Stream Tech boats

Don’t choke on your chicken.

Don’t try this at home.

I’ve long been a fast eater, prone to taking rather large bites—particularly when it comes to carnivorous feeding. And chicken has always been akin to dessert for me. As a matter of fact my dad used to call me a ‘chicken hawk’ because I loved the bird more than cookies or candy. From a very young age I could strip a chicken drumstick clean to the bone, knuckles and all, before quickly moving on to the next appendage. I stopped shy of eating the bones themselves only because I was told they can splinter and become dangerous. Admittedly it is was hard for me to think of chicken as being dangerous. Outrageous! Chicken has always been nothing but pure goodness, and each time chicken was served in our house there ensued a veritable feeding frenzy. And that never changed as I became an adult. I am not inclined toward violence, but do NOT get between me and a cooked chicken.

I’m a chicken hawk.

And so it was on New Year’s Eve day, when I happened upon a roasted poultry carcass in the kitchen, that my eyes lit up and my salivary glands began to do their thing. A low growl emanated from deep within as I enthusiastically commenced to hoark down large hunks of dark meat like it was going out of style. Before the first bite had passed through the pipe into my stomach it was followed immediately by another chunk. Having not eaten much all day in my haste to strip the house of Christmas lights and perform other assorted outdoor chores, I was ravenous. Chicken. Grrrr…Don’t get between the UA and his chicken (I may be repeating myself).

Nom nom nom.

As the sensation of pain/pressure built in my esophagus I realized, Houston, there may have been a slight problem. I didn’t feel as though I was choking, per se—certainly I wasn’t panicked or I’d have gestured to Mrs. UA to commence with the Heimlich Maneuver. Of course she’d have thought I was being inappropriate, again, and would have dismissed my antics. I remained calm, likening the situation to a sweeper blocking a river channel. I reasoned that flood waters tend to remove woody debris, so I reached for a glass of water to help clear the blockage. I tipped the glass to my mouth and…

Imagine this river is my throat and that tree is made of chicken.

The next thing I knew I was seated in the family room recliner, being instructed by Mrs. UA not to get up, “The EMT’s are here.”

Thanks to Duvall Fire for their rapid response.

I had no idea why I was sitting in the chair, how I got there, or why a very tall, handsome man dressed in a firefighter’s uniform was seated before me, asking questions as Mrs. UA swooned in the background. I answered the inquisitions as best I could, apparently repeating myself several times. It should also be noted that my head seemed to hurt and as I reached to remove my hat I felt a growing bump on the back of my head. When I pulled my hand away, there was a small amount of blood and hair, attached to a small chunk of scalp. Slowly it came back to me…

I have a new bald spot.

Up to this point Mrs. UA had no idea what had happened—all she knew was that she had heard a loud crash as the water glass hit the table. Turning to see what the commotion was all about, she observed me falling backward at a 45 degree angle, headed toward the floor. I didn’t crumple into a heap, nor did my knees buckle. No, I toppled straight over like a short tree, my head luckily breaking my fall as I hit the hardwoods.

Series of events.

Mrs. UA had initially feared the worst, that I’d suffered a stroke. I was conscious but not alert as the 911 dispatcher calmly had my wife conduct a couple of simple tests that ruled out a stroke. Perhaps I’d had a heart attack? Mrs. UA had no idea until I told the EMT what had happened: I had passed out trying to flood my blocked craw. Apparently I repeated myself several times when the EMT’s first arrived, but I have no recollection of having done any such thing. Apparently I repeated myself several times when…oh, wait.

I was still feeling rather fuzzy as a series of questions came my way, one of which was whether or not I had recently taken any medications. To that I responded affirmatively, “I took a couple of Tylenol earlier today.”

“Why did you take Tylenol?” asked the EMT.

“Yesterday I drove 12 hours round trip to Oregon. My neck and back are just a little road weary,” was my response.

“What were you doing in Oregon?” questioned the EMT.

“I had to drive to LaGrande to pick up a new boat…are you a fisherman, by chance?” I inquired, still a bit loopy.

Turns out both he and his partner were, so I insisted that they open the door to the garage to see my new toy. They instantly became my new best friends, as this is what they saw…

My new toy: Stream Tech Salmonfly

After a quick ride to the ER where the doctor checked my blood sugar levels, hooked me up to an EKG and ultimately did a CT scan, it was determined that other than a mild concussion, I was medically normal. Mrs. UA took me home where we enjoyed a rather low-key New Year’s Eve. The next morning I awoke with a headache, which isn’t terribly uncommon on New Year’s Day. But instead of alcohol, it was chicken I had to blame for the way I was feeling. Since then Mrs. UA has had me a on a short leash come mealtime, watching over me carefully to make sure that I take small bites and chew my food 20 times. Chicken still excites me and I’ll have to exercise caution and dig deep for self discipline whenever confronted by the tempting bird.

But really this isn’t about me—it’s about my new boat.

UA in ER after EKG and CT scan. I’m OK, FYI.

Row, row, row your boat.

 

Within one year, two of my fishing buddies—Jimmy and Marck—each acquired drift boats. The first result of this was that they each became my very best friends. Another by-product was that over the past 7 or so years I’ve been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time between the gunwhales of each boat, both fishing and taking turns on the oars. For me personally the most productive times were spent rowing.

Marck and Nash, circa 2008

Marck’s boat, nicknamed the Hornet (due to its yellow and black color scheme) took on a personality all its own over the years. Sometimes also referred to as The Banana Boat, more than a few fishless days were spent onboard the Clackacraft 16LP. Regardless, countless good times were had in Marck’s boat, despite the colors being a constant reminder of the year that the Steelers allegedly beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl Xtra Large. That aside, it was a fine vessel that only feared one rock during its tenure. But the Hornet—having recently been sold—is now a thing of the past. And rumor has it that Jimmy’s Hyde, which has spent far more time in the garage than on the water in recent years, may also be for sale. Best friends with boats giveth, and best friends with boats taketh away…selfish bastards.

Schpanky and Jimmy, circa 2006

What’s a guy to do when his former best friends sell their boats out from under him? Certainly seeking new best friends is an option, but that seems like an awful lot of wasted energy and would be rash, even for a shallow likes of a person such as myself. Besides, we all get set in our ways and slowly begin to value our fishing buddies not necessarily just for their boats, but for the sandwiches and beverages they bring along in their coolers. No, it seems the only reasonable thing to do is keep my friends, and get a boat of my own.

It’s been said that when one gets their own drift boat, one spends more time rowing and less time fishing. While that may be true, in my case, that’s probably not a bad thing.

Stream Tech raft for sale: 13′ Green Drake

This could be a gear review, because I’ve had the pleasure of fishing out of one of these boats before and they’re sweet. I also had a chance to row one recently and that made me like them even more. Well, as it turns out the owner of the company, Link Jackson, is letting his personal demo boat and trailer go to make room for a new model destined soon for his garage. Ah, hell, rather me regurgitating, here’s what he has to say:

“Today is the day…..I must make room for the new Salmonfly prototype in the garage while I am testing it. My personal Green Drake boat with 1 summer season of use goes up for sale today. The basic package (same as new package) including a brand new frame is going for $5,000 and my cargo trailer will go for $1500. P…hoto above. The boat is in great shape and the trailer is in good to great shape (I recently installed aluminum plating on all surfaces that road gravel hits to avoid having to touch up paint). First offer buys it.”

That’s right– throw him an offer! I really, really wish I was in a position to buy this boat. If I was, I’d have already called, texted, emailed, Facebooked and sent a carrier pigeon to reserve it. And I’d already be on my way to Boise to pick it up. Here’s a photo of the actual boat. Some lucky guy or gal is going to be tickled to get this thing.

You might ask, “Hey, Unaccomplished Angler – why are listing this on your blog?  What’s in it for you?”  Actually, a case of Bud.  So if you buy the raft, tell Link I sent ya.  Then take me fishing in your new boat. I’ll buy you a beer.

Stream Tech Boats
2930 W. Taft Street
Boise, ID 83703
(208) 869-7384
info@streamtechboats.com

http://www.streamtechboats.com/

Swingin’ the Chubby Cousin.

The text message from Derek Young indicated that the upper Yakima was fishing well, and suggested that perhaps we should pay a visit.  “Fishing well.”  I’ve heard that before. Derek guides for a living so he’s on the river a lot. He fishes it with great frequency so the recollection of a slow day can easily be lost amidst the hustle and bustle of productive fishing days. I fish it much less often – certainly not often enough for the rare, exceptional days to shroud out the other kinds of days. In other words, I get my arse handed to me by the Yakima more often than not. And so I hesitated to commit to Derek’s invitation. As much as I enjoy fishing with him, to be honest I was starting to have steelhead on the brain this time of year. When I reminded myself that a day of steelheading would be a guaranteed skunking, I opted to float the Yakima instead.

Yet another weather system was parked over Western Washington, causing moderate to heavy precipitation to fall from the skies all the way over Snoqualmie pass and even a few miles to the East of the summit.  I hoped that the gloomy weather wouldn’t translate into a dark cloud of despair. As I crested the summit I passed a semi bearing the name WERNER, and thought to myself, “Could this be a good omen? Could this be MY day?” I put the silly notion out of my head and proceeded East.

The sky lightened and the rain tapered off just before I pulled into the town of Cle Elum where I met Derek at 11:00 AM. We dropped the Green Drake into the low, clear waters and floated perhaps 5 minutes before pulling over to work both sides of an island.  Rocks were teeming with small green caddis larvae, so a size 16 olive Caddis (standard Elk Hair variety) was selected for initial duty.  Good choice. Armed with my 4 wt. Sage Z-Axis (yes, I will shamelessly throw the brand out there in hopes that Sage will see it and choose to sponsor my blog), the fish played nicely from the get-go. I landed a small handful of 10 inch rainbows in the first half hour before pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.  Except for when I visit the Firehole River in Yellowstone each year, it’s never this easy for me. I didn’t question my good fortune, however, and continued drifting the olive-colored magic through trouty looking water. At one point I was hooked up and playing a fish as another jumped within 6 feet of the action.  I’ll admit that as the frenzy continued I could be heard carrying on a conversation with myself that went something like this: “With angling skills to make all others envious, you sir, are a fish-catching machine!”  It doesn’t take much for me to become dilusional. For those of you who regularly catch many and impressive fish, this may not sound like anything extraordinary.  Fish a mile in my wading boots and you’ll come to appreciate my glee in the moment.

We continued downstream under partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures.  Clouds threatened rain, but none fell and for a short time I felt overdressed in my waders and long-sleeved shirt.  When a hatch of Blue Winged Olives came off for a bit, there was no point in switching patterns because the olive caddis was still drawing numerous strikes. The action did taper off after a while though, proving that nothing good lasts forever. When the fish seemed less willing (though not entirely unwilling, mind you) to take surface offerings, we fished below.  Derek grabbed his nymph rod and ran his bobber through fishy slots.  I wanted to avoid nymphing, per se, so I decided to try something a little different.  Reaching into my fly box, I grabbed a pattern that I usually only fish when in Yellowstone each Spring: a small soft hackle bead head nymph by the name of the Chubby Cousin.

When we fish the Firehole, we forego dead drifting double nymph rigs and bobbers, and instead cast downstream at a quarter angle and swing the small bugs through the current. Strikes usually come when the fly begins to settle into the seam where the faster water meets the slower holding water. It’s like swinging streamers for steelhead only on a miniature scale. I enjoy this type of nymph fishing but had never employed the tactics on the Yakima.  Why not?  Well, to be honest I just never seem to think of it at the time. This time I thought of it and I’m glad I did.  There was plenty of good swinging water and the fish took a liking to the Chubby Cousin. With it’s swept-back hackles and rubber legs, there’s plenty of movement in the water.  A few 10 inch rainbows were fond enough of the soft hackle to commit with solid takes at mid swing. Many more came unbuttoned during the course of regretting that they’d fallen for the Chubby. It was rare to not get at least a bump for every couple swings of the fly.

Rain began to fall intermittently in the late afternoon, but it dampened neither our spirits nor the enthusiastic appetite of the fish.  Switching to an October Caddis proved to be a reasonably wise decision, but it wasn’t as effective as had been the olive Caddis, so I tied on another of those. The only downside to fishing the small dry was that it invoked many a strike from tiny troutlets. For a while the number of greedy little gamers grew aggravating but eventually the fry left me alone and I was able to hook and land a beautifully colored 12 inch rainbow. At that point I offered to row so Derek could fish as we drifted.  I enjoy time on the oars, and to be honest I had wanted to try my hand at the helm of the Green Drake since fishing out of it earlier in the year.

The Green Drake is a 13 foot Maravia raft custom outfitted for fly fishing by Stream Tech Boats out of Boise.  It’s nice to fish out of and as I found, a pleasure to row.  I’ve rowed a drift boat many times but I’d never been on the oars of a raft before. I instantly liked the high perch of the rower’s seat which offers even a wee feller such as myself a commanding view of the river ahead. I was easily able to see approaching rocks before bouncing off of them, as opposed to banging and scraping as I’ve done in The Hornet a hard boat is prone to do. The hard inflatable floor is nice for standing on as one leans into the casting brace, and that same floor creates very little drag, making the boat very responsive and easy to hold against the current. For the first time I started to think that if I were to one day acquire a boat of my own I would have to give such a raft some serious consideration. I could see one of these boats providing a great deal of enjoyment and opportunity to spend quality time together on the water for Mrs. UA and myself.  If it weren’t for those damn college tuition payments that we’ve only just begun to make…

While I rowed and Derek fished we marveled at what a tremendous day it had been in all regards. As the sun grew low in the sky it provided for some dramatic scenery, casting a glow upon the trees and causing them to stand out vibrantly against an ominous looking sky. Fall was definitely here: salmon were spawning in their redds and the trout were eating like there was no tomorrow. It was one of those days where if the water looked like it should hold a fish, it nearly always held a fish. It’s so rare that I have a day like this that for a fleeting moment I almost forgot the multiple sub-par days I’d had on the Yakima during the preceding months. I’m not one to openly declare that the Fish Gods owe me anything, but every itchy dog has his day and I was long overdue to be scratched.  It’s not just the scratching catching that made the day great, but the opportunities that presented themselves: There were several fish landed, many more hooked and released prematurely, and countless strikes.  It was those strikes that made the day particularly rewarding because it showed just how many fish were in the system and eager to take a swipe at the fly. The largest fish caught were no more than 12 inchers, but I was a happy angler. In fact, so good was my mood that I even let Derek pose for a photo with my nicest fish of the day.

We were just minutes from the termination point of our float and about to pack it in save for a particularly fishy piece of water that begged for one more cast.  “I’m gonna run my little Chubby through that sweet spot one last time,” I announced.  Derek looked at me and very matter-of-factly said, “Fly fishing is the one activity where you can say that and not get in trouble.”  I had a couple tugs but didn’t set the hook fast enough.  It didn’t matter – my day was compleat.

As we neared our take-out, the unmistakable odor of skunk filled the air.  We laughed at the irony of that. It was too late for a skunking. Way too late. But it did remind me that had I not gone fishing with Derek I would have probably gone steelheading.