fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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continued: two brothers’ excellent fly fishing adventure (or, part two of a two-part payoff)

Finding willing wild fish in an unexplored small creek still brings out the kid in me; there’s unfettered excitment, a little bit of a booty dance (at least inside) and everything, no matter how inconsequential, adds to the splendor of the place.

It wasn’t easy going, and there were a few scrapes along the way, but we walked off that creek I won’t name happy that we took a chance on a stranger’s advice.

The younger brother and I were a bit at loose ends two Saturdays ago. We’d previously spent Thursday fishing a Skykomish River tributary with guide Derek Young and buddy Kirk, and Friday out again with Derek on and near the Snoqualmie River. We learned a lot and caught enough trout to feel a bit more confident on waters not too far from my brother’s house.

It didn’t take long for Mark to show symptoms of the addiction. Throwing out newly learned jargon, he suggested we do some ‘bluelining’ along the U.S. Route 2 (Steven’s Pass Highway) corridor. We were out the door and on the road with little clue where we might end up.

For the first 20 minutes or so, we pondered possibilities that were soon rendered unclear in the absence of a copy of the WDFW fishing regulations. Along this stretch of road there aren’t many places to pick up a copy of the regs. Then fate stepped in.

We’d come up on a wide spot in the road and a small, rustic store stocked with an odd collection of the types of goods that only campers might buy when lacking any other choices. The store owner, a bearded guy who looked the part in jeans and a plaid shirt, told me they didn’t have any fishing regulation booklets. He tries to keep a copy in the store for reference but it always seems to sprout legs and walk off.

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A downsteam look.

It’s certain that I’m not the first to do this, but I carefully formed my response to include a mention of ‘fly fishing.’ And that, as has happened before, opened the door.

The store owner leaned a bit closer and I could swear he cast a conspiratorial glance right and left before saying, “Then I can give you the story on what’s going on ‘round here.” Mark walked up to the counter sometime during the description of a creek not too far away and a semi-concealed access point. Walking out the door, Mark and I agreed that if the payoff was as described, we’d return to buy a drink or something as a token of thanks.

After another 15 minutes of driving on a well-graded Forest Service road, we found the secondary road as described. At the end of it we purposely parked the truck out of view from the main road. Gearing up was expedited by the nearby sound of the creek, and perhaps more so by the buzzing of a large number of bees circling the flowering vegetation.

Dropping over a small berm, it was immediately apparent that moving up or down this creek would require a lot more wading. It was small creek, and it was clear that my 7-foot, 6-inch 3 wt. might be a bit too much rod for this water.

Less adventurous fisherman wouldn’t have ventured far either upstream or downstream on this creek. Unlike the water we fished the two prior days, this creek doesn’t get the flows necessary to soften the ragged edges of what is probably basalt. We scrambled over these rocks when we could, carefully climbed where able, and took more cautious routes when warranted.

We had no problem finding the fish. My biggest problem would be deciding whether or not to replace the yellow stimulator that would be battered and a shadow of itself by the end of the day. It’s a question I never really mind facing. (I never replaced it.)

The point at which we first saw the creek was a plunge pool that emptied into a wider, shallower pool interrupted by large rocks sprinkled throughout. I took the first pool while Mark edged along the bank downstream.

Within the first few casts we’d both elicited frenzied strikes. In that first pool I landed what would be the biggest cutthroat of the day, maybe close to 11 inches, a fish I believe my brother caught again near the end of our day. These trout were that hungry.

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Younger brother with one of the bigger cutties of the day.

It wasn’t what might be called ‘crazy fishing.’ The average fish was seven to eight inches, but they set themselves apart from bigger fish I’ve caught with beautiful, though darker, coloration. And each pool, seam or eddy had to be rested once the first fish had been played in that section of water; sort of ‘stick-and-move’ fly fishing. The upside was the abundance of good-looking water.

I enjoyed pointing out promising pockets to Mark just as much as I think he did finding fish where he might not have expected. Frankly, I’m still amazed every time that happens.

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Beautiful. Aggressive. Fun.

We spent more than three hours enjoying some of the most strenuous fly fishing I’ve ever experienced in my short time in the sport. More prepared fly fisherman would have loaded a day pack with lunch and fished this creek all the way to its confluence with the South Fork of the Skykomish River. Maybe next time.

This time around we enjoyed a treat alongside the highway, at the store where this all began, quietly letting the day’s events burn into our memory.

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Pat and Mark’s (and Derek and Kirk’s) excellent fly fishing adventure (or, part one of a two-part payoff)

Since day one of my fly fishing career, I’ve been a proponent of hiring a guide to get the “lay of the land,” and though unlucky enough to start fly fishing later in life, I started fly fishing when I could afford to hire a few of these professional trout bums. This however, was one of those times that hiring of a guide paid multiple dividends, even after the guiding was over.

The trip in question centered around two goals: get my brother, Mark, who’d fly fished for the first time last year, on waters local to his home in Washington state, and for a second time attempt to get a close up look at west slope cutthroat trout. To make the most of my short visit, I again turned to Derek Young (Emerging Rivers Guide Services) for help. Frankly, I don’t believe it was a coincidence that I hired Derek two years ago for a float down the Yakima River with my father and that Derek was subsequently selected as the 2011 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year. Regardless, Derek fits my expectations of a guide: someone with strong local knowledge and unfettered enthusiasm for both the fishing and the fish; the type of person with whom one can forge a connection in a mutual passion for fly fishing.

No one would have expected in the days leading up to my flight that the Seattle area would experience record-breaking temperatures. My flight into Sea-Tac International that Wednesday morning would afford my first view of the Space Needle. By the time I was standing on the arrivals sidewalk, most the sky was blue and the sun intense enough that the fleece was tucked away.

I had planned my flight to arrive at an hour late enough that beer tasting on the way to my brother’s house would be socially acceptable. We ended up at Elysian Fields for Cuban and Reuben sandwiches (and beer) after a stop at Georgetown Brewing, then visited Black Raven Brewing before unpacking and prepping for fishing the next day. That afternoon, during the usual pre-planning conversation, Derek proposed accommodating our two goals with two half days of fishing.

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Our first look up this Skykomish Tributary.

That’s how my brother and I ended up wet wading a tributary of the Skykomish River with Derek, who had invited friend and all-around good egg Kirk Wener (the man behind the Unaccomplished Angler blog and author/illustrator of the “Olive the Woolly Bugger” books). I’d met Kirk a few years ago in asking that he sign copies of the Olive books for my nephews. Kirk had mentioned the possibility of fishing together sometime on the Snoqualmie Forks, but he’s a busy man and, for lack planning on my part, it never came to pass.

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Mark working a pool on his way downstream.
(Photo copyright © 2012 Derek Young. Used with permission.)

This Skykomish tributary is one of those rivers that immediately impresses with a feeling of remoteness, even though it’s relatively nearby as the crow flies. But we’re not crows, and the desire to get more than a few steps away from the easily accessed and more heavily fished stretches required a bit of leg work. The hike up a hillside, through rain forest and over fallen trees was an effort not made easier by a big breakfast at the Sultan Bakery, but worth the reward — an uncompromised river and view. The drive to our destination on Highway 2 was under scattered clouds, most of which dissipated as the day wore on.

After laying out a game plan, Mark, Derek and I headed upstream. We left Kirk fishing a nice pool that would produce a surprise and the biggest fish of the day (though not a trout). The walk upstream was punctuated with admiration of the beauty of this place and Derek’s insight into what we’d be fishing and where. As agreed, Derek began shadowing and educating Mark while I attempted and occasionally succeeded to get a decent drift.

If you’ve read this blog before, you’d know that my introduction to fly fishing didn’t involve much in the way of dry flies. But since there would be witnesses, I wanted to man up this trip; I’d live or die by the stimulator Derek had selected. Usually I’d like to say my casting was the result of experience and practice, but sometimes I wonder if using a rod at the higher end of the spectrum not only aids one’s casting but also infuses the user with additional confidence. Whatever the case, the Helios 2 (a disguised test rod) was sweet, and more often than not the fly landed near the designated target.

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Dry flies, baby, dry flies…

There was plenty of fishy water and fish where they might be expected. With good fly placement and a bit of luck, some of those fish — small rainbows, or perhaps steelhead progeny — were found. Those who know me might call it playing to one’s strength, but I’ve increasingly come to appreciate small wild trout. On the right rod, they offer a fight that, ounce for ounce, compares favorably to any of their larger brethren, and usually are more than obliging to forgive my poor presentation of a dry fly. The fish in this part of the Skykomish River system didn’t disappoint.

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Derek offering the assist.

It was clear from my occasional glance upstream that Mark was getting the hang of casting. I was even a bit envious of his tight loops. Despite a secret hope that my initial casting instruction had served my brother well, I had to agree with Derek’s appraisal that Mark just might be a “natural.” It was about this time I noticed, about 50 yards downstream, a peculiarly heavy bend in Kirk’s rod.

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Kirk providing photographic evidence of his ‘surprise.’
(Photo copyright © 2012 Derek Young. Used with permission.)

Mark and I fished upstream, leapfrogging each other as we fished suspect pools, riffles and seams. We each landed fish. There was no real competition between us this day, but if there was, it’s clear that Mark’s enjoyment and wonder trumped the number of fish I landed. Then again, I did manage that one really nice fish.

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That nice fish.

The adventure continues next week…


More photos:
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the excuse for no post

My brother and I were here…

A Skykomish River Tribtutary

Mid morning on a Skykomish River tribtutary, with lots of fishy water.

…fishing…

Brother fish a tributary of the Skykomish.

My brother fishing…

…with Kirk “Unaccomplished Angler” Werner and Orvis guide Derek Young, for this…

Wild Rainbow on Skykomish Tributary

Healthy wild rainbow, who was right where he should have been.


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a little fishwrap on Friday

I’m in the doldrums…taxes need to be done, it’s another four weeks before the Trout Opener, the cold, rainy November weather we didn’t get in November is here now…and seems to be hanging on in Vermont while Hendricksons are hatching early in the East. The anticipation of our Opener usually brings about a focus, but the gear’s long been sorted, flies tied, new reel set up…with little to do but wait, my attention span seems pretty short these days.

I can’t resist and The Wife chuckles knowing that it’s never going to be in the budget, but I would gladly own a vehicle for every day of the week; and two for Sundays…as long as I had the garage space. I can’t buy but can still look, and anyone my age as young as I might love their next fishing vehicles to be one of these recent concepts from Jeep.

Jeep J-12

The Jeep J-12 Concept…a knock off of the always macho J-20…

Jeep FC

The FC concept is as a tribute to the unique Jeep Forward Control that was sold from 1956 and 1965.

You could, however, get your mitts on this oldie but goodie…I remember the first one I saw, in Tuolumne Meadows I believe, in green.

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

A 1970 Jeep Jeepster Commander…with a special and patriotic Hurst package…

On stopping a damn dam: Could it be that all those Californians that long-ago brought a housing boom to Washington State brought more than their luggage? We in the not-anymore-so Golden State are too familiar with the fight over water and the damming of rivers, and now Kirk Werner of UnaccomplishedAngler.com is asking for help…and we should give it. A movement is afoot to stop in the preliminary permitting process a small hydroelectric dam proposed for an upper section of Washington’s Skykomish River. I’ve not fished the Sky, but have hopes that as the years wear on that I might get to know it and other Washington rivers in my pursuit of a native westslope cutthroat.

…And you can’t help but like the little guy, but maybe I pushed my luck actually following through with the threat that I’d drop by to get his signature on a set of “Olive the Woolly Bugger” books…but Kirk seem more than willing to sign copies of his books without you hovering over him if you make a Kickstarter pledge that could launch an Olive iPad app…a good idea for fly fishing fathers who figure they could receive the wife’s approval to get more new gear if only they could only pass their current gear down to their kids. I don’t need the books but I’m keen on something that might keep me entertained in the off season interest kids in the hobby.

I lied, so forget what I wrote. I will buy some new gear at the club auction next week, if I can fend off other bidders. A club member (and fantastic woodworker) donated some nice handmade nets big enough for optimism but more in keeping with the size of fish I land. I’m guessing I’m in for some combat bidding.


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the parent’s 50th wedding anniversary weekend

My parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary last weekend. They didn’t want a big bash, but wanted the family to get together. And, for the first time in quite a few years, we gathered, with my wife and I, and my sister and her family, flying from San Francisco to Seattle-Tacoma International. Being short on vacation time it was a quick trip for us, flying up Friday and leaving Sunday.

The reason we all gathered in Duvall, Wash.

It was the type of low-key celebration that is more common in my immediate family (except, maybe, for my brother). It started Saturday morning at mom and dad’s house with a get-what-you-want breakfast. There was a lot of catching up and joking around. The nephews got reacquainted.

About mid morning, dad presented mom with an anniversary gift; a communal effort that brought together a heartfelt quotation chosen by dad with a cross-stitch put together by my wife, with the matting and framing coordinated by me. Yes, tears glistened in mom’s eyes, and dad’s voice crackled during his presentation.

That afternoon, in typical Konoske fashion and joined by my wife’s parents, we continued the celebration with a hearty “main meal.” (I’d call it either late lunch or early dinner, as the rest of the family well knows by now.)

At Sunday morning mass, mom and dad’s marriage was blessed at Holy Innocents Catholic Church, with the family in attendance. It was nice, and like our parents, low key. After mass and before some of us had to leave, we enjoyed too much breakfast at Duvall Grill.

But I do think I heard something about mom being up for sainthood.


Below is a slide show of photos from the weekend, or you can visit the album here.

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf


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cruising to Alaska, part one: getting up steam

There are a few notable things about taking a cruise that make me feel good: massages, a disconnection from everyday demands and the fact that it’s relatively certain I’ll be part of the younger crowd. Lump in the fact that your hotel room is hauled from port to port while that someone else does the driving, often while you’re asleep, and it’s a pretty sweet deal.

Fueling this allure of cruising is the old-school mode of conveyance, a reminder of less hurried days. The big ships today don’t move any faster than their counterparts of the early 1900s.*

One has to step away from the food, onboard boutiques, entertainment and the Internet café to truly experience this timelessness of travel by ship. My wife and I found ourselves relatively undisturbed during a long, afternoon walk on a lower deck, much of that time watching the ship’s prop wash disappear over the horizon.

Leaving San Francisco Bay

We embarked in San Francisco after a short ride from home, courtesy of the in-laws. One overriding factor in choosing this longer cruise — my dear wife will tell you I wasn’t initially convinced it was worth the extra cost — was that it didn’t require violation screening by the TSA or limits on luggage…we could’ve have taken a ferry across the bay, then walked from the San Francisco Ferry Building to the cruise terminal.

Checked in and familiar with our stateroom’s location on Aloha Deck (11), we familiarized ourselves with the ship courtesy a scavenger hunt. It was helpful to my waistline that our stateroom’s location would require going up or down at least two and often four or five flights of stairs to reach most destinations.

The weather was fantastic for our departure; a bluebird sky, sunshine and wisps of clouds over the bay…at least until we got to the Golden Gate Bridge. Very little of the bridge was visible, but no matter how little of the bridge we saw, it was from a unique perspective. With the ship headed out to an overcast sea, we unpacked, settled in and prepared for dinner. My wife was most excited that evening to receive her Princess Patter, the ship newsletter, which offers a list of shipboard activity the next day and a column written by various ship’s crew.

Our first two days would be at sea, something that’d be unremarkable without knowing that I’ve been prone to seasickness. While Sea Princess — with a length of 856 feet, beam 106 feet and gross tonnage of 77,000 tons — is big ship, 11-foot swells can give a slight pitch to the deck. My apprehension faded away the morning of the second day, when I seemed to have gotten my sea legs. Even so, I still find it a bit disconcerting to jump on a treadmill in the morning to see the sea go by in a direction perpendicular to the direction you’re walking.

That second day I planned to meet with the maître d’hôtel in the morning regarding our dining arrangements. Our original reservations provided for anytime/flexible dining, but before embarking we had requested a switch to traditional dining. The first evening we were reminded that anytime dining really isn’t that flexible, not being served until well after 6:30 p.m. Apparently I made the maître d happy. My request to change to traditional dining came without caveats and with a willingness to share a table with others. Yes, my wife and I dine well with others.

We filled that second day visiting the gym, learning the ship’s layout, confirming spa appointments and attending seminars; some informative, others part of the up-selling that comes with cruising.

During a visit to the cabin in the late afternoon it was learned that I’d be wearing long pants to dinner. We had been moved to the first seating (5:30 p.m.) in the traditional dining room. We didn’t know that fate had a surprise in store.

Sunset somewhere along the California coast…

We were seated at our table, with room for six, before anyone else. Eventually, a couple sat down with their daughter and son-in-law, and introductions commenced. Shortly, however, it grew clear that they had expected another daughter and her husband to occupy the seats now filled by us. Speculation that the daughter hadn’t been able to get her dining assignment changed was soon rendered moot when she appeared, revealing that she did secure a change to traditional dining but hadn’t been able to get an assignment to their table. With a little push from my wife and I, and agreement from the head waiter, the daughter accepted our offer to switch table assignments.

We were presented to our new tablemates, among whom, as luck would have it, was a gentleman my wife had come to know on cruisecritic.com. It quickly became clear we’d all get along when John commented that had he seen us coming, he’d have said “no” to new tablemates. We’d end up spending every dinner and many evenings with John and his wife Connie, and Gene and his wife Maydean.

Our third night was a special occasion: it was the first time in years I’d worn long pants, much less a suit formal night. Adhering to tradition, it was suit and tie for the men, a dress or nice pant suit for the women. Well, some of the men and some of the women. There was a mix of attire, with tuxedoes at the top, plenty of suits, a smattering of polo shirts and khakis, and others who just should’ve order room service in. (This is one of those times that I tend to show my age, expecting that honoring a tradition means making a real effort.)

That was also the evening that we began an eight-night tradition of evening entertainment courtesy of cabaret singer/pianist Sammy Goldstein.

With an excellent start to this cruise, I was looking forward to our first stop: Ketchikan, Alaska.


* There was a contest among ocean liners to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record that led to a top speed of 43 knots (held by the SS United States), but the line is now blurred between ocean liners and cruise ships, and most maintain a cruising speed closer to 20 knots. The only ship comparable to an ocean liner of yore is Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, which has a top speed of 30 knots but typically cruises at 20 to 26 knots.


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north to Alaska…

It’s not that we’re abandoning the six regular readers out there, but three-hundred and fifty-nine days have passed since plans were laid and, finally, we’ll be cruising to Alaska just about 14 hours from now. There’s no fishing in the plans, but that’s not to say it won’t come to pass. (The Wife’s never put the kibosh on fishing and is even encouraging I do so this trip.) Regardless, there will be thoughts of fishing…in the suitcase is what’s needed to tie the flies I lose in trees use most.

It’s been a crushing week lining up the ducks. Everything’s been done that could be done at work, and whatever’s undone at home will be left that way.

Relativity being a real thing, the next 10 days will likely fly by. And human nature being what it is, I’m selfishly looking upon this as an extension of the birthday that crept up on me today. (Feel free to send any fly fishing gear, a Ferrari or cash.)

It’s not that I’m truly selfish and don’t appreciate those who spend a few seconds minutes stopping by, but don’t expect much in the coming week and a half. It’s just that there’s no guarantee that there’ll be a connection to the Interwebs or willingness to step away from the buffet or bar long enough to write.

I do promise to wave from under the Golden Gate.