Saturday, May 12, 2018

Learning to Long-arm

An elusive Saturday with no morning commitments led to an easy decision.  Time to go fishing!!!

Hannah and I made the 1.5 hour exodus to the pond to find ideal conditions.  Blue skies, light wind and Rob leaving the pond with a friend and his son.

After a quick debrief on what was working between vehicles on the dirt access road, Hannah and I were at the pond stringing up two 5 weights.  I saw a trout cruising the shallows and made a quick cast to connect with a nice 18" bow.  One cast.  One fish.  Not a bad start!

We made one pass with Hannah dragging a rust colored bugger on an intermediate clear camo line.  She immediately saw some action.

Hannah with her first fish of the day!
 She fought it valiantly all on her own and we successfully landed it.  A nice decent sized bow.  She wanted a picture, so we tried it on her own.

Not a bad hold.  The fish had seen some raceways judging by the appearance of the fins.
We continued trolling and action was a bit slow, so we tossed out a floating line with a heavily weighted olive and white Dalai Lama.  It was immediately crushed!  Hannah landed this smaller bow quite quickly and like a pro!

Fish #2.  A little better hold this time.
We continued on.  Hannah was having a great time and getting pretty good action.  She got another healthy little bow for #3.  This time, she was introduced to the fine art of long-arming!

Hiding the arms nicely!  Only the hand size is the giveaway!   Did I mention Hannah has HUUUUGE hands?  #DonaldTrump
We decided to make one last pass before making a run to Red's Fly Shop for me to pick up a few last minute items before my trip of a lifetime to Christmas Island (Kiritimati).  The last pass was successful as we got one nice bow (pictured below) and another one that was not pictured.

Long-arming a larger fish!  Great job, Hannah!
Hannah finished the day 5 for 5.  Not a lost fish!  That's better than the #MerrillBoys can usually say!  It's good when you're ending a fishing trip and your daughter asks "When can we go again?"  Proud dad moment!!

Friday, May 4, 2018


I've been married to Mary today for 34 years.  My sweet wife sent me fishing with Brad, my son-in-law, this morning so we went to Leeds Creek since we are visiting St. George again and helping care for Mary's mom.

Wonderful combination of blue sky, red rock and green plants

The day was sunny and clear which made for vibrant colors up the beautiful canyon.  With careful examination, there were actually many flowers in bloom in this desert ecosystem.  The stream tumbles down from the slopes of Pine Valley Mountain and this was my second visit.  We elected to try a different stretch than last time and hope to get a better idea of which parts of the stream are best for access, scenery, and fish populations.

A closer look up the red rock found this cactus in bloom

I was casting first but ended up breaking off in the tree tops. This is a very brushy creek.  While I was tying on another Renegade, Brad stepped up and cast his Humpy up into the run and quickly hooked our first fish of the day.

Brad with the first fish of the day

A short distance upstream and Brad spotted what he thought was a tarantula crawling up a rock in the middle of the creek.  I got out my camera for a close up photo and as I approached was surprised to see a very wet bat that had somehow ended up in the stream and was crawling up and out of the stream onto the rock to dry off.  I don't know how effective a bat pattern would have been for the cutthroats, and I don't know if it would technically be considered a terrestrial since it does fly, but I didn't have a bat fly so didn't bother to try.  I just kept working the Renegade.

First swimming bat I've ever encountered
Trying to dry off

I finally found a fish not far upstream from the bat/swimmer.  There were a wide variety of flowers in bloom along the stream bank. What a beautiful day!

I finally found one!
Streamside beauty

We were fishing and finally came to a point when the road got close again to the creek and decided it would be a good stopping point. After one more fish, we hiked up the hillside back to the road and then down the road to where we had parked for the drive back home. From the road walking back we had views across the valley into Zion National Park. But now it is time to spend the afternoon with my sweetheart visiting a local gathering of artisans.

My final fish of the outing

Beautiful cutthroat
A multitude of blooms on the walk back to the car

View across into Zion National Park

Slightly different angle looking further north into Zion National Park

Sunday, April 29, 2018

FRC wake up with Mark

Yesterday was my first visit to the FRC this year and it was with Mark, my nephew.  After the usual Rob "number whatever" breakfast at home, we made the drive to Ellensburg.  Water was flat calm with just a very light breeze.  No surface activity visible, but we were there to stalk them. It was about 10:30 when we got started on the water.

We quickly had a small one that grabbed the fly, tail-danced, then broke off--tippet too light or too old--leaving a limp line to reel in.  Several more grabs and brief runs--yes we were farming them, but we are in the farmlands after all--and then we finally got into a rhythm.  We had tried black buggers, purple buggers, fuschia buggers, smaller nymphs and didn't have much early interest.

A fat 21" rainbow--first fish to hand.  Great way to start the season!

As the day warmed up, the fish did too.  We found the most success with green or greenish buggers, weighted.  I used an intermediate line and Mark had a floating line.   I caught all rainbows, with two over 20" and a couple 18-19".  Mark had similar results, but also managed to bring in a couple of brown trout.  We spent two productive hours enjoying the sunshine, the fish, and the friendship--and then had to head back to Wenatchee to pick up kids from school.

Mark adds a nice brown to his tally for the day

I look forward to more visits to the FRC this spring to make up for my lack thereof last year.  My Dad's illness took a toll on our fishing trips there together, though as I started on the water with Mark it brought to my memory my last time there last spring--it was the last time I went fishing with my dad at the club.  Good memories!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Leeds Creek

A number of years ago  (September 2010) Rick fished Leeds Creek during a visit to St. George, Utah.  I'd been wanted to fish it for quite a while, but hadn't gotten around to it while visiting family in St. George, but I decided that I'd do it this trip.

Quail Creek in Red Cliff's area

I tried yesterday to go to what I thought was Leeds Creek, but the area was wall to wall people playing in the creek and hardly a place to park.  Not amenable to fishing, but I did hike a bit and enjoy the beautiful country.  It wasn't until I got back to home base in St. George that I took a closer look at the map and discovered I was one watershed away from the Leeds Creek drainage.  Tough to fish if you're in the wrong drainage I guess.

Leeds Creek, one watershed to the east

So today, I resolved to go to the proper drainage basin and see if I could find some fish!  Early on it was quite cool and in the canyon where I started there was no sun anywhere.  In the second hole I saw a fish dart as I moved forward so that was encouraging.  The water temp was around 40 degrees and leaves were just starting to break out on the trees surrounding the stream.

First small bonneville cutthroat

As it got brighter and the sunlight began to creep down the walls of the canyon and get closer and closer to the creek at the bottom, visibility improved and I started to catch fish.  I had tried four different fly combinations, but ultimately all the fish were caught on the Renegade.

Trout number two

As the day got brighter the fish were more active.  I think the cool water temps may have had them moving a bit slower.  I'd like to come back when water temps are a little warmer and see if they are more aggressive and there are perhaps some insects around that may have them keyed into more of a feeding rhythm.

Nice spot distribution-and the sunshine shows the coloration better

I spent a couple of hours and had sixteen fish to hand.  A half-hour drive had me back into town and I was at my mother-in-law's in time for lunch.  A nice way to spend the morning!

Stream looks lots better in the sunlight!

Interesting lack of spots around the lateral parr marks on this specimen

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ascension Bay--Day 5 (Tough fishing, but great lunch spot!)

Another day of challenging fishing here.  Fish were rather sparse, wind was blowing, clouds made for only partial sun that didn't help the fishing.  Rob went with Shan deep to the southeast part of Ascension Bay to the tarpon lagoons to see if tarpon could be found in abundance.

Shan,with typical smile on his face
Javier, junior guide with Chucho today
After spending the morning searching for tarpon or snook (in vain) it was lunchtime and Chucho planned for us to eat lunch at the Tupac ruin deep in the mangrove swamp (wetland) of southeastern Ascension Bay.  As we arrived a welcoming committee of turkey vultures were waiting on the roof.  Not sure if they planned to feast on us, our leftovers, or were just hanging out.

Tupac ruin
There were two chambers on the inside. The inner chamber had lots of bats and they started flying when I poked my head in so I didn't spend a lot of time there.  I understand that the rabies shot series isn't a pleasant one so I'd prefer to avoid it.
Front entrance

Original detail and fresco still visible

View from the roof of the mangrove wetland surrounding Tupac ruin

The "dock area" at Tupac ruin

After lunch we headed out to see if we could find some fish.  The sun came out for a couple of hours and I was able to site cast to three tarpon hanging out near the mangrove shoreline.  I stripped the line in with short, quick strips, watched one of the tarpon peel away from his companions, eat the fly.  I set the hook and the fight was on.  Great fun, great water clarity, great fish.  No photo, it came off once the leader was held at the boat before any photo could be snapped.

We found a couple other large schools of tarpon, they ate the large mantis shrimp fly we tossed, but we were unable to hook up.  We also were able to cast to a school of 15-16 large snook in really tight quarters--about 15 feet away from the fish.  Take a 2-foot arm, a 9-foot rod and there isn't much left to cast and strip in.  Challenging and we didn't get the hook into any, though we did have some follows.

A very nasty fuzzy green caterpiller

This cute green fuzzy caterpillar is loathed by the guides.  If it's little spines touch human skin it causes a burning sensation that lasts about 24-hours we are told.  They call it the "cigarette caterpillar" because it feels like somebody pressed a burning cigarette into your skin.  Some years they are plentiful and falling from the mangroves.  This year we only saw this single caterpillar.  The guide had me take my forceps and carefully pick it up and drop it overboard.

For further info see:

We are hoping for better sunshine and better fishing tomorrow.  Fisherman are natural optimists!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ascension Bay-Day 4

It dawned clear and sunny today so we were happy to see the clouds of yesterday gone and opportunities looking up.  Rick & I were fishing with other partners today to give them some variety and we both ended up heading way down to the southwest corner of Ascension Bay to Magote Tigres (the "Tiger Magician").  I started sight casting to a large tarpon which proved unsuccessful.  My partner for the day was able to hit barracuda, snook, and bonefish.

Jeff, retired Boeing engineer, was Rob's partner today.
Sight fishing for bonefish in Ascension Bay at Magote Tigres.

We both cast multiple times to a feeding, tailing permit in the 25+ pound range (Chucho called it a "big mother" so it was sizable even for a seasoned guide).  The soft mud was almost to my knees but felt great on my bare feet.  When I finished it was packed tightly under my toenails and did not come out easily even after showering.

Multiple casts to permit, but alas, no desire to eat.
It was only about 30 feet away!

We ended up having the opportunity to sight fish the super grand slam today.  Not that we converted, but it was much better to be able to see the fish, cast to the fish, and actually get some of them to eat our flies.

Rick managed to cast to a permit that was trying to run circles around him.  It swam toward the boat and then turned about five eight-foot circles in the water only fifteen feet from the boat before swimming away.  Rick was stunned at what had just happened and the guide was a little upset that Rick hadn't cast as instructed.  Rick wondered, "When are you ever supposed to cast your fly right on top of the fish?"  The correct response is "never" so it was a weird and unfortunate permit experience.  On a positive note, Rick has never seen a permit so closely in the wild.  He'd have rather been catching than observing.

Rick did manage to find some bonefish today so definitely better than yesterday.

Another beautiful Ascension Bay bonefish

As often happens, Rick feels acutely the need for fish to feel welcome with him and seeks to share his love of fishing directly with the fish.  Thus the photo below is what happens so that those finned friends know they are loved.

Rick loves fishing--or is it fish?
"Goodbye my friend"

After the day of fishing, as is our custom Rob had a shrimp cocktail, Rick had fresh guacamole & chips, and both had a large limeade.  Rob has had shrimp six times in the past four days and is very happy.

This mango filled honey drizzled crepe was dessert tonight.
I forgot to take a photo of the dinner plate--I ate it too fast.

As is usual we were greeted by towel art in our room.  Today, a crocodile lay in wait as we entered our room at the lodge.  Just try and get that blanket from him!

Looking forward to another great day tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ascension Bay - Day 3

Tough day today for everyone but Rob. Overcast and dark (no sun) with strong winds all day blowing at 20 mph or so. Almost impossible to see the fish, and very hard to cast. I fished with Shan, the host from Red's Fly Shop, and Rob fished alone (his partner was ill this morning).

Shan and I hunted all morning without a real chance to cast to any bonefish. A couple spooked by the boat, that was all. Then at lunch time, we entered a lagoon and found four or five schools of bonefish tailing in the same area (eating shrimp from the bottom, which puts the tip of their tail above water in the shallow lagoon).
This is about the only way find bonefish on a day like today - see the tails?
We got out of the boat, and worked into a position upwind of the schools so we could reasonably cast. I was able to three schools, and hooked a bonefish from two of them. Lost one on the run, broke another off. After about 30 minutes of stalking and casting they disappeared. That was the last of the fish I cast to that day. So as expected, a difficult, slow day, but always cool when you are able to cast at tailing bonefish. You can also tell my difficult days because I have more pictures of birds than fish!
Flamingos at the other side of the lagoon

Gray Garza

White heron
Rob, on the other hand, went to the far north, and with a guide that had a different strategy (blind casting in deeper water while watching the flat for bonefish) and caught a jack crevalle, barracuda, snapper, bonefish, and snook. Then just outside the lagoon at Punta Allen, found another snook and a giant bonefish. He won the fish lottery today, catching more than the whole group I believe.
Rob's really big bonefish
We were greeted by sting ray towels upon returning, which was the only thing I saw most of the day.
Don't dry yourself with that - that's what killed Steve Irwin!
Tomorrow is supposed to be mostly sunny, which will make for a better day.