Monday, December 12, 2011

Reminisces from a Great Childhood

Dave Tucker recently posted on FB about his Grandson catching his first fish with Grandpa. As I read I thought "that is so very cool!".

Then I had a flash to the past and started thinking about my PaPa, Ernest Franklin Chenowith. He was my Mom's Dad and I loved him dearly.

I wish I could remember the first fish I caught fishing with my PaPa, but I can't. It just seems like he was always fishing with us. I do remember many, many trips with him and the good times we had.

I remember when I was 10 I had a new spinning reel and he took me to the "ponds" near the Grass Valley Highway. It was quite a walk and when we got out there I discovered my reel handle had backed itself off and was gone. I fished anyway and still caught a few. The man that owned the Western Auto store took a handle off a reel in his display case and gave it to me so I could fish while we were there. That was my first personal experience with outstanding customer service.

I also remember many trips to Rattlesnake Bar on Folsom Lake and stopping at the old store by the RR tracks for a strawberry pop. I remember Striped bass fishing with PaPa on the Sacramento River.

I don't remember the last fish I caught with him either but it might have been at Fish Lake in Southern Utah when he and Granny came for a visit.

I do remember the last fish I caught at his house, or at least one of them. He had a spring pond and had put a few bluegills in it that he'd procured? from a local lake. I caught those bluegills over and over and the last time I fished there I was 18. The next time I was there was to visit him as he lay dying in the hospital.

I raise a toast to you PaPa. Thank you for making a little boy's time on the water more special!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Lament

There is a scene in the movie Gladiator where the gladiator imagines his return to his home in Trujillo, Spain. He walks through the wheat field leading up to his house, right hand outstretched, his fingertips brushing the wheat flower.

It is a scene that has stayed with me since I first saw it, so strong visually, almost evoking a sense of melancholy.

On every river, every time I fish, when I think no one is watching, I allow my fingertips to drag in the flow. The cold always comes as a shock, although it should not - steelhead are creatures of cold water. I can always feel the water dragging past my fingertips, as though steelhead water is possessed of a special friction.

I have lived the life of a city dweller, trading crowded schoolroom for busy office. I drive crowded highways to work, drinking coffee that others prepare for me. My food is rendered by others, often to the point that I no longer recognise the source.

I touch water most weekends but only touch something truly wild 10 or perhaps 15 times a year, when I land a steelhead.

I know my brother Ken aspires to fish without a hook point, in homage to our fish. He is inspired by one of the ghostly figures of our sport.

I find a I cannot consider doing so - the act of touching something truly wild comes to me so few times in a year, in a lifetime - I certainly cannot do so.

Not so long ago, a river, a river of my heart, opened for the first time in several years.

Only 600 fish have returned, from a race that once numbered 6000.

I will not fish, even though I could. With only 600 fish, if I risk killing even one, the loss is too much. I cannot face the possibility.

And to fish with no hook? Pointless, if the object of my desire is to touch something truly wild.

For now, I stand on the bank, unable to drag my fingertips through the water, with only memories of wild beasts.

Will the run ever recover? Will I ever feel the friction of those drops of hope, dragging against my fingertips, on the River of My Heart?


Friday, November 11, 2011

The quiet pool

The once busy river is now desolate. I walk alone seeing no one and hearing nothing but the sound of leaves softly hitting the ground and the lapping of water on the rocks. A weak sun hangs low in the horizon, barely clearing the canyon walls, occasionally cutting through the trees and mid morning mist in splintered arrows of light. I fish and walk in constant awe of my surroundings. Mesmerized by the beauty of fall unfolding around me. Later as I wander through familiar places,an amazing fish devours my offering and we dance a dance as the sunlight fades on this fall day. He battles heroically and slips away before I can touch him. I don't mind as it is a privilege to even come across a fish of his size.

One more fish graced  my presence before the day was done.As I drove away,winding my way up and out of the canyon, I had a grin on my face that I could not wipe off. It was so good to be on The River once again.

Perfect hen,floating line and old Sharpe's Gordon

 Some more stunning eye candy from my friend Scott. Just Beautiful

Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Big Sky Land"
By Clearwater Frank

Montana's morn broke dark and drear as I scraped the frost off "Old Blue's" glass, the engine coughed then hammered some as I headed South toward Wolff Creek pass

The Missouri flowed by smooth and gray with a riffle every little way, I saw some geese upon a flat and a whitetail feeding in a draw,

As the engine warmed and my fingers thawed my thoughts turned toward what fly to fish, I thought about a brown as a Christmas wish,

Now I'm up to my knees in the chilly flow my Black Nosed Dace clouded in the snow which flutters down from the cold gray sky,

The wind is whistling past my ears should I head to Craig and have a beer, then the day is orr the score is nil, my body shudders with a chill,

I head for the farm out East of town as the sun is slowly sinking down, I'm home again with the fire's roar I have a warmth deep down inside from a day spent at the river's shore,

No fish today that was my lot but I care not of the total score, just spending time in "Big Sky Land" can make one's life seem truly grand.

October Something

Bulkley Trip- Arrival

Up at 7 and out the door, with only a stop for coffee. 7 hours of beautiful views follow.

At one point, with the sun only low in the sky, I see a wolf, skipping through a farm field.

I see eagles hovering and once, a badger crossing the road.

I pass McLeese Lake and pause to look back down the lake. I always wonder how I could arrange to be here at dawn but its too far "in between" places I might stay overnight.

More coffee and there's only three more hours till I get to Smithers.

At 3, at 140 kms/hour, I pull in to town. A quick stop at the motel, where I literally throw my stuff in the room and suddenly, I am on the Bulkley again after a long year of hard soul killing work.

The water is high but no higher than it was last year.

Gone is the melancholy of yesterday and I have to force myself to slow down - to breathe - I am shaking with excitement. I fish a run I have only fished once before and that time I found fish.

Sure enough, this time I bump a fish in exactly the same spot. Its just a quick bump and then nothing. I switch flies and swing down through the run. Its loooong, a kilometre, I will only get to cover a third of it before dark. Then it happens, a fish rolls over my fly. The fish.

I realise I am standing way too far out in the water. I step much closer to the bank, back up and change flies.

The sun starts down the sky towards the Seven Sisters and a huge October moon rises opposite. An angler and his yellow lab fish the run across from me. The fading sunlight catches his line arcing out across the water. He fishes too fast through the run and does not touch the fish that is always there.

He and the dog leave. I am alone again.

My third fly swings down through the run. I force myself to count 30 at the end of every swing.

At the end of one 30 seconds, a swirl and then the line comes tight.

Then nothing.

I change flies, step, swing, step, swing. A tap, tap, tap, then nothing.

Ten minutes later, it's too dark to see the head marker on the line.

I spool up and walk back to the car.

The river slips by, bathed in moonlight.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Special times with amazing friends(new and old) on an unbelievable river.....what more can I say?

Talented tier Scott Travis, graced me with these beautiful examples of some of the classics.

There's a number 5 Blue Charm in there.....just for you Ken!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shuffling the deck

It's that time of year where the deck gets shuffled. The hot days of summer are behind us and there is snow in the hills. As the days get cooler and the nights start to get downright cold, the internal trigger on the anadromous fish is pulled. Dour fish that have been sitting in the deepest runs they can find to escape the summer heat,slowly start to move. Big bucks start to ease out of their lairs and began their upstream  migration, following the overpowering instinct to find a mate and spawn. The early fall rains have begun, water temperatures are cooler and fish began to move at all times of the day.During the summer, their upstream movement was masked by the low light conditions of morning and evening. Now, fish can clearly be seen moving through tail outs and narrow slots at almost anytime of day.These once placid fish move aggressively to the fly once again.

A little larger profile fly is effective when water levels rise and cool

These early fall rains bring in fresh fish from the ocean as well. Fish that have waited for just this time to enter the stream of their birth and continue the cycle that will bring future generations. These late entering fish could still biologically be described as summer run fish but, on the river I fish at least, we start to see some fish that are distinctly different in appearance. These are the Nostril fish.The long sleek body of a summer fish is gone.A summer fish?A fall run fish? I can't answer that for sure. These fish have the body lines of a winter fish, not the overall length and mass necessarily, but those linebacker shoulders are evident. There is also a distinctly different spotting pattern on these fish. My friends and I have often wondered if these fish are a remnant strain from one of the logged out tributaries whose spawning gravel has long since been buried by silt and debris. Those tributaries can't support near the numbers that they once did, but small runs of these special fish do hang on where they can find suitable habitat. In talking with the old timers on the river, we have learned of distinct run timings of unique strains of fish that used to happen like clockwork. These individual genetically different runs of fish used to blur the line between the seasons. It wasn't just a summer and winter run, there would be fresh fish pouring into the river almost every month of the year.Each run timed to coincide with the water temps and conditions on one of the myriad of tributaries it was raised. Each fish type a genetically different creature,even from the one that is in the creek next door.

I am quite sure that many rivers in the Northwest have/ have had run timings and different strains of fish in the same system, genetically unique to the tributary they were raised. I would love to hear stories of fish on your rivers that fall into this category.

These fish still exist in small numbers and are seen every year by an even smaller group of anglers.

The fun part of this time of year is you never know what you might catch. A fish that has been in the river for awhile but is rested and willing to tussle, or a fish that is new on the block and ready to show you some kite string in a hurry.

The deck is shuffled, fish are moving and there are some wild cards out there.

Good fishing

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Shack

 From a distance you can see it, hidden in the trees. As I wind up the long driveway, the sight of woodsmoke curling out of the chimney and hanging in the still cold air is both inviting and comforting. Turning in to park in my old familiar spot, tires crunch gravel and then quiet as they roll over the bed of needles that has accumulated over the decades. I open the door of the truck and am greeted by the familiar smell of the river, and wet fir and cedar trees.I stand for a moment,engulfed in the sweet smell of well seasoned wood in the old iron stove. My nostrils flair as they detect the hint of something delicious cooking in the crock pot. Voices from inside escape through the walls, uncontainable in the small space. I hear familiar voices, happy voices....I am home! I climb the stairs to the front door and open it to a cacophony of greetings from my dearest friends. 

 The Rod Rack At The Shack(You should see the one inside)

The second I cross the thresh hold  of the entry way,  I feel instantly free. I just left the weight of the world, work, etc on the front porch when I came in. Old friendships long separated are rekindled here.New friendships are made. The deep and unchanged friendships of my closest friends grow ever stronger with every passing day.I instantly get an update on everything that has happened on the river since I have been there last. What's fishing,what isn't. Memorable encounters with fish are retold with an excitement that gets to your core. We are kindred spirits involved in a life long pursuit of a fish that defies description. The Shack is the gathering place, bunkhouse, war room, the dining hall, marriage counselor,psychiatrist couch,matchmaker,the saloon, poker hall, hospital,concert hall,movie theater, fly shop, and fly tying room. It is more than a place to get in out of the rain. It has become a part of the whole experience. It is a humble place, nothing fancy here, in fact the rods,reels,assorted tackle and fly tying material are probably worth more than the building itself in actual dollars. We wouldn't trade that old shack in for anything, to do so would take a piece of us with it.

 The Shack provides the rest to chase our dreams

 Sometimes those dreams can be caught

As the fall weather starts to move in, start heading for your Shack. They can be found on steelhead rivers throughout the NW. They are places of warmth and refuge for us wandering souls.Remember,as we all travel on this endless pursuit for the uncatchable fish,and that unreachable lie,it's the times spent in The Shack building relationships that are often most memorable.

 Tight Lines And Wild fish
Have A Happy Fall

Monday, September 12, 2011

A season of Septembers

At the start of every season I can't help but wish for a few more Septembers in the year. Rusty casting, color peeking from the underbrush, and a trickle...

But then October starts to loom and time is split between the yard, The River, and the talus slopes or tall grass of the back forty. The dogs tighten up, shots get further, and we all begrudgingly lose a few pounds.

September & October slip away too fast, but I've grown to appreciate early Fall for what it leaves me and not what I miss out on...

- Posted when I should be working...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The old Russian way


Why is it that customers, some of them very educated people order something and receive it 3 weeks ago then call up today and say "what I ordered isn't what I wanted. I'm leaving for BC early next week, can you overnight what I have now decided I really want?"

Fly shop owners start out as friendly, happy people but after dealing with this kind of crap for a few years they become crabby people. GRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

time to learn

The experience of salmon fishing is not immediate. However there is a reward for your investment.

Time to learn the water;

The riparian rights, the pools, the locals, the landowners. Where the fish are likely to hold...

What has happened to the pool during ice out?

Spring pools, high water pools, low water pools, breathtaking fall runs.

Where to take a novice, where to test an advanced angler’s skills.

Time to learn the flies;

The styles, the hooks, the beliefs, the prejudices...

The idea that the pattern itself means very little is instilled, yet I still find my confidence in select few.

Of course these change from season to season. I accuse salmon of being illogical. What is to be said of myself?

Time to learn the WAY

Proper rotation on a productive pool.

Being dazzled by a beautiful, straight cast from experienced hands.

The fight!

Reflections of the challenge.

Time to learn the legend;

The mighty Miramichi river. Great men have stood here before me. Great men follow me through these pools. Have they been on a similar journey as I have?

-R. Feeney

The Deschutes

A very cool place to spend time with friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Late March, early April is my favourite time on the Squamish River. You really have to work and that work is only rarely rewarded with fish. The run of wild steelhead is small but the steelhead themselves are the largest in the Lower Mainland rivers.

Every spring, I bump in to other steelheaders who only fish here, away from the crowds and the ensuing madness of other streams. Its like being part of a secret society, whose only aim is to truly enjoy quiet and solitude. Its all the more remarkable because its exactly 1 hour from my home.

Some of my grandest moments in steelheading are from this very spot. It's funny to think that so few of them actually involve catching fish.

Jonathan Barlow