Episode IV: A Renewed Hope

Looking back over the last two plus years since my fly fishing journey began, I have been reflecting on who and what has contributed to my success (sometimes lack thereof) as an aspiring fly angler, but also looking forward to what may challenge my resolve in the future.

Since this obsession began a little more than two years ago, I have found a multitude of trout, whitefish, squawfish, steelhead and a small handful of salmon at the other end of my line.  Some might say that I’m obsessed, others might say I’m psychotic, and still others may say I don’t fish enough.   I think I’m somewhere to the latter, but the first two still  apply.

Lately, this mind boggling activity that we call fly fishing, has somewhat confounded me.  By some strange index of events has thrust me back to basics.  Six months ago, if anyone asked me if you could have 5 flies in your fly box what would they be?  My answer then would be very different from what it is now.   I think, most importantly, the single biggest lesson learned is…  Whatever fly you fish, fish it with confidence, because it will always catch more fish.  Which brings me to my actual post.

A Renewed Hope:

That Chewbacca is a real woolly bugger.

Getting back to basics seems to be a difficult feat for some more than others.  For me, it was kinda natural, since well, I’ve not been at this for very long, and well, it seemed I skipped a few steps along the way.

Let’s start off defining the basics.  What are basics?  By definition, basics are a statement of fundamental facts or principles.  So, what are fly fishing basics?  Learning to tie a set of knots, because without those, we can’t connect backing to the reel, fly line to backing, leader to fly line, and fly to leader.  Gripping the fly rod.  If you can’t hold it , you can’t cast it.  Casting a fly line. By relation, if you can’t cast it, you ain’t gonna catch no fish.  Surprisingly enough, I have mastered that set of basics fairly well. Moving on, so now we get into fly selection dry fly, wet fly, nymph and streamer.  I suppose, streamer could be technically considered wet fly, but I give them their own classification.  This seems to be where something got missed.  Here in this part of Oregon, you don’t see very many people fishing streamer type flies for trout.  Steelhead, sure, I see a quarter of a chicken and somewhere around a half of a rabbit getting tossed around all the time and sometimes, all tied to a single hook.  But not so much here for trout.  They are primarily bug eaters, or so I’m told.  And in some cases that holds true.  However, there seems to be somewhat of a discrepancy in what I’m told.

Over the last month and a half or so, I have been reintroduced to an old but yet very effective streamer.

Woolly Bugger

Yes, the woolly bugger.  Some marabou, flash, chenille, palmered hackle, and bead head all lashed to a 3x long streamer hook.  Simple, basic, but yet deadly effective.  These critters have earned a permanent place in my fly box, and rightfully so.

So, how does one go about fishing a woolly bugger?  There is no real wrong answer here other than leaving it at home when you’re out fishing.  Strip, and rip? Yep that works.  Dead drift? Uh-huh.  Swing? Oh yeah!  On the surface? Getting one to float with a tungsten bead, might be a bit of an issue, but why not?  Using a sink tip? That’ll get it down and it works.  Dry line? Sure works well in low water that way.    So, Dave, what have you caught on said woolly bugger?  Now THAT is the million dollar question.  Since October 29, 2011, 8 summer steelhead (5 of those on 12/10/11), the largest being around the 15lb mark (first fish ever on woolly bugger), a multitude of trout cutts and bows, and whitefish.  Yes even the whiteys will give chase.

Caught 10/29/11 on Woolly Bugger

Looking toward 2012 with renewed confidence, and armed with a very versatile and effective fly in my arsenal.  Look out fish! I’m coming for ya!

Episode III: Revenge of the Steel

Kinda catchy isn’t it? I suppose if you’re actually reading my very sparse blog, you’ve learned that I am an avid addicted fly fisherman, and somewhat of a Star Wars fan.   Like Star Wars, fly fishing is much like wielding the force.   There is the light side of the force,

and of course there is the dark side of the force.

The light side being represented by the fly fishing purists, that would never fish for steelhead with a nymph, or any other means other than skated or swung flies for such anadromous fishes

The dark side being a product of those who will by any reasonable (up to and including using spinning/casting gear) means (sorry this does exclude the use bait) necessary to chase, coerce, and catch said fish.

Personally, this matter is somewhat of a big grey area to me.  While I do very much enjoy the art of casting my Winston BIIM-X 12’3” spey rod and swinging such flies as these,  I will, by no means under favorable conditions, ignore my 9’6” 8wt Scott with a thingamabobber and nymph attached.  Would I rather catch a steelhead on the swing? You BETCHA! Is it the only way to fish? Gosh No! I spend too much time tying those fluffy, flashy, bunny and marabou bugs for them to just sit in a box.  And the answer to your question is… yes, every one of them. Which brings me around to the real reason for the post,  I said in September that I’d try to post more, and well, I’ve kinda failed on that.  So, instead to keep you, the reader, entertained, and not be too terribly bored, here’s a bit of fish porn from the last couple months.  All steelhead were caught swinging one of those flies or one similar.

*note:  The rather large buck was caught on my 5wt Sage XP swinging one of the flies in the picture, as was the last picture.



Episode II: Attack of the Flies

After a bit of a hiatus (a tad over year to be exact) it is time to make a not so triumphant return to the blogosphere.  Having been away for such a time, I do have some stories to tell, some I remember like they were yesterday, and some were yesterday.   But this episode of The Fly Fishing Monster, is going to change direction a bit, so, to all of my non-existent readers, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Back in January 2010, (Fly Tying: The Joys and Woes) marked the entry into the vast world of fly tying.  Since then, many bugs have exited my vise, and many have never since seen the water, much less the light of day.  However, a year and change later, it is time that the nymph crawl out from the rock and hatch into the big world.


Green Drake ext body

Now, as somewhat of a novice fly tier, I hope that you will enjoy some of my creations, stories, and totally pathetic photography.  From now until the end of this year, I will attempt to post a fly of the week complete with pics, recipe, and maybe even a video to accompany.   I may even throw in some stories and some useless babble, a few gear reviews, and who knows what else

I would like to welcome each reader back.  Please post comments.  I’m open to any and all criticism, it’ll only make me better.

Thanks for visiting and enjoy the ride.

Hang on

After only fly fishing for just a hair over a year, and fishing here in the Pacific North-West for just a couple months more than that, I’ve become no stranger to the “big fish”.  This past winter season, saw me drag in roughly 25 steelhead to hand (most of which were released).  Before that, late last fall, I “accidentally” hooked into 4 steelhead while fishing for trout on a 5/6 wt.   Broke 2 off, 1 pulled loose, and landed 1.   So, I would consider myself A)  fortunate to have hooked and landed so many fish within a year’s time  B) very fortunate to have caught that many steelhead on a fly rod  C) extremely fortunate to have done it all in my first year of fly fishing.

I’ve heard tales of anglers going for years before catching their first steelhead (summer and winter).   I didn’t go a whole season, to which I attribute as nothing more than extreme luck.   How much more luck could it be to hang 2 steelhead in one day while fishing for trout on two very different places.   Especially not knowing the first thing about steelhead, at the time.   Growing up in the South East, we didn’t have steelhead, salmon, or anything of that like.   Now, we did have (and still do) trout.  Brook, browns, and rainbow, which are all relatively heavily stocked in several rivers around where I grew up.  So, these big fish that are relatively common here are somewhat alien to me, or they were.    The biggest trout I’d seen (and caught) was @ 22″  until I came here.

This summer has been one of fun and one of disappointment.  At least as far as fishing is concerned.  But overall it’s been good.   Early on was better, or so it seemed.   Bigger fish and more plentiful.   As the summer waned on, things seemed to slow way down, and fishing became much more technical.    I adapted and still managed to hook into my share.    Trout fishing has been the theme of about 99% of my summer fishing.   So, the pursuit of the silver ghost was left to those with spey rods and those that didn’t want to catch fish.   I pretty well stuck to the trout fishing.   Here are a few samples of some of what was caught earlier this summer.

If you are somewhat of a loyal reader (not that I have many)  Then you know, that recently I made my journey to the “darkside”.   Against the advice of one Unaccomplished Angler I decided that picking up a Spey rod was the right thing to do.  As well, I picked up a casting lesson (which I would suggest to anyone new to spey/skagit/scandi) with one of our local spey gurus.  It was the best money I ever spent.   If you read my post Steeldiddlyumptious, that recants the first steelhead taken on my new Spey rod.    At this point, I’d like to recant a similar but slightly more recent tale.

Sunday 9/12/10:  Mrs.  Monster woke me up early this morning so that I could go do some fishing for the day.  Normal morning routine, and out the door to get breakfast and some gas for the ride out to Middle Fork Willamette down below Dexter Dam.    I arrived before the sun was all the way in the sky.    This day started out like so many others in rece

nt times.  Bad cast, blown anchors, and the like.   Nothing very dangerous to me, but frustrating enough.    I fished down through the run, with out any grabs, takes or even bumps.    Normally it takes me an  hour and a half  or so to fish the whole run.  So, after many botched casts, and recasts it ended up taking more like 2 or so hours to complete the run.   Slightly sore shoulders and frustration called for a break  in

the action, to which I f

ound a nice large rock and parked upon it for a while.   A several minutes to regroup and recover from the massive frustrations, I decided it was time to change flies and start fishing again.

This time I began a little lower in the run, a little closer to the “sweet spot” of the run where the current slows up a bit and the water gets a bit deeper.   I happened to be talking to my best friend on the phone when all of a sudden….  WHAM!   I was shaken to my inner core.   All at once line started peeling from my Ross CLA-6 as if I had hooked into a volkswagen  doing about 45 down the road.

Hatchery Hen

I peered down at the reel and there were only 2 or 3 turns of running line left on the reel.   She stopped and turned.  This began the dance.   Reel, walk, reel, walk, making my way towards the shore.    She became aerial a couple times before I finally landed her.

18, 27, 32

I measured her off @ roughly 32″  using my hand which is 1/16″ shy of 9″ and guesstimated her @ 12 lbs.

What a blast.   I wrapped my knuckles a couple of times on the handle as line was being peeled from the reel.   Now the real fun part of the story.

People notice me as I walk from the car to the run and back, and many days I’m asked, “do you catch anything on that fly pole?”   ” Why do you use a fly pole?”  “There aren’t many fish that eat flies are there?” so on and so forth.   To which, my usual answer is,”well, sometimes”, and  “I enjoy it”.   Which seems to suffice most of the questions asked.    As if throwing giant wads of poisoned eggs out under a bobber is the only way to fish.  Or because I choose not to floss the fish into “biting”, using a 15ft leader 2oz of lead and a corky or piece of yarn on a hook to “catch” fish.  Not that I’m saying it’s wrong, or that everybody should be out with a fly rod in hand, it’s just that this is the way I choose to pursue the fish I wish to catch.  Nothing more, nothing less, I attempt not to thumb my nose in anyone’s direction, unless they’re poaching, or breaking the rules.   To which I’ll quickly take a stand against.

Get out there, and have some fun!



Have you ever had one of “THOSE” days when everything was going so well, you figured it was just a dream and it was time to wake up? Only to find it really is a dream, but with a ton of realism? Well, this really happened.  No lie!   (As I was told in the Navy.  Every good  story starts with, “This is a no lie (or sh*t”.)

No lie!  Back in late June,  I took off after work to get in on some late afternoon/evening fly fishing just below Deerhorn on the lower McKenzie.   If you’ll allow me to digress a bit, I’ll give a little of my personal history with Deerhorn.    I first discovered this stretch of river from a customer of mine.   He told me to “go to the golf course”  and fish there.   And, as most of you know, my adventures in fly fishing have a short tenure of just over a year now.   To make a long side note a tad shorter, this is where I actually caught my first trout on fly.

Back to the story.  I arrived after a short 30 minute trip from work, strapped on the boots, waders and strung up the TFO 5wt.  with a yellow sally and a partridge and orange wet as a dropper.   I began catching fish within just a few minutes of hitting the water.    There are multiple places that consistently hold fish, but fish can be caught literally just about anywhere.   I fished around the “island” which isn’t really an island,  There’s water throughout but it is less than ankle deep.  I picked up a fish or 2 out of the left channel,  and several at the bucket on the right channel at the low side of the “island”.   This was quickly becoming fun.

Below the “island” is a long flat with perfect current.  After near a hundred yards it drops into a long shallowish riffle, which then drops into another flat run with moderate current.   All in all I picked up 20 or so throughout this stretch of river.   Lost a nice 16-18″ native at the tail out just above the deeper side of the riffle.  I caught several below the riffle drifting and swinging my dry/wet combo.

As the evening came on, yellow sallies were fairly numerous and the fish were looking up  and eager to take my imitation.  I had worked my way back up and was about mid-way through the flat below the island, fish on.   A nice little 10″ native came to hand.  As normal practice dictates,  I wet my hand in the river, and held up the native redside to remove the hook from its mouth.   Each native I catch I take a few extra seconds to admire each fish and look at its individual characteristics.  I dropped my flies back in the water and as I’m starting to admire this scrappy little native, my fly rod is nearly yanked from under my arm.   Fish on!  Reaching across my body grabbing my fly rod from under my arm, the native in my left hand wiggled and dropped into the water.   Then to hand comes a 13″ hatchery fish.   2 fish on technically one cast, the only thing that would have made it better would have been one fish on each fly at the same time.

A great evening came to a close a short while later.   The fish tally was high, my spirits were even higher.


The Idiot and Pop Goes the Weasel

Several weeks ago, I decide to get a change of scenery in my fishing.   Most of the summer was spent on the South Fork McKenzie or the main stem McKenzie.   So, this particular Sunday, after a week of inactivity (purely due to heat and blistering sunny days) it was time to get back on the river.   Gazing over a map of the famed McKenzie, I decided upon a tributary named Horse Creek.   Not knowing much of this trib, and there wasn’t a wealth of info online about this particular creek/river.  I took it upon myself to find out what I could on my own.

After a good (and late)  breakfast with Mrs. Monster, off I go, heading east.   About an hour and a half later, I arrived at McKenzie Bridge and made my turn to follow Horse Creek upstream for a few miles until I found accessible water.    Indeed this is a much smaller river than I’m used to fishing, and my tactics should change somewhat.

Upon arrival at my pullout of choice, I noticed some ODFW placed signs on several trees.  The signs read something about catch and release only, wild/native fish, something to do with managing for watershed restoration.   Awesome!   Something managed with 100% catch and release, with native fish in mind.   This is gonna be fun!

I tied on a small size 16 tan caddis and a size 18 unweighted PT nymph, geared up and off to the water.   Several casts later revealed what would be the staple of my day.   4-8″ native/wild cutts and bows.  Many fish were active and attacking both flies.  What a blast,  double digit numbers of fish in very short order.

A couple hours later, I had bushwhacked my way down stream a bit and found a beautiful pool at the bottom of a long riffle.   Classic water!  I fished it from inside out.  Landed several fish, moved up a bit, rinse and repeat.    Each cast, watching my caddis as a fly and strike indicator.    On this particular cast, the small tan caddis dipped under the water, and I set the hook.   Both flies came back towards me in a tangled mess.

UGH!  the joys and woes of fishing multiple flies.  Tangle time!  Several minutes and many expletives later,  the tangle was removed.   Now to pull my fly line back out to make my next cast.   Here it comes… the idiot move.   Not paying attention to my rod, I pull my leader and not realizing my fly line had wrapped around the end of my rod I gave a good yank.   POP! goes the fly rod.  Broken in the third section just below the ferrule.   The sounds coming from my direction must have sounded like a sailor who’d just been assaulted in a bar.

Well, luckily, all my rods have unconditional lifetime warranties.  Also, I carry my spares with me, “just in case”.  Well, time to make the 1/4 mile hike back to the fishmobile.  Across the river, through the woods, (sounds like a song doesn’t it?) up and down, through the bushes to the car.

So, I guess it just goes to show, always pay attention to what you’re doing then and there, don’t get too far ahead of yourself.    The day still ended with quite a few more fish on my backup.

Moral of the story, don’t be like me, the idiot.

On a side note,  TFO was great and replaced the damaged section of my fly rod, no questions asked, no hassle.  My fly rod is good as new!



With a seemingly apparent lack of material to write about, I’m finally getting my act together and actually making a post.  First off, let me assure you that there actually has not been a lack of material to write about.  In fact, since my last post, I’ve chalked many days and evenings on the water.  Many days, I’ve spent chasing native rainbows on the upper Mac.  I’ve got  enough material here to write a book.   However the native bows have taken a slight back seat to my latest obsession.

Ok, so Kirk (Unaccomplished Angler) this is the part where you gloat like a 12 year old prepubescent teen girl, jump up and down sing-songing “I told you so, I told you so”.  

A few weeks ago, I began looking into a spey rod outfit.   Yeah, yeah, I know, dirty tactics and all…   Last week, I finally pulled the plug on the whole ordeal.   I broke down and bought my first spey outfit and a casting lesson with one of our local spey/skagit guru’s.

Upon input from my local fly shop owner, employees, acquaintances, and budget,  I chose the Echo Dec Hogan 71304 (13′ 7wt) which is now married to a Ross Reels CLA-6  and matched to an Airflo Skagit head to complete the setup.  Of course, plenty of backing a running line, type 3 15′ sink tip and leader were all part of the deal.

Last Tuesday afternoon 8/17/10 I walked out of  The Caddis Fly Shop with a cheese eating grin upon my face and my brand new Decho in my grubby hands.   Eager to start casting I did a few lawn casts, only to realize that, I didn’t have a clue.

Wednesday 8/18 , I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning because I was meeting Rob for my very first spey/skagit casting lesson.  Wednesday evening, I met with Rob at Alton Baker Park and he proceeded to slipstream my journey to the “dark side” into overdrive.   Upon learning the double spey and snap-t from river right, we rowed across the mighty Willy (which isn’t exactly mighty this time of year) to learn from river left.   Rob was a great teacher and praised all the good and respectfully chided all the bad.  By the end of the evening I felt comfortable enough to trek out on my own the next day.

Thursday 8/19 morning, saw me up early and out the door, headed for Middle Fork Willamette below Dexter Dam to practice the “dark arts”.  All I can say is one word.  Disaster.  Nothing went right, blowing anchors, open loops, hooks and slices on the cast.  The only saving grace was 3 trout that decided my green butt silver hilton looked tasty.  By the end of the day, things were looking up and the casting was coming together.  Anchors were holding, and loops were tightening up some (any was better than what it was earlier that day).

Friday 8/20, the wife’s birthday.  I did make it to MFW for a while during the afternoon.  I arrived at the river around 3 ish in the afternoon.  After fishing for a bit with small flies (Silver Hilton) it was time to try this pink Pick ‘Yer Pocket Pick 'Yer Pocket(exactly as shown to the left), the water had a little color to it and wasn’t exactly clear.  So, on goes the pink pick ‘yer pocket,  and in short order this pink fly was being heaved across the river and swinging from right to left.   Cast – step -step was the cadence.  About 2/3 into the run, there was an earth shattering slam as the fly was making it’s trail across the river.  All at once, all of my senses woke from auto pilot and it was game on!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a big long line melting run that I have become to crave, there was one jump (if you could even call it that), one roll, and into the net came a fairly bright 32″ @ 10lb steelhead.   Very first steelhead on spey rod.  I played whack-a-mole a few short minutes later with Mr. Hatchery Steelhead.   Where upon I then proceeded back to the fishmobile to tag Mr. Steel to bring him home to meet Mr. Grill.

What a great way to break in the new Decho and get that new rod smell off of my hands.   Too many fish, not enough time.

Remind me to tell you about the broken rod, and that time when…   oh and the whitefish that probably could have broken a record, and the time that …     see… no lack of material, just lack of motivation.

Keep them lines tight and those loops sexy!