May 8, 2010

Pirates of the Columbia: Part 4


sage scrubland
I arrived in PDX on a redeye and we headed East after a short nap. The weather was gonna be a big factor this trip. The winds were howling from the west, hard, right down the gorge. It was utter madness, as we watched swells rolling upstream in the three to four foot range. This was not gonna be good.

high water
The problem with a west wind is that you can not find good cover on a lee side, protected from the wind. A few of the big fish haunts were completely off the table because of this. We tried anyway and insufferably failed; the water was murky and the waves rolled high. They were completely unfishable. Time for plan B.

After much discussion and deliberation we concluded that we needed to move off the big fish water and take the risk of possible lower winds but also smaller fish. You always wonder in the back of your mind if you made the right decision, but with a solid week of steady winds in the 20 to 30 mph range and higher gusts, it was gonna take a good long time before the sediment settled out at those spots. To rub salt in our wounds, the water level in the pool we were fishing was being raised by the ACOE for smolt migration. Plans C and D quickly fell apart and before we knew it, we were on to plan Z: completely winging it with our balls slapping in the breeze.

weapons of choice
COP mouth
At least the one thing we could rely on was fly selection, the San Juan Worm and the Montana Carrot. It didn't really matter which fly they were hitting on for a particular day since we fished a dropper rig. If they weren't eating the worm, they were eating the carrot. I tell you what, if you don't normally fish a dropper rig, and you don't typically use overhead casts, it can be quite the challenge sight casting to fish in a 30 mph head wind. Let me just say that in that wind, there was a fair amount of time spent untangling leaders that got wrapped around my rod.

COP tail
COP mouth
There were a lot of flubbed casts. I stuck my fingers a few too many times with those vintage Mustad hooks we were sporting, drawing blood. I cautiously traversed the rocks and the mud flats. There were a lot of "oh shit" moments as I would slip on the slimy rocks near shore, nearly going in for a dunk. I watched waves crash against our chests out on the flats. The wind relentlessly threatened to take our hats for a ride out into the main channel. I kept licking my lips to taste the crust of salt. If you would have dropped me out of a plane blind folded, I would have swore we were fishing salt.

JB rod
mamba jamba
I learned a few things on this trip. First and foremost is that John Montana is a fucking ninja when it comes to hooking up with fish on the flats. If he can put a fly in a carp's face, it will take it, case closed. This guy can outfish you four to one; he did it to me. Also, if you really want to clean up on the fish, you need to put that fly to the left or right of their nose by about six inches, no more, no less. Third, that dropper rig is fucking money. There is a reason that John Montana is the Carpfather. He is the king of the flats.

Dude, teach me.

hero shot
I got a fifteen, but I'm still hunting for that twenty, that thirty. I'll be back. You watch....



  1. Awesome trip Jean. Great fish and challenging conditions.

  2. Thanks for coming and and being such a good sport jp. Those were the worst conditions I have ever fished in. Wow was that tough. I am pretty happy that we still found and caught some fish! Your twenty is still out here for you when you can get back. Maybe we can find the one with your two fly rig still buried in it's lip!

  3. Great report and cool pics. I'm glad you got out there to fish those flats. Sounds like you guys fought through tough conditions and made the best of it.

  4. Y'all did way good considering those conditions.
    Very impressive. Most of us would have packed it up without a cast. You are the Masters of Wu Li.

  5. That looked like a great trip. Those are some beautiful fish.