threw the hook. They found a couple bones and a very large crocodile. The wind makes it hard, but at least the rain stayed away. Tomorrow is forecast to be better through the end of the week. Good news,
Tom and his first bonefish
Hollis really needs some work on his long-arm technique
Crocodile alongside the channel eyeing Tom and Hollis; I think I prefer fishing with mammals (bears) 
Hollis loves his perch

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ascension Bay, Day 1

March 6, 2017

Tom and I arrived in Cancun last night, made it to the Casa Viejo Chac in Punta Allen about 4 hours later, where we met Rob and Hollis, who flew down the previous day. Drove through heavy rain a good part of the way, which would presage the weather today...

We got on the water at 8 after a nice breakfast, blue sky above, but dark squalls building to the west and lots of wind. We went north rather than across the bay as it is more protected from the wind. Started out casting to the mangroves for snook, which is a lot like casting dries to the bank on the Yakima for rainbows. Seven minutes in, Tom hooked a snook after seeing it follow and strike the fly. A great start to the trip, but things slowed down from there.

Tom and snook
Pink Spoonbill
While Tom was casting to snook, I caught a nice photo of a pink spoonbill. Hollis and Rob saw a flock of these beautiful birds. After Tom took over, it started pouring down rain. We pulled over close to a mangrove island and found a little shelter, then back to searching from snook. Without success. Tom cast to a couple bonefish, I cast to one snook, the rest of the time was blind fishing, casting as close as you could to the magroves, then stripping the baitfish fly away from the shore.

It stopped raining enough to eat lunch, where Tom and I handlined for puffer fish that we saw in the mangrove roots right next to the boat. 
Tom and the expanded puffer fish
Ricks puffer didn't puff up

After more rain, we headed west to look for snook and bonefish or whatever we could find. While casting to snook in some larger channels, we found several small barracuda.

Baby barracuda
 In this same channel, we also saw a baby manatee (sorry, no polarizing filter on the camera).

Shortly after, we saw the coolest thing. An entire school of 50 or so silvery fish (roundish, about 12" long) ran away from us (or something), jumping as an entire school in synchrony. An arc of fish flying out and back into the water, then ten yards further along, again, and again, until the fleeing school disappeared around a corner. Rick caught a small bonefish, and that ended the fish for the day. Another rain squall, lots of wind, and back to the lodge for a great meal and good company.

Rob and Hollis went west and south to a large inlet. They found a few more fish, but still fought with the wind. Hollis had a good sized tarpon on, but it threw the hook. They also cast to snook, with little success, but at the end of the day found a few Jack Crevalle casting blind into the current from the outgoing tide. Hollis caught a nice one below. At first he was reluctant to get out of the boat because they had seen a crocodile earlier. Don't go to Alaska, Hollis! You practically fish side-by-side with the bears there!

Hollis and his Jack Crevalle
Forecast for tomorrow is more of the same, then nicer weather for the rest of the week. So one more tough day of fishing, then hopefully we can really get into the remainder of the days. But a warm, 75 degree rain isn't that bad, especially when compared to work...