Posts Tagged With: Stillwater

I’ll wont pass up on Pass! 3/27/13

On the second day of Spring it snowed in many parts of western Washington. The outlook for Spring time was looking poor last week but the return of sunshine and warmer weather had me thinking of Pass lake after my poor outing a couple of weeks ago. Pass can be a finicky lake to fish but once you’re dialed it can also be very rewarding.

I invited Rob D. to join me as I needed to get my Almarco pram out from storage and had picked up my double pram trailer and wanted to test it out. Since this was Robs first time fishing Pass lake he didn’t know what to expect but after a little coaching and having him fish anchored up to me he was soon in the Chromie Zone! Our first stop was on the launch cove where Jeff H. And Jim T. were catching up. As we got there it seemed like there was no more action as we couldn’t coax a take down. Next stop would be the point in 15-17′ of watering a nice muddy shoal. We both made our first casts and next thing you know Rob has a fish on! Beginners luck, I suppose?!?!

He essentially didn’t fish with a sonar, didn’t have hemostats to measure depth and was using a commercially tied fly, the black red ribbed snow cone. I had to catch up and that I did as we cat and moused it with the fish along with each other. We also tried the rock wall and in front of huge rangers home without finding the elusive brown trout that Rob has caught, yet.

The 12-14′ of water would only yield the smaller fish. Strong and feisty but not what we were looking for and often times pecking at the flies leading to many false positive takes. We wrapped up back at the point, at the first bay next to the launch, and the tree line area near the launch on the north side in 16-17′ of water.

We capped the day with a nice meal at Bobs burgers and Brew located near Tulalip. I highly recommend the Ranch Burger with a grilled egg, and bacon. Perfect to recharge the stomach as we warmed our chilled core next to their gas fireplace.

It was also nice to run into Chuck Gold and Jim Tetrick. Both are seasoned Chironomid fishermen and Stillwater experts. Rob ended up with a fish count in the high teens and I landed 23 fish. There were many missed hits and both short and long distance releases but it was a great day with some sun, wind, cool breeze at times but no rain.

Looking forward to the bomber hatch which hasnt been seen with the throat sampling. I saw many size 18 olive bugs some size 16 red ribbed chromers, olive worms, and grey tumblers as Chuck Gold like to call them. Water temp was between 51-52 degrees.

Rob in action








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Pass Lake: 3/7/13

After fishing last weeks eastern WA season opener I needed a Stillwater fix. If I had time I would’ve like to explore a new lake but it’s still a 2+ hour drive each way past Vantage. The next best thing on our side is either Pass, Lone or Rattlesnake lakes. I typically don’t fish pass until closer to April, but heard of good reports and decent chironomid hatches that the fish are keyed on and feeding heavily.

I had to see for myself and only had today to fish, so I packed up and head out at 7:30 for the hour and half drive north. The weather forecast called for partly sunny with 50% chance of rain. Rain it did, mostly the whole drive up with brief intermissions in Stanwood and approaching Pass Lake, but it would lightly sprinkle and then around noon it cleared.

Jeff Hil. had a meeting on oak harbor and needed an excuse to hitch up his pram and decided to meet me for some stillwater action. It’s too bad he had to leave early as the action picked up from 12:30 to 2 with a good size 18 hatch of black, olive, and chromed chironomids. I fished 25′ of water towards the eastern border of the lake. Water temp was 48 degrees while the outside temp when I rolled I to the parking lot was 53. There is a new concrete pad restroom at pass, a nice improvement over the outhouse in the woods.

Water clarity was pretty good and had the classic greenish color to the water. We fished at the point to start in 14-15′ of water. Jeff pulled a fish ther and then I did but it wasn’t hot and heavy action so it sent me searching for the fish. I tried the north rock wall, in front of the ranger residence, north bay without much success. I wasn’t marking any fish down but the sidewinder was picking up fish fairly regularly.

A couple of guys in Spring creek prams were doing ok so I opted to investigate. One guy in a white Hopper was doing fairly well in the 25′ of water. He knew the drill as he rowed to that spot at the beginning of the day and was still there when I pulled off at 3 pm. He had it dialed with numerous hook ups. I had to observe closely and after some adjustments I switched up to have my bugs 2′ off the bottom and then I was into the fish. Not a spectacular day but I landed 9 fish. Ranging in size from 15-18″.

Even though my time was limited I enjoyed getting out, better something versus nothing! Pass lake should be getting hotter as the water temp warms and the hatches intensify. I hope to fish it again soon as I’ve concluded it takes too much to fish eastern WA for just a day trip. I’ll have to save up my fishing days to do a multiple day trip.






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Eastern WA opener: March 1st, 2013

It’s an annual traditional as hundreds of folks through out shake off the cob webs and the cabin fever of winter blues and converge on anything that floats, to become like a Cheerio flotilla in Eastern WA.

Jeff H. and I had a plan to fish Quincy Lake but it would be no easy feat as I have two boys to square away in the mornings and evening. I’d been busy with home, work, and family that I couldn’t recall the last time I soaked some chironomids under a bobber. The weather forecast was looking to be excellent with highs into the low 60’s with the wind out of the ESE at 5-7 mph. The pass was uneventful as the warmer temps brought wet roads and melting snow pack. Lake Kachess was showing clearing in parts but still had dustings of snow atop and on the mountainside. Pass temp was 37 degrees around 9 am. Upon our arrival into George the trees and sage brush were swaying in the breeze and the sun never did poke out but it was warmer around 53 degrees.

Be prepared for anything and everything: one thing I wish I had was my muck boots. When we arrived at the lot people were launching and campers had set up their spots all along the south shoreline. With a line up to launch we opted to launch nearby but was a little muddy and rocky. Would have benefited with the extra coverage to keep warmer as well since the wind blew through my running shoes. I was glad I brought my rain coat and my overalls as they gave me additional coverage from the cooler temps and wind. I’m pretty sure that most or all of the flotilla at the Basin lakes got blown off when the gusts reached upwards of 20 mph as the frothing of the waves caused bubble suds on the banks indicating that the lake is slightly alkaline in nature.

Note to self: bring a bigger anchor. My 10 pyramid wasnt holding position in the wind and I needed the cannon ball doubled up on the cleat to hold her steady. I’ll be sure to be prepped with a 15-20 lb’er for eastern WA as the winds can easily frustrate a chironomid fisherman. Being on the right spot and staying there is crucial to success. I don’t mind the wind for fishing but casting a little more challenging with backcasts dangerously coming close to the back of your head and anything a hook is willing to grab in the pram. A benefit of the wind is giving action to the bugs. Sometimes the strikes are more difficult to detect as the bobber is in constant motion but most strikes were clearly evident with disappearing indicators. I briefly fished two rods as I have the second rod endorsement but I quickly became too hard to manage dealing with the wind and keeping an eye two constantly bouncing bobbers. I probably missed several fish so went back to fishing one rod to better focus on tuning into their palates.

Upon taking some random throat samples no pupae chironomids were seen but plenty of bloodworms in olive and red sized 10-14. Water temp was between 46-47 degrees and we mostly fished in 10-15′ of water. The lake appeared mostly clear with good weed growth and nice green color and clarity. The sun did make its way out in the late afternoon as did the wind slow down and we did catch a lot of fish ranging in size from 9″-19″. Most of the fish were in that 10-12″ category, with some in the 13-15″ and rarely larger with only one 18″ and the largest being 19″. All fish were silvery and appeared very healthy and well fed. While I was keeping an accurate count today would estimate somewhere in the 50-60 range of fish landed as there were times of a fish a cast or every other cast. We fished for 7 hours straight so would average 7 or 8 fish per hour was probably right.

I fished near the north bay just east of the skinny arm backwater and stayed there most of the time but did explore the arm in hopes of getting out of the wind but found smaller fish and shallower water depths. One productive spot was the shoal point in about 10′ of water from the entrance to the arm and to the bay. It produced fish and kept my attention for the remainder of the day. No complaints on this trip apart from the winds but it’s all a part of fishing in eastern WA. Wished we could have spent the night as Phil K and Rob D were rolling in as we were driving back. Hopefully they won’t encounter the winds today and the fishing will still be good.












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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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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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Eager Beaver: 4/12/12

It’s been long week and I needed some time on the water but only had a few hours to get out. The sun was shining and the wind was calm so I decided to make a break for my nearby watershed at Beaver lake. According to the WDFW it was stocked twice last week with a dose of midget planters and then with 200+ triploids. I don’t much care for the smaller fish but I know those larger trout can put up a tug on the 5 wt. so I set out with that in mind. I rigged up the Minn Kota on the Rogue pram and proceeded to troll with two rods. One with a Rio Deep 7 and the other with a Cortland Camo clear line.

With a cone head leech on the Deep 7 and a black woolly bugger on the slime line I set out with high expectations. After a few passes near the launch it was pretty slow. I picked up a few nibbles and short strikes but only had some really small trout in the 6-8″ category. I get pretty bored with trolling so I anchored up and put my dry line on to give a go with Chironomids.

Within the first cast my indicator got tickled and another small planter. This would be the name of the game for here next 2.5 hours. I was yanking them out as fast as I could cast, retrieve, release and set my indicator. I took 8×8… 8 fish in 8 casts, under 8″!

Too bad this action wasn’t like this in Eastern WA or in BC where the fish are bigger and stronger. I wasn’t complaining until the bank fisherman from shore yelled out for me to move elsewhere, since he wanted I cast over me with his power bait. I said “excuse me????” after a few exchanged words, I yielded to his request even as ridiculous as it seemed. He saw me ripping and releasing these little tikes, it was driving him crazy! He kept casting to where my indicator was hoping to nab a little tike to no avail… I think he finally landed one or his stringer but I gave him a little show just to show him that it wasn’t the location, but the tactic. Even though recently planted, these fish really have keyed in on the natural food source and were found aggressively taking the Chironomids and emergers.

The trout weren’t the only ones getting fat, I saw a male bald eagle and a group of 4 or 5 Commorants that were buzzing the sky. With one swoop two of the Commorants made easy meals of the planted trout. All my fish were caught on a snow one bloodworm fished a foot off the bottom. None of them took the top bug, a red ribbed chromer.

The final tally for 3 hours of fishing was 32 fish. I never saw a triploid but the largest fish was 8″ and the smallest was 5″. All in all, it was fun to get the line wet but in the process it downpoured like mad, with a hail storm that pelted down with some force for as couple minutes. I’m glad I had my sponge and bailer to evac some standing water as it accumulated pretty quickly in no time. When I packed up a couple newcomers asked how I did and I just remarked “I got a few…” I know the guy who asked me to move heard that and probably was shaking his head. I guess it’s to be expected in any urban fishing environment. But with limited time and high desire, I’ll take the riff raff since I had fun catching a few of these Beaver lake planters.


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Pass lake: Feb. 15th, 2012

It has been busy couple of months for our family as we welcomed our 2nd son into the family. I decided that I needed a day to get back to basics as the weather looked cooperative and the reports were favorable for an outing to Pass Lake. I left Bellevue around 7:30 and made good time hitting the launch right at 9 am after a stop at off George Hopper road for Costco gas and a Subway sandwich.

When I arrived there was only one other car in the lot but that would quickly change with rigs and fisherman arriving in orderly fashion. By 9:30 the lot was nearly full and it looked more like a weekend versus Wednesday. I guess the forecast brought all the cabin fevered fishermen out from hiding behind their computers and fly tying vises. I quickly assembled my gear and paddled out noting a water temp of 46 degrees. I like fishing chironomid but since its a bit too cool for a hatch I was optimistic that we would see the fish key in on the adults.

I rigged up anyhow with my usual setup, Bloodworm and chromie special. I marked fish in 18′ of water and decide to give it a try. After my second cast and retrieve I had a bump but it didn’t hold and the line went limp. This happened again after Jeff H. Arrived and I was wondering why these fish were so fickle. We fished a few spots with no love, in 28′, 18′, and near the point in 18′ with little success. Once 1:30 arrived and the clouds broke a few midges were observed in flight. I wasn’t paying attention to my indicator and upon searching for it I quickly saw my fly line disappear. I set the hook and fish on! A nice broad shouldered
Brown trout that took some runs and out a nice bend into my 10′ 5 wt GLX. After what seemed like a minute and half of fight the rod went limp and the size 18 hook unbuttoned. Ouch! That was a nice fish, thinking that it must have been pushing 20″+

Maybe I lost my touch or was it that I was rusty? I quickly recast and let my rig sit static or what seemed like hours but more like 15 minutes. Indicator down! There was no way that I was gonna lose this fish! Another doggedly tug that is so Brown trout specific. The fourth time was the charm and a gorgeous 19″ brown came to the measure net. I photographed it and slipped the big boy back into its surroundings.

Even though it was 3 hours of driving t only fish 6 hours. It was worth it for that one fish. I got some sunshine, some fresh air and some action. What else could I ask for? If all the stars are lined up right I’ll be fishing the March 1st opener, stay tuned…










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