Archive | February, 2011

Next Move

A presentation in Fresno Thursday night and a casting demo and a PowerPoint presentation each day during the Pleasanton, California Fly Fishing Show makes seven talks in four days. That doesn’t include book signings, demoing art and yakking it up with hundreds of people. It was awesome! But I’m flat out exhausted. And Granny is flat out exhausted too just from watching!

It’s been a great tour through California. It’s been nearly all work but what I do for work is fun as heck. I know half the fly fisherman in every city the Fly Fishing Show goes to but at the Pleasanton California Show I know most of them and its three days of catching up with old friends. Granny and I are absolutely beat but we are on our way home.

I’m just waking up here in Fernley, Nevada after we knocked off nearly five hours of our drive home back to Victor, ID after the show ended last night. We slept like rocks and now it’s back to the pavement. Weather permitting; we hope to get home by 5 PM tonight. I have birds to feed and bags to unpack and pack. Thursday its time to leave for the AMAZON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Santa Barbara Fishing

Sunrise in Santa Barbara, California was spectacular this morning. The Pacific Ocean was as calm as a bass pond. I grabbed my 8-weight and some orangey crab patterns and Clouser like shrimps and headed for the wharf. There was hardly anyone on the huge dock and I had plenty of room to cast along parked boats and along the rip rap. I felt confident to start but after an hour without a strike or a follow that feeling left me. I walked to the very end of the wharf and cast to the open ocean but nothing. You can’t catch them all the time. Giving it a try was a great way to spend a couple hours.

Granny and I drove the back way to Fresno, California this afternoon. It was a great drive. We went up the 101 just past San Luis Obispo and then we cut on to Route 41 all the way to Fresno. It’s amazing all the different types of terrain we saw along the way. It was a very cool drive. We came to Fresno because I speak to the Fresno Fly Fishers tomorrow night before the late night drive up to Pleasanton for the next Fly Fishing Show.

Laguna Beach Perchin

I don’t care what they say about the traffic around here, Southern California is awfully nice in February. Granny and I know exactly what the weather is in Victor, Idaho at the moment – cold and snowy! Yet today we awoke in paradise. We stayed with Karl and Tina Weber and their house is literally right on the ocean in Laguna Beach. You can actually hear the surf breaking even with the windows of your room closed!

We got up around 7 and drank coffee and then Tina made us a nice pancake breakfast. All the time we watched birds and dolphin terrorize bait about ¼ mile off shore. The second I finished my last bite I grabbed my stuff and headed to the beach to try and catch a few more barred surf perch like I did last night.

I was using my 8-weight set up from last night and tied on an orangey colored shrimp pattern Granny tied up years ago for a Christmas Island trip. Word is that the perch chow on sand crabs and anything orange will entice them. Sure enough, I was into my first perch in minutes.

When I started the tide was low and the surf was gentle. I could wade in the chilly water with ease and make long casts. Long isn’t always key however, I went on to catch 5 perch and they were very close to me. They were literally right where the drop off was where the waves break. As the tide rose, the wave size increased dramatically and my perch fishing dropped off.

Granny and I relaxed with Tina and Karl till about noon then we headed north. We drove to Santa Barbara where we are for the night. I’ve spoke to the fly fishing club here a few years back and remember walking the docks and seeing some fish around. Naturally, I’ve kept that in the back of my mind and tomorrow I’ll be out early to take a crack at them. Now its time to take my Granny out for some seafood.

One Show Down

Extremely heavy rains pounded us in Pasadena during the Fly Fishing Show from about 3 PM on Friday nearly straight through to Sunday morning. All the surrounding mountains of the Los Angeles got buried in snow making for a unique scene around the city. Then around noon on Sunday the sun broke through and although it’s unseasonably cold, we should have sunshine for a few days.

I’ve only been to the Pasadena Fly Fishing Show once and it was about five years ago. What I remember from it was that it’s much smaller than most shows and the attendance is lighter. However, it draws an attentive crowd that you can really visit with. This weekend was exactly that.

Fellow presenters included Gary Borger, Gary Graham, and Ken Hanley to name a few. There were a lot of good programs offered and things to see. More than anything, I cranked out some art. I painted up a California Golden Trout and with a sharpie drew up a smallmouth bass on a Cliff Fly Box for someone. Granny and I met a lot of nice folks and visited with old friends.

Today Granny and I took a casual drive down the Pacific Coast road to Laguna Beach. Here we met up with friends Karl and Tina Weber. They have a killer place right on the beach. We know them both from up in Jackson, Wyoming where they own the Gros Ventre River Ranch. Naturally because they are right on the beach, I strung up my 8-weight Ross FW and a 200 grain sinking line, grabbed their dog Izzy and made some casts before dinner. To my delight I landed two small surf perch. Tomorrow morning I’ll give it my best after breakfast.

The Old Exploder Makes it to LA

Our old Ford Explorer with 245,000 miles led the way out of a snowy Victor, Idaho. The roads were treacherous all the way to Idaho Falls then we battled high cross winds all the way to Salt Lake City. Finally we got south of there and the drive became much more enjoyable. We made it as far as St. George, Utah before grabbing a cheap hotel and a heck of a dinner and a few beers at a Thai Restaurant.

This morning we got back on I15 and humped it to Las Vegas. We stopped in to dump 25 silver dollars in the slots but they don’t do it that way anymore. You use dollar bills and if you win you collect tickets. No more noise of falling coins. Boring! We did a mere $5 and said screw it and continued on our journey south.

We rolled into Barstow, California at mach speed when Granny spotted and In-N-Out Burger. She’s never been to one and insisted we stop. Well, we don’t call it “In-N-Out Burger” anymore. It was insanely busy and after we gave our order and paid it took a chaotic 45 minutes before the food was out.

We arrived in Pasadena for the Fly Fishing Show at about 3 PM. It is pouring. So much for “it never rains in California” – “Monsoon Currier” is in town!

California Bound

I certainly enjoyed my nine days at home. The weather has been gorgeous. I got plenty of exercise on my skis, snowshoes, running etc. I completed some art projects including a pastel of this schipperke as well as some sharpie art on a few Cliff Boxes. I also edited pictures from the Baja trip earlier in the month – we sure didn’t catch many fish! That’s ok though because Sammy has us booked to head back in May – good stuff!

As fun as it was to be home, I like action and it’s time to hit the road again. Tomorrow I head for California to begin a nearly two week road trip that includes the Pasadena Fly Fishing Show, a one night speaking engagement in Fresno and the Pleasanton Fly Fishing Show. If you’re in the area stop by and catch one of my presentations and say hi.

I’ll definitely do a few posts while in CA. I’ll report after each show and hopefully I’ll wet a line along the way. I packed an 8-weight Ross FW and plan to hit the surf a few times between shows. I’ve had some decent fishing over the years with barred surfperch and last time I caught a spotfin croaker. The good news is the blog will explode with good stuff in March. We’ll kick off with a trip to Brazil and end the month by starting Granny’s and my expedition to Madagascar. Yup, were doing it. I can only imagine what kind of fish I’ll be writing about from Madagascar. Stay tuned.

after each show and hopefully I’ll wet a line along the way. I packed an 8-weight Ross FW and plan to hit the surf a few times between shows. I’ve had some decent fishing over the years with barred surfperch and last time I caught a spotfin croaker. The good news is the blog will explode with good stuff in March. We’ll kick off with a trip to Brazil and end the month by starting Granny’s and my expedition to Madagascar. Yup, were doing it. I can only imagine what kind of fish I’ll be writing about from Madagascar. Stay tuned.


Playing Catch Up

I’m enjoying a nice week at home. Temperatures outside are miserably cold which is good because such weather keeps me inside. I have plenty to do starting with cleaning the salt off my reels, rods, pliers and etc from the Baja trip. Salt can take its toll on your equipment if you don’t clean it up quickly upon return. Save an old toothbrush (Granny gets ticked if I use hers!) to get the nooks and crannies of your reels and take your rods and raingear in the shower. I’d like to add, my Ross reels and rods as well as my RIO lines and tippet worked fantastic as always. These are products that can handle salt, sand and huge fish.

I’m also catching up on artwork, getting presentations ready for two weeks of shows in California and making travel preparations. Not only am I packing for CA but I’m even packing for Brazil. I don’t leave for the Amazon until March 3rd but I don’t get home from this CA road trip until March 1. There won’t be much time!

Here in Victor the snow continues to pile up. I spent at least six hours shoveling yesterday. I did my porches, roof and the driveway. During my breaks I watch the battle of the birds (like this flicker) from my computer. This is by far the best bird year Granny and I have had at our feeders.

For those of you from the Boise, Idaho area, I will be there doing seminars and presentations with friends Pete Erickson and Phil Rowley March 26-27. The event is called “Confessions 2011 Tour” and offers two days of presentations from the three of us. This is will be a fun filled weekend. For information email us or visit a local Boise fly shop!

Mission Yellowtail Beaten by Lobsters

February 4, 2011

Sammy and I must be nuts because we were anxious to head back out on Magdalena Bay to try for yellowtail again. The temperature was even colder than yesterday, the wind was still strong and we left much earlier. We were on a mission to catch a big yellowtail on the fly.

The temptation was because of the two close calls we had yesterday. Sammy had two monster 40lbers right behind his fly, literally nipping at the tail and I raised a pair of 20lbers from the deep that just followed my fly for a look. Then Grant landed a beast on a spin rod by jigging a massive Krocodile lure down deep. The fish were there now we just had to have some luck on our side.

Despite the cold this week, every day has been sunny and today was no exception. Although we took another beating from the waves, the long boat ride to the ocean side of Magdalena Island was gorgeous. Today there were even more gray whales around as well as sea lions. One would only think there would be more feeding yellowtail as well.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. When we finally arrived at the yellowtail area, all the bird activity was in one spot close to the rocks of the Magdalena Island. They were feeding on what appeared to be an incredible spiny lobster hatch (If anyone can confirm this by the picture of the one we snagged I would appreciate it!). We drove to the birds and the ocean blue turned red. In all my life on the ocean, I have never seen such a phenomenon. These baby lobsters are bright red like a cooked lobster. They’re only about the size of a quarter but there are millions of them. Literally layers upon layers. Once we stopped the boat on top of the red glow I looked over the side and I witnessed the millions upon millions of these incredible little creatures. I was amazed at how fast and well they swam out there in the open ocean.

As amazing as the lobster hatch was, it was not good for our fishing. There was no doubt that all fish were feasting on the lobsters or even worse, were already full. This was a gift from Mother Nature for saltwater fish like a salmon fly hatch is to the trout back home. We didn’t have a chance!

Naturally we tried though. Sammy and I started dredging the deep where we left off yesterday. We even made Grant jig with the spin rod but he couldn’t roust up a strike either. It was useless. No birds and no yellowtails chasing bait.

At 2 PM we decided to give up on the yellowtail. Octavio took us in to the rocks where we cast to structure hoping to nail a snapper or a grouper of some sort but even against the rocks were heaps of baby lobsters. Even the fish of the rocks were full of the precious treat. I managed to squeak out on miracle fish, a non glamorous Pacific barracuda. At 3PM we packed it up and made our grueling trip in.

Tonight we are in La Paz. Today was our last day of fishing and we fly home tomorrow. We chowed another great meal at the the Buffalo Bar-B-Q restaurant like we did the first night and chatted about our trip. This was a tough one to say the least. Abnormal cold and consistent wind slowed us down. Nonetheless, it was a great time well spent with good friends. The last part of our conversation tonight was about our next trip. We just may be back for big roosters in May. That sounds ok with me!

Rough Seas in Magdalena Bay

February 3, 2011

Okay man – this is getting ridiculous! I slept with a bright pink girly extra blanket I borrowed out of Grants car that belongs to his kids. I put on fleece pants that I thought I foolishly brought along. And I wore my wool hat that I accidentally have along because I wore it from my car into the airport at Idaho Falls. And I still froze my butt off in our hotel room here in Baja! This is not the Baja I know and love!

We were packed and on our way to Magdalena Bay before 6 AM today. The temperature reading at departure was 34°s. Yikes! After a three hour drive south we got to the fishing town of San Carlos and the temperature warmed up to a blazing 54°s. Here we met Grants friend Octavio to go out with him in his Ponga to fish for yellowtail. I’ve never met Octavio in my life but I could read his mind and he was shocked that we weren’t cancelling our day with him. (I must say Sammy was thinking about it)

By the way, a lot of people think they know what a yellowtail is and don’t. They are not the same as a yellowfin tuna or a yellowtail snapper. A yellowtail is a yellowtail. Often times called kingfish in places like New Zealand.

We pushed his monster ponga off at about 9:30 AM and quickly realized not only was the temperature cold but the wind was out of control – 30 knots! I’ve been in plenty worse on cold lakes back home where the chilled water can kill you in 2 minutes if you fall overboard, but on those trips I dress for the brutal weather. Once again, none of us ever expected such cold times in Baja.

It wasn’t just the cold that made our nearly 2 hour run to the mouth of Magdalena Bay and the open ocean uncomfortable, but the smashing of the boat on every rogue wave was enough to tense up every muscle in the body. However, once to the spot it all seemed worth it. The scenery was spectacular. Gray whales were breaching everywhere you looked amongst the crashing waves. And best of all, frigate birds, cormorants, gulls and pelicans were ravaging bait on the surface scared up from predators below.

Normally when chasing yellowtail with a fly rod, you use fast sinking lines and prowl among the deepest rocks. And with 400 grain Rio Deep Sea Lines, that’s exactly what we did. Not only was it the logical thing to do but also the area of rocks was protected from the wind by Magdalena Island. But this routine brought us nothing. To succeed today we had to step up and ride the waves of the open ocean and follow the foraging birds. That’s where the yellowtail were.

Off we went full speed bouncing off each and every wave so hard I swear my teeth were loosening from the gums. Every time the frigate birds dove to the sea we met them. Each time we were just a minute too late and the surfacing yellowtail were finished with their feeding spree. Than after an hour of chasing, two small groups of yellowtail stayed on top charging bait along the surface within casting range. Sammy launched a great cast from the bow to two massive fish. I made a cast to some behind the boat but they were just too far out. By the time my fly landed they sank out of sight. I shouted for Grant to launch a cast with his spin rod and jig. His cast went a mile and he let it sink. He had a yellowtail on in a split second! Meanwhile, the two giant fish chased Sammy’s fly to the boat and disappeared into the blue.

Sammy and I reeled in and we watched Grant fight his yellowtail as furiously as he could. These fish are fierce fighters and do not come in easy. Grant was really giving it to this yellowtail because he wanted us to hook up with the fly. Pump after pump he pulverized his desperate yellowtail and just as the yellowtail seemed to be getting close he came off. There was no doubt that Grant lost the fish on purpose because he wanted to see us get one on the fly. Now Grant was freaking out hollering for Octavio to chase the birds again. All three of us were certain there would be another chance soon.

But you know how it goes; we never had another prime chance like that one. We chased and chased and every time we were a minute too late. The yellowtail simply would not stay near the surface. That’s when Octavio told us there were yellowtail everywhere about 40 feet down. He wanted us to simply cast ahead of the boat with our flies on the fast sinking lines, let them sink deep and then strip in as fast as possible. And that’s what we did for the next two hours.

This routine got old fast. We were getting bounced around like you can’t believe. Our method of madness seemed hopeless. Here we were in the blue water in 6 to 10 foot high waves; it was freezing cold and dangerously windy, dredging for a fish. That’s when we encouraged Grant to cast the spin rod again. Sure enough, in minutes, he hooked another yellowtail about 50 feet down. Only this one he landed. It was a 40lb beast that had Sammy or I taken an equivalent yellowtail on the fly it would be a fish of a lifetime. Nonetheless we were all very happy. We had fish for dinner. Not only that, yellowtail make some of the finest sashimi on Earth. Best of all, the quick catch proved that Octavio was right, the fish were deep beneath us and somehow Sammy and I had to get down there.

To make a long story short, during another hour of casting, I had a close call. I raised two yellowtails. They were about 20lbs and I would have been more than delighted with one of them. But they simply surfed a massive wave and followed my fly to the boat and disappeared. Dang! So close again!

We had some new hope but that was it. We wore ourselves out for another half our or so and then it was time to go. It was time to travel straight into the wind all the way back to San Carlos. Octavio, who was nearly frozen solid in the back of the boat, did a great job driving us home without killing us. It was miserable but certainly could have been worse. Once back Octavio filleted the massive yellowtail. We took some but left most for Octavio and his family. Grant made fantastic sashimi out of some of ours and we took the rest to a local restaurant and had it grilled. It was a great way to end a tough day of fishing. Sammy and I want a big yellowtail on the fly so bad that we are going again tomorrow. Cross your fingers!

Chasing Halibut just for the Halibut

February 2, 2011

That halibut we had for dinner last night was so darn good that when Grant started to make a plan for today we all leaned toward dunking flies down deep for full day of halibut fly fishing. Once again, even with the sun up the temps were cold as heck. I brought some warm clothes for this trip but not nearly enough. There was no way we were going to wade the surf yet, so again we had a casual breakfast and let the sun warm us up.

It wasn’t until about 10 AM that we got in Grants truck and drove the short distance to Toms halibut spot where we fished sunset last night. The tide was high so we couldn’t drive the shortcut down the beach so we took the long way on the roads of the desert. I never mind a little extra driving on the desert because we always see roadrunners when in Baja. And we did.

We didn’t make first cast until almost noon. When I set foot off the beach to wade, the water was absolutely freezing and the surf was big. Fortunately the wind was out of the east making life easy for casting and the high tide was dropping fast. Gradually the big waves shrunk and rocks that protected Toms halibut lies began to show themselves. Regardless of things looking good however, the four of us cast relentlessly for hours but not even a strike.

At 4 PM the tide was low and we could walk everywhere. There were new rocks showing, logs sticking out of nowhere and you could see the sand that Tom frequently catches halibut. I was just beginning to wonder why we hadn’t had even a hit when suddenly Grant hooked up. Grant was hucking flies today so the hook up got Sammy’s and my attention fast. We ran over to him and sure enough it was our first halibut of the day. After a few photos Sammy and I went into serious fish mode.

From that moment until sunset we had steady good fishing. While Sammy, Grant and I caught the occasional halibut, barred sand bass and corvina on flies, Tom put on a clinic with his bait caster. Tom is not yet a fly fisherman and judging by how many more fish he caught then we did tonight, he may never learn. I watched Tom land about four halibut, ten sand bass and a few corvina. It was incredible. However, I wouldn’t trade the challenge of fly fishing for halibut for anything!

When we finished up our fishing we were all freezing to death. Grants truck showed a mere 53°’s! No wonder we were cold. We whacked one halibut for dinner tonight. It was so good last night we had to do it again. We made it into fish tacos and it was the best fish tacos I ever had in my life. Absolutely the finest! Thank you Mr. halibut. Now its time for a good night sleep because we are headed for Magdalena Bay in the morning – very early.

(One quick note. Incase you didn’t notice, the picture here that looks like nothing is actually a halibut we released. You have to look carefully as his ability to camouflage himself with the bottom is incredible)