Mar 25, 2015

Spey Day 2015 | My Experience, Your Benefit | Bend, Oregon

Got the email from Erik of Angler's Rendezvous (our Sage, Redington and Rio reps) that our annual Farbank Mini Spey day was going down on March 22nd, 2015 in Bend, Oregon, a short three hours drive from my hometown of Hood River. I thought, what a great excuse to get away and spend six hours casting Spey and Switch rods until my hands had to be pried from the cork handles...Like a warrior who's held a sword for hours during battle and his hands won't let go.

Spey Day - Bend Oregon

Sage and Redington Spey & Switch rods
patiently wait their turn to perform.
If this years Spey day is anything like last years, I am going to thoroughly enjoy it. It's not too often that a guy has the chance to cast multiple Spey and switch rods side by side, for an instantaneous direct comparison. To really get a feel for the difference, casting different models, lengths and tapers side by side is by far the best method of telling the differences. Honestly, not only is it fun for me to spend the 6 hours casting all the rods but it translates into the confident conversations that I have on a daily basis with customers who call the shop or drop in looking for guidance in making their first spey rod purchase or their tenth.

From a customers standpoint, there is nothing like talking to someone on the phone that has actually cast or fished with the rod that they are interested in. From a shops standpoint there is nothing like having an employee who has actually cast or fished with the rod that the customer is interested in. First hand knowledge of equipment reeks through your conversation over the phone. I hate talking to someone that seems to be reading right out of the catalog trying to sell me something. It doesn't take too long to realize when this is happening.

Google or YouTube anything today and in a matter of milliseconds you have years of information and opinions at your fingertips. This is a good thing and it can be a bad thing. Good because you can do research without the pressure of a used car salesman breathing down your neck paid by commission. Bad because you can do your research...too much research...research overload, so much to the point you can't make a decision one way or another. You're now more confused than when you first started. If you're reading this and are thinking of making a Spey or Switch rod purchase, with all due respect, do some research, and pick just a couple of fly shops that actually fish with spey rods and you're confident with, give them a call and get dialed in. I have had numerous conversations with customers who have over researched and finally, out of desperation reach out to us. I once had a customer (if this is you, I didn't mention any names) straight up, within the first few seconds of our conversation confessed that he had been researching the equipment he was interested in for months and that he had literally called nearly every fly shop in the United States and now was so frustrated because he kept getting conflicting intel. I totally understood what he was saying and I respectfully said to him...that he had become so saturated with information he couldn't make a decision because most of the folks he talked to contradicted the previous guy he called. I politely said to him that he needed to take a breath and pick a couple of shops, who actually use spey rods, and start to trust somebody. He agreed with my statement and confessed that he was exhausted from all the research and he thanked me for being so honest with him. I could actually feel the tension in his voice subside as I told him this.

In short he'd become so overloaded with different personal preferences from so many shops that he couldn't choose. Shop employees where giving him advise on their casting preferences but neglecting to ask him about his. He was transitioning into the two handed world from single hand rod experience. So I was able to gather enough info from him and his background with a single hand rod that I could recommend a rod suitable to the casting style he was already used to, which made for a smoother transition for him. The equipment he was interested in was expensive and he wanted the confidence that he was making the right choice for his investment. He didn't have a local shop that he could test drive the equipment or talk to anyone who even used a spey rod.

Spey Rods and Reels stacked like chord wood!
OK, where do I start!
There are many reasons why you need to take a deep breath, sit back, relax a bit, and approach the spey/switch scene with a bit of trust. I say that assuming from this point on you will take my advice and use a shop that actually lives and breaths to spey fish and knows the equipment.

There are a number of variables that will help us get you dialed in. For instance, your casting style, are you on the aggressive side or are you a bit more laid back and patient, what size of a river you fish, what style or technique will you want to use and much more. I cannot give you a true diagnosis of the correct rod you should choose, by just considering my casting style. That would be like going to the doctor because you're ill and the Doctor diagnoses you with his symptoms. Doesn't make sense, does it? I need to gather as much information from you to help you make the right choice.

For example, I once set up a petite woman with a Sage One 7116-4 (11'6" 7 weight) Switch rod and a Rio Skagit Max Short head due to the fact that she was small, the shorter switch rod and head fit her perfectly. The standard, go to, introduction to Spey rods, Sage One 7136-4 (13'6" 7 weight) was too big for her. Once she took the Switch rod outfit to the river, it didn't take her long to fall in love with it. I try my best to get as much information from the customer and their casting style before recommending which rods would suit them. If they have no experience at all, either with a single hand rod or a two hander, my default recommendation is typically a fast action rod such as the Sage One. There's a reason for this. Typically a fast action rod is much more forgiving than an ultra-fast action rod, were your timing is somewhat critical, or a slow action rod because most people, honestly don't have the patience to wait for a deep flexing rod to load up before they start their forward stroke. When casting an ultra fast rod, such as the Sage Method, if your stroke is on its "A" game the rod will let you know how awesome you are by producing blistering line speed with little effort. BUT if you're having a "B" day, you're gonna struggle and you may not like the Method so much. The Sage One is the perfect go to rod for most folks. It's easy going for a somewhat laid back caster, super smooth and yet still has the power if you give it a little more umph on your bottom hand when you need to. Now there are other rods that have a fast action that would suit the needs of most folks, I'm just using the Sage One as an example, because in the Sage lineup of rods, it is my go to "comfort food" rod. It's an amazing tool. I wouldn't know these intimate details of the Sage One if I didn't have a personal relationship with the rod. The Method is an awesome rod, no joke, it's awesome...for the guy who loves an ultra fast rod...not so awesome for the guy who likes a more traditional full flex rod.

In the six hours I spent casting, I cast 4 weight switch rods to 15' 10 weight spey rods and everything in between. Spending considerable amounts of time on each. If you want to test your casting skills grab a 4 wt switch rod and immediately after casting that for 20 minutes grab the 15' 10 weight Sage Method, then go straight for the Sage Accel 7126-4 aka "Mr. Wiggles" and just see if it doesn't take some adjusting before you get your stroke back. This is why I go to these "Spey Days". To be able to grab rods and cast them side by side for an accurate instant comparison is priceless for the customer who doesn't have that opportunity or have a local shop that they can do so themselves. My experience equals your benefit. You, the consumer benefits from my personal time spent with each of these rods. Now, if you call the shop and ask me about a rod that I have never cast, I will tell you that I have never cast that one...yet. I will be honest with you and tell you that I haven't lined that rod up yet. I can still describe the action of the rod, maybe even talk to you about the taper, give you a great line recommendation but this conversation won't have the passion in it compared to the rod I have actually went out and spent time on the water with or even personally owned. You can tell when someone has a bit of passion about something.

I'll end with this. The "Spey Day" was on one of my days off...just sayin...

Low and Clear

This beautiful Steelhead was caught on a Sage One 6126-4 in low clear water conditions. When water is low and clear, lighter rods, lighter sink tips or no sink tips, and natural colored flies are a good choice to improve your odds in landing the prize...

Remember, if you can’t find it at the Gorge Fly Shop, you don’t need it!

Gorge Fly Shop
John Garrett | Product Specialist


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 23, 2015

Nautilus Fly Reels - Then and Now!

In 2003 7th generation fishing industry Kristen Mustad brought to life a vision to that would forever change the fly fishing reel industry. In that year Kristen bought out the small company of Old Florida Reels and in 3 months showed the fly fishing industry the first Nautilus CCF #8 Fly Reel. Since its introduction Nautilus Reels have become the benchmark that all sealed disc drag fly reels must be measured against and most reels in this class today still fall short of the standard that Nautilus Fly Reels established on this day in history. 


Ten years after the introduction of the industry changing CCF(cork and carbon fiber) fly reel, Nautilus unveiled a completely new version named CCF-X2. Besides stunning new looks the X2 doubles the drag strength (20lbs+) while being smoother and with less start-up inertia than the former CCF. If you were familiar with the former CCF reels you want to know that a major change in this model is that the retrieve is now switchable without need of replacing the complete drag hub. Not only is this a good feature for the new angler trying to determine what retrieve is best for them but also a huge help for the dealer to maintain and provide reels without concern of what retrieve they are.

The New CCF-X2 Silver King
Spey Rings
New for 2015, The addition of The Silver King completes the CCF-X2 lineup with a true large arbor 5 inch reel designed to tackle all things Silver. Each crank of the big game handle can retrieve up to 14" of line per turn. Like the smaller CCF-X2's it's packed with features like Sealed drag, hybrid ceramic bearings, TPX bushings and an over-sized drag knob capable of dialing up more than 20 lbs of drag force.
Two hand enthusiast will be glad to know about the Silver King innovation of Spey Rings. Spey Rings eliminate the need for a fully caged reel by reducing the tolerance between spool and frame to stop thin shooting lines from escaping between the gap.

FWX (Feather Weight Xtreme)

Feather Weight Xtreme
FWX - Technologies
The second series of reels to come out of the Nautilus factory was the FW (Feather Weight) Series. These lightweight Trout to Bonefish sized reels became an instant success. The SCF (Sealed Carbon Fiber) drag system provided unparalleled performance in a small scaled down version of the award winning  CCF and NV series reels. An FW revision took place in 2011 and Created the FWX. Since then its sales have proved to be one of the most popular reels of all time. With additions like Giga Arbor, Torque X and the wildly popular LASER-ID for easy write your own line identification on the spool has pushed this reel into history changing status.



Conceived in 2007 the NV has won many awards over the years.  At the heart of this reel is a NVCCF Drag Hub capable of taming any beast you pursue. While the original NV has seen many changes over the years the guts and frame remain the same today as the first NV that rolled off the production line. Some things are better left unchanged! 

The list of technologies in the NV-G Reels is impressive to say the least. 

Starting with the heart of the reel is the sealed NV-CCF drag hub. Inside this hub is two ceramic thrust bearings ensuring the smoothest drag on the market. The Cork Carbon Fiber hub fits over a titanium shaft and sealed by the Nautilus exclusive Activseal
which perpetually repels water and contaminants from entering the system creating a reel that is impervious to the elements. Moving out from the heart of the reel is the  G-Spool design that transformed the original NV reel to what Nautilus has defined as Über Arbor fly reels. The G-Spool (Giga spool) is what puts the "G" in NV-G and enabled a design that significantly reduces weight
and generates faster line retrieval. The G-Spool also allows for your backing to dry much faster than traditional spool designs by allowing air to circulate through the open arbor all of which helps reduce corrosion cause by prolong wet backing. Your backing almost appears to float on the arbor.

LASER-ID standard on all Nautilus reels

In addition to these high tech features are some really awesome user friendly stuff you won't find on other reels. LASER-ID is one of my favorite features. Simply use a sharpie to write on the spool what line it is. No more tacky stickers that fade and fall off leaving sticky dirt trapping spots on you fly reel. If you need to change the ID just dab a little spot remover on the laser etched area and its ready to go again.

Hooker comes standard on NV-G reels and is available as an optional add on to all Nautilus fly reels. This little peg comes off the reel seat and lets you wrap your line on it or hook a fly to it.

NV - Spey

NV - Spey
Within the NV Series is two sizes of spey specific reel sizes. Using the existing NV-G 8/9 and NV-G 9/10 frames Nautilus has created two Spey specific spools. The Spools feature tighter tolerances for the use of thinner running lines. Capacity is also increased to accommodate the larger size of Spey lines.  The great feature of this design is the same reel you are using today for Permit or Bonefishing could be fishing Steelhead tomorrow in the Northwest with just the change of a spool. Instead of just increasing the spool size to match spey angler needs Nautilus also gave these spools their own unique look and intentionally made them a bit heavier to aide in balancing two hand spey rods.

NV to NV-G changes

As I mentioned earlier the NV to NV-G has seen many changes over the years while the heart of the reel has remained unchanged. Any NV no matter when it was purchased still is 100% compatible with today's available spools. So if you have an older NV and you wish to purchase an extra spool or gain the benefits of the G-Spool or purchase a Spey spool than you're in luck. These charts can help sort it out. The easy way I have found to match past to present is think about it in term of reel diameter. (IE; If you have a past NV 8/9 this is a 4" reel. Today's 4" reel is a NV-G 7/8) Measuring the outside of the spool rim will tell you what the diameter of your reel is.

5/6 Frame
6/7 Frame
7/8 Frame
Compatible with
8/9 spool
8/9 Frame
Compatible with
10/11 Spool
SPEY 400-550 Spool
9/10 Frame
Compatible with
11/12 Spool
Spey 450-750 Spool
10/11 Frame
Compatible with
NV Monster

Specs for all Nautilus NV-G series reels as of 3/18/2015
Model Line Capacity Weight Diameter
NV G-5/6 5/6 WF6+(125yds20#) 5.1 oz. 3.50"
NV G-6/7 6/7 WF7+(150yds20#) 5.7 oz. 3.75"
NV G-7/8 7/8 WF8+(200yds20#) 6.6 oz. 4.0"
NV G-8/9 8/9 WF9+(200yds30#) 7.2 oz. 4.25"
NV G-9/10 9/10 WF10+(200yds30#) 8.3 oz. 4.50"
NV Monster 11/13 WF12+(350yds30#) 9.9 oz. 5.0"
NV Monster
10/11 WF10+(225yds30#) 9.9 oz. 5.0"
550gr head with .030 running line
8.1 oz. 4.25"
750gr head with .030 running line
9.1 oz. 4.50"

About the only trouble you'll experience with a Nautilus reel is getting one. Really this is a good problem. What I mean is since becoming known Nautilus reels have been in high demand. The Nautilus factory runs two shifts in order to keep up with this high demand. Day after day Nautilus reels perform in the most demanding extreme conditions you can give them. After all they are "Tested on Animals!"

"Tested on Animals!"


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 12, 2015

NEW - Korkers K-5 Bomber Wading Boot

Built to withstand hardcore use! NEW Korkers K-5 Bomber

Gorge Fly Shop has been a Korkers Boot dealer for almost a decade. There's good reason Korkers has remained in our shop and in the wader bag of many anglers. First I'd like to mention comfort. Korkers boots are comfortable hiking style boots. Our Korkers customers always mention this in feedback. Second, Versatility! The ability to swap a sole to meet different conditions is unlike any other wading boot on the market. Third, Durability! Korkers boots are tested tough in the Great Northwest and trust me if they can survived here they will handle anything you can put them through!

K-5 Bomber Features
  • Traction: OmniTrax® Interchangeable Sole System adapts your traction to any fishing condition.
  • Support: 5-Ply Fit System locks foot in place for a comfortable and secure fit.
  • Fit: Combination of friction-free rolling lace guides and locking lace cleat provide a customized bi-zonal fit.
  • Fast Drying: Hydrophobic materials = faster dry times which lessen the chance of spreading invasive species.
  • Internal Drainage: Water flows thru internal channels then out mid sole ports, removing excess water and weight.
  • Durability: Enhanced mid sole, triple layer synthetic upper, protected stitching, 3D molded toe and heel cap.
  • Sizes 7 -15 full sizes only
  • Weight: 3 lbs 6 oz (per pair, size 9)
  • Height: 8.5 inches
Korkers Buyers Guide
  1. Generally wading boots should be sized one size over your street shoe size.
  2. Korkers K-5 Bomber wading boots can be purchased with two different sole combinations.
More Sole Options

Korker AlumaTrax
Nothing grips like aluminum so when extreme traction is needed reach no further than AlumaTrax. Best part is the more they gain wear the stickier they get!

Studded Felt
Studded felt gives you the best of two worlds, Felt sticks good on slippery rocks and studs give them that extra measure to cut the slime and find something solid to stick to

For demanding situations such as mossy rocks, slimy boulders, slick logs and ocean jetties reach for the studded rubber. Big 7mm carbide tipped studs are replaceable if you dare think you could wear them out!


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 11, 2015

Christmas Island, Ikari House

Update 3/11/2015...
Gorge Fly Shop Christmas Island Dates DATES ARE SET!!!

Christmas Island trips dates are January 12th-19th 2016. Jerry Swanson has secured us some prime dates at the Ikari House.  This is a Tuesday to Tuesday trip, as many of you know the only day flights go to and from Christmas Island. 

Jerry is still waiting for 2016 prices, but for deposits he is figuring on 2015 prices of $2650.00 per angler based on double occupancy, deposits in the amount of $1325.00 will be needed to hold your spot. Once the 2016 prices are available we will let you all know. 

So as you know the demand for dates at the Ikari House have became very high, I am sure it will book fast. For those interested please give me a call or email. I look forward to fishing with everyone.

Thank You,
Travis Duddles
Gorge Fly Shop

Here is a direct link to Jerry Swanson’s Fish Head Expeditons website for Ikari House

All bookings will need to be done with Jerry Swanson at Fish Head Expedition His contact information is below:
Fish Head Expeditions

Zen Master Simon Corrie casting the Sage SALT 12wt, Nautilus Silver King and RIO GT 475gr Line

Christmas Island January 2015

Christmas Island may have introduced more anglers to fly fishing for bonefish and other saltwater species than any other destination. In January I hosted a group of nine anglers from the Northwest, ranging in age from 26 to 82. Seven of the nine were new to bonefishing and saltwater. Everyone had a great time and caught lots of bonefish. Anglers had action with Queenfish, Trigger Fish, Bluefin, Striped and Giant Trevally, Wahoo and Yellow Fin Tuna. What a great week on the flats! We saw more large bonefish than I have seen in 10 years. And they would eat a fly!

Jerry Brown - Christmas Island Bonefish

The food at Ikari House is way better than anywhere else on the island. We had sashimi with drinks every day after fishing. Wow! There are six rooms that are new in the last two years. All have A/C on a thermostat, on-demand hot water and are spotless everyday. This may not sound like much, but on Christmas Island this is the Ritz.

GT action with Mitch Callas
What makes Christmas unique is that it has the most extensive wade-able flats of any atoll in the world. The more you fish other locations you realize this is special. All bonefishing is done by wading. In addition the equatorial location has no seasonality, making it is a go-to saltwater destination.

My first trip to Christmas Island was 29 years ago. Quick drying tropical clothing and flats boots had not been invented yet. We were tying up new flies, drinking Australian beer and getting sun burned through the cotton sport shirts. This time I was fortunate to fish with Simon Corrie, who was one of my guides on that first trip. Moana Kofe is now the head guide at Ikari House. He fished with different anglers during the week as a special guide and that time was memorable. These two guides are Zen masters. You learn fly fishing by doing, and they have done it a lot. Both can cast a whole fly line in the wind, know the habits of fish, the tides and “know the language of fish.” I fished with 5 newer guides and would fish with any of them again or recommend them to clients. The fishery is in very good hands.

Jerry Swanson with Mustache Trigger Fish

The Gorge Fly Shop is planning a hosted trip to Christmas Island in 2016. Please let Travis Duddles, the Gorge owner, or me know if you are interested.

Call Travis

Jerry Swanson
Fish Head Expeditions, LLC


"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 9, 2015

Weekly Fishing Reports (March 9th)

Andy Perrault and Gorge Fly Shop would like to thank everyone for coming out to Fly Tying Night. The Andrew's Pizza venue was an excellent choice to gather for great food, drink and atmosphere. Steelhead fly tying ninja Tom Larimer came down to join the festivities and hang out with a crowd of some of Hood Rivers finest steelhead anglers.

Gorge Fly Shop Weekly Fishing Reports

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 4, 2015

San Juan, Animas, Durango - January 2015

Dates were set, gear in check and Tom's flight just landed in the Albuquerque Sunport.

Passport NOT required!

Despite a near last minute cancellation due to illness all was on track to explore winter in the Southwest Trout Region. Winter conditions almost got in the way as our drive had us skirting around a cold front that had just earlier that day left snow on the Continental Divide.

First stop San Juan for some long overdue ego boost. Not today! Having arrived on the backside of a cold front we found fussy fish teasing us with short strikes and avoiding any solid pin of the hook.

What do you call it when the fish don't eat? Casting Practice!
Personally I realized that it had been too long since wetting a line. I knew this because I quickly realized I was off my game. Fumbling, not connecting, not focused and at a later point in the day Tom said "Dude...Chill out!...Just step back, relax and unwind" (deep breath!). You know you got a good friend when he's not scared to look you in the eye and tell you to get it together. Sometimes you need to hear it.Tom went on to land a couple fish at the end of the day while I pulled myself together but the fish were still far from happy.

Dark had fallen on the tiny town of Navajo Dam as we rolled in to the local diner for a dinner chow. Trophy pictures hanging on the wall did nothing to ease the torment of a mediocre at best day of fishing.

Back to our room at the Rainbow Lodge and Resolution Guide Service owner Steve came over to say hello. Steve gave us a great winter rate and his accommodations were exactly what two weary fisherman needed for a great nights rest. After a brief recap of our days success or lack of would be a better way to describe it, Steve offered his expertise and we listened closely. After unloading the truck I quickly grabbed a cold beer from the cooler and dumped my gear on the table. Get it together is the only thought on my mind. Tom and I spent the better part of the evening catching up on what's been going on and preparing for the next day.
Photo Credit Tom Larimer | Larimer Outfitters

Next day came with blue sky and the sunrise quickly leveled the frost. As I drove us down to Last Chance Hole I fired up a song on the stereo. Tony Furtada doing a cover of an old classic Tom Petty "Running Down a Dream."
It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down - I had the radio on, I was driving
Trees flew by, Me and Del were singin' Little Runaway
I was Flying'
Yeah Running down a dream That never would come to me

I got the look from Tom followed with "Dude! What are you doing driving 20 mph down the road? I said "Getting in tune and relaxing, we only have like a mile to go and I want to hear this song"... lol... Geared and ready to go we ran down to the water and made a few casts before our friends from Durango would arrive.

Soon after Beatle and Jon arrived. Truck tailgates dropped and a full on gear convention took place. I pulled out my Jetboil and offered fresh brewed coffee. After our show and tell session we took Beatle's advice and headed up to an area called the Back Channel. This run held great promise. It just felt right for swinging with its heavy current, deep channel and plenty of boulders to create seams.
Jon landing first ever Two Hand Trout catch
It wasn't long and Tom was into a Rainbow and followed that up with a Brown. The advice that Steve gave us the night before had been validated. It was a tiny size 28 red annelid trailing behind our streamers that the fish would eat.  It wasn't until later in the afternoon that the fish started to take the streamer. I could sense the change in the fish's attitude. That's a sign that we're getting tuned in and a good day turned into a great day of fishing!

Ore House | Durango, Colorado
As dusk set in we headed back to the truck, packed up our gear and took off north on a course set for the mountain town of Durango, Colorado. Beatle invited us to join him for dinner and drinks at his historic Ore House Restaurant. Greeted at the door by Beatle, Jon and wives Cheryl and Lyndsey, we quickly settled into the warm, casual, inviting atmosphere while granddaughter Alyson provided entertainment. Will Blanchard of Animas Valley Anglers joined in and we toasted drinks while recapping the days success. Drinks, laughter and an incredible meal kept us going late into the night. Durango is such a fun and friendly town.

Next day we met down on the Animas River close to town. The Animas is a beautiful freestone mountain stream. Middle January and this river is cold! No surprise that these fish aren't going to move far for a fly. About an hour after four of us probing the water Tom hooks up on an awesome Brown. That one fish validated all effort!
Tom Larimer | Larimer Outfitters | Winston MicroSpey

We went on to fish some other areas and later that day the Rainbows started feeding and several came to hand. We admired each one for they were all fat and healthy fish.

Animas River Bow
Dusk settled in as we stowed our gear. Tom and I decided right then that we would stay another night in Durango instead of making the long dark lonely drive back down into Albuquerque. It's the most scenic drive during the day and the darkest drive ever during the night!

Back to town, secured a room and dropped off three days of what was once precisely organized fishing gear now appears in total disarray. Hungry we walked down in town for dinner...I love towns that you can park the rig and just walk to whatever you want. Tom was told when you travel to New Mexico one must experience a green chile cheeseburger even if you're in Colorado! This is true! So with a recommendation from our local friends we entered a local cantina to try the best green chile cheeseburger in town. It did not disappoint and Tom approved!

Drove back to the city the next day and got Tom on a plane headed home. On my drive home I looked back on the past few days and wondered what was my favorite part of the trip. Was it catching up with a good friend, meeting new friends, experiencing a new town, fishing a new river, experimenting with new gear, catching fish or great food and drink. All of the above!


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Mar 1, 2015

“Deschutes, Stones and Sam…It All Counts!”

By John Garrett
Beautiful day, beautiful scenery, beautiful fish! The Deschutes has a lot to offer during the course of a trip.
Try not to focus just on the fish.
I don’t know what time Sam’s day started the morning of our trip, but mine started at 3:00 am sharp! I woke up waaaaay before the alarm did, and just couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m sure none of you have ever had that symptom the night before a trip. I don’t normally trout fish since becoming hopelessly, and ridiculously addicted to swinging for steelhead with a Spey rod, but when I get the invite to float the Deschutes River with Sam, I get excited. I get excited for several reasons:

  1. I like fishing with Sam. He’s laid back with his mind on his mission and his mission on his mind. He’s dialed into to everything that happens in the course of the day. Including what everyone else on the river is doing and when they’re doing it. He knows the bugs, the river and where the fish live. All which are critical to being a good guide!
  2.  The beauty of the Deschutes River, this time of the year is remarkably stunning. An oasis riverside landscape framed with desert hills still green from the April showers. The river is alive and the bug life is on the verge of being out of control. A variety of hatches birth forth during the month of May and the one everyone talks about and anticipates the most is without a doubt the Stone and Salmonfly hatches. I swear some folks anticipate this hatch more than the arrival of their first born.

So it’s easy to see why I couldn’t get back to sleep. I had all my gear piled up on the front porch an hour and a half before Sam’s supposed to pick me up. 6’Oclock shows up and I look outside to see if Sam’s waiting for me and all my stuff is gone! My first thought was that some punk jacked my stuff right out from under my nose, and I was going to have to go door to door to find it, but I quickly realized that Sam snuck up on me like a Navy Seal and was parked right around the corner of my house where I couldn’t see him. Awesome! I didn’t get ripped off.

Our plan was to put in at Warm Springs and float down to Trout Creek, so we began our hour and a half drive to the river. We talked about a number of things from, trout, to steelhead, to guiding, to the best pets (dogs) we’ve ever had. I talked about Jig, a black lab that will always have a place in my heart and we talked about Winston, Sam’s chocolate lab that had recently developed a tumor on the side of his face and was quickly deteriorating. I was blessed to listen to Sam tell me of all the awesome things that he, his wife Marni and Winston experienced together. You see, we didn’t know if we were going to do this trip or not because of Winston’s health and how fast he was going. Sam assured me that he wanted to go. Having been through something similar, I thought to myself, if Sam’s like me, it would be a way to take his mind off of the hurt of the situation, for a few hours.

Pretty Boys, Winston on the left and Jig on the right. Rest in peace, both of you.
We’ll see you two again someday!
We quickly arrived at the boat launch (where did that hour and a half go), we wadered up, rigged up, wish I could say lathered up, but we forgot the sunscreen, which we paid for later, and launched. The morning was beautiful, birds were singing, the air was clean…a perfect day to be on the “D”. No sooner does Sam make the first strokes on the sticks and he’s in guide mode. He’s telling me about the runs he wants to fish, their names, his success in said runs and how we should fish them. We’re talking bugs, not just the ones hatching but the ones we would fish. Anybody ever heard of a “Chubby Chernobyl?” No, it’s not the neighbor kid down the street that moved in from Russia! It’s one of the bestselling Stonefly/Salmonfly imitations…ALL TIME! We had rods rigged and ready to go for dry fly and nymph fishing. We rigged dry fly rods up with a Chubby and one with a Clark’s Stone. Nymph rods were rigged with “Jimmy Legs” and dropper nymphs such as the Bead Head Deep Six Caddis and Silvey’s Bead Head Pupa nymphs. Now I know we could debate which nymphs to use and there truly are a number of great patterns, but this is my story and these are the ones we used.
Fly Selection…Top:  Chubby Chernobyl’s, 
Middle:  Clark’s Stone and Silvey’s BH Pupa, Bottom:  BH Deep Six Caddis
As Sam continues to talk about this bug and that bug, I find myself caught up, in awe, of the beauty of the Deschutes River. Anyone who has ever floated it or fished its banks knows exactly what I am talking about. I thought about how many books, how many articles, how many fishing reports over time have been written about the Deschutes and how I would be adding one more to the library. I also thought about how many folks from all over the world have waded the banks of the famous “D” over the years. It’s such an awesome fishery and breathtaking place that it is hard not to talk or write about it. Sam snaps me back to attention saying… “Get ready we’re gonna fish this next little island”, ok daydream over. It’s go time. I take one side of the island, Sam the other. Soon, I am hooked up with my first trout of the day, a respectable 9-10” rainbow. I admire her and quickly let her go. That was it for the first stop, action was a little slow, but honestly I’m good with that, considering where I was and what I was doing, to complain would be a crime!

Sam motions me back to the boat and we head downstream to the next run. I again find myself staring at the landscape in awe…I thought about how if the scenery could talk, it would surely say to me… “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.” So I did. I took a few.
Sam loves the Deschutes and its fisheries and like any good guide he’s quick to point out things of interest.
Floating down stream, Sam points out a number of spawning beds in the gravel tail outs and as we passed over them I could see the trout scatter from the shadow of the drift boat. There were a few dandies that stuck out like a sore thumb, ones that I would have loved to hook. Late morning, early afternoon the bite started to pick up a bit and both Sam and I started hooking into some quality trout, as you can see in the photos. We had more action by far with the nymph rods compared to the dries, due to the fact that there were more nymphs in the river than adults early in the hatch. We would have loved to have had it the other way around but nevertheless it’s all good.

A beautifully dressed rainbow that fell for a Deep Six Caddis Nymph. What a blast on the Winston B3X 5wt rod!
One spot that sticks out in my mind was a slot that was on the downriver side of another island. Sam tells me that he knows for a fact that there are trout living on the far soft seam up against the far bank, underneath the hanging branches, on the other side of this fast current. Of course they live there Sam, why wouldn’t they? The most challenging part was the really fast water between us and the trout house. I told him, I’m up for the challenge.

One of three things was gonna happen as I started to make my cast. One, I could easily end up with my fly stuck in the branches, two the super-fast current was going to pull my fly line downstream with no chance of fishing that seam properly with a dead drift or three, I would make a good cast, a couple of huge mends and the indicator would drift deadly right on the seam where Sam said the trout lived. I love a challenge, especially when it comes to the difficult cast or the difficult fish to catch. Oh, I forgot to mention there was a breeze as well.

So, I set up the cast and successfully threaded the needle (fly) between two over hanging low branches at the head of the seam, launched two huge mends up stream and bank side as quickly as possible, sweet!, the indicator is right on the seam and dead drifting as best as possible. BAAMMM! There he is… I’m locked up with a fish on! I love it when a plan comes together. After landing the fish and taking a quick photo, it was released to fight again. High fives all around! What a sweet fish that couldn’t resist the “Jimmy Legs”. Not huge but absolutely beautifully marked and bursting with colors. A wallpaper type of fish! We continued to catch some quality fish as the day drew to an end.
This beauty resembles a Derek DeYoung painting.
Beautiful colors! How many can you find?
I could have taken many different paths in writing this post, but I felt led to keep it simple. I could have broken the technology down on our Sage One and Winston B3x fly rods, I could have given you all the details of the science behind our Rio Grand WF5F fly lines and told you that all the flies we drowned or floated could be found in the bins at the Gorge Fly Shop. But this time I just wanted to share about time spent on the river with my friend and guide, Sam Sickles, to talk about memories of our canine buddies, to separate ourselves even for a day from the reality of life and life situations. It’s never easy saying goodbye to a great companion. It’s even harder to watch them suffer. I wanted to share that everything and I mean everything matters.

It’s easy to have tunnel vision and focus too much on the fish alone and all the variables on why or why not the fish are biting. Have you ever considered the variables? It can be daunting. I wanted to say, stop and smell the roses. Stop and take it all in. Take random photos of random things. If we focus just on the fish we miss so many things. I make it a point to try and find something new on the river every day. After guiding for 23 years myself, the river can become just a drift and a run, just another run. I realized I needed to change my focus years ago. To my amazement, having this attitude opened my eyes to a whole new perspective and I began to notice things that I missed when I was mostly focused on the fish. I missed things. A lot of things. I noticed the Golden Stone, but hadn’t taken the time to closely look it over. I had no idea of the intricate design God clothed them with. Check out the photo below, you’ll see what I mean…
A Golden Stone hides in the tall grass along the river’s edge
unaware of how beautiful it is.

I want to say thank you Sam, for spending the day with me on the “D”. Thank you for sharing your stories of Winston. Thank you for your knowledge of the river and the life that lives there. Thank you for helping me see, for the first time, the beauty in a Golden Stone. And let me say this to Marni, thank you Marni for allowing Sam to spend the day on the “D” with me. For all the good it had done for me, I only hope that it was good for Sam too. Words cannot express my feelings knowing the situation with Winston and the possibility of him passing while Sam and I were on the river and you were home watching over him. Thank you!

While driving home at the end of the day we received a call from Marni, and Winston wasn’t doing well as he struggled for every breath. Winston quickly past after Sam returned home. You see, this trip was about a lot of things, not just catching fish…
Guide, Sam Sickles in his element, smiles for the shot.
 I had a great day exploring the “D” with you and look forward to it again!
Note: Sam and Marni Sickles own and operate Steelhead Outfitters. They offer guided fly fishing trips for Rainbow Trout and Summer Steelhead on the Deschutes River and Winter Steelhead on the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers near Portland, Oregon. You can reach them by phone at (541)400.0855 or on the web at

John Garrett
Gorge Fly Shop

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

  © 'and' Mike Prine 2009-2014

Back to TOP