9.09.2014

PREMATURE MENDING

PREPARING THE ANGLE OF THE DANGLE

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


Premature mending effects 3 out of 4 anglers. No creams, pills or mantras can help those effected by this condition. But the trusty guides at Deschutes Angler can help you.

Rule One:  Don't mend until the line and leader come tight and downstream of you
Rule Two:  When you mend, don't Trout mend i.e. Flick the line. Pick the line up, move the line and set the line down on the water. Everything should remain tight.  
Rule Three:  Keep the tip of the rod on a downstream angle. 30 degress or so. Mend towards the far bank. Not upstream. 
Rule Four:  Leave the rod in that position until you feel tension on the line.
Rule Five:  Follow the line with the rod tip until the rod is pointed downstream.

Following these rules will present your fly in a manner that is irresistible to steelhead. If they are there. They will eat!











1.28.2014

WINTER STEELHEAD PHOTOS

Photos From Last Week

By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski 


Thought I would let some photos from last week do the talking. 












See anything you like? I have limited guide days available in February and March on the Oregon Coast. Call Deschutes Angler at (541)395-0995 or email me at alex@deschutesanglerguides.com for more information about my coastal steelhead program or to book a trip. Hope to hear from you. 

1.22.2014

2014 WINTER STEELHEAD ON THE OREGON COAST

2014 WINTER STEELHEAD KICKOFF

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


Another steelhead season has come and gone on the Deschutes. It is time for those of us that can not imagine a month where we do not swing flies for our anadromous love affair, to look else where. With that in mind I am happy to announce that once again winter steelhead season on the Oregon coast is here and I have guide days still available. I had a great year out there last season and I have been looking forward to this season since it ended. You do not have to look outside the state of Oregon for a shot at a mint bright 20lb steelhead. I was lucky enough to travel to the Dean this summer and though there is no place on earth like it. I must say that the coastal winter steelhead are almost as powerful.  These fish love to show you your backing and are often covered in sea lice. You just need to be in the right place at the right time. And that is not always easy on your own.  



I have been fishing the rivers along the Oregon coast since I was a little kid and it is the winter season that gets me most excited. For me swollen river and rain forests are synonymous with steelhead. The weight of the take from a winter steelhead is like no other. There is no mistaking it for anything else and no way to duplicate it any other time of year. If you live by the motto, the tug is the drug you owe yourself this trip. 

I have made a several R&D trips out there so far this year and it is promising to be a good one. Though I have yet to hold a fish in my hands several have been hooked. If only for a second.





The premier time is fast approaching and I have limited days available in February, March and April. If you are interested in booking a trip or would like some more information about my winter steelhead program give me a call at the shop 541-395-0995 or drop me an email at alex@deachutesanglerguides.com. I can set you up with places to stay and eat and introduce you to what I consider to be one of the greatest steelhead regions in the world. You will not be disappointed by what the coast has to offer.

12.05.2013

A LONG SEASON COMES TO AN END ...

END OF THE SEASON BREAKDOWN


I had a chuckle this morning when some brave anonymous person posted a snide remark on our blog about why bother having the blog if we haven't updated it in 3 months.

Let us tell you why we have not been blogging for three months....we have been busy guiding for steelhead. We have been camping on the river for weeks on end enduring mega storms, freezing cold weather, super hot weather, wildfires, rowing into 30 mph head winds, dragging boats across gravel bars, setting up wall tents, tearing down wall tents, and generally living sleeping breathing and bleeding steelhead. Our only form of communication during these trips is our "use only in emergency" satellite phone. At $3.95 per minute, it is just too expensive to get the wi fi hotspot up and running so that we can BLOG.


For the past three months - in fact up until it got dark last night (December 4 was the official last day of the season) we have been running back to back 4 day camp float trips on a remote stretch of river. The three months before that, we were also guiding steelhead trips. Often we have one day of rest between trips and that day is spent prepping for the next trip by cleaning boats, repairing gear, shopping for food and other supplies, and doing those small other things around the house like laundry. We hardly have time to download photos off the camera or recharge the batteries.

The life of a steelhead guide is very different than that of your typical trout guide. We know, because we are trout guides all spring and summer...right up until the first steelhead begin to nose into the Deschutes. Once the big boys return from the ocean and begin their migration, we replace little 4 and 5 weight fly rods with long two-handed rods. When steelhead are in the river, targeting trout is know simply as pedophilia.

Our steelhead guide season kicks off in July when the days are blazing hot and very very long. We wake at 3:00 AM in order to make coffee and prepare lunches so that we are on time to pick up our clients in front of their hotel at 3:45 AM. We get to the boat ramp in the dark. We back down the boat ramp in the dark. We put our boats in the water in the dark. We row down the river in the dark - listening to the sound of the rapids to find the right line. When we get to our preferred first stop of the day, we pull the boat quietly to shore and turn on the headlamps to let any other guides coming down river know that we are there - a common courtesy to fellow professionals navigating in the dark. Coffee is poured and rods are strung well before it is light enough to legally make the first cast.


When the time comes, we spread our clients out in the run. They are spaced 50 yards apart, each angler with his own beautiful stretch of prime steelhead water. We stand with one angler, giving pointers when needed on Spey casting, perhaps helping the angler understand the importance of controlling the speed of the fly as it swims through the run. Many of our clients are very experienced anglers, no words need to be spoken as we move down the run side by side. The sun kisses the top of the hills around us, and the golden grasses of late summer glow in the warm light of morning. The descending call of the canyon wren bounces off the rock walls along the river and it feels like a steelhead will grab the fly on each and every swing.


We hike back and forth between anglers. By keeping an eye on their casting distance and where they are in the river, we know when each angler is approaching his bucket. There are many buckets. Some are more dependable than others, and the productivity of a hot spot in a run will change throughout the season. Every year the river changes slightly and the buckets change too.

To keep guiding as exciting as it can be, we learn of the special buckets that can be seen from a high perch on the bank, or sometimes from the crook of a dead tree. We climb to those spots just as the fly is coming into the zone. We watch the fly from the moment it lands and begins to swim.The fly we tie on your line has a white polar bear wing with flash over the top....we can see it as it skims through the water inches below the surface. We stifle a shout of joy as a ghostly shape rises up from the depths and charges toward the client's fly, and we exhale our held gasp as the steelhead swirls violently but misses the fly. "Did you see that?" "That huge boil....... Don't take a step just make the cast again......... Be ready......... Ready to do nothing..........Remember, give him the loop.............. Let him take the fly and turn................. Don't lift until you feel him on the reel..............Okay, let's do this!! ............Make the same exact cast you made when you got the boil - we've got a player on our hands!"


If the steelhead is truly a player, he will eat the fly on the very next swing. If he moves towards it, takes a look but rejects it, we begin the game of change the fly. Go smaller, sparser, no flash, only dull colors, back up, work back down into the spot, speed it up, slow it down, this is the game. Between each fly change we run back to the dead tree and climb to the crook, cupping hands around polarized glasses to keep the glare down.

Success! The steelhead found a fly to his liking! Now it's off to the races - let 'im run! If everything goes right we will land the fish and snap a quick pic with the fish suspended in the water before releasing it unharmed. If one little thing goes wrong: a drag fails, a rod breaks, there is a wind knot in the tippet, or maybe the fish is a crazy devil fish cartwheeling all over the place that throws the hook mere seconds into the fight... we will reel up our slack line, check to see if the leader has broken, or the hook straightened out. Congratulatory hugs and high fives are just as appropriate for the lost fish as for the landed fish, after all, don't we want to get our asses kicked by this beautiful fish we pursue? Isn't that what we secretly hope for? What fun would it be to totally dominate every fish we encountered? Isn't it more awesome to have shaky hands, a racing heart and a slack line? Well, landing them is nice too.


So I digress.....the guided day goes on. The first cast made at first light turns into five hundred casts before lunchtime. We cover hundreds of yards of good water, several great runs, and our clients are weary from leaning into the strong current for hours on end, negotiating boulder gardens and slippery rocks, casting, swinging, stepping. The sun is beginning to beat down with intensity and it is shining directly in the eyes of the fish - time for a break.

We set up reclining lounge chairs in the shade of the alders and bite into our huge deli sandwiches. Soon after lunch a soft snoring comes from one of the client's chairs, then the other. They are out. A few hours will pass until the angle of the sun will be optimal for swinging our flies. We will fish several more runs after nap time, right up until it is too dark to tie on a new fly. It is nearly 9:00 PM when the boat is on the trailer and we start the bone-jarring drive back to town. 20 miles per hour on an axle-busting, tire-eating 20 mile long washboard road. 10 more miles on a skinny paved road that snakes along the banks of the Deschutes. The clients are softly snoring again. The last cattle guard as we get the Maupin City Park is known as the "cocktail bell" - it is seconds from the hotel. The clients unload their gear and we leave the Spey rods on the rod rack strung and ready for the next day.

More often than not, the clients (who are really close friends after all the years of fishing with us) will offer a glass of fine Scotch on their deck overlooking the moonlit river. It is a treat that is difficult to turn down after miles of rowing and hours of pacing the banks. That sweet golden liquid warms the soul and stories of steelhead drift around the deck with the smoke from the Cuban cigars. By 11:00 PM it is time to leave the clients because we are going to do it all over again tomorrow, and 3:00 AM is only a few hours away.

The days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months - July, August, September, October, November, December. Fortunately, the days get shorter as the season rolls on. Every five weeks or so the meeting time gets a little later...3:45, 4:00, 4:30, 5:00......by November it almost feels like you are getting away with something by picking up the clients as late as 6:00 AM and getting off the water at 5:30 PM in the dark.


From July though mid-October we guide 12-15 days in a row then take a one day break and start another 12 to 15 day stretch. Day trips allow you to sleep in your own bed but the drive up and down the access road is tough to take day in and day out. Overnight camp trips hosted by the guide with no bag boat are 20 hours of straight work for days on end- not only do you do all the guiding but all the cooking, cleaning and camp set up too. Before too long, our hands are cracked and bleeding after so many days on the river. You don't realize how bad your hands are until you meet the attorney you will be guiding for the next four days, and he slips his velvety soft hand into your 40 grit nightmare.






In mid-October we start a seven week series of four day remote wilderness floats. We have two camp hosts in order to carry wall tents, heaters, firewood, and gear. The river is shallow and very slow moving. The gear raft has to be deflated in order for it to slither through the boulder strewn water and then reinflated in order to row through long dead stretches of river.


Nasty wind storms have, on two occasions, ripped 5 foot rebar stakes from the ground, launched our wall tent skyward, and smashed it into the ground 50 feet away leaving a crumpled spider of canvas and tent poles. 





By December you are ready for a break. You are ready to do some of your own fishing. You don't want to stand on the bank watching others cast. You don't want to give the "fish of a thousand casts" pep talk one more time this year. It is time to catch up with friends you haven't seen in months, time to go bird hunting, time to BLOG about all the fun you had this steelhead season.

If the phone rings a week from now, we are ready to hit the river again, conditions permitting. This morning the thermometer said 0 degrees and had risen to 8 degrees by 9:00 AM. Steelhead fishing in this kind of weather isn't for everyone, very few are hearty enough to deal with the cold. But it will warm up in a week or so and we will have days that feel downright balmy in January - which is still a great time to be chasing steelhead in our neck of the woods.

9.07.2013

PERFECTION

THE DEAN RIVER 2013

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski

It is hard to believe that it has been a month since I looked out the window of the de Havilland Otter at the mountains of British Columbia. The flight into the Dean was the perfect bush flight. We traveled south from Smithers for 15 minutes and then hung a right and made our way west through rugged mountain passes and down river valleys until, WHAM-O, we emerged into the Fjord that is the Dean Channel. Ten minutes later we had come to rest on the Dean airstrip, little more than a dirt path cut out of the surrounding forest.

The scenery of the lower Dean is worth the price of admission.You have never steelhead fished--or perhaps been--in a more beautiful, awe inspiring place. Granite peaks, snow covered mountains, eagles, bears and dense green forests complement the sexiest of steelhead water.

When Steve Morrow dropped me off in the Cut Bank the first morning, it took me five minutes to control the shaking and clear my eyes enough to make a decent cast. Here I was standing in the Dean. No care in the world except how to swim my next cast. Pure and utter bliss.

I had heard for years that Dean steelhead are like no other steelhead in the world. The hardest fighting, rip snorting ass kicking steelhead you will ever face.  It is true. I had my drag cranked down tarpon tight and each fish removed backing from my reel as if it was free spooling. These are wild wild fish.

One quick fish story. It takes place on river right. I made my cast, stepped down and the fly dug in and started swing slow. The kind of swing were you know you are about to get lit up. Next thing I know my Kingpin reel was screaming and whack-whack-whack the backing knot was out the tip top along with an additional 75 yards of backing. As I tried to put the brakes on a fish that I believed to be a couple hundred feet downstream, my fish comes ripping out of the water fifteen feet away from me. I knew then that I had lost. One more jump and I was left mouth agape and line limp. It feels good to get your ass kicked from time to time.

The place is PERFECT. No ifs, ands or buts about it. This is a trip that I will remember and be grateful for, for the rest of my life. I was truly humbled by the immensity of the place. I only hope that someday I can return to the Dean for another shot. And that we do not destroy the fishery in the mean time.

Conservation

Anadromous fish returns are cyclical. They are dependent on so many natural variables--river conditions upon hatch, estuarine health, ocean conditions and river levels upon return. Add upon that the effects that man have on these runs and it is a surprise that any fish make it back to the river at all.  Even to places as remote as the Dean. 

There was disappointment expressed by the anglers and guides that I spoke to about the number of fish hooked this season on the Dean and the percentage that displayed net marks. Guide and fisheries major Steve Morrow informed me that the salmon gill net fishery in The Dean Channel was more intense than normal this year with boats coming from as far away as the Skeena to fish. He and many others believed that the low return was based largely on the salmon gill net fishery.  

Spending a week on the Dean with fishing that is considered below average for that watershed does not bother me. I was grateful to hook just one of these amazing fish. Nor do I believe it bothered anyone in the group. We are steelhead anglers, we understand the fishing is not always on fire. However, I am appalled when the return of steelhead is low, and the fishing tough, for man made reasons. Steelhead are by-catch in the salmon gill net fishery and the problems that we face here in the Columbia drainage are the same as they face on the Dean. Gill nets kill steelhead. Plain and simple. Those that are not killed show less vigor and are riddled with net marks that leave them susceptible to infection and . Short of removing these nets all together from the Dean channel there are other measures that can be taken. 

For more information about the measure that can be taken to reduce the effects of the gill net fishery on steelhead. Or to voice your outrage to the Canadian Government. Check out http://area8watch.wordpress.com for more information.

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9.03.2013

STEELHEAD PEP TALK

ARE THE FISH COUNTS LOW?  WE HAVEN'T REALLY NOTICED. 


Written by Deschutes Angler Guide Steve Light


The thriving metropolis of Maupin has quieted down and the smell of Fall in the high desert is in the air. Shadows are growing longer and the days are getting shorter. There couldn't be a better time to get out and pursue some summer chrome.

No Excuses

My grandmother used to say..."The best way to catch a steelhead is to be fishing for one". Sure, Granny cracked a ton of Steelhead on the "Twinkie" back in the day, but with today's returning steelhead numbers it takes better than average skills and concrete mental fortitude in order to persevere. The river conditions are very good at the moment and yes...there are plenty of fish to be caught. We are out daily and averaging a fish per angler per day. Some days much better. Regardless, the wild fish numbers are very strong, 53% of the total run to date, now that's fantastic. Who doesn't want to hook a wild Deschutes River Steelhead? Who I ask??

No Whiners 

Now is your time to explore the river. With very little pressure, broaden your horizons and check out some new water. Find some new "favorite spots". Prepare for changing river conditions or when the river gets slammed - you won't have spend the morning driving about wandering, "is that a good spot?". We hear it all of the time..."the river's busy". Nope, turns out the only spot that you know...everyone else knows as well. If "Moss Pool" and "Wind Knot" are all you have in your quiver of spots, good luck! Better leave camp early. There's no mystery to locating steelhead water on the Deschutes. No, you don't have to stalk one of our guide boats to figure out where to fish. Yes, every pullout on the road has potential. Knowing the spot to pull off at o'dark-thirty is one thing. Knowing where the rock is in the run where they like to haunt is understandably another. This takes some time. While others are catching up on some Zzzz's during the day, you are out carving up some new water. 

No Mercy

Mix up your strategy a bit while you venture out of your comfort zone. Not all runs are created the same. When exploring a new run for the first time inspect where the entry and exit trails are from the road. It gives you a basic understanding of where others tread before you. Now you know where to get in and get out... safely. Step quickly through the run looking for that ooooh sooooo sweet spot. You'll find it. It's that point in the run where suddenly you pay attention and "feel" the fly dig in and hunt. That's the spot! Remember, a change in water flow will influence how you will fish through a run. Think about summer flows versus fall/winter flows and how it will change the swing depth as well as the speed of presentation. Could this be good sink tip water? Floating only? Skater water? Where is the sun in relation to the fish? Lots and lots of unanswered questions.

Now What?

Go find some answers!

















7.31.2013

PREPARING FOR ADVENTURE

Tying Flies

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


I have been tying flies since I was a little kid. Next to fishing it is my favorite thing to do. It is my creative outlet. I enjoy tying both existing patterns and developing my own. There are certain patterns that have been developed over the years that are truly spectacular, they have mojo in and out of the water. Tying these flies is a joy, there is room for personal touches and interpretation but the foundation remains intact.

Constructing flies from the hook up is an entirely different animal. It is more a process of engineering than it is tying. Using the right materials in proper proportions is essential to creating a living breathing fly. Some patterns are a success, they move well in the water and are attractive to look at. Others will never see a river, they swim in our tank and are thrown in the garbage. Both the successes and failures teach me valuable lessons about fly design.

Amy and I are getting ready to leave for the Dean River this Friday. I feel grateful for the opportunity to see the Dean River and fish for its infamous steelhead. Needless to say I am very excited and I have been tying flies like a mad dog maniac for the past couple of months. Tying for a trip like this is a blast.

Each day I have tied flies. Some evenings after work I tie one or two. Other nights I have tied until the early hours of the morning. I had enough flies for this trip two weeks ago but I just kept tying.

Of course most of the flies will not see the water this trip. They will sit in the box looking good patiently awaiting their turn. I will tie a tube fly on one rod and a skater on the other and fish them with confidence. Because when it comes down to it the fly that fishes the best is the one that you fish with the most confidence.

We will be back next week with tales and photos of the river and hopefully its fish. I might even have a couple of flies left.



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3.27.2013

KEEPING THE FAITH

WINTER STEELHEADING

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


Staying sane as a steelhead guide is about keeping the faith. Every morning while I eat a jalapeno and cheddar cheese bagel and drink a cup of coffee I believe, no matter how yesterday went, that today is going to epic. Every time I have a client step into a run I  smell steelhead, and keep the faith. No fish, no matter, I have faith in the next run and the next.

Likewise, you have to keep the faith to be a good steelhead angler. Have faith in your fly, have faith in your swing and have faith that there is a steelhead in front of that juicy looking rock. No fish, no worries just keep fishing and keep the faith. 

Here are some photos from last week to get you juices flowing.There are still a couple weeks left in the 2013 Winter Steelhead Season. Get out there have faith and enjoy yourself. All you can do is fish good water well. Like some help know what that entails? Give us a call at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop (541)395-0995, we still have a couple openings left for the 2013 season. 

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3.04.2013

THE DATES ARE SET!

FIXED DATES SALMON FLY CAMP TRIPS

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


Great Way To See The River And Meet A New Fishing Buddy

Always wanted to float the 36.5 miles from Trout Creek to Harpham Flats but could not find five people to go with you? Well, that is a problem no more. New this year we are offering TWO fixed dates camp trips on the best trout water on the Deschutes during the hatch of hatches, SALMON FLIES! This trip has six angler openings, making it the perfect option for those of you who can not get a fishing buddy to commit to a trip. Sign up and float the river with five other like minded trout junkies. Who knows a lifelong fishing partnership could be formed.  Got a buddy who is down to come? Perfect you can both sign up, this is not speed dating.

You and your new friends will spend three days floating the Deschutes' premier trout water with our knowledgeable guides stopping along the way to throw big dry flies to veracious redsides. Your two evenings will be spent resting sore arms and telling fishing stories while enjoying camp cooking at its finest.

Want In?

This part is easy. First, choose your preferred dates, the first trip will be May 29-31 the second will be June 2-4.  These dates are absolute prime time for the salmon fly hatch. Next, give us a call at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop, 541-395-0995, but hurry space is limited to six anglers.  Finally, get those BIG dries in order. 

PRICE: $1275. 
Includes 3 days guided fishing, all camping gear except sleeping bag, meals, non alcoholic beverages. 
Not included: Boater's Pass, fishing Licensealcoholic beverages, fishing gear and gratuities. 




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2.19.2013

TIME TO PUT ON YOUR BIG BOY/GIRL WADERS

MACKS TO THE MOUTH ONE DAY FLOAT

Written By Deschutes Angler Guide Alex Gonsiewski


Marathon Steelhead Fishing

23.9 miles, 16 hours and the BEST steelhead water on the Deschutes River. This trip is not for everyone. However, for hard core anglers itching for snow belly chromers in late July and early August, these 24 miles are the place to be in Oregon. You will fish a lot of water. These are not trips with four hour afternoon naps. You might rest for an hour around lunch time, but in no time the Spey rod will be back in your hands and the line will be zinging out over the river. Full sun? No problem! There are dozens of spots on the lower river were fish love to smack wet flies under the hot summer sun. 

If you have never seen the Wild and Scenic lower canyon of the Deschutes River, you owe it to yourself to do this trip. The  geology of the lower canyon is amazing. The past 65 million years rock formations are unveiled during the float like so many layers of a cake. The wildlife is abundant. It is not uncommon to see Big Horn Sheep, Kingfishers, Mule Deer, Mink, and multiple species of Raptors. Throw in 5 class III  and several more class II rapids, and the float alone is worth the price of admission. 

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Hot Weather Hot Fish

There is nowhere that I rather be at this time of year. The weather is hot and the fish are even hotter.  The steelhead in the lower river in August and early September are hot, rip-snorting silver bullets. Need to check your windblown hair? Use the side of one of these fish to check out your reflection. These steelhead are fresh from the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean and are looking to kick your ass. To make it even sweeter the fish are often in pods and finding one often means find more.

Logistics 

Your day will start about an hour before first light, meeting your guide either at the fly shop or at your hotel. Together we will enjoy the teeth-jarring drive down the access road to Macks Canyon. You will fish hard taking all day and take off the river at Heritage Landing just before dark. On our way back to Maupin, we will stop by Big Jim's for dinner - it's my favorite burger joint in The Dalles. Or, if you headed back to Portland and you want to save some time, you can pay to have your vehicle shuttled to Heritage Landing. From there you are 95 miles from Portland on I-84.

If you are new to Spey casting, come spend a day with us learning the basics of the cast the day before the float. You want to have your A game for this trip. Afternoon wind is common and being able to cast in the wind is going to allow you to maximize your fishing time and chances at fish. If you are interested in booking a day trip Macks to the Mouth give us a call at Deschutes Angler Fly Shop.  These trips are limited to late July and August and they fill up quickly.