Oct. 7th Coho Run Winding Down…

With the crisp fall air and the coming of winter, the 2012 season comes to an end as we had a great run on the Olympic Peninsula. I had a total of 143 Coho that I punched on the cards and was a great almost two months of Coho fishing. While my thoughts are still on salmon, I’d like to try out some new things this fall/winter, among them: Masutake Pine Mushroom picking, Crabbing in area 13, SRC fishing in the south sound, winter blackmouth fishing, fall Kings and Coho on the centerpin, and perhaps some squid jigging.

There doesn’t end up being a shortage of available things to do here in Washington and all I can say is that its been a great year and summer, can’t wait to get back on the water next!

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Smoked salmon recipe

Many of my friends and family have asked me to share my recipe for smoked salmon. I’ve tried different variations of brine but found that the dry brine from Salmonuniversity.com to be among the easiest to prep and best in taste.

Now that you’ve caught your fish, what to do with all this meat? Well if you can’t eat it all at once or don’t give it away smoked salmon can be a wonderful treat months down the road and reminder of your fishing successes when the salmon were running.

I like to enjoy my smoked salmon as a dip, on top of a cream cheese bagel or toast, scrambled in eggs, added to clam or fishermans chowder or just enjoyed with a cold beer. Here is a repeat of the recipe with a modification of using the Costco minced garlic and freshed cracked pepper as well.

I bought a couple of clear plastic Sterilite containers with snapping lids so they can be stacked in the fridge and I can view the brining process as know when it’s done, usually overnight in the fridge. Also I’ve upgraded my smoker from the Big Chief which I didn’t care for the small heating element, thin gauge aluminum walls, and lack of temperature control. I replaced it with a Steel lined and insulated Masterbuilt smoker with chip box, larger element and thermostat which I can add a timer. Usually set at 200 degrees I can smoke a fish in 3 hours with no oil or fat ooze or loss from the fish and done is less time with excellent taste and quality. Enjoy!

How to Smoke Salmon – Recipe #1

This brine recipe is one of the simplest you will find. People tend to get crazy with all sorts of ingredients in their brines… white wine, tabasco sauce, paprika, apple juice… try them if you’d like, but I prefer a simple brine that I can memorize.

Here are the basics:
4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup non-iodized salt (canning & pickling or kosher salt)
10-15 cloves of garlic

I prefer dark brown sugar over light brown sugar because I like the color that the dark brown sugar imparts on the fish (a nice dark red), and I think it might taste a little different, too.

For the salt, I use non-iodized canning salt. In the past I had used rock salt, and I would use 2 cups of rock salt to every 4 cups of sugar… but every once in a while, I would get a batch of smoked salmon that had a metallic taste. One day I mentioned this to a friend, and he asked me if I was using rock salt… he reminded me that rock salt has impurities in it, and that’s probably what was giving me the metallic taste. As a result, I have now switched to canning salt, and the metallic tastes are gone. But, the canning salt is ground much finer than rock salt, so I’ve cut back to 1 cup of salt for every 4 cups of sugar.

For the garlic, try to use fresh garlic, and run it through a garlic press… if you’re like me, you hate to peel garlic… especially 10 or 15 cloves of it… that’s OK, let your wife do it, just promise her you’ll do something else. If you can’t negotiate that, I have substituted dry garlic flakes (like the Frontier Herbs ones sold in bulk at QFC). In this case, I use about 1 teaspoon for every clove, or about 10 teaspoons total. You could also try using the chopped garlic sold in a jar, or dry garlic powder, but I haven’t had much luck with these… they have a different, more bitter taste, and aren’t as potent.

Put it all in a big bowl, and mix it all together. OK… so you’re asking, “How much fish will this recipe handle?” Well, that depends on how heavily you cover your fish… to tell you the truth, I usually just keep a bunch of ingredients on hand… I mix up a batch of brine using the measurements above, then I start covering my fish, and if I need more dry brine, I just quickly mix up another partial batch.

Now it’s time to brine the fish. Cover the fillets liberally with the dry brine mixture. Once the fillets are coated, stack them in the bottom of a non-metallic pan… in this case, I’m using an enameled pot. You can cover the bottom of the pot with brine, but it really doesn’t matter… once the brine starts to work and some of the water from the fish is extracted, the whole thing turns into a gooey mess.

I usually place the first fillets in the pot skin side down, and then alternate them as I continue… so all the fish lays flesh to flesh and skin to skin.

Once all my fish is in the brine, I cover the container and put it in the fridge for about six hours. The amount of time you keep the fish in the brine and the amount of salt you use in your brine mixture will determine how firm the flesh of the fish becomes, and how salty the taste of the end product will be.

After the fish has sat in the brine in the fridge for six hours, take the pieces out one by one and rinse them gently in cold water. You don’t want to scrub them or disturb the flesh, you just want to get the heavy deposits of brine off. Once the fish is rinsed off, drain it the best you can and set it out on a rack to dry at room temperature. I use the rack from my smoker because it’s convenient, but you can use cookie cooling racks as well… just realize you’ll have some explaining to do when the next batch of chocolate chip cookies tastes & smells like coho.

You need to let the fish dry at least a couple of hours. I usually dry them for four to six hours, depending upon the thickness of the fillets. You don’t want the room temperature to be too hot or too cold, what you’re trying to do here is dry the fish out and form the pellicle on the surface of the flesh. Good airflow around the fish is helpful, you can even use a small fan to help the process if you’d like. If you’re using the racks from your smoker, set it up so the thicker fillets are on the lower shelves, and the thinner fillets are on the upper shelves… this will even out how they dry once they’re in the smoker.

The next step is to smoke the fish. There are lots of different smokers out there, and lots of them do a good job of smoking fish. I prefer the electric smokers because they are much more hassle-free than the charcoal or wood-fired smokers. With an electric smoker, some people even get as fancy as to run the smoker on a timer… so in case you didn’t plan ahead, you don’t have to wake up at 3am to shut the smoker off.

A couple of words about small, uninsulated smokers… first of all, they are weather-dependant. In other words, if you’re smoking fish on a warm August day with no wind, it will take less time to finish than it will if you’re smoking on a cold, windy October night. On a warm day it might take six hours to achieve your desired result, and on a cold night it might take ten or twelve hours.

You should also be aware that some electric smokers have bigger elements (higher wattages) than their smaller counterparts… and therefore the bigger ones have more consistent results.
When using an electric smoker, you should always try to avoid using an extension cord if at all possible. But, if you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s a heavy duty grounded cord (14 gauge or bigger) and use the shortest one possible, to avoid any voltage drop.

As always, USE COMMON SENSE. Don’t set up your smoker indoors. Don’t set it up on your deck. Set it up on a firm, level, non-flammable surface, out of the wind, and clear of any houses, garages, wood piles or other flammable objects.

Preheat your smoker for 15 minutes to get it up to temperature. Put your rack of fish into it, and add your wood chips to get it smoking. The amount of wood chips and what type you use are completely up to your tastes. For this recipe in a Big Chief Smoker, I use one pan of alder chips at the start, and one pan of apple chips after one hour… then I let the fish sit in there and dry out for another four hours or so, for a complete smoking/drying time of about six hours. Again, this is done to taste, and due to wind and temperature fluctuations, I check on the appearance of the fish after about five hours, and make a judgement from there.

Be prepared to have plenty of oohs an aaahs as freshly smoked King salmon doesn’t last very long in our household. My son was already tearing into it before I could lay my chops into the Alder infused goodness.



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Westport Prep: 6/14/2012

I’ve got the green light to head out with dad for some pre-Father’s Day funk out session to Westport. The last time I fished it was with Phil K. about a year ago and we had a blast in the Arima chasing Coho out in 250-275′ of water, which required a long drive under mostly foggy conditions without the aide of radar.  This year, with the new and bigger boat with more aggressive hull design, I hope to be able to soften the blows to my kidneys and lower back with the spring seats and the deeper V-hull.  34 degrees on the entry, 18 midship and 13 degree of deadrise at the transom.  The Marine area 2 salmon season opened up on June 9th with a 2 salmon limit, they both can be Kings as long as they are marked or hatchery clipped versions.  Last year, we never saw a King, maybe it was a bit late when we went, as run timing can be sporadic and finding them at one spot doesn’t mean automatic success at other locations.  I’ve been poking around the fishing forums and the posts, photos, videos have all caught my attention that I need to be there, right now!

Thankfully, the timing couldn’t be better since the boys are in daycare and or already scheduled to be with grandma and the weather and marine forecast along with favorable tides and bar conditions will be condusive to relative ease in getting out to the killing fields.


852 PM PDT TUE JUN 12 2012








Tides are: 0’11” low at 03:54 am and a 6′ high at 10:17 am. The sunrise is 05:21 and we hope to be launched and on our way shortly before this hoping to maximize our time on the water.

Anglers have been indicating that fish have been taken in water as shallow as 50′ as there is abundant bait around, (herring and sand shrimp). The herring chase the sand shrimp and the King Salmon chase the herring.  Kings noticeably have a metallic smell to them, especially juvenille Blackmouth as they specifically feed voraciously on these baits.  Fishing with flashers and spoons such as the Cop Car, Irish Creme or Kitchen Sinks have reported favorable results along with use of Deep diver 6’s with 2′ to 3′ leader and big spoons. Photos of 20+ lb fish up to 27 lbs have been reported as well.

I had to go back to my notes about the bar crossing and information so that I was fully ready and aware of the possible conditions to expect. I want to come back safe with everything I left the launch, and in order to do so want to go through my checklists to ensure that this will be the case. The open ocean isn’t a place for something to go wrong, this last weeks outing for Lings proved that the boat is in good mechanical shape and up for the rigors of salt, waves, swells, winds, and the bar crossing.  Here is a note from Salmon University that I took as reference for me to remember some important points about fishing Westport:

Heading out:

Leaving the boat basin from the launch, head straight out through the slot in the breakwater piling, then hang a left & head north for the end of the short rock breakwaters at the point. DO NOT GO EAST OF PILING MARKER #7, as it designates the edge of Whitcomb Flats. As you enter the main river off the point, there are a couple of rock breakwaters. Just outside of these, there is a shallow bar of about 15-20 depth, you will encounter a turbulence here for a couple of hundred yards. Once you get beyond this bar, the main river deepens and the water flattens out. There is a small red can buoy “4 T” in the middle of the exit channel. Head toward the “4 T” buoy, then turn to the west and head out the main river.
It is suggested that after you enter the main river & can see west with the south jetty on your left in the distance, head straight out the southern middle of the river to #11, the next one will then be #9. This #9 buoy is beyond the end of the south jetty by about half a mile. If you are going to encounter any roughness it will be about this #9 buoy to beyond #8, which is about 500 yards. From #9 you want to head toward #8 but depending on the currents & roughness off the old submerged jetty, you may have to hold slightly north of it. When you get beyond the old jetty turbulence, you then can head close to either side of #8. At #8 you can immediately swing to the left & head southwest toward #6. Buoy #8 & buoy #6 are fairly close together. After you head toward #6 you will usually be beyond any bar wave conditions.
Distance from the launch to buoy #8 is about 5.5 miles. From the end of the existing South Jetty to buoy #8 is about 1.5 miles. Buoy #8 is about equal in a westerly direction as the end of the North Jetty.

Crossing the bar:

The one thing that will get you in more trouble than any other thing is SPEED. This is not a boat race, hold your speed down if it is rough, and then cut the throttle as you ride over a crest so that you do not slam the boat into a trough on the backside of a crest.
On this river, like most rivers on the coast, you will need to be observant of the tides if operating a small boat. Tidal exchange is the key to crossing any bar. Probably the ideal time to cross is on either high slack or low slack, or an hour or two each side of it. However the time of this tide many times does not allow you as a fisherman, to cross on one high tide & come back on the next high tide 6 hrs later during daylight hours.
There is a formula that is used to calculate the amount of flow of a river at a bar. It is called the “rule of 12”. This flow will be best described as: For each hour after the tide change the flow will be:

1st hour will be 1/12th 2nd hour will be 2/12ths 3rd hour will be 3/12ths
4th hour will be 3/12ths 5th hour will be 2/12ths 6th hour will be 1/12th

From this table you can see that the maximum flow will be the middle 2 hours of an exchange. This equates to the bar being roughest at that time. Wind conditions on any tide, will extend these times. All else taken into consideration, the bar usually tends to not be as rough on the incoming tide.
The tide exchange will govern how rough the bar is going to be. The low tides will have one real low tide each day & the other low tide will be somewhat higher. Look at the tide book & compare the difference between two tides closest to the time you intend to cross.
If any roughness is to be encountered, you will be able to see it better from inside looking out, as you can see the white water off the tops of the waves. Coming back in, you are looking at the backs of these waves & cannot see if there is any white water coming off the tops. Therefore the water looks calmer when you are outside looking in.

Crossing the bar coming back in:

This will be pretty much like going out, with the exception you will usually be riding in on a wave instead of heading into it. The situation can also be different if there is a tide & or wind involved where you will have to quarter the wave. You can be riding the back of a wave like a surfboarder but on the back side. It will run out from under you & the next one will have you surfboarding, many times at a angle. You will then have to straighten up the boat so that when you are being pushed into the trough of the next wave you are going straight with the wave. You do not want to be in the bottom of the trough at an angle. The most common thought seems to be “The boat will straighten up soon”. WRONG, you will need to power down somewhat. With the normal wave conditions here, you will normally be tipped to the starboard, your response should be to sharply steer to the starboard under mostly full power, so your stern is at a 90 degree angle with the oncoming wave. As soon as it passes under you, straighten out & get back on your heading again. Some boaters will get on the backside & have enough power to stay there & ride it all the way across. This can work, is a very smooth ride, but be aware that IF something goes wrong, it will happen VERY FAST, as these waves are usually doing in excess of 30mph.

Salmon locations:

The bulk of these Westport salmon will probably be Columbia River fish, so the school will tend to move in that direction (southerly) as the season progresses. The salmon will concentrate where the bait is, the best fishing will be where you find shrimp, which the herring will be feeding on. The salmon will be feeding on both.
If fishing tends to be slow, when you catch the first salmon, cut its stomach open to see what it has been feeding on and try to match your bait to these stomach contents.
Currently, for the last few years early in the season, a mix of both Coho & Chinook seem to be concentrating in 200 to 240ft of water 270° west from the harbor (46°56.55 N, 124°25.78 W). This location is about 18 miles from the boat basin. Early in the season, (first few weeks) they tend to be from there to slightly north of this location, then they start moving south as the season progresses. Then later another school will replace the earlier ones.
You will find the Coho from right on top to down 15-30ft, however we have pulled some at 130ft later in the day. The Chinook will also be in the top water column if early in the morning or it is foggy. Later if or when the sun comes out the Chinook may decide to move down to from 50ft to the 100ft level.
At times, salmon can be found around buoys #6 to #2, so dont just run offshore because your buddy said that is where he caught his last weekend. Stop in and at least take a look or make a pass along the south buoy line before you make a long run to open water. If you see groups of whale birds sitting & diving, it may prove beneficial to stop & make a pass or two near them.
If you plan on heading south, it may well also be beneficial to stop the last buoy of the south Grays Harbor line, # GH (about 4 miles SW of #8) and make a pass or two there. We have, the last of the season, pulled 30lb+ Chinook here, mooching 20 deep, targeting Coho, on a steelhead rod and spinning reel & 12lb line, late in the afternoon. These fish apparently are Willapa fish that are just waiting for the right river conditions to develop.
Another salmon location farther south, is just off the Willapa River mouth (46°44.88 N, 124°18.80 W) in about 185 of water. This however is a rather long run south, especially if you get a northwest wind.
With the fish in the top part of the water column, you will probably not be able to see them on your fishfinder.

Here are some recent reports as well for reference:

From TRENT  and from Chasin’ Tail both fellows helping me out alot with good intel on location, lures and depths.  Also props out to Lance A. for tuning me in with some good information that would have saved me time and frustration.  As I meet more and more fishermen, getting this valuable information is all part of fishing.  Not only does one have to find the bait, depth, speed, color, leader length, scent, but also location, and location? The ocean is a big place and when you’re fishing in even a charter boat seems very small compared to all the millions of places that the fish could be. I’ve learned from my few years of saltwater angling this rule: “Find the bait, and the salmon won’t be far behind”

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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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Boat chores

I was feeling a little blue after returning from two great days at Dry Falls. With 80+ degree and sunshine in my thoughts being in this drizzly and cold Seattle weather had me thinking of how I can get back to the dry side. I had a pile of work to catch up on but I always like to keep myself busy even on my downtime, so the next project was to work on cleaning up and prepping the Lund. I didn’t have a chance to test the compression or crack the lower unit oil drain to check on the condition when I purchased. The engine oil looked filthy and the overall care of the boat wasn’t there. I purchased the boat anyhow since the engine compartment and the condition of the motor was sound when I fired it up and also ran it for a couple hours last week. I dropped the lower unit as I knew the impeller hadn’t been replaced in years and while I was in there freshened up the lower unit gear oil and replaced all the gaskets and rubber seals to the impeller. I was glad that Three Rivers Marine had the kit in stock and was surprised how easy the whole job was. I also slid in some new NGK-R plugs and new WIX oil filter with Castrol synthetic 30 weight oil in the engine. With a new fuel filter and some carb cleaning additive, I hope she’ll rid the carb chambers of the old gas and purge any sediment and varnishing of the jets. Hopefully will have a chance to water test her out to make sure she is reliable come May 1st. I won’t be taking her out just yet as I want to make sure she doesn’t have any issues and ensure that I have all the safety equipment on board so that she’ll be sea worthy and no surprises once she is on the water. A good day fishing not only involves catching fish but also returning safely with nothing lost, damaged or broken. I’ve had my share of issues with owning a couple of motor boats and have learned along the way that having reliable gear means everything when you’re on the water. You simply can’t call AAA for a tow if your boat breaks down so I like to be religious about knowing my equipment whether it’s my flies, reel, or clothing. I want to know that these things will perform correctly in a range of situations.





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Ling Machine

Missing the Arima with a week left before the Ling opener had me tossing and turning at night wondering how I was going to get out. My plan was to attack it with a pram but having a motorized is oh so much nicer.

I picked up this little Lund 16′ fisherman Deluxe with Honda 45 4-stroke to accomplish the job. It’ll need a few things done prior to getting her on the water but that’s part of the process I guess. She fires right up but needs some carb syncing or adjustments as it seems a little sticky and floods when its colder and bogs down getting up to plane. Once she is opened up above 3000 rpm she hummed right along cruising at 30 mph at 5000 rpm and wide open throttle I was able to hit 36 mph at 6000 rpm.

One of the photos included was the Navionics app that I downloaded from iTunes. It’s worth the $10 download to have a backup GPS but caveat you will need to be within 3G coverage in order to work.

With some new plugs, ethanol free fuel, some carb cleaning and or adjustments, new impeller and top end oil change, we should be good to go for May 1st.

My next trip is planned for Dry Falls as it seems to be turning over and as the hatches and the temps warm the trout should be waiting our arrival.

While a new boat joins our family so does another lost child. We’re planning a trip to California next month and a search for prams in the bay area yielded a nice surprise. One of Redwood Welding Services gems, the Almarco 8′ pram!  Looking forward to getting them wet!

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Looking forward to May 1st!

As I dust off my big gun rods and prep my lines for May 1st, I fondly recall my first experience on the fly with these beasts of the deep. Like any territorial and aggressive fish, they readily take a well presented fly like a cat would chase down a mouse. Here is a recent article from Terry Weist about our upcoming season, we encourage catch and release of our Puget Sound Lings, as I wouldn’t recommend eating anything that is surrounded by our metropolis as it could potentially have high levels of pollution from street stormwater run off, commercial shipping, boat traffic, sewage effluent from Westpoint. Besides, we want to ensure the viability of these awesome fish.  Hope you’ll be able to get out and ring up a Ling on the opener!

There’s nothing beautiful about a full-grown lingcod, unless you happen to be a fisherman.  With its huge head, protruding fins and long, sharp teeth, the ling is a formidable-looking character, but its toughness, impressive size and sweet flesh also make it one of the Northwest’s favorite saltwater angling trophies.

Some folks might consider the lingcod a homely cuss, but whoever coined the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” may have been a lingcod fisherman.  This fish has a huge head, gaping mouth full of long, pointed teeth, wing-like pectoral fins, and a mottled gray-brown paint job that can’t hold a candle to the chrome-sided beauty of a salmon.

But–like your parents might have told you when they were trying to coerce you into taking out the skinny, freckle-faced girl who lived down the street–looks aren’t everything.  While the lingcod might have a kisser that would stop a clock, it has plenty to offer Northwest anglers.

For one thing, lingcod grow to impressive size.  Fish of 30 pounds and over are fairly common, especially in the northern half of their range that extends from Baja California to the Bering Sea, and fish of 50 pounds or better are caught regularly enough to keep things interesting.  Now and then they even top 60 pounds, and the current International Game Fish Association all-tackle world’s record is an 82-pound, nine-ounce monster caught near Homer, Alaska in 2007.

As for fighting ability, a hooked lingcod won’t make any blazing, 100-yard runs or come twisting out of the water in a series of spectacular leaps, but it will give you a run for your money.  Typically, an angler who sets the hooks into a big ling will have little trouble pumping it those first few yards, but just when he thinks he has the battle won his prize will turn tail, streak for the bottom with surprising speed, and duck into some jumble of broken rocks or deep-sea cavern, where it’s likely to saw off the line and gain its freedom.

Another quality of the pugnacious lingcod that endears it to saltwater anglers is that it can also be incredibly aggressive and easy to entice.  When it decides it’s hungry, it will pounce on virtually anything even remotely resembling a free meal, including a wide range of baits and lures.

And there’s something else about the lingcod that makes it popular with fishermen and non-fishermen alike.  It happens to be one of the best-eating fish that ever graced a dinner plate.  Whether you sprinkle it with a few drops of lemon juice or plunge it into a pool of tarter sauce, a forkful of snow-white lingcod fillet is a fish-eater’s delight.

But, as you might expect with any big, hard-fighting, sweet-eating fish, lots of other anglers are as interested in catching lingcod as you might be, and some of them are pretty good at it.  There are a few tricks to catching lingcod, and if you master them you’ll greatly improve your chances of boating these trophy bottomfish.

Timing can be everything to the lingcod fisherman, and we’re talking here both about what time of year and what time of day you fish for them.

Lingcod spawn in winter, with the larger females moving up out of the depths to deposit their eggs in the relatively shallow waters of submerged rock piles and rocky pinnacles.  The large egg masses are then fertilized by male lings, which hang around to protect them until they hatch.  Although the females don’t help out with the egg-guarding chores, they don’t seem to be in any big hurry to get back to their deep-water haunts, often staying and feeding in the shallower spawning areas for weeks, even months.

The fact that both males and females are to be found somewhat congregated well into spring should be a valuable tip for lingcod anglers and would-be lingcod anglers.  It’s a whole lot easier to catch lings when they’re fairly well concentrated, and it’s certainly easier to fish for them in 75 to 150 feet of water than in 250, 300, 400 feet of water or more.

While springtime fishing for lingcod is some of the year’s best, it’s important here to point out that not all lingcod areas are open to fishing in early spring.  Seasonal closures extend into April or May in some places–primarily to protect nest-guarding males and the eggs they’re watching over–so be sure to study the fishing regulations before planning that spring ling fling. In Washington, lingcod season over the past several years has opened around the middle of March on the coast (Marine Areas 1-3), mid-April in MA 4, and May 1 from the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to southern Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5-13).

The other timing factor involved in lingcod fishing concerns the daily tidal change.  Even in shallow water it may be difficult to fish effectively when the tide is snorting along at several knots, so smart lingcod anglers concentrate most of their efforts during high and low slack or on days of moderate tidal flow.  That’s when you can best hold directly above those rocky pinnacles and fish them with a minimum of hang-ups and lost lures.  Also, lingcod often bite best during minimum tidal flow.

In order to catch these shallow-water lingcod, of course, you have to find them, and the three most important pieces of equipment in that search is a GPS, a good chart of the fishing area and a depth sounder.  The rocky spires and steep-sided cliffs where lings are most likely to be hanging out will, of course, show on a chart as lots of contour lines in close proximity.

There’s more than one way to catch a lingcod, and you often have the choice of fishing either artificials or bait.

Metal jigs, the real-looking, store-bought “slab” types and the not-so-perfect pipe jigs you can make at home, are effective lingcod-getters.  Like most other big fish, the lingcod’s diet consists mostly of smaller fish, and these hunks of metal in various shapes and sizes often look enough like the real thing to coax a lingcod into striking.  Slab jigs are available in weights from under an ounce to over two pounds. If you choose to make your own pipe jigs, you can use metal pipe or tubing of various diameters, cut to various lengths, for jigs of any dimension and weight you might need.

Leadheads also account for a lot of Washington lingcod.  Most anglers adorn them with large, plastic, curl-tail or twin-tail bodies, but a strip of porkrind is just as effective and usually holds up better to those jagged lingcod teeth.  Black, brown, blue and purple tend to work better than the hot or light colors.  Deep-water jigging may require 20- to 32-ounce leadheads, but light-line anglers fishing shallow water in calm tides may get by using jigs as light as a couple of ounces. One advantage to using leadheads is that the soft grub or porkrind bodies have a lot of built-in flutter and wiggle, so you don’t have to work as hard to make them look “alive” as you do with metal jigs.

But there are times when lingcod aren’t all that interested in artificials, and that’s when you have to go to the real thing to bring them to the dinner table.  Dead bait, such as whole herring, will sometime do the job, but if you really want to get them interested, you may have to offer them something that’s still alive and kicking.  It could be a large herring, if they’re available, or maybe you’ll have to first catch a few greenling, cod, shiner perch or other small fish for bait, and then start fishing lingcod.

Most angler’s fish live bait on a wire spreader, snapping on cannon-ball weights of various sizes to take it to the bottom and using a short, stout leader between the bait and the horizontal arm of the spreader.  Some people prefer wire leaders, but 40- to 60-pound monofilament usually works just fine.  Whatever leader material you choose, keep it short; preferably no longer than the longer arm of the spreader to which it’s attached. Using too long a leader will allow the bait to tangle around the line as it’s dropped through the water, defeating the purpose of the spreader.

Hook size for live-bait lingcod fishing should be at least 6/0, and 8/0 to 10/0 hooks are usually even better.  With small baits, such as herring or shiner perch, you can get by with one hook, simply hooking the baitfish through both lips or near the middle of the back.  A two-hook rig works better with big baits, such as foot-long greenling or small cod.

You want to keep the baitfish swimming just off bottom, which isn’t always easy when you’re trying to work those jagged rock piles where lingcod do most of their hunting. Staying directly above your rig and watching your depth sounder at all times helps, but you’ll also have to drop and retrieve line constantly to follow those rugged bottom contours.

There’s a difference of opinion among anglers as to whether or not to set the hook when a big ling takes a bait. Lings have a habit of simply chomping down and hanging onto a bait all the way to the surface, so many anglers don’t bother setting for fear of jerking the bait out of the fish’s mouth. Sometimes, though, a lingcod that isn’t hooked will hang on until just before it reaches the surface, let go and swim back to the bottom before you can land it. My technique is to set the hook if I’m fishing a herring or other small bait, when I feel there’s a pretty good chance it’s well into the mouth and that I’m going to get some hook penetration on the set. With bigger baits that take some time to swallow, I’ll point the rod toward the fish and start cranking as fast as I can, hoping the ling will hold on tighter and stay clamped down until it gets to the top.

So when playing and trying to boat a bait-hooked lingcod, always remember that it may not be hooked but is simply holding onto the baitfish.   Reel quickly for the first 20 feet or so to keep it from diving back into the rocks, then pump it up to the surface as smoothly as possible, and be ready with a net.  They’ll often let go right at the surface, so scoop ’em an instant before they break water, if possible.  Gaffing has long been a favorite means of subduing a lingcod, but it’s now illegal to use a gaff on them in Washington.

If the lingcod is bound for the dining room table, smack it once across the eyes with your fish club and quickly slice through a couple of gill arches or into the soft tissue immediately behind the gills to bleed it.  The table quality of those fillets will be much better that way.

But don’t assume for a minute that the only good lingcod is a dead lingcod.  All trophy-size lings are females, and those are also the brood fish that will provide the fisheries in years and decades to come.  These fish are tough and have no swim bladder, so they can be fought, boated, photographed and released with few ill effects, so if you get into good fishing for big lingcod, release a few for next time.

Also be sure to check the current fishing regulations pamphlet before going fishing.  Most of Washington’s “inside” waters, for example, are open to lingcod fishing for only six weeks, beginning May 1, while the coastal season runs more than six months.  The lingcod limit in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca is one fish, 26 to 36 inches long, per day, while limits in coastal Marine Areas 1-3 are two fish over 22 inches, two over 24 inches in Area 4.

Another regulation that Washington anglers need to keep in mind is the deep-water fishing closure intended to protect certain species of rockfish. Check the rules for Marine Areas 2-13 for details on where and when bottomfishing is closed in waters deeper than 20 or 30 fathoms, because these closures DO limit where you can fish for lings.

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New addition to our family: Almarco 8′ Little Drifter, made by Redwood Welding Service

After travelling out to Spokane last summer to pick up my first Almarco pram, I fell in love with the innovative design, smooth lines and ultra-lightweightness of the this handcrafted pram. The owner had this boat for many years and after hearing about the history of the boats, I was intrigued even more and decided to do a little write up of my own.

Since I became a stillwater fisherman, I’ve been on the search for the ultimate way to spend hours on the water while enjoying the ride. My first pram was a Springcreek Hopper 2 which was nice, but had limitations. The high sides, heavy weight, and weak transom had some things to be desired. I was never really happy with how the glass was laid on the floatation, I tried, even owning two more of them in the classic series. They all had problems with delamination of the transom glass as I believe is a flaw in the design. I then went with Smith Brothers pram which is made by Fred Smith and his son in law near Camano Island. Beautiful hand built mahoghany, but thats what it was, beautiful. I couldn’t store it outside, had to re-varnish and sand, and would cringe when it was dinged and or scratched. I loved the lightness of the marine grade mahoghany and how Fred put his craftsmanship into the boat. I owned three of these too, 1 10′ and two 8’s which just became a space issue with a two car garage and a bunch of fishing and outdoor gear, even my truck doesn’t get a place inside!

I also should mention the Kofflers’ which by any means is a great boat, but requires a trailer to haul, not good for ferry crossings or trying to dolly into lakes such as Lenice or Nunnally. I wanted to have a light, and durable boat suitable for use in the saltwater, lakes, class 1 or 2 rivers and something I could fish hard and put away wet. I found my first boat, the Rogue 8′, which I should have posted some photos from previous build outs and more recently my Almarco which I found in Spokane. Even though it was a 4 hour drive, it was worth it, as I found this boat to be all that I was looking for. Its light, maybe 60 lbs, has built in floatation under the bench seat, compartment trays, built in grab handles, permanently raised oar locks, double stern anchor locations, reinforced transom for use with a small kicker motor. The boat has the right amount of rocker for optimum rowing as it glides across the water surface.

I about fell over when I found this ‘new’ boat in Sacramento. Here is the ad: “The “Little Drifter” is a rip off design of larger tested wooden drift boat models that factor the dimensions to get the same stability and quality in smaller boats. The secret is the design of wooden drift boats that now use welded aluminum, cut to fit the 8’ pattern. The 8’ design has proven to function in North Pacific coastal waters w’ safety and efficiency as the “aluminum welds” hold up under tough “ drift boat” conditions and take less, almost none, maintenance. The size, weight and stability of the “little drifter” allows easy access and regress from streams and still waters. Safety and stability while fly casting are strong factors that make this boat a popular choice for fly fisherman.

The boat weighs 70 lbs. and comes with two anchor releases on the stern and one removable anchor release on the bow. The seat stores floatation and the high oar locks allow speedy control in moving waters. I have wrapped some sleeping pads around the seat for comfort. However, the seat provides a sturdy place for an “installed seat”. I have used several type seats w’ folding backs for long days on the water

Added: Accessories
1. Two coats of TAP [COAT-IT] epoxy coating on bottom, improve rowing energies.
2. Outdoor carpet installed on floor, reduce noise while fly fishing.”

Bill K. whom is a retired teacher lovingly used this boat for many years and I assured him that it would be going to an equal loving home. Some guys are collectors of fine fly reels that might bring in $1000 of dollars each, while its nice to admire the Hardy Perfects and also own a few, its tough to think of fishing such a reel. I guess I have a love affair with these little welded aluminum prams, because I know they are so durable, and will likely hold up for another 20 years with little to no maintenance required. Bill shared with me some information on the guy who built these prams, a guy by the name of Don Nuss. Don ran a successful welding business for over 30 years in Crescent City California. A few years ago he got into some trouble with the law, which I had heard from other guys like Carl Blackledge. I did some Google searching and found this article:

Crescent City man gets prison term for machine gun sales

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 10/30/2009 01:21:12 AM PDT

A federal judge sentenced a 69-year-old Crescent City man this week to serve 18 months in prison for illegally dealing machine guns.
According to a press release from the United States Attorney’s San Francisco office, Donald E. Nuss pleaded guilty in June to illegally dealing in firearms, admitting selling five machine guns over a one-year period. According to the release, Nuss also admitted to converting two semi-automatic rifles into machine guns for a government informant during the same time period and to possessing 10 more machine guns in a safe at his workplace in Crescent City.
According to the plea agreement, the machine guns that Nuss manufactured, refurbished and sold included an AK-47, Sten machine guns, Suomi machine guns, Skorpion machine pistols and a Thompson machine gun, as well as high-capacity magazines.
Nuss was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2008, and charged with illegally possessing and dealing in machine guns.
In a document filed with the court last week, Nuss’ lawyer David Michael urged the court to issue a light sentence, saying a sentence of five months in prison and five months supervised release would be appropriate.
”When reading the indictment in this matter and reviewing the list of weapons seized, one could conclude that Mr. Nuss is a ‘gun toting arms dealer,’” Michael wrote. “To the contrary, Mr. Nuss has been a collector of antique firearms for many years. …”
goes on to write that all of the weapons seized are either pre-World War II or World War II weapons, and that Mr. Nuss was simply a collector. Nuss also enjoyed the challenge of working on the weapons, according to the document.
”Mr. Nuss is a ‘tinkerer’ who never declined a challenge to modify an object to bring it to its full potential or make it work better,” Michael wrote.
The document goes on to state that the offense should be viewed in its proper context, and points out that Nuss did not seek out the illegal conduct or search out a market for the illegal firearms.
”Rather, he was approached by an individual who was a paid government informant to engage in the illegal conduct,” Michael wrote. “Mr. Nuss received a total of $5,950 from the sale of the firearms. Mr. Nuss was not motivated by money. He has always been interested in helping and pleasing others and understands that he crossed a line and there is no question that he should have declined to participate in this activity.”
Michael also urged the court to take into account Nuss’ lack of a criminal record and his standing in the community when considering his sentence. According to the document filed with the court, Nuss has lived in Crescent City for nearly 48 years, operated a successful business for 40 years and has volunteered many hours of community service, including building a trailer for the Easter Seals Society, volunteering at the Del Norte County Veteran’s Association and refurbishing the Del Norte County Historical Society’s 1907 three-inch cannon.
In the end, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton handed down the 18-month sentence to Nuss on Wednesday, and also sentenced Nuss to a three-year period of supervised release after the conclusion of his prison sentence. In addition to the prison term, which he is slated to begin serving in January 2010, Nuss was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine and $5,950 in restitution.
The conviction was the result of a two-year investigation by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”

Quite the story of a boat builder. Apparently, Don isn’t a fisherman, but some fishermen brought some plans to him and with his welding skills put this thing together. You wont find a bead of weld on any of the chines as all those have been seamlessly stitched and flat ground down. This keeps the weight down, but keeps the whole thing structurally tough with no flex to the oar locks, gunnels, or the transom under heavy load. I was impressed when I kicker tested both prams, my Rogue, which uses heavier gauge aluminum and the Almarco and found that there was almost no flex with the thinner sheet metal from the Almarco. I picked up the phone to see if Don was out of jail and surprisingly he picked up the phone and chuckled a little when I told him the nature of my call. He said that over the 20 year period that he made the Little Drifter, that he only produced 600 of these guys and they’ve become very collectable. He said that “if you can find one, buy it, as most folks who bought them, keep them…” When I asked the original price of the boats, the 10′ model sold for $920 back in 2009, and the 8′ was $720. With the cost of aluminum and inflation, I’m sure that figure pushes over $1000 for the 8′ boat now. I definitely paid a premium for the boat, but to me its a passion that all things should work well together when it comes to stillwater fishing. I want to have the best possible gear which gets the job done and provides a high level of safety, comfortable and reliability. Welcome to the family “Little Drifter II”

The first photo is the new drifter, the second is my 8′ Rogue, and the last is my Drifter #1.

I found a great shipping option through UShip.com which is a site that helps connect independant shippers with customers. A fellow who specializes in motorcycle transport would be picking up the Almarco next week and will be here in time for me to prep as a second stillwater boat for my dad or friends to use.

As an update I had some issues with the seller of this pram as he promised more than what he could deliver so the pram is no longer coming to WA. I am sad to see it go but there will be other boats that come up.

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Coho sightings




It was a beautiful fall day and after my son’s dentist appointment, I decided to take a peek at the Soos Creek hatchery to see how the Coho numbers were looking. So far, there have been some 8471 adults that have returned and from that 4630 on hand in the concrete pond. It never ceases to amaze me at the journey that these fish have made.  It was nice to show my son some Coho and capture a few photos and video of the moment.  Although this isn’t a fishing report, I found a nice article written by Tom Nelson about ‘matching the hatch’. Even though I primarily fish 90% on the fly, its a helpful reminder to know the bait in order to target the quarry.


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