Tag: steelhead

Miss April Vokey: The Consummate Entertainer

She may say she’s made the grade because she rebuffed the “Barbie Doll in Waders” label, or that she simply loves it more than anyone she knows…

But I believe that’s all a pile of made-for-television spin. Having spent some time fishing with the gal, I think Miss April rises above the froth because she’s the consummate entertainer. A true professional, and yet never a dull moment, from the time you step into the truck until the point you pour the first drink (she prefers Jack Daniels by the way), pure unadulterated fun. Throw deadly skills into the mix (which she has), and you get one of the best fishing experiences you can fathom.

Guides far and wide could learn a thing or two from this lady by watching the 60 Minutes Sports expose airing tonight on Showtime. I don’t even own a television, but I already know the story.

Or maybe I’m just pissed she’s going to be booked for forever and a day now, and I won’t ever again get to hear her say “Hey Gracie, want another quesadilla?”

April Vokey Cooking

MG signing off (because attitude is just about everything, and April’s is simply angelic beyond compare)

Perusing BC Steelhead Survey Data

BC Steelhead Questionnaire

BC Steelhead Questionnaire

I recently received a survey from the fine folks at the Fish, Habitat, and Wildlife Management Branch of British Columbia. They wanted to know what waters I fished while there, and how many fish were caught, kept, and/or released. I filled out the form, but in the process of stuffing it in the recycled post-paid envelope (which I thought was pretty classy of them to provide), I noticed that the back of the questionnaire contained results from previous years. That data has been reproduced below:

SeasonLicenses SoldActive AnglersSuccessful AnglersCatch KeptCatch ReleasedAngling Days


Steelhead Fishing: The Clarity Consumes, And Addicts

I didn’t think much about swinging flies for steelhead. It seemed a passion for the insane – casting a thousand times for a single hook-up.

Having absorbed myself in the technique, I now find I’m consumed not by the opportunity of the catch itself – displayed via the Farcebooks and/or Twitlings of the angling world, instantaneous captures of self-gratification that now consume our angling environs – but by the simple pleasure of the cast.

In its own right.

I am once again lost. In defining the supposed skill it takes to deliver a package to a fish. Enticing said water-breather to accept.

Yet at the same time rejuvenated, by the simple concept of signing for it.

MG signing off (because the cast can be everything, no matter the size of the SD card)

Beginner’s luck

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…

Photo by Cody Hoeckelberg

Photo by Cody Hoeckelberg

Swung fly. Wild buck. Very shiny.

Full trip report at the Trout’s Fly Fishing blog early next week.

MG signing off (because I got what I came for, and the trip isn’t even half over yet)

To catch the fish, you must first attract the fish

The best part of planning a fishing trip is..

A) Knowing you are getting some time off work
B) Figuring out which bag to put your toothbrush in
C) Buying new gear

If you chose “C” you are obviously a seasoned traveling angler, having orchestrated numerous epic adventures, and likely caught trophy after trophy wherever the compass led you. Or, you could just be a renowned online fly-fishing journalist loudmouthed internet poseur/hack, like yours truly.

With a trip of my own just days away, I was found wanting. The Scott ARC 1196/4 I acquired a few months back via an exponentially complex barter transaction involving used office furniture, the United Nations Security Council, and the Smoking Man from The X-Files, was without a reel.

I thought about calling the G7 together for advice, but then I sobered up and rang Abel Reels instead. They did not disappoint.

Abel Switch Reel - Skull and Crossbones

A bonafide wolverine trapper recently “reminded” me that looks are all that matters. I presumed this meant they dressed up like a cute little bunny rabbit before heading to work, so I only partially bit. But, given that even a portion of that wisdom comes to pass, this rig’s appearance means the otherwise slim odds now distinctly favor running into chrome.

Or at least that’s my half-baked reasoning for taking option C.

MG signing off (because if you are going to freeze your butt off in BC, you might as well look good doing it)

The Salmonid Resolution

Around this time the interwebspheres explode with outlines of the trials and tribulations of the year past, and determinations for the upcoming trip around the sun. Some of the declarations are very popular, such as quitting smoking, losing some weight, or making more money. Others are complex, like developing a long term solution to the world’s burgeoning energy needs, or securing personal property rights for transgender hamsters.

I will not bore you with my summary of 2012, as I believe such diatribes are usually constructed to weave in some semblance of regret. Of which I have none. Not even an iota. Zippo, nadda. But I do have one resolution, and it’s neither widely distributed nor outlandishly difficult to accomplish.The Salmon Atlas

Catch more salmonids. Outside of my home state.

I even found a website to assist me in this straightforward endeavor, The Salmon Atlas

A fine piece of work indeed, and a now treasured find. Reason being, I’ve collected more two-handed fly fishing rigs in the last quarter than I care to admit (and still have my eyes on more), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed I can conjure some valid reasons to make use of them.

MG signing off (wishing all a happy new year, including the salmonids)

Having your steelhead and eating it too

Two days past the Seattle Times reported that one Peter Harrison had caught a 29.5 pound steelhead on an 8 kilo tippet, and the fish died at his hand. By all measures this was a world record, and may even be an all-class plaque. The Washington Fly Fishing Forum subsequently exploded in fury, with speculation as to the validity of Mr. Harrison’s account of the fish’s condition post-landing circling the web, and fueling the fire.

I’m not a steelhead angler. One fish-less day on the Root River in Wisconsin, and a movie, are the extent of my experience. I can’t run to the Washington Fly Fishing Forum and effectively inject my version of reason – it’s simply not my place. I can say, however, that I’ve chased a lot of species in my relatively short life, on both conventional and fly tackle. I’ve killed plenty of fish, and eaten well that night. None were world records, but not for lack of trying (and before realizing that particular endeavor was nothing more than a guaranteed dead fish, edible or not).

No, rather than opine blindly on the matter, I asked a friend who avidly supports striper conservation efforts in his own home waters off Massachusetts, has spent an extraordinary amount of time fly fishing with me, and has more than fifteen years of Great Lakes and Canadian steelheading experience under his belt. He said:

“I wouldn’t have killed the fish – even if it had only a 1% chance of surviving a damaged gill, that’s still better than its chances were once permanently removed from the water. But assuming pictures of a clean fish are proof positive it wasn’t near death are ridiculous, particularly after the described lengthy fight.”

I concur. We also agreed, having caught several trophies (or at the least, highly photo worthy subjects) while in each other’s company, that we might have cleaned the blood away so an otherwise catch and release target didn’t look for posterity like it had been slaughtered. My colleague said that replacing the hook for a real prize shot was well within the bounds of possibility. You know, like this:

Dying like Marilyn Monroe
Dead Steelhead

Let’s rearrange the body
Posing Steelhead

Now step into the shoes of a sportsman, and ask yourself if you’d accept this proposal…

Commercial harvest would be prohibited, and fines for accidental kills increased beyond reason (plus mandatory jail time). Development would be permanently halted. Private property transfers would include easements on prized areas. And you’d be restricted in your sport during government mandated times of the year only. You can enter the lottery for a license, or you can guarantee a spot by paying something like $10,000 for the chance at a trophy target. Sound good to you? I didn’t think so, and yet that pretty much sizes up the state of affairs trying to bag a 390+ B&C elk in some parts of the US. Of course, trophy elk are hardly an ‘at risk’ species, but are you still wondering why?

If you really want to save a threatened creature – one so close to endangerment that the death of a single (albeit beautiful) specimen is justifiable cause for such an online ruckus – then just quit fishing for them. All the time you previously spent tying those flies and casting that rod (as well as screaming bloody murder about your fellow anglers’ possible lax behaviour) can then be devoted to specific conservation efforts, including focused legislative action, organizing boycotts of commercial enterprises that harm sacred waters, and maybe even running for office yourself. Bonus: think of all the money you’ll save in materials, hooks, rods, reels, line and…blood pressure medication. And when the steelies are back, you can star in the final scene of A River Runs Through It, Again.

Having your cake and eating it too is for birthday parties. And I’m suddenly glad I’m not on the invitation list.

Movie Review: Raising The Ghost (UPDATED)

movie-reel“The charm of fishing is that it’s the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable. A perpetual series of occasions for hope.” – Sir John Buchan

As independent film production has followed the promotional opportunities afforded on the internet, we’ve seen a plethora of films produced in the genre of fly fishing sport. Some are stories of the lives of anglers across the world, while others cover select anglers chasing fish with fly rods throughout the same. And we all know that environmental films abound.

What’s the deal?

logo_raising_the_ghostRaising The Ghost, the first film from Bozeman, Montana’s Fly Boys, can be summed up as follows:

  • If you are addicted to fish porn – adrenaline pumping fights with huge, angry fish on the end of thick, heavy line – you should check your local Blockbuster for the Jaws series.
  • If you spend your weekends at Greenpeace rallies, listening to conservation luminaries discuss the devastation industrialization, logging and dams have reeked on wild habitats, subscribe to the National Geographic and/or Discovery Channel on cable.

But, if you want all of the above, succinctly weaved into a story of hardcore anglers on a nearly impossible quest in the middle of nowhere, then go ahead and pick up Fly Boys’ Raising The Ghost.

Josh Brandner, Paul Tarantino and the rest of the RTG crew are chasing elusive, wild steelhead in the upper Skeena drainage, and the goal is to catch them rising to dries. Like any fishing trip, theirs is not without it’s trials – the gang is airlifted into the wilderness, only to wind up rafting/hiking miles outside of the original plan when days of fishing come up blank. They [believably] resort to traditional methods when the drakes don’t produce, seeking out new pools. And then finally, there’s a riser.

I’d like to say the highlight of the film was Mr. Tarantino’s 20+ pound catch, but I actually enjoyed the outtakes with the guides and conservationists and the quick tent chats with the gang just as much – the former was serious and enlightening, while the latter helped me understand the crew’s enthusiasm for fishing (and storytelling). I wound up feeling the entire cast was genuine, meaning they screw up while on the river just like the rest of us (but aren’t afraid to show it) – and that everyone involved with the film both loved to fish and cared deeply about what they were catching.

I’ve been steelheading once, a dozen-plus years ago. It was so damn cold my legs felt like stubs from the knee down, and I caught nothing. The experience hardly qualifies me as even a neophyte steelheader. But it is precisely 1,817 miles from Denver, CO to Smithers, BC., a trip that would take a couple of days at minimum. Scary I even thought of looking that up, but unsurprising once you’ve watched this movie.


As for the DVD itself, it was professionally produced and is well organized. In addition to the movie, which can be easily accessed via chapter, the DVD also includes bonus section interviews with both the film’s anglers as well as some steelhead/conservation legends. I’d previously viewed the trailer, but frankly it doesn’t do this fine piece of work justice.

I’m giving this movie a 9.5 out of 10, with a half point deduction because having watched it is going to wind up costing me dearly – in spey rods and Skagit lines, as well as thousands of dollars in gas and beer trying to pull this trip off myself someday.

Time for free stuff

Josh Brandner pinged me around a month ago, asking if I’d like to take a look at the film – I obliged, but with no guarantees. I figured that if it sucked, I’d simply send it back to him and make no mention of it (I see no reason to trash people’s artistic endeavors, particularly if they’re related to fly fishing). But if it was good I’d do a review, and give the movie away thereafter. The latter is what’s happening.

This time I’m going to do things a little different, since I’ve been told those little quizzes I’ve put together are a pain in the ass. Rather, post a link in the comments (or email me) with your finest trout or steelhead catch – big and/or beautiful are game. The rules are simple – you must have caught the salmonid with a flyrod (having the rod in the picture will obviously help in the judging), and I need your explicit permission to re-post the picture here (meaning it must be you in the picture too). If you’ve got a good story to go along with the pic, hand it over if you like. Two weeks from today, I’ll post all the pictures I receive along with some voting thingamabob, and leave the rest up to the readers. Voting will stay open for seven days. Highest number of votes gets a free video.

UPDATE: Two weeks past, and there were no takers. So the freebie has been set free.