Monthly Archives: May 2012

Northern California Road Trip: 5/22 – 5/28/2012

With the end of the holiday weekend, comes the end of our week long road trip to the bay area. My sister in law got married on Saturday and the plan that made the most sense for us was to drive it down to San Fransisco and do it on our terms without the constraints of the airlines, and the stress of trying to organize transportation with two young boys and all of the things that we would need in order to make it work. My wife and I agreed that taking it slowly and touring some sights would be the way to go as it’d been a couple decades since I’d been down the 101 with my parents on our summer road trips as a child.

Our route would take us down to Eugene, OR towards Florence for our first night stop.  I would see the famous McKenzie River and imagine what it must have been like for the first fly fishermen who floated the river on the wooden dorries that the modern driftboats got their beginnings.  The drive out to Florence would parallel the tidal waters of the Duncan inlet on the Siuslaw where I could imagine would be a fanastic spot in the fall for returning salmon and winter steelhead.  Since this was a family vacation the time would be limited to stop and possibly fish but my wife did agree that I could make a stop in Guerneville, CA to pick up another Almarco pram. This would be preceded with quick stop in Crescent City, CA for a visit to Redwood Welding Services.  Here I would meet the father of the Almarco pram, Donald Nuss. His shop is located just off the 101 in Crescent City and was right along our route towards the Redwoods State and National parks.  I’ve talked to Don on the phone but wanted to shake his hand and thank him for coming up with this pram design which I believe to be one of the best out there if not the best that I’ve had the pleasure to fish and row.

I walked into his shop and the white haired and somewhat short in stature gentleman had his back faced to me while working at his pipe bending machine. I said, “are you Don?” With a growl, he answered, “depends… who’s askin’?”  The first things I noticed when he turned around was his metal workers hands, big, burly, knarley and strong. You could tell this guy had alot of time behind the torch and spent many hours with plenty of scars to show his craft.  It looks like he was working on a big gooseneck tandem axle trailer and had just about every imaginable tool known to a man with his experience. After my introduction, I was there to find out how he came up with this design as I’ve not encountered another lightweight welded pram that was better suited for fly fishing still or moving water than his brainchild, the Almarco drifter.  Once we exchanged some greetings, he really opened up and even cracked a smile as I asked him about the serial numbering process and how he came about with the overall design.  It was in 1976 a fly fisherman brought his wooden pram to Don and asked if it would be possible to duplicate it in aluminum as the weathered and beat up boat had seen its better days and was pretty much a goner.  One side of the boat was pretty much toast and from this, he was able to take measurements from the centerline of that old pram and design with higher sides and a bit more rocker from bow to stern a boat that would glide over the water but have plenty of side to side stability for fly fishermen who often times stood while casting and or fighting a fish.  Once the boats started coming out, and the word started getting around, the calls would come in from anglers all over Northern California requesting for his Aluminum prams.  He would cut the templates in bulk and weld up each boat once an order would come in, and would take a laborious amount of work, some 30 hours of welding, grinding, bending, forming, and manufacturing to birth a new Almarco.  When I asked about the serial numbering process, he shared with me the first three digits are of the manufacturer ALQ, the next are the sequence, the letter designating which month the boat was built, A-L, the next would be the year in two digits, and the last would be the sequential number each boat.  Since Don isn’t a fisherman, he had to rely on the input from other fly fishermen on what worked and through the years his prams never really changed a whole lot other than minor things for comfort and function such as the anchor locks. The most innovative and distinctive marks on his prams are the built in handles in the bow and stern. These cutouts are really smart, weight saving, and secure, a great place to strap down to the roof rack or in the bed of a pick up.  The next is the width, the boat is wide, and stable, I’ve never felt unsafe in this boat and with the amount of foam floatation under the bench seat, this pram would never sink even when capsized. The built in side trays, the elevated anchor locks, the bow rocker all add to the rowability of this boat as I can testify that it glides over the water versus pushing a path.  The most important factor of the boat was the weight, with it coming in at around 65 lbs its so easy to manuever this alone and to have all my gear, lunch, and to be able to fish in comfort is how it all comes together.  Don pulled out a file folder and had an invoice for each one of his creations, I was amazed to see the stack of serial numbered receipts, wondering where these boats have made their way over the past 40 years.  He said that over the 20 years that they were made, he produced a little over 600 of them. I am lucky to have found my first one in Spokane, I was the third owner .The guy I bought it from indicated that he got it from a retired doctor who relocated from Northern CA to Spokane.  Until then, I had only read about the Almarco on the California internet fly fishing forums and had always wanted a better pram as we were limited to either fiberglass, wood, or very heavy aluminum here in the Pacific Northwest. The first time I rowed the Almarco, I instantly knew that it was a keeper.

Knowing that I would make the trip to the bay area, I poked around Craigslist and to my surprise found a guy selling his Almarco. He was the original owner and purchased it in 2000, it was a 1999 model. The state requires all watercraft to be registered and licensed and he had a title and hull numbers that corresponded to the registration, pretty interesting… We got lost a few times even with GPS trying to locate this place, and often times wondered if we’d get robbed or mugged in the seedier of places that was definitely hair raising.  The owner was a rough gent but sincere, he agreed to hold the boat as I sent him a hefty deposit and based the sale on trust alone since he was a fly fisherman as well.  I was worried when I saw the pitbulls, and the broken down cars and the kids in the streets with joints and the smell of weed through the air.  Once I was directed behind a gate, there I saw the Almarco and some of my anxieties went away, Jon would also show me his G. Loomis GL3 8 wt. and Tibor reel, which he used for getting King Salmon in the nearby Russian River.  He had only used the boat a handful of times in the 12 years he owned it, but felt it was time to let her go since he had a failing shoulder and could no longer cast a rod.

I brought down plenty of ratcheting tie downs, but was a bit concerned with the Thule roof rack as it was  wee bit too narrow to accomodate a solid platform for the gunnels near the stern, there was maybe a centimeter left of rack edge but once I had four tie downs secured, that pram was going nowhere even with highway speeds up to 80 mph that would ensue for the remainder of the trip.  I was more concerned about how the whole set up would fit into the parking garages in downtown San Fransisco, where the location that I wanted to park only had a max vehicle height of 7′. The whole set up was measuring about 7′ 4″, too tight!  It all ended up working better as I found even closer parking to our hotel and they had oversized parking for the monster trucks that were parked there along with our Honda minivan with rooftopped pram.  I found that the pram drew alot of attention from the valets at the hotel, guys saying that they’d never seen anything like that before and how great it would be to fish out of that in the delta. One valet showed me the photos of his Ling Cod, Rockfish, Vermillion, Salmon, Halibut that were all caught in the bay, he said that a pram like this one would be ideal to launch and fish, with a smile of my face, I agreed and we exchanged fish stories and photos while Rolls Royces, and other expensive European vehicles made the way into the parking pavillion.  Even in line for gas at the Costco, guys were asking me about the pram, it was like a magnet for anyone that fished and my wife was looking at me and wondering what planet fishermen are from as we must have some kind of radar that beacons us together.

Driving along the 101, we’d cross the famous estuary and mouths that would become the Smith, Chetco, Klamath rivers.  Not sure if I would have the opportunity to go back to these places and fish for legendary salmon and steelhead, but maybe one day in the future.  Even with all the waters here in Washington, Oregon, and BC that I have still yet to fish, there is a lifetime of exploring and fishing to be done here. Most of you probably think I am deranged, as this is my third Almarco and 4th 8′ welded Aluminum pram in my fleet. Yes, I did say 3rd! With the advent of blogging and the wonders of the internet, you know that I also brought home Almarco #2 most recently.  Terry K. from Montana upon doing some research about this boat that he fell upon contacted me and asked what that pram is worth as he was wanting to sell it.  I jumped at this opportunity and the rest is history. I am done with my quest for finding these prams, ideally I was considering handing each one down to my sons so that we’d all be able to fish out of them when they were old enough, but who knows if they’ll love fly fishing as much as I do. I know that they will stand the test of time as Don Nuss shared with me that even those boats that were made in the 70’s were still being fished actively. Those early boats outlived many of their original owners!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All we like Sheep have gone astray…

Blogging takes an interesting turn. Many of my readers and friends know how much I love welded aluminum 8′ prams. So much that I may an obsession for these Almarco prams made by Redwood Welding Service in Crescent City, CA. I found another boat in the bay area and made arrangements to pick it up next week when we visit San Fransisco. In that month between finding that boat I received an email from a gentleman in Montana asking how much those prams might be worth as he’d been doing a search and stumbled upon my blog. I curiously inquired about the boat and asked him to describe it to me and indeed it was a real Almarco. Sight unseen I knew I had to have another one and made arrangements for Montana transfer services to ship it out to me from Missoula. Maybe I am the pram Shepard or just crazy. My wife thinks I am already and can’t believe that she puts up with me as it is!

On that note, I’d like to introduce my new saltwater machine. I knew that the Lund wouldn’t be enough to satisfy my quench for bright ocean salmon or fly caught Ling Cod. Someone made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse, so I parted with the Lund and within a week later I found the sweet gem I’d been searching for. This is a very special boat as it started out as a 17′ Sea Runner. I purchased it from the original owner he is 74 years old and loves to fish! He babied the Hewescraft and it had some special options as the boat lovers out there could only recognize. Custom made extended transom with full diamond plate floors with all the standard marine plywood removed. Garmin GPS with dual sounders, the main power plant is served by the Honda 4-stroke 75 Hp motor and my first Yamaha T8 with full throttle, electric trim, start and helm controls. It’s even got a custom rocket launcher arch and additional welded bow rails which are perfect for the bow positioned fly caster. The extended transom adds about 2 more feet of fishing space inside and with the smaller more fuel efficient motor the range on this boat is going to be fantastic! They fished three days in Sekiu without having to fill up and had plenty of fuel left to fish two more days. From the variable degree hull with 34 entry degree angle to 18 midship and 13 degree dead rise make this a stable yet effective slicer of big waves and ocean swells. The one thing that makes it a bit more challenging is the tandem axle EZ Loader trailer. It definitely isn’t the easiest to maneuver around in my driveway and the wide axles and additional length are making it rough. I do miss my Arima with its lighter weight and easier fitment into my driveway. I’ve got to wire up the Scotty 1106’s I picked up last fall and it should be ready to go come the salmon opener.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Taco Fiesta! 5/16/12

I had a rough couple of days and needed some liquid therapy. The only kind that siestas are made of… Jeff H. and Mark Y. Had been experiencing some fantastic days on the Snake. They’d leisurely arrive around noon, set up the anchors in 40-42′ of water and proceed to put some pain on some rainbow trout lips. Both Mark and Jeff have become excellent students of the vertical fishing method and have fooled a many trout on their Chironomid patterns. There was an excellent bomber hatch of size 10-12 red ribbed Chromers and while it wasn’t visible on the surface the trout were feasting on these jumbo bites. I got to the lake around 11:30 and just as I got there, Jeff was pretty much set up and getting ready to row out. We started marking fish around 37′ and decided on anchoring down and tie on some proven patterns. Within minutes we both had take downs and some silvery colored holdover fish that folded our rods on the violent grabs. While I didn’t get any shots of the fish it was a beautiful sunny but slight chilly due to the southerly winds. I finally left had to pack up around 4:30 to go pick up my son but it was nice to get out for 4 hours and in the end I landed 18 fish between 12″-16″. I’m sure Jeff was into 20+ fish and Mark wasn’t too far away from those numbers. I did take a photo of Jeff’s Chironimid box a nicely artistic array of some very effective bugs. That box is priceless as it probably has many hours on and off the tying bench coming up with materials and designs that mimic the trouts natural diet sources. The beauty of this fishery is that it’s so close and when you’re up there seems like you’re in the middle of the BC interior lakes or on vacation. It’s peaceful, quiet, no road noise or homes around the lake like Pass or Lone lakes and there are plenty of nicer sized fish. I can probably say that the quality of this lake has improved with it going to catch and release.

 

 

 

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Ring-A-Ling! 5/14/12

I had an invite from Jon T. to go out with him on his 18′ Tiderunner for a shot at some south sound Lings.  He has loved fishing for these on conventional gear, but needed some help fly fishing for them, so I agreed to help him out with line suggestions and fly patterns that would increase the learning curve. He agreed to show me a few new places that has held Lings and in exchange I would share with him my line system and my fly patterns of choice.  I wasn’t able to meet him until mid morning but he’d already sent a text and said that he picked up his first Ling on the fly and was very excited!

Once we hit the water and motored out to spot some new to me water, we cast our flies without much success. I was worried that the bright sunlight and or the tides were off, and we poked around several locations without a tug.  As we rounded another more well known location the 2nd fish hit with fury and Jon’s 9 wt. Xi3 taco’d as the 26.6″ male Ling took a few rotations of his reel before it came to hand.  What a wonderful day to be out for a few hours exploring some new waters in MA11.

I couldn’t believe how many Pink salmon smolt were in the breakwater as the newly hatched Puyallup fish were schooled up in swarms and feeding off the plankton. We also noticed that the herring were quite large and feeding hungrily on some sort of spawn that was happening all around the boat with clouds of eggs and or fry that the herring were gorging themselves on. Jon remarked that they’ve seen alot of Krill around the south sound and that it usually means a good salmon season as a result.  On the way back we saw a big swarm of bigs working some top water Krill, so hopefully it all means bigger and more plentiful salmon in our near future.

I was really impressed with the Pt. Defiance Boathouse set up, wishing that there was something like that up here in MA10. From the lift, to the dolly, wash down area, and the dry locker storage area, really makes it a set up to be on and off the water and have all your gear ready to go in no time.

Rod: Sage RPLXi

Reel: Galvan Torque 8

Line: Rio 0.030 Shooting Head, with high density head

Flies: “Love me Ling Time” in purple, olive and orange.

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Ling Cod On The Fly Rod!!! May 2nd, 2012

After yesterdays windy and brutal conditions Rob and I decided that we needed some redemption by giving it a good go. I had almost completed my adjustments and repairs to the new boat and wanted to get her out on the sound to see how she would handle the wind, waves, tides and currents.  Today we would be joined by Dov Y. as I promised to take him Ling fishing last year, but never got a chance to connect.  He happened to be off along with Rob being on vacation, we decided to rendevous at the launch at 8:30 am.  The tide was I believe low around 8:50 am at 2’3″ and there were a few more rigs with empty trailers already at the parking lot.

We quickly loaded the boat, assembled our rods, and fired up the motor for the sound crossing that would take us to some new waters that I had a hunch some big Lings would be willing to chomp our well presented flies.  There were two other boats already fishing when we arrived and guys were jigging and using live baits to entice the Lings to bite.  Since the boat is an open floorplan it was nice to move around as we could all cast somewhat comfortably with a little instruction and good timing.  Rob was the first to connect with a nice Ling of keeper size, then I would connect, and then later Dov would hook up after a little help with his fly set up and instruction on the strip technique.  I really think these Lings like having the flies presented at a certain depth, speed and action as we ended the day with a double hook up by Rob and Dov as they landed two nice Lings that were caught on the stop, pause and change of direction.  I had a blast watching these guys as they coaxed  these toothy creatures with a well presented fly/jig.

We landed a total of 22 Ling Cod ranging in size from 21″ to 36″.

Dov: 7, largest Ling of 36″

Rob: 7

Paul: 8

After we boated a Ling we’d take turns driving the boat so that the other two could focus on fishing, it worked out nicely apart from the Lunds’ idle which was running a little low. The motor would die and I believe the jets and carbs needed a good hearty running to clean them out. I’d put a 16 oz. bottle of petroleum distallate carb cleaner thru the original gas and topped it off with premium octane gas so that it would help clean out whatever junk was in the carbs.  By the end of the day, the motor was running nicely, and once back at home I adjusted the idle.  As much as I wouldn’t mind being out again tomorrow, I do have some work that I need to complete, so perhaps I’ll look towards Friday to get back on the water in search of these deep water beauties!

Rod: Sage RPLXi 9′ 11 wt

Reel: Galvan Torque 8

Line: Rio Coldwater 0.030 intermediate running line with Rio high density sinking head

Flies: Articulated leeches in Olive, Purple, White, and Red

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Annual tradition: May 1st, 2012

 

The marine forecast was not looking pleasant with small craft advisory that was supposed to be lifted by 5 am, winds from the SSW at 20-35 knots, and 2-4 foot wind waves.  We however decided to make the annual run for the May 1st Ling Cod opener.  I woke at 5 am to hear the wind still rustling outside and was a bit concerned with the 3 am marine forecast that called for the extension of the small craft advisory until 8 am.  When I arrived at the boat ramp at 5:30 to meet Rob D. it appeared fine with only a handful of trailers in the parking lot there was one other boat launching and the sky was starting to break and the sunrise was filtering through the Seattle skyline.

The guy launching his Hewescraft asked me if the Lings were open and I said ‘yes’, May 1st, and he strugged his head wondering where the crowds were as he motored out.  We set up our gear, launched and also motored out and by then, there were bigger waves and the wind speed was picking up behind us as we motored to the north out of the bay.  Rob was feeling a little worried about our safety and his boats well being as it was tough keeping the bow straight in order for us to put in any sort of casts as waves were crashing over the rock jetty.   We decided to wait it out in shelter while I peppered the interior wall with casts. Within our first pass, the line went tight and I knew it was Ling fever, a mouthful of teeth and partially digest sand lance spat up with the first 22″ that came to hand.  It was a positive sign, but was hoping for something bigger.  With each pass I picked up more Lings, but just were the cookie cutter size, with the biggest measuring out at 25″.  Finally we snugged up to a guest dock and waited things out hoping that 8:00 would bring calmer winds and stable seas, which never happened.  We decided to bust out back to the launch and when we were within range the wind slowed and the water calmed.  A couple more passes through the pilings and in front of Salty’s didn’t produce any bites, as I knew our presentation and depth was good, showing 20-40′ of water.

I finished out the day at 10 am, needing to get back for a meeting and finishing up some work around the house. We’ll watch the weather report for tomorrow and hopefully make a re-visit to hit some of my more favored spots in search of a bigger female. Final tally was 6 Ling Cod to the net, and the only fly I used was my double bunny articulated string leech.

Rod: Sage RPLXi, 9′ 11wt

Reel: Galvan Torque 8

Line: Rio coldwater 0.30 intermediate running line with Rio high density sinking head.

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