March of the lion

Lion&lamb

The amicable passing of the torch—isn’t that sweet?

You know what “they” say about March—it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.

For those that don’t grasp the meaning, it’s a metaphor. It signifies that when the month of March begins, the weather is fierce—still winter-like. When the month is over, the weather has mellowed to gentle Spring-like conditions. That makes sense given that the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox occurs during March. The first official day of Spring—yay!

rainout

The season of Baseball—the quintessential fair weather game— has begun! The first significant bug hatch on most western rivers occurs in March—the march of the skwalas! Ah, the wonderous lambing season is upon us—let us rejoice in the season of hope, knowing that the glorious days of summer are approaching!

That may be the case where you live, but not here in the Pacific Northwet. Yes, March charged in like a lion, full of wind, rain and cold (for here, anyway) temperatures. We had snow accumulations during the first week of the month. As the lion marched on, the weather remained largely the same: gray, wet and chilly. I believe we had two days where the sun won the battle against clouds and rain. And in the last week of the month the weather has remained largely unchanged. Oh, sure, it looks as though on the 31st the clouds may part, the rain may cease, and we may actually see the sun for about the 10th time since October…but look ahead one day to April first and—no joke— we’re right back to the unseasonably cold, wet, shitty weather. 60 degrees?  We haven’t seen that yet this year.

WeatherSucks

Plants are refusing to burst out with their display of Spring colors. The grass is green, and growing, but it’s having a hard time keeping up with the moss. It looks like winter outside save for a few hearty trees that are budding out, slowly.

SeattleRain

Below are some stats about Seattle weather since October 2016, but as you read the tally, bear in mind that Seattle proper gets considerably less rain that where I live, 25 miles to the east: Seattle sees 37.49 inches per year on average; where I live sees 52 inches annually.

Seattle Weather Fun Facts courtesy of the NWS (Nasty Weather Service):

Of the 178 days that have passed since the “water year” began, Seattle has had 123 days with rain or snow, 149 with more than 70% cloud cover, and just 9 days with less than 30% cloud cover (which apparently constitutes a sunny day). Seattle set records for rainfall in October (10.05 inches). November and December were gray and miserable, but not as wet as October. January wasn’t record-wet, but it was gloomy as hell with 7.45 inches of rain. February was nearly a record month for rainfall in Seattle, with 8.85 inches (the record being 9.11 inches). Come on—we’re splitting hairs here—we should get a trophy for February. March has been the 6th wettest on record, with 6.66 inches (about 3.38 inches more than normal). February and March combined have had the most precipitation ever recorded in Seattle, with 15.56 inches. Remember, that’s in Seattle, which benefits from a bit of a rain shadow effect compared to most other parts of the Puget Sound region.

lion&lamb2

Here, the lion wins by eating the lamb.

So, whomever “they” are that say, “in like a lion, out like a lamb” can bite me. This March the weather has sucked. The lion won. February, January, December, November and October sucked, too.

They also say that you can’t change the weather, but you can bitch about it, and I feel marginally better for having done so.

Pass the vitamin D—I’m clearly deficient. I probably need to go fishing, too.

drownedLamb

The lamb succumbed to the incessant rains of March.

 

Didn’t even try to not go fishing

Last year at about this same time, me and the Albacore’s ventured to Forks, WA to do a bit of steelhead fishing. We got rained out, and instead of fishing we sat on our asses and watched basketball for 3 days (shoot me now). Here’s a recount.

This year, when it came time to schedule the trip to Forks, I just couldn’t get excited about it (Mrs. UA and I had also already scheduled a trip to Nashville in April to see Schpanky, so my Big Spring Trip was spoken for). I felt a tinge of remorse for taking a pass on the Albacore trip because I do rather enjoy fishing with those boys, so I wished them well. I also figured that, in my absence, they would have a banner year. Steelhead on the swung fly. Many.

Well, I just heard from Large Albacore, and they didn’t touch a single fish. Not only that, they didn’t fish at all—the trip was a bust this year. The difference this year is that they determined it would be a rain-out before even making the trip: a pre-emptive strike, if you will. We should have made that same call last year, but as Large Albacore said this year, “I’m slow, but eventually I catch on.”

I must admit that I’m not surprised. It’s a dicey proposition to encounter favorable conditions in Forks this time of year, any year. Given that western Washington has had one of the wettest, coldest winters on record, and Forks is the wettest that the Pacific Northwet has to offer, the writing was on the wall.

So, as far as I can tell, the best way to not go fishing is to just stay home. It’s considerably cheaper than the cost of gas, ferry crossings, motel and food for 3-4 days, all to not go fishing. And by staying home I can control what’s on the television, and it’s not basketball.

Madness, I say.

Washington Weather

This has been one of those winters that beats a person down and has them thinking about moving to Arizona and taking up outdoor shuffleboard.

I’ve been AWOL

I just realized the last post on the blog was way back on November 1st, 2016—last year.

That could mean one of a few things:

  1. I’ve been fishing a lot: I’ve been catching many winter steelhead in the Pacific Northwest, traveling to Patagonia (it’s summer there) to chase sea run brown trouts, and am currently in the tropics fishing for tropical species and drinking fruity drinks on the sandy beaches. I’m just not rubbing it in your faces writing about it.
  2. I spent the last two months in jail and was just released.
  3. I have recently entered the Witness Protection Program and am keeping a low profile.
  4. Who cares, really?
  5. Insert your own reason for my absence

 

Sauk it to me

The Sauk River is one of three major tributaries of the once-fabled steelhead river, the Skagit, in North Central Western Washington. I’ve only fished the Sauk twice: the First Time in April 2009, during what was—unknowingly at the time—the last catch and release steelhead season before the WDFW closed that season down. The second time I fished the Sauk was when I dressed as a fisherman for Halloween 2016.

Ignorance was bliss (2009)

Ignorance was bliss (Sauk River, 2009)

In 2009 (when it was still socially acceptable to wear a fishing vest) I was a greenhorn Spey rodder, and on my first cast of the day, dumb luck struck and I landed my first wild steelhead on the swung fly. I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be a long time after that day when I would land my next wild steelhead on the swung fly.

But let’s not dwell on the past, shall we? Jumping ahead to 2016, while no longer a greenhorn to the two handed rod, I am not a significantly better caster: ‘functionally adequate’ is how I describe my Spey casting prowess.

Late October is a bit early for western Washington winter steelhead, and while there may be a few early returning fish in the system, it’s not likely that they’ll be enticed to the swung fly. This time of year it was all about bull trout, or as some mistakenly call them, dolly varden. The difference between a bull trout and a dolly is fairly simple to explain, which I’ve done HERE in the past if you’re so inclined. At any rate, my friend Bob Margulis invited me to join him for what is one of his favorite times of year to fish the Sauk, when one stands a chance at a rather mixed bag of finned quarry: salmon, steelhead, sea run cutthroat trout, and/or bull trout. The bull trout have, at this time of year, recently concluded their annual spawn, during which they migrate from the main river up smaller tributaries. Once they’ve spawned they are spent, and hungry, and they move back down to the main river in search of a cigarette food.

As a very light, sporadic rain fell, we dropped into a run below a well known bridge and Bob set me up at the lower end of a run while he worked through to the top section. The Sauk was running a bit high due to recent (and current) rains, but not unreasonably so. There was a glacial green tinge to the river and visibility wasn’t horrible. In other words, the river was fishable. We observed a couple of chum salmon spawning in the gravel of an inside channel—a hen raking the gravel, creating a redd into which she was laying her eggs. A male moved in behind her to do his part. Cutthroat and bull trout would eventually move in later to snatch eggs from the redd, and eagles would eventually feed on the chum carcasses. Interconnected, the circle of life becomes quite evident during this time of year on Pacific Northwest rivers.

But I digress.

Bull Trout Candy

Bull Trout Candy

I laid out the first cast with my Spey rod—rigged with with a Compact Skagit head and type III sink tip—joined to a fluffy white streamer that, for lack of the actual pattern name, would best be described as “bull trout candy.” Just before the fly swung into the hang down, there was some resistance on the line. Naturally I assumed I’d hung up on a rock, but when the rock began shaking its head I changed my mind. There ensued no drag-screaming runs nor acrobatic displays, but the fish did communicate its displeasure and pulled with determination. After a short fight I landed what was a rather nice bull trout—somewhere in the 26-28″ range—certainly my largest to date. As Bob mentioned, “Where there’s one there’s more,” so after releasing the dolly bull trout native char I continued fishing the run with the hope of finding another fish. Apparently that was the only willing participant in the run as neither Bob nor I touched another fish. We moved upriver, above the well known bridge, to try our luck on a new piece of water.

A splendid Sauk River dolly varden bull trout.

A splendid Sauk River dolly varden bull trout.

I forgot to put the rod behind my neck for the photo.

I apologize for forgetting to put the rod behind my neck for the photo.

The rain began to fall in greater abundance as we situated ourselves on the next run. In my estimation, winter steelheading weather is wet and cold—a miserable combination that keeps most anglers inside by the fire reading about summer trout fishing. As the rain increased it certainly looked like winter steelheading weather despite that with temps in the low 50’s it was far too warm to be considered true winter steelheading weather (my hands weren’t even numb).

Despite appearances, not winter steelheading weather.

Despite appearances, not winter steelheading weather.

And that was fine, because we were fishing for bull trout. And I landed two more. These were considerably smaller than the first fish, each stretching the tape at about 18 inches. Despite their diminutive stature, they were game little fighters, one in particular was full of enough piss and vinegar that it jumped twice in protest. That would conclude the catching for the day, and in case you naysayers are screaming in outrage that my success is anything but an unaccomplishment, bear in mind that the day was not without unaccomplished incident: I had left home at 6:40 AM to meet Bob at 8 o’clock. I got 12 minutes from home when I realized I had left my waders back home in the garage. Fortunately I remembered before getting too far up the road. Wet wading would not have been a pleasant endeavor, despite that it wasn’t miserable enough to be considered winter steelheading weather.

Given that this is an election year, this seems appropriate to leave you with this:

Stupid Fly Fishing Cars To Avoid

"Hey, let's go fishing. I'll drive!"

“Hey, let’s go fishing. I’ll drive!”

Way back in 2011 I went to great lengths to compile a list of the Top Six Stupidest Fly Fishing Cars. I’m confident that my list saved many a reader from making a regrettable purchase. Since then I’ve been giving the matter some more thought, and because there is a whole new generation of cars available, I feel it’s my responsibility to once again be an advocate for the fly fishing consumer.

But Forbes beat me to it, more or less, with their list of 15 New Cars To Avoid.

Their impressive list of unimpressive cars doesn’t specify that these cars would be particularly stupid for fly fishing, but it’s a safe assumption that what’s bad for the gander (everyone) is also bad for the goose (fly angling types). So, there’s no point in me reinventing the stupid wheel since Forbes did it already, but I’ll simply add my brief commentary here:

  1. BMW 7 Series. While not particularly ugly, one would feel rather out of place pulling into Twin Bridges, MT driving one of these. $80+K buys a lot of something else. And I doubt you can order one with a tow package.
  2. Cadillac XTS. If you’re going to drive a Cadillac to go fishing, it better have massive fins and be 20 feet long and weigh 4000 lbs. And it should be a convertible.
  3. Dodge Journey. Forbes says “Dodge’s 7 passenger crossover SUV is long overdue for a redesign…” Long overdue?  That means they’ve been out for a while. Never even heard of these. Looks like a station wagon to me.
  4. Fiat 500L. I remember Fiat for it’s unreliable little boxy cars back in the 70’s (FIAT was a popular acronym before acronyms were popular). Then it seems, Fiat disappeared for decades. Now it appears they’re back, unfortunately.
  5. Jeep Compass. Not surprising to hear that Jeep gets low marks for reliability—just about every Jeep I’ve owned was plagued with problems, except my 2000 Cherokee, which was pretty much bullet proof. I should have kept it.
  6. Jeep Patriot.  OK, I can confirm that this is a horrible vehicle. We rented one in Nashville last summer, and it was dangerous to drive due to being so horribly underpowered that it couldn’t get out of its own way. Seriously—I pressed the gas pedal to the floor. The diminutive little motor would cry out defiantly but the vehicle would not move. It was as if it had square tires.
  7. Jeep Wrangler. Well, Jeep is really racking up the points, aren’t they? Still, the Wrangler is quite popular. I guess, with its relatively spartan appointments and boxy sheetmetal that isn’t horribly removed from the days of the CJ, people are attracted to the Wrangler because there’s nothing else out there even remotely like it. (Hint: Hey Ford—bring back the Early Bronco in some form, eh?)
  8. Lincoln MKS. Not sure why Ford even keeps the Lincoln division around any more.
  9. Lincoln MKT. See previous comment.
  10. Mitsubishi iMiEV. What? LOL!
  11. Mitsubishi Mirage. The definition of ‘mirage’ is, “Something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so.” I wish that were the case with this eyesore.
  12. Nissan Armada. I’ve long thought that Nissan was making some of the ugliest vehicles the past few years. Turns out they’re not only ugly, but unreliable.
  13. Nissan Titan. By far the ugliest of all pickups currently offered up in the marketplace, and apparently one of the worst, too.
  14. Scion iQ.  Huh?
  15. Smart ForTwo.  The Smart car was on my list of Top Six Stupidest Fly Fishing Cars. Good to see it’s still getting the attention it deserves.

Thanks to Forbes for stealing my thunder doing the legwork so I didn’t have to.