8.03.2015

3 DAYS

3 DAYS

I have had the chance to fish 3 days so far this year for steelhead on the Deschutes. I have not touched one yet. But it does not matter. I have been able to fish with three good friends and have had the chance to watch day come to and go from one of the most amazing canyons in the world. It has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed the process, the fish will come. 







-Alex Gonsiewski
Deschutes Angler Guide Staff


7.30.2015

Steelhead Racing Up The Deschutes River

Have you been watching the steelhead numbers flowing over The Dalles dam complex? We have.  Sure, it sucks having restricted fishing hours below Macks Canyon. Big dam deal! With the next tsunami of triple digits, fishing in the evening is a loosing bet anyway. The Moody gauge topped out at 68.5 yesterday and that number will most likely grow over the next week. But wait, all of the water above Macks is business as usual. We have clean cold water with reasonable temps allowing you to fish until your arms fall off. We've had fresh chrome swimming all over Maupin the last two weeks and very few anglers know about it. Remember, we have forty miles of walk-in access opening the river to all...all day!

Wanna float and can't get a boaters pass to save your dying grandmother? No surprise. The BLM has decided, in their infinite wisdom, to turn the town of Maupin into the "new" Shaniko (Eastern Oregon ghost town). So, what do you do to let the BLM know that they suck? Call them 541-416-6700 or email them BLM_OR_PR_Mail@blm.gov ask for Amy Bannon. They could give a shit that the local businesses in town rely on the boating access of the Deschutes River to support the entire economy. Ask any BLM official on the river as to why this is happening and they'll look at you with the "deer in the headlights" look as they stammer to come up with anything sane. Our conversations with the BLM have fallen on deaf ears. Folks are just simply not coming to the Deschutes because it is impossible to float the river for the day unless you know to stay up til midnight, keep your fingers crossed that you beat someone to the punch and score a boaters pass. How do you plan a vacation to the river with your family when you can't even guaranty that you'll get to float? You simply can't. This system does not work for anyone! But whatever you do, don't float without one. Officials are foaming at the mouth to write tickets to violators for a few hundred dollars a crack and with four or six of you in a boat...cha-ching! Who needs to sell boaters passes with this new revenue stream. You all have voices...LET THEM BE HEARD!

-Steve Light
Deschutes Angler Guide Staff

7.03.2015

NO TROUT RISING?

We hear it every single day at the counter here at DAFS:

Dude..."Where do you keep the bead heads?" 
Clerk..."Have you been dry fly fishing?" 
Dude..."Nope, no fish rising." 

Look, this isn't merry old England where gentleman only fish to rising trout. We are capitalistic pigs wanting to capitalize. You know where they hang out...right? If you wait to see fish rising, you had better bring an e-book and a flask cause you might be a while. Dry fly fishing, contrary to popular thought, occurs all day long. Whaaaaat? TROUT MUST EAT TO SURVIVE! Pretty basic logic. So, what do you put on to convince a non-rising trout to rise? Now THAT question beats the hell out of "where do you keep your bead heads?" Here's the short answer, in the early mornings be ready to fish mayfly spinners the moment the sun greets the water. These are quiet moments when the fish yawn and rub the sleep from their eyes. I'm sure you've seen the long tails and delicate flights of mayflies in their final cycle of life. As they die on the water their bodies gently glide across the surface of the river and get washed into the foam lines that flow along the edges of the river. Foam is HOME and exactly where the trout eat breakfast. The rises are subtle...if you think you saw something crease the surface...you did. Now the sun is blanketing the canyon and the breeze is rustling the Alders. Last night there was a blanket hatch of caddis flies, and the ovipositors (egg layers) are now at their final resting places in the trees and bushes along the banks. The breeze moves the branches and the Alders deposit the dead into the river like a giant "Pez" dispenser. Again, if you thought you saw something...you did. If you want to catch a trout on a dry fly then commit to the task! Sure, these fish are in tough spots. Under the lowest of the branches, hiding in the foam lines along the bank, under the outreaching tall grass, the places where most anglers refuse to fish. There's poison oak, blackberries, snakes, and no trail! These places are the home to the largest trout in the river. If it has a trail, well used, move on. 

2.19.2015

WINTER STILLWATER FISHING: TIPS AND TACTICS FOR JUSTESEN'S GRASS VALLEY LAKES

During the cold months of the year, lake fishing is largely ignored. In large part this is due to most lakes freezing clean over until early spring.  Yet there are years, like this one, when the weather is relatively mild and the lakes are free of ice with happy trout gorging themselves on a variety of aquatic insect life. The fish haven’t been pressured or harassed in months and now freely and non-selectively prowl the waters for their next meal. This presents a great opportunity to wail on big trout outside of prime season but we need to change our tactics to succeed.
             
 It is important to understand the dynamics of a lake in the winter. With the cold air permeating the surface thermocline the warmer water is pushed to the deeper portions of the lake. Surface temps. can read 2 to 3 degrees colder than 10 to 15 ft. down in the water. This means the majority of the food and fish will typically be found in the warm deep parts of the lake as opposed the shallows where they are found in the Spring and early Summer.  So forget about fishing the shallow ends of the lake unless fish are consistently rising.
             
 Mornings are going to be the slowest part of the day because the water is at its coldest. The best plan of attack is to string up a full sinking line with a medium to large leech pattern. It is important to make a nice long cast and then wait for the line to sink fairly deep before retrieving the leech back. Most full sinking lines have a specific sink rate to gauge the depth of the line over a period of time. Count the time the line sinks and vary it until you find the depth where the fish are feeding. Also vary the strip from a fast retrieve to a slow retrieve until you find the pace the fly needs to move. Typically in the colder water, a slower retrieve will prove to be more effective.
              
As the day progresses and midges begin to start hatching, it is usually a good time to start chironomid fishing. Typically in the spring and early summer a 3 to 4 foot spread between the fly and the indicator is all that is needed but in the winter the spread needs to be larger. There is definitely a thermocline that the fish will be gorging themselves on chironomids, so adjusting the depth is important until fish are caught on a consistent basis. Sometimes this means lengthening the leader out to 12 or 15 feet to get the fly down to the feeders. Make sure that the majority of the leader below the indicator is 5x tippet and tie the chironomid on a loop knot to get the most natural presentation.
             
 From mid-afternoon until 4 p.m. be on the lookout for the water boatmen hatch. The adults lay the eggs by diving into the water and swimming down to the bottom of the lake. These egg layers are an easy target for feeding trout and the fish key into them quickly. Fish a sub-surface water boatmen on a floating line in water 4 to 6 feet deep. It is important to vary the retrieve until you find the speed the fish are after. Water boatmen are erratic swimmers so short strips, 2 to 3 at a time with a pause in between will be the most effective retrieve.

Be adaptable and willing to change flies and lines to adjust to the varying conditions with an emphasis on fishing deeper than usual and success will be had. Remember to be aware of insects and change according to what is occurring at the moment. If all else fails start experimenting with different patterns and presentations. 

1.21.2015

TROUT SPEY SCHOOLS ON THE DESCHUTES RIVER 2015

Ask any trout angler on the water about “Spey casting” and they will demonstrate the, oh so familiar, two handed figure eight. Right? Then it’s usually followed up with, “but I don’t steelhead fish”. Then there’s the ardent veteran steelheader who’s only solace is swinging a fly with his two hander employing his fine-tuned skill.  When you ask this angler about trout, he’ll exclaim, “I love Spey casting to big fish”. Fair enough. What neither angler realizes is that the Spey rod and its quiver of casts can be effectively used to pursue a huge variety of swimmers. Once exclusively used for searching large waterways for large anadromous species, the conventional Spey rod just got a new lease on life.

You don’t have to wait until the summer brings fresh chrome to your local water way, there’s a whole season of Spey casting out there just waiting for you. You might already be a trout fisher, steelheader…maybe both. You do, however, enjoy the hell out of Spey casting because it’s smooth, effortless, effective, and lots of fun.  Remember those moments when you were swinging your leech through a juicy fall tail out and… WHACK!!  You enthusiastically declare FISH ON!! Line peels off… then it jumps and just like your ice cream scoop plopping to the pavement... trout.  Your buddies let out a roar as you halfheartedly wind ‘em in on your thirteen footer, un pin the leech, think to yourself…”damn, if I would have caught this bad ass during the trout season on my five weight  I would have been squealing like a little girl”.

Guess what? Turns out, you can confidently let out that squeal while catching that giant trout on a spey rod. If you are using the right tool for the job. That tool is coined, “Micro Spey”. These two through five weight rods have lengths stretching from ten to eleven feet or so. Don’t think of this new category of rods as a re-named switch rod category. Switch rods they are not. The most notable difference between the two designs is the taper or flex pattern. Switch designs are fast (firm) through the mid sections with a loose (soft) tip to accommodate the tension casting of giant strike indicators and to mend great lengths of line in order to achieve massive dead drifts. The “Micro Spey” category’s principal taper design is that of a conventional Spey rod. These rods feature full flexing tapers able to precisely place dry flies and soft hackles in precarious lies, like in the middle of the damn river, or send a sculpin on a section of T8 to a cavernous cut bank in search of a meat eating predator.  That mid river hawg rolling up on salmon flies has been out of range. Until now!  You just opened up a fresh can of whoop ass.

Now that you’re all jacked up on Spey casting lets discover some awesome tackle options for you to explore. Most of the major players in the two handed category are providing a small offering of appropriate line weights and lengths for this new endeavor. The most notable in this category would be the RL Winston Rod Company and the Anderson Custom Rod Company. Both rod manufacturers have had a steady stream of top producers in the conventional Spey and switch rod categories.  Termed “Micro Spey” Winston has set the bar pretty high with this series.  Light swing weights and smooth tapers greet the angler with effortless casting and control. Winston’s BIII TH Micro Spey series consists of a 10’6” 3 weight, 11’ 4 weight, and an 11’6” 5 weight, an ample selection for the budding enthusiast. Expect to see more “Micro Speys” from RL Winston in the future. Gary Anderson’s “JHC” series has a little more depth.  This series includes an 11’7” two and three weight, 11’9” four and five weight, and a 12’1 and 12’5” five weight (double duty summer steelhead). Gary has designed these rods with “Spey casting” in mind. These are not your typical chuck-n-duckers. These sticks are built with hyper sensitive graphite for ultra-light tippet protection and delicate presentations to selective trout anywhere in the river. The casting accuracy of these rods for their length is akin to a single hander. These new rods are equipped to handle the largest trout without compromising the fun factor.

Another caveat to these rod sizes is that your current fly reels will feel right at home on a “micro”. Without the need of capacity for large diameter Spey lines, your conventional six weight reel will be typically adequate for most, if not all, of these rods. The line designs are scaled down versions of conventional Spey tapers, so, finding a match is not complicated at all. Lines are currently being designed to handle a great diversity of application without the complication of changing heads for various conditions.

Okay, so there’s the scoop on the “micros”. Now…the how, when, and the where. For our neck of the woods, spring time is a complicated transition time for trout anglers. The hatches are sparse, the river is big, and the trout are, it appears to be, hibernating. You ply the typical waters where you have been finding fish in the past with minimum success. You know the fish are hanging out in their living room waiting for something more than just a BWO to drift by. These fish are hungry. Don’t give them a hand full of peanuts when you can serve them a prime rib on a hook, figuratively speaking of course. That could be construed as bait fishing. Contrary to popular opinion, these oversized rainbow trout do eat fry, smolt, crawfish, sculpin, various leeches, and assorted “off the menu” items. These are the trout that you don’t see milling about the back eddy looking for spent caddis. This adds another element to “matching the hatch”. Rope up a rusty orange bugger or a woolhead sculpin and sink it into the abyss on a chunk of T8, give it a twitch, and hang-on.  You already know how to do the steelhead two-step, so covering the water is automatic for you.  Now that you’ve warmed up to subsurface presentations… what about the behemoth Redside gobbling up salmon flies mid river? You know the fish that can’t be caught?  Grab a Chubby Chernobyl, don’t be shy. Strip a pile of line off the reel. Set up a sweet anchor, rip a 70 foot “snake roll” to the mid river and watch this beast get lit up when you surprise the fins off of em’.  I just got goose bumps!


So, whether you are the trout angler day dreaming about the “un catchable” or the vet scratching his head and thinking…trout? In April, May, and June Deschutes Angler Fly Shop will be conducting one day workshops on trout fishing with “Micro Speys”. We are here to introduce either of you to your new “micro” friend. The class will focus on adapting casts to conditions, an introduction to the tackle, rigging for the right presentation, and most of all applicable fishing techniques. Contact the shop today to register or enquire about a purchase.

SCHOOL DATES

April 25th
May 30th
June 13th

SCHOOL PRICE: $195.00 per angler

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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