Bird’s nests and furled leaders

I’ve bitched plenty about our Pacific Northwest summer weather (or lack thereof) this summer season. No need to beat a dead horse, although one more kick in the ribs won’t hurt. With that said, I’m putting on my steel-toed boots. Let’s begin.

August 11, 2011. It was cloudy and cool with a daytime high headed towards a sweltering 70 degrees in Western WA. Not raining or even drizzly–just not summer weather, thanks to the phenomenon known as the Western Washington Ream Job.  To illustrate, I’ve included an action photo sequence. Below, from left to right: I-90 eastbound, 15 miles west of Snoqualmie Pass; I-90 eastbound, 5 miles west of Snoqualmie Pass; I-90 eastbound, 1 mile west of Snoqualmie Pass; I-90 eastbound, 1 mile east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Western Washington Summer Ream Job action sequence

The bottom line is that once we got east of the Cascade crest, it was blue skies and summer weather. ‘We’ consisted of Jimmy and myself. We hadn’t fished together since the annual trip to Yellowstone, and usually we get out at least a couple of times during July. That didn’t happen this Julyuary but finally the time was right. Per usual when fishing the lower canyon, we stopped in at Red’s Fly Shop to arrange for a shuttle and pick up a couple flies (which I didn’t really need, but always buy just to help them pay the bills). Word from behind the counter was that dry fly fishing had been tough recently so we would fish with a hopper and a dropper (Lightning Bug, to be exact).

From our launch site at Big Horn, we had 15.5 river miles to cover with a current running about 4mph. Calculations suggested that if we milked it and delayed whenever possible, back-rowing to slow our pace by one-half, we should be at the Roza take out around 9 pm. This would give us time on the water for the evening caddis hatch as darkness set in. And so off we went under warm, blues skies, a mild breeze and a river devoid of other anglers.

The first surprise of the day came when Jimmy unveiled his newest fishing hat made for him by one of his 4 daughters. It was a beautiful thing something to behold, decorated with nick-knacks from their recent family vacation to Florida.

Florida Fly Fishing Fedora

After the initial shock wore off I eventually forgot that he was wearing the distracting headwear, and I honestly believe Jimmy forgot it was up there too. That is, until a wind-aided cast wrapped his leader around the bird’s nest that resulted in, well, a bird’s nest.  After that the hat was replaced with something a bit more practical.

Unparalleled River Fashion


The other (pleasant) surprise of the day came in the form the the furled leader I was using for the first time. My buddy Derek Young, Washington’s only Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide (and the 2011 Orvis Endorsed Guide of the Year), had raved about the leaders he had recently gotten from Cutthroat Leader Company, and gave me a couple to try. I had, up until Derek’s act of suspicious generosity, resisted the temptation to try furled leaders because I’m cheap. And I had doubts that they would perform significantly better than traditional tapered mono.

While the cost is higher than a standard tapered leader, given the expected life of the furled leaders the price is actually quite attractive, and is about the same as the cost of a 3 pack of traditional trout leaders. But the performance was really impressive with the 76″ Dry Fly furled leader, and even delivered the hopper/dropper combination quite well.  Once I removed the dropper later in the day, the furled leader really shone. I’m sold  on Cutthroat leaders, thank you very much, Derek. As much as I detest a tandem nymph rig, I am looking forward to trying the Nymphing Leaders the next time the situation calls for it.

It wasn’t long before we got into fish, and throughout the day we had fairly decent action (none of the extended, back-to-back lulls so common to the Yakima River). I fished first while Jimmy rowed, then we switched. This repeated itself throughout the day, and we each caught enough fish to keep it interesting. All the fish were taken on the top fly, so after a couple of hours we ditched the droppers.  This also simplified things when tossing flies tight to the bank, which is where all but a couple fish were. With temps in the mid 80’s it was comfortable for us but too warm for much insect activity. A well-placed hopper or golden stone dry would produce strikes, and plenty of strikes came from 10-12 inch fish throughout the day. Jimmy had a couple nice fish slam his fly, but given reflexes akin to a reptile on a January day, he missed a couple hook sets and then lost one very nice fish (most likely a steelhead…). I managed 6-8 smaller fish, but the 15 incher (what I call “A Yakima 18”) was the best fish I’ve pulled from this river in at least 2 years. It felt good, but I know I’m in for another 2 year drought so the accomplishment was bittersweet.

Manly net

Strangely, this was the second time in as many visits to the Yakima that the boat I was in has had fairly steady catch action: a trip from a month ago was just about as productive. I’m sure as hell not suggesting that I’ve developed a case of Yakima Mojo or anything like that. I’m just not quite used to catching fish on the Yakima.

As we swapped positions and emptied the cooler as the day wore on, we watched the position of the sun and by means of dead reckoning that would have made Lewis and Clark proud, we paused where we could to let the sun drop behind the canyon walls, anticipating that the onset of evening would bring out the caddis flies. And the rising trout.  It’s that last hour before the sun drops behind the steep canyon walls that the Yakima Canyon is at it’s finest aesthetic glory.

As day gave way to evening, we enjoyed a beautiful purple sunset followed by what was destined to become a full moon, although the moon was slower to rise than the trout. Had the moon been directly overhead we’d have been able to see quite well. As it was, darkness fell quickly upon the river and at 9pm we were still a couple of miles from our take out, floating in nearly complete darkeness. There were bugs in the air, which I knew because they flew into my nose and mouth.  Trout did rise, because we could hear them doing so.  But each cast was a shot in the dark, and any hooksets, had there been any, would have been instinctual (in other words, missed). I had tied on my last size 16 caddis with the aid of reading glasses, and barely managed that feat.  Had I snapped off that last fly, it would have been game over. Lights out. And by 9:30 when we pulled the boat from the water, it was.


We returned home to the cloudy side of the mountains just before midnight.  Jimmy dropped me off at the local Safeway parking lot where I had left The Fish Taco that morning. As Jimmy drove off into the night it suddenly dawned on me that the next day was the 22nd anniversary of the wedding between Mrs. UA and myself. Luckily Safeway was still open, so I paid a quick visit for a bouquet of flowers and an anniversary card. As it turns out, Mrs. UA got me the same card. I guess we deserve each other.

Guest Post, sort of

Guest posts are typically blog entries written by someone other than myself (thus, the “guest” designation). Because I am not responsible for the nature of the content provided by guests, judgment should be reserved for them—not me.

My buddy Jimmy recently returned from a family-type float trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. He was accompanied by his two oldest daughters and his mom. Jimmy and I have been good friends for a lot of years, and he’s a great guy to fish with, although he does need to read pages 3 and 4 from A River Runs Through It. Other than that, his “social appropriateness filter” probably needs changing (or upgrading) which means that his writing isn’t quite appropriate for publication. By that I mean that if left to his own devices, Jimmy’s story would be wrought with words and themes that are not appropriate for a wholesome forum such as this.  Given his tendencies toward colorful descriptives and the like, I have taken his information and edited out indecencies while still attempting to keep the flavor of his experience in tact. Remember, I have left all material intact that I deemed appropriate:

“Fished the Middle Fork of the Salmon…Caught a lot of nice cutthroats…Had a rather pleasant time.”

And that’s all that I felt comfortable publishing.

Surely, I jest! Jimmy’s not so foul that I couldn’t post his retelling of the trip so here you go, in Jimmy’s own words (my comments, for clarification, are in red):

Middle fork of the Salmon, started outside Stanley, Idaho. Put in at Boundary Creek (elevation 5,700 feet); take out at Cache bar 100 mi downstream and a drop of 2700 feet.  Blue ribbon dry fly for West Slope Cutthroat, in the  Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest mountain wilderness in the US (2.361 million acres).

Outfitter was Hughes River Expeditions (recommended by UA, fyi). Trip was 6 days & 5 nights. First couple of days were white water class 3 & 4 rapids, days 3, 4 and 5 were great fishing water.  Fished mostly with orange stimulator, or a rubber legged stonefly with a bead head pheasant tail nymph dropper, and a caddis. Had probably 8-12 double hook-ups where first fish would take the nymph and the second would chase the dry thru the water and grab it (yeah, right). Averaged 40-60 day in the 12-16 range fishing about 4-5 hrs (bullshit). Nice fat fish that had been feeding on salmon flies.

Food, guides, trip awesome for all ages. Some float boats, paddle boats, and single person kayaks. Sections remind me of the Yakima on steroids with deeper canyon walls, fresher water, larger and many more fish (so, really, nothing like the Yakima). Shit (stop swearing, Jimmy) even Payton (Jimmy’s 16 year old daughter) caught 10 fish her first day attempting fly fishing in 2 hrs (riiiight). Found a nice beaver trap probably 100+ years old, and a nice fly chest pack with a nice Orvis CFO reel made in England in it with a lot of flies, leaders, ect. It had a fishing license from a gentleman who lives in Knoxville, Tenn. Damnit!! (I assume this means you contacted him and returned the goods?)

Something for everyone on this trip.  Will fill you in on “butt darts” later. (inquiring minds want to know)


For the record, Jimmy did return the vest to the very grateful gentleman from Tennessee. Turns out the owner of the vest had left it on the shore a month or so ago earlier and had hoped that the fly fishing gods. He also sent some photos which I’ve posted here for your viewing enjoyment, with captions provided by Jimmy:

View from Stanley, Idaho.

Standard Middle Fork fish.

Poison ivy you had to watch out for.

I asked if anyone got into the Poison Ivy. Jimmy said, “No, but glad I did not have to shit because those are about the biggest leafs that were available.”

Can you beat a shitter view like this?

Sorry forgot to add this one.

Hooked a new 12 yr old boy from Oregon on fly fishing.

Thanks, Jimmy. Sounds like a great trip combining family fun with ample, and exceptional, fly fishing.

Guest Post: Shitty Clients, Part I


This is a guest post from a buddy of mine who currently guides for native steelhead on the chalk streams of Central Texas. The story is true. The names and certain locations may have been changed to protect the identities of those concerned. For example, there really aren’t steelhead in the chalk streams of Central Texas.

Shitty Clients, Part I

By the Unknown Fishing Guide

The Unknown Fishing Guide with a not-shitty client, circa 1942

Let me preface this story (so that I don’t sound like a jack-ass holier than thou guide who cares nothing about teaching, education, conservation and only about catching fish) with the fact that out of the 1,000+ guide trips I have ran in the last 10 years, there have been exactly 2 people I would never fish with again. In fact one of the best things that guiding has given me is great relationships with people from around the country that I have met as fishing clients and with whom I have became very close friends.

This particular gentleman, we’ll call him Dick, started out our trip in a particularly interesting way. After the normal morning “hey hows it going, here’s where we are floating, here’s what to expect” we hopped in my pickup and drove down into the Yakima canyon. About 2 miles out of town, Dick says: “You know, Fords are pieces of shit, you need to get a GMC.” Ok, I thought, I’ve had good luck with my truck, but he’s welcome to his opinion. We continue down the road, making small talk, and he follows up the truck comment with this gem: “Eastern Washington is the ugliest piece of shit I have ever seen, it’s full of nothing but hillbillies and rednecks”. I thought that was a little rough, especially from someone from Boston, and who had seen two of the prettier places in Washington: The Klickitat and Yakima canyons. Certainly there were our share of Hillbillies in the 509, but no more than anywhere else in the west, and substantially less than Idaho. However, I was still going to college, and although an asshole so far, some people turn it around when your fishing, and I really needed the money.

We finally arrived at the river, got the boat in the water, and rowed down to a nice pod of trout eating blue wings. The night before we fished together, Dick and my boss had dinner together, and had talked about the Green river in Utah, one of the better trout factories in the country. For those of you unfamiliar with the Yakima, it will never be mistaken for the quality of the Green. It is a unique river with it’s proximity to Seattle, but at 1,300 trout per mile in it’s densest stretch it can’t hold the jock strap of the Green. Dick quickly caught two trout out of the pod, and completed the trifecta, “This Yakima is just like the Green” he said “full of dumb fucking trout”.

The third time was the charm, and I realized at this point that nothing I could do as a fishing guide was going to please Dick, so I gave advice as needed, treated him as nicely as I could, and continued to work hard to put him on fish. On our second day of fishing we floated half of the day before a monsoon that had engulfed the state of Washington caught up to us, and the river blew out. Still several miles from the finish line, this provided Dick an opportunity to share with me his knowledge and firm belief in Bigfoot. Were it not for this hour long discussion I would have never learned that Bigfoot is most certainly real, and can turn your brain off with alpha brain waves. Dick was particularly interested in the time I had spent in Forks, one of the more popular Bigfoot spots around. Of course I couldn’t help leading him on a little bit, and after two days of dealing with his shitty attitude towards life, at least the last hour was entertaining.



We hope you enjoyed this guest post by the Unknown Fishing Guide. The staff at the Unaccomplished Angler hope to bring more, similar stories in the future, as evidenced by the “Part 1” designation in the title. If you are an Unknown Fishing Guide and need a safe, anonymous forum in which to vent tell your story, please contact our editorial offices. Your secret is safe with us.