December 30, 2008

Holiday Play Day

Had the chance to get out and play one more time this year, and of course, had to take it.

The weather showed us a little bit of everything this weekend. Friday was bitter cold with gusting winds in our face and snow flying. It was also fishless. I had one, short-lived fight late in the day (last time I take long-shanked J-hooks with oversized barbs steelheading). It was truly one of those days though when just being on the river was all I needed. For some reason, white-outs are just beautiful when you're standing knee-deep in water a half a degree above freezing.

Brian fighting the cold snow blowing in his face.
Once we got off the water, nature started in with the typical northeast wintry mix. By the time we got out of bed Saturday morning, it was full-on pouring outside. We decided to make our maiden voyage to the DSR, seeing as we'd had no luck the day before, and it should be holding some fresh fish. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding any good-looking water that was holding anything more than fishermen. Note to self; next time you try pay-to-play, bring along someone who knows the stretch better.

After wasting the entire morning doing more walking than fishing, I made the call to stop back at the motel on the way to Friday's fishless hole. I could tell Brian was skeptical, and it didn't help that it meant giving up on the rest of the $30 worth of fishing we had just paid for, but it didn't take too long to change his mind.

We had changed out of our soaked clothes and the rain had mostly stopped, so we were feeling pretty warm, but of course, fishing started out slow again. I did manage a big take right away, but he took my leech and tippet with him on the hit. I'm guessing it was a steelhead, but will never know. Soon enough though, we landed 4 quality browns in under an hour span. Unfortunately, we were never near enough together for any fin-n-grin shots...

My first fish of the weekend...
...but we got to feel sweet redemption following a day and a half of freezing cold fishing and no catching.
Sunday morning started off well enough. The water had come up a full 10" and the flow had ballooned to 180% of what it was the day before. The high and rather stained water had me thinking it might be a washout, but early on Brian landed and released a real nice brown before I had time to get down to him with the camera. He also managed to land a monstrous chub, and miss a couple of takes. I myself couldn't interest anything in my offerings until about 10:30 when I landed this guy:

...and last fish of the weekend.

We gave it our best shot for the rest of the morning, but just before noon, the wind really started whipping up, and hot (relatively speaking, of course) gusts would occasionally warn me of impending doom. Rather than risk a soggy trip home (not to mention potential lightning strikes or falling trees), we called it a day, and a successful weekend. We didn't exactly slay them, but we caught fish and enjoyed ourselves.
I just want to know, why can't we seem to find the metal right now?

December 23, 2008

December 22, 2008

Winter Backpacking

It's almost that time again. I tend to save it for when I just can't justify trying to fish due to cold (i.e. February).

Why would you want to do such a thing as spend multiple nights in seriously sub-freezing temperatures?'s Jim Muller answers that question pretty well, and give some good first-timer advice, in an article for The Conservationist.

Couple more steelhead outings and I'll be yearning for the relative warmth of a fire-side lean-to in winter.

December 18, 2008

I'm not dead yet...'s just that our internet is still out from last week's storm...or rather...from the DPW worker cutting it to free traffic.
Stay frosty!

December 3, 2008

in the morningz we were always ready to catch more steelheads becuz we love steelheads!

The Biggest Pulls...worth a read if only for the hilarious captions. Some conservation up front as well, and that's always good.

The New Paradigm (or, two tasty trout recipes)

This is a long time coming, but, I just had the opportunity to try out a "new" fish recipe.

Tomatoes and Trout
Knowing I wanted to do justice to the trout I decided to keep Sunday (one filet went to my sister, the other was for Hannah and I), I went for a variation on a supposedly traditional Italian recipe. As laid out below, just use the quantities you feel comfortable with, and substitute to your heart's desire:

Fish filet, skinless - any fish will do, but, my preference is salmonid. While the recipe will probably hold up to meatier fish like tuna or swordfish, and is undoubtably outstanding with most any white fish, I think it really shines with the pink and orange.

Tomatoes - ripe plum if available, in quantity to roughly balance the same amount of fish, diced.
Garlic - FRESH minced
Onions - any mild onion, chopped or quartered (I used white pearls)
Capers - to taste
Olives - kalamata (or green or any other variety, if you prefer), pitted and halved or chopped
Parsley and/or cilantro and/or any other herb to taste (I kept it simple with just cilantro)
Coarse ground black pepper
Kosher salt (sparingly)

Prepare and combine "dressing," and drizzle and mix in a little olive oil and dry white wine (sauv blanc is my favorite). Prepare a baking dish (pyrex or stone preferably) with a little olive oil followed by a light sprinkling of black pepper and salt. Lay filet(s) over olive oil, salt and pepper, and cover with dressing. Drizzle some more wine over the top and bake at 450-475 until the fish flakes (approx. 20 minutes for 1 lb of fish).

This is my new favorite fish recipe. Bar none. For sides I went with a whole grain wild rice mix and green beans lightly sauteed in oil, salt, pepper, and of course, fresh garlic, with sliced almonds added in at the end. It was a garlic heavy meal, but the fish still came through, and it got even better with every bite. Hannah said it was good, but apparently didn't enjoy it as thoroughly as I. I'm OK with that.

Default Rub
For times when the time, effort or ingredients just aren't at hand, I will still stick with my all-time, all-food, default rub. It's easy, it invariably cooks quickly with fish, and I nearly always have some laying around. Think barbecue and you're halfway there. Just use more sparingly (i.e. sprinkle) on fish than you would on chicken, beef, pork...

For bbq, I go with the half-sweet, half-savory/spicy method;
Sugar - brown or dark brown sugar, to equal total of all other ingredients
Chili Powder - 4 parts
Garlic Powder - 2 parts
Onion Powder - 2 parts
Dried Mustard - 1 part
Ground Cumin - 1 part
Coarse Black Pepper - 1 parts
Ground Cayenne Pepper - sparingly, to taste
Kosher Salt - 1-2 parts
Use your imagination...add anything you like (or just have laying around), and keep in mind measurements are meaningless, put in as much as you want.

For fish, hopefully you have a cast iron skillet. Really, you can prepare it however you want, but I prefer to pre-heat a cast iron skillet with a healthy coating of oil under the broiler, coat both sides of the filet with rub, lay in skillet and place back under broiler until done, usually only a couple of minutes.

December 2, 2008

Smiling at this blessing, this life is the best...

Consider this my (belated) Thanksgiving. I won't even try to express how lucky I am to have the family, friends, job, ability to explore and enjoy my passions, and of course, woman who's company, I enjoy so much. Thanksgiving is supposed to be the day we reflect on our blessings, but I can tell you I count them every day. Top it all off with the fact that I was able to steal 3 days to myself (yes, I cherish solitude as well) to hit the Salmon River, and I feel guilty to complain about anything.

This is my hour, I’m never going to bed.
The sky is still black, but begs to be red.
I just put my book down, but it begs to be read
I’m not nod, I’m not napper, never rest my head.
Some days I feel I’m getting smaller and smaller,
but some nights, I seem to grow taller and taller.
And we keep shrinkin’ and shrinkin’ but this will not finish.
You’re never nothing, if you didn’t disappear.
Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they change it.
Just when I’m loving life, it seems to start raining.
I pulled the sail safe switch, sea sail and I’m into the stars.
I love the rain on my scars.
The sky’s now red, my eyes reflect jets.
Smiling at this blessing, this life is the best.

Made it to Pulaski around 2 am Friday. Grabbed a few z's in the truck before hitting the tackle shop and then the river. For most of 3 hours, I was the only one in the "prime" spot, but never so much as hooked-up. Managed to lose 3 steelhead and land "2" (more on that later) browns. As it turned out, I wouldn't even get that close to steel again all weekend, but who can complain? A trout is a trout...right?

Day 2 was a little more successful (if you can call it that). I didn't fish the whole day, sleep was calling me. Things started very slow, of course...and cold...

I want to notice chances I’ve passed without notice
I want to see details previously veiled.

I want to grab that chance, carry it home
so I can marry and know-

-That I noticed every chance
that I could have passed without notice
I saw details that to all were veiled.
And I grabbed those chances, carried them home
and then I’ll have had it with roaming

Though it turned out swinging would be the producer this weekend (peach egg-sucking purple bunny leech), the third fish landed was taken on a blue-and-orange estaz egg in a back-eddy. A little snakey and beaten, but a welcome reprieve from the long, frustrating, cold periods of monotony. As with most of the fish for the weekend, this one was between 18 and 20 inches.

I want to speak every cliche but tweak if i’ve seen change
in new way it could be said.

Fished the section of runs, pools and eddys hard with the eggs for a good long time before trying out the leech. I can't say it was at all expected when I went to loose my line from an assumed snag and found this stunning, if modestly sized, specimen struggling to free itself from the hook.

If it’s bleak, or if the week’s leaking down the street
or if any days wasted I want to face facts.
My time on this earth is my only penny,
wise is the gent counting every moment spent.
I don’t want to explain things, don’t wanna fill in the gaps,
I want to look at my friends and in that minute be at …

I wanted to swing through the full run one more time before picking up for hopefully greener pastures, but when I got to the head, the friendly spinner with whom I had chatted earlier (and helped net and release-with expediency-a foulhooked steelie) was occupying it, and another had drifted down and set up shop above. I weighed my options, and considered the hour, and decided to check out the access on the other side of the river.

After examining the main channel thoroughly with my fly, I focused on the base of the cliff along the side channel behind a small island. I got lucky. The fight was tenacious. After netting this jewel, a flawless 2 foot long muscle football that, luckily, was very well hooked, knowing it wouldn't likely be beat, and in desperate need of sleep, I headed back to the motel for an afternoon respite.

If spit like luck, you can only seem,
to borrow it, you can’t keep it.
When the wind of change whistles into play
will I blink or flinch away?
The wind of change won’t whistle me away
if I spin my tails and sail.
And sail away, let yesterday become today.

Sunday was very trying. Firstly, I made the "mistake" of accessing a favorite hole from the nearest downstream parking area. Lets just say the walk upstream is significantly longer and more technical than the walk downstream from the upstream access. Still, a solitary walk in the silent winter woods is hard to spite, even when drenched in sweat.

After burning nearly an hour just getting there and over an hour more fishing it hard with eggs and streamers to no avail, I burnt the next few hours swinging my way back towards my chosen entry with the only action I saw being from rocks and trees, both submerged and on the banks.

I arrived back at the truck, exhausted and disheartened, with 2 hours of fishing time left. Disappointed, I had promised my sister if a suitable candidate made itself available I would bring her a small salmonid feast, and knew that I had abandoned my best shot at doing so by leaving Saturday's "sugar" hole for barren lands. There was only one solution; speed the quick drive back to where I knew there were fish, and see if they were still willing.

Sunday's only fish once again came on the leech with an amazingly unaggressive strike. She must have been confused, because with all the jumps and tail-walking, she had almost convinced me she was a small steelie.

I was almost thankful to see she had been pretty severely marred by a lamprey right between the gills; it made dispatching her feel that much less barbaric.

I came to this world with nothing
and i leave with nothing but love
everything else is just borrowed
As time will say, nothing but
I told you so

I did briefly hook one more fish before the day ended. This one would have been returned if landed (I feel guilty enough taking 1 fish, there would be no reason to take another today), but I never got the chance. The 3-day outing ended perfectly, satisfied with well-earned success, in the midst of a snow squall heavy enough to make it near impossible to follow the line with my eyes. It wasn't a banner weekend catching-wise, but it was stellar for the experience.

Memories are times we borrow
for spending tomorrow.

So that's my story for the weekend, barring an interesting episode (no, not the one where the guy in the raft almost ran me over 5' from shore, then proceeded to anchor 50' downstream from me for 15 minutes before pulling up and rowing circles over the prime hole that I was dying to fish before finally, and thankfully, passing out of my sight to harass someone else); as I mentioned above, on day 1, near the end of the day, I finally landed my first...

look closlier...

...and shortly thereafter, second...

look more closlier...
Notice anything weird? Yup, same fish. I couldn't believe it either.
Who ever said brown trout are smart? In his (her?) defense, the first fly it took was a blue-and-orange estaz, and the second, as you can see, was a completely different blue-and-pink estaz.
Once again, who am I to complain?