Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Today I raked our yard, front and back, with my brothers WAY cool Husqvarna tractor and "attachable farm implements". The spring tooth pulls the dead duff from the lawn, and the "sweeper" picks it up. I did my yard, the front and back yard of one neighbor, and the front yard of another in the time it would have taken me to do just my front yard.

My three youngest boys went out and helped to bag the grass we collected. They play/work hard, and have fun doing it. I sure enjoyed watching them and helping out.

Yes mom, they are in their socks! We know how to get things get done around here!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fly Fishing The South Fork

Tyler, Corey and I went on a fly fishing trip this last Saturday to the south fork Snake River, below Palisades Dam. We started fishing at 9 am and got back to the Explorer at 9:30 pm. It was a LONG day, but fun.

Corey just started fly fishing this last year. He got a rod, reel, etc., for his birthday this last February. I wanted to get him out to fish with it and christen the rod properly, with lots of action. He used it a month ago and hooked a few nice trout, but never did land them. So I hoped the fabled south fork would be just the ticket.

The south fork can be an amazing river to fish. I have stood in one place for over an hour, landing white fish on every cast. I could literally see over a hundred fish feeding in the riffle at my feet. I've had other amazing days on the river catching trout by the arm loads, and I have friends that have experienced days that put mine to shame. I wanted my kids to experience that kind of success with their fly rods, and so we planned the trip.

The day was beautiful, sunny and then overcast, calm, then a light wind that built to a gusty breeze, some snow fell, then a little rain. The river was low and clear, perfect water conditions for fly fishing. You just couldn't ask for a more beautiful spring day to fish. It's just too bad the fish didn't realize it was supposed to be a magical day! We did okay, catching quite a few fish, but it wasn't a numbers day, it WAS a white fish day, to say the least. We found some trout, but everyone we talked to (drifting by in boats) had a slow day as well. Lots of white fish, but the trout weren't to be found!

Corey hooked quite a few fish nymphing with his new rod, but never did land one. It is an eagle claw, $20 Wal-mart rod. Not your best equipment for sure. I figured it would be a good starter rod, but it's action is slow and the rod is fairly unforgiving for a young angler; it actually fished pretty good for me. I traded rods with him in the afternoon and he immediately cast better and hooked two fish, landing both. One was a cutthroat trout of around 14-15 inches, the other a nice white fish. The higher end rods are much more forgiving for young fly fisherman that don't have a great casting stroke yet.

Corey's 1st Nymphed Trout

Around 7 pm we started back for the car, hoping to hit the better holes on the way back and maybe pick up a few more fish. I cut across the dry beds of the river checking out the side channels that will be full in a few weeks when they start to release water for irrigation in the Idaho potato fields. I was just wanting to see what was in them, and I found a small gold mine; spawning fish.

We worked them for an hour, hooking 3 or so and then putting them "down". The red they made was over 8 feet long and a few of the fish were quite respectable. It was a blast watching my kids sneak in on them, cast a small glo-bug into the mass of bodies and hook up!

We never did land one, and when the action died we followed the channel out to the main fork, finding other pods of fish. Tyler worked an egg expertly, especially for a 13 year old kid, with a hand twist retrieve, while I watched from the cut bank above, calling out fish locations to him and his brother. Tyler hooked two bruisers that pulled free after a short fight. The commotion spooked the small pod of fish pretty good, so we moved on down the channel where I found a large pod of trout and white fish. They were hanging out in deeper part of the channel, 100 yards from the main flow of the Snake. The kids pestered them until almost dark with out hooking up. I finally joined the circus, hooking 4 fish in around 15 minutes, from that pod. They took the egg so gently, you really had to be on your toes and watch the line to "see" the take.

Corey landed the first fish for me, a 15 inch cutthroat. Then Tyler did battle with a 20 inch brown that I hooked. It took him a few minutes to land it; lots of big runs and some good head shaking. I hooked two more cutts (one might have been a hybrid cutbow) that Corey landed. We got home at around 11 pm and pigged out on hamburgers with lots of jalapenos and fried onions, and then potato and pasta salads on the side. We went straight to bed after our midnight snack! It was a great day!

This is Corey's attempt at the spawners.

After losing his fly, Corey watched while Tyler gave it a go. No one landed one, but it was fun to watch them sneak in, cast, blunder, cast again, hook-up, lose the fish and then look at me like I was supposed to fix things!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Salt River "Steelhead"

So a friend asked me to go fishing today. He came and picked me up and we worked on getting a leaking fitting off my water heater for about an hour. Then we went fishing. I took my spinning rod, since that is what he would be fishing with, and I grabbed some small slip bobbers, some beads and bobber stops and my flies, along with some lures. We went to a place I never have fished. Highway bridges at boat launches just don't seem like the place to hang out and fish. But with a foot of snow still on the valley floor, and the parking area cleared, I found it a wonderful place to fish.

The bridge is in Grover, Wyoming, and everyone loves to jump off of it into the water below, which seems to be around 10 feet deep. Some kids, a few years ago, set up a trampoline on the highway bridge and were doing some aerial stunts into the water, off the bridge, until the county sheriff pulled up. Even though they had signs and were directing traffic, they were asked to remove the trampoline. I thought it was a great idea!

Anyway, it was just like steelhead fishing. I had on a slip bobber and an egg fly (which was even pink) and when the bobber dropped I set the hook on a 21 inch brown (its actually a little over 21 inches, but I don't want to sound like I am stretching the length, so I will be conservative and round DOWN. You should be proud, most fisherman would have rounded up to the nearest 10 pounds and closest foot/yard mark!) The best part was, when I got home and Tyler measured it ( I thought it was about 17, maybe 18 inches) it was well over that, as a matter of fact (that was for you KIM), it is a legal sized steelhead, if caught in the Wallowa/Minam/Grande Rhonde watersheds. Tyler brought up a good point, it wasn't fin clipped, so I would have killed an illegal fish, had it been a true steelhead caught from my home waters.

I guess my length/size estimater is off with all these steelhead we've been catching. I really thought it was much smaller than it was. The head is what threw me, it has a head like a big, mature fish, one over 20 inches, but I just couldn't say it was that big, it looked smaller to me. I ended up hooking 3 whitefish in the next 10 or 15 minutes, but only landed two of them. My friend didn't get anything, but he did learn to fish with a slip bobber and a fly.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Break Steelhead

Cole hooked and landed this one on his own! His first steelhead, 25 inches of fish!

Okay, the fishing is too hot to not go back, so we did. This time I hooked up my 7 year old son, Cole, to fish with us. Last year he stood on the bank for 10 hours while we fished, I figured if he could do that without complaint, he could try fishing. He casts okay, but not well. But he tried and tried and by the end of the trip was casting like a pro, and catching steelhead like one too. He did so well I gave him my rod for keeps; he earned it and I figured he deserved it more than me. Besides, now he has his own rod for next year so we can go again, again, and again.

We fished Wednesday night for a few hours. We headed over to see how the river was holding up since we had some storms moving through. The water was up a little from our trip in mid March, but still green and beautiful! I started us off with a 28 inch native hen, that my son Jared ended up landing. It was fun to help him fight in the fish and sad to have to throw it back; he really wanted a keeper.

Jared landing his steelhead

Corey hooked another right away and lost it at the bank. Tyler went fishless and wasn't too happy about it. But Cole surprised me the most that night. I cast one out for him and told him what to do. I turned around to do something, I think rerig a rod for Corey, and when I turned around Cole had a fish on. He landed it (see the video below) by himself. I knew he was in for a great weekend after that!

This is Cole landing his first steelhead. He shows about as much emotion as my Grandpa did, but just so you know, he is JUST AS EXCITED AS TYLER IS in this video!

Another great picture of a great kid with a nice fish! He is standing above the run where he caught it.
Thursday dawned bright and beautiful. We started the 2 mile walk down river, a half hour before daylight. I was carrying three sets of wader, boots, coats, food, water, all the gear for fishing, and Cole's and my rods. We fished Polecat all morning and hooked a few fish, but never landed any (dull hooks or dull fisherman are to blame). Cole hooked 2 and so did I. Tyler landed a nice keeper (buck of 26 inches) and Corey and Grandpa went without. My dad did hook a fish in Red Rock, but lost it. Cole was asked if he wanted to land a fish with a kids fly rod, so he did and tagged it. So we had a few fish to show for our efforts, but not much. Especially for how many fish were being caught around us.

That afternoon we headed down river past Red Rock to the Big Eddy hole and beyond. We fished a nice run without a bite and we were pretty frustrated. The kids started throwing rocks and we just laid on them eating sardines and sandwiches. Two kids came along and asked if they could fish the run; we didn't care, nothing was in there. But they hooked two right away on troutbeads. We were a little dismayed. So we set out down river to find a new area and redeem ourselves.

We found a nice run, with lots of boulders, submerged and sticking out of the flow, and Cole hooked a nice fish right off. Probably his first cast. It was a bruiser and I wasn't sure who would win the fight. Cole is a scrappy 50 pounds, but the steelhead was all he could handle with that 8.5 foot rod! After landing the fish he hooked 3 or 4 more in succession. Tyler, Grandpa, and Corey all got into fish too. I didn't fish for a good 25 minutes because I was landing fish, helping tag fish, and getting something pink on the poles that weren't in use. It was crazy fun!

This is Cole's first fish in this run. I love watching the battle of 7-year old boy and 3 or 4 year old fish!

This is Cole's 2nd fish from this run in as many minutes. He was on fire for the first 10 casts!

My dad hooked this fish while Cole landed his second one. A really nice female.

Tyler hooked up right after Grandpa with this nice native we let go.

I finally got a pink egg on Corey's rod and he got one a few minutes later. I couldn't keep up with all the fish hooked and landed, so I didn't get video of all of them. After watching me tail fish in this video it is obvious that I REALLY NEED TO GET A NET!

I finally got my fly rod put together and ended up hooking 6 more steelhead, landing two of them. My little 9 foot, 6 weight, and I really took a beating, but it was well worth the perma-grin! I wore myself out casting and fighting fish. While I was down river fishing a different run, the kids and their grandpa were nailing the fish. Cole landed 3 fish on his own that day and hooked that many more. Tyler landed 3, my dad landed 4, I landed 2, and Corey landed 2. But we hooked a lot more than we landed! We took home 12 steelhead that afternoon. My dad carried at least 65 pounds of fish, four miles to the car! It was like packing out a deer!

Friday was cold, snowy and windy. We slept in and had a nice morning eating, talking and waiting for the afternoon bite (if there is such a thing). I took the boys over to fish the run where we did so well on Wednesday. It was full of people so we fished another run I have done well on in the past. We went fishless for an hour and a half, so we headed back down river and found the run we wanted earlier devoid of fisherman. So, we scrambled down the banks and got after it.

I hooked the first fish, a huge female, and Jared helped me land it. It was his first keeper and a beauty of a fish, almost 30 inches long. Cole didn't get one that night, but Tyler and Corey both hooked up. Tyler landed his, a nice 26-27 inch buck.

Jared's HUGE hen! He was so happy to get a keeper. He was even happier that is was the BIGGEST of everyone's fish!

This just shows the fish's size relative to Jared better than the other video.

Jared's 30 inch hen
Tyler's buck

This is Tyler landing his buck. Jared was a LITTLE concerned it may be bigger than his. It wasn't and so Jared knows that he is KING.

Saturday morning found us hoofing down the river again, 4 miles one way. We hit the river an hour or two after daylight. It was cold and stormy day before didn't help the water temperature much. It was a slow start. But my dad got us going with a native hen. Cole landed it, it was his only fish of the day.

I fished the same run below where the kids were fishing and hooked 3 steelhead and two whitefish. I landed one of the steelhead and whitefish. When I got back up to the family they had 5 fish dead on the bank. My brother-in-law, Matt, showed up right after I got back and we put 10 more fish on the bank before we left. My dad brought his packframe so he could pack fish out easier. It was another great day of fishing! Tyler lost a HUGE buck at the bank; grandpa couldn't get a hold of it and the hook straightened out on him. Mori, my niece landed two and Matt limited out. My dad would have limited out, but he let grandkids reel in some of his fish.

We brought 27 steelhead home that weekend and hooked half again as many that didn't get landed or were native fish we had to let go. It was a wonderful time with my boys and my dad!